Feature: Federal Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Has Its Coming Out Party

For the first time in decades, a marijuana decriminalization bill is before the Congress. Actually introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) in April, the Act to Remove Federal Penalties for the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults (H.R. 5843) got its coming out party Wednesday as Frank, a handful of other representatives, and leaders of prominent drug reform organizations held a Capitol Hill press conference to push for the bill.

In the eyes of many, the bill couldn't come soon enough. Since 1965, more than 20 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges, 830,000 in 2006. Of those, nearly 90% were for simple possession. In addition to the jail time and other costs imposed on offenders, marijuana law enforcement costs society more than $7 billion a year.

While passage of a federal decriminalization bill would have little direct impact -- only 160 people were charged with federal marijuana possession offenses last year -- its symbolic impact could help break the marijuana law reform log-jam that has endured since the days of the hippies.

Here is the text of the bill in its entirety:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no penalty may be imposed under an Act of Congress for the possession of marijuana for personal use, or for the not-for-profit transfer between adults of marijuana for personal use. For the purposes of this section, possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana shall be presumed to be for personal use, as shall the not-for-profit transfer of one ounce or less of marijuana, except that the civil penalty provided in section 405 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 844a) may be imposed for the public use of marijuana if the amount of the penalty does not exceed $100."

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/frankpressconf.jpg
Reps. Lee, Frank and Clay at press conference (courtesy Drug Policy Alliance)
Frank and other advocates conceded the bill has no chance of passage this year, but lauded it as a long overdue beginning. Hearings could come next year, they said.

The federal government should stop arresting marijuana users, Frank said as he stood before the microphones flanked by Congressional Black Caucus members Reps. Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), and advocates Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML; Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, and Bill Piper, national affairs director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Existing laws aimed at marijuana users punish otherwise law-abiding citizens and sick people whose doctors have recommended the drug, disproportionately impact African-Americans, and waste law enforcement resources, Frank said. They also amount to an unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of Americans, he said.

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana by adults and this should be of no interest or concern to the government," said NORML's St. Pierre. "In fact, the vast majority of marijuana smokers are adults who cause no harm to themselves or to anyone else, so there is no reason for the state to be involved."

Marijuana use should be treated like alcohol use, St. Pierre continued. "With alcohol we acknowledge the distinction between use and abuse, and we focus our law enforcement involvement on efforts to stop irresponsible use. We do not arrest or jail responsible alcohol drinkers. That should be our policy with marijuana as well," he said, noting that there were more than 11 million marijuana arrests since 1990.

Reps. Clay and Lee both emphasized the inordinate number of arrests of minority pot smokers. The application of the marijuana laws unfairly targets blacks, said Clay.

Clay called marijuana prohibition part of "a phony war on drugs that is filling up our prisons, especially with people of color." It is time for a "practical, common sense approach" instead, he said.

Lee also noted the disproportionate impact of marijuana law enforcement on the minority community, but as a representative of a state where medical marijuana is legal also singled out another group that suffers under the law. "This bill is about compassion," she said. "The federal government has better things to do than send sick people to jail."

MPP's Kampia noted that marijuana arrests outnumber arrests for "all violent crimes combined," and suggested that law enforcement concentrate less on pursuing nonviolent marijuana offenders. "Ending arrests is the key to marijuana policy reform," he said. "It is important to eliminate the threat of arrest. For the many marijuana users who aren't arrested, they still live in fear of arrest."

Marijuana prohibition is "one of the most destructive criminal justice policies in America today," said DPA's Piper, noting that in addition to arrest and possible imprisonment, marijuana users face the loss of jobs, financial aid for college, federal benefits, and access to low-cost public housing.

Even while conceding the bill has virtually zero chance of passing this year, earlier in the week Piper said you have to start somewhere. "The goal is to raise the issue and have something that advocates can organize around," he said. "But just having this bill introduced is groundbreaking in itself."

It could also rub off at state houses across the land, Piper said. "This will encourage state lawmakers to introduce similar bills. This is also something we can now turn around and use to lobby with at state houses," he said.

"There's a growing sentiment in Congress that the prisons are overcrowded," said MPP spokesman Dan Bernath. "I think we are at or near a tipping point, and this bill is a good way to start chipping away at our marijuana laws," he said. "This will set the stage for sensible marijuana reforms at the state and local level, as well as more meaningful federal reforms in the future."

If reformers see little likelihood of anything happening this year, the federal government's anti-drug bureaucrats were taking no chances. Crashing the gate at the press conference were Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) chief scientist Dr. David Murray and two aides. They came carrying glossy ONDCP propaganda and hoping to immediately rebut any claims by reformers, but both press corps and event participants seemed more bemused by their appearance than interested in what they had to say.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

M.S. / canibus

Thank you for posting the artitcle on M.S. and the benifit that canibus has on helping systoms.......
James Hammond at [email protected]

One Small Step...

But an important one. Everyone needs to get people aware and involved about this, and let their voices be heard to their legislators to help sponsor and pass this bill.

End Prohibition Today

Call your congress person, I did. If every one of you tells everyone you know, and you all actually do it, this thing WILL pass. The vocal people are the ones the politicians listen to. My congresswoman, Shelley Moore Capito, is agianst marijuana reform, but if enough of her constituents call telling her vote yes on HR 5843, then she will. Get the word out to call your rep and say yes to HR 5843!!!!!

CALL YOUR CONGRESS PERSON!!!

GO TO NORML, FIND YOUR STATE, CONTACT YOUR STATE REP/CONGRESS PERSONS, SEND A LETTER.

Lets finally end this bogus war...

about time

I am 71 yrs old and have smoked pot off and on since I was 18. I can tell you many horrer stories about the abuse to inocent smokers and non-smokers. I just hope I can live long enough to see the end of the abuse to otherwise law abiding people. thank you Barney and friends. Digger

Legal Medical Cannabis

I commend you Mr. Barney Frank and those who also helped this come to congress. America wants a change, that is evident by the numbers showing.
Each day new research is finding More uses for cannabis so why not use it? If you read the Bible is says God put it here for food and it was good. I will go with God's word anyday over big pharma wording, Thank you once again Mr Frank, Its time that "WE the People see a change in the uses of medical cannabis
Sincerely,
David Ertel OHIO

Government Holds Marijuana Patent: U.S. Patent # 6,630,507

How great would it be to stop the drug war whores, and stools that love them, from there decades long crime spree! It's about time... not that this is the first time that such a bill has been drafted... and lets hope it gets a vote someday? So everyone call your you-know-who's and tell them to support this overdue paradigm change.

Most folks are aware that the U.S. Government continues to maintain the old drug war refrain that marijuana has no accepted medical value... yet the same U.S. Governmet holds the patent for... are you ready for this... "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants".

That's right kiddies, your government currently holds U.S. Patent # 6,630,507 claiming: "Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties... cannabinoids are found to have particular applications as neuroprotectants... limiting neurological damage following... stroke and trauma... or in treatment of neurodegenerative diseases... such as Alzheimer's... Parkinson's... and HIV dementia".

Please, someone tell me how a gov't that kills or incarcerates those that dare to disagree while claiming one thing while positioning itself to profit from the exact opposite can be legal or moral... even in this scoundrel ridden christian nation.

The government patent should be struck down as an illegally acquired property/intellectual right. The medical efficacy of Cannabis has been known by respected medical professionals for decades... literally centuries. Yet the u.s. government continues to prohibit, under the guise of regulation, the scientific study of the cannabis plant while obtaining the patent for cannabinoids.

It's not the THC that scares the crap out of uncle scam... it's the BSBs... the 'Bullshit Blockers'!

Billy B. Blunt
Tacoma, WA

Getting the word out about Patent 6,630,507

Thanks Billy,
You nailed all the pertinent points right on the head. This patent was issued all the way back in 2003, but in 2006 you have the FDA issuing a inter-agency advisory which contains the following:

"A past evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States."

Obviously, their evaluation didn't include the HHS patent office.

However, I personally believe this patent will ultimately be the downfall of the drug warriors, and the rest of their cronies. A patent is a legal document in public domain. It was issued, not by, but to, the US Government and flies completely in the face of their position on the harmfulness of cannabis. A patent like this carries a lot of weight with our elected representatives. If each one of them got a copy of it from one of their constituents, it would be a little easier to pry them out of their fear based (I must get re-elected) irrationality. They can say to those that elected them "We have found out that cannabis really is a medicine. See, we took out a patent on it" .

Concept of responsible use

This proposed legislation mentions the idea of responsible adult use while providing that penalties are removed for up to 100 grams of cannabis herb. Thus we have an opportunity to define and promulgate a doctrine of responsible use which will inspire trust in the legions of voters who have until bought the demonization theories.

l. With a single toke utensil (mini-toke, or one-hitter) it is possible to divide 100 grams of properly sifted herb (use 40-mesh screen strainer) into 4000 25-mg. single servings. A Qur'an-compliant regimen of ten tokes per two days using such a utensil yields 1826 servings per year. So the quantity of possession proposed by Rep. Frank's bill is certain liberal.

2. Even if in the course of negotiations the amount were dropped to a tenth it would still be 400 single tokes, enough to last more than two months.

3. In order to have a bargaining position from which to demand passage, I think it would be wise for the bill to be amended to specify that possession with intent to use of a vaporizer or single-toke utensil ought to be recognized as evidence of responsible use intention. Today, unfortunately, the law is written in such a way that possession of an appropriate miniature, harm-reduction utensil can serve as evidence of illegal activity and result in prosecution as well as confiscation of the device. (Imagine having your $600 Volcano vaporizer seized by some rogue cop.)

4. NORML and other concerned organizations should promote the development of vaporizer cafes (or clinics) where interested prospective users can (a) for a flat fee, try out various vaporizers, decide which they wish to buy; (b) receive coaching and instruction so that, once they have purchased a vaporizer, they don't forfeit their guarantee rights in case the thing breaks down, due to some error in use procedure. (c) Such establishment should also provide instruction in how to use a long-stem, screened one-hitter (yoga breathing-- minimal speed inhalation) for those who don't think they can afford a vaporizer.

5. Hot burning overdose paper torch nicotine cigarets are the no. 1 drug problem and no. 1 genocide in the history of the planet. The good news is: by promulgating a safer method of ingesting herb vapors-- vaporizer, single toke utensil-- the pro-cannabis community can provide a means to intervene in this disaster and save 5.4 million lives of nicotine addicts per year by, as soon as the bill is passed and the instruments are safely legal to possess, swarming around the planet like Mormons and converting the hot-burning cigaret habituees to miniature toke safety utensils. (Including one-hitter, vaporizer, and the e-cigarette, about which information is available on various websites). THIS COULD RESULT IN NOBEL PRIZES FOR NORMAL, DRCNET AND OTHER CANNABIS ACTIVIST ORGANIZATIONS. LET'S GO!

CONGRESS LOST ONCE

YEARS AGO WHEN CONGRESS VOTED TO MAKE ALCOHOL AND MARIJUANA ILLEGAL, MARIJUANA WAS NOT AS WIDELY USED LIKE IT IS TODAY. THE GOVERNMENT LOST THE WAR ON ALCOHOL AND THATS WHY THEY LEGALIZED AGAIN.. IF THE GOVERNMENT WOULD MAKE MARIJUNA LEGAL FOR AT LEAST MEDICAL PURPOSES THEY WOULD STAND TO MAKE MORE MONEY HAVING IT GROWN AND SELLING IT THEMSELVES TO MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENTS. THEY COULD CREATE MARIJUANA BANKS AND TAX IT AS WELL JUST LIKE ALCOHOL..
JIM SMITH
MACON COUNTY
TENNESSEE

Astonished!

I am a conservative Catholic republican and almost 100% of the time disagree with Barney Frank, and the like. However, I appluade his effort on HR 5843. It's hard for one to imagine that we live in the country that has made a plant illegal. The federal government has been slowly, deliberately and successfully chipping away at its' citizens rights to make their own decisions about their lives. Representative Frank, you have my support for HR- 5843.

Best regards,

Frank Dutton, Jr.
Camden County
New Jersey

Why Support HR-5843?

1. Stops over crowding in jails and prisons, thus keeping murders, rapist, child molester, where belong instead of early release due to over crowding. Example: Dahmer, Gacy, Richard A. Davis,
all had early releases, you can't tell me over crowding didn't have something to do with it.
2. Stops marjuana smuggling through our boarders, thus preventing some gang wars, murder, police
and government couruption, and our own boarder patrol agents landing in jail.
3. Increases tax revenues, for schools, roads, medical reseach , Police Dept, Fire Depts. Only crooks, and gangs profit from selling marjuana.
4. Most likely will decrease alcohol abuse.
5. Most likely will decrease domestic violence.
6. Stops Governers from signing Bills that fire government workers, take away their earnings,
and lower the standard of living because of State budget deficits.

M. Lyon
San Bernardino County, California

Amen to the Alcohol Abuse Statement Above.

I'm a firm believer that if Marijuana was made legal, it would lower alcohol abuse and/or problems regarding the use of alcohol. It may not help the hardcore alcohol addicts, but if marijuana was legal and a person were stressed out needing a little something to take the edge off.....a joint is a heck of alot of better than hitting the bottle. Smoking pot does not give you the effects than what drinking a bottle of booze does......joints don't make you black out and do things you don't remember, joints don't make you smoke and drive and kill people. If you think otherwise, I would love for you to post the statistics on Drunken Driving Deaths VS. Marijuana Driving Deaths.... thank you. :)

So it has always been beyond me why alcohol is legal...and why pot is illegal. Make it legal for the social entertainment. The people that don't like it, don't have to smoke it....just like if you don't like booze, you don't have to drink it. If people abuse it, then deal with the abusive people...just like we do with people that abuse alcohol. But I truly believe that pot is way less harmful, physicially and mentally, than alcohol or any other legal or illegal drug...and it's about time we starting understanding this and putting it into action.

hell yea

i agree totally with this if it were up to me i would make pot legal and alcohol illegal because it enslaves and kills so many people why should something like that be legal

Come together

It's nice to see NORML, DPA and MPP standing shoulder-to-shoulder on this issue. We need more cooperation among drug policy reform organizations if we are to bring about meaningful and effective control of drugs in the U.S. Current drug policy has abdicated control in favor of unenforceable prohibition. American adults must demand that their medical and civil rights are protected and that they are treated like, well, adults. If the major reform organizations actively support one another, their effectiveness in bringing this about can increase exponentially.

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Trenton, NJ
[email protected]

Test survey on this created

I would like to take the time and state that because of this bill I am working on a independant survey and have posted the following where I could. Please feel free to take the survey and let your voices be heard. I think we can really get this legislation passed. Please read the following and take the survey, and provide as much or as little info as you wish. Thank you everyone in advance, as the real survey is currently being designed and suggested questions or changes would be most appreciated.

Here is what we have posted on several sites in hopes of having test results and help in creating the final survey, which will need to be active by next monday, and when done, the results will then be sent via email to politicians concerned, both federal and state levels. Thank you.

Test survey posted as follows with instructions on how to take:

This survey is in regards to the following House Bill proposed by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) in April, also known as the Act to Remove Federal Penalties for the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults (H.R. 5843) and it is stated as follows:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no penalty may be imposed under an Act of Congress for the possession of marijuana for personal use, or for the not-for-profit transfer between adults of marijuana for personal use. For the purposes of this section, possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana shall be presumed to be for personal use, as shall the not-for-profit transfer of one ounce or less of marijuana, except that the civil penalty provided in section 405 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 844a) may be imposed for the public use of marijuana if the amount of the penalty does not exceed $100."

Please take the time to read the survey form and answer honestly. There is no personal data collected other than general demographic data. Please note that the site hosting the survey does not spam or ask for any personal information from the survey takers. IP addresses are not logged and a cookie gets set to prevent people from taking it multiple times and skewing the results. This survey will be available till 11:59pm this saturday.

To take the survey please do the following: Turn off pop-up blocker if enabled and take the survey and when your done, please post any recommendations you might have here if you like. This is your chance to make a difference? Who wants to make a change and save 7+ billion that was spent last year and putting it to use somewhere else that really matters?

* YOU DO NOT NEED TO REGISTER OR SIGN UP AT THE SITE TO TAKE THE SURVEY. JUST ENTER THE NUMBER IN THE TAKE A SURVEY BOX AND THAT'S IT.*

Just go to http://www.AdvancedSurvey.com and enter survey number 63236 in the Take A Survey box to take this survey!

Thank you all for taking the time to do this survey and wanting to help make a change and speak up. Our survey group is 420 Surveys Group and is just now working our first project. There are more planned, and not all will deal with this subject. Again thank you for the feedback.

one question

under the bill will i be able to grow marijuana for personal use

"Instead of using marijuana

"Instead of using marijuana as medicine some would use it for them to get gain pleasure by getting ‘high’ on it. "

God forbid! No wonder they are called the fun police.

Alcohol VS Marijuana.....you be the judge

In the early 20th century, alcohol was put into prohibition for a reason. Alcohol not only has the ability to make you into someone you are not, it also has the ability to kill. On October 1, of 2006 my mother of 45 years died from liver failure due to extreme excessive use of alcohol, I was 16 and in jail for FAILING a MARIJUANA drug test the day she died from excessive ALCOHOL consumption. If anyone can show me one case where someone died from excessive marijuana use please show me, i would love to have that argument:) My point is, it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to die from smoking to much marijuana, if you can stay awake long enough to smoke the amount needed to clinically "overdose" then you must have immunity to the drug.
It is NOT impossible to "overdose" or become victim to alcohol poisoning, my mother and millions of other people are testimony to my case. Alcohol IS highly addictive and can destroy lives. There are studies that show marijuana "could" be addictive. I believe you must have a paticular state of mind to become "addicted" to pot. You do not gain a physical dependence to marijuana, it is more or less a mental issue.
So to all the nay sayers of marijuana, let me ask you this. How do you know marijuana is a bad, you've never tried it, you've never experienced the effects, you've only seen the negative effects from irresponsible users.
I wish the government would do something "for the people" and legalize marijuana for responsible users.

Bill

As far as I'm concerned, it's all BS. 40+ years I've been waiting and still a hand full of right wing radicals keep any chance of this being past in any near future...
It's the same old BS, let's do a study, let's debate the issue, etc... It's all been done over and over and over...
It's all BS and none of these politicians are going to do it because their cushy jobs are at stake...
Pensions, heath insurance and endless federal pork project piggy bank...

marijuana legalization

I don't see why all theses right winged prohibitionists say that marijuana legalization would be a step in the wrong direction or that it wouldn't do anything to help the economy. They do not realize the numbers of people who smoke marijuana. After 40-50 years of marijuana prohibition they still have yet to put a dent in the amount of people try marijuana for the first time. Actually the number of smokers has gone up. We need to get these baby boomer politicians( the ones that grew up in the 60's and 70's) OUT OF OFFICE and get the new generation in.
" THE YOUTH OF AMERICA IS THE FUTURE OF AMERICA " one day marijuana will be legal.

right wing prohibitionists?

Prohibition was sponsored and ratified by the Progressive Party in 1917. It was not "right wing prohibitionists" like you claim. Also, may current bills to decriminalize marijuana were written by Republicans. Please get your facts straight, before you open your mouth and look like a fool.

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