Breaking News:Dangerous Delays: What Washington State (Re)Teaches Us About Cash and Cannabis Store Robberies [REPORT]

Decriminalization

RSS Feed for this category

Southeast Asia: Vietnam Ponders Drug Decriminalization

The Vietnamese National Assembly is considering legislation that would make drug use an administrative violation -- not a crime. Under current Vietnamese law, drug use is a criminal offense, a violation of Article 199 of the country's criminal code, and is punishable by up two years in prison.

But Truong Thi Mai, chair of the Assembly's Committee on Social Affairs, told a press conference last Friday the committee had recommended scrapping Article 199. "Being addicted to or using drugs should be considered a disease, and should only be subject to administrative fines," Mai said. "We cannot jail hundreds of thousands of drug users, can we?"

In actuality, Vietnam does not typically jail drug users; instead, it confines them in mandatory drug detoxification centers for up to two years, or in some centers, up to five years. Local governments maintain lists of drug addicts in their areas and send them to detox centers at their discretion. Few drug users are actually prosecuted under Article 199, so the impact of a decriminalization move would be mostly symbolic.

Still, that would be a good thing, said Le Minh Loan, a police chief and former director of counter-drug efforts in a province with one of the country's highest heroin addiction rates. "I think it makes sense to drop the article," Loan said. "Few countries in the world sentence drug addicts to prison terms."

Vietnamese drug rehabilitation efforts are not particularly effective, Loan said. "The rate of relapse into drug use is very high."

While Vietnam has harsh laws for drug dealing -- 85 people were sentenced to death last year for drug offenses and nine more so far this year -- those laws have had little impact on drug use in the Southeast Asian nation. Harsh enforcement is not working, said Mai. "Many people have been sentenced to death for trafficking heroin, but heroin trafficking is still rampant," Mai said. "The traffickers know that the laws are strict but they are still trafficking narcotics."

Marijuana: New York City Pot Arrest Capital of the World

Police in New York City arrested more than 39,700 people on marijuana charges last year, and that is no fluke. In the last decade, nearly 400,000 New Yorkers have been arrested for carrying small amounts of marijuana, the vast majority of them black or brown.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/nyc_marijuana_arrests.gif
The figures come from a just released report by Queens College sociologist Harry Levine and Breaking the Chains executive director Deborah Small. According to the report, "Marijuana Arrest Crusade," whites constituted only 15% of those arrested, while Hispanics were 31% and blacks made up more than half of all pot arrests, with 52%.

"Racial profiling is a fact of life on the streets of New York City," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, during a news conference at the group's Manhattan headquarters.

New York is among the small number of states that decriminalized marijuana possession in the late 1970s, but that hasn't stopped police from arresting people carrying small amounts of weed and then subjecting them to average 24-hour stays in New York City jails while they await arraignment. Police get around the decrim law by "manufacturing" arrests for "possession in public view," said Levine. Police routinely stop young black and brown men on the streets, force them to empty their pockets, then charge them with the more serious "possession in public view" offense.

Since Big Apple marijuana arrests started going through the roof during the administration of Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, the city has sometimes accounted for one out of 10 marijuana arrests in the entire country. Last year, that figure was lower, with New York accounting for roughly 5% of pot arrests nationwide, still a huge number.

That makes New York City "the marijuana arrest capital of the world," said Lieberman.

In Mexico's Drug Heartland, A Debate on Alternatives to the Drug War Takes Place

About 6:30 local time Wednesday evening, the latest outbreak of Mexican drug war violence occurred in Culiacán, the capital of the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, long a drug-producing region and home to one of the most feared of the country's drug trafficking organizations, the Sinaloa cartel. Two cartel gunman and two Culiacán policemen died in a series of shoot-outs that broke out when Mexican soldiers and police attempted to arrest suspected narcos, or cartel members.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/malverde1.jpg
shrine to San Malverde, patron saint of the narcos (and others), Culiacan -- plaque thanking God, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and San Malverde for keeping the roads cleans -- from ''the indigenous people from Angostura to Arizona''

The deaths occurred less than a mile from the central Culiacán hotel where a number of intellectuals, academics, and political figures were staying while they were in town for a two-day International Forum on Illicit Drugs organized by the muckraking local newsweekly Ríodoce. The bloody gun battles were poignant punctuation for a conference Tuesday and Wednesday dedicated to seeking alternatives to Mexico's drug war, which has seen nearly 1,000 people killed so far this year, and nearly 4,000 dead since President Felipe Calderón called out the army at the beginning of 2007.

While Calderón and his allies in the Bush administration are seeking a $1.4 billion anti-drug aid package to try to break the back of the cartels by ramping up Mexican military involvement in the fray under the Plan Mérida initiative, the Culiacán conference was dedicated to searching for a different path. Its subtitle was "Plan Mérida and the Experiences of Decriminalization."

Organized by Ríodoce as a response to the violence that appears to be spiraling out of control, the forum brought together leading Mexican drug experts, such as Luis Astorga, head of the UNESCO program studying the economic and social aspects of drugs and the drug trade; Dr. Humberto Brocca, a Mexico City physician who deals with street youth and drug addiction; Ricardo Ravel, a journalist for the Mexico City newsweekly Proceso and author of numerous books on the Mexican cartels; General Francisco Gallardo, the leading proponent of human rights in the Mexican military; Jorge Hernández Tinajero, advisor to Deputy Elsa Conde and founding member of AMECA (the Mexican Assocation for Cannabis Studies), and Carlos Montemayor, a towering figure among the Mexican intelligentsia, among others.

They were joined by Colombian drug specialist Francisco Thoumi, director of the Center for the Study of Drugs and Crime at the University of Rosario in Bogota; and Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York City-based Drug Policy Alliance. Also in attendance, albeit briefly, were a number of local political figures, including a former state governor, a member of the state congress, the state human rights coordinator, and the state coordinator for the left-leaning Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). The attendance of the local political figures at the forum's opening session is a sign that, given a massive military presence (about 1,000 more Mexican army troops deployed to Culiacán last week, joining about 2,000 others already working in the state), rising levels of violence, and endemic corruption among law enforcement and political figures, the state's political elite is starting to look for alternatives to even more soldiers, more narcos, and more violence.

"The drug trade has become one of the most complex and important problems facing us today," said Ríodoce publisher Ismael Bojórquez as he opened the conference Tuesday morning in the Torre Académica at the Culiacán campus of the Autonomous University of Sinaloa. "Our efforts to fight it have not produced results. But it is not just a law enforcement problem, it is also a health problem. How do we protect drug consumers? Here today, we are proposing that given the failure of our drug policy, we need to look at alternatives."

[Much of the discussion at the forum focused on Plan Mérida and the militarization of Mexico's drug war. See that discussion here.]

AMECA founder Jorge Hernández Tinajero explained one alternative, the decriminalization of marijuana use and possession, as a first step on a path toward meaningful drug reform in Mexico. "We have a proposal before the congress that would remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession," he explained, arguing that marijuana smokers should be dealt with outside the criminal justice system.

Although conceding that change will come incrementally if at all, Hernández Tinajero also made a broader anti-prohibitionist argument. "It is disingenuous to say that we should rely on the military and police to reduce the supply of drugs," he said. "Who trusts the police? Nobody," he said, to cheers and laughter from the audience.

While the Ríodoce conference marked the first public gathering in Sinaloa to discuss alternatives to the drug war, it is a problem that has been festering for years, said Nery Córdova, a poet and essayist who is a member of the social sciences faculty at Autonomous University of Sinaloa. "We've been discussing this for some time, and not just professionals and academics," he told a rapt audience of students, community members, and other interested parties. "This is a problem that involves millions of people here in Mexico. Prohibition has been very profitable," he noted.

But while prohibition has been profitable for some, it also imposes steep costs on others, Córdova said. "We've seen the army raid thousands of villages, and now, in the mountains hundreds of villages are just vanishing. We have seen massacres of innocents by the military, and at the same time, we have the media telling us that killing a narco is saving the homeland. But the use of institutional force and violence only generates more violence," he said.

"Prohibition has been inefficient and useless," said José Manuel Valenzuela, a professor in the Department of Cultural Studies at the College of the Northern Frontier in Tijuana, and author of award-winning books on popular culture and "narco-culture." "Prohibition corrupts not only the police forces and the army, but also many other spheres of society. We have become accustomed to confronting this in a brutal manner," he said.

There is a better way, said Brocca, citing the experience of Holland. But getting to a better solution, he said, requires looking within. "Blaming drugs obscures real problems," he said. "We fear the truth."

Still, said Brocca, times are changing. "We are used to working in the trenches, and we've been waiting for change to come from above, but this is changing. This decrim bill is the result of a group of us -- political people, doctors, academics, celebrities -- coming together to push for change."

But while panelist after panelist made strong arguments for a paradigm shift in drug policy, it was DPA's Nadelmann, with his energetic public presentation unimpeded by the necessity of ongoing translation, who stole the show and most captivated the crowd.

"The war on drugs is a disaster; it's contrary to common sense, the laws of economics, and human rights," Nadelmann told a rapt audience. "Our policy has resulted in a global prohibition regime that uses the criminal laws with respect to some drugs, but not others. Those decisions were not based on science or medicine; they had less to do with the dangers of various substances than with who was using them," he said, citing the racist history of drug laws in the US and comparing them to the contemporary "hysteria" over the of people from Mexico into the US , an approach that resonated plainly with his Mexican audience.

While various speakers at the forum placed Mexico's drug war within the ambit of American neo-colonialism -- oh, what a difference being outside the US makes! -- Nadelmann disagreed. "It's easy to believe that American drug policy with respect to Mexico is primarily to advance American political, military, and economic interests, or that the real intention is to humiliate Mexico. I think that's mostly false," he said. "What we are seeing is simply the international projection of our domestic psychosis. We are crazy when it comes to drugs, and Mexico must be swept up. It isn't rational, and it doesn't advance our national interest. Our interest is in peace, security, and open markets, and the American drug war does not serve those interests. Our craziness undermines us," he argued.

"What's the alternative? Legal regulation must be on the table. What Mexico is experiencing today reminds of Chicago under Al Capone -- the crime, the violence, the corruption," Nadelmann continued. "These are not the consequences of drugs, but of a failed prohibitionist approach."

About the time Nadelmann was saying those words the latest killings in Culiacán took place. As audience members left the forum, went home, and turned on their televisions, Mexico's narcos, soldiers, and police were busy reinforcing the arguments heard at the Torre Académica.

Latin America: Argentine Court Decriminalizes Drug Possession in Buenos Aires

A federal court in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires Tuesday decriminalized drug possession in the capital in a ruling that could be altered by the country's high court, but which is in line with the position of the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. In issuing its ruling, the federal court threw out thousands of drug possession cases pending in the federal district.

The ruling from the federal court of appeals came in the case of two young people arrested for possession of marijuana joints and ecstasy tablets at an electronic music concert in 2007. In those cases, the court held that the 1989 drug law that punished simple drug possession or consumption is unconstitutional .

Under that law, drug users were seen as the base of a chain that led directly to drug traffickers. But the appeals court held that that law generated "an avalanche of cases against users without managing to ascend the links of the chain to the drug traffickers."

The current government is in favor of reforming drug laws. During a recent UN session, Argentine Justice and Security Minister Aníbal Fernández called the policy of punishing drug users "an absolute failure."

Now, a federal appeals court has ratified that opinion.

How Can We Debate Them if They Don't Even Know What Decriminalization Means?

The Los Angeles Times is publishing a series of debate pieces this week between Saying Yes author Jacob Sullum and Charles Stimson, a former prosecutor and senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Here's the first question:
What's the difference between drug legalization and decriminalization? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Jacob Sullum's answer is terrific. Charles Stimson's answer begins this way:
Two points: First, there is no difference between decriminalization and legalization. Second, whichever term you want to use, it's a bad idea.

I suppose there is nothing more predictable in the world than the tendency of drug warriors to open their arguments with sweeping and false generalizations. Still, this is just so dumb and wrong that it barely qualifies as an opinion.

We could debate the exact meaning of decriminalization, but it is typically used to describe situations in which penalties are simply reduced, i.e. a fine instead of possible jail time. You can still be taken into custody and subjected to various escalating sanctions. For example, 33,000 people were arrested for possessing small quantities of marijuana in New York City in 2006, despite a decrim policy that's been in effect since 1977. Legalization ends possession arrests and presumably regulates commerce.

It shouldn't be necessary to define commonly used legal terms for a senior legal fellow at a prestigious thinktank, but this is the drug war, and as usual, its supporters can be found creating their own reality in which to debate us.

After getting the opening question wrong, Stimson launches into a series of preposterous claims. He observes that daily wine consumption improves health, while daily marijuana use destroys the mind. He accuses drug-addicted navy sailors of threatening national security. He suggests that some states don't charge people for committing rape. He insists that drug users have too many children out of wedlock.

I can't frickin' wait to hear what he'll say in tomorrow's installment.

[thanks, Scott]

Localização: 
United States

Marijuana: Nebraska Legislature Passes Stiffer Decrim Penalties, Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

The Nebraska legislature Tuesday gave its approval to a measure that will increase the penalties for small-time marijuana possession in the Cornhusker state. Under Nebraska's current marijuana decriminalization statute, in place since 1979, first-time possession of less than an ounce of weed is punishable by no more than a $100 fine, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for a third offense.

Under Legislative Bill 844, the maximum fine for first-time possession of less than an ounce will be $300, $400 for a second offense, and $500 for a third offense. The measure would also increase the maximum penalty for possession of more than an ounce, but less than a pound. Under current law, violators face a $500 fine and up to a week in jail. Under the new law, the fine would remain the same, but the maximum jail sentence would increase dramatically to three months.

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilbur, who argued that fines should be increased because they are not as stiff as those facing minors caught possessing alcohol. In Nebraska, drinking under 21 can get you 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. The marijuana decrim penalties apply to both minors and adults.

Karpisek's reasoning must have appealed to his fellow legislators. The upward revision of decrim penalties passed on a 40-2 vote.

In 2006, there were 7,416 arrests and citations made for marijuana possession, sale and manufacture, according to the Nebraska Crime Commission. The commission did not break down those figures, but assuming roughly 90% of arrests and citations were for simple possession -- about the national average -- that means the state of Nebraska stands to see its pot fine revenues increase from somewhere around $600,000 a year to $1.8 million.

Nice racket.

Marijuana: Barney Frank Introduces Federal Decriminalization Bill

Last month, Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) announced he would file a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession at the federal level. Wednesday, Frank followed through, introducing the "The Personal Use of Marijuana By Responsible Adults Act of 2008," which would set a maximum $100 fine under federal law for possession or not-for-profit transfer of less than 100 grams of marijuana.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/barneyfrank.jpg
Barney Frank
Frank did not comment publicly this week on the proposed legislation, but in a statement last month on his marijuana legislation, Frank said it was a waste of federal time and resources to prosecute minor marijuana offenses.

"I think it is poor law enforcement to keep on the books legislation that establishes as a crime behavior the government does not seriously wish to prosecute," he said. "For highly-trained federal law enforcement agents to spend time prosecuting people for smoking marijuana is a diversion of scarce resources from their job of protecting public safety."

Marijuana laws should be left to the states, he suggested. "The norm in America is for the states to decide whether particular behaviors should be made criminal. To make the smoking of marijuana one of those extremely rare instances of federal crime -- to make a 'federal case' out of it -- is wholly disproportionate to the activity involved. We do not have federal criminal prohibitions against drinking alcoholic beverages, and there are generally no criminal penalties for the use of tobacco at the state and federal levels for adults. There is no rational argument for treating marijuana so differently from these other substances."

Even if the Frank bill were to pass, which seems unlikely any time in the near future, it would have limited impact on the 800,000-plus marijuana arrests each year since the vast majority of them are made by state and local law enforcement. But it would send a very strong signal to the states that the federal government no longer considered pot-smoking a serious problem worthy of the criminal justice system.

Latin America: Argentine President Calls for Decriminalization of Drug Possession, Inclusion of Harm Reduction in National Drug Strategy

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner called last week for the decriminalization of drug use and the integration of harm reduction efforts into the country's drug strategy. Her statement comes almost a year after Minister of Justice, Security, and Human Rights Aníbal Fernández announced he was proposing a bill that would do just that.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cristinakirchner.jpg
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
"I don't like it when people easily condemn someone who has an addiction as if he were a criminal, as if he were a person who should be persecuted," she told the meeting. "Those who should be persecuted are those who sell the substances, those who give it away, those who traffic in it."

Kirchner' remarks came as Minister Fernández presented the results of a national poll on drug use that found alcohol and cocaine consumption decreasing, but marijuana consumption on the rise. The president and most of her cabinet attended that presentation.

Minister Fernández, who in March told the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs that drug policies that punished users were a "complete failure," said Argentina's next drug policy should include human rights, harm reduction, and prevention, as well as law enforcement.

"Decriminalization of the consumer should include what are called second-generation human rights, but at the same time there should be a strong policy of prevention, so that no one falls in the situation of consuming any substance," he said.

Thanks in parts to the efforts of Argentine harm reduction groups like ARDA (the Argentine Harm Reduction Association and Intercambios, pressure for decriminalization in Argentina has been building for years. Five years ago, during the presidency of Fernández de Kirchner's husband, Néstor Kirchner, a decrim bill was introduced, but went nowhere. More recently, in April of this year and again in June, Argentine federal courts have thrown out drug possession cases, saying the current drug law was unconstitutional.

If Argentina actually does decriminalize drug possession, it will join a select group of countries, mostly in Europe, but also including Colombia and Peru. Brazil is also edging in the same direction, with an appeals court in São Paulo ruling in March that drug possession is not a crime.

Massachusetts Aims For Marijuana Decriminalization in November

Eleven states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, leaving those busted to face only tickets and fines instead of a criminal record and possible jail time. But most of them decriminalized in the 1970s, with Nevada being the most recent addition to the list in 2001. This year, thanks to a carefully-crafted initiative campaign by the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy (CSMP), which follows two years of groundwork-laying by local activists, Massachusetts may be the next state to take the step.

Last year, CSMP drafted a decrim initiative and gathered more than 80,000 valid signatures. Now, in accordance with Massachusetts law, the initiative is before the legislature, which can either pass it, offer a competing version up to the voters in November, or do nothing and let voters vote on the initiative itself in November.

According to CSMP, the initiative (read its full text here) would:

  • Amend the current criminal statutes so that adults possessing an ounce or less of marijuana for personal use would be charged with a civil infraction and fined $100. Currently marijuana possession can draw six months in jail and a $500 fine, plus a wide range of "collateral consequences" continuing long after.
  • Remove the threat of a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) report for minor marijuana possession charges. Criminal records can haunt people when applying for jobs for the rest of their lives.
  • Maintain current penalties for selling, growing, and trafficking marijuana, as well as the prohibition against driving under the influence of marijuana.
  • Save Massachusetts approximately $24.3 million per year in law enforcement resources that are currently wasted on low-level marijuana possession arrests, according to a 2002 report by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron.

While the initiative had a March 18 hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary with a number of high-powered proponents, it is unlikely the legislature will act on it, leaving the voters to decide. That may be for the best, said Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Middlesex), who sponsored decrim legislation on which the initiative is based. While the Jehlen-sponsored SB1121 managed to win approval in committee, it has not gotten any further, nor has a similar bill, SB 1011, supported by the local activists of MassCann, the local affiliate of NORML.

An initiative will fare better with the public than in the legislature for a couple of reasons, Jehlen said. "It's not a big issue for many legislators," she pointed out, "and members are reluctant to take votes they think might be misunderstood by the public."

But before that can happen, CSMP will have to go back to the voters for another round of signature-gathering as required by Massachusetts law, explained committee head Whitney Taylor. Under that law, no one who signed petitions during the first round of signature gathering can sign a petition during the second round. Still, Taylor predicted no problems.

"I'm very confident we can come up with the required number of signatures," she said. "We have a lot of public support, we've been doing a lot of volunteer recruiting, and we've been working closely with SSDP chapters -- a bunch have just opened in the Boston area. There is a really great synergy going on there," she said.

"But while we have the enthusiasm of youth, we are also seeing a lot of buy-in from the broader public policy and advocacy community," said Taylor. "Massachusetts has the largest number of nonprofits per capita of any state, and these people are very comfortable in their political roles. There are lots of criminal and juvenile justice people who think our money could be better spent. It's great to see the support we're gathering at this early stage. I know we will make the ballot," she flatly predicted.

The initiative did have some early hurdles to pass. Last fall saw disagreement over aspects of the initiative language, particularly around whether it was wise to include marijuana in one's bodily fluids in the definition of marijuana possession and whether that could create a fine where it doesn't exist now. Some activists, such as NORML founder and current legal counsel Keith Stroup, worried that the language could become a precedent for other states to follow. Currently only one of them, South Dakota, defines a criminal offense of internal possession.

Taylor and initiative lawyers countered that there is conflicting case law on whether internal possession is already a criminal offense in Massachusetts that could draw a more severe punishment, or collateral consequences such as loss of college aid or problems in custody proceedings, and said the purpose of that language was to plug those holes by setting the same $100 fine as for external possession. They also argued that police can't take a bodily fluid sample without probable cause, which they say makes an internal possession penalty theoretical. Ultimately, all the major marijuana reform forces in the state, including NORML and MassCann, decided to support the initiative.

MassCann has been promoting the decrim cause in Massachusetts for years, and can point to some admirable achievements. At times working alone, at times working with the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts, the local activists managed to get non-binding questions on medical marijuana or decrim on the ballot in dozens of representative districts around the state. The results of those contests have demonstrated strong support for marijuana law reform in the Bay State.

"We never lost a ballot question," said MassCann treasurer Steve Epstein. "We did them in 2000, 2002, and 2004, and never lost, and we averaged 63%. We've also been working the legislature on reform there, but progress has been slow."

A successful decrim initiative would serve the same purpose as the decrim bills currently before the legislature, said Epstein. "Any of them will result in police not being able to arrest people for simple possession, all would result in people not getting CORIs, and all would save the police time and money. The police here will look the other way. They do that half the time already."

CSMP is honing its arguments as it looks forward to the fall campaign. "We are spending almost $30 million a year to arrest and book marijuana possession offenders," said Taylor. "And that's a conservative estimate. That money should stay in police coffers."

In addition to the economic costs, the campaign will highlight the costs of a marijuana conviction to young people. "We are seeing about 7,500 marijuana possession arrests a year, and that means 7,500 CORI reports, and that means opening people up to being rejected by landlords and employers, losing access to student loans and professional licenses, and all of that," Taylor said.

While opponents of marijuana law reform often cry that it will "send the wrong message" to the kids, Taylor said that is exactly backwards. "The wrong message to send to children is that if you make a mistake, we'll punish you for the rest of your life," she said. "With our initiative, whether this was just youthful experimentation or a sign of an actual problem, the consequences for law-breaking are immediate and done with, and that's more fair than the law currently is."

Now, the stage is set. Massachusetts voters have had nearly a decade to get accustomed to the notion of marijuana law reform, and the legislature, despite its inertia, is nibbling at the edges. Prominent Bay Staters are coming on board, fundraising is underway, and proponents are itching to take it to the ballot because they think they can win.

"The public supports it by about a two-to-one margin every time it's on the ballot. I filed my bill because of a vote like that in my district," said Sen. Jehlen. "It's also a better way to spend our public safety dollars more wisely by focusing on real threats, and it prevents harm to those people who are caught with it. Yes, I do think this can pass."

Marijuana: Barney Frank to Introduce Federal Decriminalization Bill

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) used a Friday night appearance on the HBO program "Real Time," hosted by Bill Maher, to announce that he planned to file a federal bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana this week. Frank, who has long been a supporter of marijuana law reform, said that federal law unfairly targets medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal. He also argued that decisions about whether to make marijuana illegal should be left up to the states.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/barneyfrank.jpg
Barney Frank
Asked by Maher as to why he would push a pot decriminalization bill now, Frank said the American public has already decided that personal use of marijuana is not a problem. "I now think it's time for the politicians to catch up to the public," Frank said. "The notion that you lock people up for smoking marijuana is pretty silly. I'm going to call it the 'Make Room for Serious Criminals' bill."

Elaborating on his TV remarks in a Sunday interview with the Associated Press, the Massachusetts congressman said elected officials are lagging behind public opinion on the issue. "Do you really think people should be prosecuted for smoking marijuana? I don't think most people agree with that. It's one area where the public is ahead of the elected officials," Frank said. "It does not appear to me to be a law that society is serious about."

He seemed particularly irked by DEA raids and federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers in California. "I don't think smoking marijuana should be a federal case," he said. "There's no federal law against mugging."

A dozen states have already decriminalized marijuana possession, with the New Hampshire House voting to approve such a measure last week. But the Granite State bill is opposed by state Senate leaders and the governor.

Rep. Frank's bill had not appeared on the Congressional web site as of Thursday afternoon.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School