On June 23rd 2011, House of Representatives Democrat Barney Frank and Republican Ron Paul introduced a joint legislation, Bill HR 2306, that would limit the federal governments involvement in the prosecution of marijuana. It would also remove the criminal penalties associated with marijuana in the Controlled Substance Act. In essence, the government would only get involved if the case involved inter-state or cross border smuggling. This rare bi-partisan legislation is being introduced just weeks after an international panel declared the war on drugs a failure and recommended the United States legalize marijuana.
“Criminally prosecuting adults for making the choice to smoke marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and an intrusion on personal freedom.” Representative Franks voiced in a statement later that day.
He also insists that this bill is not advocating the legalization of marijuana but instead is focused on clarifying the current conflicts between state and federal laws regarding marijuana. As of 2011 there are 16 states, in addition to Washington DC, that allow the use of medicinal marijuana, an allowance that is in direct contradiction of federal law. If this bill passes it would free up the federal government to focus on more pressing crimes and allow states to decide what is best for their citizens. Rep. Ron Paul said in a statement, likens the marijuana prohibition to the alcohol prohibition of years past.
“I would say marijuana, as far as causing highway problems, is minuscule compared to alcohol,” Paul said. “Yet we know the prohibition of alcohol was very bad. This is just getting back to a sensible position on how we handle difficult problems.”
However, the bill has strong opponents, including Republican Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, who is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee that the bill must pass through.
“Marijuana use and distribution is prohibited under federal law because it has a high potential for abuse. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease.” Smith told the Associated Press and continued to say that the Judiciary Committee would turn down the bill.
Regardless of the heated debate on both sides of the aisle this is just another step in an attempt to solve the criminal drug problem in the United States and this legislation has made history as the first bill to be introduced to ease the prohibition of marijuana.”