Today: Members of Congress to Introduce Historic Legislation Ending Marijuana Prohibition

Press Release June 22, 2011
Media Contact

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Bill Piper 202-669-6430</p>

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) will introduce bi-partisan legislation tomorrow, June 23, ending the federal war on marijuana and letting states legalize, regulate, tax, and control marijuana without federal interference. Other co-sponsors include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). The legislation would limit the federal government's role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal. The legislation is the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

Leading critics of the war on marijuana will explain its significance for state and national marijuana policy at a national tele-press conference on Thursday.

What:  Tele-Press Conference on the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011

When: Thursday, June 23. 2:00pm EST / 11am PST


Last week marked the 40th Anniversary of President Nixon declaring a war on marijuana and other drugs. In an oped in the New York Times last week, timed for the 40th Anniversary, former President Jimmy Carter called for reforming marijuana laws.

The legislation also comes on the heels of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which released a report on June 2 calling for a major paradigm shift in how our society deals with drugs, including calling for legal regulation of marijuana. The report sent a jolt around the world, generating thousands of international media stories.  The commission is comprised of international dignitaries including Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations; Richard Branson, entrepreneur, founder of the Virgin Group; and the former Presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Switzerland. Representing the U.S. on the commission are George P. Shultz, Paul Volcker, and John Whitehead.

46.5% of Californians voted last year to legalize marijuana in their state, and voters in Colorado, Washington and possibly other states are expected to vote on the issue next year. In the past year at least five state legislatures have considered legalizing marijuana, including California, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington. 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, but the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to arrest people under federal law and U.S. Attorneys have in recent months sent threatening letters to state policymakers in an apparent attempt to meddle in state decision-making.

Rep. Frank's legislation would end state/federal conflicts over marijuana policy, reprioritize federal resources, and provide more room for states to do what is best for their own citizens.

Statement from Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance:

"This legislation allows states to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference, focuses federal law enforcement on violent criminals and organized crime instead of marijuana offenders, and saves taxpayer money. Marijuana prohibition is breeding violence, over-incarceration, corruption and taxpayer waste, much like alcohol Prohibition did. The 'Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act' ends marijuana prohibition in the same way alcohol Prohibition was ended so states can control, regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol.

"More than half of all drug arrests are for marijuana, and most of those arrests are for nothing more than possessing marijuana for personal use. More than 850,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana in 2009 alone (the latest year data is available) – and 88% of those arrests were for mere possession. Even though African-Americans are no more likely to use or sell marijuana than whites, they’re far more likely to be searched, arrested and incarcerated, and thus more likely to be discriminated against in employment, housing and public benefits because of their conviction.

"Moreover prohibition is destabilizing our neighbors. For instance, tens of thousands of Mexicans have died recently in prohibition-related violence, and tens of thousands more have died in Central America and other source countries.  The negative consequences of drug prohibition are enormous and Rep. Frank’s and Rep. Paul’s bi-partisan bill is the first bill in Congress to end the war on marijuana and significantly reduce the violence, taxpayer waste and racial disparities associated with the war on drugs."

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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