WASHINGTON: Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, along with co-sponsors Ron Paul (R-TX); Maurice Hinchey (D-NY); Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA); and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), will reintroduce legislation today to limit the federal government’s authority to arrest and prosecute minor marijuana offenders.
The measure, entitled an “Act to Remove Federal Penalties for Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults,” would eliminate federal penalties for the personal possession of up to 100 grams (over three and one-half ounces) of cannabis and for the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce of pot – making the prosecutions of these offenses strictly a state matter.
Under federal law, defendants found guilty of possessing small amounts of cannabis for their own personal use face up to one year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.
Passage of this act would provide state lawmakers the choice to maintain their current penalties for minor marijuana offenses or eliminate them completely. Lawmakers would also have the option to explore legal alternatives to tax and regulate the adult use and distribution of cannabis free from federal interference.
To date, thirteen states have enacted laws ‘decriminalizing’ the possession of marijuana by adults. Minor marijuana offenders face a citation and small fine in lieu of a criminal arrest or time in jail.
“The federal government has much more important business to attend to than targeting, arresting and prosecuting adults who use marijuana responsibly,” NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said. “This is an issue that ought to be handled by the states, not the Feds.”
According to nationwide polls, three out of four voters believe that adults who possess marijuana should not face arrest or jail, and one out of two now say that cannabis should be regulated like alcohol.
The reintroduction of the Frank/Paul bill comes one week after the duo reintroduced HR 2835, The Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act of 2009 – which seeks to halt federal interference in states that have enacted medical marijuana laws – and just days after Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) called for federal legislation to sentence certain first-time marijuana offenders to 25 years in prison.
“The US Congress has a definite choice,” said St. Pierre. “They can choose the path of compassion, fiscal responsibility, and common sense by supporting Barney Frank’s and Ron Paul’s efforts, or they can continue down America’s failed drug war path by endorsing Rep. Kirk’s draconian legislation. It is abundantly clear which direction the voters wish to go; will their elected officials follow?”