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April 2008
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Barney Frank and Ron Paul ride together

Via Hit and Run — Barney Frank has introduced his Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008, co-sponsored by Ron Paul.
Congressman Frank’s statement:

I think it is poor law enforcement to keep on the books legislation that establishes as a crime something which in fact society does not seriously wish to prosecute. In my view, having federal law enforcement agents engaged in the prosecution of people who are personally using marijuana is a waste of scarce resources better used for serious crimes. In fact, this type of prosecution often meets with public disapproval. The most frequent recent examples have been federal prosecutions of individuals using marijuana for medical purposes in states that have voted usually by public referenda to allow such use. Because current federal law has been interpreted as superseding state law in this area, most states that have made medical use of marijuana legal have been unable to actually implement their laws.
“When doctors recommend the use of marijuana for their patients and states are willing to permit it, I think its wrong for the federal government to subject either the doctors or the patients to criminal prosecution. More broadly speaking, the norm in America is for the states to decide whether particular behaviors should be made criminal. To make the smoking of marijuana, whether for medical purposes or not, one of those extremely rare instances of federal crime literally, 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.
To those who say that the government should not be encouraging the smoking of marijuana, my response is that I completely agree. But it is a great mistake to divide all human activity into two categories: those that are criminally prohibited, and those that are encouraged. In a free society, there must be a very considerable zone of activity between those two poles in which people are allowed to make their own choices as long as they are not impinging on the rights, freedom, or property of others. I believe it is important with regard to tobacco, marijuana and alcohol, among other things, that we strictly regulate the age at which people may use these substances. And, enforcement of age restrictions should be firm. But, criminalizing choices that adults make because we think they are unwise ones, when the choices involved have no negative effect on the rights of others, is not appropriate in a free society.
If the laws I am proposing pass, states will still be free to treat marijuana as they wish. But I do not believe that the federal government should treat adults who choose to smoke marijuana as criminals. Federal law enforcement is a serious business, and we should be concentrating our efforts in this regard on measures that truly protect the public.