Barney Frank authored H.R.2306 introduced by Frank, Ron Paul, Conyers, Lee, Polis and Cohen. The legislation aimed to decriminalization marijuana by removing it from schedule of controlled substances — Schedule I(c) of section 202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812(c)). The amendment, now with 20 co-sponsors, languishes in committee awaiting additional sponsors.
Seventeen states, including D.C. now have legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana. Seven states have legislation currently pending. However, federal law and state laws are in conflict and will remain so until such legislation as H.R. 2306 or future legislation just like it is passed. This is a state's rights issue and it's time for the federal government to quit playing "Big Brother" and overstepping its bounds.
It is time Congress acted to decriminalize the use of marijuana and here are eight reasons why.
1. Our congress is supposed to recognize the will of the people, not impose their will on the people. Even though recent polls show the majority, 56% of the public, is in favor of legalizing and regulating marijuana, and a full 47% of citizens are in favor of taxing cannabis, there still has been no action by Congress. Maybe election polls are the only ones that get attention in Washington.
2. The Global Commission on Drug Policy report admits the global war on drugs has failed. In fact, consumption has increased. Doesn't taking action just make sense, even if we just consider the economics?
3. The War on Drugs has cost over a trillion dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives have been spent. The availability of drugs has increased instead of decreased since Nixon enacted tougher drug laws in the 1970s. In a time our country needs to cut spending, it seems like this would be a no-brainer. But then there are the lobbyists adding to election coffers. And the people in jail aren't making campaign contributions. Seems that in addition to those who have invested in private prisons, local police need that federal drug war money to keep the cash flows going.
4. There is also the cost to states. In addition to fighting the drug war, the cost to jail non-violent drug offenders averages about $47,000 per year (depending on the state). This is causing a massive drain on state budgets. And because Medicaid covers medical care for prisoners it is a burden to that program as well. Since so many prisons have been privatized they need every penny of profit they can get.
5. Data proves 51% of all incarcerations today are for drug offenses and less than 10% of those offences involved violence. If marijuana was decriminalized, and non-violent offenders released, the privately owned prisons would lose vast numbers of clients and the flow of new clients delivered to them through their customers, the state criminal court systems, might come to a screeching halt. But wouldn't that free up our over burdened court systems as well. Of course, we need to think of the economic shock this would be to local attorneys across the country.
6. Another reason to decriminalize is racial disparity. Blacks are 57 times more likely than any other group to be incarcerated for crimes involving drugs, but they only make up 15.4% of drug users arrested. Whites make up 83.5% of those charged with drug violation, but a white person is less likely to go to jail. This is simply another clear area where the war on drugs combined with our criminal justice system has failed miserably.
7. Scientific research is another area that our congressional leaders choose to dismiss. At one time this "science" was key to criminalizing the use of marijuana. Relying on "experts," the nation was told how dangerous marijuana was. We were told how violent it made people (it actually makes people passive) and it how addictive it is. Now we learn it not addictive. Cigarettes are addictive and kill people. Marijuana actually is medicinal and helps many who suffer from a variety of ailments. And even more recently we have learned it may actually halt or cure cancer. We are now told it is a "gateway" to other even more dangerous drugs. Let's face facts, the only reason it is a gateway drug is because the drug dealers are often a one-stop shop for illegal substances. And if marijuana were decriminalized, there would be no need to visit the local drug dealer. Anyone could grow it in his or her back yard, or in a flowerpot inside his or her homes for that matter. Which is why, along with police and investors in the private prison system, pharmaceutical companies are also among those who lobby against decriminalizing marijuana. It might decrease sales of the addictive pain killing drugs that are one of the major contributors this nations drug addiction problems.
8. Ron Paul explains the most important reason for decriminalizing marijuana. Personal liberty. It's what this country is supposed to be about.
Slowly, state-by-state, people's voices are being heard and the ridiculous laws banning a natural herbal plant are being changed. The federal government continues in its arrogance believing it can legislate morality. H.R. 2306 is still in committee but with a concerted effort of phone calls and e-mails to our representatives and senators there is still time to get this legislation to decriminalize marijuana passed. It is not just a matter of economics; it is a matter of personal liberty.