The United States is by far the world leader in a dubious category: incarceration of its citizens. As the result of a dramatic rise since 1980, over 1% of the adult population is now behind bars, and the federal “war on drugs” is at least partially to blame. This week, we examine an aggressive proposal by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul that allows states to set their own marijuana policies by ending federal prohibition of the drug.
Watch this episode of 90 Second Summaries at Main Street Insider. The one-page summary of H.R. 2306 is below the fold.
90 Second Summaries: Season 2, Episode 18
H.R. 2306: Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA4). Key Cosponsor: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX14)
Click here to download this summary (pdf)
Cosponsors: 8 (6 Democrats, 2 Republicans). Full list at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:HR02306:@@@P
Senate Companion: None as of August 1st.
Status: Assigned to Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health. Judiciary Committee also has jurisdiction. No action scheduled as of August 1st; highly unlikely to move.
Purpose: The United States is by far the world leader in a dubious category: incarceration of its citizens. The result of a dramatic rise since 1980, over 1% of the adult population is now behind bars, and some 1 out of every 18 men is either imprisoned, on parole or on probation. The spike in incarceration rates despite a steady decline in violent crimes in recent decades is largely attributed to the federal “war on drugs”, and especially marijuana.
However, marijuana has recently become more widely accepted by mainstream America, and is considered by many to be safer than legal drugs such as alcohol, tobacco or a host of prescription medications. Given the enormous budgetary strain on federal and state government caused by widespread imprisonment for drug offenses, a movement to end the draconian treatment of marijuana use has emerged. A handful of states have passed medical marijuana measures, but the Obama Administration has continued “war on drugs” policies and raided dispensaries across the country as recently as March. H.R. 2306 is the latest and most aggressive legislative proposal designed to end its authority to do so.
Summary: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 would essentially leave authority over marijuana regulation and enforcement to the states. Specifically, it:
• Exempts “marihuana” from regulation under Part A of the Controlled Substances Act, except when transported into a jurisdiction where the drug remains illegal;
• Sets the maximum federal prison sentence for those transporting marijuana at 1 year;
• Removes marijuana and related cannabinoids from their current classification as a Schedule I drug.
• Removes the blanket prohibition on import/export of the drug;
• Clarifies that cannabis testing policies for federal employees will remain in place.
CBO Score: None provided.
Supporters: Marijuana Policy Project, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, social libertarians, many younger voters
• Supporters view this bill as the “ultimate” measure to end what they see as a staggeringly counterproductive and unjust policy. It will allow states to determine their own marijuana laws free of concern over federal interference.
Opponents: Obama Administration, most of Congress, many older voters, much of the incarceration industry, etc.
• Some opponents generally claim marijuana is a dangerous gateway drug that can easily lead to other types of deviant behaviors, such as harder drug abuse and sexual promiscuity. Others driven by a variety of factors, including profit motive and/or political risk-aversion.
Full bill text: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h112-2306
Huffington Post article on the bill: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/22/marijuana-bill-barney-frank-ron-paul_n_882707.html
CNBC interview with Ron Paul on the bill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3fizLWrv8
MPP Director Rob Kampia on the bill: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-kampia/ron-paul-barney-frank-marijuana-_b_882380.html
White House ONDCP policy statement on marijuana: http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/strategy/2011ndcs/chapter1.html#FM
Jonathan Turley on Obama Admin position: http://jonathanturley.org/2011/07/01/obama-administration-adopts-bush-anti-medical-marijuana-stance/