Visual: Pull quote: “The federal focus on marijuana is a significant waste of scarce federal resources. Responsible adults can choose, just like alcohol or tobacco, how they want to use it,”
Legislation was introduced Thursday that proposes ending federal prohibition on marijuana. The bill, introduced by Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, would allow states to legalize, regulate, tax and control marijuana without federal interference.
“We think this is an issue states can handle,” Frank said in a tele-press conference Thursday. “The federal focus on marijuana is a significant waste of scarce federal resources. Responsible adults can choose, just like alcohol or tobacco, how they want to use it.”
The proposed bill would not directly legalize recreational marijuana use, but it would give power to individual states to determine how marijuana use should be regulated. The bill would continue to give power to the federal government to enforce state marijuana laws, but when no state law exists, the federal government would have no power.
Those introducing the bill said it would eliminate the debate between state and federal powers and actually help to reduce marijuana use.
“This legislation would help keep marijuana out of the hands of kids, something our current situation isn’t doing,” said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo.
This past year California rejected Proposition 19, which would have allowed for recreational marijuana use within the state. Colorado and Washington may have similar votes this year.
Advocacy groups are active on both sides of the debate. The Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group for marijuana legalization, was a major force behind the creation of the bill.
“It benefits all states, and allows states to experiment with what works best for them,” said Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project. He also said it would have no impact on states like Utah that are not likely to legalize marijuana.
Other organizations, like the Drug Free America Foundation Inc., have played an active role apposing the legalization of marijuana, using the previous Supreme Court ruling as the basis for their argument.
“No matter what laws are passed locally or statewide, marijuana is illegal on the federal level – a ruling upheld by the Supreme Court and enforced by federal officials,” said Drug Free America on its website.
Although the conversation has been fueled by this announcement, even proponents of the bill recognize the unlikelihood of the bill passing
“I don’t expect this bill to pass,” Frank said. ” But this is an educational process. I believe the public is ahead of Congress on this.”