Thursday was a landmark day in the war against prohibition. Representatives Barney Frank and Ron Paul introduced a bill that, if it passes, would end the federal prohibition of cannabis. The bill, the first of its kind, is a bipartisan effort showing that some legislators are listening to public opinion. As Rep. Frank said, “I think the public is way ahead of legislators on this. This is an educational process that’s going on.”
Should the bill pass, states would be left to decide whether or not to allow the use, cultivation, and sale of cannabis. States like Colorado and California, where legalization is already a possibility in the near future, wouldn’t have to break federal law to end prohibition. Other states would have the option of continuing prohibition or not. Federal control would be limited to cross-border and interstate drug traffic, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
This bill has been introduced at a key moment for the anti-prohibition movement. The federal government threatens to shut down dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal, including here in Colorado. Meanwhile, the Global Commission on Drug policy released a report declaring the failure of the global war on drugs. The fact that a bill of this kind finally exists on federal level is a sign that anti-prohibitionists are gaining more ground.
That said, the chances of this bill passing are low. Congressional support for ending prohibition has been limited–or at least quiet–since states have started legalizing medical marijuana. The bill came with the support of Rep. Steve Cohen, who thinks–like much of the public–that the feds should spend resources on controlling more dangerous drugs than pot. Colorado Rep. Jared Polis agrees, adding that ending marijuana prohibition will weaken drug cartels and gangs that commit violent crime. Other co-sponsors of the bill include Representatives John Conyers and Barbara Lee.
The best thing anti-prohibitionists can do now is to write their states’ representatives in support of this bill. And there’s plenty of support for a bill of this kind. Back in January, President Barack Obama held a Q&A session online and was flooded with questions about his drug policy, specifically relating to cannabis prohibition. In addressing these questions, he said that he does not “think [legalizing marijuana] is a good strategy to grow our economy…” Perhaps now, with congressional support, he might change his views.