« Another take on the consequences of SCOTUS crack retroactivity work in Freeman | Main | "Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies" »

June 23, 2011

Ron Paul and Barney Frank introduce bill to let states set pot policy

As explained in this CNN piece, a federal bill introduced on Thursday reveals that "Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and outspoken Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank want to get the federal government out of the marijuana regulation business."  Here is more:

The bill would allow the Feds to continue enforcing cross-border or inter-state smuggling, but states would set their own laws, and people could grow and sell marijuana in places that choose to make it legal.

The bill is, of course, a longshot. But making it a law isn't the whole point, according to Morgan Fox, communications manager at the Marijuana Policy Project. "A bill like this is going to get talked about quite a bit," Fox said.  "I think it will spark a strong debate in the media, and we hope to get some [House] floor time for it."

The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. John Conyers of Michigan, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Jared Polis of Colorado and Barbara Lee of California.

The bill's introduction comes 40 years after the United States began its "war on drugs" and just a few days after former President Jimmy Carter wrote an op-ed in the New York Times titled "Call Off the Global Drug War."...  Meanwhile, Ron Paul's status as a declared candidate for the presidency is likely to bring attention to the bill.

Via google news, one can see that this story is getting lots of hits and already generating a buzz --sorry, I could not resist some wacky weed wordplay -- but this effective post at The Volokh Conspiracy reports that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith has already said his panel would not consider the bill.  I guess he is just another one of those big federal government Republicans.

Some recent related posts:

June 23, 2011 at 10:06 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e201543337bbe8970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Ron Paul and Barney Frank introduce bill to let states set pot policy:

Comments

Since the "Drug War" is helping to prop up the Colombian and Mexican governments in their war against drug traffickers and guerrillas, will we abandon them too?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Jun 24, 2011 1:25:33 AM

It really is remarkable just how hypocritical our politicians are. Every one, if asked, would say without hesitation that the Government has no business running our private lives. But broach the subject of legalizing a harmless substance whose criminalization has resulted in nothing but disaster and destruction, and most of them scoff at the idea. Apparently they prefer bloodshed in Mexico and out of control incarceration in the United States. There is absolutely no justification for continuing America's marijuana policy--none.

We will look back on these days the way we look back on Jim Crow and McCarthyism. And that analogy is apt. Entrenched racist policies and anti-communist paranoia deprived decent people of their dignity and livelihoods, just like marijuana prosecution does today. Tens of thousands of people have died in Mexico as a result of prohibition, and every massacre is touted by American drug warriors as a sign of the "successes" of the drug war. Seriously, Michelle Leonhart, head of the DEA, actually stated, “It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs." Really? What would failure look like?

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 24, 2011 1:28:05 AM

Lamar Smith believes that unless the federal government is jailing its citizens, it's not doing its job. He opposes any action which takes power from the feds. Most recently he has been fear mongering, to any reporter that will listen, about possible retroactivity on the new crack guidelines. His position is that the sentencing commission would be overreaching its authority if it voted for retroactivity and that doing so would endanger our communities. The people of Texas should wake up and see that although they have begun electing officials who are smart on crime, saving the state millions, while still keeping its citizens safe, they continue to elect Lamar who believes no deed should go unpunished in the harshest manner possible, no matter the costs (monetary and otherwise) to the people of the US. It's no surprise he'd refuse to let the judiciary committee even consider such a bill.

Posted by: Fixnrlaws | Jun 24, 2011 8:56:29 AM

I think the wiser move would be for Chairman Smith to allow the bill to come to the floor for a vote. We will see then whether this camel's nose for heroin and meth ("It's up to me WHATEVER I put into my own body" -- right??) has the same degree of support in Congress that it does on this board.

Of course we already know the answer to that. In the last Congress, overwhelmingly dominated by liberal Democrats, legalization went absolutely nowhere. This was when present co-sponsor Conyers was Chairman of Judiciary.

The reason legalization advocates have failed for forty long years is not that the country is dopey (so to speak). It is, in part, because they insist on making their case on the basis of outright lies, such as the one advanced by one commenter, that marijuana is a "harmless substance."

Sure it is. Just like normal cigarette smoke!! HARMLESS, I tell you!!!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 24, 2011 9:15:50 AM

The claim that allowing states to set their own marijuana policy is a camel's nose is laughable. Marijuana is not nearly as harmful as many other legal substances, but we don't outlaw those substances. The deaths caused by tobacco every year are measured in the hudreds of thousands, and yet the number of deaths attributable to marijuana are virtually nil. Disease and death resulting from fatty foods, including cancer and heart disease, is well attested, and yet we have no such clear connection to significant numbers of disease or death from marijuana use.

If Congress is going to use the Commerce Clause to save people from ingesting substances that are harmful to themselves, then the camel's nose is already deep into the tent. To be true to its justification, Congress better start getting together a list of a bunch of other things to criminalize, starting with tobacco and alcohol. The fact is that public health and safety are not the reasons why marijuana is still illegal; instead,the policy is based on ignorance, fear, a completely dishonest interpretation of the Commerce Clause.

Posted by: C.A. | Jun 24, 2011 10:28:44 AM

Mind-altering substances have always been controlled. Tobacco and fatty foods have no such properties.

Posted by: mjs | Jun 24, 2011 11:31:38 AM

C.A. --

First you say, without a grain of documentation, that it's "laughable" to maintain that pot legaliation is the camel's nose of broader legalization (check with Ethan Nadelmann on that one). Then you say that the camel's nose is already under the tent.

Oh, OK.

What you don't say is whether a prior claim that dope is "harmless" is false. In fact it is false, isn't it?

You also imply that, because some harmful substances are legally accessible, we ought to ADD TO THE DANGER by making yet MORE legally accessible. Now that's far-sighted!

Finally, the Supreme Court ruling to which you refer, Raich v. Gonzales, was subscribed to by ALL the Court's liberals, plus Kennedy and Scalia (in a concurrence). They're all dishonest and stupid, right (except of course when they rule in favor of the criminal)?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 24, 2011 12:04:57 PM

Bill

If someone were to overdose on MJ the chances of it would cause death are either very very small or zero. I am not interested in arguing about the difference between very very small and zero. OTOH if someone were to chain smoke MJ their chances of getting cancer are much higher than if they were to chain smoke tobacco. I think that is your point. However most people do not chain smoke MJ.

MJ was used as a painkiller prior to 1900 when it was replaced by aspirin. Today is has reverted back to being a folk medicine (it works for me) with little prospect of become an approved medication according to most doctors I have talked to (it is not worth the cost of getting approved).


Posted by: John Neff | Jun 24, 2011 12:33:49 PM

John Neff --

A few points:

-- You don't have to "chain smoke" either tobacco or pot to be at risk of poorer health and in some cases death as a result. Your lungs don't like either one little bit.

-- There are plenty of safe, legal and effective painkillers out there. The real reason some people choose dope instead is that they like being counter-culture, and they think it makes them 18 again.

-- I see you don't quarrel with my assertion that pot legalization is indeed the camel's nose of broader legalization. This is a wise choice, since the no-holds-barred libertarian theme that justifies pot legalization also justifies meth legalization.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 24, 2011 4:41:19 PM

article: "The bill would allow the Feds to continue enforcing cross-border or inter-state smuggling"

me: taking scarce federal resources away from enforcing what are local crimes by low level drug dealers to focus on the large scale international/interstate traffickers actually sounds like a good idea. Letting states experiment with legalized marijuana to see if the Bill Otis nightmare scenerio or the reduced harm scenerio that drug legalization advocates call for occurs also seems like a good idea.

Naturally it will never pass ;)

ginny :)

Posted by: virginia | Jun 24, 2011 6:40:31 PM

Bill

Congress has no plan to end the war on drugs the penalty reduction for crack cocaine is as far as they are willing to go. Tell me the name of the member of congress that will introduce a bill to legalize meth.

Posted by: John Neff | Jun 24, 2011 7:35:46 PM

When talking about legalizing marijuana why does Bill always bring up meth / heroin?

Posted by: Anon | Jun 24, 2011 11:00:48 PM

John --

Now that Anthony Weiner is otherwise engaged, I can't give you the name of a Congressman who will move to legalize meth. But that was never my point. I wasn't talking about what CONGRESS would do, or wants to do, with meth. I was talking about what the LEGALIZATION MOVEMENT wants to do, or, at the minimum, what the logic of its principal argument commits it to want to do. See my answer to Anon below.

Anon --

"When talking about legalizing marijuana why does Bill always bring up meth / heroin?"

To show that it helps to look around the corner to see what's next. Pretending that the legalization movement will be content with having extended legal protection just to dope is like pretending that the defense bar will be content just having won in Graham v. Florida and won't try to extend it to banning LWOP for juveniles convicted of homicide (and not just non-homicide) offenses.

And there's more. An emboldened legalizer position will have more than just the standard advocate's success-nurtured ambition to take the next step. There is an additional, independent driving force.

From the getgo, the main principled argument for legalizing dope is that, in a free country, every adult of sound mind should be entitled to decide for himself what he puts into his own body. That's what freedom means.

But that argument has equal resonance regardless of which substance we're talking about. It's not about the putative danger of Substance A vs. Substance B. The whole point is that the judgment about the dangers of Substances A,B,C and everything else IS FOR THE INDIVIDUAL NOT THE STATE. In other words, it's not how dangerous the substance is, it's who gets to decide that question.

From that perspective, it makes not a whit of difference that the government (and lots of people outside the government) think that heroin and meth are more dangerous than dope. The whole point of the argument is that judgments about dangerousness are not for the government. Once that point gets accepted, it applies across the board: If being free means that I have the right to draw my own conclusions about the dangers of dope, it means that I have that same right to draw my own conclusions about the dangers of meth.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 25, 2011 7:55:55 AM

Revision on Bill's sentences above: The whole point of the argument is that judgments about dangerousness are not for the government. Once that point gets accepted, it applies across the board: If being free means that I have the right to draw my own conclusions about the dangers of cigarettes, it means that I have that same right to draw my own conclusions about the dangers of dope.

Posted by: anon2 | Jun 25, 2011 12:28:30 PM

It would be good to look at Ron Paul's answer in the North Carolina debate about his statement that heroin should be legal. "How many of you need the Federal Government to pass a law so you won't become a heroin addict?"

In North Carolina he received a round of applause for this answer.

Just a few medications at the turn of the century: 1. Over the counter heroin sold by Bayer 2. Metcalf Coco Wine made with cocaine 3. Pope Leo XIII carried Mariane wine made with cocaine. 4. National Vaporizer of Kalamazoo MI sold treatment of 40% alcohol and 3 grams of opium. 5. Lloyd Manufacturing Co of Albany NY sold cocaine tooth ache drops. 6. Stickney and Poors sold opium and alcohol paregoric for children and adults.

Guns were abundant, yet grandparents parents and children did not rob and kill for narcotics.

Posted by: beth | Jun 25, 2011 12:54:42 PM

"To show that it helps to look around the corner to see what's next. Pretending that the legalization movement will be content with having extended legal protection just to dope is like pretending that the defense bar will be content just having won in Graham v. Florida and won't try to extend it to banning LWOP for juveniles convicted of homicide (and not just non-homicide) offenses"

How TRUE BILL. Our glorious system of sex offence laws and registry rules are A PERFECT example! of that nose under the door.

in their case would have been the original sex offender registry. You know the one that was LAW ENFORCMENT use only and that would only be used to track VIOLENT and REPEAT offenders.

now it tracks EVERYONE and is nothing more than AFTER THE FACT ILLEGAL LIFETIME PAROLE!

the only thing that has changed is WHERE YOU REPORT!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 25, 2011 3:35:36 PM

anon2 --

I take it, then, that you believe tobacco, pot, meth and heroin should all be legal. Is that correct?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 25, 2011 3:43:10 PM

Coca-Cola replaced cocaine with caffeine in 1903 and subsequently reduced the caffeine content to avoid protracted litigation. After labeling was required by the 1906 Food and Drug Act the sales of patent medicines containing opiates decreased by an estimated 33%. At that time a very high percentage of rural white females were addicted to patent medicines that contained about 50% cocaine. That problem was eventually solved by making cocaine a prescription drug.

I wonder what the drug fact sheet/book for MJ would be like. The are about 60 cannabinoids and about 100 aromatic compounds and the list of side effects is very long.

Posted by: John Neff | Jun 26, 2011 10:31:09 AM

John Neff --

Just fyi, there already is a prescription drug called Marinol that contains THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

I agree that THC provides some medicinal effects to some patients, but it can be done, an is being done, legally.

The great bulk of the legalization movement wants MJ to be legal so that people will have an easier time getting buzzed.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 26, 2011 11:45:13 AM

Bill

The clinical results for Marinol are mixed and some patient have terminated treatment because of serious side effects. I am surprised that it was approved.

Posted by: John Neff | Jun 26, 2011 11:59:28 AM

Marinol is a schedule III drug while marijuana is schedule I. If there is a medical use marijuana should be rescheduled.

It is just a matter of personal rights, responsibility, liberty and fiscal responsibility. How big and intrusive do we want our government to be? That's a question yet to be answered. Prohabition was repealed, but government regulations, programs, and agencies are seldom eliminated.

Posted by: beth | Jun 26, 2011 1:36:01 PM

John --

I think Marinol has been around for 30 years. Like other prescription pain relievers, it has side effects, and some of them can cause some patients to stop taking it. But others do well, which is why, I think, it remains available.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 26, 2011 6:06:36 PM

beth --

"...government regulations, programs, and agencies are seldom eliminated."

Truer words were never spoken.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 26, 2011 6:09:19 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB