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Weed picking up speed?

Just say now
By MIKE MILIARD  |  July 9, 2009

When the Phoenix published a cover story about the potential tipping point in the fight to end marijuana prohibition, we smelled something in the air: it seemed more than ever that such a resolution might be possible.

Now another step forward has been taken. This past month, Democratic Massachusetts representative Barney Frank, for the second year in a row, filed two bills seeking decriminalization. The Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009 would lift punishment for the "possession or not-for-profit transfer" of small amounts of marijuana; it would also create a $100 civil fine for smoking pot in public. The Marijuana Patient Protection Act, meanwhile, would prevent federal authorities from prosecuting growers and users of medical marijuana in any state where the medical use of pot is legal.

The bills don't go as far as many would hope; they won't end federal prohibition against selling pot for profit, for instance — so any arguments about legalizing and taxing the stuff are moot. In addition, neither piece of legislation would change marijuana's status as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, and neither upends any existing state or local law.

The diehards in the marijuana-reform movement "clearly would like to have marijuana legalized," says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "They see decriminalization as a half-baked loaf. But those of us here on K Street [in Washington, DC] that actually have to lobby and litigate this stuff, [see that] there is no support, overtly, in Congress for legalizing marijuana. So while the grassroots are harping for legalization and taxed access, I can say that, of the 435 members of Congress, there are probably five who genuinely, strongly support legalization. There's probably 200 to 250 who support the notion of decriminalization — but they've never had a vote on such."

"I don't know what the difference is between legalization and decriminalization," argued Frank with characteristic bluntness when we spoke for our May 29 story. "Something is either legal or it's criminal. You may only legalize some aspects of it, but what is a 'decriminalized activity'? Does that mean you can do it? Then it's legal. If it's against the law, then it's criminal."

Not exactly, counters St. Pierre, citing Massachusetts's recent decriminalization referendum by way of example. "Run out to Faneuil Hall right now with an ounce of marijuana; you'll pay the $100 fine." Try to sell it, on the other hand, and "you'll end up with a felony against you."

But right now, the legalize/decriminalize debate shouldn't obscure the bigger issue, says St. Pierre. With support for pot-policy reform at a high ebb, it's time to act — and any realistic chance at chipping away federal marijuana laws should be embraced.

Luckily, he says, these bills appear to have a fair chance of actually passing. "Unlike last year," when similar legislation filed by Frank and Paul never made it to a vote, "this year it would seem that they've really struck a note because of the marijuana Zeitgeist that seems to be around the United States these days."

More and more Americans, having "seen the ineffectiveness of the all-out prohibition approach," with its "overcrowded prisons and overstretched law enforcement," are "more skeptical of government intervention," Frank told the Phoenix in May. Ultimately he hopes to convince his colleagues in Congress that "people should be allowed personal freedom if they're not hurting anyone else."

Related: Legalize pot now, An old dog teaches his tricks, Hemp — the law, the musical, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Health and Fitness, Medicine, Illegal Drugs,  More more >
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Re: Weed picking up speed?
 VOTE! VOTE!  That's the most IMPORTANT thing we can do. It's pretty darn obvious that the Majority of Americans are not happy with thier representatives. It's also getting obvious that the Majority of Americans are ready to legalize weed. Just like the Bowl at home needs to be flushed when full of it so does Congress.  PLEASE VOTE
By todd432 on 07/08/2009 at 3:34:49
Re: Weed picking up speed?
The word 'cannabis' appears only once in the CSA, in the definition of marijuana. Rather than filing two bills seeking decriminalization, representative Barney Frank could file one bill to simplify the definition of the racist term 'marihuana', then let the States regulate it.
Just change the definition from this:"The term 'marihuana' means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not..."

to this:

"The term ‘marihuana’ means all parts - of the smoke produced by the combustion - of the plant Cannabis sativa L., period."

Then, the public use of marijuana (the smoke) stays prohibited, but cannabis (the plant, including its unsmoked parts and vapors) would be unscheduled and legal. This would give people a chance to find out how useful cannabis really is.
The States themselves could do this too.  
By txpeloton on 07/10/2009 at 1:05:24

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