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Congress Sets Sights On Cannabis Prohibition Laws; Major Press Conference Today In Washington

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director July 30, 2008

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    July 30, 2008, Washington, D.C,: Today something rather historic on a number of counts occurred in the nation’s capital. Firstly, Congress is for the first time in a generation (1978) taking a serious look at reforming components of cannabis prohibition laws. In today’s Congress, the support of the Congressional Black Caucus is pivotal to passing any substantive cannabis law reform. So I was so very heartened that Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and William Lacy Clay (D-MO) joined us on this very hot and oppressively humid day in DC, along with the always jocose Barney Frank (D-MA), the bill’s primary sponsor (along with Rep. Ron Paul, R-TX).

    Second, the media attending today’s press conference on HR 5843, a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession and use for responsible adults, fairly captured the event’s narrative, i.e., ‘it makes no sense to treat cannabis consumers like criminals’ and ‘why not start controlling cannabis in the same way society (and government agencies) already control alcohol products?’ with no double entendre or goofy ‘stoner stupidisms’. You can view a CNN video of the press conference here. Also, you can check out some YouTube footage here of my opening remarks.

    Bill Piper from the Drug Policy Alliance spoke about the collateral effects that happen to citizens arrested for minor amounts of cannabis including, but not limited to: loss of student loans; denial to public housing, food stamps and job training; and denial of entry into the military and some government service jobs.

    Rob Kampia from the Marijuana Policy Project discussed the broader implications of the federal government passing decriminalization legislation and how it could affect state efforts to reform cannabis laws, notably this November’s decriminalization initiative on the ballot in Massachusetts.

    As has been noted by others who attended today’s press conference, there was a certain air of desperation coming from the part of the government who is responsible for supposedly ‘controlling’ currently illicit drugs. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)chief propagandist David Murray attended the press conference, making himself available for questions afterwards and handing out his latest anti-cannabis handywork, and he seemed absolutely befuddled that anyone on the face of the planet could possibly compare cannabis and alcohol policies, and that there is no such thing as the responsible use of cannabis. Period. Even for medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation. Period.

    Wow. Can you say, ‘flat earth’?

    Indeed, there is much work to be done in cannabis law reform in the Executive Branch (which, astonishingly, is where ONDCP resides) and so-called anti-drug agencies. The tale of Hercules and the cleansing of the Augean stables immediately comes to mind…

    As Chairman Frank noted in his prepared remarks, HR 5843 (and similar legislation HR 5842, which regards medical marijuana rescheduling) are not likely to come a full committee for vote until well into 2009. Given this candid assessment by Rep. Frank, for NORML members and advocates of cannabis law reform, there are still important phases that we can all help accomplish that will hasten passage of these important and reform-minded bills.

    Rep. Frank and the other current co-sponsors of HR 5843 will be sending around a ‘Dear Colleague” letter soon encouraging other members of the House to join them early on in support of their bill for the decriminalization of cannabis for responsible adult use and, therefore, like all legislation in the Congress, the more co-sponsors of a legislative bill, the better chance the bill’s chance of passage.

    With the change of presidency in the wings and a likely increase in the number of Democratic members being elected to the House of Representatives, NORML’s expectations for HR 5843 is for there to be both subcommittee and full committee votes on Judiciary regarding this important legislation late into 2009.

    Importantly, NORML members and advocates of cannabis law reform, for the next six months, need to truly concentrate their advocacy efforts on actively recruiting each of our elected members of Congress to become co-sponsors of HR 5843. Of the many lobbying and advocacy efforts one can employ to advance cannabis law reforms in America, getting a federal cannabis decriminalization bill passed and signed into law is the single most politically achievable public policy advance that is likely to happen in Congress in the next few years.

    As our democracy prescribes, states will continue to largely serve as the catalyst of change and innovation in public policy making regarding cannabis, and this is very likely going to continue to happen with more and more municipalities and states passing progressive cannabis laws—at some point, ultimately, positively affecting the federal government.

    At least that is how it is supposed to work, right?

    Stay tuned to NORML!

    Update: a one-day CNN online poll on 7/30 asked citizens if they support legalizing cannabis: 76% in favor, 24% against. On July 31, the Washington Examiner in DC ran an online poll, resulting in a similar spread: 75% in favor, 25% against.

    83 Responses to “Congress Sets Sights On Cannabis Prohibition Laws; Major Press Conference Today In Washington”

    1. Jonathan Hammons says:

      marijuana is a plamt therefore big phrma companys cannot patent it bring them private revenue this country has treated this as worse as it could get still spreading its proaganda to cover the truth
      take it off of the schedule 1 drug list where it sits along with herion and cocaine and stop letting mass media blur your truth

      resist the new world order

    2. Kyle says:

      This discussion in congress should have taken place a decade ago.

    3. […] stormcommander wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt July 30, 2008, Washington, D.C,: Today something rather historic on a number of counts occurred in the nation’s capital. Firstly, Congress is for the first time in a generation (1978) taking a serious look at reforming components of cannabis prohibition laws. In today’s Congress, the support of the Congressional Black Caucus is pivotal to passing any substantive cannabis law reform. So I was so very heartened that Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and William Lacy Clay (D-MO) joined us on this very […]

    4. Dooglio says:

      Fantastic! It’s well overdue, but I’m very thankful someone in Congress is stepping up to the plate.

      Thanks to organizations like NORML and MPP for keeping up the pressure and raising the awareness!

    5. Darris Mikl says:

      Well ,it seems to me that the seventy-one years of lies and disinformation have done for more damage and broken up more families than cannabis has in over ten thousand years. If you don`t believe me check out http://www.jackherer.com , he has a $100,000.00 challenge to prove him wrong .

    6. D Slack says:

      The marijuana laws definately need to be REFORMED!!
      I do not, nor have I ever smoked pot, BUT I have a 31 year old son, Jeremy, that is terribly physically disabled with Tourette Syndrome and Dystonia. After years of trying numerous medications, some of which did not help at all and some have made him worse. We even suspect that one drug brought on his dystonia problems. Smoking marijuana is the only thing that destresses him and helps control all of his jerks, twists, pain, etc. because of these movement disorders he has broken 5 of the 7 bones in his neck (one break was even called a “hangman’s fracture”), as well as his clavicle broken twice, forearms broken twice, upper arm broken so severly he now has a surgical implant to make his arm stronger. He is undergoing MAJOR brain surgery (14 hour surgery last Feb.) for DBS (deep brain stimulation procedure) it is like a pacemaker for the brain. Numerous infections have occurred now and the left side had to be taken out due to infection and now he is scheduled for it to be replaced on Aug. 6th. He lives in Indiana and he is definately a candidate for medicinal marijuana. His Neurologist knows he smokes and even encourages him to smoke it, that is a first of all the doctors and neurologists he has been to over the years.
      He also raises his 10 year old son, on his own!! If the marijuana laws were changed, then maybe he wouldn’t have to undergo all of these critical brain surgeries to get some help. We aren’t even sure the surgeries are going to work. It would be so much easier to just let him use the marijuana so that he can get some type of life back and be able to enjoy his son.
      Thank you for letting me voice my opinion,
      Jeremy’s mom

    7. Rasta-mon... says:

      Bum-Boo-Klaat!!! Its about time… Jah Rastafar-I, the blessed plant….

    8. Anita Brueck says:

      I can’t help but think what a better place this world would have been to live in if this had taken place, and followed through to its logical conclusion – thirty years ago.
      We’ve wasted countless millions of dollars and millions of lives — for absolutely no good reason.
      I’m a grandmother and a business executive – and this step makes enormous sense to me.

    9. Joseph Hart says:

      “…very hot and oppressively humid day in DC…” Perfect conditions to see cannabis rise up in the Capital. NORMLy the media would have shrugged this off but CNN had the audacity to stand up for whats right. I wrote them a letter of approval and thankfulness. Thanks CNN!

    10. Chris says:

      In response to Jonathan Hammons

      I’ve always thought the same thing, but you know, Hass avocados are patented. Avocados are a plant. Hmmm…

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