“Rep. Cohen is one of the most outspoken and effective supporters of marijuana legalization we currently have in Washington,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “From introducing legislation such as the National Commission on Marijuana Policy Act, co-sponsoring every single federal marijuana law reform measure, to grilling drug war proponents in committee hearings, Cohen has been unrelenting in his fight to end our nation’s war on marijuana consumers and it is crucial we keep him in Congress to continue the fight. Marijuana reform supporters in his Memphis district have no clearer choice this November than to keep goin’ with Cohen.”
Representative Cohen has been a relentless attack dog in the fight to end marijuana prohibition. In just the past year, he has made national headlines taking drug war stalwarts to task, including DEA administrator Michele Leonhart, Attorney General Eric Holder, and acting Drug Czar Michael Botticelli (click links for video).
Speaking to Attorney General Holder in one such hearing, Cohen stated:
“One of the greatest threats to liberty has been the government taking people’s liberty for things that people are in favor of. The Pew Research Group shows that 52 percent of people do not think marijuana should be illegal. And yet there are people in jail, and your Justice Department is continuing to put people in jail, for sale, and use, on occasion, of marijuana. That’s something the American public has finally caught up with. It was a cultural lag. And it’s been an injustice for 40 years in this country to take people’s liberty for something that was similar to alcohol. You have continued what is allowing the Mexican cartels power, and the power to make money, ruin Mexico, hurt our country by having a Prohibition in the late 20th and 21st century. We saw it didn’t work in this country in the 20s. We remedied it. This is the time to remedy this Prohibition.”
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Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) has introduced federal legislation, House Resolution 4046, to remove legal restrictions prohibiting the Office of National Drug Control Policy from researching marijuana legalization. These restrictions also require the office to oppose any and all efforts to liberalize criminal laws associated with the plant.
“Not only is the ONDCP the only federal office required by law to oppose rescheduling marijuana even if it is proven to have medical benefits, but it is also prohibited from studying if that could be even be true,” said Congressman Cohen. “The ONDCP’s job should be to develop and recommend sane drug control policies, not be handcuffed or muzzled from telling the American people the truth. How can we trust what the Drug Czar says if the law already preordains its position? My bill would give the ONDCP the freedom to use science—not ideology—in its recommendations and give the American people a reason to trust what they are told.”
These restrictions were placed on the Office of National Drug Control Policy by the Reauthorization Act of 1998, which mandates the ODCP director “shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that–
(A) is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and
(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;”
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Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) has introduced federal legislation that would establish a National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy. The proposed commission, inspired by the 1971 Shafer Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, would be tasked with undertaking a comprehensive review of how federal policy should interact with state laws that make marijuana legal for medicinal and personal use, the cost of our current marijuana prohibition and potential revenue from marijuana regulation and taxation, the impact of federal banking and tax laws on marijuana related businesses, the health benefits of risk of marijuana use, the public safety and criminal justice implications of marijuana prohibition compared with regulation, and the effects of marijuana prohibition and potential regulation on our international relationships and treaties.
“Regardless of your views on marijuana, it’s important that we understand the impact of current federal policy and address the conflict with those state laws that allow for medicinal or personal use of marijuana,” said Congressman Cohen. “This conflict is only going to continue to grow over the next few years and we must provide certainty to the millions of individuals and businesses that remain caught in a web of incompatible laws. A national commission would provide us with the information we need to create sensible policy going forward.”
Representative Steve Cohen is joined by Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenhauer (D-OR), Jim Moran (D-VA), and Sam Farr (D-CA).
During an interview with Barbara Walters in December of 2012, President Obama stated, “…what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?”
Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske stated in January of this year that, “Coming out of the recent election, it is clear that we’re in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana.”
“The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that a national conversation is needed when it comes to our country’s marijuana policies, but so far that conversation has been largely one sided,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “It is time for federal lawmakers to listen to the voice of the majority of Americans who want to see change to our nation’s marijuana laws and for them to take part in that dialogue. NORML is pleased to have worked with Representative Cohen and his staff on this important legislation that would provide a public and professional venue for that conversation to take place. A majority of Americans agree that it is time for the United States to end it’s fruitless and expensive war on cannabis consumers and pursue policies of regulation and taxation. Enjoining this national commission would be a pragmatic and productive step towards assessing the true costs of our current prohibition and creating a framework for a functional federal policy on marijuana.”
Join NORML and federal legislators in calling for a “serious national conversation” on regulating marijuana.
Click here to quickly and easily contact your Representative and urge him or her to support this legislation.
Now streaming on NORMLtv is the latest episode of “This Week in Weed.”
This Week: a congressman calls upon Drug Czar Kerlikowse to reschedule marijuana, per se THC limits for drugged driving stall out in Colorado, and the biggest marijuana rally on the east coast is about to commence.
Tennessee Congressman Steven Cohen (D) is urging the Obama administration to rethink its support for the criminal prohibition of marijuana. Rep. Cohen is a longtime critic of marijuana prohibition (Watch him grill FBI Director Robert Mueller over the claim that cannabis is a ‘gateway drug’ here) and a primary co-sponsor of HR 2306: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011.
This week, Rep. Cohen sent a letter to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske calling on the agency to support changing marijuana’s status as a schedule I prohibited drug and to respect the laws of states that have legalized it for its medical utility.
“There is no evidence that marijuana has the same addictive qualities or damaging consequences as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine,” states Cohen, “and should not be treated as such.”
He adds: “We should not deny the thousands of Americans who rely on the benefits that marijuana provides. I strongly recommend that this administration allow states that have chosen to legalize medical marijuana to enact strong regulations without fear of prosecution. [W]e should not interfere with the will of the people to enact these compassionate laws.”
You can view the entirety of his letter below: