Lawmakers Call For An End To Federal Marijuana Prosecutions

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director June 18, 2009

    June 18, 2009

    Washington, DC: Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, along with co-sponsors Ron Paul (R-TX); Maurice Hinchey (D-NY); Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA); and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), will reintroduce legislation today to limit the federal government’s authority to arrest and prosecute minor marijuana offenders.norml_remember_prohibition_

    The measure, entitled an “Act to Remove Federal Penalties for Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults,” would eliminate federal penalties for the personal possession of up to 100 grams (over three and one-half ounces) of cannabis and for the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce of pot – making the prosecutions of these offenses strictly a state matter.

    Under federal law, defendants found guilty of possessing small amounts of cannabis for their own personal use face up to one year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

    Passage of this act would provide state lawmakers the choice to maintain their current penalties for minor marijuana offenses or eliminate them completely. Lawmakers would also have the option to explore legal alternatives to tax and regulate the adult use and distribution of cannabis free from federal interference.

    To date, thirteen states have enacted laws ‘decriminalizing’ the possession of marijuana by adults. Minor marijuana offenders face a citation and small fine in lieu of a criminal arrest or time in jail.

    “The federal government has much more important business to attend to than targeting, arresting and prosecuting adults who use marijuana responsibly,” NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said. “This is an issue that ought to be handled by the states, not the Feds.”

    According to nationwide polls, three out of four voters believe that adults who possess marijuana should not face arrest or jail, and one out of two now say that cannabis should be regulated like alcohol.

    The reintroduction of the Frank/Paul bill comes one week after the duo reintroduced HR 2835, The Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act of 2009 – which seeks to halt federal interference in states that have enacted medical marijuana laws – and just days after Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) called for federal legislation to sentence certain first-time marijuana offenders to 25 years in prison.

    “The US Congress has a definite choice,” said St. Pierre. “They can choose the path of compassion, fiscal responsibility, and common sense by supporting Barney Frank’s and Ron Paul’s efforts, or they can continue down America’s failed drug war path by endorsing Rep. Kirk’s draconian legislation. It is abundantly clear which direction the voters wish to go; will their elected officials follow?”

    Additional information about the ‘Act to Remove Federal Penalties for Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults’ is available at NORML’s Take Action Center.

    210 responses to “Lawmakers Call For An End To Federal Marijuana Prosecutions”

    1. We need to continue to keep the pressure on legislators. It seems that some are actually paying attention.

    2. R.O.E. says:

      Well lets see if the fed chooses to continue to stomp on American citizens or give us the ability to make choices for our selves. I rather think they will continue to stomp on our rights.

    3. MIKE STROUP says:

      Sanity creeping back into government? Just when you thought you had heard and seen it all! I may not have to move to North Korea to live in arguably more freedom and liberty than here after all.

    4. […] here to see the original:  Lawmakers Call For An End To Federal Marijuana Prosecutions Share and […]

    5. ryan says:

      I heard this legislation being announced on the Bill Maher show almost a year ago. It’s good to see this becoming a reality. Props to congressmen frank and my hero, and hopefully my future president, Ron Paul.

    6. justin m says:

      Thankyou lord only if the state of florida would get its act together and decrim. small amouts of marijuana i would be fine. 100 grams is cool with me.Thank you Mr.Frank and Mr Paul for using common sence in this matter.I feel the tide is turning on probition.

    7. JJ says:

      all i gotta say is that they better f*ckin follow the wishes of this voter, or im gonna be voting them out of their fancy rich office.

    8. Jeff says:

      ReaL Eyes

      woulda Realize

      its been overdue time to Legalize~

    9. JJ says:

      Hey guys, I know this is a long blog post, but I feel as if this needs to get out in the open as much as possible. This man is not a criminal and needs as much support as possible. MPP and NORML, this is a challenge to you guys, get this man NULLIFIED by a jury of his peers, and WE HAVE WON the war on drugs. The war on americans. Missouri is the bible belt state and will probably be the last to support any MJ laws but maybe if we can nullify, it will take the prohibitionist’s feet out from under them. Here is the post, i hope it doesnt anger anyone from its size:

      I’m not sure what’s in store for Kenneth Wells. I suspect it’s prison, but I hope not.

      Ken called me recently to talk about his criminal case. He told me it’s a “medical marijuana” matter. Firefighters discovered his “grow room” and stash of marijuana plants while Ken, his wife and their granddaughter watched his house burn down Jan. 16, 2008.

      At some point that night a sheriff’s deputy arrived. Ken lives on Pond Hollow Drive in unincorporated St. Charles County, near St. Peters. A burning candle caused the fire.

      Ken, 54, has epilepsy and other neurologic problems stemming from a 1983 stroke, including pain in his left hand. The stroke occurred while surgeons removed a brain aneurysm.

      Marijuana has drastically reduced his seizures, he says, as well as the pain, as well as the negative side-effects of the anti-convulsion medications he takes.

      The side effects include nausea, depression, headaches, dry mouth and tiredness. Without marijuana, he says, the meds would zonk him out to where he’d sleep 14 hours a day.

      “I would be sleeping much of my life away,” he says.

      I asked Ken if he was sure he wanted to talk to me. You see, there is no Missouri law that allows the medical use of marijuana, no matter how much people might think it helps with the pain of cancer, the nausea of chemotherapy, ailments like epilepsy or the chronic pain, let’s say, of a broken back.

      I told Ken that even if I were to write a compassionate story of why he grows and uses marijuana, the bottom line is that he’d be telling me and you and prosecutors that he broke the law.

      The stakes are high. If convicted, Ken faces five to 15 years in prison.

      Ken says he has no criminal record. I couldn’t find one on Casenet, the state court website that covers Missouri, where Ken has lived his entire life. Jack Banas, prosecuting attorney for St. Charles County, says Ken is charged with growing marijuana and there is no evidence he was selling or distributing it.

      Banas told me he’s puzzled Ken seems willing to risk a trial.

      “It certainly is not a good idea to go to trial with a defense that is not a genuine defense,” Banas says. “That is a pretty dangerous proposition.”

      Ken says he waited too long to say yes to a plea deal that would have included six months of house arrest and five years of probation. That deal later became six months in the county jail and five years probation. At the completion of probation the conviction would be erased. Ken declined. If he pleads guilty, he says, he loses his right to appeal.

      Ken says he called me to raise public awareness about the issue and that, in his view, the medical use of marijuana is a godsend for people who cannot otherwise find relief from pain and seizures.

      He has not grown marijuana since the fire, when his equipment, including grow lights, was seized, he says. He’d been growing his own for six years. He declined to say if he still smokes marijuana.

      Thirteen states allow the medical use of marijuana if prescribed by a doctor for severe pain or serious medical conditions. The most recent to do so is Michigan.

      A medical marijuana bill was passed last month in the Illinois Senate. It was sponsored in the Senate by William Haine, D-Alton, a former Madison County state’s attorney. The House sponsor is Lou Lang, D-Skokie. As of now, Lang said Thursday, he doesn’t have the votes in the House. But momentum is building, and the session doesn’t end until January 2011.

      “I believe I will pass this,” he says. “I just don’t know when.”

      For several years there have been medical marijuana bills introduced in the Missouri General Assembly, and each has had a Democratic sponsor, says Dan Viets, Missouri coordinator of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

      Typically, these bills die early because they don’t get assigned to committee, Viets says, and there’s never been a Republican lawmaker willing to serve as even a co-sponsor.

      Missouri’s Western Court of Appeals has upheld a trial judge’s decision to not let jurors consider a “justification” defense in a medical marijuana criminal case, he says. A justification defense, basically, is the argument that in certain grave circumstances an otherwise illegal act becomes legal. Breaking into a home, for example, to save a family from a house fire.

      Ken’s trial date is Sept. 1. His lawyer, Wayne Schoeneberg of St. Peters, tried to suppress Ken’s statements to police the night of the fire. He lost. He tried to quash the search warrant used to discover the marijuana. He lost that one, too. If Ken is convicted, there will be an appeal, Schoeneberg says.

      “I think our laws in Missouri and probably nationally are pretty antiquated,” Schoeneberg says. “I am amazed that we spend all this money chasing weed around. But if it all went away my income would drop precipitously.”

      Schoeneberg, 62, says his own mother smoked marijuana – in Missouri in 1980 – during the worst of her cancer chemotherapy. The disease killed her.

      “A lot of this stuff is subjective,” Schoeneberg says. “There are people who go to faith healers who believe they are healed. There are those who go to highly trained professional people and believe they are healed. And there are those who go to both and get no relief.”

      At trial, there’s the possibility of a justification defense, Schoeneberg says, as well as “jury nullification.” That’s when a jury decides: Damn the law and the promises we made to follow it! We’re doing what we believe is right and in the best interests of society!

      “And we all know that juries do that from time to time,” Schoeneberg says.

      All I can say is Ken must be committed. Because I’m not sure I’d roll the dice on “from time to time.”

      Please help this man. send emails to his lawyer. send emails to missouri lawmakers. send emails to Mr Obama