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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Bill Would Stop Federal Enforcement of Marijuana

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2011 at 4:10 PM

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Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) defines the word "maverick." His stance on hemp farming and his position against the Federal Reserve earned the 2012 presidential hopeful the moniker long before the Republican establishment hijacked the label in 2008.

The hero of political independents coast-to-coast (and recent winner of the Iowa straw poll) will almost certainly start feeling the love from cannabis activists after news broke today that the Republican is supporting a bill in Congress that will effectively end the role of the Drug Enforcement Agency and any other federal agency in marijuana enforcement. Authored by Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the bill will be introduced tomorrow.

Bay Area pols are on board: the bill is cosponsored by Barbara Lee of Oakland and Pete Stark of Fremont. But what of most-powerful San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader?

It appears the former Speaker is taking a pass.

Frank, who last month introduced a separate piece of legislation that would federally reschedule marijuana, will introduce the bill

and its formal language on Thursday, but reports indicate it would limit the federal government's role on enforcing pot laws. The DEA would only be allowed to police pot between the

Mexican border and the United  States as well as inter-state smuggling -- meaning DEA raids of legal medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivation operations in Mendocino County would be over. It would also affirm the right of

citizens in states with pro-pot laws to grow, use, sell, and transport


Other cosponsors include Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and representatives from Michigan and Tennessee.

While the former Speaker hasn't commented on the Paul-Frank bill, Pelosi's lukewarm stance on pro-marijuana bills is documented. There's already been a bill in Congress that would make marijuana "less illegal": HR 1983, introduced last month by Frank, would "reschedule" cannabis to Schedule III or lower, meaning the plant would finally be on the same level as other legal prescription drugs. That bill, the States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, is languishing in committee.

Paul's support gives the bill's proponents at least a modicum of confidence that his fellow Republicans will follow suit. But unless they get enough blue-ribbon support from both sides, the bill will likely fail.

Mobilizing that support means spending political capital -- and that's not something powerful pols like Pelosi appear ready to do. "The Leader has not previously expressed support for rescheduling," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tells SF Weekly. He notes that his boss is reviewing the details of the bill, but was quick to add that she rarely cosponsors legislation.

We asked Hammill specifically whether Pelosi would support the new bill, and will update when we receive a reply.

But if something as seemingly radical as telling the DEA that a nonintoxicating hemp plant is less dangerous than cocaine doesn't sit well with Pelosi, then we can only assume she won't be running to support a bill that would decriminalize marijuana nationally -- if nothing more than political reasons.

Text of the bill is not yet available, and SF Weekly hasn't gotten through to a spokesperson for Paul or Frank. But other published reports say it would repeal the federal prohibitions and allow each state to make its own laws regarding marijuana enforcement, similar to the way states make their own rules regarding alcohol, prostitution, and oil drilling to name a few.

Advocates who are eager to end this War on Drugs note that the new bill would federally decriminalize sales of marijuana as well as the use and cultivation.

If it's ever read in committee, let alone on the House floor, that is.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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