Lawmakers for the first time have introduced legislation in Congress that seeks to end the federal criminalization of the personal use of marijuana.
H.R. 2306, entitled the 'Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011,' prohibits the federal government from prosecuting adults who use or possess marijuana by removing the plant, and its primary psychoactive constituent, THC, from the five schedules of the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Under present law, all varieties of the marijuana plant are defined as illicit Schedule I controlled substances, defined as possessing 'a high potential for abuse,' and 'no currently accepted medical use in treatment.'
The 'Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act' seeks to federally deregulate the personal possession and use of marijuana by adults. It marks the first time that members of Congress have introduced legislation to eliminate the federal criminalization of marijuana since the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.
Language in the act mimics changes enacted by Congress to repeal the federal prohibition of alcohol. Passage of this measure would remove the existing conflict between federal law and the laws of those sixteen states that allow for the limited use of marijuana under a physicians' supervision. It would also allow state governments that wish to fully legalize and regulate the responsible use, possession, production, and distribution of marijuana for all adults to be free to do so without federal interference.
The federal criminalization of marijuana has failed to reduce the public's demand or access to cannabis, and it has imposed enormous fiscal and human costs upon the American people. It is time to end this failed public policy and to provide state governments with the freedom to enact alternative strategies -- such as medicalization, decriminalization, and/or legalization -- without running afoul of the federal law.