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

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.

0 thoughts

  1. if “Marijuana is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, according to the drug control office”(Quoted from Then why does the US Gov. have a patent for medical Marijuana? Check it out on Google patents.
    United States Patent #7109245 the assignee, The United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services.
    Thank you to all the hard work everybody involved in this has done! Especially the little people, who are sick or work their butts off and still find the time and energy to write their representatives.

  2. I’m guessing this is setting us up for a possible legalization in 2009? or sometime soon?

  3. I don’t smoke pot, but I was interested in trying to duplicate the formula for the Canadian ‘Voodoo’ fertilizer that uses nitrogen fixing bacteria to grow a plant that will yield 2 pounds.
    I was busted for 2 plants that grew to about 9 feet, after the DNR came to my yard to investigate a bear shooting. I am a 50 yr old doctor (with a chemistry degree) in GA, never been in trouble. I was arrested, placed in cuffs and leg irons. Pled guilty to manufacturing, under the ‘First Offender’. I was fined $2,500 (actually pay %5,200), 60 days sentence in a Probation Detention Center, 90 hours community service, and 7 years probation. These laws are crazy.

  4. Sept. 16 1961. Wow this stuff is really cool, It should be legal. I’ve grown it, smoked it sold it and would go to hell to legalize it. It’s about time to get on with it. Persecuted like Jesus. Please America wake up.

  5. Here’s a little comparison:
    Drink a fifth of whiskey in ten minutes and you’ll be stone-cold DEAD in a half-hour or so. Preceded by some delightful seizures and drowning in your own vomit.
    Smoke or otherwise ingest the equivelent of a Volkswagen Bug (1500 pounds) of cannabis in ten minutes (impossible, of course) and you’d still be very much alive and kickin’. It’s that safe and non-toxic.
    Then there’s the paradox of Marinol and Sativex. One is pure synthetic THC ($12 per pill, thank you) whereas the other is a whole-plant extract of the plant(costing hundreds of dollars for a small vial).
    Notice a theme here?
    Cannabinoids have NO medicinal properties WHATSOEVER, right? That’s the mantra we’ve heard for decades. But, interestingly, as soon as Big Pharma PATENTS a synthetic or whole-plant extract, IT DOES! AMAZING!
    So, come on over to our side! Don’t bother smoking or vaporizing that crude, dirty plant! Big Pharma cares about your health. Didn’t you know that? Sure, our offerings are exactly the same as pot, chemically, but you’ll feel so much better sending a third of your income to us! Be law-abiding! Be patriotic! Stop being a criminal and financing terrorism! Be a good citizen and listen to the propaganda, I mean FACTS, of how dangerous pot is! Then run down to your pharmacy and pick up some “legal and safe” cannabinoids!
    Absolutely astonishing…

  6. There are hardheads in office who both think they are always right, and believe every pile of crap that has been beaten into their heads by the liepile called the drug czar.
    In particular, one of my rep, Todd Platts, has replied to me 2 times with basically the same BS about marijuana use:
    “Drug use causes huge amounts of lost productivity”
    “Marijuana causes 100 bil in lost productivity every year”
    Drug use does not equate to marijuana use, anymore than drug use equates to tobacco use.
    And for his other remark from the first letter, that 100 billion in lost productivity is about 90% covered if you assume 40$ her hour productivity on the average for a person on the job, times the number of people they have in prisons for pot…. ya ok
    And, who says they can legislate to maintain the populous in the position of being their hard-working money mill anyway?
    Until reps like Platts wake up and smell the coffee, this is never going to end.

  7. The first and only time I smoked pot was after I was poked in the eye playing basketball in college at Emory in 1977. The impact knocked me unconcious. It stuck my hard contact into my cornea, which they pulled out at Emory Clinic, the doc said it was the worst cornea abrasion he had ever seen.
    He told me to go get really stoned, as pot will reduce intraocular pressure; he was worried about an increase in eye pressure due to the trauma. My friends fired up a bong for me, and took great delight in watching me get plastered for the first time.
    I returned to the eye clinic in 3 days, and they could find no sign of the abrasion, and my eye pressure was fine.
    Interesting medical use of pot. But sad that I would have been arrested if caught.

  8. Hi-Went to Event & Baldie on left is: I. One thing like to make absolutely Clear; When Hon Rep Barney Frank Esq was ask about chance of House Resolution passing, Hon Frank Stated: 0%, No Chance of Passage What So Ever.
    Honourable Represenative Barney Frank Esq Smokes Cigars, Perhaps Daily as voice is Very mottled & Churned.
    Fun Time Was Had By ALL & Fun Handouts By Both Sides.


  10. I hope I don’t repeat what others have said, but considering that pot IS a “stepping stone” to harder drugs ONLY because it is illegal, is reason ENOUGH to decriminalize it.
    However, if the gov were to legalize it and regulate it and TAX it, then our young people wouldn’t be subjected to the high potency pot out there now, and the TAXES created would pay for the war against the drugs that are TRULY dangerous, and the narcs could devote their time busting the traffickers of dangerous drugs.
    I know everyone knows this already, I’m just letting off some steam. . .
    Thanks NORML!

  11. My husband is currently incarcerated in Jesup GA Federal Prison for a marijuana arrest. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)chief David Murray stated that there is no such thing as the responsible use of cannabis. Period. Yet, my husband writes me, “the Federal psychologist here denied me for the drug program because, in his opinion, I don’t have a drug problem. MY marijuana usage is not at a problem level.

  12. Good move by all! I wonder why Keith Olberman didn’t cover this on Countdown (MSNBC), since he has previously come out for marijuana legalization.

  13. while surfing the web I came across this site were there is a debate going on about legalizing Marijuana .. would be nice if everyone visited and added their opinions .. The debate about Marijuana as a medicine is a link on the lower left of the page.

  14. Legislation such as this is long overdue!! It is a shame that a person can go to the local watering hole and get a few drinks in him/her and drive away yet someone who sits in the privacy of their own home is treated as a criminal and has their life destroyed for smoking and or possesing small amounts of cannabis. This double standard MUST stop, but it will only stop when we the people take action and elect sensible leaders who will act on the will of the people. Polls show that a majority of the people favor such laws, this being the case show up at the polls that count the election polls and send a clear message… LEGALIZE NOW!!!!

  15. The key to this bill passing will be citizens contacting their Congressperson and both Senators. Support for this bill will likely resemble support for the Hinchey-Rohrbacher amendment to cut off funding for Federal raids on medical mj programs. In 2007, 54 additional “Aye” votes would have been enough to end Federal funding for the raids.
    Each of us can help get those additional 54 votes in 2008, and put in a plug for support of HR 5842 and 5843 . It takes less than five minutes:
    1) You can find your Congressional representative’s name and mailing address at _ (takes one minute; be sure to delete the little tails off of the URL when you paste it into your browser, or it won’t work)
    2) Find out how he or she voted on Hinchey in 2007 at _ (takes one minute)
    3) Write a nice, friendly letter, either thanking our Congressperson for supporting Hinchey-Rohrbacher in 2007 or encouraging him or her to support it in 2008, and also asking him or her to support HR 5842 and 5843. Put the address on an envelope; put on a stamp; and walk it out to the mailbox (takes three minutes)
    Hey, five minutes to help get the 54 votes Hinchey-Rohrbacher needs, so that medical mj patients in legal medical mj states can follow their physician’s advice without fear of Federal prosecution, and to get the ball rolling on HR 5842 and 5843. Take the five minutes today, then find a friend and do it again!
    Only 54 votes needed; your letter and your friends letter can make the difference!
    (You can read more at or ; be sure to write; reading is great, but writing gets results!)

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  17. It would be wise to do so! Those on the hill would be able to recover tons of money,by treating and handling this as alcohol. So many lives are taken for people by the courts/lawyer that this is a shame! If we live in a country of the people/for the people then this should pass with a landslide vote!

  18. i had to walk away from my job of 13 yrs, actually 13 yrs ago cause i refused to tolerate random drug testing. i went from 12.75 per hr to packing hod for 6.50. now my son and i are self-employed, quite upscale brick/stone masons.the outcome is awsome and we now know what freedom means to us, but this sick shit should have never happened since i took utmost pride in my former machine repair least i left with dignity after one on one meetings with all involved and my senator.such a clamor,ha ha..

  19. What i dont understand is why the American people are so blind by the “war on drugs”. The mayjority of crime is in relation to drugs. By decriminalizing weed it would bring more peace to the world, boost the economy and save ALOT of gang bangers from shooting each other up over a dime bag. I dont see why a working professonal who smokes weed but still is a college graduate with a decent job in society would be labeled a criminal for smoking something that grows form the earth and poses no general harm what so ever. Legalize it and see the endless possiblilities of world with hope and give everyone a little bit of a sence of humor, maybe then our world would look a little brighter.

  20. ITS ABOUT TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. I am a 48 year old male who has MS. Anyone who says marijuana has no medical value is not to bright.
    Where in the constitution does it say americans must live under a govt. that LIES?
    lets start dealing with the truth & facts

  22. i have been battling bi polar disorder my entire life and i have to say that pot is the only thing i have ever found that relieves my anger and moodieness. i too live a normal life and pay taxes to the man. but i am sick and tired of paying taxes to the man only for him to snatch me up in one of his crazy ass battles on the war on drugs.. MONEY it all comes down to money. we basically need a new goverment entirley,,one that isnt corrupt!

  23. Legalalization of marijuana should have been done a long time ago and It is a medical herb that has no dangerous side effects. The government just wants the people to think it does so they can be so crooked as to shit on the American people. This country was founded under the right to be free and our freedom is being tok away. We need to get together as a nation and stand up to the government and put and end to thier lies and stop being so chicken shit and take back our freedom that was once given to us.Are we just going to sit on our asses and let the government try to fuck us any way they can by keeping the legalization of marijuana and raing gas prices or are we going to join together and fight for our freedom. Well I choose to fight. I don’t care if any one joins the fight with me but Im gonna stand up for my freedom.

  24. # Jonathan Hammons Says:
    July 30th, 2008 at 4:48 pm
    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
    Cocaine is actually Schedule II. Somehow it has more accepted medical value than cannabis.

  25. Maybe the definition for “drug” should be looked at alittle closer when it comes to pot. My def of a drug any controled or over the counter taken in abundance which will then result in death. Overthecounter meds and perscribed meds if taken in abundance will cause an overdose resulting in death. Alcohol falls under that catergory as well. However, does marijuana? I have never heard of anyone overdosing and dying for smoking. How is it classified as a drug? Gimme some feedback and don’t forget it was the only plant that grew on king solomans grave and remember he was the wisest man in his days.

  26. Learn to say the fight thing at the fight time.Great minds think alike.I’m not guessing??I really know.May I have your attentionIt is Just what I need.It feels like spring I’ve been here beforeIt feels like spring I’ve been here beforeWe are divided in our opinions.Why not? Susan is going to finish college.

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