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. 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
    resist the new world order

  2. Fantastic! It’s well overdue, but I’m very thankful someone in Congress is stepping up to the plate.
    Thanks to organizations like NORML and MPP for keeping up the pressure and raising the awareness!

  3. Well ,it seems to me that the seventy-one years of lies and disinformation have done for more damage and broken up more families than cannabis has in over ten thousand years. If you don`t believe me check out , he has a $100,000.00 challenge to prove him wrong .

  4. The marijuana laws definately need to be REFORMED!!
    I do not, nor have I ever smoked pot, BUT I have a 31 year old son, Jeremy, that is terribly physically disabled with Tourette Syndrome and Dystonia. After years of trying numerous medications, some of which did not help at all and some have made him worse. We even suspect that one drug brought on his dystonia problems. Smoking marijuana is the only thing that destresses him and helps control all of his jerks, twists, pain, etc. because of these movement disorders he has broken 5 of the 7 bones in his neck (one break was even called a “hangman’s fracture”), as well as his clavicle broken twice, forearms broken twice, upper arm broken so severly he now has a surgical implant to make his arm stronger. He is undergoing MAJOR brain surgery (14 hour surgery last Feb.) for DBS (deep brain stimulation procedure) it is like a pacemaker for the brain. Numerous infections have occurred now and the left side had to be taken out due to infection and now he is scheduled for it to be replaced on Aug. 6th. He lives in Indiana and he is definately a candidate for medicinal marijuana. His Neurologist knows he smokes and even encourages him to smoke it, that is a first of all the doctors and neurologists he has been to over the years.
    He also raises his 10 year old son, on his own!! If the marijuana laws were changed, then maybe he wouldn’t have to undergo all of these critical brain surgeries to get some help. We aren’t even sure the surgeries are going to work. It would be so much easier to just let him use the marijuana so that he can get some type of life back and be able to enjoy his son.
    Thank you for letting me voice my opinion,
    Jeremy’s mom

  5. I can’t help but think what a better place this world would have been to live in if this had taken place, and followed through to its logical conclusion – thirty years ago.
    We’ve wasted countless millions of dollars and millions of lives — for absolutely no good reason.
    I’m a grandmother and a business executive – and this step makes enormous sense to me.

  6. “…very hot and oppressively humid day in DC…” Perfect conditions to see cannabis rise up in the Capital. NORMLy the media would have shrugged this off but CNN had the audacity to stand up for whats right. I wrote them a letter of approval and thankfulness. Thanks CNN!

  7. In response to Jonathan Hammons
    I’ve always thought the same thing, but you know, Hass avocados are patented. Avocados are a plant. Hmmm…

  8. Excellent work today Allen, et al!
    I’m pleased my congresswoman, Tammy Baldwin, was one of the first cosponsors of both bills!
    Hopefully both will get a good look next year.

  9. A step that should have taken place when prohibition ended. Its still going to be a battle, someday it will find its place next to the cigarette packs, or cigars. I just hope that day comes before we all need it instead of wanting it.

  10. ONDCP’s David Murray’s attitude “that there is no such thing as the responsible use of cannabis,” is an extension of the “cultural war” that DEA chief John Walters launched against anything that government associates with “marijuana.”
    It doesn’t matter if it’s hempcrete, hemp fuels, fibers, foods, whatever. Government’s agenda is to get the public’s attitude about hemp to at least the same anti-marijuana level as it was in the 1930s “Reefer Madness.”
    Government doesn’t want hemp even considered in the biofuels debate. They don’t want anything associated with medical hemp, much less recreational hemp.
    Government wants to brainwash people into believing that hemp has no value for anything whatsoever.
    Doctors are not allowed to make any positive comments about anything hemp. Not marijuana, not hemp oil, foods, salves, balms–nothing beneficial as a result of using anything hemp.

  11. I have a vicious bipolar disorder that is cured by Cannabis and long-distance triathlons.
    All I need is the Government to give me a little privacy by getting the fuck out of my life.

  12. I’m lovin’ this shit, I smell the US Economy getting better already and we’re getting closer to the use of Hemp Oil as well. Screw Runnin’ our soldier’s blood for Foreign Oil. Let’s LEGALIZE “peace” and have a new beginning on THE ENVIRONMENT AND LIVING LIFE.
    -It’s time,
    Phoenix, Az

  13. Way to go Barney Frank, Ron Paul, Barbara Lee, William
    Lacy Clay, the Congressional Black Caucus, Keith Stroup, Allen St. Pierre, NORML, Rob Kampia, MMP, &
    everyone else coming together for this truely historic
    You call for a new concensus of intelligent authority bringing forth a true & meaningful change such
    that people everywhere have the freedom to experience
    that which they have an inalienable right to in the
    first place! (That is, aside from certain restraints placed upon the many by the antiquated laws
    & mindset of a bygone era).
    Years ago i came to the conclusion that there was simply no common sense basis for criminalizing cannabis. Hence the obvious action was to decriminalize & regulate like alcohol, for example.
    Expressed this point of view in a song, “Heaven Sent,”
    which goes, “We so happy we alive, we together can survive. Stop the b.s. stop the lies,
    now’s the time, legalize.”
    Many told me not to put this song out because the
    notion of decriminalizing (i.e. “legalizing” cannabis
    was too scary & not politically correct…many have
    downloaded it anyway, it’s free).
    Perhaps with this new motion, a new notion regarding cannabis use as a basic freedom may emerge, because that’s how it is.
    As a citizen & physician, today more than ever it seems
    we are all on the same page asking ever more clearly
    & concisely for what we want & what we deserve, our
    basic human rights!
    Common sense & common action can eliminate a lot of
    cannabanophobia & other senseless meanderings of politicians into personal space.
    Thanks again to each & everyone of you for making this
    day possible & joining together now one way or another
    for what is best for all.

  14. LEGALIZE !
    “In a free and democratic society, which recognizes fundamentally but not exclusively the rule of law as the source of normative rules and in which government must promote autonomy as far as possible and therefore make only sparing use of the instruments of constraint, public policy on psychoactive substances must be structured around guiding principles respecting the life, health, security and rights and freedoms of individuals, who, naturally and legitimately, seek their own well-being and development and can recognize the presence, difference and equality of others.”

  15. .Once again you hurt us legal users by pushing ‘your’ agenda ahead of simple descedualization for starters. Mainstreamers see you push us aside for you legalization issue and they realize it is greedy and not humanitarian or patriotic. Get in line. Help the sick first and support our doctors in all 50 states to have the perscription for all members of society without distinction. A doctor’s ability to do this would then set up a template for the rest of the states to add grow laws for the qualified.
    You do us no favors pushing a recreation agenda over those with doctor’s notes in legal states.
    You know darn well Congress would do a simple deschedualization, and you should be smart enough to know that until the deschedualization the Supreme Court suggested happens first, your agenda of legalization does not have a chance in hell and it further mucks the waters and all the efforts of the truly needy to deschedualize. The Rebublicans laugh at you for not taking the Supreme Court up on its suggestion


  17. It will not cure baldness, but it would help a whole lot of people, who have been taken very expensive medication and could 1.cut down or 2. not need them at all. Just think millions of older people counting there pennies could smoke a bowl instead and save there money and insides.From all the legal drugs that kill your mind and insides.Please it is a no brainier!

  18. It is a shame indeed that I can’t legally come home from work have a smoke or make a cup of green herb tea and wind down from my work day. But if I choose to I can drink a whole bottle of liquor and get so sloppy drunk so that all my nieghbors think I am an absolute idiot while I terrorize my family and puke all over the front yard for all to see. It is a shame. Lets get real here folks the only reason pot is illegal… is dollars. If it is legalised it takes it out of the hands of criminals. How much money would Al Copone have made in the liquor business had it been legal? Not as much as if it was fobidden. Let’s have a land of the free here! Isn’t that what our constitution and declaration of independance promises. Freedom of expression and speech (try reading the constitution in front of the whitehouse they frown on that lately) and the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
    My name is Russell Robert Coe and I support the legalization of cannabis. Grow it, sell it, and tax it! God Bless America where I am supposed to be free to say this. PEACE Trailer Park Russ
    I leave you with these parting words.
    I can think of 420 reasons why I shouldn’t have to lie and I shouldn’t have to die and my mamma shouldn’t have to cry just because I like to get high!

  19. Thankyou so much for all the hard work that you have
    done I appreciate it so much.
    Please tell me, I live in Utah will this bill be in
    effect for me too?
    JoAnn Patterson

  20. Great job, everybody! Allen, you’re right saying this is our best shot since 1978 (when candidate Jimmy Carter espoused decrim). Wonderful to see these POWERFUL ORGANIZATIONS UNITED with each other, and Congressmen setting an example of bipartisan support. This is the moment for unity, not only between organizations, their constituents, and bipartisan legislators, but between the bills themselves– BOTH worthy bills, and no time for bickering between medical access and broader legalization. Both bills need full support and unless it’s included in the legalization bill, we need a third bill for the hemp industry as well. GOOD JOB, a brilliant moment!

  21. This is a wonderful step into the future. But the future has a problem…where do people get marijuana to smoke or to medicate with? Who will grow it? It is just one part of a multifaceted law enforcement/legislative conundrum that has frozen our country into a punishment model that is unjust.

  22. Yes we are not criminals… space in jal for bad people not pot smokers. gee man, it’s safer than drinking and smoking tobacco. LEGALZE IT!

  23. Way to go folks! My hats off to Barney Frank, Ron Paul, Barbara Lee Williams.Im sure the history books will see you as true patriots for the people!. A lot of us baby boomers remember a different world than today and a lot of us are not fooled by the big corporations who seem to own America today. Maybe it wouldnt hurt to say put out the numbers and compare how many deaths are caused every year by booze directly or indirectly compared to pot/cannibis?. Or maybe put out ther stats on tobaco related deaths. Im sure. KEEP IT UP ! I really am thirsty for a glimmer of hope. I love my country im a Viet Nam Disabled vet and we need change. Thank You !

  24. It seems to be ok to permit aids and insure the same sex people who never got married yet make pot illegal? It is ok to have fireworks & blow up hands but not cannibis? You can’t get a buzz from cigarrettes but you can buy them to get cancer and drink booze and kill pedestrians and other people driving yet get ripped off for smoking. If pot was legalized all the courts and lawyers will go broke! Let people embezzle money and brag about their profits from oil while OPEC retires from fining companies for gouging customers yet make marijuana be an offense? If God allows this nice plant to grow why is it everywhere and not legal? Just because we’re afraid of being busted many plants don’t grow. I am against marijuana abortion as we all refuse to grow to keep the police away. If it is ok in Holland why not America? Since we are already forced to forfeit our earnings on high gas prices why not let us smoke at home and save gas. I think the government should send each person with an ss number a joint and take a vote whether or not it is as bad as the reefer madness old antique film says. Now we can not even take any smoke on planes as we are being xrayed but pay extra for fuel, tickets. Are we ever going to get the permission to smoke this stuff that is koolaid compared to alcohol and like asperin to most people. At many concerts during the 70’s joints passed around all over no one died. Do the lawmakers get to take urine tests? Beauty contests disqualify women for reasons and they recall candidates to replace the people running while we never get to recall presidential candidates, ever. I say recall the candidates and give us someone who will let us smoke, lower the gas back to $1.75 and stop spending money in all other countries and focus on America. Jobs could come from Marijauna farms too. Go to the judges offices and put doobies in their robe pockets and see how honest the judges would be if they wouldn’t admit they found something to try at home. How many judges failed the piss tests???

  25. THANK GOODNESS for NORML~~!!! No matter where the need, EDUCATION about the PLANT is available, no charge. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK, the media seems to be enjoining in more interesting press dialogue regarding marijuana and the failed DRUG WAR. Be SAFE & well.

  26. Im so happy to see this happening! I cry thinking that maybe someday I can have my medicine and not be afraid or ridculed.
    This is a major “high” for us. but Im sceptic that it will make a differnce.
    I happy to hope again.
    Thank you

  27. excellents points JP Lacy
    re-scheduling of cannabis as the Supreme Court stated is the best way but then nobody could kick around NORML anymore

  28. Is there anywhere i can go to see the whole press conference? Or are those the only 2 clips available?

  29. the radical political/religious right is HELL bent
    on demonizing plant entheogens since the days of biblical Genesis; it’s just more rabid now.
    They blame the defeat in Vietnam on marijuana.
    Baby Boomers are the problem.
    Check out the Deputy Drug Czar interview at the Arcata Eye Newspaper. HE COMPARES POT SMOKERS WITH PEOPLE DOWN SOUTH THAT WANT TO MARY 10 YEAR OLDS.
    If you wanna know the real challenge, it’s the Baby Boomer era. If you saw Little Miss Sunshine, the little girl in the car is not smoking dope, Alan Arkin is the one that’s got the problem. Baby Boomers are the ones who continue to use drugs, and continue to increase to use drugs and they are the ones who are in positions of authority in some parts of this country. And they’re the ones who are saying “Aw you know, what’s wrong with…?” And my daughter thinks we’re nuts. She thinks these baby boomer people are, what are you smoking. I like to work out, I don’t want to smoke something. Why do they tell me that this should be OK? My generation gets on the Internet we see the brain scans, why are people your age, dad, the baby boomers always talking about when they were stoned at Woodstock, ha ha, or high on this, hoot hoot, or LSD or… They think we’re the ones that didn’t get it. They wanna kinda have a healthy long life. They’re talking about stuff like vitamins and working out and going to Humboldt State and getting a good education and how competitive it is. It’s the baby boomers that continue to be the problem.

  30. It is about time someone had the guts to stand up for America. America wants marijana made legal for medical use as do many doctors, so what is the hold up. America is supposed to be the choice of the People, not just one person.
    David Ertel

  31. working at the VA hospital, vets tell me that marijuana is the best thing to take the edge off their symptoms of PTSD, you know, like anger, irritability, depression, hyperarousal….
    We need ALL the help we can get to provide some FAST RELIEF (not to mention cost effective) so when OBAMA wins and the rest of the troops come home about 2 yrs. from now, we’ll have some REAL RELIEF for these vets.
    Research, smesearch……. we’ve got a whole generation of individuals who have smoked thruout their lives, lived productive, tax paying lives, raised families and been a VERY PRODUCTIVE MEMBER OF SOCIETY.
    refer madness still lives !!!
    Let’s kill the b…. !!

  32. it’s time to use some sanity to the thought of use of mj and to let us have some peace and not be thought as crimnals

  33. i think it’s the first good thing if the goverment does what it says what it wants to do and not just another politicial year stunt. it would help so many people not meanch’n the money the goverment could’s about time that they wake up should have been done along time ago. some off the laws on the books are 100yrs old or older.i just hope the goverment does what it said it was going to do.

  34. i am so proud that someone with some intelligence is finally seeing the light. i am a tax paying, law abiding citizen who needs marijuana for my medical needs and i am tired of feeling ashamed and shunned because of it. i wil continue to speak up though.

  35. Change, it seems to be the mantra of not only the Democrats, but Senator McCain has picked up the chant too, pointing out his maverick reputation. The central question remains, what will real change amount to?
    Healthcare for all our citizens, winning the war on terror, better break for the middle class, no more dependence on foreign energy?
    Even if all these things happen will it amount to any kind of real change? Will you still be worried if you have to use a cash machine late at night? Will there still be gang violence if we all have health care? Will you still worry that your kids are in a dangerous place trying to score some weed? Will people still be afraid to sit on their front porch without getting hit by a stray bullet?
    Try this, bring up the subject of marijuana in a crowd like a restaurant or store and use the word drugs or marijuana in a somewhat loud voice. Watch the people near you
    automatically lower their voices or move away from you out of what? Bad hygiene? Bad breath? No, they lower their voices out of fear, not fear of drug dealers or users. They move away and lower their voices out of fear of the LAW! Someone might say I heard so and so talking about drugs ect: ect:
    I don’t know about you but as a lifelong defender of this great nation this is certainly not the America I fought for.
    The huge black market in drugs is the financial machine which pays for the gangs and guns and violence that plagues us all from large city to little burg. If these politicians really want change they will get serious about ending this long nightmare.
    There will be no real change in America until the ’police state like cloud’ of the War on Drugs , which hangs over the country like smog over LA, is dissipated by the fresh wind and bright light of personal freedom.
    I’m so happy I could kiss barney!!!

  36. Here’s some verities….
    All governments from time eternal exist by means of taxes.
    The only difference between a Democracy and a Republic is that a republic, by definition, must have a constitution that guarantees some rights to minorities. A democracy can become mob rule. A constitutional Republic cannot become mob rule.
    As McCain and Obama debate what we should do in Afganistan, it will be interesting to hear how each plans to deal with the poppy farmers.
    We pay local farmers here in wisconsin a subsidy to put their acreage into “the soil bank.” Why couldn’t the United Nations supervise the Heroin trade, distributing the drug to responsible nations around the globe for use in hospitals and nursing homes. Such an arrangement would only hurt the makers of synthetic heroin (oxycotin) which is made by a french firm I believe.
    Similarly, taxing the huge underground marijuana trade can provide government with much needed tax revenue to offset diminishing taxes it will be getting from gasoline taxes as we conserve energy.

  37. Families are destroyed on a daily basis by way of cancer,auto accidents,divorce,emphysema,cirosis and a myriad of other ailments and crime. I am a responsible adult who no longer can smoke with my wife in the evenings due to another personal right of mine being violated (urine testing). I am fine with that, my wife still smokes on occasion in the evening for her migrains and to relax with me. My son, who is 13,approached my wife in tears because he’s old enough now to “know”. He is being taught in school that his Mother is some kind of junky. I sat him down,and had a long talk about all the uses of hemp/MJ and I allowed him to watch a great music video on youtube called the “tree of life”. When he learned that George washington and many of those who founded our great country (not Govt.) grew hemp for what it provides,he was quite confused.I did speak to him in a way not to sway his way of narcotic abuse,but allowed him to realize his mother is by no way a criminal or bad person.It has been said up top,the patent cannot be made therfore we are where we are.We are here, not on the Govt. funded methadone lines, with the governments pet junkies.
    Stay safe

  38. Thank you Barney Frank, Ron Paul, NORML, MPP and others. This bill is long overdue. All people who are truly educated on the DRUG WAR topic know that these are draconian laws in the free society that America claims to be. With regard to Scheduling of Marijuana, why isnt tobacco and alcohol Schedule I Drugs with the stated criteria of “highly addictive and no medical benefit?” As a mom, grandmother, and former law enforcement officer, I know that we have the wrong people locked up in our prisons in this country. There are currently 2.3 million people in prison in the U.S., 25% of whom are non violent drug offenders. That same number, or about 500,000 known, convicted, registered sex offenders are free in society right now. This is an outrage. I dont want my tax dollars wasted babysitting people in prison who use drugs. Marijuana helps many sick people and has never killed anyone. It is physically impossible to overdose. On the other hand, the MARIJUANA LAWS harm many. Rachel Hoffman was set up and killed by the Tallahassee police when she was caught with a little pot and was asked to make a major drug buy including the weapon that ultimately killed her. All for a little pot. We should be ashamed to call ourselves free Americans until this law changes. To learn more about the DRUG WAR from a law enforcement perspective, to LEGALIZE, CONTROL, TAX and REGULATE, and how to lessen the incidence of DISEASE, DEATH, CRIME AND ADDICTION, all made WORSE by the DRUG WAR, go to:
    Thank you

  39. To James Lacy post 19: Yes, I agree somewhat with your statement but Norml has been working on legalizing pot before the medical mj was even made legal in a handful of states. Don’t you think that this will help our cause too? Yes, the sick people should be removed from the battle field but it seems that there is more than one war going on here. I also think the term “recreational pot smoking” needs to be disposed of right now. Recreation is playing tennis or golf. I’ve never heard the word recreational drinking!

  40. When I go to I see no voting box for marijuana, just some bullcrap about “Would you want to go to the Olympics in Beijing?”
    I’m glad CNN presented a mostly unbiased article about pot for once, but those polls are important, and I’m confused as to why they changed it.

  41. Great! You’re doing very well with this fight and coming along great. Soon it will be decriminalized.

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