Not all federal politicians believe that marijuana law reform is a laughing matter.
Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), along with fifteen co-sponsors, have introduced legislation in Congress to critically evaluate America’s drugs and prisons policies.
Senate Bill 714, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 seeks to establish a blue-ribbon commission to “undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system; make findings related to current Federal and State criminal justice policies and practices; and make reform recommendations for the President, Congress, and State governments to improve public safety, cost-effectiveness, overall prison administration, and fairness in the implementation of the Nation’s criminal justice system.”
Specifically, the Commission will examine “current drug policy and its impact on incarceration, crime and violence, sentencing, and reentry programs, [including] an analysis of the general availability of drugs in our society, the impact and effectiveness of current policies on reducing that availability and on the incidence of crime, and in the case of criminal offenders, the availability of drug treatment programs before, during, and after incarceration.”
Writing this past weekend in Parade Magazine, Sen. Webb stated:
America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. … The United States has by far the world’s highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world’s population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world’s reported prisoners.
… Drug offenders, most of them passive users or minor dealers, are swamping our prisons. … Justice statistics also show that 47.5% of all the drug arrests in our country in 2007 were for marijuana offenses. Additionally, nearly 60% of the people in state prisons serving time for a drug offense had no history of violence or of any significant selling activity. … African-Americans — who make up about 12% of the total U.S. population population — accounted for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison.
… It is incumbent on our national leadership to find a way to fix our prison system. I believe that American ingenuity can discover better ways to deal with the problems of drugs and nonviolent criminal behavior while still minimizing violent crime and large-scale gang activity. And we all deserve to live in a country made better by such changes.”
Senator Webb’s analysis is accurate and his advocacy is politically courageous. It’s been many years since any federally appointed commission has taken an objective look at American criminal justice policies, and it’s been nearly 40 years since federal lawmakers have undertaken a critical examination of US marijuana policy.
Webb’s stance is all the more admirable as it comes just days after President Barack Obama and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs found themselves unable to even utter the word ‘marijuana’ without laughing, no less engage in a critical assessment of America’s failed pot policies.
Writing in Salon.com, best-selling author and commentator Glen Greenwald assesses the situation and nails it:
For a Senator like Webb to spend his time trumpeting the evils of excessive prison rates, racial disparities in sentencing, the unjust effects of the Drug War, and disgustingly harsh conditions inside prisons is precisely the opposite of what every single political consultant would recommend that he do.
There’s just no plausible explanation for Webb’s actions other than the fact that he’s engaged in the noblest and rarest of conduct: advocating a position and pursuing an outcome because he actually believes in it and believes that, with reasoned argument, he can convince his fellow citizens to see the validity of his cause.
And he is doing this despite the fact that it potentially poses substantial risks to his political self-interest and offers almost no prospect for political reward. Webb is far from perfect … but, in this instance, not only his conduct but also his motives are highly commendable.
At long last, some ‘change’ in Washington, DC that we can believe in!
FOX news showing an interview with an eaqle county police chief who is posting jobs for informants in newspapers. Anyone remember Rachell Hoffman??
HaHaHa APRIL FOOLS….If not then alright, this country is finally back to the exact same place it was just THIRTY short years AGO hopefully the government finish it’s job this time around…then I will actually believe in this “change”!!
About time we see some evolution in our society, however we have a lot of catching up to do! Who would you rather see be locked up in prison for a longer duration, a guy who smokes A LOT of pot or a child molester? Let’s keep VICTIMLESS CRIMES on the bottom of our worries.
We all know this will come to the same conclusion as the Shafer commission, and that will be decriminalization. Hopefully this time we will have a president who will think rationally rather than throw it under the rug like Nixon.
Great but i am losing hope for this…. just bills and even if the bills pass the sen or gov or whtaever can just veto and there we restart at the same spot over and over……sucks
Let me be the first to say thanks to Congressmen Jim Webb (D-VA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), along with fifteen co-sponsors, finally some movement that may end all sorts of troublesome things, like CANNABIS PROHIBITION, OVER CROWDED JAILS, THE NEED FOR ACCESS TO CANNABIS FOR THE SICK AND HURTING ALL OVER THE USA.
I am not sure but it seams to me like there is a run-away train and it’s name is PROGRESS.
I hope that everyone will jump on this train and help to get these long time problems rectified immediately. I can’t wait for the rush to come to Arkansas.
THANK YOU MR WEBB!!!
Just sent emails to Senator’s Boxer and Feinstein asking for their support. Thanks NORML for alerting me.
Please dont be an april fools day joke
This is excellent news and even more of a reason to contact your local and state government officials and tell them that you support the introduction of this bill. Marijuana reform is uppon us. Do not let it slip through our grasp.
Good ! Finally someone with cahoneis enough to stand up and resonate our voice.
This is a good step but, when did they never listen to any commission report before.Lets hope there isn’t another Nixon in the Whitehouse.
Now THIS is exactly what I’ve been waiting for!
Thank you, Congressmen Jim Webb!!
How do I contact and thank this man?
That’s good, but it doesn’t change Cannabis to become legal though.
I won’t believe all this till something actually happens.
I urge everyone on this site to at least email the politicians sponsoring this legislation and inform them of your support and thank them for their courage.
A white guy from VA heading a commission that could possibly make reform our drug policies for the better. Holy shit, something might actually get accomplished!
This legislation is long overdue. Bravo.
NORML should make some kind of award or plaque and send it to Ron Paul, Tom Ammiano, Jim Webb and Arlen Specter for being politicians that are willing to stick their necks out to do the right thing and bring about sensible US drug policy. This would give them some well-deserved encouragement for doing the right thing.
Also, anyone that can vote for these guys should get up and do so. Do your part by voting for and promoting the guys that are putting their political careers on the line to bring about sensible drug policy. The momentum for marijuana reform is on our favor, so I suggest we take advantage of it while we can.
We already know that change isn’t gonna come FROM Washington, so we need to start more locally in order to bring change TO Washington.
Senator Webb is one of the best advocates for reform we have in the Senate. Please support him and his re-election which is a few years from now. I know I will.
It is vital that everyone contact their senators to urge them to support this bill.
I fought hard to get this guy elected, and I’m finally PROUD of one of my Senators, because this guy seems to know what leadership and decency is all about.
Pair him with Warner, and VA has two FINE Senators.
Excuse me, time to write my weekly “End the failed ‘War on Drugs'” e-mails to each!
Have you written YOUR Senators lately? YOU SHOULD!
YAY! its about time!
I’ve already written Sen. Webb and expressed my admiration for his bill, as well as both of my senators. I urge all of you to do the same.
That’s such good news! I’m proud to say that that’s my Congressman, and I’m glad all those emails I, and many others I’m sure, have been sending him has had such a positive effect. This IS an issue that everyday people care about, and one that will affect many people for a long time so to see my Congressman making such drastic efforts to achieve real reform is a profound experience for me. I hope this bill is worked out in Congress and passed as quick as possible so that not another dime is needlessly wasted in this failed War on Drugs and spent to line the pockets of private prison owners.
THIS IS HARD TO COMPREHEND–A POLITICIAN ACTUALLY SUGGESTING THE OPTION OF LOOKING INTO THE POSSIBILITY OF PERHAPS DOING SOME THINGS THAT MIGHT RESULT IN SOME RECOMMENDATIONS THAT, IF ADOPTED AND FOLLOWED, MIGHT RESULT IN SOME THINGS NOT BEING AS INCREASINGLY BAD AS THEY HAVE BEEN FOR FAR TOO LONG. WOW!, NEXT THING YOU KNOW, THEY MIGHT EVEN READ THE CONSTITUTION AND BILL OF RIGHTS! WHERE, I WONDER, COULD THIS ALL POSSIBLY LEAD,…HOW ABOUT “CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN,” FOR A CHANGE. TWO THUMBS UP FOR WEBB.
good job mr Specter & mr Webb!
now mr Obama,
as someone who listened to your podcasts from the very beginning and has donated a few hundred bucks to your fledgling campaign, i feel i deserve a few minutes of your time.
I am truly sickened by Robert Gibbs answers performance today trying to smooth over your embarrassing remarks about the hot topic of cannabis legalization. this when the topic involves so many potential benefits to humanity and our one precious lives on earth truly makes me question why i convinced several to vote for you.
as a fellow university of chicago guy, it is hard for me to ignore the fact that you incorrectly surmised that legalization of cannabis wouldn’t help US out financially. did you forget about all the money wasted on the DEA? or the taxpayer dollars wasted since day 1 of the war on cannabis in 1937 jailing humans who have merely consumed the flowers of a plant? not to mention these inmates would otherwise be paying the US taxes! billions of dollars. yeah you are throwing around trillions of dollars but billions are not insignificant! did you learn any economics while teaching at the UofC?
mr obama lifting the cannabis prohibition will also allow americans to get back to cultivating industrial hemp. this is truly a green job economic initiative that will surely generate jobs and cash.
mr Obama, have you truly considered the millions of humans across the globe scarred by this plants prohibition. they made an educated choice to ingest, or facilitate ingesting, a plant. yet your government would have them, (THEN WHY NOT YOU!!!) criminals for life. imprisoning is not the answer we should focus on the truly addicted. get this wonderful plant out of the hands of “shadier” dealers (big parma included) who may be pushing the man-made drugs which really may cause someone harm in a very short period of time.
Now to the point of massively de-funding these drug cartels. 60% of some of these gangs profits are generated from cannabis sales alone. and then we send south of the borders our rapidly eroding U$ and our waste of metal guns? are you fucking kidding me. How is this not a NO-BRAINER.
STORM CONGRESS either april 20th or the july 4th million marijuana march on DC this year demanding international reform. MAKE every member of congress watch the UNION. Mr Obama do you comprehend how many millions of americans are going to inhale or ingest cannabis these days? Do you? Demand that CONGRESS LEGALIZE CANNABIS & HEMP NOW.
And if you do not mr Obama, i am afraid that you will be a one termer and mr Ron Paul will be our next president as he is truly progressive.
Screw alcohol, tobacco, paper, plastic & pharma….YES WE CANNABIS!
This is truly refreshing. Kudos the Senators Webb and Specter, and all the cosponsors of this bill. It seems that some people in the government haven’t forgotten who they work for.
This is great news! I’m glad Webb and Specter finally got the courage to figure out America’s drug reforms. I hope they will finally fix the problem and end the drug war soon!
Finally some sanity from DC!!!!! Make sure to write congressman Webb thanking him for his courageous act.
My fingers are crossed. Let’s get this done, people.
Now this is the type of thing to get excited about. While I appreciate the thousands that ask during the online “town meeting”; this is something you can actually get behind. Locally is how things will be changed.
In all honesty, I have more of a interest in the psychological aspects of its demonization. As I am sure that most of you know, the only place that is legally able to research “marijuana” is the University of Mississippi at Oxford. I have a theory that it has more to do with, if you will, a anti-mind control drug. We have been told that it effects Cannaboid Receptors in the brain and it has been known to change the way we perceive stimuli (i.e. pain and emotions). I have a feeling that means that it also has something to do with our ability to think; how we process information that we are given.
Hell, I may just go back to college if they offered some type of class for it; however, I will not go to Mississippi just to told that science doesn’t know what it is talking about.
finally…A LEADER!!…hey obama! gibbs! pay attention and learn!
And to think that Webb was considered for VP? Now that would have been a much better choice than Mandatory Minimum Biden.
Webb deserves a few thank youz for having the guts to do this. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were more of these brave Senators? This gent IMHO is looking out for the people, the little guy, the disenfranchised, not his job security.
I just sent both specter and webb an email of thanks. I suggest everyone else do the same. I write a lot of letters to a lot of politicians, sure is nice to write one saying thanks
Finally! Someone with some common sense and decency! How refreshing!
Great news! 🙂
Another great step in the right direction.
Very good news.
yay, good news! hopefully these guys will have a positive impact on our cause.
The only clear choice for president in 2012 is Ron Paul. He is the only one in our government that would actually do something for the millions of people that smoke cannabis. NORML should endorse ron paul for 2012.
This is great news though, about time someone in politics doesn’t listen to the system. Rich bankers run our government and it needs to stop!! The monetary system has you enslaved!!
Alright Senator Webb! More Power to You!
Just no one yell April Fools!
Finally a politician with the courage to step forward with the truth. This is a break through moment in history. It will be very interesting to see where this leads. Remember only congress writes the laws. I would hope that everyone of you that reads this sends a letter to your elected representatives in support of this movement. It is time to end prohibition!!!
Thank god for Jim Webb. As a Virginia resident I am pleased to hear somebody I voted for is actually doing something. It’s a weird feeling being able to see something good come out of politicians, but I like it.
Lets Celebrate By Gettin High!!!
I was recently forced to leave VA and move to CA due to harrasment from local police for my medicinal use of marijuana I would love nothing more than to move back with my family and friends
I hope this congressman can weave a Webb of change towards some of the U.S. drug/prison system policies/priorities. And THANK U # 4. I would rather see a child molester locked up forEVER!! and a pot smoker for never………..Jim Webb, you sir, have balls.
This news mnade my night! I hope something comes from it, in the very near future!