Washington, DC: United States Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) – along with Reps Earl Blumenhauer (D-OR), Jim Moran (D-VA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Sam Farr (D-CA) – introduced legislation last week in the House of Representatives to establish a national commission to review US marijuana policy and issue recommendations to federal lawmakers.
House Resolution 1635, the National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy Act of 2013, seeks to establish a 13-member expert committee "to review of the state and efficacy of current policies of the Federal Government toward marijuana."
Specifically, members of the commission would make recommendations to Congress regarding the following:
- ‘How federal policy should interact with State laws that make marijuana legal for medicinal or personal use;
- ‘The cost of marijuana prohibition and potential state and federal regulation of marijuana, as well as the potential revenue generated by taxation of marijuana;
- ‘The health impacts … related to marijuana use … in comparison to alcohol and tobacco use;
- ‘The impact of marijuana prohibition on criminal justice, including any racial disparities, and the collateral consequences of prosecution for marijuana possession, including lack of access to housing, education, and employment.’
Members of the commission would also issue recommendations regarding the "appropriate placement of marijuana in the schedule of the [federal] Controlled Substances Act," which presently classifies cannabis as a Schedule I prohibited substance in the same category as heroin.
The proposed commission would be modeled after the National Commission on Marihuana Use (aka the Shafer Commission). That Commission, appointed by then-President Richard Nixon in 1971, called on Congress to decriminalize cannabis possession offenses. Federal lawmakers rejected the Commission’s recommendations. Congress has failed to sponsor any additional reviews of US marijuana policy since that time.
"Regardless of your views on marijuana, it’s important that we understand the impact of current federal policy and address the conflict with those state laws that allow for medicinal or personal use of marijuana," said Rep. Cohen in a prepared statement. "This conflict is only going to continue to grow over the next few years and we must provide certainty to the millions of individuals and businesses that remain caught in a web of incompatible laws. A national commission would provide us with the information we need to create sensible policy going forward."
"The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it is time for a national conversation regarding America’s marijuana policies," stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, "NORML is pleased to have worked with Representative Cohen and his staff on this important legislation so that this conversation may finally take place at the highest levels of government. A majority of Americans agree that it is time for the United States to end it’s fruitless and expensive war on cannabis consumers and pursue policies of regulation and taxation. Establishing this national commission would be a pragmatic and productive step toward creating a framework for a functional federal policy on marijuana."
House Resolution 1635 is one of several marijuana law reform bills now pending before the United States Congress, including House Resolution 499: The Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, House Resolution 1523, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, House Bill 689: the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, and Senate Bill 359: the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013.
Full text of HR 1635 is not yet available on the Library of Congress’ legislative website, Thomas.loc.gov.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at (202) 483-5500.