Drug Policy Alliance Action Alert
The first federal marijuana decriminalization bill in 25 years was just introduced in Congress. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced H.R. 5843, the “Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008,” which would decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use. Please urge your representative to support this important legislation.
A deluge of messages from constituents will help members of Congress feel more confident in declaring their support for the bill. We don't expect the bill to become law just yet, but it will help us find out which members of Congress support marijuana decriminalization and which do not. The more representatives who co-sponsor it, the more support we can show for marijuana law reform.
Last year alone the police made almost 830,000 arrests for marijuana law offenses in the United States. 89 percent of those arrests were for posssession for personal use. Those arrested were seperated from their families, branded criminals, and in many cases fired from their jobs and denied school loans and other public assistance. The arrests cost taxpayers billions of dollars and consumed an estimated 4.5 million law enforcment hours (that’s the equivalent of taking 112,500 law enforcement officers off the streets).
H.R. 5843 would make it legal under federal law for adults to possess up to 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of marijuana for personal use. It would also allow not-for-profit transfers of up to one ounce of marijuana between consenting adults. Please urge your member of Congress to support this bill.
Our executive director, Ethan Nadelmann, made a powerful case for ending marijuana prohibition in a 2004 cover story in National Review (PDF).
--In 1972 a special commission formed by Congress and President Richard Nixon concluded that punitive marijuana laws do more harm than good. Among other things, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse urged states and the federal government to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Twelve states eventually did, but most states and the federal government ignored the report. You can read the National Commission’s 1972 report here.
--Since 1972 twelve states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, and Oregon. Decriminalization generally means people caught possessing marijuana for personal use are not subjected to imprisonment for at least their first offense, although they may be subject to a small fine.
--A 2001 Zogby poll found that 61 percent of Americans oppose arresting and jailing nonviolent marijuana smokers. A 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 72 percent of Americans think people arrested for marijuana possession should face fines and not jail time.
--A study that examined arrest statistics for smoking or possessing marijuana in public in New York City from 1980 through 2006 found that blacks were four times as likely as whites to receive jail time for possession of marijuana. Hispanics were three times as likely. In 2002 about 2.4 percent of all marijuana users were arrested for marijuana possession. The arrest rate for blacks was 94 percent higher.