Representative Barney Frank introduced a bill last week that would decriminalize the personal possession of marijuana at the federal level in quantities less than 100 grams and would reduce the penalty for using pot in public.
“Criminalizing choices that adults make because we think they are unwise ones, when the choices involved have no negative effect on the rights of others, is not appropriate in a free society,” remarked the Massachusetts representative.
Texas representative Ron Paul and New York representative Maurice Hinchey are co-sponsors of the legislation.
“To those who say that the government should not be encouraging the smoking of marijuana, my response is that I completely agree,” Frank’s statement said. “But it is a great mistake to divide all human activity into two categories: those that are criminally prohibited, and those that are encouraged.”
“I think John Stuart Mill had it right in the 1850s,” he continued, “when he argued that individuals should have the right to do what they want in private, so long as they don’t hurt anyone else. It’s a matter of personal liberty. Moreover, our courts are already stressed and our prisons are over-crowded. We don’t need to spend our scarce resources prosecuting people who are doing no harm to others.”
Several states, including California, Colorado, New York, Oregon and several others have already reduced penalties on the possession of small quantities of marijuana, making them simple civil fines in some cases.
Frank filed a similar bill last year that failed.