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Rep. Barney Frank and NORML Call for Federal Decriminalization of Marijuana

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Rep. Barney Frank will soon introduce legislation to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, the Massachusetts Democrat said during an appearance on HBO’s "Real Time with Bill Maher."

Frank offered no details on his legislation, and it’s not at all clear that he could ever get it to the House floor for a vote. A Frank aide was unaware of his plans other than his statement on HBO.

Frank has introduced legislation in previous years to allow the use of "medical marijuana," although the bills never made it out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Asked by Maher as to why he would push a pot decriminalization bill now, Frank said the American public has already decided that personal use of marijuana is not a problem.

"I now think it’s time for the politicians to catch up to the public," Frank said. "The notion that you lock people up for smoking marijuana is pretty silly. I’m going to call it the ‘Make Room for Serious Criminals’ bill."

Read NORML’s Statement



Breaking News: NORML Teams Up with Rep. Barney Frank To Introduce Federal Decriminalization Legislation

Dear NORML Supporters:

NORML is pleased to announce that it has partnered with our longtime ally, Democratic Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives that would strip the federal government of its authority to arrest responsible cannabis consumers. The bill, referred to by Frank as the ‘Make Room for Serious Criminals Act,’ is the first federal cannabis decriminalization bill introduced in Congress in 24 years.

"It’s time for the politicians to catch up with the public on this [issue]," Frank said Friday during an appearance on the nationally syndicated television program ‘Real Time with Bill Maher,’ in which he announced the imminent introduction of the measure.

As drafted, Frank’s proposal would eliminate all federal penalties prohibiting the personal use and possession of up to 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) of marijuana. Under this measure (based on the recommendations of the 1972 National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, also known as the Shafer Commission), adults who consume cannabis would no longer face arrest, prison, or even the threat of a civil fine. In addition, this bill would eliminate all penalties prohibiting the not-for-profit transfers of up to one ounce of cannabis between adults. In short, for the first time since 1937, the possession, use, and non-profit transfer of marijuana by adults would be legal under federal law!

Marijuana decriminalization currently enjoys support from the majority of Americans. According to a recent CNN/Time Magazine poll, 76% of US citizens favor a cannabis policy that does not place responsible adult cannabis consumers at risk of arrest and prosecution. Nonetheless, nearly 830,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges this year, 89% of which were for personal possession.

Currently, twelve states, representing over a third of Americans – Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Oregon, along with numerous major cities such as Seattle, Milwaukee, Madison, and Ann Arbor — have enacted various forms of marijuana decriminalization, replacing criminal sanctions with the imposition of fine-only penalties for minor pot violators. Similar proposals have passed this year in the House in New Hampshire and the Senate in Vermont, and Massachusetts will be voting on a similar initiative this November.

NORML is pleased to be leading the effort for sensible cannabis law reform at the federal level. With your support, we look forward to ending the obsolete and destructive practice of arresting responsible adult cannabis consumers.


Allen St. Pierre
Executive Director

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