Four House Democrats and one House Republican recently published statements saying that the fight for saner marijuana laws will not end with the retirements of Congressmen Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who introduced legislation last year to repeal the federal prohibition of marijuana.
Democrats Charlie Rangel, Sam Farr, Steve Cohen, and Barbara Lee, as well as Republican Dana Rohrabacher wrote into Politico's Arena, a forum for policymakers and advocates, to answer the question, "Will the push to legalize pot fade away?" To a one, they answered "no."
Here's Rangel on the question:
Marijuana decriminalization is an issue that will undoubtedly become more prevalent over time. Things are very different from when I chaired the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control back in the 1980s. Polls have shown that since October 2011, at least 50 percent of Americans favor legalization at the federal level—a number that is on the rise.
The U.S. already has the highest incarceration rate in the world. We lock up the majority of inmates for non-violent drug-related crimes. Instead of attacking the consumers, we should give them alternatives to poverty and street life to steer them away from drug abuse in the first place. It simply doesn't make sense to waste billions of dollars putting hundreds of thousands of Americans in prison for non-violent offenses of the law.
I believe that the federal government should stop targeting the legal vendors that are providing safe access to this treatment, and instead focus limited resources on those who sell illicit drugs. On this front, I will continue to work with my colleagues on protecting those who need to access this critical treatment.
On the issue of legalizing marijuana across the board, I believe we at the very least need to open this conversation.
The movement to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana in particular saw growing support just last week when I, along with Congressmen Hinchey, McClintock, and Farr, introduced an amendment that would prevent the Department of Justice from using funds to prevent states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws.
This is an important bipartisan issue and the public is beginning to understand and appreciate how medical marijuana can help people with cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other life-threatening illnesses. If regulated and administered properly, medical marijuana can help thousands of Americans across the country. In addition, more and more people view the war on drugs as a great misuse of resources that criminalizes millions of ordinary Americans, with a disproportionate impact on minorities.
While Congress will certainly miss the leadership of Mr. Frank and Mr. Paul, the fact is that the war on drugs has failed. These failed policies will mean that the fight for sane policy will continue.
Ethan Nadelmann and Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance also weighed in. You can read all of the responses here.