Congressman Barney Frank is set to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives to decriminalize marijuana under federal law, and the focus of this year’s 420 Campaign is to demonstrate public support for this important and historic piece of legislation.
Most marijuana arrests in the United States are based on state laws regarding marijuana’s use and possession, and Congressman Frank’s proposed legislation will not change that. Nonetheless, for several reasons, it is of tremendous importance that this legislation receives the support of every marijuana user in the country.
First of all, this legislation would eliminate all federal penalties for possession of small, personal use, quantities of marijuana. Federal penalties for possession are enforced when marijuana use is observed by law enforcement on federal land, such as in national parks or national forests. Indeed some of the highest arrest rates for marijuana possession in the United States occur in vacation areas; removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession on federal land provides some immediate benefits for marijuana users by eliminating the danger of arrest in the heavily visited areas of the United States.
Decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level is also of great symbolic value. It sends a signal to state governments throughout the country that the federal government believes that marijuana possession should no longer be treated as a criminal offense. Of greater importance, it indicates that the US Congress has reached the political judgment that the public supports significant changes in public policy regarding marijuana and the law.
According to NORML, which has worked with Congressman Frank to develop this legislation, “this proposal would eliminate all federal penalties prohibiting the personal use and possession of up to 100 grams (3 Â½ ounces) of marijuana. Under our measure, adults who consume cannabis would no longer face arrest, prison, or even the threat of a civil fine. In addition, this bill eliminates all penalties prohibiting the not-for-profit transfers of up to one ounce of pot.”
Congressional representatives are shrewd politicians. They are always on the lookout for issues that attract people to participate in the political process. Support for Congressman Frank’s decrim bill is an excellent opportunity for other representatives to appreciate the political benefits of using the marijuana issue to attract people of all ages into participating in the political process, and especially young people who, absent issues that directly affect them, might be uninterested in voting and/or supporting candidates for public office. Understand this – regardless of their party and political ideology your congressional representative wants you to like them, wants you to respect them, and wants you to feel like they are being responsive to your interests.
There are several easy ways to contact your congressional representatives. The 420 Campaign provides easy to follow instructions for Contacting your Congressional Representative. You can also use the BCR Guide to State Legislative and Congressional Districts and Maps to lookup and research your elected representatives – in fact, you should encourage the state and federal elected officials who represent you to support decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level. NORML has a Web site devoted to contacting your elected officials. The Marijuana Policy Project also has a Federal Action Center that will help you contact your representatives in Congress.
Contact your congressional representative, tell them you want them to support Congressman Frank’s forthcoming bill to decriminalize marijuana under federal law. Let them know that you favor marijuana’s legalization, but that you think that decrim at the federal level is a sensible policy that is long overdue. And, very important, if you've never contacted them before, let them know this is the first time you’ve written your elected representative.
HIGH TIMES will report more details about this legislation as they become available. But there is no reason to wait for more details to express your support for this effort. Contact your congressional representative right now and express your support for the decriminalization of marijuana under federal law. It’s the best way to support 420 in 2008!