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Marijuana Advocates Strike Back at Lamar Smith

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WASHINGTON – Worried that decriminalization dreams could go up in smoke, marijuana advocates are targeting a Texas congressman who has vowed to kill a bill that would remove pot from a list of federal controlled substances.

Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said his panel will not take up the bipartisan legislation – which would effectively kill the bill for lack of action.

"Instead of encouraging the use of marijuana, we should strengthen enforcement of federal drug laws to protect Americans from the devastating effects of drug use," said Smith, R-San Antonio.

Smith's action has prompted a backlash organized by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Legalization, NORML.

NORML has launched a letter and telephone campaign that swamped Smith's switchboard on Capitol Hill and forced him to take down his Facebook page with more than 9,000 messages and calls.

The sheer number of the responses does not surprise NORML, which is also under no illusion that it will see the legislation passed any time soon.

"This Congress is a 'Reefer Madness' Congress," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML executive director, referring to the well-known 1936 morality film that portrayed users of the herb descending into mental illness hell.

Still, St. Pierre said changing public attitudes on cannabis use and its acceptance in some parts of the country should at least require Congress to hold a hearing on the merits of the legislation.

The authors of the bill say the legislation is no half-baked idea.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, was filed by Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas congressman seeking the Republican presidential nomination, and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

Paul, who has a national libertarian following, and Frank, one of the most liberal members of Congress, say the bill is a reasoned approach to get the federal government out of the regulation of marijuana laws.

Under the bill, HR 2306, marijuana would be removed from the federal list of controlled substances, ending federal enforcement and allowing each state to address how it could be used and distributed.

NORML is airing public service announcements about the bill on its web site, and on video-sharing YouTube, urging people to contact Smith and other members of Congress.

In one, NORML board member, Texas singer Willie Nelson pleads that current drug laws need to be changed to match public attitudes.

Willie's narration in the PSA, over the background of his hit "On the Road Again," says that 850,000 citizens will be arrested this year on cannabis-related charges, "that's another marijuana smoker busted every 35 seconds."

Advocates of pot use note that 14 states have passed decriminalization laws, and 16 states and the District of Columbia permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Texas is not one of those states, and it's not likely to be one soon, said Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican and former Texas attorney general and state Supreme Court justice.

"I would be surprised if it has much in the way of public support, which would be the biggest obstacle, since I doubt the members of the Texas Legislature would take this matter up and pass it," Cornyn said.

There is no companion legislation to the House bill filed in the Senate, but Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would join Smith and House colleagues in opposing similar measures in the upper legislative chamber.

Cornyn said he worries that decriminalization, medical usage and removing marijuana laws from federal enforcement is a slippery slope "where a similar attitude would be embraced with regards to other illegal drugs and dangerous substances."

The Obama administration also opposes decriminalization of marijuana, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Marijuana use is harmful and should be discouraged, according to the White House drug czar, and legalization would lower the price, thereby increasing use.

Realistically, St. Pierre said it is likely to take another decade for Congress to catch up to public attitudes and a more relaxed attitude on marijuana use.

He predicted federal decriminalization would eventually come.

"The states are really driving this," St. Pierre said.

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News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: mysanantonio.com
Author: Gary Martin
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Website: Marijuana advocates strike back at Lamar Smith
 
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