Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) was critical of the
country's drug laws when he addressed the annual conference of the
National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws on Saturday, April 21 in
Washington, D.C.

"Ninety-plus percent of the examples we have of police practices that
violate privacy are driven by the drug laws," Frank said. "If any one of
us goes outside and is robbed, mugged, or our cars are vandalized, we
become the best friends of the police" and try to help them, he said.
But with victimless crimes such as recreational drug use, "normal police
techniques don't work, there are no complaining witnesses. The police
are driven to violate people's privacy by the nature of the so-called

"I do not advocate people using various mind-altering substances, the
less of that you do, the better," he said, including tobacco, alcohol,
and marijuana on that list. "The disparity with which we treat marijuana
compared to alcohol and tobacco can only be explained by the fact that
marijuana has historically been seen by a lot of Americans as a badge of
the counterculture," from jazz musicians and people of color in the
1930s to the hippies and protesters of the 1960s.

Frank said conservatives have argued that federal programs such as those
for the homeless, welfare, and public housing have spent billions of
dollars without measurably changing the situation, therefore the
programs are ineffective and should be cut. "Nowhere is that analogy
more conclusive than with the drug wars," yet conservatives continue
advocate spending even more on those failed policy.

He credited conservatives with having "accurately educated America as to
the power of the free market. It is the case that if a large number of
people have money and the desire to buy something, then it is very hard
for government to get in their way. They absolutely ignore that fact
when it comes to the drug program."

"I do not think that there is a dumber policy pursued by any government
anywhere in the world than for the United States to try physically to
keep drugs out of America." He thought that the military, Immigration
and Naturalization Service, and other agencies could probably keep all
horses from being brought into the country. "But as the commodity to be
brought is more easily concealed, the percentage is going to go up. =85 If
you can't keep drugs out of a maximum security prison, how the hell are
you going to keep them out of Texas?"

Frank believes that a states' rights approach makes legal sense in areas
such as medical marijuana, where the direct effect of the policy does
not extend across state borders. He chastised conservatives who embrace
this argument when it comes to issues they favor, such as the death
penalty, but then call for federal intervention when voters pass
referenda on medical marijuana as has happened in California and a
handful of other states. "You can't turn that on and off, it's not a
water faucet," he said.

Frank introduced the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act (HR1344),
along with nine co-sponsors, on April 3. It would amend the Controlled
Substances Act to move marijuana from Schedule I to a Schedule II. And
it would allow physicians to prescribe or recommend marijuana as therapy
as applicable under state law.

He believes that several themes resonate well with the American public.
One that he urged advocates to emphasize is the correlation of privacy
violations by the government with the drug war. Another is the huge
amount of money wasted on interdiction, prosecution, and imprisonment of
people for drug use.

Frank called for traditional lobbying techniques of writing and visiting
their elected officials. He downplayed the role that money plays in
politics, particularly on this issue. "Money will not beat public

When audience members asked about the need for large demonstrations to
show visibility, citing what the gay community had done in this area,
Frank was withering in his criticism. He said that the largest of them,
the 1993 March on Washington, "came and went and left no trace" in the
halls of Congress. Furthermore, the media will focus on the "wackos."
With the gay march, "it was the guys in dog collars and jock straps, I
don't think that is helpful." While opposed to mass demonstrations, he
thought that coming out as "smokers" to friends and relatives was

The public is ahead of politicians on this issue, said Frank, "They know
what works and what doesn't work." He pointed to election results in
states were medical marijuana has been on the ballot. And he closed by
saying, "We have the opportunity to make American drug policy less

Pubdate: Fri, 27 Apr 2001
Source: Bay Area Reporter (CA)
Copyright: 2001 The Bay Area Reporter / B.A.R.
Author: by Bob Roehr
Bookmark: (Cannabis)