WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–April 18, 2013. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced legislation in Congress today that would establish a federal commission to review current marijuana policies and explore ways to resolve the conflict between federal laws prohibiting marijuana and state laws that make marijuana legal for medical or personal adult use. In a December television interview, President Obama said going after marijuana consumers will not be a priority of the federal government in states where voters have made it legal for adults. He also highlighted the need for a discussion in Congress about how to reconcile state and federal marijuana laws.
“We have clearly reached a point where the American people want marijuana prohibition to end,” said Steve Fox, national political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The states have been taking the lead, but the federal government must catch up.
“It is no longer a question of whether the federal government should allow states to enact their own marijuana policies,” Fox said. “Of course, it should. The question now is how to reconcile state and federal laws. This Commission bill proposes a study and a discussion that is long overdue.”
The bill would establish a National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy that would “undertake a comprehensive review of the state and efficacy of current policies of the Federal Government toward marijuana in light of the growing number of States in which marijuana is legal for medicinal or personal use…” Its duties would include, but would not be limited to: addressing the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws; studying the costs of marijuana prohibition and potential state and federal regulation, as well as the potential revenue that could be generated by taxing marijuana; assessing the impact of federal banking and tax laws on state-legal marijuana businesses; and examining the potential public health and safety benefits and risks related to marijuana use, and in comparison to alcohol and tobacco use.
The commission would consist of 13 members: five appointed by the president; two appointed by the Speaker of the House; two appointed by the House minority leader; two appointed by the Senate majority leader; and two appointed by the Senate minority leader.
“Regardless of your views on marijuana, it’s important that we understand the impact of current federal policy and address the conflict with those state laws that allow for medicinal or personal use of marijuana,” said Congressman Cohen. “This conflict is only going to continue to grow over the next few years and we must provide certainty to the millions of individuals and businesses that remain caught in a web of incompatible laws.
“A national commission would provide us with the information we need to create sensible policy going forward,” Rep. Cohen said.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana with recommendations from their physicians. In November, voters in Colorado and Washington State approved measures making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and directing state regulatory bodies to create regulations for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults.
A national survey released this month by the Pew Research Center found that, for the first time in its 40 years of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans (52%) support making marijuana legal. It also found that 60% of Americans believe the federal government should not enforce federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana in states where it is legal.
The bill’s findings reference the last federal commission to examine marijuana and marijuana policies, known as the Schafer Commission for its chairman, Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond P. Schafer. It was created by Congress in 1971, at which time marijuana was temporarily classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act pending the commission’s findings. Its comprehensive review culminated in a report that favored removing marijuana from Schedule I and ending marijuana prohibition, but it was largely disregarded by members of Congress and President Richard Nixon.