A bill that would establish a National Commission on Marijuana Policy was introduced in the US Congress last week. Filed by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), House Bill 1635 seeks a commission that would undertake a comprehensive review of the costs and benefits of current federal marijuana prohibition, as well as examining how federal policy should interact with state laws that have either approved medical marijuana or legalized marijuana outright.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Cohen's proposal is inspired by the 1971 Shafer Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, which was commissioned by President Richard Nixon but then shelved when it recommended decriminalizing marijuana. The commission report resulted in decriminalization in a handful of states in the 1970s, before marijuana reform went into the deep freeze during the Reagan era.
"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."
Joining Cohen in backing the bill are cosponsors Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jim Moran (D-VA), and Jared Polis (D-CO).
"The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that a national conversation is needed when it comes to our country’s marijuana policies, but so far that conversation has been largely one sided," said Erik Altieri, communications director for NORML, which worked with Cohen on drafting the bill. "It is time for federal lawmakers to listen to the voice of the majority of Americans who want to see change to our nation’s marijuana laws and for them to take part in that dialogue."
"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. 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 proposed 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.
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.