During a certain hazy holiday this past April, we ran a story exploring the appalling racial imbalance in the NYPD’s arrests for marijuana possession. Following this and a stream of negative press from publications across the spectrum, Albany lawmakers proposed bi-partisan legislation last month to end these police abuses, curtail the monumental spending that accompanies them, and finally enforce the Marijuana Reform Act of 1977—which decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in NYC—as it was intended. The measure has yet to move far, likely in part because of the recent bedlam upstate about marriage equality and property-tax caps. Now, federal legislators have stepped in.
This week, at what Huffington Post called a “landmark news conference” on Capitol Hill, representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) announced the introduction of the first legislation to legalize the use and possession of marijuana since the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. (The two Congressmen have worked together in the past to combat illegal gambling and cut military spending.) This bill, co-sponsored by four Democrats (but not Kucinich?) would remove Cannabis from Schedule 1 of the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which passed under Nixon. As of now, the substance sits classified alongside heroin and the date rape drug GHB as having “a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment,” despite the many clinical studies that suggest otherwise.
The repeal of the federal prohibition would give states the right to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana as voters and local lawmakers see fit. The legislation would end the current catch-22 between federal law that prohibits cultivation and consumption of medical marijuana and the laws in 16 states that do not. Despite President Obama’s call to end DEA raids on dispensaries and individual users under full compliance of local law in states like California at the beginning of his term, these raids have continued.
Still, in all likelihood, despite this move toward state sovereignty in deciding who smokes what and where to appease conservative thinkers, this legislation will go nowhere. So kick back, enjoy the newly released Woods single they performed in St. Cecilia’s Church at Northside—the cover art pictures Caleb Braaten of Sacred Bones Records with his father and a lovely specimen of smokable shrubbery—and spark up, if you like. As long as it’s not on a stoop in Prospect Heights!