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US lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to legalize marijuana

Two members of the US House of Representatives [official website] introduced a bill [HR 2306 text, PDF] Thursday to legalize marijuana nationally and leave regulation to the states. Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) [official websites] wrote the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 to amend the Controlled Substances Act [text], removing marijuana, hemp and cannabis from the schedule. Currently, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, which the government believes has a high potential for abuse, no medical merit and is unsafe to use with medical supervision. If the bill passes, like alcohol and tobacco, states would be able to regulate the substance or prohibit it completely. In a conference call [The Reason blog], Frank expressed that the bill's passage is unlikely, but felt its introduction represented progress. He also noted that the public is receptive to marijuana legalization while the government is not. Recently, the US government has released several statements renewing their commitment to the "War on Drugs" in reaction to the Global Commission on Drug Policy [official website] releasing a report [text, PDF] recommending international legalization of cannabis, marijuana and other drugs [JURIST report]. The US Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP) [official website] released a statement in response, denouncing the report [text]: "Legalization remains a non-starter in the Obama Administration because research shows that illegal drug use is associated with voluntary treatment admissions, fatal drugged driving accidents, mental illness, and emergency room admissions."

Earlier this month, the Connecticut Senate [official website] approved SB 1014 [text, PDF; materials] which provides for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana [JURIST report]. Last month, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website] filed a federal lawsuit [JURIST report] seeking a declaratory judgment over the legality under federal law of the state's legalization of medical marijuana [JURIST report] passed in November 2010. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 14 US states. In October 2009, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] issued guidelines for a new policy [JURIST report] for investigating and prosecuting state-sanctioned medical marijuana use. Those guidelines reflect a pledge made by Holder in March to stop federal raids [JURIST report] on medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state laws. However, Holder has emphasized that if a state legalizes drugs for recreational use, federal law will be enforced [LAT report], as California attempted to legalize marijuana last year [JURIST report].

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