Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has been a beacon of liberalism in the House of Representatives for 30 years. Since 1979, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) has been touting libertarian principles in both Congress and on the presidential campaign trail. What could possibly bring these to political opposites together? Weed.
Paul and Frank teamed up on Thursday to introduce the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. If enacted, the bill would keep the federal government from prohibiting the production, distribution and possession of marijuana. The bill would allow for states to decide for themselves how to regulate marijuana. In this scenario, the federal government would only have to worry about it traveling across national boundaries, or into states that decided to endorse a continued policy of marijuana prohibition within their boundaries.
In many ways, the language of the legislation is similar to the 18th Amendment, which repealed alcohol prohibition. Supporters say the Frank-Paul law would lead to potential economic benefits for states that decide to end prohibition. For one thing, there would be the potential for an increase in revenue via taxes for sale and production of marijuana. Additionally, there is opportunity for huge taxpayer savings from not needing to incarcerate marijuana offenders.
The United States just marked the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs. In many places around the country the anniversary was marked with vigils and outcries to end the policy that has cost an estimated trillion dollars and resulted in the U.S. imprisoning 400,000 individuals, while drug use numbers remain steady.
Most inside the Beltway don’t think there’s a chance the Paul-Frank bill makes it through the House. But clearly the marijuana bill has brought some of the most interesting people in Congress together, and the more you think about it the less surprising it is that this is the issue people are beginning to see eye to eye on.