An unusual congressional alliance has emerged to champion an effort to allow states to legalize marijuana within their own borders.
Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has teamed up with Barney Frank, an outspoken liberal Democrat, to co-sponsor the bill, which would give states the right to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana much the same way they currently do with alcohol.
Under the proposal, the federal government would still enforce interstate smuggling, but it would allow people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for legalization. The group is hailing the proposal as “the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.”
Politico reports that the bill’s other House co-sponsors are all Democrats: Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Jared Polis (Colo.) and Barbara Lee (Calif.). But Paul’s presence atop the legislation clears the way for advocates to slap the “bipartisan” tag on the proposal.
The legislative rollout comes on the heels of a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy that deemed the global “War on Drugs” a massive failure and suggested nations should begin experimenting with progressive drug policies, including legalization.
Earlier this month, Connecticut became the latest state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, bringing the state’s drug laws in line with a dozen or so across the nation where simple possession is no longer a state crime.
Despite the apparent momentum, the Frank-Paul bill still faces a long, uphill battle to become law. But advocates say that having the high-profile names attached to the effort will help get the word out.
"A bill like this is going to get talked about quite a bit," Morgan Fox, communications manager at the Marijuana Policy Project, told CNN. "I think it will spark a strong debate in the media, and we hope to get some [House] floor time for it."