Gay Congressman pushes for cannabis decriminalisation

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Openly gay United States Congressman Barney Frank announced a proposal yesterday to make it legal for pot smokers to light up.

The proposed HR 5843 bill would call an end to federal penalties targeting Americans carrying less than 100 grams of marijuana.

“The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government’s business,” Frank said at a news conference on Capitol Hill, CNN reported.

“I don’t think it is the government’s business to tell you how to spend your leisure time.”

Frank, surrounded by legislators and marijuana advocacy spokespeople, said that laws aimed at marijuana users place undue burdens on law enforcement resources, punish ill Americans whose doctors have prescribed the substance and unfairly affect African-Americans.

Frank was specific that use—not abuse—of the currently illegal substance, would be decriminalised under his plan.

But, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which oppose legalising marijuana, list it as a Schedule I controlled substance that offers no accepted medical benefits and has a high potential for abuse.

Frank’s proposal, House Resolution 5843, titled the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul, (R-Texas), would express support for “a very small number of individuals” suffering from chronic pain or illness to smoke marijuana without legal retribution.

Cannabis can help treat a range of illnesses, including glaucoma, asthma, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and seizures, according to the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Nearly a dozen states have already approved degrees of medical marijuana use, and Frank said it’s time the government stops wasting its resources arresting people in compliance with their states’ laws.

If the resolution passes, smokers holding up to 100 grams—about 3½ ounces—of marijuana would not be arrested. The resolution it would also allow a “nonprofit transfer,” of up to an ounce of cannabis.

Allen St. Pierre, NORML’s spokesman, equated Frank’s proposal with current laws dealing with alcohol consumption.

Alcohol use is permitted, and the government focuses its law enforcement efforts on those who abuse alcohol or drive under its influence.

“We do not arrest and jail responsible alcohol drinkers,” St. Pierre said.

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