Congress Creates Commission To Study Drug War Alternatives | Marijuana

Congress Creates Commission To Study Drug War Alternatives


Congress just ordered a “comprehensive review” of failed U.S. approaches to reduce drug abuse and supply through prohibition-based interdiction programs.

Early on Saturday morning the Senate passed a bill creating a new commission that will be tasked with studying the impact of the war on drugs, with a focus on U.S. policies toward Latin America and the Caribbean.

Among other topics, commissioners are directed to look at “alternative drug policy models in the Western Hemisphere,” which will likely include Uruguay’s legalization of marijuana and the enactment of drug decriminalization and harm reduction policies elsewhere.

The move to create the commission is part of broader House-passed legislation authorizing programs under the U.S. State Department. The bill is now on its way to President Obama’s desk.

The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission will be comprised of ten members appointed by Congressional leadership and the president, and is charged with submitting a report including findings and recommendations within 18 months.

The State Department bill’s language creating the commission closely mirrors standalone legislation long championed by Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY).

“Over the last few decades, we’ve spent billions and billions of taxpayer dollars on counternarcotics programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission will force us to take a fresh look at our drug policy and make sure we have the best strategy moving forward,” Engel said in a press release. “We need to have an honest assessment of what has worked and what has failed as we consider how to spend our counternarcotics dollars in the future. With heroin use on the rise here at home, our children deserve no less than a fair evaluation of our drug policy.”

More Marijuana Moves in Congress

In other Capitol Hill news, it was announced on Friday that legislators leading the charge for marijuana law reform will form a Cannabis Caucus when the 115th Congress convenes next month.

“There needs to be more strategy between us, those of us who are engaged in this. More of a long-term strategy,” Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a caucus cofounder, told DecodeDC . “We need to have a vehicle in which people on the outside will be able to work through and sort of have a team effort from the inside and the outside.”

Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) are also helping to organize the new caucus.

Also on Friday, Congress passed a short-term extension of legislation funding the federal government — and continuing a rider that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws — through April 28, 2017.

Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that confirmation hearings for the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), an ardent opponent of marijuana legalization who some reformers fear will crack down on state laws, will be held on January 10 and 11.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


  1. Lawrence Goodwin on

    Phenomenal update, Tom Angell. I’m sincerely grateful. That commission’s first recommendation must be to entirely remove the fraudulent word “marihuana” from the Controlled Substances Act and subsequently rename the federal regulator the Bureau of Alcohol, Cannabis, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Anything less just prolongs the federal/state/local tyranny that has been waged against our country’s cannabis growers—at astronomical taxpayer expense—for 80 unbearable years.

    • A lot of people–politicians included–want to do away with the BATFE. It would be disastrous if they became the custodians of cannabis given their performance record.

      • Lawrence Goodwin on

        That’s weird, the Bureau of Alcohol was originally set up by federal lawmakers after the repeal of Prohibition—and its “custodians” still seem to be doing a fine job regulating the alcohol industry more than 80 years later. It’s the most logical federal agency to handle cannabis regulation, which is simply verifying—with assistance from the respective state agencies—that all growers/businesses have the proper licenses. I’m not sure what “performance record” you mean, but the BATFE already oversees the exact same process for beer/liquor/tobacco/firearms/fireworks producers, distributors and sellers in all 50 states.

    • Nonsense. – There’s nothing wrong with the word, “marijuana.” – I know it was used in the thirties and forties as part of a propaganda campaign, but we TOTALLY took it back in the sixties and seventies.

      All the 100 names of marijuana are great.

      • Lawrence Goodwin on

        I concur on the “great” part, and I’m deeply in love with MaryJane (translated from the actual Spanish lady names “Mari” and “Juana”). Feel free to look it up for yourself, John Thomas: To this day, federal and state laws spell the word “marihuana” based on the original spelling in the 1937 Marihuana Tax Stamp Act (prohibiting all cannabis cultivation, and the related commerce, by deceiving growers to apply for stamps that were never issued). That’s the only reason I use it. It shows how completely dumb and ignorant our lawmakers still are in regards to cannabis flowers—they keep spelling that particular slang word exactly as its Mexican creators had pronounced it. Plus, considering how cannabis plants also yield amazingly useful stalks and seeds, with immeasurable economic value, our lawmakers have imposed one of the worst frauds in history on our society—a complete waste of over $100 billion taxpayer dollars to enforce “marihuana” laws and persecute growers, traffickers and consumers.

        • Of course, I understand all the oppression. – I have been a consumer for 46 years and marijuana policy researcher and debater for 20.

          None of it is relies on the word “marijuana.” – As I said, we took that word back in the sixties and seventies. – Mostly what you accomplish when you use “cannabis” in public is to cause people on the fence to think you’re hiding something by changing the name to something they are not familiar with.

          • Lawrence Goodwin on

            Anyone “on the fence” needs to jump off and start doing some research. For nearly 15 years, I’ve worked in the horticulture industry, physically moving and caring for many different types of trees and plants. What follows are not my opinions but easily verifiable facts:
            “Cannabis” is the Latin/scientific/botanical name of the plant species in question. Every living thing on Earth has only 1 such name (whether we agree or not, we are all “Homo sapiens”). Cannabis are dioecious plant species, having both pollinating male and seed-bearing female flowers (most plants are monoecious, producing their own seeds). By far the most popular genetic varieties are “Cannabis sativa” and “Cannabis indica.”
            For nearly 80 years, our federal and state governments have imposed totally fraudulent laws at the barrels of guns, via the non-scientific, Mexican-Spanish slang term “marihuana” (the actual spelling in those laws). For about 150 years before that, basically everyone in the United States was free to grow cannabis plants on their own private property—a prohibitive federal “marihuana” law did not exist.
            There’s mountains of evidence to prove that, over the course of many decades in America, female cannabis flowers without seeds (today called ‘marijuana,’ ‘pot,’ ‘reefer,’ ‘ganga,’ etc) were legally produced by qualified growers for medical purposes; and cannabis extracts from those crops were widely prescribed by doctors to treat human ailments. In other words, female cannabis flowers had already revealed their miraculous nature to our country’s entire medical profession—long before the legal term “marihuana” had even existed.
            Also, several generations of American farmers harvested cannabis crops with both male and female flower types (commonly called ‘hemp’ or ‘industrial hemp’), finding it very labor-intensive and costly even with slaves doing the work. Hemp crops yield infinite amounts of seeds, as well as durable fibers and woody pulp from the stalks. Yet public interest in cannabis hemp fell fast by the wayside especially after the discovery of petroleum, whose own slang names are ‘crude oil’ and ‘Black Gold.’
            Do you still not comprehend the difference between “cannabis” and “marihuana,” John?

  2. Here’s an extract from “Notes on Democracy” by Henry Louis Mencken, written in 1926, during Federal Alcohol Prohibition (1919-1933)

    The Prohibitionists, when they foisted their brummagem cure-all upon the country under cover of the war hysteria, gave out that their advocacy of it was based upon a Christian yearning to abate drunkenness, and so abolish crime, poverty and disease. They preached a [crime, poverty and disease free] millennium, and no doubt convinced hundreds of thousands of naive and sentimental persons, not themselves Puritans, nor even democrats.

    That millennium, as everyone knows, has failed to come in. Not only are crime, poverty and disease undiminished, but drunkenness itself, if the police statistics are to be believed, has greatly increased. The land rocks with the scandal. Prohibition has made the use of alcohol devilish and even fashionable, and so vastly augmented the number of users. The young of both sexes, mainly innocent of the cup under license, now take to it almost unanimously.

    In brief, Prohibition has not only failed to work the benefits that its proponents promised in 1917; it has brought in so many new evils that even the mob has turned against it. But do the Prohibitionists admit the fact frankly, and repudiate their original nonsense? They do not. On the contrary, they keep on demanding more and worse enforcement statutes — that is to say, more and worse devices for harassing and persecuting their opponents.

    The more obvious the failure becomes, the more shamelessly they exhibit their genuine motives. In plain words, what moves them is the psychological aberration called sadism. They lust to inflict inconvenience, discomfort, and whenever possible, disgrace upon the persons they hate, which is to say: upon everyone who is free from their barbarous theological superstitions, and is having a better time in the world than they are.

    They cannot stop the use of alcohol, nor even appreciably diminish it, but they can badger and annoy everyone who seeks to use it decently, and they can fill the jails with men taken for purely artificial offences, and they can get satisfaction thereby for the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy. And all this they can do with a safe line of policemen and judges in front of them; always they can do it without personal risk.
    Replace alcohol with cannabis and you will see we are in the same place now 90 years later. Legalize!

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