War On Drugs Assailed in Congress-By Steve Fox

This is a busy time in the nation’s capital. Congress is currently considering a number of bills and a nomination related to marijuana policy. As a result, the Marijuana Policy Project has sent many requests for action to its e-mail subscribers. You will be pleased to know that in this alert you will not be asked to do anything.

The purpose of this alert is to describe a very encouraging event that occurred in Congress this week. On Wednesday, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee considered the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Reauthorization Act of 2003. The Democrats on the committee did not rubberstamp this bill; instead, they used the hearing as an opportunity to attack not only the Bush administration’s medical marijuana policy, but also the war on drugs in its entirety.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) pressed the medical marijuana issue. First, he proposed an amendment that would have ended the drug czar’s practice of interfering in state efforts to pass medical marijuana legislation. Then, he proposed another amendment that would have prevented the drug czar from approving the budget of any agency that used funds to arrest medical marijuana patients. All Democrats in attendance supported the latter amendment. (There was not a roll call vote on the first amendment.)

More surprising was the vehemence with which the Democrats denounced the war on drugs. The spark that lit the fuse for this explosion was an amendment proposed by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), which would have deleted the entire reauthorization bill. Saying that the bill was “not worth the paper it is printed on,” Rep. Waters declared that ONDCP is “wasteful, ineffective and unworthy.” U.S. Rep. Melvin Watt.

(D-NC) called the war on drugs a “dismal failure” and said that there is nothing he is more embarrassed about than the federal government’s drug policy.

Nadler and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) also had harsh words for the war on drugs, while the committee’s ranking member, U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), decried the growing number of prisoners in this country serving time for nonviolent drug offenses. In the end, 10 of 11 Democrats in attendance voted in favor of deleting the entire bill.

The momentum for marijuana policy reform is clearly building. You can almost feel the once-seemingly impenetrable wall of the war on drugs starting to crumble. MPP is excited to be involved in this fight and looks forward to keeping you posted about future developments.


Steve Fox

Director of Government Relations

Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.