Updated at 10:45 p.m. edt
Career law enforcement officials today backed the first-ever proposed legislation that would force the feds to respect states that legalize marijuana, declaring government efforts to curb usage and eradicate the cash crop is a big loser.
The group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is just the latest mainstream organization to ask why let drug cartels from places like Mexico and Afghanistan and organized crime rings in the U.S. to get rich from marijuana sales when there is a massive revenue stream just waiting to be taxed by thee state and federal governments.
"Clearly the 'war on drugs' has failed, and nowhere is that more clear than with respect to marijuana. It baffles me that we arrest nearly 800,000 people on marijuana charges in this country each and every year at taxpayer expense when we could instead be taking in new tax revenue from legal and regulated marijuana sales," said Neill Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics cop and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
"Making marijuana illegal hasn't prevented anyone from using it, but it has created a huge funding source that funnels billions of dollars in tax-free profits to violent drug cartels and gangs. More and more cops now agree: Legalizing marijuana will improve public safety," Franklin added.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition claims career police, prosecutors, judges, federal agents and ocareer among its membership.
A new bipartisan effort launched today in Congress will test who is really for state rights and who is just blowing smoke about the autonomy of governments across the country.
Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and other lawmakers co-sponsored legislation today that would force the feds to take the heat off state's that pass laws allowing the personal use of marijuana by adults.
"It's very straight forward. It protects the states," Frank said.
The bill includes allowing the in-state cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana, used by cancer and HIV patients because of its ability to induce people to eat and counter the affects of treatments that cause nausea. It does not legalize marijuana and does not allow pot to be brought across state lines.
Lawmakers would prefer federal authorities, like the Drug Enforcement Agency, focus on deadly and addictive drugs like crystal meth, cocaine and heroin.
"We do not believe the federal government should be in the business of prosecuting adults for smoking marijuana. It should be left to the states," Frank said. "There is a scarce availability of (federal) resources."
Formally legal until the laughable "reefer madness" era that primarily painted African Americans and Latinos as drug-crazed pot smokers, marijuana is a cash crop that could pump needed new revenues into government coffers by virtue of applying high taxes to its sale, similar to alcohol and tobacco products.
As of now -- and as it was during the era of alcohol prohibition -- organized crime syndicates are cashing in on the sale of marijuana instead of cash-poor state and federal treasuries. Many marijuana advocates would prefer to see marijuana cultivation and distribution in the hands of small businesses that pay taxes and provide legal jobs.
Advocates hoping to end prohibition on widely used marijuana believe the timing of this bill is right, with more than a dozen states decriminalizing possession of pot. More states are expected to follow suit.
"This bill is being introduced at a perfect time, when public sentiment is shifting solidly against the government's war on marijuana and the failure of prohibition has become undeniable," said Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.
"It would remove federal interference from states that are experimenting with more rational marijuana policies and save taxpayers billions of dollars. Thankfully, our elected leaders are catching up to public on this issue, and we should be seeing a lot more discussion about how we can fix our broken laws," Fox added.
Frank admitted it will take time for others in Congress to jump on the bandwagon to end the federal government's failed marijuana prohibition efforts.
"I don't expect it to pass in this Congress... It's an educational progress," Frank said.