U.S. Rep. Barney Frank on Thursday filed two bills in Congress that, if passed, would keep marijuana users from facing federal penalties and would allow states to administer their own drug use laws regarding medicinal marijuana.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank on Thursday filed two bills in Congress that, if passed, would keep marijuana users from facing federal penalties and would allow states to administer their own drug use laws regarding medicinal marijuana.

The measures are not ways of encouraging marijuana use, said Frank, who had been promoting the bills for weeks. “But I do not believe that the federal government should treat adults who choose to smoke marijuana as criminals.”

Federal officials prosecuting users of marijuana “is a waste of scarce resources better used for serious crimes,” Frank said in a statement. “Federal law enforcement is a serious business, and we should be concentrating our efforts in this regard on measures that truly protect the public.”

The bill to remove federal penalties for personal use of marijuana was co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Texas congressman and former presidential candidate. The second bill, under which the federal government wouldn’t charge people who use pot for medical purposes, was also signed by Paul and Democrat and Republican representatives from California and New York.

Because federal law overrides state laws, states that allow use of marijuana for approved medical purposes cannot implement those laws, Frank said.

“When doctors recommend the use of marijuana for their patients and states are willing to permit it,” he continued, “I think it’s wrong for the federal government to subject either the doctors or the patients to criminal prosecution.”

Eleven states, including California, Maine and Vermont, allow medicinal marijuana.
There are no federal laws against drinking alcoholic beverages and generally none against the use of tobacco for adults, Frank said. "There is no rational argument for treating marijuana so differently.”

Possession only of small amounts of marijuana - up to 100 grams - would be legal under the bill. Transfering up to one ounce, or 28.3 grams, of the drug "not-for-profit" would also be legal.

Selling, exporting or growing marijuana, or using the drug in public would remain illegal.

E-mail Grant Welker at gwelker@heraldnews.com.