Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Representatives Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced a bill Thursday that would end federal prohibition of marijuana production, distribution and possession.
The unlikely pair teamed up to support the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would leave it up to states to make their own laws regarding the drug and, if enacted, would redefine the federal government's War on Drugs, which turned 40 last week.
"The legislation ... focuses federal law enforcement on violent criminals and organized crime instead of marijuana offenders, and saves taxpayer money," said Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.
Washington would only be charged with ensuring that marijuana doesn't illegally enter the country or cross state lines where it has been made or kept illegal.
Proponents of the bill say it's the first of its kind to be considered at the federal level, and liken it to the 18th Amendment, which repealed alcohol prohibition and gave states regulatory authority. They also point to increased tax revenue from the legal sale of marijuana, as well as the high cost of imprisoning people for possession.
Barney Frank is optimistic the bill is a step in the right direction. It's also a gutsy move for a Republican presidential candidate to make, but Ron Paul has long supported legalization, which is also popular among his enthusiastic base.
New York has already decriminalized marijuana possession up to 25 grams.