Barney Frank Floats Into D.C. Council Pot Debate

Posted October 24, 2013 at 2:22pm

When it comes to marijuana laws, the D.C. Council might be taking its cues from longtime legalization supporter and former Rep. Barney Frank.

The liberal Massachusetts Democrat’s name floated around the council chambers Thursday, during a hearing on decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of pot.

First, one of Frank’s favorite anecdotes from his time on the House Judiciary Committee was offered up by a witness testifying on behalf of Mayor Vincent Gray.

“In talking about the elasticity between punishment and crimes, [Frank] would say that if it was the death penalty with double-parking, there would be no more double-parking,” said Andrew Fois, a deputy in the D.C. attorney general’s office.

Fois and Councilmember Tommy Wells, who is pushing to lighten the penalties for possession of small amounts of pot, were discussing whether a $100 fine would have enough “bite” to teach users a lesson.

Frank often said that law enforcement spent too much time and money prosecuting people for smoking weed. He also admitted, during a 2012 interview with CNN, to eating a pot brownie.

“It made me sleepy,” he recalled.

Frank drifted back into the council’s debate a few minutes later.

“I think Barney Frank supported the legalization of marijuana,” said Councilmember David Grosso, who is sponsoring a measure that would likely have the former’s backing. Grosso wants to legalize, tax and regulate pot like alcohol.

That policy might have benefitted Frank, who admitted to toking up occasionally but said he was not a regular pot smoker. Too bad he won’t be around the District to enjoy a possible end to the war on weed.