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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript

Interview

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I spoke earlier to Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank. He's been a big supporter of marijuana reform. So, I started by asking him, why do you care so much?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I believe in personal freedom and liberty. I've been the leading opponent of efforts to shut down Internet gamble. I think people ought to be free to read what they want.

And particularly with marijuana, I think it's a great hypocrisy. I think, frankly, it contributes to a good deal of the sense of unfairness of young people who are told they shouldn't do this. They've gone on these negative effects. But then see older people engaging in things that have a greater impact on people.

And then there's another thing. I'm primarily motivated by personal freedom. I want to free up government resources to do things that that I think are important in improving the quality of life without having to raise taxes. At the federal level, that means cutting military spending. At the state level, it means not spending as much as we do on prisons.

Look, if someone hits somebody over the head, I want to pick war between me and him. I want bad people knock up. But people who smoke marijuana, the extent of prosecuting them and jailing them.

One of the best things we can do to reduce state expenditures is to stop going after people who use marijuana.

BURNETT: You could also make money on it, right? I mean, if you tax it --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Six billion dollars, tax it like alcohol and tobacco.

FRANK: Very good point. The analogy is prohibition. Instead of being a drain our resources, we could tax it, like everything else and it would be a contribution.

Again, I think it's destabilizing and expensive. There are also -- look, it's not fairly done. And it's clear, if you look at the arrests for marijuana. Disproportionately, they come from people in minority groups and there are a lot of highly educated and upper income white kids who smoke it. They're much less likely to get arrested. It's the big problem in New York with the stop and frisk.

So, it adds a degree of social disorganization and cost and it's an impingement on personal freedom.

BURNETT: Now, there was though a study out of Yale, which I wanted to get your opinion on, because all of those points that you make, a lot of people may support. But they said if you use cigarettes or marijuana, those are crucial indicators of using harder drugs later on in life, prescription drug abuse, particularly. They kind of refer to it as a gateway drug.

What do you think about that?

FRANK: That's a fair question. Let me say two things. First of all, if we follow that logic, I guess we'd have to outlaw cigarette smoking. And you correctly say it was cigarettes and marijuana.

Secondly --

BURNETT: The states will never do that, they need the money too much from the -- FRANK: But, that logic of public policy and that's one of the points they're making. You tell people, we are going to keep from smoking marijuana, we're going to promote the smoking of cigarettes. That's not just illogical, but I think that exacerbates social tensions.

Secondly, to some extent, we make marijuana gateway drug, but there is nothing about marijuana that has a great deal in common with heroin except for the fact that the law treats them somewhat similarly.

BURNETT: Well, you know what? It's interesting. I looked up and I saw it was you. So, I know it's you I'm talking. But I kind of thought for a second that I was talking to Ron Paul.

FRANK: Well, Ron and I are in great agreement on this. We're in great agreement on not banning gambling. He and I -- we differ on the economic situation, because I think economics inevitably involves other people.

BURNETT: So, I guess I have to ask you a crucial question here. Do you smoke regularly pot?

FRANK: No, I don't. I smoke a cigar or two a day. I did have a brownie once and it made me sleepy. But, you know, I don't gamble either.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: You just learned something about Barney Frank, yes.

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