By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When the smoke clears, it may be remembered as a rare moment of political unity in Washington.
House of Representatives Democrat Barney Frank and conservative Republican libertarian Ron Paul joined forces to introduce a bill that would take marijuana off the government's list of controlled substances and eliminate criminal penalties.
"Criminally prosecuting adults for making the choice to smoke marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and an intrusion on personal freedom," Frank said in a statement on Thursday.
"I do not advocate urging people to smoke marijuana, neither do I urge them to drink alcoholic beverages or smoke tobacco, but in none of these cases do I think prohibition enforced by criminal sanctions is good public policy," Frank said.
The move comes a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned from Guatemala and Jamaica on a trip aimed at injecting more funds and logistical support into American efforts to fight drug-trafficking.
Critics argue U.S. attempts to beat back the drug trade have been costly and ineffective.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the government spent about $15.1 billion on the fight against drug trafficking in fiscal year 2010, up from $14.8 billion in fiscal 2009.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the United States, with an estimated 11.5 million current users, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
At least one-third of the U.S. population has used marijuana sometime in their lives, and most of that marijuana was smuggled in from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, the DEA said.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a high-level international commission, earlier this month declared the global "war on drugs" a failure and urged nations to consider legalizing cannabis and other drugs to undermine organized crime and protect their citizens' health.
But Clinton says progress in Colombia, where drug violence is down sharply, as a model.
"Our experience in Colombia has shown what proactive investments and committed partnership can do," Clinton said in Guatemala on Wednesday.
(Editing by Jackie Frank)