Marijuana reform has been a hot issue over the past few years as marijuana advocates across the country have striven to put an end to prohibition. The plant has been found to be both healthier and safer than alcohol and cigarettes, yet it has remained illegal on a federal level, classed as a Schedule I drug in the same category as heroin and LSD and other high risk drugs. It has already been legalized for medical purposes in 29 states and legalized for recreational use in 8 states but, despite this, there are still many places around the country where you can be imprisoned for possessing small quantities of marijuana for personal use. For this reason and others, lawmakers have been binding together to create legislation that would decriminalize marijuana on a federal level.
The High Price of Prohibition
The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which is sponsored by GOP Rep. Thomas Garrett, would essentially legalize marijuana and allow states to decide how they want both personal and recreational marijuana industries to operate. The bill has 11 co-sponsors from around the country who are enthusiastic about putting an end to prohibition which has negatively affected so many lives. People and parents of children who could benefit from the medicinal properties have had to struggle, turn to the black market, move states or go without treatment. Ordinary people caught with marijuana for personal use have been fined and imprisoned and received criminal records that have had an impact on future employment, housing, education and the lives of their families and children.
Making “Criminals Out of People Who Otherwise Follow the Law”
“Every 42 seconds someone is arrested for the use or possession of marijuana, turning every-day Americans into criminals, tearing families apart. The question before us is not whether you think marijuana use is good or bad, or how you feel about this issue, but whether we should be turning people into criminals,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) who is also a co-sponsor of the bill. Garrett expressed a similar sentiment, stating that, after his time as a criminal prosecutor, he felt he was making “criminals out of people who otherwise follow the law.” He felt that the law was unjust and felt the need to do something about it.
The Looming Presence of AG Sessions
The federal government has created some concern this year in the matter of marijuana reform. While Trump seemed to be enthusiastic about allowing states to create their own marijuana laws during his campaign for the presidency, he recommended outspoken prohibitionist Jeff Sessions for the role of Attorney General. So far, Sessions, in his new role, has made statements that insinuated his desire to crack down on marijuana, in particular recreational marijuana. While no official plans were made to go after the marijuana industry, he did release a memo last week asking attorneys around the country to pursue the maximum sentence for all drug offenses and has boasted that he would like a return to the ‘tough on drugs’ criminal philosophy.
With this ambience in the White House, lawmakers like Garrett and Gabbard are doing their part to protect people from further prosecution. The bipartisan nature of the effort is definitely in favor of the ambitious push and a sign of the shifting attitudes reflected in the country.