Growing up in the early 2000’s, I thought I’d live to see the reform of marijuana legalization and acceptance, little did I know that it would happen this fast. “Can’t stop, won’t stop” seems to be the momentum within the current state of marijuana politics. Dating back to California in 1996, the Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Care Act, was the first legal parchment to start the movement of ending the negative American image surrounding Cannabis and enabling medical marijuana use. Four years later, my native state of Colorado followed suit, and passed Amendment 20 allowing medical marijuana use. 15 years later, four states as well as the nation’s capital have legalized recreational marijuana use, and 23 states have legalized medical marijuana. Still with all this progression within two decades, there are still steps to be made, with the biggest leap being the Federal Government.
Even though most of America has warmed up to a positive perceived notion of marijuana, the Federal Government and the DEA has marijuana confined under the rules of a schedule 1 drug. According to the DEA a schedule 1 drug are:
“substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote”
Since the 1970’s marijuana has been under this outrageous classification and has created many systematic dilemmas within the American society. The United States contains 5% of the world’s population, but has 25% of the world’s incarcerated population, many of this population being indicted for harsh and lengthy non-violent drug violations. In 1980, there were roughly 40,000 drug offenders in U.S. prisons, according to the Sentencing Project, a prison reform group. By 2011, the number of drug offenders serving prison sentences has skyrocketed to more than 500,000 — most low-level operators with no prior criminal records. A recent study by the American Civil Union Liberties shows that black teens are four times as likely than whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010, even though use of the drug within the two groups were about the same. Within the areas of Washington DC, Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois, blacks were seven to eight times more likely than whites to get arrested for possessing pot. While decriminalization of marijuana has began to affect incarceration rates, an average of one person is arrested every minute for marijuana possession in the U.S., according to an FBI statistic.
Although the Federal Government still doesn’t recognize medical marijuana as a practiced legitimate medicine and five hundred million dollars has been spent from 2006 to 2015 for anti-medical marijuana federal enforcement, we are seeing bipartisan comprehensive medical marijuana legalization in the House of Representatives and within the Senate. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARERS) Act of 2015 is the most comprehensive piece of federal medical marijuana legislation ever introduced in the U.S. Congress. The bipartisan act is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and, in the House of Representatives, by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK). This bill would make major headway within the state-federal conflict over medical marijuana by:
- Allowing state programs to continue without federal interference
- Moving marijuana out of the Schedule I list
- Removing CBD from the scheduling
- Creating access to banking services for legal marijuana businesses
- Ending the DEA-Imposed NIDA monopoly that blocks research
- Allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to write recommendations in states that have a medical marijuana program
If this law passes, these would be monumental developments on the federal level, and could end up saving the American Government billions of dollars in enforcement, and implemented into other areas of need.
While the climate surrounding marijuana has become increasingly more accepting with states decriminalizing small amounts of possession, many states legalizing medical marijuana and a few legalizing recreational use; the largest and most difficult stride of this journey looks like overcoming the Federal Government. Decades of legislation and billions of dollars have been invested in making marijuana a target of the Federal Government. Dismembering and reconstructing federal rules around marijuana may be a challenging task, but ultimately is going to help a variety of systematic dilemmas within American Society. The ultimate end of America’s War on Marijuana, is legalization at the federal level, allowing states to determine and regulate cannabis on their own terms.