Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer introduced his new legislation today allowing states to legalize medical marijuana. While nineteen states already allow the use of medical marijuana, federal law still considers it illegal. These incongruent policies create a significant legal grey area because medical marijuana users can be prosecuted under federal law even though they have been granted such rights under state law.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is considered a Schedule I substance, which is on the same level as heroin and LSD. As the most severe listing, the Schedule I classification is used for drugs that are believed to have “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.” However, several states in the U.S. have legalized the use of medical marijuana, contradicting this classification.
Blumenauer’s main argument is that this inconsistency between federal and state marijuana policy creates a “legal environment that wastes law enforcement resources and misses out on potential tax revenues.”
In his introduction of the legislation, Blumenauer argues that, in the past, marijuana has been seen as harmful and addictive; however, American views of marijuana are changing. Today, more than half of American adults have used marijuana (recreationally or medicinally) and sixty-four percent of Americans are against federal enforcement of anti-marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal.
Blumenauer also says that “too often people are serving time in jail for using a drug that nearly half the nation’s population feels should be legal for recreational purposes and 70 percent feel should be legal for medicinal purposes.” This FBI report reveals that police in the U.S. arrest someone for marijuana every 42 seconds. Considering the rapidly evolving views of the drug in our country, it’s interesting to see that marijuana use, even medicinally, is punished so heavily.
According to the Congressman’s website, Blumenauer supports legislation that would:
• Allow states to enact existing marijuana laws without federal interference – Congressman Blumenauer supports legislation to allow states to enforce their laws without fear of interference by the federal government.
• Tax and regulate marijuana – Considering the growing number of jurisdictions that have legalized medical marijuana and the two jurisdictions that have legalized recreational use, it is time that Congress removes the federal prohibition on marijuana. Congressman Blumenauer supports legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and create a regulatory and taxation framework similar to what is in place for alcohol and tobacco.
• Remove ban on industrial hemp – Congressman Blumenauer supports ending the ban on industrial hemp by removing industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. This would allow a new agricultural industry to begin to flourish in the United States.
• Allow the marijuana industry to operate in a normal business environment – Federal banking regulations make it difficult for any marijuana business to obtain loans, open bank accounts, or take advantage of services offered to other businesses. Congressman Blumenauer supports immediately removing tax and banking barriers to allow legitimate businesses to operate in states that have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use.
• Create a sensible drug policy working group – Congressman Blumenauer is forming a Sensible Drug Policy Working Group to educate members of Congress and their staff on the facts of marijuana use and national drug policy, and work to coordinate efforts to pass a comprehensive legislative package to address the issues highlighted above.