U.S is considering Cannabis Legalization at Federal Level

U.S is considering Cannabis Legalization at Federal Level

In a recent hearing, multiple U.S. Representatives questioned seven cannabis advocates to discuss legalization at the federal level.

On Nov. 8, the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties announced that it would be holding a hearing discussing cannabis legalization on Nov. 15.. The memo published on Nov. 12 outlines the talking points that will be discussed at the hearing.

The hearing was presided over by Rep. Jamie Raskin (Chairman of the Subcommittee) and Rep. Nancy Mace (Ranking Member of the Subcommittee), with questions from the following representatives: Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Peter Anderson Sessions of Texas, Carolyn Maloney of New York, Brian Higgins of New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Eleanor Holmes Norton  (Delegate to the U.S House representing District Columbia), Rashida Tlaibof Michigan James Comer Kentucky, and Robin Kelly Illinois respectively.

The witnesses for the panel included Randal Woodfin (Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama), Paul Armentano (Deputy Director of NORML), Andrew Freedman (Executive Director of Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation [CPEAR]), Eric Goepel (Founder and CEO of Veterans Cannabis Coalition), Keeda Haynes (Senior Legal Advisor of Free Hearts - who was brought in remotely), Amber Littlejohn (Senior Policy Advisor of Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce) and Jillian Snider(Policy Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties).

The discussion covered an extensive amount of information related to cannabis legalization, the failed War on Drugs, how Biden’s announcement in October to pardon federal cannabis convictions requires state action for those who have been wrongly convicted, the treatment of veterans struggling with conditions that could be helped by cannabis, as well as millennials use.

Armentano's talk on the legalization of cannabis and how it has impacted black and brown people were especially impactful. According to Armentano, many issues would be eradicated if cannabis is rescheduled—such as financial discrepancies and lack of access to certain rights—for the millions of Americans that reside in states where some form of marijuana is legal. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands more people could potentially be employed by the state-licensed industry that services them.

Snider from the R Street Institute stated that our nation's legalization efforts are a hot mess because there is no consistency in regulation. He continued on to say that proposed legislation backing cannabis substitutes is key to developing clarity around its legal status. At this moment, it presents inconsistencies and poorly-regulated circumstances. Even though the substance may be lawful in one state and decriminalized in another, since it is still illegal at the federal level, people who use or possess the drug are subject to criminal penalties.

Raskin inquires Armentano about the potential of Congress uniting to legalize Marijuana on a national level during the hearing's later stages. “With many states decriminalizing and legalizing medical marijuana, do you think that Congress will be able to follow suit? I understand this hearing is progress, but what are the realistic chances of seeing results in this or the next session?"

Armentano explained that historically speaking, prohibition has never been effective, as seen with both alcohol and cannabis.

"I'm not a fortuneteller, but congress should be able to see that they need to act quickly," Armentano said. "If we look at the analogy of alcohol prohibition again, the federal government stopped being involved in alcohol when 10 states decided to go their own way."

Most U.S. states have now selected to take a different stance on cannabis, making it unviable to keep this divide between state and federal government policy going any longer.

The federal government needs to find a way to align federal policy with state policy, and the best way to do that is by descheduling.”

Mace and Raskin provided statements based on what they heard during the hearing, and what they hope it will lead to in the future.

Mace expressed her disapproval of a past comparison between cannabis and slavery. With evidence that black and brown people are more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, Mace called on both parties in congress to work together towards addressing this issue. 

“I come from South Carolina where the line between rich and poor is often drawn based on race. Cannabis is one area where we can cooperate across party lines to end the injustices that have been allowed to persist for far too long,” Mace said.

My fellow Americans, I believe that it is time for us to get on board with this issue of medical cannabis. The people are asking for it--70% percent of them support it. Not only that, but 50% or more support adult or recreational usage in states across the country, no matter what the political climate may be in those places. 

This isn't just an issue affecting red states or blue ones; nearly every community has individuals who want this legalization to occur. The controversy surrounding this topic should not exist here in our halls of government--it's simply wrong."

In his own statement, Chairman Raskin addressed the desperate need for action from Congress. “It’s clear that congress needs to play catch up. My intentions with this hearing were to educate and bring awareness – and I believe we’ve done just that. 

If more people knew our history, particularly prohibition, perhaps we could prevent making the same mistakes America has made in the past," he said passionately before taking a moment to collect himself."It's no secret that alcohol isn't harmless - every year 100,000 people die as a result of alcohol-related illnesses or accidents. This is something that needs to be regulated immediately."

The criminalization of alcohol has been tried before, and we know that it doesn't work--it caused more problems than it solved. The same is happening today with marijuana. We need to regulate and control it, but we shouldn't be throwing people in jail for smoking it. It's time for Congress to catch up with the rest of the country on this issue.

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