Today could mark the beginning of the end for cannabis prohibition in America. Earlier today, three members of Congress introduced legislation that would repeal cannabis prohibition and allow each state to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol or tobacco.
The new legislation was introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), and Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Jared Polis (D-Colorado). If passed, it would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, which would then enable the FDA to officially recognize marijuana as medicine. On top of that, the new legislation would allow each state to determine its own laws for medical and recreational marijuana without worrying about federal interference from Attorney General Jeff Sessions - an outspoken opponent of marijuana legalization.
Some activists are describing the legislation as a chance for Congress to win back the support of the American people. “With marijuana legalization being supported by 60% of all Americans while Congress’ approval rating is in the low teens, ending our country’s disastrous prohibition against marijuana would not just be good policy, but good politics,” Erik Alteri - Executive Director of NORML - said in a press release.
Another supporter characterized the legislation as a humanitarian effort to spare more Americans from becoming victims of the War on Drugs.
"Annually, 600,000 Americans are arrested for nothing more than the possession of small amounts of marijuana,” Justin Strekal - NORML's Political Director - said in a statement. “Passing this legislation would end the current conflict between state and federal laws and allow the states to implement more sensible and humane marijuana policies, free from the threat of federal incursion.”
However, the Democrat-backed legislation might not make it through Congress, which is dominated by Republicans in the House as well as the Senate. But Robert Capecchi - Director of Federal Policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) - hopes that Congress will take a sober look at the reality of cannabis prohibition before deciding the legislation's fate.
"It’s time for Congress to come to grips with the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol, and most Americans think it should be treated that way," he said in a press release. "We hope their colleagues will take an objective look at the benefits of replacing prohibition with a system of regulation. There will surely be some members on the fence about this legislation, but consider it unthinkable that we would return to alcohol prohibition. They need to ask themselves why they are still clinging to the prohibition of a less harmful substance.”
And if Republican lawmakers don't want to support a Democrat initiative, they could back a cannabis bill put forth by one of their own instead. Earlier this month, Congressman Thomas Garrett (R-Virginia) introduced a bill that would also repeal federal marijuana prohibition and allow states to decide the legality of cannabis in their jurisdictions. So Republicans don't have to choose between supporting their party and backing sensible cannabis policy.