A Republican congressman from Virginia is fighting to end marijuana prohibition in America. Earlier this week, Rep. Thomas Garrett introduced a bill in Congress that would essentially give states the right to determine the legality of marijuana.
The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 is very similar to legislation that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced to Congress in November 2015, according to Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post. The new bill won't legalize marijuana if passed, but it will remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. And that would allow individual states to determine the legality of medical and recreational use.
Rep. Garrett says that he is introducing the bill because federal cannabis prohibition is not being enforced justly. He noted that poorer Americans are disproportionately harmed by prohibition, which isn't being enforced at all in states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana use.
"Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status," he wrote in a statement. "What I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California."
He added that repealing cannabis prohibition would be a huge economic boon for states that embrace the opportunity to legalize hemp as well as marijuana. “This step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth, something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia,” Barrett wrote.
But Will It Pass?
Skeptics will undoubtedly wonder if the bill stands a chance of passing. After all, the similar bill introduced by Sanders' bill didn't receive any co-sponsors, let alone a hearing in the Senate.
But the world of cannabis moves fast and a lot has changed in American politics since 2015. Florida, Ohio and three other states have legalized medical marijuana, bringing the total number of states permitting medicinal cannabis up to 29. And on Election Day 2016, the number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana doubled from 4 to 8 when California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada joined the fold.
Meanwhile on Capital Hill, a bipartisan Cannabis Caucus has formed to help legislators from both political parties fight for marijuana reform in Congress. So it's no surprise that Garrett's bill has already received three co-sponsors: Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Scott Taylor (R-Virginia) and Jared Polis (D-Colorado).
Of course, that doesn't mean that doesn't mean President Trump will sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk. But it would put pressure on him to honor his campaign promise to respect the rights of states to determine their own cannabis laws. Rep. Garrett's bill would do just that by ending federal prohibition and letting each state decide the fate of cannabis.