On Thursday Morning, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced a piece of landmark bipartisan legislation to effectively end cannabis prohibition. Aptly titled the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, the bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and, as Young put it, "allow states to make independent choices about their marijuana programs."
With 600,000 people arrested for marijuana possession in 2017 alone, the bill presents an opportunity to remedy the ills of the War on Drugs. "We've spent billions of dollars locking people up for nonviolent drug offenses, rather than using those dollars to invest in those needs of the people in our communities," said Gabbard, who is also a 2020 presidential candidate. In fact, the government spends $47 billion annually on the Drug War, she added.
With the growing body of evidence proving the benefits of medical marijuana, Gabbard went on, many people could benefit from this law, including opioid-dependent pain patients and veterans with PTSD who "would choose medical marijuana if given the opportunity." And by removing cannabis from the CSA, she said, scientists would have an easier avenue to research it.
Speaking on behalf of business interests, in his own statement, Young described the the greatest challenge to the cannabis industry as not having access to banking. "This bill takes care of it," he said, also noting that lifting federal prohibition would protect state-legal business operators. "Get the government out of it."
In addition to the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, Gabbard and Young also introduced the Marijuana Data Collection Act, which would report how state legalization policies impact public health and the economy.
"Our bipartisan legislation takes a step toward ending the failed War on Drugs, ending federal prohibition on marijuana, and ensuring that our policies are guided by facts and the truth," Gabbard said, rather than, as she put it, "misinformation and lies."
As Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), put it, this bill is about "accepting reality" — scientific, economic, and moral realities — that legal marijuana is already here. As a medical treatment, employment opportunity, and remediation of racially disproportionate policing, legal cannabis has already made its mark in green states — it's only a matter of time before the federal government catches up.