Marijuana policy at the state level has shifted abruptly in recent years as states have moved to legalize the drug for both medicinal and recreation use. Unfortunately, federal marijuana policy remains rooted in the past, as all types of marijuana continue to remain illegal under federal law. It is time for Congress to face the facts surrounding marijuana, its use and regulation, and develop a legislative framework that accounts for the inevitable transition of marijuana policy – one that is already well under way. Federal marijuana policy use should be modernized to reduce confusion, uncertainty, and conflicting government priorities. Maintaining the status quo creates an inconsistent legal environment that wastes law enforcement resources and misses out on potential tax revenues.
Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis have also co-authored a new report “The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy.” The document reviews the history of marijuana prohibition in the US, current conflicts between state and federal law, and outlines several opportunities to reform and clarify marijuana law at the federal level. Congressman Blumenauer has also posted a FAQ on marijuana and marijuana legislation.
Today over 2 million people are incarcerated in the United States, more than any other country in the world, and 50% of all federal inmates are there for drug-related crimes. This is part of the reason our spending on corrections has increased at a much higher rate than our spending on higher education over the last 20 years.
Millions of people have been caught up in the justice system for marijuana offenses, and over 660,000 are arrested each year for possession. 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.
The rapid spread of legal (under state law) medical marijuana facilities has given hundreds of thousands of people access to marijuana for everything from suppressing the nausea associated with chemotherapy to mitigating the effects of multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. According to the 2010 Census, just over 106 million people live in jurisdictions where their respective government (usually with voter approval) has decided that some aspect of marijuana use should be legally permitted. Last fall, voters in Washington and Colorado approved adult, recreational marijuana use. Studies show that many Americans now agree that marijuana should be legal and support is growing.
Percent of Americans who think marijuana should be legal, over time (Gallup)
The Facts about Marijuana
While President Obama has declared that his administration has “bigger fish to fry” in regards to cracking down on use of marijuana in states where it is legal, far too many US Attorneys and Drug Enforcement personnel are still ‘frying those little fish.’ Only Congress has the power to unravel this mess. It is past time it does so.
Congressman Blumenauer supports legislation that would:
Related legislation introduced or co-sponsored by Congressman Blumenauer:
Right now the federal government is on a path that combines the worst of both worlds. We criminalize behaviors that many Americans think are appropriate and we aren’t doing enough to help those who are struggling with addiction to alcohol and other drugs. It is time to change our laws before we travel further down this road with nothing to show but billions of dollars wasted, and hundreds of thousands of damaged lives.