Bipartisan lawmakers agree — marijuana prohibition has failed and it’s time to change the law

Bipartisan lawmakers agree — marijuana prohibition has failed and it’s time to change the law
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Marijuana prohibition has been around for more than 80 years, but if last week’s series of events are any indicator, this era may finally be coming to an end.

Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJulián Castro is behind in the polls, but he's finding a niche Gabbard arrives in Puerto Rico to 'show support' amid street protests Democratic strategist predicts most 2020 candidates will drop out in late fall MORE (D-Mass.) made an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the bipartisan legislation, Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States, to remove the threat of federal intervention and prosecution in states that regulate marijuana use and sales.

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Representatives David JoyceDavid Patrick JoyceEx-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz House panel votes to boost Interior, EPA budget by .7B The STATES Act will expose flawed marijuana legacy MORE (R-Ohio) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran House approves defense bill after adding liberal sweeteners MORE (D-Ore.) introduced companion legislation in the House. This marks the first bicameral, bipartisan legislation to end the federal enforcement of prohibition in states that have reformed their marijuana laws.

 

The unlikely duo of Senators, who rarely agree on anything, were lockstep on one factor: Prohibition has failed and it is time to change the law.

"Outdated federal marijuana laws have perpetuated our broken criminal justice system, created barriers to research, and hindered economic development," Warren said. Gardner also had something to say on the issue,  “The bipartisan, commonsense bill ensures the federal government will respect the will of the voters — whether that is legalization or prohibition - and not interfere in any states' legal marijuana industry."

The next day in a morning pool spray, President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE was asked about the newly introduced legislation and had a simple response, “I support Sen. Gardner, I know exactly what he’s doing.”

This reaffirmation came off the heels of a commitment by the president made to Sen. Gardner that he would support a federalist approach to state marijuana laws back in April. By signaling early support for legislation, Trump has publicly gone further in supporting major marijuana reform than any previous president.

Thirty states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Moreover, an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. An additional 17 states have passed laws in regard to cannabidiol oil for therapeutic purposes. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy change

To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safety, crime rates, traffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue.

Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that over 149,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

Now Congress must do its part and swiftly move forward on this bipartisan legislation that explicitly provides states with the authority and autonomy to set their own marijuana policies without the fear of federal incursion from a Justice Department.

Justin Strekal is the political director for National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, where he serves as an advocate to end the federal prohibition of marijuana and to reform our nation's marijuana laws. Prior to working on drug policy, he focused on tax, wage, and campaign finance reform as well as managed electoral campaigns throughout the country for positions in every level of government.