Last week, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana on a federal level.
The press release reads as follows: “The legislation allows states to continue to function as laboratories of democracy and ultimately decide how they will treat marijuana possession.” It continues, “The legislation, however, does not change federal authorities’ ability to prevent trafficking from states where marijuana is legal to states where is not.”
The bill would also allow the federal government to regulate marijuana advertising – just as it does tobacco – so that advertisers cannot target children.
Senator Schumer’s bill is almost certainly doomed to failure, as a majority of Republican in Congress have been vehemently against marijuana legislation. It would face a close vote on the Senate floor, only to be torn apart by the House. Even if it somehow passed there, I doubt Trump would even sign it. Giving Democrats “a win” so close to the midterms, or possibly upsetting the conservative base, could be costly.
But Schumer and the Democrats know that too. They’re gambling that, with over 60% of Americans now supporting marijuana legalization, they can use this bill as a wedge during the midterms. It’s a purely political move, but one that we must hold representatives accountable for. It’s time for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana on a national scale.
The United States spends over $50 billion on the drug war annually. Of the 1.5 million drug arrests in 2016, 84 percent of them were for only possession. 574,641 people were arrested for just possession of marijuana. While not every drug arrest goes to prison, far too many of them do: Of the 2,157,000 Americans in prison, 47% of federal inmates and 54% of state inmates are imprisoned for drug offenses. Our friends, neighbors, and families are behind bars, held hostage by the government in a draconian and unending struggle. And, because of our nation’s disastrous prison system, released inmates have a 76% chance to be arrested again within five years.
Some state governments have relented however. According to NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 21 states and the District of Columbia have either fully or partially decriminalized, and 31 states allow the usage of marijuana for medical purposes. Since 2012, over 50 cities in America have passed laws or resolutions to decriminalize possession of marijuana in small amounts. However, states and cities are under great pressure from the federal government to hold back on cannabis. Try it, they warn, and they’ll cut back on funding for vital projects, and it’s a game of chicken that most states have decided not to play. They would rather wait it out and see what happens in Congress.
But it’s time to step up and try. Decriminalization, or even better, full legalization, can happen without the consent of the federal government. It’s time to appeal to our mayors, our city councils, and our governors to end this crusade against the lower class.