Support for the legalization of marijuana has never been this big before. Last year, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia joined Colorado and Washington in legalizing recreational marijuana. Ohio residents are expected to vote on a ballot measure to legalize weed later this year. The same goes for Nevadans and Californians, who will vote on a legalization proposal next year.
But in the face of all these democratic initiatives, the federal government is sitting idle and is simply waiting for things to unravel instead of taking a more active role in the legalization process. As a result, absurd marijuana policies have ruined people’s lives, wasted billions of dollars, and put cannabis businesses in a serious legal dilemma, as marijuana possession, cultivation, and distribution are still considered illegal on the federal level.
Some lawmakers are doing something to change this reality. The Congress has also approved a provision preventing the Justice Department from using federal funds to keep states from implementing their own laws on medical marijuana. Senior Republicans have also expressed their support for cannabidiol, the therapeutic and non-psychoactive component of marijuana plants. The Obama administration also removed the additional review process requirement for researchers studying marijuana. Cory Brooker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rand Paul (R-KY) have introduced a bill in the senate that would allow banks and credit unions to provide financial services to cannabis businesses in states where the drug is considered legal.
But these initiatives are not enough. For instance, despite having 16 bipartisan sponsors, the Judiciary Committee has not yet scheduled the aforementioned bill for a vote or hearing. Marijuana is also still classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, making it harder for states to decide on how to regulate legal marijuana.
While most of the work on weed legalization comes from advocacy groups, their regulations are not well-thought out. For example, legal pot advocates in Ohio are trying to legalize the substance with a constitutional amendment that would allow commercial cultivation of the plant on just 10 dedicated sites listed in the measure. The problem is this would grant monopoly to a few businesses.
The only way to standardize marijuana regulations is for the Congress and the president to enact sensible drug policies and repeal failed laws.
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