The federal government is finally catching up with the states when it comes to making marijuana legal. According to cnet.com, as of July 2022, 38 states have legalized medical marijuana. For recreational purposes, 19 states have legalized the adult use of marijuana. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a bill that would decriminalize marijuana and give states the ability to create their own marijuana laws.
The bill, called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (H.R.3617 – Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act – M.O.R.E. Act) aims at mending some of the injustices caused by the War on Drugs. Senator Cory Booker specifically refers to the bill’s “strong restorative justice provisions for communities impacted.” Moreover, Senator Booker identifies the bill as “common sense drug policy.”
Such common-sense drug policy has not existed in the United States for nearly 90 years. Federal marijuana laws banned marijuana nation-wide in 1937. Penalties for marijuana crimes increased until the late-1960s, when states began to loosen punishments. In the mid-1970s, almost all states softened penalties for marijuana possession. The federal government, however, did not.
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan re-enacted mandatory sentences for marijuana offenses which ignited the War on Drugs. These laws are criticized for racial disparities in enforcement and long-term consequences for those convicted. The War on Drugs continued throughout George Bush’s presidency. In the mid-1990s, the public’s opinion on marijuana shifted. Notably, people began to see the medicinal value in marijuana. State marijuana laws followed suit.
Federal Marijuana Laws
Making marijuana legal at the federal level, by removing it from the federal list of controlled substances, is the next step in reforming drug laws. The proposed bill would help nearly 3,000 people serving time in prison for marijuana offenses, as their crimes would no longer be considered “criminal.”
Furthermore, the bill addresses expunging convictions and conducting sentencing reviews for federal marijuana crimes. This will give those convicted under federal marijuana laws an opportunity to regain the chance to vote and have a clean criminal record. Additionally, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act aids small businesses and businesses impacted by the War on Drugs.
Federally Legal Marijuana
There are still a few obstacles in the way of changing federal marijuana laws. However, many agree that the time to pass new marijuana legislation is now. It would be in the best interest of Democrats to pass the marijuana reform legislation prior to the midterm elections. In order to pass, the bill needs the support of all Democrat Senators and 10 Republican Senators. Also, while President Biden has stated that he does not think people should go to prison over marijuana, his administration does not appear to view federally legalizing marijuana as a priority.