While the bi-partisan CARERS Act—geared towards nationwide marijuana reform—has been left to linger in political purgatory for over a year, one congressional gatekeeper is apparently more interested in slandering the concept of marijuana legalization rather than giving this bill a fair shot on Capitol Hill.
Presiding over the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley plans to lead a discussion under the title, “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization,” presumably in a last ditch effort to bring the nation back into compliance with the federal government’s prohibition standard.
The panel of witnesses scheduled to testify before the Senate about the evils of legalization include Benjamin B. Wagner, the U.S. Attorney of Eastern California and a drug warrior known for his campaign against medical marijuana; Doug Peterson, the Attorney General for the State of Nebraska who will go down in infamy for his role in trying to shutdown the cannabis industry through the U.S. Supreme Court; and Dr. Kathryn Wells, one of Kevin Sabet’s cronies in the anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
Ever since a media advisory was released earlier this week, several national drug reform advocacy groups have come out in protest. These organizations are confused by Grassley’s unwillingness to do his job and allow a hearing for a bill with overtones supported by the majority of American citizens instead of continuing to use his authority to beat a dead horse.
“These hearings are a one-sided sham with the deck stacked with witnesses who have a track record of vehemently opposing marijuana legalization,” said Michael Collins, the deputy director at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “An honest evaluation of marijuana legalization would include the undeniable benefits of legalization like the massive drop in marijuana arrests, the billions in taxes and the transition from an underground market to a regulated one. A more even-handed hearing would also address the destructive harms of marijuana prohibition."
The Marijuana Policy Project also spoke out on Monday against Grassley’s hearing, especially considering that the lawmaker has spent the past 12 months preventing the Senate from considering the bill which would bridge the gap between state and federal marijuana laws.
“It’s shocking that Senator Grassley would choose to direct the Senate’s time, energy, and resources toward a dubious anti-marijuana hearing instead of giving the CARERS Act the hearing it deserves,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. “The CARERS Act is bi-partisan legislation that has broad public support. His decision is tone deaf, to say the least.”
As it stands, more than 80 percent of the American population supports patients being allowed legal access to medical marijuana.
Although the CARERS Act is not a perfect plan, potentially giving more power to the pharmaceutical companies, it would permit states to legalize the cultivation, distribution and possession of medical marijuana without breaking federal law. In addition, CARERS would downgrade the Schedule I classification of the cannabis plant to a Schedule II, making it easier for researchers to study its true medicinal benefits, as well as give the banking industry concrete permission to work with medical marijuana businesses.
(Image Courtesy of Counter Current News)