Let’s Talk About Federal Marijuana Legalization

Some lawmakers predict marijuana will be legal on a federal level within five to ten years. Although, when it happens, there is a distinct possibility the law will not translate into Americans enjoying a fully legalized recreational market. There is a greater chance it will be a piece of three-legged legislation giving only patients with legitimate medical conditions access to cannabis.

Now, there is an entire legion of marijuana advocates out there that would be satisfied with this toe-in-the-water approach to repealing federal prohibition, but many others, myself included, will not be satisfied with pussy fist legislation that puts weed under the thumb of a loosely amended version of the Controlled Substances Act.

The people of this country deserve the right to legally unwind with marijuana just as the majority has done for decades with alcohol. And while it may be simple enough for a healthy individual to walk into a clinic and convince a physician that he or she is in need of medical marijuana, most of us would rather not have to go through the hassle to simply catch a buzz.

The truth is, the only way legalized marijuana is ever going work in this country is if it is completely removed from the confines of the Controlled Substances Act and federally regulated under the same government agency that currently has the leashes on beer and cigarettes — rename it the Alcohol, Cannabis and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

You may not be aware of this, but there is a bill lingering in the halls of Congress called the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013,” which would end pot prohibition and establish a fully legalized cannabis trade here in America. Unfortunately, the proposal has not received any support since Colorado Representative Jared Polis submitted it back in early 2013, and it is doubtful the bill has any realistic chance at being considered anytime in the near future. Perhaps this is the reason many pot proponents have argued, “it will take an act of Congress” before marijuana has a chance at achieving legal status in the United States.

However, there appears to be some confusion about who actually has the authority to make changes to the nation’s pot laws. Most argue that the state of legal weed in America absolutely hangs by the short-and-curlies of Congress, while others assert the Obama Administration has the power to cut the legs off prohibition as early as today.

In an interview that took place earlier this year with CNN’s Jake Tapper, President Obama himself said it was up to Congress, not the Drug Enforcement Administration, to decide whether or not to reclassify cannabis. The next day, drug policy experts lashed out against the president for failing to take responsibility for maintaining prohibition in America. “While Congress can amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to increase or reduce restrictions on particular drugs, the statute also gives that power to the attorney general, who has delegated it to the Drug Enforcement Administration (a division of the Justice Department),” wrote Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason Magazine. “In fact, the DEA has repeatedly rejected petitions to reschedule marijuana, most recently in 2011. I forget: Who was president then?”

UCLA Professor of Public Policy, Mark Kleiman recently told New York Magazine that one of the most important moves President Obama could make right now is initiating changes to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Drug Enforcement Administration that would make it easier for scientists to receive approval for marijuana research. “Every fourteen-year-old boy has access to better pot than any research scientist,” he said.

Of course, in order to open the doors for researchers, the president would first have to make the decision to downgrade marijuana’s Schedule I classification, which he clearly has the authority to jumpstart.

Unfortunately, we do not expect the president to roll up his sleeves and make any significant changes before leaving the Oval Office. Especially, not after the White House issued a statement this week, in response to The New York Times article “Repeal Prohibition, Again,” in which the Obama Administration wrote that it would not legalize marijuana because increased access would lead to an onslaught of public health problems.

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