New York Times: Congress and Obama Are Wimps on Marijuana Reform

The New York Times has once again chastised the federal government for its relentless effort to perpetuate the war on marijuana, arguing that even though support for legalization continues to swell across the nation, “Congress and the Obama Administration remain too timid about the need for change.”

The NYT Editorial Board picked up where right they left off just over a year ago when the newspaper published “Repeal Prohibition, Again,” a six-part series calling for the federal government to repeal the ban on marijuana. The board’s latest opinion suggests that while Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia legalized marijuana in 2014, joining the ranks of Colorado and Washington, not to mention with several other states predicted to follow in their footsteps within the next year, the federal government still wants to pretend that prohibition is not a crumbling institution.

“Instead of standing by as change sweeps the country, federal lawmakers should be more actively debating and changing the nation’s absurd marijuana policies, policies that have ruined millions of lives and wasted billions of dollars,” the board wrote. “Their inaction is putting businesses and individuals in states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana in dubious legal territory — doing something that is legal in their state but is considered a federal crime.”

Although legislation has been introduced in Congress that would prevent federal interference in states that have legalized medical marijuana, as well enable the banking industry to work with marijuana businesses, supporters of this bill, which is known as the CARERS Act, “face an uphill struggle,” according to the Times. There is simply not enough Republican support to ensure this bill, or any of the more than 20 other pot reform proposals rotting away on Capitol Hill, will receive any attention from the committee.

Unfortunately, all of this legislation is currently in a state of political purgatory until the Republicans decide to stand with the issue, which does not appear to be something that is likely to happen any time in the near future.

One of the primary culprits behind the stalling of federal marijuana legislation is the gatekeeper of the Judiciary Committee, Republican Senator Charles Grassley. Although he recently came out in some support for the medicinal use of cannabidiol, the lawmaker has all but refused to schedule any of the bills pertaining to pot for a hearing. Even in regards to the CARERS Act, which was touted earlier this year as the Great Green Hope for medical marijuana in America, the bill has basically petered out because Grassley remains apprehensive about calling it in for a vote. In fact, just last week, when asked by Roll Call whether or not the CARERS Act would receive a hearing, Grassley said he was “going to wait until” he discusses the bill with “other Republican members.” This, of course, was just political pillow talk that if translated would have sounded more like, “There is no way in hell that bill is getting heard.”

The New York Times points out that while Congress and the Obama Administration have “taken positive steps” in regards to loosening some of the restrictions pertaining to marijuana, both “should be doing more,” starting with the elimination of the plant’s dangerous drug classification.

“Specifically, marijuana should be removed from the Controlled Substances Act, where it is classified as a Schedule I drug like heroin and LSD, and considered to have no medical value,” wrote the board. “Removing marijuana from the act would not make it legal everywhere, but it would make it easier for states to decide how they want to regulate it.”

With statewide legalization efforts taking a number of controversial turns, calling to attention an initiative in Ohio vying for the legalization of a cartel-like cannabis trade, the Times maintains that the country needs “Congress and the president to act;” to do the job the entire nation relies on them to perform.

“Direct democracy can sometimes produce good results,” the board concluded. “But it would be far better for Congress and the president to repeal failed laws and enact sensible drug policies.

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