States Consider Deregulating Marijuana; Pressure Congress to Consider Federal Legislation

States Consider Deregulating Marijuana; Pressure Congress to Consider Federal Legislation

Some politicians in Utah argue that legalization for marijuana may be the only way to impose effective regulations for drug possession. However, marijuana continues to be banned under federal law.

In the wake of increase and support for medical marijuana, there appears to be a notable decrease in support for banning marijuana. The state of California, for instance, would like to consider legalizing pot for recreational use. And, prominent politicians in Utah argue that legalization for marijuana may be the only way to impose effective regulations for drug possession. However, marijuana continues to be banned under federal law.

Under federal law, marijuana is on the list of controlled substances. Essentially, this means that even though state laws are in place for medical marijuana farmers, distributors and users, these individuals could still face prosecution from DEA officers for violation of federal laws.

Regardless, many additional states–even notoriously conservative states–are considering loosening restrictions and legalizing marijuana. The Department of Justice (DOJ), however, argues against such proposals, particularly regarding recreational use, and stated that recreational use, for instance, would be aggressively prosecuted in accordance with federal marijuana laws.

Unfortunately, despite proactive measures by these states, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Generally, when federal and state laws collide, federal law wins.

Initiatives by Congressmen to Pass H.R. 2306 

However, a bill currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress would change this. Instead of fully legalizing marijuana, H.R. 2306 aims to remove the drug from the confines of federal law.

The bill was introduced by Congressman Barney Frank, who has stood behind similar types of legislative efforts. He stated in a recent press release that it is unwise to criminalize actions society does not wish to prosecute and the use of federal law to criminalize marijuana is disproportionate to the activity. Instead, he argues, the matter should rest in the hands of the states.

Commonly known as the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, the bill is currently under review by The House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. The review process will consist of deliberation, investigation and revision before it goes to general debate.

If the bill passes, the Controlled Substance Act will be amended and marijuana will be removed from the list of controlled substances.

Legalization and the Drug War 

Congressman Frank argues that passage of the bill will be a powerful tool against the drug war and benefit the nation’s economy. Many others agree.

Other proponents of the bill say that failing to legalize marijuana has simply lead to similar consequences the country saw during prohibition. However, instead of gangsters like Al Capone maintaining control, drug lords have taken over. Legalizing pot, they say, would help lead to a demise of these cartels.

Economic Arguments: Cutting the Drug Cartel’s Purse Strings and Funding the Nation’s Economy

Some also argue that legalization will also bring more money into the U.S. economy.

In 2002, the Administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated “armed groups use illegal drug profits to fund their terrorist activities and to enforce control over the local population in many geographic areas of the globe.” The deadly tentacles of illegal drug money reach from the U.S. and extend through Columbia to Asia, the Middle East to Peru.

They also reach closer to home, where high school students drop out due to addictions. But, the Administrator also notes these statistics tend to correlate with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine–not marijuana.

Other financial arguments focus on shifting the already decreasing resources from marijuana prosecutions and investigations to violent crimes. In addition to shifting already dwindling funds, the ability to tax marijuana will add much needed revenue to the economy with estimates topping $1.3 billion for the state of California alone.

Decline in Drug Use

In addition to taxing, legalization may allow state governments to more effectively regulate the drug’s use. James Gray, a former federal prosecutor heralded as a drug warrior, no longer argues for strict marijuana bans and instead supports this call for more realistic regulation.

His stance was outlined in a report with USA Today where he said kids would often tell him how it was easier to get marijuana then beer. Alcohol, they would say, was more difficult to get because the government controlled it. Repeated discussions with the nation’s youth echoed this same experience. As a result of these encounters, Gray now advocates the legalization of marijuana.

California is developing legislation that will do just that. The state is currently developing a proposition that would legalize marijuana use for anyone over 21. This would allow the government to control who uses the drug in ways similar to alcohol enforcement.

The debate over pot deregulation is present in Utah as well. Prominent political leader and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson publicly advocates legalization, and has stated that our current drug policies are failing. Although legalization may occur in the future, use and possession remains illegal.

Penalties associated with possession, distribution and production of marijuana include monetary fines and potential prison time. Severity escalates with repeat offenses and amount in possession. Dealing with these charges is difficult, and it is important to discuss your situation with an experiences drug offenses attorney to ensure all legal rights are protected.

Article provided by Greg S. Law, PLLC