Today, we stood with Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Don Young as they introduced the Ending Federal Prohibition Act and Marijuana Data Collection Act. While these two bills are overtly about addressing the failures of marijuana prohibition, what they are truly about is accepting reality.
This legislation is about accepting political reality. Currently, ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized the adult use of marijuana and thirty-three states and DC have medical marijuana programs. When you additionally factor in decriminalization and marijuana-specific CBD laws, there is, in fact, only 4 states in this entire country that are actually in compliance with federal law and the controlled substances act. This tension between state and federal laws is and remains untenable. If states truly are the laboratories of democracy, we need to fully deschedule marijuana from the CSA and allow them to move forward with reforms to their marijuana laws, unimpeded by federal law. This is not just good policy, but good politics. The American people are sick and tired of our failed prohibition. 68% of all Americans support legalizing marijuana and well over 70% believe this is an issue that should be governed by the state, not the federal government.
This legislation is about accepting scientific reality. While there is still more we can learn, there are over 29,000 peer-reviewed studies on cannabis in existence – we know enough to say that it does have medical applications and that it is objectively less harmful of a substance than currently legal alcohol and tobacco. As long as marijuana remains a Schedule I substance, federal policy remains ignorant of this fact. Descheduling marijuana through the Ending Federal Prohibition Act would ease hurdles to research and the Marijuana Data Collection Act would allow us to learn from the real world experience of states who have already moved forward with adult use or medical marijuana.
This legislation is about accepting economic reality. The legal marijuana industry in this country already employs over 200,000 Americans in full-time jobs, nearly 300,000 when you include ancillary industries. That is six times the number of jobs currently in the coal industry and over twice the number of Americans working in the textile industry. It is also generating billions of dollars a year in revenue across this country. Despite this economic boon, marijuana businesses are still unable to utilize financial services and face issues regarding taxation that no other legal business faces. This legislation would be a huge step forward in treating the legal cannabis industry like any other legal industry in this country and allow us to truly embrace its job creation and revenue potential.
Perhaps most importantly, this legislation is about accepting moral reality. Despite our progress, marijuana prohibition still results in over 600,000 Americans being arrested every year on simple marijuana possession alone. Worse still, these policies are applied in racially disparate ways, overwhelmingly those arrested are people of color or members of other marginalized communities. Whether an arrest leads to incarceration or not, having a charge for marijuana possession on your record has life-altering collateral consequences. Americans with a criminal marijuana record lose access to federal financial aid for higher education, have a hard time finding gainful employment, can risk losing public housing, face issues with child protective services, and see their future permanently altered or dreams deferred for nothing more than possession of a joint. Descheduling marijuana would open the door to finally ending marijuana prohibition nationwide and bring to a halt these draconic policies that have ruined so many American lives.
The overwhelming majority of the American public has accepted these realities and it is time for their elected officials to do the same. It is time to pass the End Federal Prohibition Act, close this dark chapter in our nation’s history, and move on from the failed policies of prohibition and towards the sensible policies of legalization and regulation.