Washington, DC: Members of the US House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security heard expert testimony on Wednesday challenging the federal government’s policy of cannabis prohibition. The hearing, entitled "Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform," debated the merits of various alternative policy options – including abolishing cannabis’ longstanding Schedule I criminal status under federal law.
The hearing marked the first time in decades that members have entertained debate regarding the need to end the federal criminalization of cannabis and to deschedule the plant from the Controlled Substances Act. Archived video of the proceedings is online.
Witnesses testifying at yesterday’s hearing were Dr. David Nathan of the group Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Marilyn Mosby, Esq., State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Dr. G. Malik Burnett (formerly of the Drug Policy Alliance), and Neal Levine, Chief Executive Officer of the Cannabis Trade Federation. Their written testimony is available online.
Members of Congress in attendance at the hearing included: Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ben Cline (R-VA), Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Doug Collins (R-GA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), and Greg Stube (R-FL). Several members, including Reps. Cohen and Lieu, concurred with witnesses’ testimony that Congress should completely remove the cannabis plant from the federal Controlled Substances Act.
A coalition of social advocacy groups – including NORML, the ACLU, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, The Immigrants Legal Resource Center, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Center for American Progress – released a joint Statement of Principles to coincide with the hearing. The Principles, which were entered into the record, highlight legislative priorities and provide Congress with a roadmap for ending America’s ongoing policy of cannabis criminalization.
Commenting on the hearing, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said: "For the first time in a generation, members of Congress engaged in a candid conversation that acknowledged the failures of marijuana prohibition in the United States, how this policy has adversely impacted tens of millions of Americans, and how it must be reformed at the federal level."
He added: "The ongoing classification under federal law of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance – a categorization that treats it in the same manner as heroin – is intellectually dishonest and has been scientifically debunked. It is high time that Congress address this Flat Earth policy and move forward with a plan that appropriately reflects marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural status in America."
For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.