Republican Congressman introduces bill to end federal pot prohibition

A rookie Republican representative from Virginia has tabled legislation that would put a stop to U.S. federal prohibition of cannabis use and allow states to set their own policies.

The bill seeks to remove pot from the federal Controlled Substances Act and solve the current conflict between federal and state laws over medical or recreational use. If passed, the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” would take cannabis off the banned substances list along with alcohol and tobacco.

Originally introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2015, this bill is meant to create a level playing field across the country.

“I have long believed justice that isn’t blind, isn’t justice,” said 5th District Congressman Tom Garrett in a prepared statement. “Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California.”

Currently neither the recreational or medical uses of cannabis are allowed in Virginia.

The bill does specify that transporting pot into states where it is not legal would remain a federal crime.

Cannabis is currently a Schedule 1 controlled substance at the federal level, meaning the federal government considers the drug to have a “high potential for abuse” and “no medically accepted use.” But more than half the states have set their own policies allowing either medical or recreational use.

Canadians and Americans spent a combined $75 billion ($56.4 billion USD) on pot products in 2016, and a whopping 88 % of that sales were illegal, according to a report by ArcView Market Research. Legal spending made up $9.81billion ($6.9 billion USD) of last year’s total, which is up 34 per cent from 2015.

The Trump administration has been skeptical of the benefits of making cannabis legally available. Newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said he is  “not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” and White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested the administration may crack down on weed in some states where it’s now legal.

In introducing the bill, Garrett’s tackled that apprehension directly:

“In recent weeks, the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to crack down on federal marijuana crimes,” said Garrett. “During his confirmation, then-Senator Sessions pointed out that if legislators did not like this approach, they should change the laws accordingly.”

Garrett hopes to have bipartisan support as his bill makes its way to the various committees of jurisdiction. Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D) is serving as the lead original co-sponsor on this bipartisan legislation.