State Respect

482653 10151332674371816 1567392188 n State RespectThere’s been a lot of talk recently in the United States about marijuana - a once socially stigmatized leafy plant which has been cited by the federal government as a source of crime, violence and a gateway to harder, more life altering substances like heroin and cocaine. In the past, anytime talk about pot has been brought up in federal circuits it’s been referenced in harsh terms, but in these last few months it seems like spring is starting to bring out little patches of green in Congress. On Friday, a federal bill was proposed that would work to resolve the mirky legality of marijuana law enforcement in states that have legalized possession. Introduced by Dana Rohrabacher - a California Republican - this new bill addresses the complexity of ensuring that states that choose to legalize marijuana will not face federal prosecution. If the bill is passed, the Controlled Substances Act will be revised to respect individual state laws, meaning states with enacted legalization legislation will be immune to federal charges. In a recent statement, Rohrabacher described that his “bipartisan bill represents a common-sense approach that establishes federal government respect for all states’ marijuana laws...It does so by keeping the federal government out of the business of criminalizing marijuana activities in states that don’t want it to be criminal.” Two other Republicans, Michigan’s Justin Amash and Alaska’s Don Young supported the bill along with Rohrabacher, as did three Democrats, Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer, Tennessee’s Steve Cohen and Jared Polis of Colorado. Polis and Bluemenauer have already introduced two separate bills in Congress to deal with marijuana law reform on a federal level, hoping to lessen what they claim to be the high fiscal and human costs of marijuana related arrests. Allowing states the chance to set their own laws and regulate them could decrease the burden on prison systems, courts and police, ultimately saving the federal government money. Polis’s bill calls for the government to control marijuana much like it does alcohol, while Bluemenauer’s purposes heavy taxes on marijuana from growth, to processing and sale. The U.S. Justice Department has yet to say how they will view state marijuana laws, but it is within their power to stop legal marijuana sales on the basis that it violates federal law. President Obama claims that pursuing those breaking federal law by using marijuana in legalized states is not a top concern of his government, but this has not stopped federal raids of medical dispensaries. Still efforts move forward for full scale legalization despite possible federal crackdowns - eighteen states have legalized marijuana on medical or recreational platforms. “There is an opportunity for us to make, at a minimum, a $100 billion difference over the next 10 years,” says Earl Bluemenauer, and while some say the chances of these marijuana friendly bills seeing the Senate floor are slim, they may serve as a serious starting point for a new American conversation about weed.

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