Yes, no, maybe. These mixed signals are familiar to any American on this traumatic, post-digital dating scene, but now they’re getting the slip from Congress too. Lawmakers are giving everyone, from pot smokers to industry officials and scientists, whiplash with their conflicting responses to the ongoing marijuana legalization debate. In 2017, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legalization after it had already been approved. More than half of US states permit the use of marijuana in some form, whether it’s medicinal or recreational. Important officials have backed the drug across political parties, but it isn’t enough. On Friday, President Trump revealed he is in favor of bipartisan efforts to lift the federal ban on cannabis. So, what is keeping the red, white, and blue from turning full-on green?
With the current federal ban in place, the penalties for marijuana use are a bit muddled. It is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug, ranking on the same level as LSD and heroin. In January, the Justice Department withdrew the Cole memo which was enacted by former President Obama. This policy protects cannabis businesses in states where the drug is legal. This act sent sellers into a frenzy as they were warned by prominently opposed Attorney General Jeff Sessions that they might be targeted by prosecutors. Things were looking bleak for marijuana advocates until President Trump swooped in and ordered an end to this before it ever really got off the ground. There have yet to be raids or seizures of companies in states where the drug has been legalized in some form. Despite pleadings from several narcotics officer groups, Trump has said that he is most likely going to support legislation that will allow states to make their own decisions within their borders about marijuana. They will, however, be required to obey the federal restrictions and not sell to anyone under the age of 21 years old who is not using the hemp plant for medicinal purposes.
Consumers would assume that having the president publicly declare his support for the hemp plant would put it on top of the world, but his backing and that of other influential lawmakers isn’t enough. Conservative politicians are continuing to drag their feet. The bipartisan efforts aim to modify the Controlled Substances Act and reassure the anxious cannabis industry, but they are being met with tough resistance. Many believe that President Trump’s remarks are to be taken lightly because of his past with pushing legislation, but many marijuana advocates are thrilled to have this reinforcement on their side. Working as one of the lead sponsors on the bill is Sen. Corey Gardner of Colorado. The legislation would ease concerned bankers. Under it, sellers would not be subject to penalization, raids, or seizures as their transactions as long as they concede to their state’s laws and restrictions.
Using history as a model, ending cannabis prohibition would decrease nationwide crime. In January of 1920, when alcohol prohibition led to bootleggers and moonshine, mobsters and crime lords plagued neighborhoods and took control. Crime rates soared and the ban on alcohol generated even bigger problems than they were faced with in the first place. Today, more and more people are being incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes. In 2016, almost 600,000 adults were jailed for cannabis. That is more than all the people incarcerated for violent crimes, such as rape and murder, combined. And law enforcement continues to make a staggering amount of arrests for the drug today. This means that massive portions of the criminal justice system’s budget are allocated towards sentencing and prosecuting marijuana users. According to ThoughtCo.com, the American government would save an estimated $8 billion in law enforcement spending with legalization. Conservatives have cited legalization as encouragement for increased drug use, and claim they do not want to be perceived as being “easy” on drugs, for their reluctance.
Marijuana is one of America’s leading capita-generating crops. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the plant has raked in over $4.5 billion for the state since its legalization. If the bill to allow states to legalize without fear of federal prosecution goes into law, this number would skyrocket for the entire nation. Creating a new market opportunity available for trading in foreign markets like Canada is gearing itself up for. According to Gallup surveys, 60 percent of American voters are in favor of ending prohibition, but politicians continually come in to block their efforts. Even with numbers, the public’s opinion, and influential politicians on its side, it seems that even the president’s backing isn’t enough. The controversial battle over marijuana is a balancing act whose scales are constantly being tipped in either direction. Currently, persuasion to back this bill is slowly gaining momentum in Congress.