Last week, the Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security sub-committee of the powerful House Judiciary Committee held a landmark session in which they listened to testimony from a variety of experts on how marijuana prohibition could be brought to an end federally.
This hearing was largely focused on evidence, unlike previous Congressional discussions on the matter that largely seemed to be driven by scaremongering. However, there were some disagreements regarding the strategy that should be used to legislate marijuana policy reforms.
For example, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) argued that the Democrats were wrongly framing the issue along racial lines and this would divide the country. The Chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrod Nadler, responded by saying that marijuana laws had been designed and implemented in a racially disparate manner, so the solution should also emerge after considering the racial factors involved.
Nadler added that in his own opinion, it is ill-advised to use marijuana, but that doesn’t mean the drug should be criminalized. Instead, adults should be left to make informed decisions on the substance as is the case with other substances like alcohol and cigarettes.
While testifying before the subcommittee, Malik Burnett, a physician at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said that it was wrong to have two widely different situations on the subject of marijuana. He explained that the U.S. can be divided into two, with one half made up of whites who are minting billions from state-legal marijuana while the other half of the U.S. made up of poor people, especially blacks, are arrested in their thousands for the same marijuana that whites are getting rich from.
Marilyn Mosby, the State Attorney for Baltimore also told the subcommittee that the current lopsided enforcement of marijuana laws not only worsens the existing inequalities in the U.S. justice system but also alienates the community from law enforcement agencies. No public safety benefit accrues from the enforcement of marijuana prohibition, she added. She concluded by saying that full legalization is the way to go since decriminalization of marijuana isn’t enough. Mosby’s office is noted for announcing earlier this year that they would no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases.
Davis Nathan, the president of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (a pro-marijuana legalization group of physicians) testified that the prohibition of marijuana has done more harm than any good that was anticipated. He also said that the drug should never have been criminalized since it is less harmful than tobacco and alcohol.
There was a heated discussion regarding the way in which cannabis reform should be made to happen after Neal Levine, the CEO of Cannabis Trade Federation) suggested that the process should be incremental, starting with the passing of the STATES Act currently before lawmakers.
For example, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) wondered why full legalization shouldn’t be done in one fell swoop since prohibition had lingered for far too long. Other lawmakers disagreed and preferred the cautious approach of incremental policy adjustments in order to avoid passing bills that ultimately fail once they reach the Republican-controlled Senate.
Industry pundits strongly believe that the cannabis industry, including players like Willow Biosciences Inc. (CSE: WLLW) and Wildflower Brands Inc. (CSE: SUN) (OTCQB: WLDFF), is hoping that concrete action follows this hearing on the modalities of ending marijuana prohibition.
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