It will take more states moving in the direction Washington and Colorado have before there’s a sufficient pressure on (Congress) to change the law
Approximately 10 US congressmen and a hand full of House members have have sparked an effort to toss out the ill-conceived federal ban on cannabis. Noting that they’re in it for the long haul, and are prepared to keep stoking the flames of common sense, regardless of how long it takes. While its true that the liberal Democrats are doing most of the heavy lifting right now, preparing pro marijuana bills that will provide a legislative trail of pot seeds — should the Republican-controlled House — fail to act as expected during this session of Congress.
Raju Chebium— Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said it’s time to end the federal ban because 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana and many other states are exploring that option in response to growing public pressure.
“Maybe next year, maybe next Congress, but this is going to change. And the federal government will get out of the way,” he said. “I’m very patient. I’ve been working on this one way or another for 40 years, and I think the likelihood of something happening in the next four or five years is greater than ever.”
Peter Bensinger, a former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, urged lawmakers to keep the ban despite the pressure to legalize pot.
Advocacy groups, which have spent a lot of money over the years to push legalization, gloss over the negative effects of marijuana though studies show people do get hooked and smoking pot impairs judgment and could cause cancer like cigarettes, he said.
“Legalizing it is going to cost lives, money, addiction, dependency,” Bensinger warned in an interview Wednesday.
A number of lawmakers share that view, which is why previous congressional attempts to decriminalize marijuana went nowhere.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., acknowledged that getting any marijuana bill through a bitterly divided Congress — which is consumed by debates over spending, gun regulations and other matters — won’t be easy.
“It will take more states moving in the direction Washington and Colorado have before there’s a sufficient pressure on (Congress) to change the law,” he said. “It’s harder to get the attention of members of Congress from states where the legal status has not been changed because it’s simply not a relevant issue for their constituents.”
In February, Polis and Blumenauer introduced bills against federal marijuana policy, which makes it illegal to grow, use, possess or distribute pot.
Polis’ measure seeks to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. Blumenauer’s bill would allow the government to tax marijuana like tobacco and alcohol. If both bills become law, states would decide whether to legalize marijuana, not Uncle Sam, and state lawmakers would have Washington’s blessing to impose taxes on pot.
More proposals are likely in the coming months. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., is writing a bill that would create a commission to study whether marijuana has medicinal value.
Though legalization advocates argue pot has proven benefits such as relieving chronic pain and is not addictive, the federal government cites other studies showing pot has no medical benefits and acts as a “gateway,” leading users to try even more dangerous drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
According to a 2011 federal survey, about 18 million people over the age of 12 have used marijuana at some point in their lives, making pot the country’s most-popular illegal drug under federal law. That means 7% of the nation’s 12-and-over population has used pot at some point.
The legalization push in the House has very little bipartisan support.
“You’d have to undo the federal law, you’d have to have the Congress be willing to pay no attention to the supremacy clause, and you’d have to break an international treaty,” he said. “This is uphill sledding.”