The bipartisan sponsors of a marijuana legalization bill currently before Congress renewed their efforts in the name of criminal justice reform Wednesday as the Trump administration pushes to further punish drug offenders.
Reps. Thomas Garrett, Virginia Republican, and Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii Democrat, touted their Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act during a Capitol Hill press conference as a means of ending the government’s trend of prosecuting pot users as a growing number of states legalize weed.
The bill, if approved, would remove marijuana from the federal government’s list of controlled substances and effectively put cannabis in the same category as alcohol and tobacco, ending a lost-standing prohibition the legislation’s sponsors blame with ravaging the lives of convicted marijuana users.
Mr. Garrett, a former prosecutor, told attendees that his previous gig pursuing criminals as Virginia’s assistant attorney general gave him unique insight with respect to the way drug laws are being applied.
“I have long believed justice that isn’t blind, isn’t justice. Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socioeconomic status, and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce,” Mr. Garrett said, according to The Hill.
“Our archaic federal laws relating to marijuana are hurting people, tearing families apart, turning everyday Americans into criminals and negatively impacting our economy, all at a tremendous cost to taxpayers as billions are spent on an over-burdened and broken criminal justice system,” Ms. Gabbard added, Hawaii’s Big Island Now reported.
“The question before us is not whether you think marijuana use is good or bad, or how you feel about this issue, but whether we should be turning people into criminals.”
Regardless of the government’s decades-old pot prohibition, a growing number of states have rebelled in recent years by legalizing medical and recreational marijuana — nine states and the nation’s capital have passed laws legalizing recreational weed since 2012, and medical marijuana laws are currently on the books in more than half the country.
Concerns have rippled across the cannabis industry since President Trump took office in January, particularly in light appointing Jeff Sessions, an avid marijuana opponent, to the helm of his Justice Department.
While the Trump administration has failed so far to crack down on states with legal marijuana, Mr. Sessions last week directed federal prosecutors to begin pursuing the harshest charges possible against drug offenders.
“This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency,” the attorney general wrote in a memo last week.
About 8.2 million people were arrested on marijuana-related charges between 2001 and 2010, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Roughly 88 percent of those arrests were for possession, the ACLU has said previously.
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