By Timothy Rush | Staff Columnist
Marijuana legalization is the latest trend sweeping the nation. Before 2010, no state had legalized marijuana for public recreational consumption, but within a single decade, 11 states have lifted their prohibition on the herbal drug. While marijuana has been slowly legalized state-by-state, the federal prohibition on marijuana must also be overturned.
When states first began the push to legalize marijuana during the Obama administration, Obama himself came out and stated that his administration wouldn’t pursue action against these states. If you are confused about that, don’t worry; it’s you and everyone else. Even though many have gone through a proper democratic channel and changed their state laws, federal laws have remained untouched.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a schedule 1 substance. This means that marijuana, under federal law, is a highly addictive substance, has no safe use and has no genuine medical advantage. Furthermore, under the same act, schedule 1 substances are prohibited and subject to federal prohibition. Then add on top of that the federal supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution and under an extensively anti-legalization administration we could see the complete rollback of all these reforms across the country.
It’s not just the rollback that worries many marijuana advocates, but also the tight regulations that keep many marijuana distributors and users in a bind, even for the states that have legalized marijuana for both recreational and medicinal use.
The first is the changes between states. Marijuana legalization is something that has been occurring state-by-state, so something that you can legally do in one state can earn you several years in prison in another state. Furthermore, just because you bought your weed in Michigan doesn’t mean that you can still use it in Pennsylvania. Not only will you get caught on possession, but you could also be charged with trafficking contraband across state lines. And because of the common-sense regulation in many states that have legalized it, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana and be under the influence in public. So don’t think you can also get away with using and then making the drive back home.
But those are minor inconveniences compared to some of the actual consequences for many people living in states that have legalized. For instance, if you’re a parent in a state with legalized status, you may think that it’s no different from drinking alcohol or lighting up a cigarette. You’d be wrong. In fact, already there have been children taken away from parents, due to the parents using marijuana. This is because of the federal laws regarding marijuana, but also because its classification leads to your home being designated as high-risk for children.
One horrific tale is that of Savannah Lackey, a California resident who was growing marijuana with a prescription. She did everything that the state required her to, including attending a meeting with a sheriff to brief on legal growing. This didn’t stop the raid that came upon Lackey’s home, where not only was her weed seized, but her child was forcibly removed from the home and put into protective services.
Others are also affected. Distributors often face incredible obstacles to maintain their business. Because, on a federal level, are illegal, it is extremely difficult to pay taxes. Yes, even though marijuana is federally prohibited, they must pay taxes to the federal government. This includes the taxes their business pays and the taxes taken out of paychecks. This has forced many distributors to do everything through cash payments only, to avoid the potential charge of money laundering because they can’t use a bank to keep their money that is, again, gained through criminal means.
If you’re an employee of a company, as in most people, you can very well lose your job. Many companies still wish to maintain compliance with federal regulation, which makes sense. So even if you’re in a legal state, failing a drug test could result in you losing your job. You could be using marijuana in a manner that is fully legal by your state and still lose your livelihood because of federal prohibition.
The solution is obvious: Make the Obama Era policy of not putting resources towards fighting legalization a thing of the past. The federal prohibition must be overturned through definitive legislative action. This prohibition has a troubled history of racism and punitive punishment for nonviolent offenders, as well as ineffective enforcement. The time has come to put it to rest and indeed make it a state issue. If politicians want it to be a state issue, then let’s make it a state issue. We should remove the federal prohibition and let states legislate this matter as they see fit.