The federal ban on cannabis is one of those policies which make living in Americ feel like the dark ages. It wastes tax dollars with enforcement, and it tramples states’ rights to make their own laws.
Worst of all though, it threatens legal businesses in states which are pot friendly and threatens the life, liberty, and property of countless individuals who harm no one while using marijuana for recreational or medical purposes.
That’s why it is an exciting development to see Congress taking steps towards solving these issues. But it’s not all cut and dry yet. A provision expires next week that needs to be renewed in order to:
…prohibit the Justice Department from cracking down on medical marijuana companies that follow state laws. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) are teaming up to push the renewal of those protections, which will otherwise expire at the end of April.
This could spell trouble if the provision is not continued as it is hard to tell how the Trump administration will treat businesses in states that have legalized marijuana.
But at the same time other provisions are being introduced to expand these protections for marijuana companies to not just medical, but recreational cannabis businesses as well. If both provisions pass it would mean all businesses in the 29 states which legalized medical marijuana, and the 8 states which legalized recreational use of marijuana, would be safe from federal prosecution.
But again, it may not be as easy as it sounds. If these bills are attached to other more controversial bills they might get caught up in the fight over funding things like a border wall. While the marijuana bills each have bipartisan support, there is no guarantee they will pass in a hostile legislative environment.
McClintock and Polis want to attach their recreational marijuana amendment to the Justice Department’s funding bill later this year — and they believe it has the votes to pass — but if GOP leadership elects to lump all of the government spending bills together in what’s known as an “omnibus,” that could spell trouble for pot advocates.
So they’re hoping the Justice Department’s spending bill get its own vote.
“If the bill comes to the House floor, the McClintock-Polis amendment will pass,” said Michael Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance.
This whole marijuana fight highlights some deeper issues with the USA’s entire legislative and government process.
First, there should be only one subject per bill. A bill was introduced in January which would do that, but it hasn’t gone anywhere yet, and past bills have likewise floundered. But if this bill passes, it would not only bolster good reforms like allowing states to make their own pot laws, it would also stop bad bills hidden in the depths of other bills, like funding laws.
But it also points to the fact that states have lost basically all their power to govern. It’s not like their policies would be necessarily saner or just if states were released from their federal tethers, but there would at least be more competition to attract residents with better government policies.
So even though the majority of states clearly believe it is time to stop treating the use of marijuana as criminal, the federal government that these states supposedly control keeps them from allowing businesses to operate under normal conditions. Things might be different if the Senate was still controlled by state legislators electing representatives, as opposed to electing Senators by popular vote, which went into effect in 1913.
It is also still difficult for marijuana businesses to find banks to accept their money, based on federal regulations against cannabis. And furthermore, businesses cannot plan ahead, crippling long-term success. The worst thing for a business is uncertainty, and the federal and state sparring over pot laws creates massive uncertainty in the marijuana market.
The bottom line is that the federal government needs to back off states and back off businesses. Marijuana should not be restricted, as basically, everyone agrees. Yet despite the widespread approval of cannabis, government policies prevent individuals and businesses from being able to go exercise their basic rights.