Currently marijuana is legal for recreational use in four states and the District of Columbia. In twenty other states, it is legal for medical use, although the laws in all of these states are in conflict with federal law. The federal government lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which is in the same category as dangerous substances like heroin. In fact, the United States government considers weed more dangerous and less medically beneficial than cocaine and methamphetamine, which are Schedule II.
This presents a problem with a conflict between marijuana businesses in states where it is legal, as well as the possibility that recreational users could possibly be arrested by federal authorities for simply possessing legal marijuana in places like Colorado or Washington.
Now Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill which wouldn’t necessarily legalize marijuana across the country, but it would make it less of a federal priority when it comes to law enforcement.
Via The Daily Beast:
The legislation simply removes weed from the list of controlled substances—which includes acid, coke, ecstasy, PCP, and heroin.
“It is absurd that it is compared to, or treated, the same way as heroin is,” Sen. Sanders told The Daily Beast in the Capitol.
This sets Sanders apart from other the presidential candidates who give lip service to relaxing marijuana laws, but who have failed to offer concrete proposals. Republican candidates Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, and Jeb Bush are all basically in agreement with the thrust of Sanders’s bill, and so is his main rival, Hillary Clinton, though her real position is hard to peg. (Source)
The problem is that we have so many people in prison across the country for the possession or sale of marijuana. Far too often, these individuals are taking up prison space that should be reserved for violent felons, or even the bankers that led us into the last financial crisis.
Here in Louisiana, we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, often for petty crimes like marijuana sale or possession. Yet, we also have incredibly high rates of violence and murder, because law enforcement is spending its time and resources on jailing small-time offenders.
The federal government currently spends about $15 billion a year on the war on drugs, and the states spend even more than that. After all of the years of marijuana prohibition, more adults are smoking marijuana than ever before. It’s become more and more obvious that the war on drugs hasn’t simply failed, but it’s a miserable disaster that is ruining lives and wasting taxpayer money in the process.
States like Washington and Colorado have the right idea when it comes to marijuana legalization and regulation, and Colorado has raked in nearly $70 million in taxes from sales. This is in addition to the money saved by law enforcement and the court system not prosecuting people for possession.
Whether you support Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton or some other candidate, it’s time for America to end the war on drugs. Removing marijuana from the same category as heroin is an important first step, but we still have a long way to go.
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