On July 14th the U.S. Senate introduced a Marijuana bill titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. This bill removes cannabis as a controlled substance, moves regulation to the FDA and other federal agencies.
The legal ramifications of these bills represent an enormous change in public opinion towards drugs in America. Rather than incarcerate people found with or using cannabis these bills aim to decriminalize drugs. Considered together these efforts attempt to move the discussion on drugs from incarceration and prohibition to controlled use where the government can legislate labeling requirements, safe use guidelines, tax revenue and more.
Communities impacted by the war on drugs may finally get a respite. The Maine bill would make possession of controlled substances for personal use punishable by a $100 fine, without the threat of incarceration. The U.S. Senate bill would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge prior convictions, allow people to petition for resentencing, and maintain the authority of states to set their own marijuana policies.
Maine State Representative Charlotte Warren, who serves as the House chair of the legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, explains it this way, “We are continually trying to criminalize a symptom of a disease. It hasn’t worked. It won’t work, We have tried criminalizing this disease for decades, and 11 Mainers a week are dying.”
Throughout the U.S. medical and recreational Marijuana laws have been passed at the state level. If Red and Blue states can move forward with legalization the federal government can surely follow suit. The change in Marijuana laws reflect public opinion and move the discussion on drugs into the legislative forum. Caffeine, Nicotine and Alcohol are drugs that society has managed to deal with effectively. It seems the time has come to deal with other drugs, drugs that have been and are being used by a large segment of our society, on an equal basis.