Can Federal Legalization of Cannabis Happen?
Federal Decriminalization Plan on the Horizon
Recently, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced his intention to introduce a legislative plan that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, [Sophie Tatum, 4/20/2018, CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/19/politics/schumer-marijuana/index.html]. Also, former House Majority Leader John Boehner recently announced that his next big move after leaving public office in 2015 was to join the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a company that dispenses cannabis in 11 states, [Jennifer Kaplan, 4/11/2018, Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-11/ex-speaker-john-boehner-joins-marijuana-firm-s-advisory-board].
Can Cannabis be Decriminalized?
Currently, the Federal level prohibits the use of cannabis via the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 – enacted 48 years ago. Almost as soon as the federal legislation passed, states started to push back against it. No less than three years later, Oregon decriminalized possession of cannabis. In 1996, California became the first state to legally allow medical use of cannabis—and many other states followed suit; directly in opposition to the Controlled Substances Act. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize adult consumption of cannabis – and no less than nine states and the District of Columbia now allow the same.
The trend is clear – states want to control access to cannabis at the state level, and some federal legislators are inclined to agree.
Sen. Schumer recently remarked [Source: Susan Davis, 4/20/2018, NPR, https://www.npr.org/2018/04/20/604136116/on-4-20-chuck-schumer-to-introduce-bill-to-decriminalize-marijuana ], “’If smoking [cannabis] doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?’”
In addition to Sen. Schumer’s legislation, Sen Cory Gardner from Colorado is working on a bi-partisan bill and is quoted by NPR as saying, “that would make it clear that states have the right to determine their own [cannabis] laws without federal interference.”
While no clear path forward has been set for the decriminalization of cannabis at the federal level, the current comments from members of Congress indicate that decriminalization is not out of the question—possibly paving the way for states to decide what’s best for their citizens in regards to cannabis.