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Earl B.
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  • Legalizing Marijuana

    by Representative Earl Blumenauer

    Posted on 2014-01-14

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    BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, no sooner had the United States recognized the failure of alcohol prohibition by repealing the 18th Amendment than the United States embarked upon another failed experiment in prohibition: marijuana. For three-quarters of a century, the United States has waged a futile attempt to prohibit marijuana based upon emotion and flawed science.



    Since 1971, the Federal Government has classified marijuana as a schedule 1 prohibited substance, like heroin, more dangerous, according to the law, than cocaine or meth. It declared in statute, contrary to proven research, that marijuana has no therapeutic value.

    Every day a million authorized users of medical marijuana reject that notion by using it by doctor's prescription to relieve symptoms like intense nausea due to chemotherapy, relief for veterans with PTSD, from chronic back pain, and neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis.

    New York has now joined 21 other States and the District of Columbia authorizing medical marijuana. Colorado is now allowing adult use; and Washington State is soon to follow, after strong approval by both States' voters.

    The revolution in medical marijuana policy has been led at the State level, usually as a result of popular vote. The facts are that marijuana does have therapeutic use.

    It is also less destructive to human health than alcohol or tobacco. Not one death has ever been proven from a marijuana overdose; yet we continue to disrupt the lives of more than two-thirds of a million people arrested for possession each year.

    We send billions of dollars to the hands of underworld and drug cartels. Many people know that it is easier for a 13-year-old girl to buy a joint than a six pack of beer.

    No marijuana seller, except in Colorado, checks ID or has a license to lose. Even though White kids use marijuana more than teenagers of color, African Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested and jailed.

    Our Federal laws are frozen in time, but the American public has moved on. Majorities now say it should be legal, and even more say the Federal Government should not interfere with whatever State laws are in place.

    It will be a while before Congress summons the courage to end the hypocrisy and irrationality of the futile Federal prohibition, but it should stop making things worse. For instance, it is insane to force hundreds of legal marijuana businesses to be all cash. We should end the grotesque punitive federal taxation for these legal small businesses.

    It should explicitly allow State-approved medical marijuana. While we are at it, we should allow the cultivation of industrial hemp, which a dozen States have already approved. Hemp products are perfectly legal in the United States. Why shouldn't our farmers be able to grow the raw material like they used to? Several dozen Members have cosponsored bipartisan legislation to help bring us out of these dark ages. These should be approved without delay. Sometime in this decade we will tax and regulate marijuana. Until we end the unfair discriminatory and costly Federal prohibition, we should at least end the most foolish and counterproductive policies.

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