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Legalization of Marijuana- States Rights vs. Federal Control

Now, there may be some that disagree, but I happen to believe newly-appointed attorney Jeff Sessions is a decent and highly-qualified guy. However, there has been one issue so far where Session’s implied position would increase centralized control at the expense of state’s rights. Maybe he still resents the cavalier lifestyle portrayed by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in 1969’s ‘Easy Rider’ and suffers from ‘Hippie-Phobia’. Maybe a crunked-up Cheech Marin used to step on his glasses and kick his book-bag down the stairs in high school. Whatever the reason, more federal control of ANYTHING is not what us Trump libertarians voted for.

Now granted, as far as natural substances go, marijuana is about as controversial as it gets. I should also mention that I have no personal experience with the substance. As such, it is entirely possible that if Snoop-Dogg stopped by and we blazed-up together right before I attempted to mow my lawn, I might end up mowing 2 miles of inter-state highway before getting hit by a truck.

But here is what I think I do know:

1) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and Ben Franklin used marijuana, and it didn’t seem to impede them from pretty high levels of professional success and contributions to society.
2) In comparison to alcohol, marijuana is reported to be less toxic, less addictive, less likely to lead to serious health problems,less likely to be associated with injuries caused by impairment of senses, and less likely to be involved when the cops visit the trailer park in response to a typical domestic violence incident.
3) In comparison to perfectly legal cigarettes, historically endorsed by fake cowboys, gumshoe detectives and 1940’s Hollywood starlets, Marijuana does not contain a multitude of harmful chemicals that have been linked to serious/terminal health problems.
4) In comparison to many bullcrap pharmaceutical synthetic inventions, the THC and CBD in marijuana has proven therapeutic benefits which can alleviate problems related to muscle spasms, nausea, nerve pain, seizure disorders and Crohn’s disease.

1970 Controlled Substances Act

In 1970, Congress passed the ‘Controlled Substances Act’ in an attempt to classify substances in terms of “high potential for abuse” and “accepted medical use”. For some unbeknownst ridiculous reason, Marijuana was classified into the most egregious category of ‘Schedule I’, which also includes Heroin, LSD, MDMA (Ecstasy) and methaqualone (Quaaludes):

Schedule I

The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use 
in treatment in the United States.
There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other 
substance under medical supervision.

In a very obvious contradiction, there is a an FDA-approved synthetic pseudo-Marijuana (cannabinoid) drug available called ‘Marinol’, that was classified as a Schedule III drug back in 1999. A Schedule III drug differs from a Schedule I drug in the seemingly arbitrary hierarchy of the CSA in that “The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use”.

So let me get this straight, we are allowed to be lab rats for whatever synthetic concoction that the pharmaceutical business wants to sell us, but somehow the personal choice to use a natural substance like marijuana should be subject to federal control? How is that synthetic ‘Marinol’ is intended for medical use, yet the original pure substance is not?

Why Federal Law Needs To Be Changed

In blatant defiance of the specious and illogical classification of marijuana under federal law, there are now 28 states and Washington DC where medical marijuana is legal. Furthermore, in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine,Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, marijuana is now legal for recreational use.

The problem is that article VI of the Constitution contains the ‘supremacy clause’. This prescribes that where state law and federal law conflict, federal law prevails. In the case of the Controlled Substances Act classification of marijuana, if the feds decide to pursue the matter against the states, they will win, and it doesn’t matter how stupid the law is.

This means Congress needs to re-classify or remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act altogether. (This can also be done through the executive branch, but it is a far more convoluted process, and if it didn’t happen under the Obama administration, it ain’t happening under Trump/Jeff Sessions).

So why hasn’t Congress re-classified marijuana?

Good question, it’s not for lack of trying. Note that the 1st attempt to re-classify the substance happened way back in 1972 when the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was petitioned.

Sixteen years later in 1988, after a labyrinth of appeals and procedural obstacles, DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young concluded:

With respect to whether or not there is "a lack of accepted safety 
for use of [marijuana] under medical supervision", the record shows the 
following facts to be uncontroverted.

Findings of Fact
-The most obvious concern when dealing with drug safety is the possibility 
of lethal effects. Can the drug cause death?

-Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana 
is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature 
describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.

-This is a remarkable statement. First, the record on marijuana encompasses 
5,000 years of human experience. 
Second, marijuana is now used daily by enormous numbers of people throughout 
the world. Estimates suggest that from twenty million to fifty million Americans 
routinely, albeit illegally, smoke marijuana without the benefit of direct 
medical supervision. Yet, despite this long history of use and the extraordinarily 
high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible medical reports to 
suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a single death.

-By contrast aspirin, a commonly used, over-the-counter medicine, 
causes hundreds of deaths each year.

Ok, sounds pretty conclusive, What happened after that?

“Then-DEA Administrator John Lawn overruled Young’s determination. Lawn said he decided against re-scheduling cannabis based on testimony and comments from numerous medical doctors who had conducted detailed research and were widely considered experts in their respective fields.”

Huh? “numerous medical doctors”? Who were these “doctors”? Sounds more like stooges for the “Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America” (i.e. the #2 medical lobby in the U.S.) who purportedly knew better than “the record on marijuana encompassing 5,000 years of human experience”? Surely these “doctors” must have a PHd in racketeering on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry.

Petitions were filed with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 1995, 2002, 2009 and 2011, with similar results.

In 2011, 2012 and 2015, Congress finally initiated action. By 2011 Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul introduced H.R. 2306, a law that would remove marijuana completely from the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, but preserving the federal governments role in regulating interstate commerce to protect states where cannabis remained illegal.

More recently, on February 20, 2015, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, a law that would remove marijuana completely from the 1970 Controlled Substances Act and also granting the FDA the ability to regulate the drug in the same way it does for alcohol.

To date, all actions by Congress have expired in committee, but all is not lost, on February 27, 2017 Tom Garrett introduced H.R.1227 – “The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017”. This bill would remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list and allow the states to dictate their own policy. Tom Garrett is joined by U.S. Reps Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Scott Taylor (R-Va.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) as co-sponsors.

Do you advocate states rights on the marijuana issue? If so, now is the opportune time to nag your congressperson about H.R.1227. Let’s take the issue out of the control of the federal government, and allow attorney general Jeff Sessions to focus on more important concerns, like defending the new administration’s executive orders and doing the best he can to not resemble a spineless partisan puppet like his predecessors Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.

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