WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH FEDERAL MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION?
ISN’T IT ABOUT TIME THC BECAME LEGAL ACROSS ALL 50 STATES?
Everywhere you look there is a talking (canna)head prognosticating on the timing of federal legalization.
More than few are predicting it’ll arrive via executive action, as a bid to draw votes away from the Democratic nominee in the run up to 2020. Hill folks are pointing to the dozens of cannabis bills winding through Congress. Consensus there is that legalization will evolve piecemeal, beginning with banking and moving to small business, veteran’s and maybe federal housing plus clipping DOJ’s power to federally prosecute state-legal activities. Incrementality seems like a safe bet given that on Congress’ very first day back from August recess, the American Bankers Association announced its expectation we could see passage as early as this month of legislation allowing banks to service state-legal marijuana businesses .
Another possibility? That before meaningful executive or Congressional action, the ridiculous proposition on which the federal treatment of marijuana rests — that the plant has no accepted medical use — unceremoniously tumbles in federal court. A federal appeals court hinted as much in May when considering a challenge to marijuana’s scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act: fully operational medical and/or adult-use markets in a majority of states cannot constitutionally coexist with federal criminalization. It is not rational.
Previous challenges to marijuana’s CSA classification have failed mostly because the courts give agencies great deference, but in Washington et al v Barr, the court retained jurisdiction over concern that the DEA might not act quickly enough to provide the plaintiffs with relief. (YA THINK? Evidence showed that the average timeframe for reviewing petitions to reclassify drugs under the CSA is approximately NINE YEARS.) The opinion goes to great lengths explaining why the court does not wish to rule on the merits, but the implication is clear: if DEA continues to evade an honest evaluation cannabis efficacy, the court will step in.
The ruling caught somebody’s attention because just five weeks later, the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on marijuana, EVER. Especially notable is that the witnesses list was not a balanced mix of for and against viewpoints. Nope, all four people who testified came with ideas about how to end federal prohibition of marijuana. That could reflect strong agreement in the House for the change as much as it does the recognition that Congress needs to prepare, if not get out in front of, court action that might upend marijuana scheduling.
In yet another sign of a federal shift, this week DEA announced plans for expanding the number of researchers qualified to grow marijuana for scientific and medical research. Granted, this too follows a June federal court decision ordering DEA to process the backlog of already-filed applications to grow research cannabis, and DEA has not set any time frame for the process. Still, it is an unmistakable sign that federal hypocrisy underpinning prohibition — maintaining cannabis has no medicinal value while simultaneously prohibiting research that could prove otherwise — is on its way to being dismantled.
#decriminalizeit #desccheduleit #itsnotrational #cannabisismedicine