Sanders releases a bill that could effectively end marijuana prohibition

Bernie Sanders introduced a bill on Nov. 4 that could potentially end the federal prohibition of marijuana in the United States. Titled the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2105,” the bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act by adding a subsection to allow for the shipping and transportation of cannabis across state lines without breaking federal laws. This subsection would also remove all penalties for the use, possession, distribution and sale of cannabis. The bill even goes so far as to completely remove any mention of “cannabis” or “marijuana” from the Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Like heroin, marijuana is currently listed as a schedule I drug, meaning the federal government has declared there is a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Removing marijuana from the list of schedule I substances would also allow for an increase in scientific research on weed, as it is currently a class 1 federal felony to conduct any otherwise legitimate scientific research of any kind on schedule I substance. The bill would also remove marijuana from the DEA’s list of the “most dangerous drugs,” reducing federal government expenditures on the prevention of growing and distributing marijuana.

“In my view, states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern sales of alcohol and tobacco,” Sanders said in a speech at George Washington University.

Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce a combined savings and tax revenue of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year, according to a June 2005 report by Dr. Jeffrey Miron, a visiting professor of economics at Harvard University.

The bill would also open up the marijuana industry, allowing dispensaries and grow operations to use the federal banking system, removing the threat of federal government intervention and DEA raids, and enabling interstate commerce.

A Gallup poll released last month found that 58 percent of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization. Sanders’ bill would not legalize marijuana, but allow states to decide on an individual basis if they are interested in pursuing marijuana legalization, at both the medical and recreational level. With 10 states already considering marijuana legalization bills for the 2016 election, Sanders’ bill would allow for federal control that is an accurate representation of what a majority of Americans already believe.

DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young said in 1988, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man, by any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care. … The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.”

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