Rep. Raskin: Must Decriminalize Pot at Federal Level as ‘Matter of Basic Justice’ in U.S.

Peyton Holliday | November 18, 2022 | 12:55pm EST
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House Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)  (Getty Images)
House Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) (Getty Images)

(CNS News) -- At a Nov. 15 hearing on cannabis reform at the federal level, House Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said President Joe Biden’s pardon of people convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law was “a good first step,” and added that the next step is that “cannabis must be decriminalized at the federal level as a matter of basic justice in the country.”

Under current federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 illegal drug, which means it has a “high potential for abuse” and is not a “currently accepted medical treatment in the U.S.,” according to Drugs.com.  Other Schedule 1 drugs include Heroin, LSD, MDMA, and psilocybic mushrooms.

In his remarks before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Nov. 15, Raskin drew a parallel between the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s and the federal prohibition against marijuana, saying that both actions produced social chaos, crime, and violence. “The war against marijuana has ruined so many lives,” said Raskin.

He then claimed that decriminalizing pot would benefit “communities of color, veterans, [and] small business,” and would “provide access to banking services instead of cash only.” Since many of the state-level cannabis businesses are operating under certain banking laws, there usually is a cash only policy to buy marijuana.

According to Fox9.com, “Over the past decade, 19 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Guam have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Meanwhile, 37 states now allow some form of medical cannabis, and only three states have no cannabis access laws on the books.”

In addition, based on Gallup survey data, “Most Democrats (83%) and political independents (71%) support legalization, while Republicans are nearly evenly split on the question (50% in favor; 49% opposed).”

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

At the hearing, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said, “Marijuana saved my life.” She had suffered the personal trauma of being raped and stated that she “self-medicated [by using] cannabis” leading to a way to de-stress and stay calm.

Both Mace and Raskin are working together on the States Reform Act. This legislation would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level and leave state to regulate it in the way that they regulate the production and sale of alcohol.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, testified at the hearing. He said no state that had legalized cannabis had repealed such legislation.

Eric Goepel, founder and CEO of the Veterans Cannabis Coalition, claimed that marijuana can help prevent suicide. Pot “deals with pain, sleep, and stress and can improve the quality of life” for veterans, he said. “Take marijuana off the schedule – deschedule is decriminalization,” he added. “If marijuana is helping people achieve quality of life then why is the federal government keeping marijuana on the list? Marijuana is helping veterans.”

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow with the Heritage Foundation, has warned about the dangers of comparing alcohol with marijuana. In a commentary he wrote, “Unlike marijuana, alcohol is also not a gateway drug. One of the greatest harms of marijuana legalization is increased addiction to and use of harder drugs. Prosecutors, judges, police officers and others involved in the criminal justice system know that the vast majority of defendants arrested for violent crimes test positive for illegal drugs, including marijuana. And they know marijuana is the starter drug for most criminals.”

“Contrast that with the millions of Americans who consume moderate amounts of alcohol without ever ‘moving on’ to heroin, cocaine, and other dangerous drugs,” he wrote.  “Marijuana should not be legalized and those who are constantly pushing this notion seem to be lost in a haze of confusion over its effects and its dangers. All legalization will do is worsen the drug problems we already have.”

Alex Berenson is an investigative journalist and the author of “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence.” In an interview about the book, Berenson said,Marijuana drives a surprising amount of psychosis, and psychosis—besides being a terrible burden for sufferers and their families—is a shockingly high risk for violent crime.”

“Since cannabis causes paranoia—not even advocates dispute that fact—and psychosis, it is not surprising that it would drive violent crime,” he said. “And in fact there are a number of good studies showing that users have significantly higher violence rates than non-users. Further, in researching the book, I found many, many cases where the causation appeared clear. In some cases it was as simple and obvious as, this person—with no history of violence—smoked, became psychotic, and committed a homicide.”

Marijuana according to the Drug Enforcement Administration is a, “mind-altering drug produced by the Cannabis sativa plant.” Generally, the drug is smoked as a cigarette, but it can be smoked in other ways as well. Marijuana can “also [be] mixed with foods or brewed as tea."

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Marijuana, though the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, has concerning short term effects, such as “Sedation, bloodshot eyes, increased heart rate, coughing from lung irritation, increased appetite, and increased blood pressure (although prolonged use may cause a decrease in blood pressure).” These are some of the reasons that marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug.

Drugs are laid out into five schedules through the Controlled Substances Act which was enacted in 1970. A Schedule I drug is “strictly regulated by federal authorities,” according to the CRS research. Schedule V category drugs are the least dangerous while Schedule I are the most dangerous.

Since the Controlled Substances Act was enacted, marijuana has been a Schedule I drug. According to the Food and Drug Administration, marijuana and other Schedule I drugs have potential to be highly abused and there, “is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug … under medical supervision.”

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