States’ Rights Regarding Marijuana

April 20, 2017

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis proclaimed, “It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

Now, after being legalized in 28 states, the federal government has passed a bill to legalizing marijuana on the national level – or rather allowing each state to choose their policy towards the drug officially. Arguably, this is precisely what most states had been doing before this bill was proposed – yet, by federal decree, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, which means that it has a “high potential for abuse.” States which have legalized marijuana within their territory are, on the federal plane, committing an offense. If this is so, why is this issue so marginalized? Some might argue that this is a matter of prioritizing government affairs. After all, resources can be limited and there seems to be an abundance of other pressing issues which can range from terrorists, gang wars, human-trafficking, and white-collar criminals.

Thus, the debate on the legalization of marijuana became a state matter more by an act of trivialization than by any explicit government decision. However, on March 30th, the “Path to Marijuana Reform” was announced. It is a bipartisan package pertaining to, but not limited to, the removal of marijuana from the category of Schedule 1 drugs and its decriminalization and the negation of limitations on research and medical use. The “Path to Marijuana Reform” also contains three subsections, which are as follows:

The Small Business Tax Equity Act — would facilitate an exception to Internal Revenue Code section 280E. Currently, this code prevents individuals from claiming deductions or credits for the sale of Schedule I or Schedule II substances.

Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act — removes federal penalties and civil asset forfeiture – the seizure of certain assets of those individual suspected of illegal activities. It provides citizens with access to banking, bankruptcy protection, research and advertising, expunges the criminal records in regard to certain marijuana-related offenses and prohibits the insistence on a marijuana drug test for residents of marijuana-legal states for positions in the federal civil service. It also allows for more medical research in regard to this drug.

Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act (Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act) — serves to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, impose an excise tax regime on marijuana products and allow for marijuana businesses to exist legally in the states which chose to employ them.

Furthermore, certain government officials plan to relegate marijuana into a frame similar to that which regulates the use of alcohol.

This new status implies just how integrated the presence, if not the use, of marijuana has become in American society. Perhaps this is why the passing of these regulations has gone so unnoticed by most of the populace.

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