The movement to legalize the recreational use of marijuana has seen astonishing success in the U.S. over the last decade. After voters in Colorado approved a ballot initiative to legalize its recreational use in 2012, 17 other states, plus Washington, D.C. and Guam, followed suit and legalized recreational pot over the next nine years.
The head-spinning sea change that has occurred in how our culture views marijuana over a relatively short period of time is hard to fathom. Not long ago, smoking pot was largely seen as a vice—and an illegal one—that was mostly indulged by rebellious teenagers and west coast hippies. Now, United States senators and congressman passionately advocate for the full legalization of marijuana from the Senate and House floors with straight faces.
While there are a multitude of reasons why this has happened, the indisputable fact is that marijuana has been federally registered as a Schedule 1 drug (alongside heroin and LSD) since the 1970s for a simple reason: it contains high levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a powerful psychoactive chemical that is highly addictive, has high potential for abuse, and can cause an array of negative psychotropic effects including anxiety, delusions, hallucinations, panic, paranoia, and psychosis. What’s more, the concentration of THC in marijuana has increased three-fold from 1995-2014, exponentially increasing the risks of widespread addiction, abuse, and detrimental health effects.
Despite the clear dangers that marijuana poses to public health, Democrats in the House have brought forward the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2021 (H.R. 3617) for a vote this Friday. This bill would de-schedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, making it fully legal at the federal level. It also includes provisions to dramatically increase financial investments into the marijuana industry, including tax incentives for marijuana businesses and legalizing advertisements for marijuana products, making it easier for these businesses to manufacture high-potency and kid-friendly products. While many of the bill’s co-sponsors are Democrats, they aren’t its exclusive supporters. And Republicans have increasingly been supporting the legitimization of marijuana in recent years. This is problematic.
De-scheduling the drug is bad enough, but the MORE Act contains almost no public health guardrails or regulations. This will open the door for international drug cartels—who already use marijuana legalization as a cover for their illicit activities—to have increased money laundering access.
At a time when the opioid epidemic and other illicit drugs continue to ravage our communities, the last thing we need is the legalization of more recreational drugs. Contact your congressmen and urge them to vote against the MORE Act ahead of tomorrow’s vote in the House.