At Last?

A pair of proposed bills aim to end national cannabis prohibition

click to enlarge Will the pot debate move to D.C.?
Will the pot debate move to D.C.?

The Trump Administration's Justice Department has made it clear that they are no fans of marijuana, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated that the Justice Department may go after states that have legalized either recreational or medical cannabis use.

With this threat looming, two lawmakers introduced legislation in the past two weeks to prevent a step backward in federal cannabis policy. One of those bills originated here in our state from the desk of Rep. Suzan DelBene, a Democrat who represents the north Puget Sound region.

DelBene's State Marijuana And Regulatory Tolerance (SMART) Enforcement Act would protect from federal prosecution those users and businesses in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. The bill would also aim to make it easier for banks to work with cannabis businesses in these states, most of which have to operate strictly with cash.

"As states move forward with legalization, it is foolish to keep businesses, communities and lives at risk by making them targets of criminals. I don't believe people in these states should have to live in fear of the actions of the U.S. Attorney General and Department of Justice," DelBene said in a statement she released after introducing the bill.

Another bill, this one introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), goes a step further and calls for the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, the law that makes certain drugs illegal at the federal level. Booker — who has been mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2020 — told reporters that the new law would also expunge marijuana-related offenses from criminal records, and lead to resentencing for those currently incarcerated.

"Apply the rule of law equally. Marijuana has been a tool with which we have undermined the economic well-being of millions of Americans, and it's about time it stops," Booker told reporters at a press conference in New Jersey.

Booker has said that he is introducing the bill largely because marijuana prohibition has resulted in the needless incarceration of too many Americans, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color.

"For decades, the failed War on Drugs has locked up millions of nonviolent drug offenders — especially for marijuana-related offenses — at an incredible cost of lost human potential, torn-apart families and communities, and taxpayer dollars," Booker posted on Facebook upon announcing the bill. ♦

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About The Author

Mike Bookey

Mike Bookey is the culture editor for The Inlander. He previously held the same position at The Source Weekly in Bend, Ore.