Today, many Democratic politicians and some Republicans support marijuana legalization. Several marijuana-related bills – including those that aim to decriminalize it on the federal level – have been submitted in Congress, while many state legislatures are still debating if and how to legalize the drug.
Opponents of marijuana claim that it is a public health and safety risk, and that some people are morally opposed to it being legalized. Proponents, on the other hand, claim that it is less dangerous than alcohol and provide evidence of healing properties, such as stress and pain alleviation.
Advocates see it as a moneymaker for states and a necessary social justice effort, among other things. Marijuana laws have had a significant negative impact on minorities, contributing to mass imprisonment.
State governments that have legalized marijuana have sought to retroactively address the consequences of marijuana prohibition, particularly those that allow for the Expungement or vacation of low-level cannabis convictions.
Is marijuana legal under federal law?
No. Cannabis is a Schedule I narcotic, according to the Controlled Substances Act, which means that the government regards it as having no medical use and a strong potential for abuse. It’s against federal law to grow, distribute, or possess marijuana.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, which puts states that have legalized it in a bind: they are defying the federal government and creating tension between state sovereignty and federal authority.
The federal government, on the other hand, has taken a hands-off stance to marijuana enforcement in states where it is legal. The Obama administration instructed federal prosecutors in 2009 to consider not charging individuals who distributed marijuana based on state medical marijuana laws.
What is the Cole Memorandum, and what does it signify?
The Department of Justice released a policy paper in 2013 that has had a significant impact on federal marijuana legislation. The Cole Memorandum is its name. The Justice Department said it would not challenge state marijuana laws at the time, expecting states to have sufficient enforcement measures of their own.
In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo and instructed prosecutors to employ established prosecutorial standards and their own discretion when prosecuting or declining to prosecute marijuana offenses.
The Department of Justice has generally avoided taking action against individuals who are acting in accordance with state law, and it has not challenged state legalization bills in court. Even after Cole’s withdrawal, the majority of marijuana-related prosecutions by the Department of Justice have concerned more serious charges, such as weapons or organized crime, according to critics.
What exactly does the word “decriminalization” imply?
The reduction of charges for a specific criminal offense or the process of reclassifying a felony as a civil infraction are both examples of decriminalization.
The Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for the decriminalization of marijuana, says that 31 states and the District of Columbia have reduced minor marijuana possession penalties to a fine or a misdemeanor charge since January 2022. Some states have changed the status of possessing small amounts of marijuana to a civil rather than a criminal violation, while others merely decreased the penalties. In most states, a second offense, sales, distribution or possession of substantial quantities of marijuana may still result in imprisonment.
Some states with decriminalization laws also have medical marijuana rules. According to the Policy Project, three states have decriminalized marijuana, but not legalized it in any form.
The decriminalization of minor drug offenses is often regarded as a compromise between full-fledged legalization and tough, punitive drug policy, which has historically affected communities of color.
What is the general feeling about it?
Recreational cannabis are becoming more popular among the public. According to a Gallup poll conducted in October 2019, 66% of Americans think the drug should be legal. According to a Pew Research Center poll and the General Social Survey done by NORC at the University of Chicago, marijuana legalization is equally popular.
In recent years, support for cannabis legalization in the United States has grown considerably. Gallup polls show that just 12% of Americans backed legal marijuana in 1969, with the number rising to 31% by 2000 before increasing dramatically after 2013 (when recreational use was legalized).
In 2019, a Gallup poll found that Democrats were more likely to support marijuana legalization, however the majority of Republicans were in favor of it. Americans under the age of 30 are also more likely to back marijuana decriminalization, with 81 percent in 2019. According to the poll, 62% of Americans over the age of 50 were in support of legalization.