New Bill Would Deschedule Marijuana

By Tom Angell | March 01, 2017

Marijuana would be completely removed from federal scheduling under new legislation filed in Congress this week.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, if passed, would delete all references to cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act and leave marijuana policy and enforcement largely up to states.

It would remain federally prohibited to transport marijuana into a state, territory or district for purposes that are illegal under that jurisdiction’s laws.

The legislation also removes collateral sanctions and penalties associated with marijuana convictions, including property forfeiture and denial of public benefits, and strikes cannabis from the federal paraphernalia statute.

While the text isn’t yet on Congress’s website, MassRoots was able to obtain a draft from staff for Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA), the bill’s chief sponsor.

The bill is identical to legislation that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) filed late in 2015, during the 114th Congress. The senator hasn’t yet indicated whether he intends to reintroduce the bill in his chamber this year. The prior version never got a hearing or a vote, and no other senators signed on as cosponsors.

“I have long believed justice that isn’t blind, isn’t justice,” Garrett said in a press release. “Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California.”

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who supported Sanders during the Democratic presidential primary last year, is an initial cosponsor, as is Congressman Scott Taylor (R-VA).

Garrett said his new bill “allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth, something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia.”

A freshman member who replaced a retiring prohibitionist, Garrett discussed marijuana policy during his election campaign.

During one debate he called cannabis “a wonderful example of an area in which I think we can work across the aisle and we can see a reemergence of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments” and pledged that on “day one” he would begin fighting for the end of federal prohibition.

“While I’m not advocating for legalization, I’m advocating for the return to the state’s role as it relates to determining the appropriate marijuana policy,” he said.

In the new press release, Garrett also revealed that he plans to soon introduce industrial hemp legislation, which he called “long overdue.”

A national poll released last week found that 71 percent of U.S. voters — including majorities in every demographic — oppose federal interference in state marijuana laws

Tom Angell

Tom Angell is a senior political correspondent for MassRoots. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority and is editor of the daily Marijuana Moment newsletter.

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