It is time to end the federal prohibition on marijuana. This move will yield medical, social justice and economic benefits for the entire country. The scientific and medical evidence supports such a policy change and the states are already moving in this direction. Only four states have not approved marijuana in some way, and recent polling data indicates that 64 percent of the American people (including a majority of Democrats, independents, and Republicans) support federal legalization.
Cannabis offers medical benefits for a number of severe conditions while posing fewer risks than many commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals. One of these conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder, affects over 8 million adults every year. This potentially debilitating condition is especially prevalent among our veterans, about 20 percent of whom are diagnosed with PTSD, even though 50 percent of them never seek treatment. We must make this valuable treatment available.
The potency of cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain makes it an effective treatment for another medical crisis facing the nation, opioid addiction. Opioid overdose claimed the lives of 19,000 Americans in 2014. Cannabis offers an option to prescribed opioids to help us escape this crisis. A report in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that states with medical marijuana experienced 25 percent fewer opioid overdose fatalities than states without.
Ending the federal prohibition on marijuana will address some of the social justice inequalities in the US. In 2013, the ACLU reported that over eight million Americans were arrested for marijuana infractions between 2001 and 2010. In 2016, the US enforced the prohibition by arresting over 650,000 individuals, that works out to one person every 45 seconds. That is absurd. We are suffering a coordinated attack on people of color under the guise of the war on drugs. Black Americans are four times more likely to be arrested on a marijuana charge than white Americans, even though the rate of use among racial groups is nearly identical. We must end this inequality.
Our federal policy towards the cannabis industry is hypocritical. Taxing the income of marijuana businesses operating in accordance with state law while prohibiting access to FDIC insured banks is hypocrisy. Law-abiding citizens, operating small businesses are facing an undue tax burden because of the prohibition on marijuana. The schedule I status of marijuana means that under IRS Code 280E, legitimate business owners are prohibited from standard deductions. We should be helping, rather than penalizing small businesses.
The marijuana industry is poised to add employment and tax revenue to the national economy. In 2017, New Frontier Data reported that with current legalization states, the industry will generate $13 billion in revenue for the medical industry and $11 billion for the recreational industry by 2020. Over 165,000 Americans already work in the industry and hundreds of thousands of more jobs are projected in agriculture, manufacturing, retail, and other sectors as a result of the cannabis industry.
As we work to the end the prohibition of marijuana, we must also pursue crucial reforms to federal policy. We can start by removing the gag order preventing doctors at the VA from discussing medical marijuana. Let’s follow that with research into the full range of benefits cannabis offers. To fuel our economic growth, we need to repeal banking restrictions and eliminate Section 280E. And, let’s protect state-compliant businesses from federal interference by making the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer clause permanent.
The solution to this issue is the immediate de-scheduling of marijuana with a comprehensive plan to review the convictions of every American jailed under the prohibition. The most comprehensive and far-reaching bill yet introduced into the legislature is the Marijuana Justice Act introduced by Senator Cory Booker in August 2017. This would remove marijuana from the federal list of scheduled drugs, create a process to review and expunge federal convictions for marijuana charges and withhold funds from states that disproportionately arrest minorities.
Federal marijuana policy is currently harming Americans’ health, supporting systemic racism, and undermining our nation’s economic growth. I am completely in support of the Marijuana Justice Act and as your Congressional Representative, I will work for comprehensive reform of federal cannabis policy.