Legalization

Legalization
By DeVaughn Douglas

A few key things are happening at the local and national level regarding the legality of marijuana. First off is the major change for Texas starting September 1st with the expansion of medical marijuana use to include people with PTSD and cancer of all stages. This new bill goes into effect, along with several other high-profile bills, at the beginning of the month.  If the history of marijuana legalization has shown us anything it is that full legalization begins with medical use and its gradual expansion. While this bill limits the usage for medical purposes to “low amounts” it also increases the THC cap for medical marijuana to 1%. This is part of the Texas Compassionate Use Program which will help researchers with the study of the effects of marijuana use in people like veterans and cancer patients. The expansion will increase the program size from well beyond its current size of less than 6000 people.

This also comes on the heels of an appeals ruling stating that a ban on smokeable hemp where the panel decided that regulators in Texas can enforce a ban on the processing and manufacturing of the product inside the state but they can not stop the product from being sold here.

On the national level, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer along with Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden recently put forth the discussion draft titled Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. The bill speaks on the failure of the war on drugs and the steps that need to be taken towards legalization.  According to the draft, as of July 2021 18 states have legalized adult-use cannabis and 91% of American adults believe that cannabis should be legal for recreational or medical use.

The draft focuses on the following:

Decriminalization by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and states’ rights;

  • Research, training, and public safety;
  • Restorative justice and equity;
  • Taxation and regulation; and
  • Public health and industry practices.

Now in response to the draft SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) issued a letter attempting to persuade senators towards decriminalization instead of legalization. Even if there is legalization, they would like to see regulation including a capping marijuana potency to 10%-15%, a ban or severe limitation on advertising the drug, banning any form of child-friendly products such as flavored vapes, and excluding the tobacco and alcohol industry influence from the market.

While it is important to protect children marijuana shouldn’t be demonized as it has been for so many years. The letter from SAMM highlights statistics of increased usage amongst minors.  This shouldn’t dissuade legislators from moving forward with legalization, but rather, increase the amount of scrutiny on companies that target children. The most important item in the letter is the focus on the tobacco and alcohol industry. These companies have already began heavily investing in the cannabis industry and should be watched and even possibly limited. These letters going back and forth are just the beginning and there are no doubts that when Marijuana is legalized at the federal level the tobacco and alcohol industry will be major players.  What remains in question is whether there will be true justice for those that have unfairly suffered because of past laws and regulations.  Those interested in making this happen need to pay attention to their representatives and make sure that restoration and rehabilitation is apart of their plans when supporting legalization.

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