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The Launch of Federal Cannabis Law Reform

Posted by Laura Harrison on

The Launch of Federal Cannabis Law Reform

The Launch of Federal Cannabis Law Reform

The United States federal government made ground-breaking progress with the very first federal hearing on marijuana law reform. The July 10th Committee on the Judiciary: Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security hearing, entitled “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform,” brought a massive, bipartisan spotlight to the fact that the tides are changing, and many advocates agree that the change is long overdue.

July 10 2019: Justin Strekal, political director of the marijuana advocacy group NORML, applauded the subcommittee for holding the hearing. “Today was a historic day in the fight to end federal marijuana criminalization,” he said in a statement. “Members of both political parties demonstrated a desire to reform our nations failed policy of prohibition and the only disagreement was how, not if.”” -(https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/10/us-lawmakers-look-to-legalize-pot-in-historic-marijuana-reform-hea ring.html)

Just a quick glance at media outlet headlines, across the country, shows years of “reefer madness,” propaganda-fueled slang terms “pot” and “marijuana.” I was impressed at Forbes magazine’s article title and headline “As Congress Hears Cannabis Testimony, Advocates Form Powerful Coalition For Racial Justice.” The racial and social disparities caused by cannabis prohibition have finally come to light on federal record as well as the fact that prohibition has failed. Cannabis prohibition has directly impacted poor and minority communities. One witness reminded the committee that those racial (and social) disparities need to be addressed in the current and future cannabis industries as well.


During witness testimony, the subcommittee heard testimony from a state’s attorney, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, and cannabis industry executives. The overwhelming witness consensus was indeed a need for change; prohibition of cannabis has failed. However, the unfortunate side of federal policy reform is how policy reform is going to happen. Lawmakers and witnessed seemed to really clash over the how-to of reform. The following is a partial list of suggestions pulled from witness testimony on how to end cannabis prohibition and encourage immediate policy reform:

1. Federal decriminalization

2. Federal regulation analogous to alcohol regulation

3. Eliminating federal restrictions on housing and student loans (equalizing federal economic incentives)

4. Funding and facilitating federal cannabis research through (cannabis) tax revenues

5. Federal de-scheduling of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act; citing it does not meet any of the three criteria for a schedule I substance.

6. Immediate passage of the STATES Act (https://www.warren.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/STATES%20Act%20One%20Pager.pdf)


This is not by all means all of the information and argument contained within the hearing. Check back for updates on how this historical committee hearing launches federal cannabis law reform and the end of cannabis prohibition; as well as how it will directly impact us here at home in both Missouri and Kansas

Video and supporting documents for this hearing can be viewed here:

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