A friend of mine recently asked me how I would go about convincing my local representative to support a cannabis bill. Well, that’s a question I think a lot of people would like to know the magical answer to…! While people likely have their own thoughts on the matter, here is what I would do.
Step one would be a small, but considerate donation to their office. Even though I am just an average citizen vying for the attention of my elected official, they might appreciate that the donation I gave them amounts to two hours of my time at work. Step two would be to schedule an appointment with someone, anyone in my representative’s office. It is doubtful I will be able to speak directly to the representative, but taking the time to chat with a member of their staff still speaks volumes. Step three, I’d bring backup. Part of the reason I only donated a small amount is because I’m going to be spending a fair amount of money on printer paper and ink. While it might be easier to hand a one page document of links to my representative’s staff member, handing them a stack of studies and articles about the research that has already been done on cannabis will give them something more tangible than a one pager.
“That’s all well and good,” my friend said, “but what’s in the stack?” I would start with the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs commission of 1894-1895. The British government commissioned a study to learn about the different forms of consumption, consumption methods, and physiological responses of the Indian people to hemp. Marijuana was not a known word so the report clarified the Commission was looking to determine the, “extent to which the wild plant (hemp) can be used for the preparation of drugs.” Among the reports conclusions:
– “It has been clearly established that the occasional use of hemp in moderate doses may be beneficial; but this use may be regarded as medicinal in character.“
– “In regard to the physical effects, the Commission have come to the conclusion that the moderate use of hemp drugs is practically attended by no evil results at all.”
– “In respect to the alleged mental effects of the drugs, the Commission have come to the conclusion that the moderate use of hemp drugs produces no injurious effects on the mind.”
– “In regard to the moral effects of the drugs, the Commission are of the opinion that their moderate use produces no moral injury whatever. There is no adequate ground for believing that it injuriously affects the character of the consumer.”
Next in the stack would be The LaGuardia Report of 1944. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York was no fan of Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which would later become the DEA. Anslinger promoted stories of marijuana crazed Mexicans raping white women. LaGuardia had heard tales of American soldiers in Panama indulging in cannabis with no ill effects. This ran contrary to Anslinger’s position that cannabis was leading to the downfall of America. So LaGuardia commissioned the New York Academy of Medicine to produce a report on cannabis. Among the reports findings:
– “The consensus among marihuana smokers is that the use of the drug creates a definite feeling of adequacy.”
– “The practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.”
– “The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marihuana smoking.”
Third in the stack would be the The Shafer Commission Report. Former President Richard Nixon wanted to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that marijuana was creating hippies by the legion. “By god, we are going to hit the marijuana thing, and I want to hit it right square in the puss,” he was recorded on tape saying. The report that was presented did not back up the direction Nixon wanted it to go. The section entitled, ‘A Final Comment’ sums it up nicely:
– “Considering the range of social concerns in contemporary America, marihuana does not, in our considered judgment, rank very high. We would deemphasize marihuana as a problem.”
If my representative is looking for something more contemporary, I would remind them that Epidiolex received FDA approval in June of 2018, the NBA didn’t test for cannabis during the 2020-2022 seasons, the NFL is spending $1 million to study cannabinoids and pain management, and the DEA is finally letting someone(s) other than the University of Mississippi conduct research on cannabis. Additionally, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act was just filed. The document covers topics from decriminalization, impaired driving prevention, restorative justice, taxation, public health, workplace health, housing, and banking.
The findings of the bill are pretty striking:
– 49 States have reformed their laws pertaining to cannabis despite the Schedule I status of marijuana and its Federal criminalization.
– Legal cannabis sales totaled $25,000,000,000 in 2021 and are projected to reach $45,000,000,000 by 2025.
– People of color and Native Americans have been historically targeted by discriminatory sentencing practices resulting in black men receiving drug sentences that are 13.1 percent longer than sentences imposed for white men and Latinos being nearly 6.5 times more likely to receive a Federal sentence for cannabis possession than non-Hispanic whites.
– Fewer than one-fifth of cannabis business owners identify as minorities and only approximately 2 percent are black.
If passed, agency control of cannabis would switch from the DEA to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the Treasury. Transportation of cannabis from a legal state into a non-legal state would be prohibited, but a non-legal state could not prohibit passage through its borders if the destination is a legal state. It would be illegal to, “knowingly grow, manufacture, ship, transport, receive, possess, sell, or distribute or purchase 10 pounds or more of cannabis without authorization under a State law.” The CAOA would remove, “marihuana and tetrahydrocannabinols in cannabis…from the schedules of controlled substances.” Removing the Schedule 1 status from cannabis would allow unfettered research and finally put to rest the anti-cannabis talking point that more research is needed.
If the CAOA becomes law, “the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, United States Marshals Service, or United States Parole Commission, as applicable, shall release from its control, and the sentencing court shall enter an order vacating the conviction and sentence for, any individual convicted or sentenced before the date of enactment of this Act for any Federal offense involving marijuana.” However, if you are a law enforcement officer or a Federal employee, “the Secretary of Health and Human Services or the head of an agency may deem cannabis to be a schedule I controlled substance” for purposes of drug testing. That’s roughly the first 38 of 296 pages.
While likely to pass the Democratically controlled House, getting past the Senate is more of an uphill battle. The MORE Act, a bill similar to the CAOA, was rejected by the Senate seven times in a row. But it is important to note that this current bill was introduced by the Speaker of the House and the chairman of the Finance Committee. These are as high ranking officials as will ever introduce a cannabis bill. Hopefully that is enough to convince my local representative to support a cannabis bill.