Yesterday, Senator Cory Booker unveiled his proposed bill to completely end federal pot prohibition. Such a policy has support of, according to Gallop, roughly 60% of Americans and growing. It also has about as much chance at passing this session as Gary Johnson had of winning the electoral college.
It’s said that politics is a lagging indicator of culture, and this is generally true outside of periods of revolution. It follows that such a maxim is especially true given that the pace of cultural and technological change seems to have been in a state of acceleration for some time now, in what Alan Moore describes as an already fluid culture becoming a “culture of steam”.
When Gallop first asked America in 1969 about legalization, only 12% of the country responded rationally, but that number doubled in roughly a decade. During the “Just Say No” campaign launched by a bunch of Negative Nancies, use wasn’t much affected, but public support for the policy surrounding such use flatlined until the mid-nineties. Of course, then California legalized it for medicinal purposes in 1996, and voters saw the effects were nothing like “Refer Madness.” By the end of the millennium, it was over 30%, and support has only grown since. This really picked up steam once individual states used federalism to effectively nullify federal law. Since Washington and Colorado legalized in 2012, support became a majority, especially once voters saw the effect of full legalization in these states.
In all this time, what changes have been made to federal law revolving around it? Well, we’ve seen various levels of enforcement by federal agencies, I guess… even if most pot enforcement is performed by states and localities. Every once in a while we get a farm bill that includes a provision for researching or even limited cultivation in some states of industrial hemp. When it comes to marching in the right direction, baby steps are often the only steps government is capable of (exceptions like the moon landing’s giant leap aside, of course).
Marijuana is still listed as a schedule one drug, right up there with heroin, peyote, and LSD in a category reserved for harmful, addictive substances with no medicinal value. Cocaine, under federal scheduling, is considered a less harmful drug coming in at schedule two. Booker’s “Marijuana Justice Act” aims to change it all in one fell swoop.
Certainly, some changes might have a chance at passage in the near term, given that support for such liberalization and even outright legalization has been in the majority for years and has given no indication of retreat. Bills that, say… divorced hemp from the umbrella category of cannabis on the drug schedule or rescheduling cannabis down to at least schedule two. Actually respect the sovereign nation status of reservations and the rights of tribes to craft their own laws. Funding (and allowing or giving approval to) more meaningful research into potential medicinal uses. Legislating preference to state laws over federal where such laws conflict, even if it’s limited to medicinal marijuana statutes. Allowing the banking industry exemptions to financial regulations aimed at the drug trade in such states. Arguably, any of these could realistically gain traction, even in this Congress.
I wish Booker’s bill well, I really do. I’d be elated if I’m wrong about it’s chances. He seems like a believer in his own cause, but I don’t think he’s under any delusion about it’s passage either. This isn’t the kind of bill that’s offered in hopes of actually becoming law rather than making headlines.
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