(Washington DC)-- Two recent votes on Capitol Hill suggest an overdue and radical departure from our nation's Draconian and costly War on Drugs. It's a long-overdue discussion (and not just because the War on Drugs is an epic failure.)
First, a bipartisan House majority passed an appropriations amendment to curb Federal interference in states with medical marijuana laws. Like New Jersey. The vote passed decisively, 219-189, with a record 49 Republicans voting for the amendment (including 3 GOP'ers from New Jersey.)
If included in the appropriations bill passed by the Senate and signed by the President, it would prohibit the Justice Department, which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from spending taxpayers’ money on (medical marijuana) dispensary raids or other attempts to stop medical use of marijuana in the 22 states that allow it.
Per the DEA's website (that your tax dollars pay for), "Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence."
Alarmingly, the Feds consider marijuana a “Schedule I” substance with no accepted medical uses (which I dare them to tell someone on chemo.)
To review: 1) the DEA ignores copious evidence of marijuana's benefits for really sick people and 2) the DEA regards medical cannabis as more dangerous and addictive than crystal meth and crack cocaine (both of which rate less dangerous and addictive than pot by your government.)
A majority of Americans no longer accept that. A growing bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives agrees, as this vote reveals.
New Jersey’s delegation overwhelmingly favored the amendment:
8 YES VOTES: Scott Garrett (GOP), Rush Holt (Dem), Frank LoBiondo (GOP), Frank Pallone (D), Bill Pascrell (D), Donald Payne, Jr. (D), Jon Runyan (GOP), Albio Sires (D)
3 NO VOTES: Rodney Frelinghuysen, Leonard Lance, Chris Smith (all GOP)
The vote would've been 9-3, save recently retired Congressman Rob Andrews' empty seat, subsequently to be filled by Donald Norcross, also a likely YES vote on matters of marijuana reform.
Check out the diversity of "YES" votes from the Garden State: there's right-winger Garrett plus LoBiondo and Runyan from the GOP's less-dogmatic wing. Add in all the Democrats, and you've got yourself a state Congressional delegation that favors giving medical marijuana patients safe access to their medication, unfettered by the heavy hand of he DEA.
Meet Hemp, Marijuana's "Sober Cousin."
Just a few days after the House's resounding decision to protect medical marijuana patients, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted decisively to halt DEA's efforts to crack down on hemp cultivation in states wishing to grow the crop. So instead of protecting patients, this bill would protect Hemp Farmers and consumers.
Quick tutorial from HuffPost:
Sometimes called marijuana's "sober cousin," hemp has a long history in America ... used in a wide range of household products, including paper, cosmetics and textiles. In the 1700s, American colonial farmers were required by law to grow the plant.. used for 100s of years in the U.S. to make rope and lamp oil. American hemp production peaked in 1943. Production dropped to zero in the late-1950s as a result of rising anti-drug sentiment and competition from synthetic fibers.
It's worth pointing out that, while botanically related to the cannabis plant, it's a chemical impossibility to get a "high" from hemp. Like literally impossible.
Neither Bob Mendendez nor Cory Booker was on the panel that passed the hemp bill. That particular senate committee -- Appropriations -- is mostly comprised of Senators from red or purplish-red states (including Mitch McConnell, the Senate's minority leader from Kentucky.) So when you look at the final tally (the bill passed 22-8) don't forget that vote was mostly conservatives and conservative Democrats.
Marijuana reform is no longer solely the domain of liberals and old-school libertarians. Nowadays the issue is very much mainstream. Reformers and our allies in Congress are gathering momentum and the DEA is rightfully running scared. The bipartisan hemp bill's just the latest example.
But there's a rub with hemp cultivation.
Sure, while hemp represents a practical, viable new cash-crop with none of marijuana's intoxicating effects, our Drug Enforcement Agency inexplicably still classifies Hemp as a schedule 1 narcotic. Right alongside ecstasy, LSD and (surprise!) medical marijuana. And yes, like medical marijuana, hemp is actually deemed more dangerous than crystal meth by the United States government. This, ladies and gentlemen in 2014. Reflecting on our Government's marijuana policy, it's hard to believe the DEA has any credibility left whatsoever.
So is it any wonder our kids ignore us when we tell them to "just say no?"
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Jay Lassiter is a New Jersey civil liberties activist who wants to get the government out of your bong. And your womb. And your love life. And your medicine cabinet. He's on Twitter @Jay_Lass
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