Freshman Republican congressman Thomas Garrett is the inspiration behind a newly proposed piece of legislation that would remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list, allowing the drug to be marketed and manufactured in the same way as alcohol and tobacco.
Garrett spoke about his new bill in a Feb. 27 press release:
I have long believed justice that isn’t blind, isn’t justice. Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socioeconomic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado and California. … this step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth, something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia. In coming weeks, I anticipate introducing legislation aimed at growing the hemp industry in Virginia, something that is long overdue.
Marijuana currently occupies a place on the list of Schedule 1 drugs, which include cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates and PCP, according to Reason. These are characteristically substances that have a high potential for abuse and no medical use.
The effect of marijuana remaining on the Schedule 1 list of substances means that, despite being decriminalized in many districts, use or possession of the drug still attracts a high amount of attention from law enforcement.
Garrett’s newly-proposed bill coincides with pledges from the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to increase punitive measures on federal marijuana crimes.
“Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” said Sessions, according to Politico.
“I believe it’s an unhealthy practice and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago.”
During Sessions’ confirmation as Attorney General, he expressed that if lawmakers disapproved of his style of marijuana regulation, they should change laws to accommodate different regulation, according to Culture.
“We’re seeing real violence around that,” continued Sessions. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”
28 states have already decriminalized marijuana, though Garrett’s proposal could enable marijuana to be manufactured and marketed en masse.