Our Legal System Wastes Valuable Resources Pursuing Recreational Marijuana Users

For several reasons I applaud Representatives Thomas Garrett (R-Va), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hi), and Scott Taylor (R-Va), for cosponsoring H.R.1227 – Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017. Our legal system wastes valuable resources pursuing recreational marijuana users. Also, black adults make up a far higher percentage of those punished for marijuana use than whites, even though their usage is roughly the same as whites or less. Research shows the many uses and benefits of Cannabis Sativa are more than merely anecdotal and warrant further study, at the very least. Finally, keeping cannabis illegal costs states billions, while legalizing could generate far more money than is currently lost.

In 2015 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. made more arrests for possession of small quantities of marijuana intended for personal use than they did for all violent crimes combined, including murder, rape, and serious assaults. Law enforcement agencies dedicate valuable funds and human resources arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating non- violent recreational marijuana users, but I believe those resources would be far better spent fighting and preventing serious crime.

Also, black adults are 2.5 to four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though Blacks use the drug at the same rate as whites or less. Blacks and Latinos make up a disproportionately large percentage of the 800,000-people arrested annually for marijuana use and possession, further adding to the racial inequity I see crippling America today.

Marijuana has been used in herbal remedies for centuries. Today’s scientific community has identified dozens of chemical compounds in marijuana called cannabinoids that interact with receptors in the brain and body. THC is the cannabinoid most widely known for producing a euphoric “high.” Not just a ‘street drug,’ anymore, studies show THC may help patients with over a dozen conditions such as chronic pain, insomnia, nausea, cancer, Crohn’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.

A friend of mine is currently participating in a study right here in Phoenix which is assessing the effects of medical marijuana on war veterans who’ve been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and although my friend had never used marijuana before, he reports his PTSD condition and feeling of overall wellness improved once he began the study.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant, and is NOT the compound which produces a ‘high.’ It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and anti-seizure medication used in the treatment of many illnesses, including ADHD, addiction, AIDS, chronic pain, mood disorders, obesity, insomnia, spinal cord injury, and stress. While marijuana produces few unpleasant side effects, the potential for addiction is also much lower than traditional medicinal therapies.

The American Cancer Society supports the need for more scientific research on cannabinoids for cancer patients. The Society also believes that the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance by the US Drug Enforcement Administration imposes restrictions on researchers, and deters scientific study of cannabinoids. Federal officials should examine ways to legally enable more scientific study on the uses and benefits of marijuana, and I will actively support legislation to that effect.

Another valuable product of the Cannabis Sativa plant is industrial hemp, a renewable source for raw materials that can be used in thousands of products including paper, healthy edibles, detergents, skin care products, carpeting, automobile parts, and clothes. Hemp requires far less water to spin into fabric than cotton, and cultivation of hemp is also good for the soil and the environment.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia now have laws which legalize marijuana in some form. I find it sad that marijuana prohibition still costs states about $3.6 billion annually, while legalizing and commercializing the drug could generate $28 billion in tax revenue, and would be a severe blow to the drug cartels.

As your Representative in Washington, I will stay aware of the ongoing research, and I will also remember the personal stories of my constituents who may never have thought of marijuana as anything but a ‘street drug’ until the diagnosis of a serious illness or another physical issue left them searching for better options for symptom and pain relief.