WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH FEDERAL MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION?
Everywhere you look seems there’s a talking (canna)head prognosticating on the timing of federal legalization.
More than few are predicting it’ll arrive via executive action, as a bid to draw votes away from the Democratic nominee in the run up to 2020. Hill folks are pointing to the dozens of cannabis bills winding through Congress. Consensus there is that legalization will evolve piecemeal, beginning with banking and moving to small business, veterans and maybe federal housing plus clipping DOJ’s power to federally prosecute state-legal activities. Given that on Congress’ first day back after August recess the American Bankers Association predicted legislation allowing banks to service state-legal marijuana businesses could be passed as early as next month, incrementality seems like a safe bet.
Another possibility? That before meaningful executive or Congressional action, the ridiculous proposition on which the federal treatment of marijuana rests — that the plant has no accepted medical use — unceremoniously tumbles in federal court. The Second Circuit hinted as much in May when considering a challenge to marijuana’s scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act; the ruling is not yet final, but the court’s language suggests that fully operational medical and/or adult-use markets in a majority of states cannot constitutionally coexist with federal criminalization. It is not rational.
Previous challenges to marijuana’s CSA classification have failed mostly because courts give agencies great deference, but in Washington et al v Barr, the court retained jurisdiction over concern that the DEA might not act quickly enough to provide the plaintiffs with relief. (YA THINK? Evidence showed that the average timeframe for reviewing petitions to reclassify drugs under the CSA is approximately NINE YEARS.) The court goes to great lengths explaining why it prefers not to rule on the merits, but the implication is clear: if DEA continues to evade an honest evaluation of cannabis efficacy, the court will step in.
The May 30 ruling caught somebody’s attention because just five weeks later, the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on marijuana, EVER. Especially notable is that the witness list was not a balanced mix of viewpoints for and against. Nope, all four people who testified came with ideas about how to end federal prohibition of marijuana. That could reflect strong agreement in the House for the change as much as it does recognition by lawmakers that they need to prepare for, if not get out in front of, judicial action that might upend marijuana’s scheduling.
In yet another sign of a federal shift, this week DEA announced plans for expanding the number of institutions qualified to grow marijuana for scientific and medical research. Granted, this too follows a July federal court decision (ordering DEA to process the backlog of already-filed applications) and the agency has not set a time frame for issuing the rules. Still, it is an unmistakable sign that federal hypocrisy underpinning prohibition — maintaining cannabis has no medicinal value while simultaneously prohibiting research that could prove otherwise — is on its way to being dismantled.
#decriminalizeit #desccheduleit #itsnotrational #cannabisismedicine