On Saturday, February 8, from 6 pm to 8 pm at Elite Banquet Hall, 2820 South Lafountain in Kokomo, Indiana, Indiana’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (“NORML”) will host the first Congressional Cannabis Debate for candidates in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District.
I am one of four candidates - two Democratic Party candidates and one other Republican Party candidate - to accept the invitation. There is no stated “resolution,” as in a traditional, formal debate.
Given the sponsor of the event and the title - Congressional Cannabis Debate - one may reasonably infer a focus on Federal laws against marijuana as well as State laws. Marijuana is legal for medical or personal (recreational) use or both in 33 States.
Under 21 U.S.C. § 812, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, and that means it: (A) has a high potential for abuse. (B) has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. and (C) lacks of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. 21 U.S.C. § 812(b)(1).
A person faces imprisonment and fines if prosecuted under Federal law for possession of marijuana. A person’s assets can be seized under 18 U.S.C. § 921.
Marijuana should be legal in all 50 States. Its prohibition has been unsuccessful and quite harmful. Any “bad effects” of marijuana result from its illegality, not from the intrinsic nature of use of the plant.
First, there are no harmful effects in the use of marijuana.
The World Health Organization has noted: There are no cases of fatal cannabis poisoning in the human medical literature. WHO, “The health and social effects of nonmedical cannabis use,” 2016, p. 19.
No link has been established between smoking marijuana and increases in traffic accidents. “...marijuana smokers tend to compensate effectively while driving by utilizing a variety of behavioral strategies. ... Epidemiological studies have been inconclusive regarding whether cannabis use causes an increased risk of accidents....” Sewell, et al, “The Effect of Cannabis Compared with Alcohol on Driving, Am J. Addict. 2009; 18(3): p. 185.
Marijuana has never been proven to have an actual “gateway effect.” Janet E. Joy, et al., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Div. of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999).
drugs may instead have an underlying propensity to do
Second, there are very real harms that result from marijuana being illegal to possess, use, or market. Costs of enforcement of the laws is significant; despite studies showing black and white people use marijuana at the same rates, black people are approximately four times as likely to be arrested for either misdemeanor or felony marijuana possession, and enforcement of marijuana possession laws has created a crippling backlog at the state agency tasked with analyzing forensic evidence in all criminal cases, including violent crimes. Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and the Southern Poverty Law Center , “Alabama’s War on Marijuana,” 10/18/18.
Organized crime profits greatly when marijuana is illegal. According to one study, when a state on the Mexican border legalised medical use, violent crime fell by 13% on average. The Guardian, “Legal marijuana cuts violence says US study, as medical-use laws see crime fall,” 01/14/18.
Think of the prohibition of marijuana and the prohibition of alcohol. Then think how many times you read about turf wars between gangs, like they occurred in Chicago in the 1920s, over alcohol. And when was the last time you heard anyone buy moonshine?
Finally, when pot is illegal there is no oversight of the quality. Impurities can cause harms. “Legalizing cannabis provides an opportunity to put in place regulations to minimize potential harms. The danger of buying and using any illegal drug is that we can never know for sure what exactly is in it. Since cannabis is illegal, it is unregulated. It could contain contaminants like mold or mildew or fillers that may be toxic. When drugs are produced and obtained inside a regulated system, it is possible for us to know about the contents and dosage of what we are taking. This helps us manage the risks.” The Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, “If cannabis is dangerous, why are we legalizing it?” 2018.
I am Mark Small, a candidate in the GOP primary for U.S. House in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District. I’m in favor of legalizing marijuana. I approve of this blog. Hell, I wrote it.