The drumbeat of federal cannabis reform continues to echo throughout the nation’s capital, but it remains to be seen if there is any action behind the clamor. Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard on Tuesday urged Congress toward federal marijuana decriminalization, introducing bipartisan legislations to to remove— not reschedule — the drug from the federal controlled substances list.
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The Democratic congresswoman, along with Republican Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett, introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act (HR. 1227), urging Congress to update its “outdated drug policies.” If passed, the law would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list — joining alcohol and tobacco.
On the House floor, Gabbard implored:
“FBI reports have shown that in 2011 alone, an individual in the United States was arrested for marijuana use, sale or possession every 42 seconds—every 42 seconds—mostly in poor and minority communities. Our current laws are turning everyday Americans into criminals, sending them to jail, ruining their lives, tearing apart families and wasting huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate people for marijuana use — a drug that has been proven time and time again to be far less dangerous than alcohol, both for individual consumers as well as for the people around them.
Dr. Donald Abrams, who is the Chief of Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, has talked about how in the 37 years that he has worked and served as a physician, the number of patients that he’s admitted to his hospital with marijuana complications are zero. The number of patients that he’s admitted due to alcohol use is—quote—’profound.’ “
Currently, the FDA classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 classification, along with heroin, LSD and other dangerous drugs.
Although decriminalization is a step in the right direction, according to Gabbard, she ultimately is fighting for full federal legalization of cannabis as part of her overall effort toward criminal justice reform.
Last month, Gabbard visited correctional facilities throughout Hawaii, meeting with inmates, criminal justice advocates and experts, health professionals, educators and others to discuss reducing recidivism.
She called for all House members to put their biases aside and consider the social impact on the current drug laws.
“So whether you personally think that marijuana use is good or bad, whether you would choose to use marijuana or not, the question is, should we really be sending people to jail and turning them into criminals for it? The answer is no. The fiscal impacts, the social impacts of our current policy, are having devastating ripple effects on individuals and our communities and are only continuing to perpetuate the problem.”
Gabbard served as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee until resigning to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. She was first elected to the House in 2012, becoming the first American Samoan and the first Hindu member of Congress. She served in a combat zone in Iraq.
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