Ava Burchell ’25
People are smoking more marijuana than ever before. As the usage and social acceptance of this substance continues to increase, more Americans are in favor of its decriminalization and legalization for medical use. In spite of these favorable national trends, marijuana is still federally considered a Schedule 1 drug, a substance with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. This federal ruling contradicts various literature and scientific findings. Studies show that marijuana is not a gateway drug and its usage does not contribute to subsequent addiction later on in life— at least not any more than stress and “life-course variables.” Legislation must change to reflect changing American values and scientific findings. In doing so, the MORE Act will promote racial equity, economic prosperity, and well-being as it would ensure the protection of minorities, is fiscally beneficial, and protects consumers.
Other than decriminalizing cannabis, the Marijuana Opportunities Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2020 removes the penalty for possessing, distributing, or manufacturing marijuana. This is of importance as current marijuana laws unfairly target minorities. Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white people, despite both populations using it at roughly the same rate. Additionally, possession is also one of the leading causes of deportations in the United States. People are ripped from their families and kicked out of their homes just because they have cannabis for personal use. Additionally, this legislation calls for a process that expunges prior convictions and allows for conduct-sentencing review hearings and thus, provides renewed protection for minorities who have been harmed by the War on Drugs.
From an economic perspective, marijuana possession laws are unnecessary strains on the budget of the government. 500,000 people in 2018 were arrested for possession of personal amounts of marijuana in the United States. The passage of the MORE act would add $13.7 billion to the federal government’s budget, in addition to the money saved from strictly enforcing cannabis possession, which is $3.6 billion each year. Additionally, federal taxation on cannabis sales, the tax of cannabis imports, and the occupational tax on production and warehouse facilities are all ways the government can acquire revenue, which, according to the act, will go to community improvement efforts.
The marijuana industry is dominated by black-market sellers. Since there are no regulations on their underground production operations, cannabis products have been found to contain pesticides, microbes, heavy metals, and additives. Also, the labeling may dangerously overrepresent or underrepresent CBD and THC levels, as there are no regulations about these claims. Consuming an unsafe, high amount of THC could cause uncomfortable side effects like psychoactive issues or paranoia. Marijuana consumption without legalization is more dangerous for everyone as it surpasses regulations and health evaluations. Through its legalization, marijuana would have to meet strict quality and potency standards, and thus, citizens can be sure that the product they are consuming is safe. Since access to legal marijuana will be quite simple and far safer, it can be hypothesized that less people will turn to harmful black market products.
Critics argue there is no test for marijuana intoxication, which could potentially cause problems with workers compensation as there is no way to know if marijuana usage caused an injury. However, there are saliva tests that have a 24-hour testing window, and an employer can have them on hand to test after an accident, serving the same purpose as a breathalyzer. Because of current laws, failing or refusing to take a drug test after an accident leads one to assume that a major contributing cause of the accident was the use of non-prescribed drugs. Overall, this framework for the decriminalization of marijuana has the potential to create positive change.
The Marijuana Opportunity and Reinvestment Act passed the House of Representatives on December 4, 2020 and is awaiting approval from the Senate. The MORE Act decriminalizes the possession, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana while making reparations with communities who have been impacted by unfair marijuana laws and policing in the past. To end on a high note, the government needs to acknowledge the growing popularity of marijuana and take strides to protect its consumers and former persecuted individuals.