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Congress Should Consider Legalizing Marijuana

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Congress Should Consider Legalizing Marijuana - Tracy Emblem takes on the war on drugs

By Tracy Emblem

Congress Should Consider Legalizing Marijuana


There is no scientific reason marijuana should be listed under Schedule 1 because of its legitimate medical use. The federal government should end prosecuting individuals in states which allow licensed physicians to prescribe marijuana for their patients under state law.

The phrase “war on drugs” was first coined in 1971 by Richard Nixon after Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act which created five categories of regulated substances. “Cannabis” also known as “marijuana” was classified on Schedule 1 where it remains listed today with other highly addictive drugs like fentanyl, Ecstasy and heroin.


Currently, 14 states, including California and D.C., have enacted laws legalizing medical marijuana.


In San Diego County, Vista resident, James Stacy, faces felony criminal charges and a trial starting later this month in federal court for legally dispensing marijuana under the state’s compassionate medical marijuana law approved by California voters in 1996. Stacy’s collective was operating in full compliance with state law. However, the federal law trumps state law because marijuana is still classified under Schedule 1 of the Act, the only category which may not be prescribed by a physician.


In order for a drug to be listed under Schedule 1, it must have a high potential for abuse; no currently accepted medical use in treatment; and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.


Medical marijuana does not fit within the Schedule 1 criteria because it is used by chemotherapy and AIDS patients and people suffering from diseases like glaucoma and chronic pain.


There is general acce ptance for the therapeutic use of marijuana as evidenced by the voters since 1996. In 1999, the state legislature passed a bill which commissioned the University of California to establish a scientific research program to investigate the therapeutic usages of cannibas.


In February this year, the Center for Medicinal Cannibas Research reported that marijuana shows promise for chronic pain caused by injury to the nervous system or diseases like multiple sclerosis.


This November, California voters are asked to decide whether to fully legalize marijuana for state residents, but even if Proposition 19 passes, it would still be a “federal crime” subject to prosecution because federal law trumps state law.


With state and federal rights colliding, the time has come for the federal government to seriously consider removing marijuana from the Schedule 1 list, and perhaps the broader approach of legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana.

In the years alcohol was criminalized in the U.S., bootlegging became widespread and organized crime took control of the distribution.


Mexico is publicly debating whether to legalize marijuana. In Mexico, over 28,000 people have been killed since 2006 by the drug cartel crackdowns. If legalized, it would cut the cartels off from a large portion of their illicit cash trade because 60-percent of marijuana gets shipped from Mexico into the U.S. for sale.


In California, the sale of marijuana generates $14 billion annually. The State Board of Equalization estimates that legalizing and taxing marijuana under Proposition 19 would generate $1.38 billion, with additional savings of annual law enforcement. According to NORML, a non-profit organization working to decriminalize marijuana, “legalization would save over $200 million in law enforcement costs for arrest, prosecution, trial and imprisonment of marijuana offenders.”


Recently, the Veterans Health Administration issued a directive recognizing the medical use of marijuana, and distinguishing it from other illicit drugs. According to Americans for Safe Access, more than 27% of Veterans treated by the VA have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress and medical marijuana is used to treat that condition.


There is no scientific reason marijuana should be listed under Schedule 1 because of its legitimate medical use. The federal government should end prosecuting individuals in states which allow licensed physicians to prescribe marijuana for their patients under state law.


Tracy Emblem is an appellate attorney who has lived in Escondido since 1964.




Michael A. Komorn

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Law Office of Michael A. Komorn

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