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Hawaii Lawmaker Makes Call for Federal Decriminalization of Marijuana

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) recently spoke on the House floor to urge Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to decriminalize marijuana federally.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii recently delivered a passionate speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, urging lawmakers to support a bipartisan bill that would federally decriminalize marijuana. The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 (HR. 1227), introduced by Gabbard and Virginia Republican Rep. Tom Garrett, would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and allow it to be taxed and regulated like alcohol and tobacco.

“Our outdated policies on marijuana are having devastating ripple effects on individuals and communities across the country. They have turned everyday Americans into criminals, torn apart families, and wasted huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for non-violent marijuana charges,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, in a statement.

“Differences in state and federal law have also created confusion and uncertainty for our local businesses who face contradictory regulations that affect their bottom line and ability to operate. I urge our colleagues to support our bipartisan legislation which would decriminalize marijuana, bringing about long overdue and common sense reform,” she added.

The federal decriminalization bill, identical to one introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2015, would resolve the existing conflict between federal and state laws over medical or recreational use. It would not legalize the sale and use in all 50 states, but would allow states to legalize medical or recreational marijuana without the concern of federal interference.

“Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California,” Congressman Garrett said, in a statement.

U.S. Marijuana Laws

A recent poll from Quinnipiac suggests that a majority of American citizens would support the decriminalization bill, as 71 percent of voters responded that they oppose the federal government cracking down on marijuana businesses that follow state law.

“There is growing consensus acknowledging that the effects of marijuana are less harmful than its criminal prohibition, which has increased incarceration rates, divided families, and burdened state governments with the high cost of enforcement, prison and probation,” said Karen Umemoto, Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and juvenile justice researcher.

At least 20 marijuana raids since 2010 have taken the lives of dealers or police officers. Last year, a survey by YouGov.com found that 65 percent of Americans believe the cost for enforcing marijuana laws are not worth the benefit they provide.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard supports the full legalization of marijuana on the federal level because of its association with criminal justice reform. She has said she also supports the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would allow the cultivation of hemp nationwide. Findings in a recent market analysis suggest that legalization could expand to all 50 states by 2021.

“These reforms that we are calling for in this bipartisan bill are common sense and they are long overdue – long overdue changes that will help to reduce the strain on our criminal justice system, create certainty and reduce contradictions and confusion between state and federal law, and update those federal laws to actually meet the needs and progress that states are making across the country,” Congresswoman Gabbard said on the House floor.

You can read the full transcript, or watch the full video of Gabbard’s speech to the House here.

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Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.

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