Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard urged Congress to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. In her speech, she outlined some of the ways that cannabis prohibition is harmful. Her message was simple: solve these problems by decriminalizing weed.
Keeping Weed Illegal Is A Problem
The bulk of Gabbard’s speech was dedicated to explaining some of the ways that cannabis prohibition is harmful.
She told Congress that the U.S.’s “outdated policies on marijuana . . . are having devastating ripple effects.” In particular, she said that anti-weed laws are far more harmful than weed itself.
Here are some of the key problems she identified:
- On average, somebody is arrested for a cannabis-related crime every 42 seconds.
- Marijuana arrests affect poor communities and communities of color more than anyone else.
- It costs the country billions of dollars to arrest, charge, prosecute, and imprison all the people picked up for weed-related crimes.
- A marijuana arrest can stay on a person’s permanent record and cause a number of problems for the rest of their lives.
- Anti-pot laws are confusing. This is especially true when federal laws clash with state and local laws.
- Cannabis is far less deadly than a number of other prescription drugs and other substances.
It’s Time To Decriminalize Cannabis
Gabbard said the solution to all these problems is simple. Decriminalize cannabis. But not just at the state level. Instead, she said it’s time for federal decriminalization.
And to do that, she pointed to the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. Gabbard introduced the bill alongside Republican Congressman Tom Garrett.
The bill calls on the federal government to decriminalize cannabis. It would also move it off the Schedule I list.
Gabbard explained that decriminalizing weed wouldn’t just solve social, legal, and economic problems. In addition to all that, it would also produce positive health outcomes.
For example, she told lawmakers that “we need to take into account the growing body of evidence that suggests the medicinal benefits of marijuana.” Those benefits include “preventing epileptic seizures, reducing anxiety, and even halting the growth of cancer cells.”
For Gabbard, decriminalization is a win-win. It would solve several social, economic, and legal problems. Additionally, it would make new forms of medicine available to people who need them.
A Political Intervention
Gabbard’s speech comes in the middle of some serious confusion. So far, Trump’s presidency has raised a lot of questions about cannabis law.
During his campaign, he said he was open to medical cannabis. But recent comments coming from the White House haven’t been as optimistic.
Last month, White House press secretary Sean Spicer hinted at a crackdown on weed. Specifically, he said there could be “greater enforcement” of anti-weed laws on the horizon.
But that wasn’t the only anti-cannabis language coming out of Washington. Just last week, Trump’s pick for Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke out against cannabis.
He said that medical marijuana “had been hyped, maybe too much.” But that wasn’t all. He also compared cannabis to heroin. As he put it, weed is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.
When you put it all together, it doesn’t look good. At best, nobody knows what will happen under Trump’s watch. But at worst, Trump’s people could be gearing up for an attack on weed.