This saddens me more then surprises me. But the opinion piece printed in the Washington Post by two Republican congressmen infuriates me. So below is their opinion piece, with my responses in bold. I tried to keep the responses brief…there is much more I would and could add to each point.
original piece at WaPo here
By Andy Harris and Joe Pitts December 12 at 6:20 PM
Andy Harris, a Republican, represents Maryland’s 1st Congressional District in the House, where Joe Pitts, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District.
Many have asked why Republican legislators who profess respect for self-government and democracy would step in to overrule D.C. residents who voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in the city. We would like to answer that question head-on. Simply put, we believe that Congress must defend the federal government and the U.S. Constitution by preventing marijuana legalization from moving forward in the District.
Federal policy on marijuana is neither arbitrary nor set in stone. Proper procedures exist for changing the way that marijuana is regulated in the United States, but a ballot initiative in the federal district is not one of them. If the city were allowed to proceed, it would create legal chaos.
So just what is the “proper procedure” ? It has been 18 years since CA voters first legalized “Medical Marijuana”. And we now have 36 states with some legal recognition of marijuana as medicine. And three states (plus washington DC) where the people have voted for outright legalization. And yet, these “proper channels” have failed to respond to the will of the people, nor even moved to correct the wrongful classification of cannabis as schedule I.
The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance was made through a legal and scientific process established by Congress and administered by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency. This classification means that the drug has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use and cannot be used safely even under medical supervision.
No, actually it was not. Marijuana was “emergency scheduled” by Nixon. Having nothing to do with science and everything having to do with the those damn hippies, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and the social chaos of the time. More then two years later the scientific panel charged with investigating the isssue gave their report- recomending decriminilization. The DEA ignored the scientific evidence, and maintained its schedule I status. And let’s be perfectly clear- the federal government themself holds patents on medical uses of cannabis. And despite decades of research being blocked by marijuanas status as schedule I, there is a huge body of scientific evidence of its numerous medical uses.
Marijuana use is far from benign, and the effect the drug has on users can ripple through a lifetime and touch both their families and society at large.
Indeed. One of the worst of these is arrest. Having a criminal record. Jail. A lifetime of problems getting jobs, loans, housing, student loans, etc just because of a choice to use a substance that the majority of americans believe should be legal. Not to mention the social stigma, based largely on the perputation of incorrect information on marijuanas supposed harm.
Many studies have shown that use of marijuana can have a wide range of negative effects on an individual’s brain, body and behavior. This includes short- and long-term effects on functions such as brain development, memory and cognition, motivation and lung health. Persistent marijuana users have shown a significant drop in IQ between childhood and midlife.
Hmm. And many studies have not shwon this. And there is great debate over whether the conclusions drawn in the studies showing supposed harm are correct, and if so, if they are overblown. There are countless other factors that come into play in the course of a persons life, and the evidence is far from clear that marijuana is THE culprit, or even a major factor.
Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found to be a factor in car accidents, including fatal ones. Both emergency department visits involving marijuana and treatment admissions for abuse have increased in recent years. In 2011, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there were 128,857 emergency room visits related to marijuana use, about the same as for heroin use and almost double the number of marijuana ER visits in 2004 (65,699).
This is, to be polite, idiotic. Millions of americans use marijuana- and unlike any other substance, it can be tested for in the system for ~two weeks. (most other substances, legal or not, can only be tested for for 6-48hrs, and many are not included in normal tox screens). NIDA themselves have numerous papers showing alcohol and prescription drugs are the two biggest problems in america.
Further, a number of studies have shown that states that have broad medical marijuana laws have seen a marked DECREASE in DUI accidents and fatalities.
Legalization in some jurisdictions has led to increased marijuana use by teenagers. According to officials in Nebraska, areas of the state that border Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, have seen an increase in the number of teens ticketed for possession of marijuana and a spike in the drug’s potency. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, in a statement approved just this year, maintains that: “Marijuana use is not benign, and adolescents are especially vulnerable to its many known adverse effects.” The group opposes efforts to legalize the drug even for adult use.
Sorry, but this is cherrypicking of data. Let’s look at some of the issues with this claim: First, Nebraska has long been a wasteland when it comes to cannabis. So we have an even greater “forbidden fruit” factor then in many areas of the country. A spike in usage would not be surprising- in the short term (remember, Colorado has had legal shops for less then 2 years). Second, the increase in teens being ticketed may well relate more to increased enforcement by police of vehicles returning from Coloroado then an actual increase in use. Third: I would like to see data on what a rise in teen cannabis use means for other substances. Does the rate of drinking, cigarette use, prescription drug use go down?
There is much we still don’t know. NIDA is doing important research into the impact of marijuana use. We need more investigation into the health effects of recreational consumption, its effect on teen educational achievement and the economic impact of using the drug. We also need to look closely into chemical components of marijuana, such as THC and CBD, that could have medical indications and figure out ways to avoid the negative effects of smoking or ingesting marijuana.
Umm, really? Have you ever seem the “marijuana” NIDA provides for research? It is a nasty brownish green crumble composed of leaves, stems, and flower that bears no resemblance to what is actually used in states with loose marijuana laws. NIDA and the DEA have fought long and hard to maintain this monopoly- blocking researchers from being able to produce or obtain top quality cannabis for research. Further NIDA has a decades long history of refusing to approve research unless its intent is to look into “harm”.
The FDA and DEA have a process for analyzing such studies and approving controlled substances. We do not let any other substance become approved by ballot initiative. Every drug must be subject to the same strict scrutiny.
This is simply not true. Indeed- it questionable whether cannabis meets the criteria to fall into ANY of the schedules under the Controlled Substances Act. And as previously stated, the recommendation from such a pael decades ago was decrimilization.
And why does the DEA, an enforcement agency, play ANY role in the scheduling of substances? Their role is to enforse the laws. It is the role of scientists to determine the harms/benefits of a given substance.
Legalizing marijuana in the District is a recipe for legal chaos. There are 26 separate law enforcement agencies in the city. Twenty-five of them answer only to the federal government. If the city proceeded with legalization, whether an individual is arrested for marijuana possession could end up hinging on whether the arresting officer works for the Metropolitan Police Department or, say, the National Park Service. Individuals possessing an amount of marijuana legal by District law could find themselves arrested and prosecuted after they walk into a federal building or step into a federal park.
Ah yes, legal chaos. (translation: congress might actually have to address the issue, rather then burying this ban in an appropriations bill). We ALREADY have this legal chaos. For nearly 20 years the Feds have been arresting people who were in compliance with their state laws- and barring them from presenting in court for their defense that they were in compliance with their state laws. Further- every state with legal marijuana of some form has countless federal properties- from courthouses to parks where we already have these same issues of uneven enforcement.
We believe every state should respect federal law and take caution prior to legalizing marijuana. Unlike in the states, though, Congress has a direct responsibility under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, for policy in the District. This does not mean we need to micromanage. The people of the District should have a local government that is tailored to their needs. But when their wishes clearly conflict with federal law, Congress’s will must be preeminent.
Ah yes- the party of states rights- except when those states go for things like gay marriage and legal marijuana. Such hypocrisy. (And yes, I realize one can claim this hypocrisy cuts both ways- but I would argue the deciding factor is whether these “states rights” are moving forward, hand in hand with science- or whether they are trying to pull us backwards).