Article by Martin Schwartz, The Hill
The renewed battle over marijuana prohibition in the United States is a fight the federal government appears set to lose, much as it could not sustain the 13-year prohibition against alcohol.
Cannabis has been legitimized for medical or recreational use in almost 30 states and the District of Columbia. The primary opponents to legalization were, until recently, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies who feared the loss of personnel and funding, as well as the alcohol lobby. The new antagonist-in-chief is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who believes marijuana is a gateway drug with no valid uses.
At the federal level, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I Substance alongside heroin, even though it is non-lethal and various studies abroad have shown clear medical benefits. Those include alleviating the nausea and loss of appetite suffered by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, easing the pain of certain forms of arthritis without the risks of opioid addiction, helping to control the seizures in epilepsy and reducing the pain of multiple sclerosis.
But because of its Schedule I status, it’s very hard to do scientific research on marijuana in the U.S. as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issues very few permits for such work.
That’s an unfortunate reality. Presently, most of the illicit marijuana in North America is grown by Mexican drug gangs (largely the Sinaloa Cartel), both in their country and in many remote areas of the U.S., including on state and federal forestlands. These domestic grows pollute the environment and place visitors to such recreational areas at great risk, as cultivation sites are protected by heavily armed workers.
Marijuana production and sale is estimated by the DEA to be about 50 percent of cartel income, or billions of dollars annually. If cannabis were fully legalized in the U.S. and taxed and controlled like alcohol, it would not only severely crimp cartel revenues, it would yield needed funds for government entities and programs. Perhaps some of that money could be dedicated to help treat and prevent opioid addiction.