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The Federal Government Must Acknowledge the Will of the People

In today’s America, the discord between state-level marijuana legislation and its federal classification as a controlled substance presents a paradox that undermines the effectiveness and integrity of our legal system. 

As of now, marijuana products can be purchased and used for recreational purposes in at least 24 states and the federal territories. This places it in striking juxtaposition to the federal Schedule I classification it still holds—a category reserved for substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. 

This inconsistency is not merely a matter of bureaucratic labeling. It is a critical issue that violates the people’s constitutional protections, disproportionately affects communities of color, exposes some citizens to extremely harsh federal sentences, impedes law enforcement, hampers research, and stigmatizes merchants and users in states where consumption is legal. The continuation of this contradictory policy is simply untenable. 

The spirit of the Constitution is foundational to our sense of justice and the rule of law. Central to this spirit are the Privileges and Immunities afforded to each citizen and the promise of equal protection under the law.

These principles were purposefully included to establish uniform justice for all premised upon the notion that all people are created equal. However, enforcement of the current federal marijuana laws starkly contradicts these constitutional principles, creating a landscape marred by inconsistency and unfairness. 

At present, an estimated half a million Americans earn a livelihood in the burgeoning marijuana industry, a sector that has flourished due to the progressive legalization measures by numerous states. These individuals operate with a de facto immunity from federal prosecution, courtesy of dissonant priorities and a tacit acknowledgment of the industry’s legitimacy by federal agencies.

Yet, this complex mosaic of state and federal regulations has created a fundamental disparity. While some Americans enjoy the privilege of participating in the legal marijuana market, others face and endure extreme penalties for similar conduct, seemingly contingent on nothing more than their state of residence. How can such a dichotomy exist within a nation that prides itself on Equal Opportunity and Uniform Justice? 

The many states that have embraced marijuana legalization have, in essence, created a testing ground that challenges the continued relevance of marijuana’s classification under the CSA. They have demonstrated that regulation rather than prohibition can be effective in addressing concerns related to cannabis use. And yet, due to this federal-state legal incongruence, businesses and consumers in some states operate in a twilight zone of permissibility, hindered by barriers to banking, taxation, and interstate commerce. 

This patchwork legal reality not only hampers the economic potential of a significant industry. It also breeds inequalities that run afoul of our Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and privileges and immunities for all. As it stands, a citizen’s freedom to engage with marijuana products in some states compared to the risks citizens of other states will face from federal enforcement are arbitrarily dictated by geography.

How can we reconcile a nation where Citizen A enjoys the fruits of a legal cannabis market, while mere miles away, Citizen B will suffer grave legal consequences for similar behavior? 

The federal government’s current stance on marijuana not only circumvents our Constitution’s vision of equal protection and privileges for all but also disrespects the democratic process by which numerous states have reformed their marijuana laws.

The time has come for the federal government to acknowledge the Will of the People and the actions of numerous states. Descheduling marijuana from the CSA and decriminalization would honor the principles of federalism, uphold constitutional protections, and harmonize an untenable legal disjunction. 

Our elected officials are held responsible for embodying the democratic ideals that this country was built upon. When a clear majority of its citizens and numerous states signal a desire for change, it is antithetical to the tenets of democracy for federal law to obstinately resist the tide.

As such, the President, Congress, or the Attorney General must take definitive steps to rectify the Constitutional conflicts inherent in current marijuana law enforcement and bring federal policy in line with the will of the American people and the clear trend of state-level legalization. 

Legally, the continuation of the current federal enforcement of marijuana creates a discrepancy that is utterly indefensible. Since no substance scheduled under the CSA can be bought or consumed for recreational purposes, how can marijuana products be bought and consumed nationwide? This alarming reality cannot simultaneously warrant the same restrictions as substances like heroin without the federal government losing credibility and requires an urgent response.

It is the duty of the President, Congress, or the Attorney General to reconcile this contradiction rapidly. 

Just as alcohol prohibition ended when society shifted, so too must the federal position on marijuana evolve in response. The expectation that additional states will follow the lead of those states that have already legalized marijuana only heightens the urgency of this issue.

Federal laws must reflect the reality of our times and the unmistakable voice of the people. The nation has indeed spoken. It is high time the federal government listens and removes marijuana from the list of controlled substances. This shift is not merely a policy update; it is a necessary step in the evolution of our nation’s justice system and a reflection of democratic will. 

The Constitution promises uniform privilege and equal protection. If we deem ourselves a true democracy, federal legislation must reflect the choices exercised by the states and the citizens alike. As a nation, it is imperative that we resolve the constitutional and democratic dissonance embodied in the federal enforcement of marijuana laws.

Not only is it legally and morally incumbent upon us Americans, but it is also a clear mandate from we the people, who our government is sworn to serve. Our call for the removal of marijuana from the CSA must be acted upon.


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