The US Federal law has classified marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. Consequently, it is illegal to sell, possess, or grow marijuana. Violators of the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) can be prosecuted for having committed a Federal crime. In addition, such persons can be further prosecuted under Federal law. Some of the actions that could be taken against such persona include, confiscation of property used for growing marijuana, dismissal from employment, deprival of the right to possess guns or ammunition, and loss of tax benefits and banking services for merchants (United States Department of Justice 2).
As such, Congress has been empowered by the US Constitution to supersede the laws enacted by the states. Several principles have been gradually developed by the courts for ascertaining when federal law forestalls state law. In some instances, Congress incorporates explicit provisions in the text of the legislation, wherein it declares whether the legislation is to preempt state laws. At the same time there are other instances, wherein no such explicit provision is discernible (Dresser 7). However, the courts take into consideration factors, such as the imposing of some impediment to the attainment of the goals of Congress by the state law under scrutiny.
States in Favor of Marijuana for Medicinal and Recreational Use
All the same, 20 States of the Union have permitted marijuana use for medical reasons. Moreover, two states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. This has happened, even though states do not have the constitutional authority to make laws that conflict with Federal law. This has proved to be a major issue, as Federal officials do not have the resources to deal with the effect of such State law. The CSA was enacted by the US Congress as Tide II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Its aim is to supervise and facilitate the manufacture, distribution, and use of controlled substances for lawful purposes. (United States Department of Justice 2). Some of these are; medical and scientific use, and research and industrial use.
As such, there is a lot of opportunity for States to misuse their monopoly, with respect to marijuana. Such abuse has already been seen with respect to state lotteries. These lotteries were placed under the control of the revenue department of the state. As such, these departments were chiefly concerned with maximizing the income of the state. To avoid this mistake, marijuana control should be brought under the control of the health department of the state. Supervision should be conducted by substance-abuse and healthcare professionals (Kleiman 37). It is necessary to realize that the public favors the removal of the prohibition against marijuana.
However, several attempts had been made to change the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. These moves did not succeed, and the US Supreme Court held that the Federal Government was entitled to criminalize and regulate marijuana. The retail sale of marijuana had been legalized in Colorado and Washington, and 20 States of the Union had legalized the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana for medical purposes (Marijuana Policy 1).
Conflict between States Law and Federal Law
The above state legislations have resulted in a conflict between these States and the Federal Law and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution. The latter declares that Federal statutes are the supreme law of the land. In response to these developments, President Obama’s Administration circulated a memo to Federal prosecutors. This was in the year 2009, and it promoted the idea of not prosecuting individuals distributing marijuana for medical use as per the provisions of State law. In the year 2013, the US Department of Justice declared that it would not challenge these marijuana legalization laws at present (Marijuana Policy 1).
During the prohibition era, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, it was illegal to consume alcohol. At that juncture, the use of marijuana increased. By the year 1931, marijuana was made illegal in 29 States. In the year 1937, the US Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act. This Act required people dealing in cannabis, commercially, to pay a tax (Marijuana Policy 1). However, marijuana was not made illegal. The American Medical Association and other entities opposed this Act.
Legislation against Marijuana Use
The Marijuana Tax Act
In addition, the US Supreme Court held the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional in its ruling in Leary v United States. This was in the year 1969, and the Court gave this judgment, on the grounds that this Act necessitated self-incrimination, which was in breach of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. This ruling set aside the conviction of Timothy Leary for possession of marijuana (Marijuana Policy 1).
The Federal Controlled Substances Act
To overcome this setback, the US Congress passed the CSA of 1970, which categorized marijuana as a Schedule I drug. Such drugs are described by the Drug Enforcement Agency as having no accepted medical use. In addition, these drugs are considered to be very likely to be abused and lead to serious addiction (Marijuana Policy 1). Thus, it is against the Federal law to grow, sell, or possess marijuana.
Survey by Pew Research on Perceptions of Marijuana
Despite the opposition of the Federal authorities towards marijuana, the general public was, on the whole, in favor of this substance. For example, in March 2013, a nationwide survey was conducted by Pew Research. This survey dealt with the perception of the populace regarding marijuana. This survey disclosed that 52% of the Americans were in favor of legalizing marijuana and that 45% were opposed to legalizing marijuana. Another disclosure of this survey was that regardless of the demographics, there was an increase in the support for marijuana (Stacy, Nguyen and Block 244).
The proportion of the people who do not regard marijuana smoking to be immoral, are in excess of 50%. Of great relevance are the following statistics, 56% of the youth have admitted to having tried marijuana, and 27% of the youth had confessed to have tried marijuana during the previous year. In addition, marijuana had been smoked by 51% of the adults in the age range of 30 to 49 years and 54% of the people in the age range of 50 to 64 years (Stacy, Nguyen and Block 244).
Opinion of the People of Colorado and Washington on Legalizing Marijuana
All the same, the voters of Colorado and Washington upheld the initiatives to legalize the possession of marijuana. This was in November 2012 and the maximum amount that could be so possessed was proposed as one ounce, with regard to nonmedical use of marijuana. In addition, for profit firms were to be permitted to undertake the supply of marijuana. Furthermore, Colorado passed an initiative that permitted individuals to grow marijuana at their home. Despite marijuana remaining illegal under federal law, the policymakers of these states have commenced to formulate laws that will permit licensees to grow and distribute marijuana and marijuana products to any individual aged 21 years or more (Pacula, Kilmer and Wagenaar 1021).
Effectiveness of the Prohibition on Marijuana
The US experience with prohibition has been an exercise in ineffectiveness. It is generally believed that the war on cannabis is unreasonable and unwarranted. The government officials have adopted an obdurate and illogical stance, whereby they blatantly ignore research studies that have clearly demonstrated the benefits of marijuana (Stacy, Nguyen and Block 251).
For instance, the then US President Nixon had directed the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse to conduct a study on the effects of marijuana. This study clearly demonstrated that marijuana did not constitute a danger to public safety. As such, this Commission recommended that the possession of small quantities of marijuana was not to be treated as an offense. The US Congress and Nixon ignored these findings and even pressurized the Commission to reject its findings (Stacy, Nguyen and Block 251).
As such, in the year 2011, around 750,000 individuals, across the country, were arrested for marijuana related offenses. These arrests had also taken place in the states that were intending to enact laws that would permit the use or distribution of marijuana. It has become evident that legislation that prevents federal intrusion into the efforts of the states to normalize marijuana has to be urgently enacted (Legal Marijuana? 5).
Marijuana has several uses in medicine, science and for research. However, the Federal laws have classified Marijuana as a controlled drug, restricting its use. Nevertheless, some of the states have permitted its use for medicinal purposes. As such, there is conflict between Federal law and some state laws. However, the survey by Pew research revealed the fact that support for marijuana has been on the increase. Moreover, the opinion of the residents of Colorado and Washington indicate strong support for marijuana. Recent research studies have revealed that marijuana is not dangerous, from the perspective of public safety. Furthermore, the Federal initiatives with respect to the prohibition of marijuana proved to be ineffective.
In light of the benefits provided by marijuana, measures should be adopted to resolve the differences between the state laws and the Federal laws. Otherwise, people would be liable for prosecution for using marijuana, in some states despite its legal acceptance at that place.
“Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act.” Washington DC: 91st United States Congress, 27 October 1970.
Dresser, Rebecca. “Irrational Basis: The Legal Status of Medical Marijuana.” Hastings Center Report 39.6 (2009): 7-8. Print.
Kleiman, Mark. “How Not to Make a Hash Out of Cannabis Legalization.” Washington Monthly 46.3-5 (2014): 32-37. Print.
Leary v United States. No. 395 US 6. Supreme Court of the United States. 19 May 1969.
“Legal Marijuana?” America 208.20 (2013): 5. Print.
“Marijuana Policy.” Congressional Digest (2014): 1. Print.
Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo , et al. “Developing Public Health Regulations for Marijuana: Lessons From Alcohol and Tobacco.” American Journal of Public Health 104.6 (2014): 1021-1028. Print.
Stacy, Don, Joshua Nguyen and Walter E Block. “Drinking Smoke.” Journal Jurisprudence 23 (2014): 243-253. Print.
United States Department of Justice. “Marijuana and the Controlled Substances Act Federal Marijuana Penalties and State Developments.” Congressional Digest 93.8 (2014): 2-6. Print.