Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) took to the house floor on Tuesday in support HR 1227, The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Garret (R-VI) and six co-sponsors, including Gabbard.
Gabbard was one of two original cosponsors of the bill — along with Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VI) — when it was filed in late February, with the purpose of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.
Since then a who’s who of congressional cannabis policy leaders have come out to back it, including industry and activist favorite Jared Polis and Dana Rohrabacher, who spent a decade attempting to defund federal enforcement against state-compliant medical cannabis providers.
Gabbard shared some troubling statistics around cannabis arrests in the U.S., despite the recent waves of progress,
“In 2011 alone an individual was arrested in the united states for cannabis possession or sale every 42 seconds, mostly in poor and minority communities,” she said. “Our current laws are turning everyday Americans into criminals [and] sending them to jail.”
Gabbard’s comments on low-income neighborhoods and communities of color being the hardest hit by these policies have been proven time and time again.
She also highlighted the alcohol laws in this country and said that with cannabis is “far less dangerous for consumers and the people around them.”
To hit the point home even further, she referenced the work of Donald Abrams, Chief of Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital: in his 37 years of practice, Abrams has never admitted a patient due to complications from marijuana use. The number he admitted from alcohol, however, was “profound.”
“Over the years we’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars locking people up for nonviolent marijuana offenses,” Gabbard said. “Creating strain in our criminal justice system, clogging court calendars and further overcrowding our prisons.”
Gabbard spoke on her visits to various correctional facilities across the state of Hawaii, where she saw first hand the “crumbling infrastructure, extreme overcrowding, and facilities in dire need of upgrades.”
“Whether you would use marijuana or not, the question really is should we be sending marijuana users to jail and turning them into criminals for it.” Gabbard said. “The answer is no.”
The congresswoman referenced the devastating ripple effect being caused by the social and fiscal policies of marijuana prohibition on consumers and communities, saying they “only continue to perpetuate the problem.”
Gabbard also touched on the issues created by the conflict between state and federal laws.
“I’ve talked with local bankers in my home state of Hawaii who have expressed great frustration and even confusion about the contradiction between our laws,” she said, adding the federal government treats cannabis as a drug with no medical value, despite 28 states declaring otherwise. “In addition to passing HR 1227, we need to require the FDA to remove marijuana from schedule one based on acceptance medical use”
Gabbard closed by saying the reforms were common sense and long overdue changes.
“[HR 1227 will] help to reduce the strain on the criminal justice system, create certainty and reduce contradictions and confusion between state and federal law, and update those federal laws to meet the progress that states are making across the country,” she said.
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