In anticipation of President Obama's delivery of the State of the Union address, former United States Representative Anthony Weiner published an article for Business Insider explaining that now is the time for President Obama to make a push for federal marijuana reforms. Mr. Weiner felt that such efforts should be laid out in the State of the Union address. That of course didn't happen, as I wrote about after the speech was over. However, the things that Anthony Weiner talked about in his article can still be pursued. Below are the three things that Mr. Weiner feels Obama can do right now:
1. Make it legal for scientists to study the benefits of marijuana:
There is now broad consensus in the medical community that there are legitimate and hugely helpful uses of cannabis as treatment for many diseases and ailments. For example, the oils have been shown to reduce seizures in children with epilepsy and the plant is in wide use to help soldiers calm the symptoms of PTSD. But in a bizarre Catch 22, the only way to study marijuana is to be in violation of federal law that still makes it illegal to own the stuff.
Cannabis is considered a Class 1 narcotic by the Food and Drug Administration. As such, it is treated as though it has high abuse potential and zero medicinal value (even Cocaine isn't Class 1). Because of this federal regulation, marijuana can't be used in a study or even transported to a clinician's lab. In his address this evening, the President should announce he is asking the FDA to review whether marijuana should be reclassified so we can conduct further scientific research.
2. Announce that states rights will be respected on marijuana laws:
State legislators and voters have set up regimes in their states with laws, regulations, and taxes for marijuana. However, a law abiding citizen of Connecticut or Alabama could still find themselves at the wrong side of a federal indictment because of the schizophrenia that exists between federal and state law enforcement.
For the most part, the Justice Department has taken an unofficial hands off policy. Still, if the President drops a line or two into his speech on Tuesday that makes it clear he respects the rights of the states here, it will calm the concerns of many in those jurisdictions, encourage investment, and also probably get both sides of the aisle clapping at once in a Congress where that rarely happens.
3. Deregulate the banking industry for marijuana businesses.
Drug-related crime is down in states that have legalized some uses of marijuana. Just as drug reform advocates predicted, when you lift an industry out of the black market, regulate it, and tax it, the criminals move on to other things. However, because of the federal banking regulations, lawful marijuana businesses can't use normal banks. Because of this one crime is on the rise: business having stashes of cash that they can't deposit anywhere stolen.
This isn't an easy problem to untangle because of the thicket of anti-money laundering laws that are on the books and the different bank charter rules in the 50 states. Still, the area is ripe for executive action that few could disagree with: order the treasury department to review the laws to accommodate legal marijuana businesses.
Anthony Weiner makes some great points in the article I linked to above, and I encourage you to read it if you get the chance. The time is indeed ripe for President Obama to do something bold in the area of marijuana policy. Public opinion is in favor of comprehensive marijuana reform at the federal level. More and more politicians are getting on the right side of history. It's time that President Obama did the same.