ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Leaders in the United States House of Representatives have bent over backwards at each opportunity so far this year to do the bidding of Big Pot — even going so far as to mire up COVID-19 aid negotiations by loading up their bill proposals with giveaways to the industry.
Back in October, politically vulnerable members begged leadership to postpone a scheduled vote on a bill to federally legalize marijuana (the MORE Act) and lamented that there was even a discussion on legalization occurring while millions of Americans were suffering. Those vulnerable members were right to take issue with pot legalization during a global pandemic. Now, instead of taking stock of the losses and realizing their commitment to ramming through Big Pot’s agenda is misguided, House leadership are instead doubling down on their efforts and bringing federal legalization to a vote on the floor in December.
For the majority of the last six months, Big Pot lobbied nonstop to use the COVID-19 crisis to its advantage. It first attempted to con Washington into giving it a taxpayer-funded bailout, but when that failed it turned its attention to tying marijuana industry banking access to economic relief bills.
When asked about how allowing the pot industry access to banks and tax write offs was germane to our national response to the pandemic, Speaker Nancy Pelosi astoundingly responded that marijuana was “a therapy that has been proven successful.” It wasn’t long after this that the MORE Act showed up on the schedule for a floor vote. Make no mistake: The MORE Act would legalize marijuana nationwide.
It’s not a bill aimed at simply decriminalizing the drug — which would simply remove criminal penalties for possession. It’s really about the wide-scale commercialization and normalization of a drug that does not resemble the weak weed of the 1970s. The bill is simply blanket marijuana commercialization, allowing for unlimited THC potency, tax breaks to pot companies for advertising and — according to a national trade group — the end of safety-sensitive drug testing for transportation workers as we know it.
Given what we have learned about youth use — it goes up in “legal” states — stoned driving deaths (ditto) and the underground market (you guessed it, it gets bolder), this is not what our country needs right now. As if this were not enough, we know today’s marijuana use has significant links to additional serious mental health conditions — including schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and suicide.
Prolonged use has also been shown to lower IQ and motor function and can cause particular damage to the developing brains of young people.
And we know this from low-potency pot; the science is still far behind when it comes to the marijuana readily available in “legal” states.
As mentioned earlier, the pot industry has been working to tie its policy goals to each and every crisis and national conversation that occurs. In its most shameful showing, Big Pot is attempting to tie the federal expansion of its corporate, addiction-for-profit model to the social justice movement. We shouldn’t fall for this.
The failures of marijuana commercialization to prove good on any of the promises made in the name of social justice are far and wide. Routinely, in state after state that has commercialized marijuana, promises of social justice and equity have proven to be nothing more than a pipe dream. Marijuana commercialization has created a predatory industry that targets communities of color and other disenfranchised communities with an over-saturation of stores and ads, like its predecessors Big Tobacco and the alcohol industry — who, by the way, have already invested billions into the marijuana industry.
And while pot shops are disproportionately located in communities of color, their ownership doesn’t come close to resembling the areas in which they are located. All told, only around 4 percent of the industry features Black ownership. On Election Day, the American people elected the only Democrat with guts enough to stand up to Big Pot.
It appears as if the Senate will once again be opposed to marijuana reform, and the House majority that worked to ram through pot-legalization has been decimated. It’s time for our leaders in Washington to embrace reality and step out of the pot industry’s smokescreen.
Luke Niforatos is executive vice president for Smart Approaches to Marijuana. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.