Political movements like the tea party may come and go, but the pot party seems to get stronger with every national election, putting the federal government in an increasingly untenable position.
To date, more than one-third of the states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, at least for medical purposes, and, according to Americans for Safe Access, eight other states are considering bills to do the same. As a result, we're getting close to the point where half the country will have legalized a drug designated a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the federal government, meaning it has no known medical uses and is as dangerous as heroin. This has been an overly restrictive classification since it was imposed in 1970, yet what's remarkable about the anti-prohibition movement is that it still hasn't prompted the government to reconsider its stance. A bill in Congress would do just that, but it also points out that there's a right way and a wrong way to proceed.
The bill introduced this week by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is the wrong way. It requires that marijuana be reclassified as no higher than a Schedule 3 controlled substance, making it similar to most other prescription drugs. But it leaves oversight to the states. Although other drugs are controlled by the Drug Enforcement Administration and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, marijuana would be a class unto itself: The bill exempts marijuana from control by these agencies, allowing any state to legalize it and come up with its own regulatory framework for producing and distributing it. When it comes to licensure, quality control, testing, enforcement of distribution laws and so on, the states would be on their own.