On Tuesday, representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced bills in Congress that could drastically change how marijuana laws are enforced in the United States.
The bills would allow marijuana in states that have approved its sale, effectively ending the drug’s longstanding federal prohibition. The bills do mandate, however, that marijuana be regulated like alcohol and be subject to federal excise taxes.
According to government studies, cannabis is the most commonly used illegal substance in the United States and polls reflect a growing sentiment to legalize the drug. November’s election sparked renewed national interest in drug reform, after Colorado and Washington voters passed historic legislation to legalize the recreational use of weed.
The two states have since found themselves in legal limbo. Their new laws run afoul of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which identifies marijuana, along with other drugs such as ecstasy, LSD, and heroin, as having no therapeutic value and a high potential for abuse. The new bills could resolve the conflict.
Some organizations at Virginia Tech expressed support for the proposed legislation.
“As supporters of individual freedom, the Libertarians at Virginia Tech commend any legislation seeking to increase the birthright of liberty,” said Harrison Bergeron, a sophomore biology major and vice president of Tech’s Libertarian organization, in a statement to the Collegiate Times. “We hope the commonwealth legalizes cannabis and the federal government does not overstep its bounds.”
While the club was supportive of moves to legalize the drug, they expressed skepticism toward taxes and regulation at the federal level.
In a press release, Students for Sensible Drug Policy commended the potential change to existing laws. The organization championed the bills as “the most sweeping proposed reforms ever to be advanced in Congress related to marijuana legalization.” Tech’s chapter of SSDP could not be reached at press time for comment.
Virginia is still unlikely to legalize marijuana anytime soon, though. An investigative piece released over the summer by Capital News Service revealed that Virginia currently treats marijuana more harshly than most states.
Moreover, the federal bills face a likely unsympathetic Republican majority in Congress and President Obama’s stance on the drug remains unclear, along with his Justice Department’s.
Tech students were split about the new measures to legalize the drug.
“Anytime you give the states more power, that’s great,” said senior civil engineering major Trey Wilkins.
Senior chemistry major Lyndsey Bickel disagreed. She thought that allowing states to legalize marijuana could lead to drug tourism in places where it is legal.
“If you legalize it, more people will do it," Bickel said. "If we got that reputation, more people would come here to do it.”
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