Feds should ease up on marijuana

Another significant voice has joined the growing chorus asking the federal government to change the way it deals with marijuana.

The National Conference of State Legislatures on Tuesday passed a resolution asking the federal government to change its classification of marijuana from Schedule I — which includes the most dangerous drugs, with no accepted medical use, a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological or physical dependence — to Schedule III — drugs with moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.

A bipartisan group of Oregon lawmakers — including Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli of John Day and Eugene Democratic Reps. Phil Barnhart and Julie Fahey — were in the forefront of the effort.

State legislators from across the country also renewed their efforts to help legal cannabis businesses gain access to banking services — now both a problem and a public safety risk — due to federal banking laws.

Under the current administration in Washington, D.C., however, these lawmakers are facing an uphill battle, despite growing national support for their position.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the governors of Alaska, Colorado and Washington — states that also have legalized recreational marijuana — earlier this year sent a letter inviting U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin "to engage with us" on the subject. They got a snarky response from Sessions.

In a letter to Brown, Sessions cited an Oregon State Police draft report raising concerns about black market marijuana and surplus marijuana from Oregon being sold out of state. "This report raises serious concerns about the efficacy of marijuana 'regulatory structures' in your state," Sessions said, among other things.

Brown's office hasn't publicly responded to Sessions' letter, but state police told The (Portland) Oregonian that the report Sessions cited is preliminary and incomplete.

Marijuana has gradually become more accepted in mainstream America. When a John Day Republican supports removing cannabis from the Schedule I list, it's a strong indication this isn't a radical, or even a liberal, cause anymore.

The patchwork of laws and regulations relating to marijuana that has sprung up around the country makes no sense. But inconsistent laws do make it harder to regulate production and use of marijuana. They also make it difficult to do research on marijuana or raise public funds by taxing the industry.

Want to end the black market in marijuana? Make it legal and regulate it. Concerned about quality and safety? Make it legal and regulate it. Concerned about criminal elements being involved in marijuana? Make it legal and regulate it. Concerned about the impact of marijuana on the human body? Make it legal, clearing the way for research into its effects — including medicinal uses — that is now, with few exceptions, barred.

Continuing to treat marijuana as if it were heroin serves no useful purpose or the public interest.

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