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Decriminalizing Marijuana at The Federal Level


Even though almost a dozen states have already legalized marijuana, according to the latest FBI crime statistics, arrests are increasing in connection with marijuana offenses. Still, just as Florida is taking steps to decriminalize marijuana (although only for medical use), Congress is also taking steps to try and ensure that its use is no longer connected to a federal crime. Some of the legislation that has been introduced even attempts to address the criminal justice issue of the enforcement of marijuana crimes largely targeting minority populations.

Indeed, momentum around marijuana legalization at the federal level has never been higher As some who work on the hill have pointed out, at this point, it’s not really a question of whether there will ever be a federal law, it is simply a question of when; with some pointing out that it would be better to have one federal set of rules rather than each state individually passing their own individual laws. Even the Attorney General’s office seems to be moving away from predecessor Jeff Sessions’ crusade against decriminalizing marijuana, indicating that marijuana is not a priority in terms of federal prosecution.

The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (“STATES”) Act

One of the pieces of federal legislation that has been sponsored is known as the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (“STATES”) Act, which was reintroduced in April. Although it does not remove marijuana from the list of prohibited substances under the Controlled Substances Act, it does exempt any states that have legalized marijuana from federal enforcement if they adhere to certain set of standards. It would also safeguard banks that serve marijuana businesses against being charged with money laundering.

The Realizing Equitable and Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades (“RESPECT”) and Marijuana Justice Act

Other bills seek to take things a step further to address the inequality that has been created by a racist enforcement of laws against marijuana. One of these bills is called the Realizing Equitable and Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades (“RESPECT”) and the other is known as the Marijuana Justice Act, which does remove marijuana from list of prohibited substances under the Controlled Substances Act and goes so far as to make marijuana legal under federal law. It also provides for expunging passed arrest records for marijuana offenses and accelerates early release for those behind bars for these offenses. It also creates a large investment fund as a form of reparations for those hit hardest by the enforcement of these laws.

Senate Bills S.420, S.421 & S.422

On the Senate side, Senator Wyden has introduced a number of bills to try and regulate and tax marijuana. Currently, marijuana businesses cannot claim taxes deductions because, under federal law, their business activities are technically classified as “trafficking” in federally-controlled substances. These bills would also destigmatize marijuana under federal law and prevent those involved in state-legalized businesses from being arrested and hit with penalties. They would also accomplish a number of other reforms, including allowing those with past marijuana offenses to expunge the records, as well as ensuring that marijuana is not a barrier for immigration and naturalization. Perhaps most importantly, they would remove marijuana from the DEA’s schedules. Reformers are ultimately hoping that marijuana can follow in the footsteps of hemp, which is no longer governed under the Controlled Substances Act (of late).

Contact Our Experienced Florida Drug Defense Attorneys to Find Out More

Still, some insist that the country will need a new president in order to get any marijuana reform accomplished.  If you have been arrested for a marijuana-related crime, contact the Orlando criminal lawyers at the Baez Law Firm today to find out more about our experienced criminal defense services.


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