Issue: In 1937, Marijuana was made illegal for the first time in the United States. Three decades later, the Nixon administration launched a “War on Drugs” designed to institutionalize the criminalization of antiwar activists and ethnic minorities. The result was the rise of a police state the scale of which our country has never seen, and the incarceration of millions of Americans for nonviolent drug crimes. Years later, Nixon aide John Ehrlichman summed up the intentions of the destructive policy, “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
Proposal: Today, with the repeal of many mandatory minimum sentences, Congress has finally begun to catch up to the harmful effects of the War on Drugs. The states have led the way, with 8 legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use, and 21 others legalizing medical marijuana. It’s time for Congress to follow their lead and pass legislation that legalizes marijuana nationwide and eliminates the possibility of a prison sentence for drug possession crimes, and applies retroactively for those currently affected.
Congress should ensure that individuals who were incarcerated for marijuana crimes during the War on Drugs are given first priority in business permitting for the legal industry. Nobody deserves to benefit more from the coming economic growth of a national marijuana industry than those who had their opportunities erased by its criminalization. Additionally, we should follow the lead of the states that have legalized marijuana and dedicate tax revenue to education, public health, and transportation spending.