Since the start of the war on cannabis, its prohibition has been a principal entry point to the criminal justice system. From 1980 to 2021, annual drug-related arrests have exploded — more than 226,000 occur each year for cannabis possession alone. Worse, it hasn’t improved our country. Despite spending $6 billion annually in cannabis enforcement efforts, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there’s no consistent impact on American’s use of cannabis products.
This focus on drug enforcement has changed law enforcement methods and incentives, diverted limited resources away from violent crime, and damaged trust between police officers and their communities.
It’s true that drug use — especially substance use disorders — can stop people from succeeding in life. It can also exacerbate safety concerns where criminal justice system intervention is appropriate, such as impaired driving, property crime, use by children, and child neglect. But pure cannabis prohibition and enforcement have been ineffective at reducing these problems and may be making them worse.
It’s time for a different approach that empowers states to make their own choices about cannabis regulations. Rep. Nancy Mace’s States Reform Act offers an important path forward, decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level and empowering states to regulate or prohibit as they see fit.
This bill treats cannabis like alcohol, creating protections against abuse and advertising for those under 21 and clearly defining the federal approach to farming, recognition of businesses, and more.
This bill charts a new way forward at a time when we need a change in how we approach cannabis in America.