Support for legalizing marijuana at the federal level is steadily increasing in Congress, according to a Democratic representative from Colorado.
“I find that a lot of members of Congress privately agree that we need to change our drug policy, they’re just still too timid or scared to come public with it,” Rep. Jared Polis said in an interview with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
“We really have a growing group that support decriminalization at the federal level and changing the schedule of marijuana,” he added. “It’s not a majority yet, but it’s growing rather than shrinking.”
In an effort to pressure members of Congress to support controversial reforms, Polis launched the Fearless Campaign in January. The campaign seeks to “revolutionize our nation’s approach to six issues where special interests have blocked progress for too long: drug policy, education, food policy, immigration, internet freedom and LGBT equality.”
Polis was the first openly gay man elected to the House of Representatives as a freshman.
“I chose issues that are rarely and meekly talked about in the corridors of power, but that many mainstreet Americans care about,” he said. “As a member of Congress I have been disappointed that Congress hasn’t moved forward in these areas, and I hope that Fearless Campaign will lead to it doing so.”
During his YouTube Q&A in January, President Obama was asked what his plan is to help alleviate the detrimental effects of America’s drug war.
He responded by saying that while he’s not in favor of legalization, he did see room for adjusting the drug war to focus less on incarceration and enforcement and more on medical treatment and other forms of interdiction.
As a US Senator and candidate for president, Obama consistently said he was in favor of decriminalization of marijuana, but not outright legalization.
“I think the budgetary pressures – and there’s going to be cuts across the board in every area – do provide a good entry for discussion of decriminalization because not only do you have the savings from the reduced incarceration and the ability of law enforcement to focus on criminals rather than users of medical marijuana, you also have increased revenues from the taxation of the legal and regulated sale of marijuana,” Polis told NORML.
“It’s something that as we’re looking at this budget situation, it can actually reduce costs and increase income. I think that will be more desirable for most people in our country than having tax increases or having cuts in programs that they care about.”
“As long as [marijuana] remains illegal and as long as there is a market demand, the production will be driven underground,” Polis said on the House floor in December. “No matter how much we throw at enforcement, it will continue to be a threat not only to our Federal lands, but to our border security and to our safety within our country.”
With prior reporting from Stephen C. Webster.