A federal group of prosecutors in the United States has criticized efforts at the US state level to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes, saying that legalization has led to greater access by children to pot and created further challenges for impaired driving enforcement.
Earlier this year, the National District Attorney’s Association was charged with advising the newly formed Trump administration on law and policy changes regarding marijuana, and last week, the NDAA delivered its report, entitled, Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors’ Perspective.
The report paints a negative picture of legalization and decriminalization as they have so far been rolled out across the US, arguing that such efforts “stand as an obstacle to the comprehensive federal framework.”
Citing the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, which dictates that federal law preempts state law when state law conflicts with federal legislation, the report maintains that numerous federal agencies have repeatedly concluded that marijuana “has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical uses and lacks safety for use under medical supervision.”
Concerning impaired driving, the NDAA report cites a 2015 national roadside survey that recorded a 48 per cent increase in the number of drivers found with THC in their system, one of the active ingredients in marijuana, stating further that legislative changes have occurred “more quickly than the pace of scientific research” on the impact of marijuana on driving ability.
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And on children’s health and safety, the report argued that state efforts to legalize pot for recreational and medicinal purposes are already affecting children’s health, as they “send a message to youth that marijuana is not dangerous” and allow children and youth greater access to the drug. “It is vitally important to do all we can to prevent access to marijuana by youth in America,” the report states.
Eight states in the US have made both the recreational and medicinal uses of marijuana legal, 21 states have decriminalized the drug and more than half now have legislation supporting marijuana use for medicinal purposes. But many in the marijuana business as well as pot users themselves are worried that the Trump administration will attempt to clamp down on legalization efforts. Both President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have come out against legalization at the federal level.
But the NDAA report has drawn criticism for its dubious claims.
“If anything, use is going down by children,” said Boulder, Colorado District Attorney Stan Garnett, to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “There’s a lot of urban myths out there about what’s going on in Colorado from people who don’t really know, and some of that is promulgated by the DEA and the prohibition groups who are funded pretty heavily to continue marijuana prohibition, They tend, on occasion, to distort the reality of what’s going on in Colorado,” he said.
In Canada, with legalization slated for sometime in 2018, the contrast between Canadian and US approaches to marijuana regulation could become a point of tension. Speaking at a forum on Monday, former justice minister Anne McLellan, who last year served as the head of a national task force on marijuana legalization, issued a warning about the potential “real mess” for Canadians crossing the border into the US once legalization takes place in Canada. “You see a much, much tougher line” towards cannabis coming from the Trump administration, said McLellan.