By: Brandon Lancaster
According to the Options Memo, there are five alternative policy solutions to the current federal marijuana policy. They are: 1) Enforce marijuana as illegal, 2) Make marijuana medically allowed, but not decriminalized, 3) Decriminalize marijuana, but do not allow for medial use, 4) Make marijuana medically allowed and decriminalized, and finally 5) Legalize marijuana. These five alternatives all pose interesting solutions, yet some are impractical. This memo seeks to synthesize a singular, federal policy solution from the alternatives provided. In so, it hopes to shed light on both the impracticality and most efficient of the alternative options.
As for the first solution, it seems somewhat impractical. Enforcing marijuana’s illegal status across America not only hurts the state governments’ revenue from the industry, but it negatively impacts the patients who rely on marijuana to relieve their symptoms. The narrative of medical marijuana would remain negative, thus making the first solution impractical. Decriminalizing marijuana and not allowing it for medical use is also impractical to change the narrative, but to a lesser degree. Decriminalizing marijuana would start to chip away at the faux narrative constructed by Harry Anslinger, according to a couple of sources (Perlman; McGettigan). While this narrative would break down, the medical field still would not be able to show the medicinal benefits of marijuana. If the purpose is to change the medical narrative, medical uses are necessary for reliable change. Another impractical policy solution is completely legalizing marijuana. While this may seem odd, completely legalizing marijuana may seem like a ploy on a political spectrum, leaning to one side more than the other. Thus, it would result in negative, ongoing views in states following the federal narrative on marijuana.
As such the singular solution which provides the most practical benefits would be to make marijuana medically allowed, and slightly decriminalize it. This is a combined alternative of options 2 and 4. In this policy solution, medical marijuana would be legal throughout the entire country. It would also be decriminalized, but still heavily regulated. The federal government would provide a limit on how much a person could possess of medical and recreational marijuana. This regulation would allow not only for proper medical use observed by the federal government, but also limit substance abuse of an under researched drug. It is practical because the medical field could begin researching on willing patients and there could be an expanded opportunity to try voluntary studies on the masses. The medicinal effects of marijuana would be discovered and change the federal narrative. The policy solution also aligns with how many states view marijuana, according to the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA, according to chart).
In addition, the state governments would still have agency within deciding how to deal with marijuana. The state governments could still choose to regard marijuana as substance with no medicinal effects and highly abusive if the constituents and governments felt so inclined.
In conclusion, the most effective federal policy solution is to allow marijuana medically and decriminalize it, with sufficient regulation. Medical professionals will have another option to provide their patients and it will allow the medicine field to add another drug that may save
many lives. The faux federal narrative would be washed away by a scientific, more accurate one, not based on racism and wanting funding.
McGettigan, T. The Politics of Marijuana: Truth Regimes and Institutional Ignorance.
Perlman, M. Reefer Blues: Building Social Equity in the Era of Marijuana Legalization.
Defense Information Systems Agency. (October 2020). Map of Marijuana Legality by State. Retrieved from https://disa.com/map-of-marijuana-legality-by-state