Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is a bit of a political rock star among Bernie Sanders supporters. She first got their attention when she broke from the Democratic Party fold and quit her role as vice chair of the DNC to endorse Bernie Sanders for president in the 2016 Democratic primary, despite orders from her boss in the DNC, then DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
Since then Tulsi Gabbard has remained a rising star in national politics by introducing or co-sponsoring some solid pieces of legislation. According to a previous Inquisitr article, Gabbard co-sponsored a bill called the Return to Prudent Banking Act designed to reintroduce Glass-Steagall regulations over an out-of-control banking industry. She also introduced a bill called the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. It’s almost hard to believe such a bill even needs to exist, but it does, and Tulsi Gabbard explains why on her congressional website.
Tulsi Gabbard has now decided to enter the arena of criminal justice reform, specifically regarding the war on drugs, by co-sponsoring legislation to decriminalize marijuana on a federal level. According to Big Island Now, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act (HR1227) would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list if it passes. The bill is co-sponsored by a Republican, Tom Garrett of Virginia, who, like Gabbard, is an Army veteran.
“Our current laws are turning everyday Americans into criminals,” said Rep. Gabbard about the bill, “sending them to jail, ruining their lives, tearing apart families, and wasting huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for marijuana use.”
According to KHON News, there is currently a bill in the Hawaii state Senate to legalize marijuana in Hawaii for recreational use. Tulsi Gabbard no doubt supports that bill but sees a pressing need to legalize the plant, which many use for medical purposes or to simply make themselves feel better with a substance that is known to cause far less harm to individuals and society than alcohol and tobacco, substances which are legal and regulated on the federal level.
The resolution is currently awaiting review in a House judiciary subcommittee with no indication when it could see a vote. It is also unknown at this time if the bill could be successful, though most indicators point to a conservative legislature being against the idea of legalizing marijuana.
“The fiscal impacts, the social impacts of our current policy are having devastating ripple effects,” Gabbard said.
According to Governing, seven states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. These states are Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington. Washington, D.C., has also legalized marijuana for recreational use. An additional 19 states have laws legalizing medical marijuana. Users, growers, and sellers in these states are still subject to federal laws. Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Garrett are looking to change that and end what they see as a wrongheaded approach to creating sound federal policy regarding a substance that millions of Americans use and claim improves their lives.
According to Tulsi Gabbard’s congressional website, experts such as Karen Umemoto of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawaii believe legalizing marijuana is the only sensible approach.
“There is growing consensus acknowledging that the effects of marijuana are less harmful than its criminal prohibition, which has increased incarceration rates, divided families, and burdened state governments with the high cost of enforcement, prison and probation,” Umemoto says. “It’s clear that there are more vital needs that we as a society need to allocate our precious resources towards, such as education, mental health, and homelessness. Decriminalization is a step forward in making needed criminal justice reforms, which should also include more diversion to substance abuse treatment.”
Marijuana users and others who desire a more common-sense approach to marijuana and other drugs will no doubt support this bill and others like it which seek to change the way the federal government deals with marijuana. Marijuana opponents will no doubt argue that the drug is dangerous and must stay illegal. With over half the states in the nation now legalizing marijuana to some degree, it seems that the momentum is on the side of those who want to see a different approach.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]