I just read a very interesting report from the Congressional Research Service which talked about the legal issues facing Congress in regards to states legalizing medical and recreational marijuana. What really struck me was the part where the document talks about what happens when someone violates federal marijuana laws. See below:
The present and potential consequences of a CSA violation can be substantial. Cultivation or sale of marijuana on all but the smallest scale invites a five-year mandatory minimum prison term. Revenues and the property used to generate them may merely be awaiting federal collection under federal forfeiture laws. Federal tax laws deny marijuana entrepreneurs the benefits available to other businesses. Banks may afford marijuana merchants financial services only if the bank files a suspicious activity report (SAR) for every marijuana-related transaction, and only if it conducts a level of due diligence into its customers’ activities sufficient to unearth any affront to federal interests.
Marijuana users may not possess a firearm or ammunition. They may not hold federal security clearances. They may not operate commercial trucks, buses, trains, or planes. Federal contractors and private employers may be free to refuse to hire them and to fire them. If fired, they may be ineligible for unemployment compensation. They may be denied federally assisted housing.
It’s a sobering thing to hear the Congressional Research Service accurately talk about the penalties of violating federal marijuana laws. Usually they try to sugar coat things and act like ‘no one really goes to jail for marijuana these days’ and leave it at that. There are far more penalties than just jail time involved. I would add to that list the loss of federal student financial aid.
For something with such harsh, life changing penalties, one would think that marijuana is one of the worst things in America. However, there are numerous things that are more harmful, such as alcohol, tobacco, etc. Yet those things won’t result in such harsh penalties. Penalties should fit the crime, and I don’t see how possessing a joint or growing a plant comes even close to warranting those penalties. Hopefully Congress addresses this hypocrisy in a meaningful way sooner than later. I encourage everyone to read the report. There’s quite a bit of interesting stuff in it.