Rep. Joe Kennedy Says It’s Time To Legalize Pot Across America

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

In an op-ed article for Stat News, Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III embraces the idea of a federal law to legalize recreational marijuana from coast to coast.

The rising liberal star says he did not join the pro-legalization forces easily — even as his own state legalized pot this month. He says his “reluctance to embrace legalization stems primarily from one place: my ongoing work with the mental health and addiction communities” where Kennedy says he’s been told that “marijuana can be addictive, particularly for adolescents.”

The congressman says he’s also “heard from others who see marijuana quite differently,” however. In part, Kennedy describes his evolution as coming from the knowledge that the drug can reportedly be used medicinally to alleviate trauma. But he also came around on the subject because he believes pot use is an indicator of racism in America because a black teen can be “arrested for smoking a joint while his white friends did the same with impunity.” (RELATED: It’s Legal Weed Wednesday All Over Canada)

A woman smokes a bong on the day Canada legalizes recreational marijuana at Trinity Bellwoods Park, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

A woman smokes a bong on the day Canada legalizes recreational marijuana at Trinity Bellwoods Park, in Toronto, Ont., Canada, Oct. 17, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

Despite acknowledging the potential for the abuse of recreational marijuana, Kennedy argues that a federal law is better than a “patchwork of inconsistent state laws” that, he says, stops the federal government from exercising “its responsibility — and authority — to thoughtfully regulate marijuana.”

Ultimately, Kennedy says the way to do that is to “remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and legalize it at the federal level.” He suggests that pot is less addictive “than alcohol or nicotine” and has many “legitimate medicinal uses” so should no longer be on the CSA or illegal. (RELATED: Here’s How Marijuana Did At The Polls)

Ultimately, Kennedy believes that the illegal weed is unfair because the “criminal justice system” is both unfair and racist: “where skin color dictates how likely you are to be arrested and charged for marijuana possession — despite equal use by people of all races … ”

A woman smokes a marijuana cigarette during a legalization party at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto, Ontario, October 17, 2018. GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images

A woman smokes a marijuana cigarette during a legalization party at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto, Ontario, Oct. 17, 2018. GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images

Legalization would also lead to more ethical marketing and labeling, higher quality standards and even a public education campaign on impaired driving, Kennedy insists, not mentioning that cannabis is not detected in the bloodstream like alcohol.

“My concerns about the public health impact of marijuana remain. But it has become clear that prohibition has wholly failed to address them,” he concludes.

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