It appears that as more U.S. states defy federal prohibition and pass legislation to legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational use, cannabis prosecutions are declining on the federal level.
At least that is what is indicated by the end-of-year report released Monday night by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
On the other hand, prosecutions for other scheduled substances have apparently risen over the past fiscal year.
“Drug crime defendants, who accounted for 28 percent of total filings, grew two percent, although defendants accused of crimes associated with marijuana decreased 19 percent,” Roberts wrote.
Relaxing attitudes towards marijuana
This is likely due in large part to the fact that U.S. states which approved cannabis legalization in 2016 began to implement their laws in 2018.
Although Chief Justice Roberts refrained from making direct parallels to the present cannabis legalization debate, he did open his report by flashing back to the manner in which the Supreme Court handled criminal cases during the alcohol prohibition era of the 1920’s.
Consumers prefer legal product
Fortunately for the future of cannabis legalization, Robert’s report on cannabis cases seems to indicate a broader trend which demonstrates that cannabis legalization can divert cannabis consumers from illicit dealers to licensed dispensaries. In fact, according to Robert’s report, this trend amounted to a 20 percent drop in federal cannabis prosecutions.
In a similar study conducted by the Cato Institute which was released last month, “State-level marijuana legalization has significantly undercut marijuana smuggling”.
“Based on Border Patrol seizures, smuggling has fallen 78 percent over just a five-year period. Because marijuana was the primary drug smuggled between ports of entry where Border Patrol surveils, the value of the agency’s seizures overall, on a per-agent basis, has declined 70 percent.”
Citing the Chief Justice’s report, the political director of NORML, (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) Justin Strekal, said that Roberts’ report should embolden U.S. Congressmen to finally address the issue of cannabis legalization nationwide.
“The decrease in federal criminal charges is a direct reflection of both the increasing number of states that have decriminalized marijuana possession and distribution, as well as the evolving nature of federal agents recognizing the futility of maintaining prohibition,” Strekal said. “Given this trajectory, it is time that Congress act to deschedule cannabis and remove the senseless burden of the failed war on marijuana and direct law enforcement to prosecute individuals who actually harm our society.”
Considering the mounting evidence that cannabis legalization is a far better alternative than continued prohibition, perhaps the U.S. Congress will finally see fit to address the issue of nationwide legalization rather than continuing to ignore it.