When you think of states in terms of progressiveness, Utah doesn’t usually soar to the top of the list.
Yet our neighboring Rocky Mountain sibling, whose politics are normally about as fire engine-red as they come, has set an example that all forward-thinking American governments should follow.
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Last week, the Utah state legislature passed a resolution that urges the feds to reschedule marijuana within the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Cannabis currently is officially considered a Schedule 1 drug, which places it alongside such substances as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy even though marijuana doesn’t meet any of the criteria for this category.
The Utah resolution—which passed unanimously in both houses and now awaits the governor’s signature—asks the federal government to reclassify marijuana under Schedule 2, which would have two major effects: It would place pot in the same group as such drugs as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine, which can still be dangerous but also have widely accepted medical uses; and by lifting the prohibition inherent to Schedule 1, it would make it easier for medical researchers to conduct the studies that would more clearly and quickly determine exactly what those medical uses are. The ongoing federal ban on marijuana is one of the primary factors preventing would-be researchers from pursuing more in-depth studies of this.
As I’ve argued repeatedly in this space, rescheduling marijuana would provide some desperately needed clarity to the tensions between the federal government and states that are in the process of legalizing marijuana medically or recreationally. It also would enable us to more definitively address the health and public policy implications of a multibillion-dollar industry that’s still, to a large extent, making it up as it goes along.
Utah currently follows federal guidelines in outlawing all forms of marijuana production, sale, and possession, and its name doesn’t even register among states that are considering imminent changes to their drug enforcement policies. But even in this year of antagonistic and intentionally outlandish political pronouncements, one of our most reliably conservative state houses found a way to unanimously agree on a resolution that would, if enacted as policy, immeasurably improve our ability to grasp and intelligently address our culture’s drug habits.
This is especially crucial at a time of good news/bad news regarding the “war on drugs,” because while there is building evidence that the legalization movement is severely undermining the profits of Mexican drug cartels, we also are running headlong into an addiction and overdose epidemic of that properly scheduled substance, heroin.
That’s why our legislature in Colorado—and in any other states that are in the midst of or considering legalizing marijuana—should join Utah in demanding that the federal government update the antiquated drug scheduling policies that are at the root of virtually all ongoing prohibition efforts, which as a result are often woefully misinformed. Such a move would reflect the emerging acceptance and understanding of marijuana’s relevant risks and beneficial properties while beginning to protect us more thoroughly from the genuine threats that far more pernicious drugs pose.
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