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Bill would give states power over pot

U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Buckingham, has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that, if agreed to, would defederalize marijuana — which would allow state governments to decide the legal status of recreational and medicinal marijuana and hemp production.

According to a press release from Garrett’s office, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 would “take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list, joining other industries such as alcohol and tobacco.”

The bill would hand the decision of the legality of marijuana to states.

Tom Garrett

Tom Garrett

The bill stipulates the only power the federal government would have on the legality and consequence of marijuana would be its transport from states where marijuana is legal to states where it’s illegal.

Garrett said one of the primary reasons behind introduction of the bill — which was originally introduced by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2015 — was the inconsistency of federal laws. Garrett said “a lack of courage at the federal level” was partially to blame.

“We’ve got multiple states that have acted unilaterally and the federal government chooses not to enforce laws in those states,” Garrett said in an interview. “We have young people in Virginia, for example, who are criminally held responsible under federal law for the same exact offense that may be ignored in another state.”

Garrett went on to say as a prosecutor who’s practiced for more than a decade, he believes that “justice that is not blind is not justice.”

Garrett also said the bill would allow states to determine appropriate medicinal use and may allow for the studies and growing of hemp, which would provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia.

“This bill fulfills a responsibility to create a level playing field across the country,” Garrett said in the release.

Garrett said he had the opportunity to vote for the decriminalization of marijuana in the Virginia legislature as a state Senator and voted against it.

“This isn’t legalizing it,” Garrett said. “This is getting the federal government out of a job they’ve already refused for years to do.”