The United States has waged a “War on Drugs” for more than five decades. By most measures, it isn’t going very well. In states like Florida, the sale and use of illegal drugs remain prevalent. And now there is a new crisis in the form of prescription opioid abuse. Given the increasing financial, political, and human cost of treating drug addiction as a law enforcement problem, many prominent figures have started publicly pushing for at least partial legalization of certain drugs.
The Push to Legalize (Some) Drugs Gains Political Support
In April 2016, a group of more than 1,000 international dignitaries signed a letter to then-United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asking him to use his position to call for “reform of global drug control policies.” The authors included former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Mexican presidents Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, and U.S. Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The authors noted that the current war on drugs has “created a vast illicit market that has enriched criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive violence, distorted economic markets and undermined basic moral values.”
The authors went on to emphasize the racially discriminatory nature of the drug war, noting that “[t]ens of millions of people, mostly poor and racial and ethnic minorities, were incarcerated, mostly for low-level and non-violent drug law violations, with little if any benefit to public security.”
More recently, on June 28, 2018, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a bill to remove marijuana as a federally prohibited “controlled substance.” Schumer’s proposal would also provide funds to assist states in expunging and sealing the criminal records of individuals previously convicted of illegal marijuana possession. A similar marijuana legalization bills has also been introduced by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.
A number of states have already moved on their own to decriminalize and even permit the sale of marijuana for personal use within their borders. This has created understandable conflict with the federal government, which still considers any use of marijuana–even for medicinal purposes–a crime.
But the U.S. will soon face external pressure on its northern border to loosen its marijuana restrictions. On October 17, 2018, Canada’s Cannabis Act takes effect. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government secured approval for legislation that “legalizes and regulates” marijuana. Individual Canadian provinces will still have the authority to set specific rules for cannabis use, including the legal minimum age, how much someone can possess, and where drugs may be purchased.
The Drug War Remains in Full Effect in Florida
Meanwhile, here in Florida the state is still taking small steps towards legalizing cannabis products for purely medicinal use. It may be sometime before state officials will consider following Canada’s lead and moving towards a legalize-and-regulate system. So you still need to be conscious of the drug war and its potential impacts on your liberties. If you are charged with a drug crime in Florida and need assistance from a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney, contact Moses & Rooth at (407) 377-0150 today.