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Lawmakers Call For Decriminalization Of Marijuana

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is supporting a bill in the House of Representatives aimed at decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which was first tabled in February, would allow each state to determine how the drug should be regulated, The Hill reports.

Eleven Republican and Democratic representatives are behind the measure, including Republican Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia.

Garrett stated that there are "redeeming medical uses for cannabis."

The measure has attracted limited support thus far. Its prospects may not be helped by indications that the Trump administration could move to more strictly enforce existing laws criminalizing the use and possession of marijuana.

"My background on this issue is shaped by my own experiences as a criminal prosecutor, where in fact, I did enforce the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia as they relate to marijuana, and some would say, did so quite vigorously," said Garrett.

But he said his opinion changed when he realized people who had done nothing else wrong were being criminalized.

"If there's anything I cannot tolerate as a citizen and as a prosecutor, it is the unequal application of justice," he said.

He added that he was not concerned about the impact his support for the bill would have on his chances for reelection.

Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii agreed with Garrett.

"Every 42 seconds someone is arrested for the use or possession of marijuana, turning every-day Americans into criminals, tearing families apart," she said.

"The question before us is not whether you think marijuana use is good or bad, or how you feel about this issue, but whether we should be turning people into criminals," added Gabbard.

The use of medical marijuana has been decriminalized in Virginia, the state Garrett represents. But this poses problems for parents like Lisa Smith, because she violates federal law when buying the medication her child requires from outside the state.

Gabbard drew attention to Smith's story .

"Medical marijuana has helped children like Haley Smith living with Dravet syndrome reduce her seizures and other symptoms," Gabbard said, according to Maui Now. "But her mother Lisa lives with the fear of federal prosecution every day. Our current policy makes no sense."

Garrett's initiative has the support of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, WRIC reports.

"We think it's a great step forward, we think it's an essential step forward," Claire Guthrie-Gastanaga with the ACLU of Virginia told WRIC.

Sources: The Hill, Maui Now, WRIC / Photo credit: Lorie Shaull/Flickr

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