Anyone who ever saw the classic School House Rock segment on how a bill becomes a law, knows that you have to go through several steps before an idea (Federal Legalization) can actually become the law of the land. The first step in this process has actually taken place, however to sadly minimal fan fair last year. The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 was introduced by Senator Cory Booker (Democrat of New Jersey) and Representative Barbara Lee (Democrat of California's 13th District).
The act itself would make giant strides in the right direction if it became law.
1. It removes marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act. Specifically, it removes Cannabis from being a schedule 1 controlled substance, and in the same category as Cocaine and Heroine. Some people have said that as a first step it should just be downgraded, however this would remove it completely.
2. Allows for the import/export of Marijuana: In addition to being able to buy it domestically, we would also be able to buy and sell it internationally. With Canada going the route of full legalization this could be a major deal for California Cannabis growers, who could dominate the space internationally in the same way that French Wines and Irish Whiskey do in Alcohol.
3. Go back and expunge any federal convictions for Cannabis possession. Even if you are serving time you can petition to be released from prison. If you have served time for violating this specific federal law in the past, it will be removed from your record. Meaning many people would be released from prison and many more would no longer have the restrictions placed on them that come from having a criminal record.
4. It incentivizes states to reduce the racial disparities that exist in Cannabis arrests. The Department of Justice would do an annual review of all marijuana related arrests in the state. If they determine that such a disparity exists, many of the federal funds that flow to states for the building and maintenance of jails within their states will be put on hold.
5. It creates a reinvestment fund to help redevelop communities most negatively impacted by the war on drugs. Unlike many bills that just dictate how funds will be spent, this one actually tells you where the money is coming from. Any money that would be held back from states that had failed to eliminate racial disparities would be allocated to this reinvestment fund. In addition to all of the money the bill would save by reducing our overcrowded prison system, it would also create a reinvestment fund for persecuted communities without increasing the federal deficit.
If you are curious as to whether your representative has signed onto the bill, the great people over at NORML.org have a form you can fill out to find out and show your support for the bill. You can also donate to the cause, because it turns out passing laws cost money.
Feel free to also read the full act here as well.