Why the US needs federal marijuana reform: Q&A with Congressman Tom Garrett

U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett isn’t the most likely congressional member to embrace federal marijuana reform.

The first-term Republican is from a state – Virginia – that has yet to legalize medical marijuana, although its laws provide protections for people who use cannabidiol oils for medical conditions.

Why did Garrett introduce the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” – a bill that would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list?

The former county and state prosecutor is troubled by the disparate way marijuana laws are enforced in the United States.

“I care about equal protection under the law, and we’re so far from that,” Garrett told Marijuana Business Daily.

Garrett will speak on a panel discussion about marijuana regulation at MJBizConNEXT May 9-11 in New Orleans.

MJBizDaily spoke with Garrett, who’s also a military veteran, about his views on marijuana reform and regulation.

How did a Republican from a state that doesn’t have a marijuana industry get interested in this issue?

I spent close to 10 years as a prosecutor and vigorously prosecuted all the laws on the books.

Marijuana is a realm where we’ve got laws on the books, particularly federally, that are not uniformly enforced.

It just strikes me as totally undermining the concept of rule of law that we would enforce laws in certain areas while completely ignoring them in others.

Also, I was probably amused the first time I heard the term medical cannabis or marijuana. Over the years, what I’ve learned – whether it’s speaking to parents of children with epilepsy, people with terminal cancer or people with traumatic brain injuries – is that it actually does help medically.

The federal government won’t be honest about the potential that exists medically, and that’s stupid.

If you poll this in my district, it’s not a political winner. But I’m not here to do what’s a political good idea, I’m here to do what’s right.

Why do you think your bill and other marijuana reform efforts have failed to gain traction?

It’s very simple. There are a bunch of gatekeepers here that won’t let these bills get to the floor. There are gatekeepers at the subcommittee level, committee level.

You have to have leadership that says, “Hey, we’re going to vote on this bill.”

If our bill gets to the floor, it passes with a bipartisan majority – that’s probably close to 300 out of 435 votes.

What marijuana issues could get the support right now?

You’ve got the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, and it’s good, but essentially what that says is that we’re not going to enforce the laws that are on the books.

If you think we should make laws that we apply uniformly, then you know that’s not the right answer.

You could be entrepreneur of the year in Denver, but, for the exact same fact pattern, be in a federal prison in Charlottesville, Virginia. It just makes no sense.

When do you foresee the legalization of marijuana in the United States?

I’m not going to play hypothetical games.

But what this takes is men and women who have the courage to stand up and say, “You know this makes no sense, we have to change it.”

Every single day we get more of those folks. This is not a partisan issue. This is sort of a “Who has really looked into this issue, what’s the right thing to do” issue.

How likely do you think it is that federal prosecutors will crack down on operations in marijuana-friendly states? 

I tell you what, I think there’d be a rebellion amongst the leadership. I would not sit quietly while we have for years looked the other way.

Maybe that’s what we need to get across the line, but I hope it doesn’t happen.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jeff Smith can be reached at [email protected]

14 comments on “Why the US needs federal marijuana reform: Q&A with Congressman Tom Garrett
  1. Denise singletary on

    Please help us chronic pain suffers ….I don’t like opioids…they really don’t help much …the Doctors are scared the Dea is and Fbi are going to storm in …it has happen here already…Fire the Dea and the FbI…let the people decide

    Reply
    • John on

      It’s disturbing when the DEA is allowed to ignore data that exists confirming the medicinal benefits of MM. A study released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released 1/2017 clearly states there is strong evidence in helping with chronic pain. It goes on to identify other ailments that evidence suggests MM can help. Big Pharma will eventually be involved and that sucks! I’m a five yr pancreatic cancer survivor and also deal with chronic pain from a serious mountain biking accident. I manage several issues with MM and remain quite active as a volunteer and physically.

      Reply
  2. Jeanette Rediker on

    Yes I agree that medical marijuana and even for recreational use as well should be legal….. And it can help lower the deficit…..It has helped other states lower their debt

    Reply
  3. judy melby-robinson on

    I’m sure Big Pharma is lobbying against legalization…imagine the money they’d lose if medical mj were available to all who need it instead of their opiods and other drugs with scary side effects! What they need to do is join forces for the good of the people, buy up and merge with the mj companies and we’ll all win!!

    Reply
    • Angela Ellis on

      There are many other companies in bed with big Pharma, like the insurance industry, so the lobbying is quit large.

      Reply
  4. Lance D. Francis on

    Let’s just impeach Trump, get Pence to conform for the people….if he doesn’t conform let’s get him out and let’s put somebody in there that’s a normal Professional Politician & has a logical thinking brain to lead this country!

    Reply
  5. Thomas M Wilson on

    It’s time to wake up and smell the terpines, this war that Harry Asslinger started has gone on to long. The US government says it has no medical use, and lot of people have been able to have a better life because of it. How much proof do they need. It has never killed anyone. I like to see them take s day off from there government duties and just try it, than they will see for themselves what it is all about. Don’t knock it if you don’t try it.

    Reply
  6. michael fransene on

    mj should be 100% legalized! a plant with dozens of health benifits that never should have been outlawed in the first place!

    Reply
  7. Jennifer Bryson on

    As long as BigPharma is in charge it won’t change. It is the greed of the pharmaceutical companies that won’t allow a wonderful, natural plant to be legal. Thankfully, Maryland did finally got around to medical marijuana of which I’m a recipient. It helps the chronic pain I’ve dealt with for 15 years.

    Reply
  8. Doyle Cumbo on

    This is a no brainer here we are 2018 and still having this conversation it will help in so many ways medically and monetary… The people of Virginia has spoken.

    Reply
  9. Debbie Holmes on

    I’m ex-military and have dealt with chronic pain since 1989. I’ve been in pain management for over a decade. Both opiates and Neurontin make me feel stupid. I need a better alternative. It’s scary when your doctor gives you a Narcan injector in case of accidental overdose on your prescription medication. Cannabis can’t kill me. I need this safe alternative, sir. Keep up the good fight

    Reply

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