A small number of conservatives are fighting against marijuana legalization despite its growing popularity.
Nearly half of America has legalized cannabis, and approximately 2/3 of Americans support full federal drug legalization, a massive increase from 24% support in 1998.
What has changed since then?
Evidence has shown that despite the risks, marijuana has many medical benefits for treating pain, nausea, and chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. As public perception has shifted its view of marijuana from shady drug deals to shedding light on the health benefits, many people have adjusted their views accordingly.
Despite this fact, anti-cannabis advocates are still against its legalization and have gone so far as to attempt to prevent further research. In April, a bill furthering medical marijuana research and its benefits for veterans with PTSD was undermined by Senate conservatives. More recently, Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to the DEA asking them to reject the Department of Health and Human Services recommendation to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 Drugs, which are defined as not having any accepted medical use.
Senate Republican James Lankford has led the charge against the legalization of the substance and has dismissed medical evidence in favor of anecdotes where he has spoken to families that have had problems with substance abuse.
Americans should be concerned about politicians who want to evade evidence contradicting their views and policies. Their choice to shut down research and pretend there are no possible upsides to marijuana use does not change the facts. It only hurts those who could benefit from the knowledge we could gain.
Yes, there are risks to marijuana, as there are risks to doing anything in life. However, it should be up to each person to decide whether the potential downsides are worth the benefits based on their individual circumstances, not a blanket government decision.