Let States Decide on Marijuana
In 1970, at the height of his white-hot war on crime, President Richard Nixon demanded that Congress pass the Controlled Substances Act to crack down on drug abuse. During the debate, Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut held up a package wrapped in light-green paper that he said contained $3,000 worth of marijuana. This substance, he said, caused such “dreadful hallucinations” in an Army sergeant in Vietnam that he called down a mortar strike on his own troops. A few minutes later, the Senate unanimously passed the bill.
That law, so antique that it uses the spelling “marihuana,” is still on the books, and is the principal reason that possessing the substance in Senator Dodd’s package is considered illegal by the United States government. Changing it wouldn’t even require an act of Congress — the attorney general or the secretary of Health and Human Services could each do so — although the law should be changed to make sure that future administrations could not reimpose the ban.