Weed creates unfair federalism

Illustration by Tonesha Yazzie

It’s sometimes easy to forget that weed is federally illegal in the United States, given that legalized CBD-infused products have increased in popularity throughout recent years.

Especially on a college campus like NAU, getting high off of a variety of weed products is seen as a nonchalant pastime despite the possible outcome of being arrested.

This casual attitude toward states like California or Colorado, which threw the federal outlaw of marijuana out the door. It’s strange how federalism can work like that.

U.S. federal law deems weed “for any purpose” against the law since 1970 with the implementation of the Controlled Substances Act.

But clearly, this hasn’t stopped states such as California and Colorado from legalizing marijuana.

As of 2019, 10 out of the 50 states in the U.S. have decided that federal control over the use of weed is not as important as the increased interest from its local state constituents.

The growing trend of decriminalized recreational marijuana is great, but it raises some questions about the effectiveness of the federalist system that the U.S. depends on. It’s pretty apparent that if federalism were not in place, states wouldn’t have even been able to create their own weed laws based on what their residents wanted.

My intention isn’t to bash the entire system of the U.S. federalism, because it generally works well in most cases.

The issue with federalism is that it gets in the way of people who rely on medical marijuana to relieve debilitating chronic pain and are stuck in a state like Texas, where it is strictly illegal because of law created almost 50 years ago.

Yet, people in Los Angeles and Las Vegas are able to brag on Instagram about munching on THC gummy worms while also hitting a wax pen with gelato-flavored THC, just for the fun of it.

Creating a disparity between people who need marijuana for very valid medical purposes and people who live in one of the richest regions in the country and buy a copious amount of edibles when they’re bored is a problem of federalism.

Weed’s divisive impact on the country’s government system has showcased federalism’s shortcomings.

I’m all for states having a voice, but the current situation of having medical and recreational marijuana legal in only a certain handful of states has created an unfair, location-based bias around the availability of weed’s beneficial properties.

Along with the location-based bias, authorities take the criminalization of weed extremely seriously in the states where it is illegal, even if that state is a 30-minute drive from a recreationally legalized state.

The U.S.’s obsession with regulating a drug that is less harmful than alcohol in the remaining 40 illegal states almost feels like one is living in a totally separate country compared to the attitude around weed in the states in which it has been legalized.

I understand that government authorities are just doing their job by upholding the law, but it is a little ridiculous to think that it can be totally fine to smoke weed just across state lines and be imprisoned for it on the other side.

This issue gets even more frustrating when taking racial bias into account for the criminalization of weed.

Personally, it infuriates me to think that “Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana” according to ACLU.org.

Yet, if that person had been in any of the 10 legalized states, they wouldn’t have been arrested. How is that fair?

The U.S. is a funny country.

This polarizing difference is why there is an issue in the effectiveness of federalism when it comes to weed.