Arlington, VA

By Criminal Defense Attorney Shawn Sukumar of Price Benowitz LLP

As legalization of medical and recreational marijuana continues to spread throughout many states, a major alcohol association has appealed to Congress to legalize the drug federally.

It was in late November 2018 that the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) appeared on Capitol Hill. They had been fighting for federal legalization of marijuana since July, but went one step further when they appealed to lawmakers and congressional staff in the nation’s capital.

The WSWA pointed to the fact that federal legalization would prevent the diversion of marijuana to other states. That is something lawmakers are currently trying to combat, as those in nearby states that have not yet legalized marijuana travel to states that have and bring it home.

During the meeting, the development of technologies that could detect drivers under the influence of marijuana was also discussed. By implementing new driving standards that would correspond with legalization, the association argued that it would not be a threat to the general public.

“It simply does not make sense that marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug at the federal level,” says Shawn Sukumar, Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney. “It does not have the harmful effects of LSD or heroin, yet it is classified as being the same.”

Some at the briefing by WSWA criticized the group. This was due to a suggestion that the alcohol industry simply wanted marijuana legalized so they could sell it, and therefore reap the profits that could be distributed to other businesses. WSWA was adamant though, that was not the case.

Instead, the association provided many other benefits that legalizing marijuana federally would bring. These included keeping marijuana out of the hands of underage individuals and increasing the safety of marijuana. The association also argued that legalizing cannabis throughout the entire country would also allow all states to reap the tax benefits of selling the drug.

There was no word after the briefing on how WSWA’s presentation was received by lawmakers. However, with this first step, it is possible that more major associations could follow in WSWA footsteps.

If that happens, legislators may begin to feel the pressure. That ultimately could lead to marijuana being federally legalized, and fewer innocent people being convicted.

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