Marijuana is perhaps the nation’s most popular “street” drug. Pot and cannabis products are consumed by millions every year across the United States, regardless of whether the drug is legal in any given state. Many states have legalized cannabis for medical use, and about a dozen states have legalized recreational marijuana.

Despite this, the drug remains illegal under federal law. But some lawmakers are working to change that, including Minnesota’s Democratic senator Tina Smith. Recently, she introduced the Substance Regulation and Safety Act of 2020, which would legalize cannabis nationwide and put the FDA in charge of regulating it. It would also set the legal age to use marijuana at 21, just like with alcohol.

Even if you don’t personally believe that people should use drugs like marijuana, there are plenty of practical arguments for legalizing it. They include:

Improved product safety: Regulation can only occur when a product is legal.

Improved purchasing safety: Legal dispensaries would mean no more covert drug deals and the dangers that accompany them (robbery and violence).

Fewer criminal convictions: The war on drugs has not appreciably reduced drug use – especially when it comes to marijuana. All it has done is result in millions of Americans with criminal records that either result in jail time or, at the very least, make it much harder to find a job or a place to live.

Addressing racial disparities in criminal justice: White Americans use marijuana at precisely the same rate as African Americans, but the arrest rates don’t reflect this. The American Civil Liberties Union notes that a black person is 3.6 times more likely than a white person to be arrested on marijuana charges.

Impaired driving standards: There are no scientific standards to detect driver impairment caused by marijuana. Senator Smith wants to invest in research to create such a standard (presumably in much the same way that portable breath tests can quickly detect alcohol impairment).

Marijuana may be safer than other, legal drugs: There hasn’t been a large body of research on the health effects of marijuana. But some studies have found that it is less harmful to the body than heavy use of alcohol. It may even be less harmful than over-the-counter pain relievers (like ibuprofen and acetaminophen), which can cause liver and kidney damage.

One national standard is easier: Problems can and do occur when state and federal criminal laws conflict with one another. Legal nationalization would eliminate those problems.

For the time being, recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Minnesota and numerous other states, and the consequences for violating the law can be harsh. If you are facing drug charges, please seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.