Friday, February 11, 2022

In Context: Things that should be neither bipartisan nor partisan

Three weeks after forcing the Senate to take a vote on a partisan effort to disfigure the Body into an institution of an entirely different character, Senate Majority Leader Schumer was back to singing the praises of bipartisanship and of the most significant laws Congress has passed since the 1990s.

His last item was an appeal for bipartisanship—on cannabis. What's so odd is how contrary this is to one of the most significant legal settlements in the 1990s with the tobacco industry.

What has changed?

Smoking cigarettes had at least a decades-long history, including portrayals in popular culture. Old movies today look distinctly dated when they portray smoking and literal smoke-filled rooms. Anybody could smoke, and many men and women were shown smoking. It was the lack of discrimination in the marketing and use of this product that led to the judgment of a nation upon its producers.

Smoking marijuana, on the other hand, has long been illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. The production, marketing and use of this product has been illicit. There is a distinct divide between those who make an effort to keep their behavior legal and those who willfully participate in illegal activity.

In the 1990s, Big Tobacco was on the hook for having marketed their products to children to get them hooked when they were young. Age was the major distinction in who smoked cigarettes as it related to crafting the legal settlement.

While it's an open question for some, if cannabis has more of an effect than tobacco, why would we now make laws against it less restrictive and promote its use?

One of the reasons Schumer cited for “comprehensive cannabis reform” is, “Federal cannabis laws have caused immense damage to millions of Americans, particularly Black and Hispanic people, who have been unfairly targeted by these laws.”

In other words, it's not about what the product is or its effects. It's about identifying racial patterns of who has been implicated by laws about this product.

We don't need two parties pushing more identity-based policymaking. We'd be better off with none.

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