Heenan: Is that the Department of Justice knocking on your door?
Who is that knocking on your door? A Boy Scout selling popcorn? A Girl Scout selling cookies? A neighbor with some mail that was misdirected? Or something much, much scarier?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced that the U.S. Department of Justice is undermining the right of states to control the use of marijuana. Montanans have directly voted to allow marijuana for medical use. Other states like Washington and Colorado have made it legal for recreational use as well.
But people in Montana and across the country are now living with the uncertainty of when Federal agents may be knocking down their door, hand-cuffing them and walking them off to jail. The revenue from taxing marijuana in states where it is legal is now at risk. Despite the support of law enforcement for the legalization of marijuana (they have bigger fish to fry), the Trump administration is moving forward with blunt force.
While the State of Montana continues to walk a careful line regarding the legalization of marijuana, none of our citizens should have to live in fear of Federal law enforcement officers kicking down doors or arresting people for the legal use of medical marijuana. As our State government continues to struggle with financing basic services, our Montana State Legislators and our Governor should have every option open to consider expanding the legalization, regulation and taxing the sale of marijuana. The Federal government should not take that power away from Montanans and our elected representatives.
For nearly eight years, States were allowed by the U.S. Department of Justice to provide for the legal and regulated sale of marijuana. Some states have opted to recognize the significant revenue associated with legalizing both medical and recreational use of marijuana. Others have chosen to be more restrictive. All under the careful, watchful eye of the U.S. Department of Justice, monitoring closely for illegal activity such as organized crime, illegal trafficking or under-aged sale of marijuana-based products. This policy worked. But the U.S. Congress has failed to step up to its responsibility of passing actual laws that allow for commerce associated with marijuana to occur without the political whims of whomever is in the Oval office interrupting.
Now, the failure of the U.S. Congress to act has caused massive disruption and concern. As a candidate to serve Montanans in the U.S. House of Representatives, it pains me to see yet another circumstance in which the lack of political courage has left many of our neighbors, friends and colleagues at great risk. A person struggling with disease and using marijuana for medical reasons must now be very concerned with being arrested by a Federal agent. People in states and communities that have chosen to legalize marijuana are now at risk of being put in Federal prison, despite local laws to the contrary.
It is time for the U.S. Congress to take a leadership role. They need to roll back this over-reaching policy of the current Administration. We as Montanans deserve the right to determine how best to allow for the use of marijuana within our borders. In Montana, we understand the importance of public safety, protecting our children and our way of life. Who better than our friends and neighbors to determine what policy regarding marijuana is right for our communities?
That knock on your door should not be that of a Federal agent. Our local laws of the land are perfectly adequate to govern the use of marijuana.
John Heenan is a Democratic candidate for the U.S House of Representatives.