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News-Miner Opinion

A rational approach to marijuana laws: Rep. Don Young emerges as a leader for federal reform

News-Miner opinion: U.S. Rep. Don Young has stepped up to protect marijuana-using gun owners’ rights from federal restrictions.

Under federal law, being an “unlawful user” of marijuana renders you ineligible to buy or even possess a firearm.

Young, along with co-sponsors U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, R-Fla., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill., have introduced the Gun Rights and Marijuana (GRAM) Act. It aims to protect those who use marijuana in states and jurisdictions where it is legal from federal law that bars “an unlawful user” of a controlled substance from possessing guns. While cannabis would remain a federally controlled substance, the GRAM Act specifies the term “unlawful user” no longer would apply to marijuana.

Cannabis remains an illegal Schedule 1 substance under federal law, along with heroin and LSD, even as Washington, D.C., and many states have legalized it for recreational and/or medicinal use.

“Gun ownership is a significant part of Alaska’s culture and lifestyle,” Young said after the bill was introduced. “When my constituents chose to legalize adult-use marijuana, they were not surrendering their Second Amendment rights.”

Young, Alaska’s only congressman, just announced his re-election bid for the House seat he has held since 1973. He co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and is a board member of the National Rifle Association. That is something you likely will see only in Alaska.

The GRAM Act underscores the nation’s almost schizophrenic approach to marijuana. Using, transporting and selling marijuana is illegal on the federal level, so banks and other institutions are wary of working with the burgeoning industry on financial matters. Transportation companies are leery of moving marijuana. And the list goes on.

Yet, recreational use of cannabis is legal in 17 states, the District of Columbia, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. Thirteen states and the U.S. Virgin Islands have decriminalized its use.

What is needed is a rational federal approach to marijuana more in line with the states’ positions. If states are going to legalize the product despite the federal government’s anachronistic position, it is time to bring federal law into the 21st century to protect everybody’s rights.

What we have now is a system that potentially could be abused on the federal level to punish individuals and companies doing something completely legal at the state level. It also discriminates on many levels against what is a lawful industry in many states that provides jobs and revenue.

It is well beyond time for change. The GRAM act is a good first step in that direction.

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The Daily News-Miner encourages residents to make themselves heard through the Opinion pages. Readers' letters and columns also appear online at Contact the editor with questions at or call 459-7574.

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