WASHINGTON — Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby testified Wednesday morning before a congressional panel to support federal decriminalization and legalization of marijuana possession.
She testified Wednesday before the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security at what's being called the first hearing on ending the federal prohibition of marijuana.
"The reason I'm here today is because there is no better illumination of this country's failed war on drugs than the city of Baltimore, Maryland," Mosby said.
A significant takeaway from the House hearing was that the debate is not over whether Congress should legalize marijuana, but rather how and, to a lesser extent, why.
The issue has brought the parties together, as there was unity among the lawmakers.
"Current marijuana laws are inappropriate, and we must consider reform," said U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, D-California.
"Marijuana decriminalization may be one of the few issues on which bipartisan agreement can still be reached in this session," said U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California. "Personally, I believe cannabis use, in most cases, is ill advised, but many things are ill advised that should not be illegal."
Mosby cited data that shows discriminatory enforcement of federal law. Mosby called on Congress to take marijuana off the list of controlled substances and legalize it.
"What we've seen with the mere decriminalization of marijuana is that the discriminatory enforcement still exists," Mosby said.
Members of both parties agreed that the status quo isn't working, enforcement is racist and discriminatory, that the law needs to change and the states need to set their own policies.
"Data shows the enforcement of these laws is overwhelmingly inflicted on poor and black communities," Mosby said. "As the state's attorney, I will never be complicit in the discriminatory enforcement of laws against poor black and brown people, and that's what today was all about."
"It ought to be crystal clear to everyone that our laws have not accomplished their goals," McClintock said.
The only disagreement was over strategy, whether to do it all at once or incrementally.
Concerns were raised by members of both parties, including: "If we legalize marijuana, will there be an increase in crime rates? Use by children? Car accidents?" The short answer from panel members to all of those questions was no.
Mosby published a paper on the issue, "Reforming a Broken System -- Rethinking the Role of Marijuana Prosecutions in Baltimore City."