I often write and talk about the ignorance of lawmakers when it comes to cannabis. We wonder how, in this day and age, someone can remain so in the dark when it comes to the actual effects of consuming and legalizing a plant.
To be sure, much of it is by choice. I read and write and talk about cannabis every single day and have done so for almost 9 years. But it doesn’t take anywhere near that level of effort to learn some basic facts about cannabis.
Other factors come into play, of course, like the inability to shed that which we were told in our youth and monetary compensation from those who benefit from the status quo – in this case, marijuana prohibition.
But under all of that, something else contributes to the amount of ignorance seen among so many lawmakers: the sheer amount of things they have been given power over.
Imagine being a member of the House of Representatives. Thousands of pieces of legislation will be introduced in the chamber every year and hundreds will get a floor vote. The bills will cover hundreds of subjects and affect thousands of industries. In many cases, there isn’t even time to read the bills that can be hundreds and even thousands of pages. The federal government has a hand in so many aspects of our daily lives that there is no way a lawmaker could know enough about every aspect to make an informed decision about it.
In this context, is it any wonder that a 70 year-old man who has been in Congress for 45 years knows very little about cannabis policy and its real world implications? Again, to be clear, there is no doubt greater effort to learn can be made from said lawmaker, but there is a limit to how much someone can retain, especially if they have no real interest in the subject.
Yes, federal representatives have staffs, but even under the best circumstances, the lawmaker is getting the opinion of that staff member after it has been distilled through what they may or may not know about a subject.
And while state lawmakers have less people to govern, it doesn’t mean they are involved in less aspects of daily life, especially in states with larger government involvement when it comes to what citizens do (like California). How can one lawmaker possibly know enough about the subjects covered by the bills they vote on and the regulations the stack up? In 2013, the Federal Code of Regulations was over 175,000 pages long, and it’s only grown since then. How many people in the federal government could really be considered an expert on the 175,000+ pages? And regulations are only part of what a lawmaker must decide on.
It would be great if lawmakers had time to learn more about the issues they vote on, but we have come to a point where the government is involved in so much that is it utterly impossible for them to have enough knowledge of each problem to make a well-informed decision.
Sadly, cannabis is often a subject that is put on the back burner as a priority for many politicians with limited time and interest.