US Congressman Joe Kennedy III, D – Mass., has displayed an about-face on marijuana legalization, just when the state of Massachusetts has opened its first marijuana retail locations. Kennedy has been vocal in his stance against legalization, but an opinion piece published Nov. 20, 2018 shows a significant change in stance.

Kennedy’s piece noted that certain citizens are not well-served with federal prohibition of marijuana, citing such examples as the elderly with terminal illness and those who have substance abuse issues. For these individuals, legalization can be helpful in addressing their medical situations. Regulation is the key to helping these people, Kennedy noted.

Kennedy noted he has not completely resolved his reservations related to marijuana legalization. He says that the current classification at the level of heroin and LSD makes research difficult and has encouraged American companies to move elsewhere to pursue research that can be helpful to US residents.

Kennedy says current federal prohibition of marijuana has led to an unfair focus on minority communities, with a signification proportion of marijuana possession arrests against individuals from those communities. Kennedy also raised concerns that, despite the growing number of jobs in states where marijuana is legalized, agencies that assist in job searches and receive federal funding cannot direct people to these jobs because federally, marijuana is illegal.

Kennedy notes in the printed piece that his change of heart is largely due to time spent working with people who have been harmed by current policy, as well as those who have benefitted from medical use of the drug.

Kennedy also discussed other benefits of legalization, from labeling standards and product packaging to inform consumers and reduce marketing tactics that could influence youth to better funding for research and for awareness campaigns so users are cognizant of the consequences of impaired driving.

One further issue Kennedy raised that is plaguing marijuana businesses is the lack of support from banks, due mainly to the fact federal law is so far behind state statutes. The effort to legalize marijuana on a federal level would provide means to regulate the drug and would allow for problematic situations like tax payments made in cash to be left in the past.