Virginia Representative introduces legislation that would remove cannabis from federal government's controlled substance list.
A man attends a rally in support for legalization of marijuana in Tbilisi, Georgia June 2, 2013. REUTERS

During Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing in January, the former Alabama senator said if lawmakers and citizens wanted federal marijuana laws changed, then Congress needed to pass a law to change the rule. A Republican representative from Virginia, set out to do just that when he introduced legislation Monday that would remove cannabis from the federal government’s controlled substance list, according to reports.

Rep. Tom Garrett, R-VA, announced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, which would remove marijuana from the Schedule I category, where it currently stands with other illicit substances like cocaine and heroin. The bill, which would allow marijuana to be regulated similar to alcohol and tobacco, was inspired by a former bill Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, introduced that was rejected back in 2015.

In a statement, Garrett said ending the federal prohibition against marijuana would provide a “major economic boost to agricultural development.”

"I have long believed justice that isn't blind, isn't justice. Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California,” he said.

Garrett said he’d also soon introduce new legislation that would allow Virginia agricultures to grow hemp. Currently, in Virginia, medical patients are able to use cannabinol to treat certain conditions after a bill was passed in 2016. However, the measure must be approved again by the state Senate for it to become law in 2017.

Unlike Sanders’ bill, which failed to get sponsorship, Garrett’s bill has already received signatures of support from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. And Rep. Scott W. Taylor, R-Va.

If Garrett’s new initiative is passed by Congress, marijuana would become legal for use across all 50 states, which marijuana opponents say could cause as severe effects as the tobacco industry.

“This is just the Big Tobacco playbook all over again – attempting to remove a psychoactive substance from any FDA oversight so a handful of wealthy investors can get even wealthier. In fact, the marijuana industry has already been adopting Big Tobacco tactics. In Denver, the pot lobby passed a law allowing marijuana smoking in restaurants, and in California, they passed an initiative that would allow pot ads on TV,” Jeffrey Zinsmeister, Executive Vice President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told International Business Times in a statement. “Do we really want to go to out to dinner with our families and come home stinking of weed, or subject our children to TV ads for smoking? Given that Big Tobacco has been eyeing the marijuana industry as the next big business for decades, federal legislation like this would be just the opening they need to swoop in.”