According a recent CBS News poll conducted at the end of October, a slim majority of 51 percent continues to think that marijuana use should be illegal. But support for specifically allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions - or legalized "medical" marijuana - is far stronger: 77 percent Americans think it should be allowed.
Napoleon's troops first brought over the mysterious dried leaf called hashish from Egypt in the early 1800s. Soon, it was being sold in pharmacies across France and gaining adherents, especially among the bohemian intellectual crowd. Today, France has some of the most conservative drugs laws in Europe. A high-level parliamentary report released recently concluded that it was impossible to continue "advocating the illusion of abstinence" and recommended that the drug be subject to "controlled legalization."
Some anniversaries provide an occasion for celebration, others a time for reflection, still others a time for action. This June will mark forty years since President Nixon declared a "war on drugs," identifying drug abuse as "public enemy No. 1." As far as I know, no celebrations are planned. What's needed, indeed essential, are reflection -- and action.
The Ontario Superior Court in Canada declared the rules that govern medical marijuana access and the prohibitions laid out in sections 4 and 7 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act “constitutionally invalid and of no force and effect,” effectively paving the way for legalization. If the government does not respond within 90 days with a successful delay or re-regulation of marijuana, the drug will be legal to possess and produce in Ontario, where the decision is binding.
It's been forty years since President Nixon declared a "war on drugs." And we're not winning. In local communities, Black and Latino men are being singled out unfairly and fed into the prison system for minor drug offenses; in Mexico, an unspeakably brutal drug war continues with no signs of cessation; sick people continue to be denied legal access to medical marijuana that could ease their pain. But there are signs that things are changing.
Part of the solution to end drug violence in Mexico should include legalizing drugs like marijuana for personal use, according to former President Vicente Fox. "In order to get out of this trap (of drug violence caused by organized crime), I'm specifically proposing the legalization of the drug," Fox said. He also said the Mexican government should "retire the army from the task of combating criminal gangs."
Brazilian demonstrators held marches on the weekend calling for marijuana to be legalized after the country's top court ruled the gatherings could go ahead in the name of freedom of speech. The demonstrations were held in 40 towns and cities late Saturday, according to Brazilian media.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Monday turned up pressure on the United States to curb demand for illicit drugs, hinting that legalization of narcotics may be needed to weaken the drug cartels. Mexico, which has been racked by a bloody conflict between the government and drug cartels, is paying the price for its proximity to the United States, Calderon said in a speech to the Americas Society and Council of the Americas in New York.
Santos spelled out the radical ideas which he hopes will create a fresh approach. He said: "A new approach should try and take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking… If that means legalising, and the world thinks that's the solution, I will welcome it. I'm not against it." But he is clear that any initiatives need to be part of a co-ordinated international plan of action and he rules out any unilateral action by Colombia. "What I won't do is to become the vanguard of that movement because then I will be crucified."
I recently returned from the desert city of Durango, Mexico, where forensic officials are still trying to identify some 240 corpses discovered this year in mass graves. More than 200 other bodies have been found in similar fosas across northern Mexico. All were victims, many of them innocent victims, of the drug-trafficking violence whose barbarity seems bottomless. But it's fueled in large part by the just as endless American appetite for illegal drugs – which itself is due in no small part to the fact that our anti-drug policies are so narrow-mindedly focused on battling supply instead of reducing demand.
Marijuana could soon be legalised in Copenhagen, after the city voted overwhelmingly in favour of a scheme that would see the drug sold through a network of state-run shops and cafes. The scheme, if approved by the Danish parliament at the start of next year, could make the city the first to fully legalise, rather than simply tolerate, marijuana consumption. "We are thinking of perhaps 30 to 40 public sales houses, where the people aren't interested in selling you more, they're interested in you," said Mikkel Warming, the Mayor in charge of Social Affairs at Copenhagen City Council
Should the use of cannabis be legalised to end the dealing that has poisoned life in France's banlieues, and to guarantee the quality of a substance that is widely consumed but is often of very poor quality? The economist Pierre Kopp, of Paris University, has compared the cost of combating cannabis abuse with its possible cost if legalised. He considers that, as with tobacco use, the key factor in cannabis legalisation would be the duty levied by the state: ideally that duty should be high enough to prevent increased consumption of the substance, while bringing in sufficient revenue to fund prevention.
The issue of legalising cannabis is once again making headlines in France following the release of a parliamentary report on Wednesday recommending that the drug should be subject to “controlled legalisation”. One leading critic of international drug policy doubts that the debate will inspire a sea change in French policy.
Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian president, has called for the global legalisation of marijuana to help combat the trafficking of harder drugs and related violence. "The world needs to discuss new approaches ... we are basically still thinking within the same framework as we have done for the last 40 years," he said. Asked if making marijuana legal could offer a way forward, Mr Santos said it could and that he would support it "provided everyone does it at the same time".
The parliamentary report recommends “controlled legalisation” of the cultivation and consumption of cannabis in France. The report, compiled by a working group of the Socialist Party, headed by the former minister of the Interior Daniel Vaillaint, recommends that the cultivation and sale of cannabis should become a state-controlled activity, like the sale of alcohol and tobacco, and concluded that the government cannot continue to “advocate the illusion of abstinence”.See also: Légaliser le cannabis, mode d’emploi, Journal du Dimanche, 16 Juin 2011 (in French)
Pot legalization backers hope to start gathering signatures as soon as this summer to put the question to voters. Given Colorado`s low signature threshold for ballot initiatives, which currently stands at about 86,000 people, they say they expect an easy path to the polls. Colorado voters defeated a legalization measure in 2006, as did California voters last year. But activists here are regrouping for another push.
A new marijuana legalization ballot measure was cleared Monday to start seeking petition signatures. But its proponents aren't affiliated with the Oakland-based backers of last year's Proposition 19, who intend to mount a 2012 initiative of their own. The state attorney general's official summary says the measure, named by its proponents as "The Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act of 2012," would decriminalize marijuana sales, distribution, possession, use, cultivation, processing and transportation by people at least 21 years old.
While it is allowed in some form in 16 states and Washington, DC, Colorado is the leader in trying to make medicinal pot a legitimate business. It has been legal since a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution in 2000, but the for-profit side only took off two years ago after the legislature allowed individual counties and towns more flexibility in interpreting the rules. Over a hundred have done so.
King County authorities and the Washington State Public Stadium Authority have agreed to stop harassing people collecting signatures outside the Seahawks football stadium for an initiative that would legalize and tax recreational marijuana in the state. One of the collectors, Benjamin Schroeter, was arrested Nov. 13 after he refused an order to stop collecting signatures for Initiative 502 in a public area outside the stadium where fans were tailgating.
A former federal prosecutor and two former judges who have not only observed but also enforced marijuana laws at the federal, state and local levels ask that these laws be changed. It is time for a different, more effective approach. That's why they endorse Initiative 502, which would decriminalize marijuana in our state and make a long-overdue change for the better in public policy.