Backers of an effort to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use in Washington state submitted more than 340,000 signatures Thursday to try to qualify their initiative, a move protested by some legalization supporters who say the proposal would hurt medical-marijuana patients. About a dozen protesters carried signs that read "Legalize, not penalize," and shouted as members of New Approach turned in signatures for Initiative 502 to the Legislature.
Colorado has become the third state to ask the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana in a way that allows doctors to prescribe it as a medical treatment. The state asked the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana from Schedule 1, a category that includes heroin, to Schedule 2. The change would allow doctors to prescribe pot and pharmacies to fill marijuana prescriptions. The governors of Rhode Island and Washington have made similar requests.
The youth vote helped propel Barack Obama to the presidency, but that enthusiasm has declined sharply. One issue might reignite youthful enthusiasm: marijuana — partly its medical use, but especially the right to recreational use free of potential arrest. Police arrest youth for marijuana possession by the hundreds of thousands, threatening life prospects for a young man or woman saddled with a permanent "drug arrest" record that's easily located by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies and banks. Small wonder that 62 percent of young Americans (ages 18 to 29) now favor legalizing marijuana, as a Gallup poll reported.
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.
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.
Polls show overwhelming support for amending the laws. In fact, 50 percent of Americans—the largest portion ever recorded—now favor legalizing marijuana, according to an October Gallup poll. But elected officials have yet to catch up. Even those politicians who privately wisecrack about all the weed they smoked in their younger days are usually too timid to take on decades-old preconceptions about marijuana. In other words, the politicians who have the power to enact new rules have been too wimpy to use it, and those who want to see changes don't have the clout. The result is a political limbo where reefer madness still rules.
As proponents of a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana near the deadline to turn in signatures, they face a puzzling picture of the electorate. An independent poll this summer found a slender majority of Coloradans support legalizing cannabis. But whenever marijuana has actually appeared on the ballot in Colorado in recent years — most commonly as measures to ban dispensaries and other marijuana businesses — it has generally fared poorly.
Two prominent El Paso political leaders argue, in their new book, that the United States' war on drugs is not working despite a $1 trillion infusion of federal money over the past 40 years. Former city Rep. Beto O'Rourke and city Rep. Susie Byrd co-authored the recently published book, "Dealing Death and Drugs." The book is billed as "an argument to end the prohibition of marijuana." The authors contend the only rational alternative to the multi-billion dollar war on drugs is to end the present prohibition on marijuana.
An effort to decriminalize and tax recreational marijuana sales for adults in Washington state has won some high-profile endorsements — including from two former Seattle U.S. attorneys and the former head of the FBI here — and its sponsors are well on their way to collecting enough signatures to place the measure before the Legislature. But even if backers gather enough signatures for Initiative 502 and the measure ultimately becomes law, the effort is a gamble because, in the event of a conflict with federal statutes, the feds would trump.
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.
There are currently 16 states that allow some form of legalized medical marijuana, but only Colorado allows marijuana businesses to operate as such. It’s the first, and for the moment, only, for-profit marijuana marketplace in the U.S. Predictably, Colorado is in the midst of a marijuana boom. Between 2000—when Colorado voters legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes with Amendment 20—and 2008, Colorado issued roughly 2,000 medical marijuana cards to patients living in the state. By 2011 that number had jumped to over 127,000 paying customers, according to the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry, and at least 25,000 more have applications pending.
I-502 has about 230,000 signatures and almost certainly will qualify for the November 2012 ballot. If I-502 were to pass, the state Liquor Control Board estimates that about 445,000 people — 10 percent of the adults over age 21 — would use marijuana. The analysis estimates that 95 percent of users would consume two grams a week, and the remaining 5 percent would smoke 2 grams a day. Based on those estimates, I-502 would make marijuana a top-five agricultural product in Washington, with gross receipts of nearly $582 million. With a 25 percent tax at each link of the production, distribution and retail chain, I-502 would generate $215 million a year, with nearly two-thirds of it earmarked for research and addiction prevention.
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.
GOP presidential candidate Gary Johnson drew headlines earlier this month when he said he would issue a full presidential pardon for anyone serving a prison sentence for marijuana. He elaborated on that promise adding that it's only a matter of time before marijuana is legalized. "Clearly it is when, not if," he said of legalizing cannabis. "When 50 percent of the population says to the other 50 percent, 'You belong behind bars for your actions,' that's not good law, that is just not good law at all."
The California Medical Association made news when it became the first state medical association to recommend the legalization and regulation of cannabis. The CMA's Council on Scientific and Clinical Affairs noted in its recommendations that there is an increasing body of evidence that marijuana may be useful in the treatment of a number of medical conditions, but research to determine both risks and benefits is hampered in the United States because marijuana still is classified as an illegal drug.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he would not be rushed into decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana because doing so creates its own set of problems that other cities have been forced to correct. The mayor shined the light on his deliberations on the hot-button issue as Chicago aldermen formally introduced their decriminalization plan after releasing ward-by-ward statistics that show minorities bear the brunt of marijuana arrests.
In the design of America's founders, the states are supposed to be centers of democratic experiment. They're not supposed to be uniform. For example, even though alcohol Prohibition ended in 1933, local laws restricting sales exist in 33 states. In Arkansas, more than half of 75 counties prohibit alcohol sales. This design is why it is disturbing to us that the Obama administration has launched a crackdown on medical marijuana, which is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia, the home of the federal government.
The new federal crackdown on medical marijuana announced on October 7 by California's four U.S. Attorneys sent chills through the industry. It was a stunning reversal by the Obama administration. While legal weed grew to an estimated $10 billion to $100 billion industry — no one's quite sure of the exact figure — activists noticed an alarming undercurrent to the rhetoric: Raids on growers and dispensaries actually increased under President Barack Obama.
Most of us can agree that current drug policy in North America is a disaster. The global war on drugs can’t be won. Locking up addicts in jail is both futile and inhumane. We’re squandering billions on policies that hurt people and don’t work. Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA, thinks our current policies are a disaster. But he also thinks the legalizers are just as misguided as the hard-liners with their fantasies of a drug-free world. His information-packed new book, Drugs and Drug Policy, is full of inconvenient facts that demolish both the hawks and the doves.