In 21 states, consumers can legally buy marijuana for legal or recreational use even though the substance still is illegal under federal law. New laws legalizing recreational marijuana use in Washington and Colorado likely are under the states' "power to decide what is criminal and what is not," a report from the Congressional Research Service said. The report analyzed court precedent and presented what can be done to enforce federal law now that several states have marijuana laws that contradict it.
Lawmakers introduced a long-awaited bill of proposed regulations for recreational marijuana, moving Colorado one step closer to a legal pot marketplace. The 57-page bill — House Bill 1317 — contains most of the ideas endorsed by a special legislative committee for how recreational marijuana businesses should operate and be structured. A second bill, House Bill 1318, lays out a proposed tax structure for marijuana that voters would be asked to approve.
Washington state is delaying its timeline for granting marijuana growing and processing licenses - and that means legal marijuana sales likely won't begin before spring of next year. Rather than issue growing licenses this summer and processor licenses this fall, as called for in a tentative prior timeline, the Liquor Control Board will issue all licenses Dec. 1, 2013.
Alaska voters likely will get a chance next year to make their state the third in the country to approve the recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and older. Pot backers took the first step toward getting the measure on the August 2014 primary ballot, presenting draft language and 100 signatures to the Alaska lieutenant governor’s office.
A bill introduced in Congress would fix the conflict between the federal government’s marijuana prohibition and state laws that allow medical or recreational use. California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said his bill, H.R. 1523, Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, which has three Republican and three Democratic sponsors, would assure that state laws on pot are respected by the feds. The measure would amend the Controlled Substances Act to make clear that individuals and businesses, including marijuana dispensaries, who comply with state marijuana laws are immune from federal prosecution.
Washington state may delay issuing licenses to grow pot by a couple months, according to state Liquor Control Board Deputy Director Rick Garza. In its initial timeline, the board would issue producer licenses in mid-August. Then it planned to issue processor licenses in early November and retailer licenses in mid-November. Under that schedule, state-regulated stores might open as early as December. But the board staff believe it’s probably better to create all three licenses at the same time.
Colorado lawmakers stood the state's current model for marijuana businesses on its head, endorsing a proposal that would allow recreational pot stores and commercial growers to operate independently. Currently, medical-marijuana businesses in Colorado are vertically integrated, meaning growers and sellers are part of the same company and the stores grow most of what they sell. But, at the final meeting of a legislative committee writing a bill for recreational marijuana rules, lawmakers backed a proposed model where growers and sellers would be separate. (See also: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock: Pot should be phased in; no pot clubs)
For four decades, libertarians, civil rights activists and drug treatment experts have stood outside of the political mainstream in arguing that the war on drugs was sending too many people to prison, wasting too much money, wrenching apart too many families -- and all for little or no public benefit. They were always in the minority. But a sign of a new reality emerged: for the first time in four decades of polling, the Pew Research Center found that more than half of Americans support legalizing marijuana.
Looking at the recent spread of liberalized marijuana laws across the United States, it's hard not to think we're entering some kind of Weed Spring. The latest state to act is Maryland, where on Monday the state senate approved a bill legalizing medical marijuana by 42 to 4, sending it to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is expected to sign it into law. Several state legislatures are considering relaxing their restrictions on marijuana. A majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana, and 65 percent of young people support legalizing it.
Public support for legalizing marijuana has never been higher, but the latest studies show recreational use is linked with prescription drug misuse. In the latest nationwide survey of 1,501 people polled in mid-March about legalizing marijuana, 52% of those surveyed favored making weed legal, and 72% said that efforts to enforce anti-marijuana laws bring more cost than benefit.
Washington’s new pot consultant has one overarching, discouraging message for lawmakers and state budget writers: don’t look at weed as an ATM. Potential tax revenues will probably be less than half of the $450 million that’s been projected, said Mark Kleiman, in a interview Thursday night with TVW’s Austin Jenkins. More important, Kleiman said, to rely on money from pot — like money from gambling, alcohol and tobacco — means relying on abuse and addiction, which are not necessarily desirable state goals.
Last November ballot initiatives legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana use passed for the first time ever in Colorado and Washington state. Now marijuana reform is popping up in state legislatures across the country. Once the pet project of a few fringe figures, it has attracted a new generation of politicians from both parties with credible national aspirations. Even some Republicans see an opportunity to capitalize on a constituency that shocked the pundit class with its financial and grassroots muscle -- not to mention sophisticated campaign tactics -- just a few months ago.
Washington state gets ready to regulate legal marijuana with the help of one of America’s top drug policy analysts. Mark Kleiman is professor of public policy at the University of California in Los Angeles, and co-author of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. His team at Botec Analysis Corporation earned the contract to help turn Washington state’s vote to legalize marijuana into a reality. TIME talked to him about the challenging job ahead.
A number of businesses in the burgeoning U.S. cannabis industry are trying to enlist Wall Street's help. Some entrepreneurs see marijuana heading down the same path as Prohibition, which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol from 1920 until it was repealed in 1933. "More and more people see the inevitability," said Brendan Kennedy, chief executive of the Seattle private equity firm Privateer Holdings, which targets cannabis-focused start-ups. "They see that the Berlin Wall of cannabis prohibition is going to come down."
Forty years ago, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse said in its final report: "A coherent social policy requires a fundamental alteration of social attitudes toward drug use, and a willingness to embark on new courses when previous actions have failed." Social attitudes toward marijuana use fundamentally altered since the 1970s and 1980s with substantial majorities voting last fall to legalize marijuana in Washington and Colorado, and with state legislatures passing medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization laws almost routinely.
House Bill 2000, the bill by Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, to modify Initiative 502, marijuana legalization, offers a mix of changes that could help create a functioning market and things that might not. That ambiguity was reflected in the testimony on the bill Wednesday: the bill was opposed by Derek Franklin of the Washington Association of Substance Abuse & Violence Prevention (WASAVP), which opposed legalization, and also by Keith Henson, Pierce County director for NORML, which favored it. (See also: Some K9s trained to ignore pot in Washington)
Colorado lawmakers yanked and tugged at the threads of the state's proposals for regulating recreational marijuana, as one legislator hinted to his colleagues that pulling too hard could unravel the whole thing. At its second meeting, the legislature's joint marijuana committee returned again to the question of how to structure the marijuana stores that Colorado voters authorized in November.
A coalition of political groups and activists say marijuana possession should be legalized in Maine’s largest city, in part because they say the drug is significantly safer than alcohol. The effort comes on the heels of the introduction of a bill in the state Legislature by Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, that would legalize, regulate and tax pot possession across Maine. Tom MacMillan, chairman of the Portland Green Independent Committee, said his organization and other like-minded groups need to get 1,500 signatures of city residents.
Washington state’s chief pot consultant remains a bit mysterious, but Mark Kleiman's views on legalizing pot are no mystery. He lays them out in “Marijuana Legalization,” a 2012 book he wrote with three of his team members. Alison Holcomb, the law’s author, said Kleiman’s credentials could ease federal concerns about Washington’s system evolving into an industry that tries to create addictions and market to young people. “I’m glad Kleiman and his colleagues are heading up the consulting group,” she said. (See also: Washington touts credentials of new pot consultant)