Two years ago, California’s bid to legalize marijuana—Proposition 19—achieved great notoriety in Latin America, but ultimately fell short at the ballot box. Next Tuesday, voters in the state of Washington appear ready to do what Prop 19’s supporters could not quite achieve—an Election Day victory.
Former B.C. attorney general Geoff Plant said the debate comes as Washington looks at a tax and regulation plan, and this is an opportunity for a coordinated strategy on both sides of the border. "The old argument that we can't do anything here in Canada because we can't get too far ahead of American public policy is increasingly no longer relevant."
People caught with small amounts of marijuana in Chicago will be ticketed instead of arrested under a new ordinance passed by the city council on Wednesday, as the third largest U.S. city became the latest to support more lenient penalties for using the drug. The council voted 43-3 in favor of the measure, which was backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "If you had been white and/or privileged, a small amount of marijuana had already been decriminalized, because the only people who have been arrested for these types of crime have been black and brown individuals," said Alderman Howard Brookins.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he would back a proposal that would decriminalize possessing small amounts of marijuana, the latest major U.S. political figure to support diminished penalties for the drug's use. Under the proposed ordinance, to be voted on by the city council later this month, police officers in the nation's third-largest city would be able to issue a written violation for possession of 15 grams or less. This is a modified version of an ordinance proposed last fall by a group of Chicago aldermen, who said the measure would help raise revenue for the city, save money and free up police to pursue more serious crimes.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to change New York’s laws to decriminalize marijuana. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have rushed to agree. Cuomo’s proposed change is a repudiation of Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk program, which has arrested more than 400,000 people for marijuana crimes — more than were arrested by the three prior Mayors combined — while still not denting marijuana use or availability in New York. It seems that Bloomberg’s previous tactic was doing little besides creating unwilling clients for the prison-industrial complex.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana in the state and he’s got the support of New York City’s police commissioner and mayor, plus a broad swath of local politicians who just a few years ago may have scoffed at the notion of lessening penalties for drug possession. Citing an “inconsistency” in state drug laws regarding small amounts of marijuana, Cuomo announced a bill to make the penalties for private and public possession the same, which he says will help people caught with less than 25 grams avoid “unnecessary” misdemeanor charges.
Polls show national opinion toward marijuana use steadily changing toward greater acceptance, and laws are changing and ballot initiatives are coming before voters. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for instance, wants to decriminalize possession of small quantities of pot. Here is a look at how America's views on marijuana are changing in four key areas. For more than 20 years, national polls have shown increasing acceptance of marijuana use, proponents of legalization note.
New York Police Department, the mayor and the city’s top prosecutors on Monday endorsed a proposal to decriminalize the open possession of small amounts of marijuana, giving an unexpected lift to an effort by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to cut down on the number of people arrested as a result of police stops. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose Police Department made about 50,000 arrests last year for low-level marijuana possession, said the governor’s proposal “strikes the right balance” in part because it would still allow the police to arrest people who smoke marijuana in public.
The United States sees drug abuse as a public health problem as much as a crime issue and is seeking to learn from countries in Europe and elsewhere about how to treat addiction as a disease, Barack Obama's drugs policy chief Gil Kerlikowske said. He noted what he described as a "somewhat successful" fresh approach in Portugal, where since 2001 authorities have dispensed with arrests, trials and prison for people carrying a personal supply of any drug from marijuana to heroin and focused their efforts on prevention messages and treatment.
The startling, unprogrammed, and rebellious discussion about drugs that took place among hemispheric leaders in April at a summit in Cartagena, Colombia, barely mentioned addiction, because it’s too late for that. The discussion that for the first time in forty years challenged the United States’ dominance on drug issues focused urgently instead on the ways that the financial health, political stability, and national security of virtually every country in the Americas has been undermined by the drug trade.
New Jersey took a step toward decriminalizing marijuana possession today when an Assembly panel unanimously approved a bill that would allow offenders to pay fines instead of going to jail. Under the terms of the measure, anyone arrested with fewer than 15 grams of marijuana — just under a half-ounce or slightly more than 30 joints — would be subject to a $150 fine for a first offense, a $200 fine a second time and a $500 penalty for a third and subsequent offenses.
The most important story of the Summit of the Americas was the Latin American demand to open the debate on an alternative to the ‘war on drugs’. The emergence of an increasingly independent and assertive Latin America insisting on a change of direction on drugs reflects an important shift in the terms of the relationship with the United States. Clamor for “democratization” of the debate and a search for new alternatives stems from the perception that Latin American societies pay a disproportionate price in lost lives, hijacked justice systems, abuses in overcrowded prisons, and displaced small farmers, because of the U.S.-led strategy that has prioritized stemming the supply of drugs over reducing its own demand.
Long before he was in a position to change his country's policies, Barack Obama had firm views on a complex problem: "The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws. We need to rethink how we're operating the drug war." That was in January 2004. Forward to April 2012 and a summit of Latin American leaders, several of whom have become vocal critics of the U.S.-driven war on drugs, in the Colombian city of Cartagena. More than three years into his presidency, Obama made clear that he is not in favor of legalizing drugs or of ending policies that treat drug users as criminals.
When President Obama arrives in Colombia for a hemispheric summit this weekend, he will hear Latin American leaders say that the U.S.-orchestrated war on drugs, which criminalizes drug use and employs military tactics to fight gangs, is failing and that broad changes need to be considered. Latin American leaders say they have not developed an alternative model to the approach favored by successive American administrations. But the Colombian government says a range of options — including decriminalizing possession of drugs, legalizing marijuana use and regulating markets — will be debated at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena.
All wars end. Eventually. Even the war on drugs – resilient for so long – is starting to show signs of exhaustion. It is 42 years since President Nixon introduced the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. The act set out to reduce or eliminate the production, supply and consumption of illegal drugs. A year later, after a report revealed a heroin epidemic among US servicemen in Vietnam, the Nixon administration coined the phrase "war on drugs".
At a poorly attended summit of Central American leaders, President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala reiterated calls for the decriminalization of recreational drug use. Although some former heads of state have called for such a solution, Molina became the first sitting head of state to openly advocate for such a controversial stance when speaking at the Central American Security Summit in Antigua, Guatemala. Billed initially as a groundbreaking summit during which “alternative solutions” to the War on Drugs were to be discussed, the conference’s emphasis on how to manage the War on Drugs, as well as talk of decriminalization, were sidelined before the conference even began.
Colorado's top federal prosecutor has ordered 25 medical marijuana shops located near schools to close in an escalating pot clampdown, as the state gears up for a battle at the ballot box over broader recreational use of the drug. Attorney John Walsh warned owners of the centers in letters that they have 45 days to shut down or "action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property," his office said.
Latin American leaders are increasingly speaking out against prohibition. And public opinion in America, especially when it comes to legalizing pot, is shifting very rapidly. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has wrapped up a trip to Mexico and Honduras, where he held talks with Central American leaders on regional security efforts and drug trafficking. Biden’s visit comes amid an emerging rift between the Obama administration and its Central American allies on the drug war. There is a growing belief among Central American leaders that decriminalization and legalization of some drugs could help reduce the power of drug cartels and reduce the bloodshed connected to the drug war.
A high-profile group of current and former U.S. law enforcement officials has written to the Conservative government with a surprising message: Take it from us, the war on drugs has been a “costly failure.” The officials are urging Canada to reconsider mandatory minimum sentences for “minor” marijuana offences under its “tough-on-crime bill” and say a better approach would be to legalize marijuana under a policy of taxation and regulation.
U.S. inability to cut illegal drug consumption leaves Guatemala with no option but to consider legalizing the use and transport of drugs, President Otto Perez Molina said, a remarkable turnaround for an ex-general elected on a platform of crushing organized crime with an iron fist. Perez said he will try to win regional support for drug legalization at an upcoming summit of Central American leaders next month.