California lawmakers are wading into the politically sticky issue of regulating medical marijuana, laying groundwork for state control of the sale and cultivation of cannabis with the expectation that voters will legalize recreational use next year.
With its dense forests, foggy climate and rugged coastline, California’s Humboldt County has long been synonymous with its biggest cash crop: marijuana. Cannabis has thrived here — both before and since the state legalized it for medical purposes in 1996.
The 43-year-old war on drugs had never seen such a barrage of opposition as it did in 2014, with successful marijuana legalization initiatives in several U.S. states, California’s historic approval of sentencing reform for low level drug offenders and world leaders calling for the legal regulation of all drugs — all of which cement the mainstream appeal of drug policy alternatives and offer unprecedented momentum going into 2015.
California was one of the first to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, but so far hasn’t legalized it for recreational use, like Colorado, Washington. “I am not opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I’m the top cop, and so I have to look at it from a law enforcement perspective and a public safety perspective. I think we are fortunate to have Colorado and Washington be in front of us on this and figuring out the details of what it looks like when it’s legalized,” she said. “I don’t think it’s gonna take too long to figure this out,” Harris said. “I think there’s a certain inevitability about it.”
Retail marijuana sales for adults are now legal (at least at the state level) in Colorado and Washington. Next month, voters in Alaska and Oregon may decide to follow suit. It is nearly certain that marijuana legalization will make it onto the California ballot in 2016, during a presidential election season that will generate enormous interest among young voters. Robert MacCoun looks at options for designing a marijuana proposal.
The decision by California voters in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana produced a wave of similar initiatives around the country. Less than two decades later, over half the states allow at least limited medical use. Now it looks as though recreational use of the drug may follow the same path. In 2012, Washington State and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. This November, voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia will decide whether to do the same — effectively disregarding the misguided federal ban on a drug that is far less dangerous than alcohol.
Weed is legal in at least some form in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Most allow it for medical use only. Colorado and Washington this year enacted laws that allow recreational use by adults. But more than two dozen states are considering new or expanded marijuana reform legislation, including complete legalization for adults, medical marijuana, hemp use and decriminalization. Which are the next five states likely to legalize marijuana?
A coalition of investors and strategists, which played a key role in passing most of the legislation to reform drug laws nationwide since 1996, has decided not to put a pot initiative on the ballot in California this year but will wait to push for legalization until 2016. Signature-gathering efforts for at least two additional pot measures are circulating, but they do not appear to have the high-profile financial backing needed. So the coalition's decision makes it less likely that marijuana will be legalized in California in the near future.
At least two of three marijuana legalization measures vying for the November, 2014 ballot would be good for California, according to the state Attorney General's office.The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act would decrease drug enforcement costs and increase tax revenue, Attorney General Kamala Harris said this week. However, that initiative recently ran into a speed bump and might be cutting it close to a Feb. 28 deadline to file enough signatures to quality for the ballot.
The growing societal acceptance of cannabis in the U.S. has sparked what some call a "green rush" of people trying to cash in on what is already a multi-billion-dollar business. And as the marijuana industry comes out of the shadows, its producers, consumers and advocates are pushing for more transparency – both about cannabis' alleged medical benefits and its environmental impacts.
Nearly a year after Colorado and Washington State voted to become the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, the detailed rules governing how pot will be grown, sold and taxed are finally complete. And as the two states implement their different approaches, the whole world is watching. This week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced a new panel, headed by California Lieut. Governor Gavin Newsom, to draft a possible 2016 ballot measure to legalize pot in California.
According to a Tulchin Research poll a "solid majority" of nearly two-thirds (65%) in California supports legalizing, regulating and taxing adult recreational marijuana. The poll found 32 percent oppose legalization and 3 percent undecided. Lt. Gov. Gavadult recreational in Newsom and the American Civil Liberties Union announced the launch of a two-year research effort focused on proposals to legalize recreational marijuana.
Los Angeles politicians have struggled for more than five years to regulate medical marijuana, trying to balance the needs of the sick against neighborhood concerns that pot shops attract crime. Voters will head to the polls to decide how Los Angeles should handle its high with three competing measures that seek to either limit the number of dispensaries or allow new ones to open and join an estimated several hundred others that currently operate.
A record but still narrow majority of California voters, or 54 percent, favor legalizing marijuana for personal, recreational use with age limits and other restrictions like those placed on alcohol, a new Field Poll showed. The support was the highest since the FieldPoll first asked about pot legalization in 1969, when 13 percent of California voters were in favor. In 2010, the last time Field Poll asked voters about the issue, 50 percent favored legalization.
The California Supreme Court appeared inclined to uphold municipal bans against medical marijuana dispensaries. Meeting for oral arguments, the state high court considered the legality of a ban on dispensaries by the city of Riverside. Several justices noted that the state Constitution gives cities wide policing power over land use and suggested that the state's medical marijuana laws have not undercut that authority. (See also: Marijuana dispensary curbs likely to stand)
Rob Kampia, co-founder and executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), has co-authored most of the medical marijuana laws on the books. His group spent years laying the groundwork for the successful legalization initiatives in Washington and Colorado, and the MPP was – by far – the biggest financial backer of the successful campaign in Colorado. He is interviewed about the future of pot prohibition, the role of the feds ...
Let Colorado and Washington be the marijuana trailblazers. Let them struggle with the messy details of what it means to actually legalize the drug. Marijuana is, as a practical matter, already legal in much of California. No matter that its recreational use remains technically against the law. Marijuana has, in many parts of this state, become the equivalent of a beer in a paper bag on the streets.