When recreational marijuana stores first opened their doors in the US state of Colorado on January 1, opponents predicted dire consequences: an influx of drug traffickers, a spike in fatal car accidents, and more crime. For their part, supporters claimed that legal weed could raise millions of dollars in tax revenue. Six months later, what have the results been? (See also: Six months after legalizing marijuana, two big things have happened in Colorado)
The Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA), one of the largest anti-legalization organizations in the US has a curious sponsor: Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxy-Contin, the highly addictive painkiller that has been linked to thousands of overdose deaths nationwide. A familiar confederation of anti-pot interests have a financial stake in the status quo, including law enforcement agencies, pharmaceutical firms, and nonprofits funded by federal drug-prevention grants.
Only six months old, Colorado's recreational marijuana industry starts a transformation that could add hundreds of new pot businesses to the state and reconfigure the market's architecture. Previously, only owners of existing medical marijuana shops could apply to open recreational stores, and all businesses had to be generalists, growing the pot that they sold. Now, newcomers to the industry can apply for recreational marijuana business licenses. When these new businesses begin opening in October, all recreational marijuana companies will be allowed to specialize — for instance as stand-alone stores that don't grow their supply.
The Liquor Control Board has been warning of shortages when the first stores open in Washington state. The board plans to issue the first 15 to 20 retail licenses July 7, with shops allowed to open the next day. It’s not clear how many stores that will be. Board staff said at a meeting last week that just one store in Seattle is ready for its final inspection. Only 79 of the more than 2,600 people who applied for marijuana-growing licenses last fall have been approved as growers, and many of them aren’t ready to harvest. (See also: Everything you want to know about legal pot in Washington)
William Brownfield, assistant secretary at the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, has charged that Jamaica and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states that are moving to change marijuana laws did not consult the US government. He had informal talks with some CARICOM states but said those discussions were "not structured as formal dialogue between governments or between international partners". He also revealed that the US had developed four basic principles to address the issues surrounding the growing move to legalise marijuana. (See also: No need to consult US on ganja, says Knight)
The US Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the medical evidence surrounding the safety and effectiveness of marijuana, a process that could lead to the agency downgrading the drug's current status as a Schedule I drug, the most dangerous classification. "FDA conducts for Health and Human Services a scientific and medical analysis of the drug under consideration," FDA Press Officer Jeff Ventura said. "HHS then recommends to DEA that the drug be placed in a given schedule. DEA considers HHS’ analysis, conducts its own assessment, and makes a final scheduling proposal in the form of a proposed rule." (See also: Scheduling in the international drug control system)
Evan Cox used to deliver pizza. But 18 months ago, as he was running out of money at college in Seattle, he had a new business idea. The state of Washington was in the process of legalising the sale of marijuana, but he guessed it would take time for pot shops to open. So he set up Winterlife, a marijuana-delivery service. Dope-delivery services are also popular in states with stricter laws. More than a dozen illegal delivery services now serve tokers in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
A recent neuroscience study from Harvard Medical School claims to have discovered brain differences between people who smoke marijuana and people who do not. Such well-intentioned and seemingly objective science is actually a new chapter in a politicized and bigoted history of drug science in the United States. Different-looking brains tell us literally nothing about who these people are, what their lives are like, why they do or do not use marijuana, or what effects marijuana has had on them.
Mexico and the United States cannot pursue diverging policies on marijuana legalization, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was quoted as saying, hinting he may be open to following the lead taken by some U.S. states in changing drug laws. Political pressure has grown in Mexico to take a more liberal stance on marijuana. In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais, Pena Nieto said "we can't continue on this road of inconsistency between the legalization we've had [...] in the most important consumer market, the United States, and in Mexico where we continue to criminalize production of marijuana."
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?
Legalisation of cannabis is making slow but unstoppable progress across much of the developed world, many experts believe, following the end of prohibition in two US states. In Amsterdam, long famous for its coffee shops, international experts gathering to discuss cannabis regulation said the international conventions, once so heavily policed by the US, would now be increasingly flouted. Already many countries, most notably the Netherlands and Spain, have bypassed the rules.
Frustrated by the cash-heavy aspect of its new marijuana industry, Colorado is trying a long-shot bid to create the world's first financial system devoted to the pot business. But Colorado's plan to move the weed industry away from dank-smelling cash to easily auditable banking accounts is a Hail Mary pass that won't work, industry and regulatory officials agree.
Far from being discouraged by shifts in public opinion, state laws and even within the Obama administration on the legalization of marijuana, federal drug agents are driven to "fight harder," said Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart. Leonhart, who criticized President Obama for comparing marijuana to alcohol during a closed-door meeting, suggested that voters in Washington state and Colorado were duped into legalizing marijuana. The Marijuana Policy Project is calling on the president through a Change.org petition to fire Leonhart.
Public opinion in the US appears ready for a truce in the war on drugs. A national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that support for the legalization of marijuana use continues to increase. Fully 75% of the public think that the sale and use of marijuana will eventually be legal nationwide. Just as most Americans prefer a less punitive approach to the use of drugs such as heroin and cocaine, an even larger majority (76%) think that people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should not have to serve time in jail.
A Colorado marijuana innovation is changing the way lawmakers in even the most conservative parts of the country talk about cannabis and is poised to create a rapid expansion in the number of states that have legalized marijuana in some way. But many marijuana advocates view the new political campaign with skepticism, fearing it could halt their movement's momentum. Taken to its logical conclusion, medical marijuana could be a "box canyon" for broader legalization efforts.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has launched a counter-offensive against moves to liberalise drug laws around the world, warning that cannabis legalisation poses a grave danger to public health.
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.
Some 20 years ago, a Spanish official in favor of lifting the ban on drugs such as marijuana mentioned at a UN meeting that there "might be a more humane option" in the fight against trafficking. She was immediately taken aside by a senior diplomat, who told her in no uncertain terms: "Don't say things like that round here, not even in the washroom." Today, the same official says that internal documents are now circulating within the UN that openly admit to the failure of prohibition.
Federal marijuana prohibition in the United States started with a knock on a Denver man's apartment door. Seventy-six years ago, Samuel Caldwell became the first person arrested and prosecuted under a federal charge of selling marijuana, after drug enforcement agents busted him with 3 pounds of cannabis in his apartment. Three-quarters of a century and an estimated 26 million marijuana arrests after Caldwell's, legal marijuana sales were set to start at 8 a.m. in Colorado.