Latin America has emerged at the vanguard of efforts to promote debate on drug policy reform. For decades, Latin American governments largely followed the drug control policies and programs of Washington’s so-called war on drugs. Yet two parallel trends have resulted in a dramatic change in course: the emergence of left-wing governments that have challenged Washington’s historic patterns of unilateralism and interventionism and growing frustration with the failure of the prohibitionist drug control model put forward by the US government.
The Drug Enforcement Administration sent cease-and-desist letters to 11 medical-marijuana dispensaries because they are within 1,000 feet of schools or other prohibited areas. The DEA maintains that the crackdown does not signal a federal war on Washington state’s new legal-pot law. Despite Washington state’s new legal recreational-pot law, enacted by voter-approved Initiative 502, all forms of marijuana remain illegal under federal law.
In the wake of the marijuana legalization victories in Colorado and Washington last November, and buoyed by a series of national public opinion polls showing support for pot legalization going over the tipping point, marijuana reform legislation is being introduced at state houses across the land at levels never seen before. According to a legislative activity web page maintained by the Marijuana Policy Project, decriminalization bills have been introduced in 10 states.
A proposal that could lead to the repeal of marijuana legalization in Colorado has gained momentum at the state Capitol. The repeal would be linked to a measure on marijuana taxes that is expected to go before voters in November, according to legislators and advocacy groups involved in the discussions. The premise is that, if voters do not approve the taxes, then Amendment 64, the initiative passed just months ago to legalize marijuana, would be repealed.
The mandatory-sentencing craze that drove up the prison population tenfold, pushing state corrections costs to bankrupting levels, was rooted in New York’s infamous Rockefeller drug laws. These laws, which mandated lengthy sentences for nonviolent, first-time offenders, were approved 40 years ago next month. They did little to curtail drug use in New York or in other states that mimicked them, while they filled prisons to bursting with nonviolent addicts.
Prosecutors and crime-lab scientists say a little-noticed provision in Washington’s new law legalizing recreational marijuana has jeopardized their ability to go after any pot crimes at all, and they’re calling for an immediate fix in the Legislature. The group is suggesting a change in the legal definition of marijuana.
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.