As Obama embarks on the third year of his second term, here are some of the ways in which Obama has begun to deliver on his promises of a more rational, less punitive approach to psychoactive substances. Obama's most significant drug policy accomplishment may be letting states go their own way on marijuana legalization. Even if our next president is a Republican drug warrior, he will have a hard time reversing that decision, especially given the GOP’s lip service to federalism.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has found itself under attack in Congress as it holds its ground against marijuana legalization while the resolve of longtime political allies — and the White House and Justice Department to which it reports — rapidly fades. How much the agency's stock has fallen was readily apparent in the House debate, when Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) denounced the agency's longtime chief.
After Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use this year, violent and property crime rates in the city are actually falling. According to data from the Denver Police Department, violent crime (including homicide, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) fell by 6.9% in the first quarter of 2014. Property crime (including burglary, larceny, auto theft, theft from motor vehicle and arson) dropped by 11.1%. A study looking at the legalization of medical marijuana nationwide, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that the trend holds.
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.
President Obama’s statement of tolerance toward legalized marijuana is welcome. The real question is not whether federal agents will go after users. In Colorado and Washington, the question is whether they will go after growers, processors and retailers that have been licensed under state law. It is whether the federal government will allow states to sanction businesses that keep accounts, pay taxes and follow state law.
A new crime-data analysis has found that 241,000 people in Washington were arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession over the last quarter-century, adding fuel to a campaign seeking to make this state the first to legalize recreational marijuana sales. The analysis estimates those arrests translated to nearly $306 million in police and court costs — $194 million of it the past decade. African Americans were arrested twice as often as whites for possession in Washington in the past 25 years, even though whites use marijuana more.
While Copenhagen's mayor, Frank Jensen, continues to be a vocal advocate for legalising cannabis in the city, arguing that a "paradigm shift" is in order, Copenhagen Police took a strikingly different approach Thursday. As part of the newly-announced 'Task Force Pusher Street', police arrested 28 individuals at Christiania. Jensen argued that the city "needs to go a new way". In an interview with Politiken newspaper on Sunday, the mayor said that the traditional police approach hasn’t worked before and is unlikely to work now.
Starting September 1, the police will be stepping up efforts to cull Pusher Street’s estimated one billion kroner organised cannabis trade through the creation of a new task force. Past police efforts in Christiania have failed to curtail the illegal drug trade, and renewed police efforts in Christiania are also going against current public sentiment. A newspaper poll indicated that nearly 65 percent of the public supported state-controlled cannabis distribution, while Enhedslisten (EL) commissioned a Gallop survey in early August that conveyed that 53 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the state should take over the sale of cannabis.
This brief report outlines the links between cannabis prohibition in British Columbia (Canada) and the growth of organized crime and related violence in the province, and is the first report of a coalition of concerned citizens and experts known as Stop the Violence BC. The report also defines the public health concept “regulation” and seeks to set the stage for a much needed public conversation and action on the part of BC politicians.