Imagine walking into a neighborhood store to buy beer, wine, liquor and cigarettes. But on your way home you make one more stop – to buy marijuana, legally. That's the vision Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, will outline at a press conference at Portland City Hall, when she introduces LD 1453: An Act to Legalize and Tax Marijuana. The bill would legalize and regulate marijuana much the same way the state regulates the alcohol and tobacco industries. It would allow adults over 21 to cultivate, possess, purchase and use marijuana within certain limits.
Threatened medical-marijuana crackdowns by federal prosecutors in other states have stoked fears about whether state employees, dispensary owners and others could be punished for operating under Arizona's fledgling law. Although the Justice Department said in 2009 that it would not prosecute sick people using medical marijuana, U.S. attorneys in California and Washington state have told officials there that they do intend to enforce federal laws that prohibit manufacture and distribution of the drug.
In a widely watched You Tube video, U.S. President Barack Obama is asked whether or not the drug war may in fact be counterproductive. Instead of the resounding NO that would have come from any of his recent predecessors, Obama responded: “I think this is an entirely legitimate topic for debate.” He then qualified his remarks by adding, “I am not in favor of legalization.” Nonetheless, even acknowledging the legitimacy of debate on U.S. drug policy is a significant shift from the past, when successive administrations stifled discussion and routinely labeled anyone promoting alternative approaches to the socalled U.S. “war on drugs” as dangerous and surreptitiously promoting massive drug use and poisoning America’s youth.
When the Obama administration declared 18 months ago that it would stop arresting people who complied with their states' medical marijuana laws, advocates were encouraged but wary, saying pot patients and their suppliers were still at risk of federal prosecution. In a new report, the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access said its caution was justified: Prosecutions have continued unabated, and the number of raids has increased.
Several states have started reassessing their medical marijuana laws after stern warnings from the federal government that everyone from licensed growers to regulators could be subjected to prosecution.The ominous-sounding letters from U.S. attorneys in recent weeks have directly injected the federal government back into a debate that has for years been progressing at the state level.
Gov. Jack Markell has signed legislation making Delaware the 16th state to allow the use of medical marijuana. The new law allows people 18 and older with certain serious or debilitating conditions that could be alleviated by marijuana to possess up to six ounces of the drug. Qualifying patients would be referred to state-licensed and regulated “compassion centers,” which would be located in each of Delaware’s three counties. The centers would grow, cultivate and dispense the marijuana.
Pot legalization backers hope to start gathering signatures as soon as this summer to put the question to voters. Given Colorado`s low signature threshold for ballot initiatives, which currently stands at about 86,000 people, they say they expect an easy path to the polls. Colorado voters defeated a legalization measure in 2006, as did California voters last year. But activists here are regrouping for another push.
I recently returned from the desert city of Durango, Mexico, where forensic officials are still trying to identify some 240 corpses discovered this year in mass graves. More than 200 other bodies have been found in similar fosas across northern Mexico. All were victims, many of them innocent victims, of the drug-trafficking violence whose barbarity seems bottomless. But it's fueled in large part by the just as endless American appetite for illegal drugs – which itself is due in no small part to the fact that our anti-drug policies are so narrow-mindedly focused on battling supply instead of reducing demand.
California lawmakers are looking at a range of bills to expand, contract or change state marijuana laws. Legalization proponents say it reflects a political disconnect on an issue much of the public considers mainstream. Lawmakers took steps recently to ban pot shops from residential neighborhoods and give local governments the authority to shut down problem operators. They also rejected proposals to reduce penalties for illegal pot cultivation and protect medical marijuana patients from workplace discrimination.
A coalition that includes former U.S. Attorney John McKay, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and travel guide Rick Steves is launching an initiative that would legalize marijuana in Washington state. The New Approach Washington group, led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, decided to push the initiative this spring after Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed most of a medical-marijuana bill that had passed the state Legislature.
Marijuana should be legalized, regulated, taxed and made available for sale to adults. Prohibition has failed. It fuels criminal gangs. It fills the prisons in America and graveyards in Mexico. To end marijuana prohibition at the federal level, several states need to defy federal authority. That is how the politics works. The Legislature will not do it, nor will Gov. Chris Gregoire. But the people of Washington can, through a ballot initiative.
Washington state would be defying federal drug laws if an initiative filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State to legalize and regulate marijuana is adopted. But backers said Wednesday that states can take the lead in ending what they call the nation's failed war on drugs, much as individual states, including Washington, repealed Prohibition before the federal government.
It's been forty years since President Nixon declared a "war on drugs." And we're not winning. In local communities, Black and Latino men are being singled out unfairly and fed into the prison system for minor drug offenses; in Mexico, an unspeakably brutal drug war continues with no signs of cessation; sick people continue to be denied legal access to medical marijuana that could ease their pain. But there are signs that things are changing.
Marijuana laws should be set at the state, not federal, level, Reps. Ron Paul and Barney Frank argued in a bill they introduced Thursday. The goal of the bill, HR 2306 or the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, is not to legalize marijuana but to remove it from the list of federally controlled substances while allowing states to decide how they will regulate it.
The bill introduced today would allow states to determine their own marijuana laws -- not just medical marijuana laws -- without federal interference. The bill would also remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Since Congress and President Nixon placed marijuana in the strictest of five schedules in 1970, marijuana has been in the same category as heroin.
The bipartisan measure -- H.R. 2306, the 'Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011' and sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank and Texas Republican Ron Paul prohibits the federal government from prosecuting adults who use or possess personal use amounts of marijuana by removing the plant and its primary psychoactive constituent, THC, from the five schedules of the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Colorado's medical-marijuana industry took a battering from all sides, as new laws restricting the businesses took effect and the Obama administration made its most explicit threat yet that dispensary raids are still possible. Perhaps the most pressing challenge to Colorado's medical-marijuana businesses came in a U.S. Department of Justice memo. In this week's memo, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote that people "who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana and those who knowingly facilitate such activities" are in violation of federal law, regardless of their state laws.
Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
06 July 2011
Let's be clear: HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, proposed by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, does not "legalize drugs" or even so much as legalize marijuana. Rather, this legislation removes the power to prosecute minor marijuana offenders from the federal government and relinquishes this authority to state and local jurisdictions.
Marijuana has been approved by California, many other states and the nation's capital to treat a range of illnesses, but in a decision the federal government ruled that it has no accepted medical use and should remain classified as a highly dangerous drug like heroin. The decision by the DEA comes almost nine years after medical marijuana supporters asked the government to reclassify cannabis to take into account a growing body of worldwide research that shows its effectiveness in treating certain diseases, such as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.