The election results this week from Washington, Colorado, Massachusetts and Arkansas demonstrate that public opinion about cannabis has moved much faster than the positions of elected officials. Despite what the voters in Washington and Colorado did, growing and selling marijuana will remain federal felonies. The federal reaction is crucial, and at the moment unpredictable. We probably won’t know until a new attorney general takes office.
Washington Liquor Control Board officials released draft rules for a legal seed-to-store marijuana system. Washington residents and out-of-staters could buy an ounce of tested, labeled marijuana, seven days a week, up to 20 hours a day, in state-regulated stores. That rule is more permissive than in Colorado, the other state creating an adult recreational-pot market. The draft rules are likely to be refined in weeks to come.
King County authorities and the Washington State Public Stadium Authority have agreed to stop harassing people collecting signatures outside the Seahawks football stadium for an initiative that would legalize and tax recreational marijuana in the state. One of the collectors, Benjamin Schroeter, was arrested Nov. 13 after he refused an order to stop collecting signatures for Initiative 502 in a public area outside the stadium where fans were tailgating.
The decision by voters in Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana represents a seismic shift in public attitudes. This historic reform will only add urgency to the message of a growing number of law enforcement experts, scientists and politicians: that a new approach to the failed war on drugs is desperately needed. The current punitive approach to marijuana is not effective and squanders valuable public resources that could be directed toward prevention and treatment.
Last week was a momentous week, the beginning of the end, perhaps, of a national depravity – the "war on drugs". The voters of Colorado and Washington passed measures to legalise marijuana, amounting to local shifts, for the moment. So we shouldn't delude ourselves that the country will be transformed overnight, but the public thinking, the public spirit is being transformed. Finally, there is a growing realisation that this "war" has produced nothing but a legacy of failure. And who wants to be associated with failure?
A former federal prosecutor and two former judges who have not only observed but also enforced marijuana laws at the federal, state and local levels ask that these laws be changed. It is time for a different, more effective approach. That's why they endorse Initiative 502, which would decriminalize marijuana in our state and make a long-overdue change for the better in public policy.
Former B.C. attorney general Geoff Plant said the debate comes as Washington looks at a tax and regulation plan, and this is an opportunity for a coordinated strategy on both sides of the border. "The old argument that we can't do anything here in Canada because we can't get too far ahead of American public policy is increasingly no longer relevant."
Mexican President Felipe Calderon says the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in two U.S. states limits that country's "moral authority" to ask other nations to combat or restrict illegal drug trafficking. Calderon says the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado represents a fundamental change that requires the rethinking of public policy in the entire Western Hemisphere.
In its fiscal note on I-502, the state Office of Financial Management estimated the total state and local government revenue from marijuana at $566 million. That’s roughly what the state budgets in taxpayer money for its six universities. Most of the marijuana money, however, would be earmarked for health-related spending (see chart). Putting I-502 into effect would also save the money now spent on law enforcement. The bottom line: Legalizing marijuana offers government a pot of money, both in revenue and in savings.
Roger A. Roffman, professor emeritus of social work at the University of Washington, a sponsor of I-502
09 November 2012
The historic measure to regulate and tax marijuana in Washington State deserves to be looked at closely as a model of how legalization ought to be designed and implemented elsewhere in America. We've turned a significant corner with the approval of Initiative 502, which purposefully offers a true public health alternative to the criminal prohibition of pot. (See also: I-502 Fact Sheet from ACLU)
One of the more surprising results of last week's election was the decision by voters in Colorado and Washington state to legalize marijuana for adult use. The success of both these ballot initiatives has been welcomed by many as a signal that we are about to enter a more enlightened phase in the "war on drugs", which has criminalized drug addicts and recreational drug users, as well as drug dealers. In reality, however, there is little reason to believe that any fundamental change in government policy is in the works.
Former President Jimmy Carter said he is in favor of legalizing marijuana during a public panel that CNN aired Tuesday. “I’m in favor of it. I think it’s OK,” Carter said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen in Georgia yet, but I think we can watch and see what happens in the state of Washington for instance around Seattle and let the American government and let the American people see does it cause a serious problem or not.”
In an interview with ABC News President Barack Obama said federal authorities should not target recreational marijuana use in two Western states where it has been made legal given limited government resources and growing public acceptance of the controlled substance. "It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law that's legal," he said.
Washington State officials are looking to build a strictly regulated marijuana system that could forestall federal concerns about how the drug will be handled once it’s available for public purchase. Rick Garza of the Liquor Control Board said he expects the federal government will try to take action if Washington’s system has loose controls. He said it’s important for Washington to have a strong regulatory structure, such as how participants in the system are licensed and how the product is handled from growth to the point of sale.
Driven by a groundswell of public opinion, Colorado and Washington State last November became the first states in the U.S. to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. That wave of support, it now seems clear, has echoed through the U.S. Congress, which formally questioned the federal government’s prohibitionist drug policy in the form of marijuana-reform bills. (See also: Legalization hits the Hill)
Washington has tentatively chosen professor Mark Kleiman at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to be its official marijuana consultant. His firm Botec Analysis is based in Cambridge, Mass., and has evaluated government programs and provided consulting relating to drug use, crime and public health. Losing bidders for the contract can protest the award. Kleiman has written several books on drug policy, including "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know." Reformers have had a "love/hate" relationship with Kleiman over the years.
Washington state gets ready to regulate legal marijuana with the help of one of America’s top drug policy analysts. Mark Kleiman is professor of public policy at the University of California in Los Angeles, and co-author of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. His team at Botec Analysis Corporation earned the contract to help turn Washington state’s vote to legalize marijuana into a reality. TIME talked to him about the challenging job ahead.
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.