Nearly a year after Colorado and Washington State voted to become the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, the detailed rules governing how pot will be grown, sold and taxed are finally complete. And as the two states implement their different approaches, the whole world is watching. This week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced a new panel, headed by California Lieut. Governor Gavin Newsom, to draft a possible 2016 ballot measure to legalize pot in California.
Legalizing marijuana in California will not dramatically reduce the drug revenues collected by Mexican drug trafficking organizations from sales to the United States, according to a new RAND Corporation study. The study calculates that Mexican drug trafficking organizations generate only $1 billion to $2 billion annually from exporting marijuana to the United States and selling it to wholesalers, far below existing estimates by the government and other groups.
Los Angeles politicians have struggled for more than five years to regulate medical marijuana, trying to balance the needs of the sick against neighborhood concerns that pot shops attract crime. Voters will head to the polls to decide how Los Angeles should handle its high with three competing measures that seek to either limit the number of dispensaries or allow new ones to open and join an estimated several hundred others that currently operate.
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.
The California Medical Assn.'s recent decision to support marijuana legalization has drawn mixed opinions from physicians and others. At the same time, legal challenges continue across the country over state medical marijuana laws. And in recent months, the federal government has threatened to shut down marijuana dispensaries for violating federal law.
A medical marijuana trade group and 11 patients sued the city of Los Angeles, seeking to block enforcement of an ordinance that would shut down most of the city's storefront pot dispensaries in three weeks. The lawsuit, which says users are protected by California's 1996 legalization of medical marijuana and the U.S. Constitution, seeks an immediate injunction to keep Los Angeles officials from shuttering dispensaries starting on September 6.
For the first time ever, a solid majority of Americans supports legalizing marijuana for recreational use: 56%, according to the most recent Rasmussen poll. Support for legalization has been growing steadily since the 1990s; in 1994, just 25% were in favor. Culturally, marijuana's become hardly more than a punchline. But in reality, U.S. marijuana policy is no joke; it causes great harm, both directly and indirectly. Here are the 10 most important reasons our marijuana laws deserve serious reconsideration.
The Los Angeles City Council is plainly out of its depth when it comes to regulating medical marijuana. This was already clear after years of fumbling and court-delayed attempts to limit the number or locations of cannabis dispensaries, but it became painfully obvious when the council approved a ban on all dispensaries — along with a separate motion to draft an ordinance that would allow well-established pot shops to stay open, partially defeating the council's own purpose.
Federal authorities opened the latest front in their war on California's massive medical marijuana industry this week, filing property forfeiture lawsuits in a bid to shut down three dispensaries and sending warning letters to 34 people. The moves by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles are the latest in an ongoing crackdown on what federal prosecutors say is a flourishing network of illegal cannabis suppliers operating across California under the cover of the state's medical marijuana law.
Activists seeking to strike down a ban on medical marijuana outlets in Los Angeles saw their challenge qualify for the ballot, dealing a setback to the city's latest attempt at a crackdown. Backers of medical marijuana dispensaries needed 27,425 valid signatures to force a referendum on a law that prohibits the sale of cannabis but allows groups of three people or fewer to cultivate and share the drug. The Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0 in July to ban medical marijuana shops. Foes said the proliferation of dispensaries had gotten out of control.
The city of Oakland has sued to block U.S. authorities from closing down a medical marijuana dispensary that bills itself as the world's largest, marking the latest clash with federal authorities over California's cannabis industry. The lawsuit, which was filed by Oakland's city attorney in U.S. District Court, seeks an injunction to halt efforts by federal prosecutors to shut down Harborside Health Center through civil forfeiture actions they filed in July against two properties where the clinic operates.
A federal magistrate judge ruled that a medical-marijuana dispensary that bills itself as the world's largest can continue to operate, at least for now, in Oakland and San Jose despite a bid by federal prosecutors to shut it down. The ruling marks the latest move in a tug-of-war between local and federal authorities over medical marijuana dispensaries. The judge ruled that the government, not the landlords, must move to evict Harborside for its alleged violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. (See als: Landlord can’t shut down nation’s largest pot shop, judge says)
Vote yes on Proposition 19, the measure to legalize marijuana, and the unofficial state weed and largest cash crop will be controlled like alcohol, police will focus on serious crimes and California will get billions of dollars in new taxes. That's the pitch proponents make. "It's a jumbled legal nightmare," opponents retort, disputing those claims and insisting that the measure would lead to stoned nurses in hospitals, drugged motorists on the road and more high teenagers.
The campaign's message was, win or lose, the initiative has stimulated widespread debate and shown that the nation's ban on marijuana is destined to fall. "Millions of people will vote for Proposition 19," said Stephen Gutwillig, the California director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "We will never go back to a time when marijuana reform was outside the realm of thinkable thought."
Federal prosecutors are threatening to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries throughout California, sending letters that warn landlords to stop sales of the drug within 45 days or face the possibility that their property will be seized and they will be charged with a crime. 'It's a complete about-face' of Obama's promise not to target users of medical pot in states that allow it, one group's attorney says.
In what could be a turning point in the city's seemingly unending battle to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban all pot dispensaries, while also opening the door to possibly let some remain. Under the ban, all of the 762 dispensaries registered in the city will be sent letters ordering them to shut down immediately. Those that don't comply may face legal action from the city.
A referendum to repeal a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles appears to be headed for the ballot, with pot shop supporters saying that they have collected nearly twice the signatures required to force a citywide vote and key City Council members signaling that they won't try to stop it. Medical cannabis supporters plan to turn in the names of 50,000 voters who want the referendum included on the March ballot. If the signatures prove valid, officials will be required to temporarily suspend the ban, which was approved with much fanfare last month and was due to go into effect Sept. 6.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposes Proposition 19, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but he offered a consolation Thursday by signing a bill that would downgrade possession of an ounce or less from a misdemeanor to an infraction. SB 1449 was written by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who said it will keep marijuana-related cases from going to court-clogging jury trials, although the penalty would remain a fine of up to $100 but no jail time.
Federal officials brought their war on medical marijuana dispensaries to Los Angeles, raiding several shops and issuing warning letters to dozens more. Officials at the U.S. attorney's office said it was the first large-scale federal action taken against cannabis shops in the city, and said more will probably follow. "We couldn't do all of L.A. at once," said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the office. "There's just too many stores." The crackdown adds a dramatic element to the already tense fight over the fate of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.