Two U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana, and more may follow; the Obama administration has conditionally accepted these experiments. Such actions are in obvious tension with three international treaties that together commit the United States to punish and even criminalize activity related to recreational marijuana. The administration asserts that its policy complies with the treaties because they leave room for flexibility and prosecutorial discretion.
Graham Boyd, Sarah Trumble, Lanae Erickson Hatalsky
11 ဧပြီလ 2014
Despite a federal prohibition on marijuana possession, sale, and use, Colorado and Washington recently became the first states to enact laws legalizing the recreational use of this drug. Although the Obama Administration has taken steps to attempt to deal with this evolving situation, we believe the status quo is untenable and Congress must act to provide certainty and a framework for these states moving forward. This report explains the problem and offers a solution.
Washington DC followed Colorado and Washington state into a closely watched experiment to legalize marijuana, as voters overwhelmingly backed an initiative 7 to 3 allowing cannabis to be consumed and grown in the nation’s capital. The move to allow the drug almost certainly will take effect unless the next US Congress, which holds significant legislative authority over the city, blocks it. Under a voter-proposed measure, known as Initiative 71, residents and visitors age 21 and older will be allowed to legally possess as much as two ounces of marijuana and to grow up to three marijuana plants at home.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has launched a counter-offensive against moves to liberalise drug laws around the world, warning that cannabis legalisation poses a grave danger to public health.
On July 8th Washington became the second state after Colorado to offer recreational pot-smokers a chance to buy weed legally at a local store. Marijuana is still illegal in most of America. But there are substantial activities towards more liberal policies. In 23 states the medicinal use of marijuana is allowed and more states are considering legalisation. Oregon and Alaska will vote on legalisation in November; Floridians will decide on permitting medical use. President Barack Obama has chosen to take a hand’s-off approach to the issue of legalisation in Washington and Colorado. Yet if a drug hawk were to succeed President Obama in 2016, a clampdown on pot could well be revived.
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.
Oregon voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use after state elections officials said the measure qualified for the November 2014 ballot. The measure would allow adults 21 and older to buy and possess marijuana and would give the Oregon Liquor Control Commission the job of regulating and taxing the drug. Voters rejected a legalization measure two years ago, but little money was spent promoting it. By contrast, New Approach Oregon, the group behind the initiative, has received contributions from some of the same donors who backed successful marijuana initiatives in Washington and Colorado.
As Americans continue to embrace pot—as medicine and for recreational use—opponents are turning to a set of academic researchers to claim that policymakers should avoid relaxing restrictions around marijuana. It's too dangerous, risky, and untested, they say. Just as drug company-funded research has become incredibly controversial in recent years, forcing major medical schools and journals to institute strict disclosure requirements, could there be a conflict of interest issue in the pot debate? (See also: The real reason pot is still illegal)
The decision by California voters in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana produced a wave of similar initiatives around the country. Less than two decades later, over half the states allow at least limited medical use. Now it looks as though recreational use of the drug may follow the same path. In 2012, Washington State and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. This November, voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia will decide whether to do the same — effectively disregarding the misguided federal ban on a drug that is far less dangerous than alcohol.
The state of New York could legalize marijuana for recreational use as early as 2015. State Sen. Liz Krueger (D) will reintroduce the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act during the next legislative session, which begins in January. Krueger's bill would permit the opening of retail marijuana dispensaries, which would be regulated by the State Liquor Authority. The bill would establish an excise tax on all marijuana sales, and adults would legally be able to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and grow up to six marijuana plants at home for personal use.
A state judge said that a small city can continue to ban state-licensed marijuana businesses, in a case with big implications for Washington’s experiment in legal pot. Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper issued the ruling after extensive arguments over whether Initiative 502, the voter-approved state law that legalizes adults’ recreational use of marijuana, left any room for such local bans.
Conservative Republicans often talk about the need to constrain the power of the federal government. On everything from environmental regulation to education policy, Republican officeholders argue that individual states should be able to adopt their own policy priorities, free from federal interference. Yet many of these same people are silent when the question turns to marijuana. In 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington state voted to legalize marijuana possession within their states. This November, voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia will get the chance to follow suit. (See also: Let states decide on marijuana)
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. (See also: Why the New York Times editorial series calling for marijuana legalization is such a big deal and Evolving on Marijuana)
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.
Some 20 years ago, a Spanish official in favor of lifting the ban on drugs such as marijuana mentioned at a UN meeting that there "might be a more humane option" in the fight against trafficking. She was immediately taken aside by a senior diplomat, who told her in no uncertain terms: "Don't say things like that round here, not even in the washroom." Today, the same official says that internal documents are now circulating within the UN that openly admit to the failure of prohibition.
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.
Weed is legal in at least some form in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Most allow it for medical use only. Colorado and Washington this year enacted laws that allow recreational use by adults. But more than two dozen states are considering new or expanded marijuana reform legislation, including complete legalization for adults, medical marijuana, hemp use and decriminalization. Which are the next five states likely to legalize marijuana?