Police made 853,838 arrests in 2010 for marijuana-related offenses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. The arrest total is among the highest ever reported by the agency and is nearly identical to the total number of cannabis-related arrests reported in 2009. According to the report, marijuana arrests now comprise more than one-half (52 percent) of all drug arrests in the United States. An estimated 46 percent of all drug arrests are for offenses related to marijuana possession. “Today, as in past years, the so-called ‘drug war’ remains fueled by the arrests of minor marijuana possession offenders, a disproportionate percentage of whom are ethnic minorities,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a prepared statement. “It makes no sense to continue to waste law enforcements’ time and taxpayers’ dollars to arrest and prosecute Americans for their use of a substance that poses far fewer health risks than alcohol or tobacco.” Of those charged with marijuana law violations, 750,591 (88 percent) were arrested for marijuana offenses involving possession only. The remaining 103,247 individuals were charged with "sale/manufacture," a category that includes virtually all cultivation offenses. By region, the percentage of marijuana arrests was highest in the Midwest (63.5 percent of all drug arrests) and southern regions (57 percent of all drug arrests) of the United States and lowest in the west, where pot prosecutions comprised only 39 percent of total drug arrests. By contrast, the percentage of arrests for heroin and cocaine was lowest in the Midwest (14 percent of all arrests) and highest in the northeast (29 percent of all arrests). Overall, law enforcement agents nationwide arrested 1,638,846 people last year for drug abuse violations, surpassing arrests for all other crimes. Since 2000, law enforcement have reported making an estimated 7.9 million arrests for marijuana violations.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” -- Mahatma Gandhi What can I say? I'm flattered. David Mineta, deputy director for demand reduction in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has taken time to publicly respond to little ol' me. I wonder if they pronounce 'Armentano' phonetically at the Drug Czar's office? The back story: Last week NORML Board member Paul Kuhn and I published a guest commentary in Nashville's largest daily newspaper, The Tennessean, opining in favor of H.R. 2306, the 'Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011. Here's an excerpt:
Marijuana legalization bill offers safer alternative via The Tennessean We know tobacco is the leading cause of death in America, contributing to 400,000 deaths each year. So it’s hardly any wonder the FDA will require the placement of prominent warning labels. Alcohol is the third-leading cause of death in America. The World Health Organization reported earlier this year that “alcohol causes nearly 4 percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence.” ... What about marijuana? With every other drug from Advil and alcohol to Zantac, a correct dose is effective, but too high a dose kills the patient. No dose of marijuana is capable of causing a fatal overdose. ... And unlike alcohol and tobacco, adverse effects of even heavy cannabis use are minimal. There is no epidemiological evidence in any country, after scores of studies and centuries of use by tens of millions of people, that marijuana smokers have a shorter life expectancy than non-smokers. ... They don’t become violent at sports events or beat their spouses and children. They don’t get heart disease, cancer, brain damage or any other deadly illness at a higher rate than those who abstain. In fact, a pair of studies conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that marijuana use, even long-term, was not associated with elevated levels of mortality or incidences of cancer, including types of cancers associated with tobacco smoking. ... America is on a path to allow adults to choose a safer alternative to tobacco and alcohol. And create more tax revenue and more jobs in Tennessee. And more freedom.
Apparently quite a few people read our editorial, including some folks at the Drug Czar's office. And it must have gotten under their skin because yesterday the White House responded with this.
Movement for legalized marijuana ignores dangers via The Tennessean Proponents of marijuana legalization often argue it will do everything from fixing our economy to ending violent crime (“Marijuana legalization bill offers safer alternative,” Tennessee Voices, Aug. 15). Yet, the science is clear: Marijuana use is not a benign drug and it is harmful to public health and safety. ... Would marijuana legalization make Tennessee healthier or safer? One needs to look no further than Tennessee’s current painful experience with prescription drug abuse. In Tennessee, prescription drugs are legal, regulated, and taxed — and yet rates of the abuse of pain relievers in the state exceed the national average by more than 10 percent. Nationally, someone dies from an unintentional drug overdose — driven in large part by prescription drug abuse — on average every 19 minutes. What would America look like if we had just as many people using marijuana as we currently have smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol, and abusing prescription drugs?
Predictably, the government's response isn't an actual rebuttal at all; it's a classic red herring. Of course some people misuse prescription drugs. Some people overdose on them too. But what does any of this have to do with arresting adults who consume cannabis, which is relatively non-toxic and is incapable of causing human overdose? Further, if the drug warriors engaged in even a hint of consistency then they would be arguing for the criminal prohibition of cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription drugs. And lots of other things. Yet when it comes to Americans' use of substances like tobacco, booze, and prescription drugs -- substances that pose far greater dangers to health than does cannabis -- the White House recognizes that prohibition is not the answer: regulation and education are. So why does the Drug Czar's office fail to apply this same common-sense principle to pot? Perhaps it has something to do with the federal requirement requiring the office to lie about legalization. Finally, as to the specific question: 'What would America look like if we had just as many people using marijuana as are presently using tobacco, alcohol, and prescription medications?' Well, what does America look like today? After all, the federal government imposed criminal prohibition over 70 years ago; yet today that very same federal government admits that over one out of ten Americans admit to having using cannabis in the past year. In several states, among those age 18 to 25 almost half admit to having consumed cannabis recently! In other words, the reality is that America under a policy of cannabis regulation would like very much the same as it does today -- except that society would be spending far less money to target, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate marijuana offenders. And perhaps some people would less frequently consume prescription drugs and alcohol. Contrary to the frame put forward by the Drug Czar's office, the question isn't 'What if Americans consumed marijuana?' Tens of millions of Americans have and do consume marijuana. Most do so privately and responsibly. Legalizing cannabis simply acknowledges this reality and seeks to regulate the behavior appropriately. It's that simple. So why doesn't the Drug Czar get it?
Regardless of one's opinion of President Obama as a political figure, it is hard to deny his skill as an eloquent orator. So it is notable, even newsworthy, when the Commander and Chief is publicly at a loss for words. Such was the case yesterday at a Presidential Town hall in Cannon Falls, Minnesota when a flustered, tongue-tied Obama attempted in vain to explain why his administration continues to oppose efforts to allow for the legal use of cannabis as a doctor-recommended medicine. (Watch the full video of the Town hall is here. The medical marijuana question and Obama's response comes at the 49-minute mark.) Confused? Perhaps this transcript will help to better articulate the President's position:
Audience member: "If you can't legalize marijuana, why can't we just legalize medical marijuana, to help the people that need it?" Obama: "Well, you know, a lot of states are making decisions about medical marijuana. As a controlled substance, the issue then is, you know, is it being prescribed by a doctor, as opposed to, you know -- well -- -- I'll -- I'll -- I'll -- I'll leave it at that."
And leave it at that he did. It is curious that President Obama -- someone who is use to speaking extemporaneously in public -- could not articulate one single legitimate reason (nor could his former Press Secretary) why his administration believes in continuing the federal ban on marijuana, including the use of medical marijuana for ill patients. Obama's failure to communicate becomes even more surprising when one considers that within just the past few weeks, high-profile members of the Obama administration have publicly put forward several alleged 'justifications' for why the federal government ought to be in the business of denying medical marijuana to sick people. For instance, the White House's 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, released in July, devoted an entire section to rebuffing the notion of cannabis' use as a legitimate therapy, stating:
Marijuana and other drugs are addictive and unsafe, especially for use by young people. Unfortunately, efforts to "medicalize" marijuana have widened the public acceptance and availability of the drug. There is no substitute for the scientific approval process employed by the FDA. For a drug to be made available to the public as medicine, the FDA requires rigorous research followed by tests for safety and efficacy. Only then can a substance be classified as medicine and prescribed by qualified health care professionals to patients. In the wake of state and local laws that permit distribution of "medical" marijuana, dozens of localities have been left to grapple with poorly written laws that bypass the FDA process and allow marijuana to be used as a so-called medicine. ... Outside the context of federally approved research, the use and distribution of marijuana is prohibited in the United States.
In addition, less than one-month ago, Obama's hand-picked DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart formally denied a nine-year-old petition calling on the agency to initiate hearings to reassess the present classification of marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance without any 'accepted medical use in treatment.' Leonhart's justification, as stated in in the July 8, 2011 edition of the Federal Register:
[Cannabis possesses] a high potential for abuse; ... no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; ... [and] lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision. ... [T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving its efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts. ... At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.
So if the Obama administration is willing to make such allegations in writing, then why is the President afraid to own up to and repeat these claims in public? Likely because he, like a majority of Americans, are aware that there isn't a shred of scientific support for the administration's 'Flat Earth' position. So if the President of the United States can't publicly articulate why we continue to arrest over one-half million Americans each year for possessing marijuana, then why are we as a nation continuing to engage in this destructive and illogical policy?
The White House yesterday, with little fanfare, issued its annual (and long overdue) 2011 National Drug Control Strategy report. As usual, the White House's official justification for the ongoing multigenerational drug war was light on facts and heavy on rhetoric, particularly as it pertained to the federal government's fixation with criminalizing cannabis. Here are just a few examples (all of which are excerpted from a section of the report, entitled ironically enough, 'The Facts About Marijuana') of your government on pot.
"[C]onfusing messages being conveyed by the entertainment industry, media, proponents of 'medical' marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana use is harmless and aim to establish commercial access to the drug. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction." "Marijuana and other illicit drugs are addictive and unsafe. ... The science, though still evolving in terms of long-term consequences, is clear: marijuana use is harmful. Independent from the so called 'gateway effect' — marijuana on its own is associated with addiction, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects." "The Administration steadfastly opposes drug legalization. Legalization runs counter to a public health approach to drug control because it would increase the availability of drugs, reduce their price, undermine prevention activities, hinder recovery support efforts, and pose a significant health and safety risk to all Americans, especially our youth."
You get the idea. Of course, none of these allegations represent anything new for this (or previous) administrations, and NORML has responded in detail to most of the Drug Czar's claims previously. I did, however, take notice of this particular paragraph in the report, which appears under the title 'Medical' Marijuana.'
“In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved 109 researchers to perform bona fide research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, and marijuana derivatives such as cannabidiol and cannabinol. Studies include evaluation of abuse potential, physical/psychological effects, adverse effects, therapeutic potential, and detection. Fourteen researchers are approved to conduct research with smoked marijuana on human subjects.”
Only in an environment of absolute criminal prohibition can the administration imply, with a straight face, that allowing a grand total of 14 legally permitted scientists to study a substance consumed by tens of millions of Americans for therapeutic and/or recreational purposes is somehow to be construed as 'progress.' That total doesn't even legally allow for one scientist per medical marijuana state to actively assess how cannabis is impacting that state’s patient population. Moreover, this acknowledgment comes from the very same administration that on Friday flat out rejected the notion of even allowing hearings on the question of marijuana’s schedule I classification because, in their opinion, “there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy.” Of course, with only a dozen or so scientists in the whole county even permitted to interact with pot and humans can there be any wonder why such studies aren't more prevalent? (By the way, remember the results last year of the series of FDA-approved 'gold standard' clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis in severely ill patients? Apparently neither does the DEA. Nor are they aware of these 'well-controlled' studies of medical cannabis. Or these.) Interestingly, according to the DEA’s 2010 white paper on cannabis (no longer online), last year there were a total of 18 scientists licensed by the government to work with marijuana in a clinical setting. Perhaps next year there will only be ten. If the DEA and NIDA have there way perhaps by 2013 there will be zero. As for the other 95 US scientists legally authorized by the federal government to assess the efficacy of 'marijuana extracts and marijuana derivatives' in animals, most of them were here last week -- at the annual meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. But even these 'chosen few' acknowledge that there work has next to no influence on the very administration that authorizes it.
Marijuana Researchers Meet At Pheasant Run Researchers from around the world studying the effects of marijuana and exploring possible medical uses meet each year to compare notes and share their findings About 250 scientists from around the world have gathered this weekend at Pheasant Run Resort sitting through seminars titled "Endocannabinoid Signaling in Periimplantation Biology," and "Cannabinoids and HIV Pathogenicity," to name a few, for the 21st Annual Symposium of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. ICRS members meet once a year to compare notes on research studying how cannabinoids, compounds from the cannabis plant (more commonly known as marijuana) or from the brain called endocannabinoids, affect the body and how it functions. While most attendees are scientists, many are graduate students or training scientists as well as physicians interested in learning how these chemicals might be useful in treating human disease. "We are all around the world working on our own projects," said Cecilia Hillard, ICRS executive director, professor of pharmacology and director of the Neuroscience Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "That's why it's so wonderful for us to get together once a year so we can really share things that we learn," she said. For example, she said someone may be studying how bone is formed, and she is studying how the brain works. "I learn a lot by learning how the bone is formed, and they learn about how neurons work," Hillard said. "It's really a lot of what we call a 'cross-fertilization' of ideas." While the society is not political, Hillard says the type of research that is done on the controversial topic of medical and personal use of marijuana is nonetheless important. "We're carrying out scientific investigations trying to understand what these molecules do," Hillard said. "What we try to contribute to the debate is the reality." She said scientific investigation is done in a very neutral way, trying to understand what these molecules do. "The mass appeal is, 'is there a good use for this in the treatment of human disease?'" Hillard said. "Most of us really have a passion for looking at these molecules because there is a lot of potential for treatment of human disease." The findings of this research are published in scientific journals so that the information is available to anyone. She said sometimes "you have no idea the impact your work is having." Hillard said part of the mission of the ICRS is to educate the public. "I wish the politicians would (look at the data) but I don't think they do," she said.
On Wednesday the Obama administration for the second time in two years issued a Department of Justice memorandum regarding the state-sanctioned use and production of medical cannabis. However, unlike the release of the 2009 'Ogden memo,' which the administration promoted with great fanfare, the issuance of this week's 'Cole memorandum' is strategically being downplayed by the Justice Department. As for the content of the memo, which you can read in full here, it's hardly surprising -- particularly in light of the administration's recent, and highly public threats to lawmakers in states wishing to enact medical marijuana laws or expand upon their existing programs. Perhaps most notably, the memorandum states that the recent flurry of intimidating US Attorney letters to state lawmakers are ‘entirely consistent’ with the Obama administration's position. In other words, the administration is now on record in support of claims made by US Attorneys in Rhode Island, Washington, and other states alleging that state employees could be targeted and federally prosecuted for simply registering and licensing medical cannabis patients or providers -- a position that is even more extreme than that of the previous administration. (Notably to date, however, no state employee — or for that matter, no state sanctioned dispensary operator — has ever been prosecuted by the federal government.) The memo goes on to state that the federal government distinguishes between individual medical cannabis patients and third party providers, indicating that it is a poor use of federal resources (rather than a poor use of judgment) to target the former, while indicating that the latter are fair game for federal prosecution. It states:
"A number of states have enacted some form of legislation relating to the medical use of marijuana. Accordingly the Ogden memo reiterated to you that prosecution of significant traffickers in illegal drugs, including marijuana, remains a core priority, but advised that it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers. The term “caregiver” as used in the memorandum meant just that: individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana."
Finally, the memo acknowledges that there has been an increase in the number of states that have either enacted or are considering enacting state laws allowing for the licensed production and distribution of cannabis to authorized patients. (To date, such state-licensed dispensaries are up and running in Colorado, New Mexico, and Maine; laws permitting such facilities are on the books in Arizona, Delaware, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.) Clearly, the federal government is not at all pleased with this progress.
"The Odgen Memorandum was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law. Persons who are in the business of cultivating. selling, or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. Consistent with the resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA. Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financing laws."
Regardless of how one wishes to interpret the latest memo from the DOJ, one thing is clear. States will never truly enjoy the freedom to experiment with alternative marijuana policies until the federal government is compelled to get out of their way. Only the passage of HR 2306, the 'Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011,' can make that happen. House Bill 2306 mimics changes enacted by Congress that repealed the federal prohibition of alcohol by removing the federal government's power to prosecute minor marijuana offenders. It would eliminate the existing conflict between federal law and the laws of those sixteen states that already allow for the limited use of marijuana under a physicians’ supervision. Further, it would permit state governments that wish to fully legalize and regulate the responsible use, possession, production, and intrastate distribution of marijuana for all adults to be free to do so without federal interference. State lawmakers should be free to explore alternate marijuana policies — including medicalization, decriminalization, and/or legalization — without being held hostage to archaic federal prohibition or the whims of the Department of Justice. Contact your member of Congress and urge him or her to vote 'yes' on HR 2306.
"Alcohol causes nearly four percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence." That was the finding promoted earlier this year of the World Health Organization. Summarized Reuters, who reviewed the report: "Approximately 2.5 million people die each year from alcohol related causes. ... The harmful use of alcohol is especially fatal for younger age groups and alcohol is the world’s leading risk factor for death among males aged 15-59. … Alcohol is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries. ... Its consumption has been linked to cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy, poisonings, road traffic accidents, violence, and several types of cancer, including cancers of the colorectum, breast, larynx and liver." Nonetheless, WHO concluded, "[A]lcohol control policies are weak and remain a low priority for most governments despite drinking’s heavy toll on society from road accidents, violence, disease, child neglect and job absenteeism." The same can't be said for cannabis -- which governments far and wide continue to treat as public enemy #1, despite its relatively nominal risks. Of course the reason we see these startling links between alcohol consumption and disease is because ethanol, the psychoactive compound in alcohol, and acetaldehyde (what ethanol is converted to after ingestion), pose toxic risks to health cells and organs. By contrast, marijuana’s active compounds — the cannabinoids — pose little comparable risk to healthy cells and organs, and are incapable of causing fatal overdose. So answer me again: Why do we celebrate consumers and manufacturers of alcohol while we simultaneously target, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate consumers and producers of a far safer substance? That was the question we set out to answer when authoring the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? It's a question that has galvanized the public. This week, the Facebook page for Marijuana Is Safer surpassed 500,000 'fans,' making it one of the all-time most popular book tiles on the social network. As a result, publisher Chelsea Green is offering a special discount this week on copies of Marijuana Is Safer. Use the code SAFER at the link here and learn how you can obtain copies of Marijuana Is Safer for a significantly reduced price. Then ask your elected officials: 'Why are we driving people to drink?'
Here was the Obama administration's well publicized position on medical marijuana, circa 2009 (via the Ogden memo to all United States attorneys): "The prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, and the disruption of illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking networks continues to be a core priority in the Department’s efforts against narcotics and dangerous drugs, and the Department’s investigative and prosecutorial resources should be directed towards these objectives. As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." Here's the Obama administration's not-so-well publicized position on medical marijuana today (via the May 2, 2011 letter sent from the office of the United States Attorney, District of Arizona, to the Arizona Department of Health Services re: the implementation of the voter-approved Medical Marijuana Program): "The United States Attorneys Office ... will vigorously prosecute individuals and organizations that participate in the unlawful manufacturing, distribution and marketing activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law." Any questions? In recent weeks, the Administration has reversed its position regarding states' implementation of medical marijuana legislation -- replacing what was once perceived as a 'hands off' approach with one of intimidation. In April, NORML blogged about the U.S. Department of Justice, particularly U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan of Seattle and Michael Ormsby of Spokane, threatening "civil and criminal legal remedies" (read: sanctions) against Washington state citizens, including state employees, who assist with or engage in the production or distribution of medical cannabis, "even if such activities are permitted under state law.” The U.S. Attorneys' threats came in response to an inquiry from Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, who most likely was seeking 'political cover' so that she could publicly 'justify' her veto of legislation (SB 5073) that sought to license and regulate the dispensing of medical cannabis to qualified persons, and would have enacted additional legal protections for patients who voluntarily participated in a statewide registry. The threats worked; Gov. Gregoire cited them in her veto statement Friday. In fact, the threats worked so well, that in recent days U.S. Attorneys in other states with active medical marijuana programs have begun issuing similar menacing proclamations. Last week in Colorado, where state regulators have licensed over 800 state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries, U.S. Attorney John Walsh sent a letter to the state's Attorney General alleging that the federal Justice Department will "vigorously" prosecute individuals or organizations engaged in "unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law." A spokesman for Walsh's office adds, "In the eye of the federal government, there's only one type of marijuana. And marijuana is a Schedule I controlled [federally prohibited] substance." Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke fired off a similarly worded letter this week to Will Humble, the director of the state Department of Health Services, which is overseeing the implementation of Proposition 203. Under the law, which was approved by voters last fall and was enacted on April 15, the state must register qualified patients who have a doctor's recommendation for cannabis and also license dispensaries to provide it to them. However, according to Burke, said dispensaries that are compliant with the state's law will "not [be] protect[ed] from [federal] criminal prosecution, asset forfeiture, and other civil penalties." In Vermont, U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin recently warned lawmakers, who are deciding on whether to expand the state's 2004 medical cannabis law to include state-licensed dispensaries, that doing will place the state in violation of federal law. Coffin's warning appears to be having its desired effect, as several state lawmakers now say that they no longer intend to support the proposed licensing measure. Finally, in Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced this week that he is suspending the state's nascent medical marijuana distribution program, set to begin this June. In March, the representatives from the Rhode Island Department of Health selected three applicants to operate the state's first-ever, government licensed medical cannabis dispensaries. (The dispensaries program was initially approved by lawmakers in 2009, but the winning applicants were not decided upon until two years later.) Predictably, Chafee's abrupt change of heart came after receiving a hand-delivered letter from U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha Friday threatening to prosecute civilly and/or criminally those involved in the dispensary program. So what's the impetus for the Obama administration's sudden decision to play rhetorical hard ball? NORML Outreach Coordinator and podcaster Russ Belville speculates that the administration's about face has little to do with patients' use of medical cannabis, and everything to do with the broader political implications associated with allowing states to demonstrate that cannabis can be regulation in a safe, effective, above-ground manner.
"Mr. Obama's ... true intention is to stifle the development of any viable legal cannabis distribution industry. By sending threat letters to Rhode Island and Arizona, states that have created clear and unambiguous laws for medical cannabis providers to follow, it is obvious that Mr. Obama isn’t opposed to medical cannabis, per se, but terribly opposed to medical cannabusiness. "If (medical cannabusiness) establish (themselves), people will become accustomed to safe, secure, well-run businesses that deliver consistent, reliable, tested cannabis products. They’ll appreciate the way these places revitalize sagging economies, provide jobs, and contribute taxes to budget-starved localities. They’ll realize all the scaremongering by the government about what would happen if marijuana was legal, even for sick people, was hysterical propaganda. [And] they’ll begin to wonder why we don’t just legalize cannabis for everyone, create more jobs, raise more revenue, and use these established businesses as the distribution points."
What do you think?
Marijuana prohibition 'celebrates' its centennial anniversary today. That's right, the government's war on cannabis consumers is now officially 100-years-old. Self-evidently, cannabis has won. Although many credit the passage of the federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 with the initiation of pot prohibition, the reality is that one hundred years ago today, Massachusetts Governor Eugene Foss signed the first statewide anti-pot prohibition into law. Following Massachusetts, over 30 states quickly followed suit -- including California, Maine, Indiana and Wyoming in 1913 -- leading the way for federal prohibition some two-and-a-half decades later. Of course, cannabis use was practically non-existent in Massachusetts (as well as in most of the rest of the country) in 1911. Yet today, 100 years following the plant's criminalization, the state boasts one of the highest rates of pot use in the nation. Writing today in the Milford (Massachusetts) Daily News, former NORML Board Member Richard Evans, author of Massachusetts House Bill 1371, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, nails it:
"Despite a century of ever-zealous enforcement and thunderous propaganda at taxpayer expense, marijuana inextricably permeates our culture. Its cultivation, commerce and use have proven ineradicable. We have tried mightily and we have failed to extirpate it. If anyone, anywhere, believes that spending more money on marijuana enforcement will drive out pot, let that person come forward and tell us plainly what it will take to make that happen, how much it will cost, and where the money will come from. The futility of enforcement, however, is not the urgent reason to legalize it. The reason is that prohibition has become a destructive force in our society. Most perniciously, marijuana prohibition provides the tools and the excuses for the oppression of minorities. No historian denies that the early drug laws were conceived for that purpose, and today's grotesquely disproportionate incarceration rate of African-Americans proves that the drug laws have shamefully accomplished that purpose. Prohibition divides us. Getting caught with pot, or the fear of getting caught, divides parents and teens, employers and employees, friends, neighbors, colleagues, doctors and patients, and citizens and the police. That divisiveness weakens us as we face colossal challenges like a sick economy, the insolvency of states and municipalities, climate change and our addiction to imported oil. As long as cannabis remains illegal, it cannot be a part of the solution to those colossal challenges. ... Our immediate challenge is not to legalize cannabis, but to legalize serious talk about it, without smirks and snickers. How legalization can best protect public health and safety, and discourage abuse, and how to tax the substance, are issues not just for politicians, but for everyone. Legalization is no longer for stoners; it's for taxpayers, entrepreneurs and grandparents, horrified at the likely state of the planet on which their grandchildren will grow up. Let the debate begin now, lest another hundred years go by."
The northeast has historically been a hotbed for marijuana use -- with five of the six New England states self-reporting some of the highest percentages of marijuana consumption in the nation. But recently New England has also become a regional leader in marijuana law reform. Lawmakers in every New England state are now debating marijuana law reform legislation. Here's a closer look at what's happening. Connecticut: The nutmeg state is the only northeast state besides New Hampshire that has yet to enact some form of marijuana decriminalization or medicalization. But that drought may end this year. Weeks ago, newly elected Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy publicly affirmed his support for legislation that seeks to reduce minor marijuana possession to a noncriminal offense. Malloy endorsed reducing adult marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to an infraction, punishable by a nominal fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. Gov. Malloy has also spoken out in favor of legalizing the physician-authorized use of medical marijuana. (Similar legislation was passed by the legislature in 2007, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell.) Both proposals will be debated by members of the Joint Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 14. You can contact your state elected officials in favor of both of these proposals here and here. You can also get involved with Connecticut NORML here. Maine: Maine voters have twice approved ballot initiatives in recent years addressing the medical use and distribution of medical cannabis. And in 2009, Maine lawmakers increased the amount of marijuana that may be classified as a civil offense from 1.25 ounces to 2.5 ounces (the second highest threshold in the nation). This year state lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills, LD 754 and LD 750, to expand the state’s existing marijuana decriminalization law. LD 754 would amend existing law so that the adult possession of over 2.5 ounces but less than 5 ounces is classified as a civil violation. LD 750 would amend existing law so that the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants by an adult is also classified as a civil violation. Both measures have been referred to the Joint Committee Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. You can contact your lawmakers in support of these measures here. NORML and other drug law reform groups are also working with state lawmakers regarding the introduction of separate legislation to legalize adult marijuana possession, production, and distribution. You can learn more about this forthcoming legislation here. Massachusetts: In 2008, a whopping 65 percent of voters in endorsed Question 2 decriminalizing the adult possession of an ounce or less of cannabis to a fine-only civil offense. Now a coalition of state lawmakers are backing House Bill 1371 to legalize and regulate adult marijuana production and sales in Massachusetts. You can watch a 60-minute discussion with the bill's lead sponsor and supporter here. You can contact your state elected officials in support of HB 1371 here, or by visiting the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition/NORML here. You can learn about a separate state legislative effort to regulate the use of medical marijuana here. New Hampshire: House Committeee lawmakers on Thursday voted in favor of House Bill 442, which legalizes the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana. (Similar legislation passed both the House and the Senate in 2009, but was vetoed by Governor John Lynch.) You can write your lawmakers regarding HB 442 via NORML's 'Take Action Center' here, or by contacting NHCompassion.org. Rhode Island: In coming days, Rhode Island state regulators will become only the third in the nation to begin licensing medical marijuana dispensaries. A coalition of lawmakers is also debating the amending the state's penalties for non-patients. House Bill 5031 amends state law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. Separate legislation, House Bill 5591: The Taxation and Regulation of Marijuana Act, is also pending. You can voice your support for HB 5031 by clicking here and you can contact lawmakers regarding HB 5591 here. Vermont: Two separate marijuana law reform measures are pending before Vermont lawmakers. Senate Bill 17 proposes expanding the state's medical marijuana law to permit the establishment of two nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. You can learn more about this measure here. House Bill 427 amends state law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by six months in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. Passage of the measure, which has been endorsed by Democrat Governor Peter Shumlin, will allow state law enforcement to reallocate an estimated $700,000 annually in criminal justice resources. You can contact your House member in support of HB 427 here. For up-to-date information on marijuana law reform measures pending in other states, please visit NORML's 'Take Action Center' here.
Several weeks ago, President Obama stated that he believed the subject of drug legalization and regulation was "an entirely legitimate topic for debate." Yet recent actions by White House Office of National Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske imply that this administration has no interest in having this debate in the public arena -- at least not in Seattle. On Friday, February 18, the Seattle Times editorial board opined in favor of House Bill 1550, which legalizes and regulates the “production, distribution, and sale” of marijuana to adults. (You can contact your state elected officials in support of the measure here.) The editorial, titled "The Washington Legislature should legalize marijuana" did not mince words.
Marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed. The push to repeal federal prohibition should come from the states, and it should begin with the state of Washington. ... Some drugs have such horrible effects on the human body that the costs of prohibition may be worth it. Not marijuana. This state's experience with medical marijuana and Seattle's tolerance policy suggest that with cannabis, legalization will work — and surprisingly well. Not only will it work, but it is coming.
According to Seattle Times editorial page editor Ryan Blethen, the public's reaction to the paper's pot-friendly position was overwhelming. "It is rare we publish an editorial on a hot topic and receive near universal praise. But that is what happened last week when we came out in support of Washington state legalizing cannabis," Bethen wrote in February 25 commentary. "When people take the time to e-mail or call me about an editorial, it is usually because they do not agree with the editorial page. This editorial was different. The compliments rolled in, the discussion in the comments section of the editorial is nearing 600 and is interesting and thoughtful — which is not always the case — and so far the editorial has been recommended by about 3,000 people on Facebook." Yet there was is one prominent, former Seattle resident who is clearly not amused by the Times call for "a sober discussion about marijuana." That person is the Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske. The Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger has the details -- and they aren't pretty.
White House Requests Meeting with Seattle Times to Bully Against Pro-Pot Editorials via The Stranger The Stranger has learned that immediately after the Seattle Times ran an editorial last week supporting a bill to tax and regulate marijuana, the newspaper got a phone call from Washington, D.C. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske wanted to fly to Seattle to speak personally with the paper's full editorial board. The meeting is scheduled for next Friday, an apparent attempt by the federal government to pressure the state's largest newspaper to oppose marijuana legalization. Or at least turn down the volume on its new-found bullhorn to legalize pot. Bruce Ramsey, the Seattle Times editorial writer who wrote the unbylined piece, says the White House called right “right after our editorial ran, so I drew the obvious conclusion… he didn’t like our editorial.” ... This isn't the first time the Obama Administration has campaigned to keep pot illegal. Kerlikowske, who is also Seattle's former police chief, also traveled to California last fall to campaign against Prop 19, a measure to decriminalize marijuana and authorize jurisdictions to tax and regulate it.
NORML Has long argued that pot prohibition can not withstand careful and consistent scrutiny from the mainstream media. The Drug Czar knows this to be true better than anyone; hence the White House's need to try and squelch any media-led 'legitimate debate.' Fortunately, the genie is out of the bottle and isn't going back -- at least not in Seattle. In fact, just days after The Drug Czar's phone call, the Seattle Times reiterated their editorial support for legalization, stating "the costs of prohibition in police, courts, jails, gang warfare, civil liberties and blighted lives are too high, especially for a product that lends itself so well to be handled like alcohol." Like it or not President Obama, you are going to get your debate. We're ready; are you?