Eric Holder “Cautiously Optimistic” in Regards to Legal Marijuana

According to CNN, outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he is “cautiously optimistic” when it comes to Colorado and Washington’s implementation of regulated and legal adult marijuana control systems.

Eric Holder

“We don’t want to put into the federal system, low level people who are simply there for possessory offenses,” Holder stated Monday in an interview with CNN’s Evan Perez.

Last year, the DOJ chose eight enforcement areas that the department would concentrate on in a move aimed at calming nerves in Colorado and Washington. The eight “priority areas” have focused on the Justice Department’s attempts to prevent marijuana distribution to minors, as well as inter-state trafficking and violence associated with the illegal trade.

However, Holder noted in his interview Monday that the Justice Department could reverse its non-interventionist stance if Colorado and Washington’s regulatory frameworks are not up to par.

“What I’ve told the governors of those states is that if we’re not satisfied with their regulatory scheme that we reserve the right to come in and sue them. So we’ll see,” Holder said.

It remains to be seen how the new attorney general will treat states that decide to end marijuana prohibition going forward, but supportive lawmakers continue to push legislation that will finally protect states from federal interference and allow them to determine their own marijuana policies.

MPP to Introduce Three New Marijuana Reform Bills in Texas

As part of the Marijuana Policy Project’s multi-year legislative campaign in Texas, we are developing bill proposals to address decriminalization, as well as allowing marijuana to be used for medical reasons and eventually regulating it similarly to alcohol for adults.

Heather Fazio

According to Heather Fazio, Texas Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the group will be pre-filing the three bills this November, in anticipation of the 84th Texas Legislative Session, starting in January.

“We are working with a diverse coalition to introduce a civil penalty bill which [would] make small possession punishable by a simple fine, rather than a criminal charge,” said Fazio.

“This means no opportunity for jail time, and none of the collateral sanctions which come along with a criminal drug arrest. These collateral sanctions include limited access to resources for education, housing, employment, etc. It will also help to break down the stigma which goes along with being arrested and jailed for the possession of this plant.”

“We will [also] be introducing a bill to create a legal market for marijuana, similar to alcohol, for responsible adults who are 21 and over,” says Fazio.

The three bills cite Texans’ support for reduced marijuana penalties, the passage of medical marijuana laws, and taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Moreover, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and RAND Corporation data, 1,267,200 Texans already use marijuana each month, with the average user consuming 100 grams per year. Should Texas regulate and tax marijuana, with a tax of $50 per ounce implemented, the Lone Star State would stand to make between $150,971,063 and $264,199,294 in tax revenue annually.

Read the full Houston Press article for more information on the proposed marijuana policy changes in Texas, as well as an overview of the three bills.

Making Marijuana Legal in Washington, D.C. is the Better Choice

Supporting Washington, D.C.’s ballot initiative 71, which would make marijuana legal in the nation’s capital, makes sense in terms of economics, safety, and fairness, according to Economics21.

If the initiative passes on November 4, it would eliminate the criminal and civil penalties associated with personal possession, private use, and cultivation of marijuana — within limits (two ounces for possession, no use in public places, and six plants).

In terms of safety, the infamous argument that marijuana is a gateway drug and leads individuals to resort to harder drugs has repeatedly been called into question. Moreover, a Rand Corporation research report concluded:

“The harms of marijuana use can no longer be viewed as necessarily including an expansion of hard-drug use and its associated harms.”

In terms of legal marijuana’s economic viability, there are many benefits found in easing the burden on legal and corrections systems, money which can be used to fund various beneficial measures associated with public health and safety and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crime

Lastly, marijuana possession makes up nearly half of all drug arrests. The arrests of those who have been labeled as criminals for committing low-level crimes make it significantly harder to find employment.

In an interview in 2013, former Secretary of State George Schultz said, “According to the World Health Organization, the use of drugs is higher in the United States than most comparable countries. So you have to say that the war on drugs has simply not worked… We have wound up with a large number of young people in jail, mostly blacks, a huge cost, and a debilitating one to our society. And big foreign policy costs.”

In the end, it is quite clear that voting yes on Initiative 71 is the safer, fairer, and smarter choice. Please vote November 4 and lead the nation’s capital towards establishing a more sensible approach to marijuana policy. Encourage family, friends, and neighbors to do the same!

Low-Level Marijuana Arrests Targeting Large Numbers of Minorities Still on the Rise in New York

Bill de Blasio

As reported by The Huffington Post, Bill de Blasio, a candidate for New York City mayor last year, promised to end marijuana arrests, noting that they have “disastrous consequences for individuals and their families.” As mayor, however, de Blasio is not living up to his promise.

According to a report released yesterday by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, between March and August of this year, NYPD made hundreds more low-level marijuana arrests than they did during the same six-month period under New York City’s previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

The report, which draws on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, depicts the blatant racial disparity in low-level marijuana arrests: the NYPD continues to arrest Latinos at nearly four times the rate as white people and black people at seven times the rate of white people. This is in spite of numerous studies that demonstrate that young black people and Latinos in New York and elsewhere are no more likely than their white counterparts to use marijuana.

Moreover, the report analyzes the number of arrests by neighborhood, showing that the majority of arrests are centered in predominantly black and Latino areas.

“The NYPD is clearly never going to do on the Upper West Side, where there are two dozen arrests each year, what they’re doing in the 77th Precinct in Crown Heights, where there are more than 300,” said Gabriel Sayegh, managing director for policy and campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It just wouldn’t be allowed.”

Ultimately, the report portrays a typical arrest victim as a young person of color who generally abides by the law. In fact, as relayed in the report, three-quarters of those arrested for marijuana this year have never even been convicted of a misdemeanor.

“As a whole, we in the communities of color voted for him,” said Anastasia Sanders—a 21 year old woman from Prospect Heights in Brooklyn who voted for de Blasio hoping he would reform the police department’s practices. “So for us to continue to be arrested, to be honest, it’s not fair, and we just wish we had his support a little bit more.”

Overwhelming Majority of Delaware Voters Support Making Marijuana Legal

A new poll conducted by the University of Delaware finds 56% support for legalizing marijuana, with just 39% opposed. Earlier this year, Rep. Helene Keeley, Sen. Bryan Townsend, and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry sponsored legislation to reduce the penalty for simple possession of marijuana from a criminal charge to a civil fine. This is a strong step in the right direction.

Under current Delaware law, possessing even a small amount of marijuana is a criminal offense, carrying up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,150. And the effects of a conviction don’t stop there. A criminal record can make it difficult to find a job, obtain educational opportunities, or even find adequate housing.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have replaced the threat of jail for possession of marijuana with a fine. If you are a Delaware resident, ask your state representative and senator to make the same modest reform, and then ask your fellow Delawareans to call for this long overdue reform, too.

Marijuana Policy Project