MPP’s Executive Director, Rob Kampia, wrote an article for the Huffington Post this week discrediting three common myths about the marijuana lobby most often spread by prohibitionists.
It’s important for all of us to keep our eye on the prize by agreeing that marijuana should be legal for people 21 and older; we’ll put cartels and gangs out of business, and we’ll have reasonable restrictions on advertising.
None of this is new. Anyone who believes that alcohol should be legal should also agree that marijuana should be legal.
This is simple for most of us to understand. The only people who are trying to confuse it are those who are making profits from marijuana prohibition — international drug cartels and, unfortunately, so-called anti-drug nonprofit organizations in the U.S.
At a press briefing Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it will allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with implementation of laws establishing state-regulated systems of marijuana production and distribution.
“Today’s announcement is a major and historic step toward ending marijuana prohibition,” said MPP director of federal policy Dan Riffle. “The Department of Justice’s decision to allow implementation of the laws in Colorado and Washington is a clear signal that states are free to determine their own policies with respect to marijuana.
“We applaud the Department of Justice and other federal agencies for its thoughtful approach and sensible decision. It is time for the federal government to start working with state officials to develop enforcement policies that respect state voters, as well as federal interests. The next step is for Congress to act. We need to fix our nation’s broken marijuana laws and not just continue to work around them.”
While the memo reiterates that marijuana use and distribution are still in violation of federal law, it lays out the priorities for the Department of Justice in states where marijuana policy differs from federal law:
the distribution of marijuana to minors;
revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
After the last memo issued by Cole regarding state medical marijuana law and federal enforcement, states with very clear policies in place to control and regulate marijuana distribution saw little or no interference. This latest memo seems to echo that position in the cases of Washington and Colorado for adult use, so hopefully we can expect the Department of Justice to continue this trend moving forward.
As expected, the statements in the ad were true (despite Politifact giving a strange conclusion as to why it was only mostly true). What was unexpected, however, was the response from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
“Claiming that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol cannot be substantiated since each possess their own unique set of risks and consequences for a given individual,” wrote the institute. NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, funds government-backed scientific research and has a stated mission “to lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction.”
“Our federal government has been exaggerating the harms of marijuana for decades, but at this point it has gone off the deep end,” Tvert told The Huffington Post. “NIDA’s statement that marijuana can be just as toxic as alcohol would be on par with the FDA announcing sushi is as fattening as fried chicken.”
“This is gross negligence on the agency’s part and should be addressed immediately by the White House,” Tvert continued. “It is one thing for our federal officials to convey their opposition to marijuana policy reform. It is an entirely different and more disturbing situation when they are conveying opposition to scientific evidence.”
Washington, D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells (D – Ward 6) proposed a bill today that would decriminalize marijuana in the nation’s capital. Possession of up to an ounce would be punishable by a civil fine of $100 rather than by the current threat of jail time. The bill was also backed by Marion Barry (D – Ward 8).
Wells told reporters that decriminalization would save youths who are caught with small amounts of marijuana from becoming entangled in the criminal justice system and losing out on future employment opportunities.
The bill has arrived at an interesting time for marijuana reform advocates. Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report which found that D.C. leads the nation in marijuana possession arrests per capita. The study also found that arrests in the District were racially biased: African Americans were eight times more likely than whites to be arrested on marijuana charges. According to D.C. police statistics, there were roughly 4,300 marijuana possession arrests in 2011.
Surveys indicate that a majority of D.C. residents agree with Wells’ proposal. An April poll by Public Policy Polling found that 75% of D.C. residents support decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Additionally, 63% support taxing and regulating marijuana for adults.
MPP spokesman Morgan Fox was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, “It is time to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy in our nation’s capital, and that is what Councilman Wells has proposed.”
On June 14, Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell certified a ballot initiative application that would put the question of whether to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol up to state voters. In order to appear on next year’s ballot, the initiative must receive 30,169 signatures from qualified voters.
The proposal would create state-regulated marijuana stores, cultivation facilities, and the option for Alaska’s legislature to create a Marijuana Control Board tasked with overseeing the industry. It would also allow adults to grow up to six marijuana plants.
Petition sponsor Tim Hinterberger stated that advocates hope to finish collecting signatures by January in order to get the petition on the primary ballot.
If the proposal passes, it would help to clear up Alaskans’ confusion over some of the nation’s most contradictory marijuana laws. In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that possession of less than four ounces in the home was protected from criminal sanctions by the state constitution’s right to privacy. However, in 2006, the legislature passed a bill criminalizing the possession of even small amounts of marijuana. Meanwhile, the state is one of 18 that allows patients to access medical marijuana.
Mason Tvert, a spokesman for MPP, is quoted in the Huffington Post as saying that this proposal is not a “blanket protection for marijuana possession… In order to have a system where individuals can go to the store, buy an ounce of marijuana, drive home, and enjoy it at home, it is necessary to make up to an ounce of marijuana entirely legal.”