This week, we began airing a TV ad in Texas featuring Russell Jones, a retired narcotics detective and Texas Hill Country resident. Jones says that people under the influence of marijuana are much less problematic than people under the influence of alcohol, and that “law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time.” Its primary purpose: to urge lawmakers to support HB 507, which would reduce criminal penalties for marijuana possession in the Lone Star State.
The Huffington Post reported that voters seem ready to make marijuana legal in the nation’s capital, according to a new poll that puts support for Initiative 71 at 65 percent.
On November 4, Washington, D.C. voters will make their decision on Initiative 71, which would legalize adult marijuana use, possession of up to two ounces, and home cultivation of up to six marijuana plants for personal use. The sale of marijuana, however, would still remain illegal under D.C. law.
The NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll’s finding that district voters support legalization by almost a 2-1 margin “is the highest support ever for a marijuana legalization ballot initiative,” Adam Eidinger, chair of D.C. Cannabis Campaign, the group backing the legalization measure, said in a statement. “It vindicates the work of this campaign so far, but we still have more work to do turning out the vote come Election Day.”
Even so, the new poll suggests that D.C. will be a leader in combating the racial disparity in marijuana enforcement by making the use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana legal for adult residents.
“Voters are relating to the message that legalization will end D.C.’s rampant discrimination when it comes to marijuana enforcement,” said Dr. Malik Burnett, D.C. Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.
The D.C. City Council is considering a separate bill that would allow the regulation and taxation of marijuana. If and when that bill passes, the Marijuana Policy Project will be working with the D.C. Council and local advocates to develop a system of well-regulated retail sales.
According to the Huffington Post, the state of New York may see the regulation and taxation of marijuana for legal 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. Sen. Krueger’s bill would allow the establishment of retail marijuana dispensaries, which would be regulated by the State Liquor Authority. The bill would also place an excise tax on all marijuana sales. 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.
New York decriminalized the possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana over 30 years ago, and earlier this summer, became the 23rd state in the country to allow the legal use of medical marijuana. However, irrespective of these laws, New York, and especially New York City, remain plagued by a disproportionate number of low-level marijuana arrests amongst black and Latino communities.
In fact, since 2010, New York City has averaged between 30,000 and 50,000 marijuana arrests each year. Moreover, during the period between 2002 and 2012, 87 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession in the city were either black or Latino.
As stated by Krueger in an interview with Metro, “The real motivation for this bill comes from the fact that we have spent decades attempting to do prohibition and a war on drugs that has actually done nothing and is particularly ruining the lives of young people of color and having them go into the criminal justice system and come out with the kind of citations that limit their access to financial aid for college and exposes them to a criminal justice system that frankly I do not believe they should have been exposed to in the first place, for simply using a drug that is proved to be less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco.”
Although Krueger does not use marijuana herself, and does not encourage the use of marijuana to anyone else, she recognizes that marijuana prohibition is a failure.
“It is a win-win to decriminalize marijuana and regulate it and tax it.”
Since Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012, and after the historic first sales of recreational marijuana began in January 2014, a majority of state residents still support legal marijuana sales.
According to the Huffington Post, a new NBC News/Marist Poll demonstrates that 55 percent of adult Colorado residents back the law that made the regulated use, possession, and sale of marijuana by adults legal, as opposed to the 41 percent that do not support the law, including 8 percent who said they are actively trying to overturn the current legislation.
The majority that are supportive of the law includes the 27 percent of adult Coloradans who actively support the law, as well as the 28 percent who are in favor of the law but do not actively support it. Among registered voters, 52 percent said they favor the law, with 26 percent actively supporting it and 26 percent that favor but do not actively support it.
“This is just the latest of several polls that reflect the successful implementation of Amendment 64, “ said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project and key figure in the campaign to legalize marijuana. He went on to state, “Hopefully the folks fighting to maintain prohibition will stop using bogus talking points about Coloradans having buyer’s remorse. Nobody knows more about how Coloradans feel than Coloradans themselves, and clearly most of them are quite content with the direction in which things are headed.” [MPP emphasis added]
Moreover, other surveys have found similar levels of support regarding retail marijuana in the state. In February, for example, a Quinnipiac poll found that 58 percent of Colorado voters supported the legalization of marijuana. Another survey from March, conducted by Public Policy Polling, showed 57 percent of Colorado voters in favor of legal marijuana.
The success of Colorado’s implementation is paving the way for more states to follow in its footsteps. This November, Oregon and Alaska voters will be the next states to consider regulating marijuana like alcohol, and the District of Columbia will vote on making possession and limited home cultivation legal for adults.
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.”
The imprisonment of Jerry Duval, a seriously ill medical marijuana patient convicted of distributing the drug, could cost taxpayers upwards of $1.2 million, reports the Huffington Post.
Duval suffers from Type 1 diabetes. He has received both a kidney and a pancreas transplant, and he also lives with glaucoma and neuropathy. Consequently, he has a strict medical regime, which prior to his arrest included medical marijuana.
Despite the fact that Duval was a registered Michigan medical marijuana cardholder acting in compliance with state law, the Department of Justice (DOJ) brought the ailing farmer to court.
During the trial, Duval was not allowed to refer to his medical condition or the fact that he was acting in accordance with Michigan law, and in April 2012, he was found guilty of drug trafficking and given a 10-year sentence, which he will serve in a federal medical facility.
“In addition, I require treatment for coronary artery disease and diabetic retinopathy, which has forced me to undergo nearly two-dozen eye surgeries. These expensive optical procedures will likely need to be repeated several times during the decade that I am in BOP custody.”
Once again, the DOJ’s refusal to acknowledge state laws has devastated a family and misused taxpayer dollars.
The opinions expressed by our viewers and posters do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Marijuana Policy Project. These views are those of their individual authors alone. MPP does not condone or support the illegal use of marijuana. We do encourage open and frank discussion, but if a comment has been posted that is in some way significantly inappropriate, please email us at [email protected] to report it. Thank you, and we're looking forward to what you think!
"I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. If people can go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of alcohol and drink it at home legally, then why do we say that the use of this other substance is somehow criminal?"
"The sole tangible way in which pot is a gateway to other illegal drugs is that it is illegal. The best way to end this easy path to worse narcotics is to legalize it and take it out of the hands of criminals and gangs."
"There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana."