I don’t often use superlatives, but it’s easy to say that 2016 will be the most significant year yet in the battle to repeal marijuana prohibition in the United States.
Up until now, the two biggest years were 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, and 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.
2016 will likely comprise a cornucopia of cannabis policy advances, which I’ll enumerate in the form of predictions.
Hillary Clinton wants to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous substance in order to allow more research into the drug’s medicinal properties, the Democratic presidential candidate said Saturday in South Carolina.
Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, the most dangerous of five substance categories listed in the Controlled Substances Act. According to the federal classification, Schedule I drugs have “no currently accepted medical use.” Other Schedule I substances include heroin, ecstasy and LSD.
Under Clinton’s proposal, marijuana would become a Schedule II substance, which are considered to have “less abuse potential.” Cocaine, OxyContin, Adderall and meth are Schedule II drugs. The move, Clinton said Saturday, would allow federal researchers to explore how to best use marijuana as medicine.
“What I do want is for us to support research into medical marijuana because a lot more states have passed medical marijuana than have legalized marijuana, so we’ve got two different experiences or even experiments going on right now,” Clinton said after being asked about marijuana prohibition during a town hall. “And the problem with medical marijuana is there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions, but we haven’t done any research. Why? Because it’s considered what’s called a Schedule I drug and you can’t even do research in it.”
“If we’re going to have a lot of states setting up marijuana dispensaries so that people who have some kind of medical need are getting marijuana, we need know what’s the quality of it, how much should you take, what should you avoid if you’re taking other medications,” she continued.
Clinton has said previously that she does not support legalizing marijuana, but believes in the medical use of cannabis and reforming the criminal justice system to keep low-level drug offenders out of jail.
President Barack Obama is at the top of the list, followed by several 2016 presidential candidates. At least eight (and as many as 17) of the 23 major-party presidential hopefuls have said or strongly indicated that they have consumed marijuana: Jeb Bush, Lincoln Chafee, Ted Cruz, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Rick Santorum.
Nine others do not appear to have said whether they have consumed marijuana, and they did not respond to inquiries from MPP: Joe Biden, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb. Only six candidates have said they never used marijuana: Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Donald Trump, and Scott Walker. Read the rest of this entry »
A state appeals court has overturned the marijuana conviction of a Colorado woman who was sentenced and convicted for marijuana possession just days after voters approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana in the state almost three years ago — retroactively applying the law to her case.
Citing a decision in a previous case, the appeals court ruled that convicted criminal defendants should receive “benefit of amendatory legislation which became effective at any time before the conviction became final on appeal,” the opinion, issued last week, reads.
In recent months, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has repeatedly said that he does not agree with marijuana legalization and would most likely end the current policy which allows states to determine their own marijuana laws provided they meet certain criteria, earning him a grade of “F” on MPP’s Presidential Report Card.
On Tuesday, Gov. Christie reaffirmed this position, saying that state laws making marijuana legal are numbered if he is elected president. The Huffington Post reports:
“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said Tuesday during a Newport, New Hampshire, town-hall meeting, Bloomberg reports. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”
Christie, one of 16 Republicans campaigning for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has made no secret of his long-held opposition to cannabis. As governor of New Jersey, he has opposed even his own state’s limited medical marijuana program and has called similar laws in 22 other states a “front” for full recreational legalization. He has described taxes generated from the sale of marijuana as “blood money.” And earlier this year in no uncertain terms, he said that, as president, he would “crack down and not permit” recreational cannabis in states that have legalized it.
To be sure, most voters aren’t single-issue marijuana voters (on either side of the legalization issue). Most voters make their decisions after processing a soup of positions and paid ads. So MPP’s intent is to inform a piece of that upcoming decision-making process, rather than claiming that marijuana legalization is the main issue for many voters.
That said, it’s worth noting that hardcore supporters of legalization are now finally capable of having a measurable impact on campaigns. For example, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) raised more than $100,000 at a marijuana-specific fundraising event in Portland on June 5. This is real money for a U.S. House race.
MPP’s early donations to Peter Shumlin (D-VT) almost certainly made the difference in his first primary contest for governor in 2010. And during the 2011-2012 election cycle, MPP was the largest donor to his campaign, edging out donations from AFSCME, Coca-Cola, and the Democratic Governors Association.
As for the presidential race, many members of the marijuana industry — which is generally defined as marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under various states’ laws — are supporting Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). At a group fundraising meeting at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s annual conference in Denver on June 30, a room of canna-business leaders discussed the issue with Sen. Paul and donated more than $100,000 to his campaign. (This is real money for any presidential campaign.) MPP had previously donated $15,000 to Sen. Paul’s three campaign committees.
Setting aside the ability of the cannabis industry to have some degree of impact on the current presidential race, what are the positions of some of the more interesting candidates?
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.
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!
"Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use."
"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."
"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?"