Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

The 10 Things That Led to Legalized Marijuana in Colorado

November 27th, 2012 38 Comments Kate Zawidzki

In the wake of our victory in Colorado — where 54.8 percent of the voters passed Amendment 64, a constitutional amendment to regulate marijuana like alcohol — good people are understandably clamoring to pass similar measures in their states.

Here is a listing of the ingredients of the recipe that led to the historic victory in Colorado on November 6.

1. Presidential Election: Given that no one had ever previously legalized marijuana in the history of the world, we assumed that the election in Colorado would be close — win or lose. So we intentionally chose to place our initiative on the ballot during a presidential election, which always attracts a larger proportion of young voters, who are more supportive. …

To read more, please visit The Huffington Post.

 

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Medical Marijuana

Irv Rosenfeld’s 30th Anniversary of Getting Marijuana from the Feds

November 20th, 2012 11 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Today is a notable occasion. It is the 30th anniversary of a Florida man gaining the ability to use marijuana for medical purposes and of the beginning of a bafflingly hypocritical stance by the federal government.

One of the strangest ironies in the government’s war on marijuana is demonstrated by a man named Irv Rosenfeld. The federal authorities still officially maintain the legal fiction that marijuana has no accepted medical use; the substance is still classified in Schedule I, and medical marijuana providers are still raided and prosecuted by the DEA. Yet, the federal government has been producing and delivering marijuana to Rosenfeld for decades. Rosenfeld suffers from a rare bone disorder, multiple congenital cartilaginous exostoses, in which cancerous spurs of bone grow outward through his body, causing extreme pain and necessitating six surgeries to date. To treat his condition, he receives approximately 300 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes from the federal government every 25 days.

The marijuana is produced at the University of Mississippi as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. This program, administered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was first established in response to the successful lawsuit against the government on behalf of Robert Randall. Randall, a glaucoma patient, was arrested for growing his own medicine in 1975, but successfully employed a “medical necessity” defense. Since it was established that marijuana was the only medicine that worked to control his glaucoma, it was argued that any sensible person in such a situation would violate the marijuana laws rather than allowing themselves to go blind. The program currently supplies medical marijuana to only four known surviving patients; it was closed to new applicants by the first Bush administration in 1991, rejecting hundreds of already filed applications.

Rosenfeld works as a stockbroker. Contrary to official innuendo about the incapacitating effects of the marijuana “high,” he shows all signs of being fully functional while smoking 10-12 joints per day. Federal anti-drug authorities show no interest in studying his case, while simultaneously complaining of the lack of evidence for the medical efficacy or safety of smoked marijuana. They are apparently also not concerned with the 1988 ruling of the DEA’s own Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young, who found that “marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people” and is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” The federal government even holds a patent for the medical use of cannabinoids, chemicals found in marijuana.

Rosenfeld will be in Illinois from Tuesday through Thursday of next week, in support of the medical marijuana bill under consideration in the state legislature. Anyone interested in interviewing him should contact Morgan Fox, either through email at [email protected] or by phone at 202-905-2031.

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Prohibition, Research

Rasmussen Poll Shows Huge Majority Thinks U.S. Losing the Drug War

November 14th, 2012 13 Comments Kate Zawidzki

A new poll released on Tuesday concluded that the vast majority of Americans are not impressed with the results of the nation’s anti-drug efforts. A full 82% of respondents answered “no” to the question: “Is the United States winning the war on drugs?” This is a significant increase from a poll released in June of this year, in which 66% of respondents characterized the drug war as a failure. Only 7% answered “yes” to the most recent poll question, while 12% were undecided.

As the Huffington Post reports, several other marijuana-related questions were asked in the same poll. One of these found that 45% supported legalizing marijuana, with 45% opposed and the remaining 10% undecided. This is consistent with two earlier polls released this year on the same question. Asked which was more dangerous, alcohol or marijuana, 51% of the latest poll’s respondents answered “alcohol,” while only 24% said “marijuana,” and 24% were undecided. Contrary to the traditional image of marijuana’s legalization being an issue of interest only to its users, 88 % said that they had not smoked marijuana even once in the past year, which is similar to the national average.

Thirty-four percent of respondents agreed that the government spends too much money on the war on drugs, and only 23% of all respondents claimed that the government should be spending even more. According to the New York Times, the enforcement costs alone have been $20 to $25 billion per year over the past decade.

In the wake of the recent successful ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington to legalize the marijuana industry, as well as Massachusetts becoming the 18th state with an effective medical marijuana law, one more question from the poll is worth noting. A full 60% said that marijuana laws should be left to the states, while only 27% said that the federal government should determine the marijuana laws in any particular state. As MPP’s Steve Fox noted yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times, the federal government’s authority to prohibit marijuana has always been highly questionable on constitutional grounds.

The survey of 1,000 adults nationwide was conducted on November 9-10, 2012 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. The exact wording of all of the questions in the poll can be found here, and information on methodology can be found here.

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Prohibition, Video

The House I Live In

November 9th, 2012 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The House I Live In, a newly released documentary from director Eugene Jarecki, dissects the United States’ failed drug prohibition policies, both previous to and following the declaration of the “War on Drugs” under the Nixon administration. Endorsed by Brad Pitt, who is one of the producers, the film deals with the serious consequences of our anti-drug crusades, including world-record rates of incarceration, the development of an influential prison-industrial complex, and, connected with these, the exacerbation of racial and class-based divisions in society. As with the prohibition of alcohol, current drug laws also enrich the organized crime elements, which now control large and extremely profitable drug markets.

The director makes his case largely through interviews with supporters and opponents of the War on Drugs who are involved in it in various ways, including judges, prison guards, and narcotics officers, as well as drug users and dealers. David Simon, notable as the director of the critically-acclaimed HBO series The Wire, which was centered on inner-city drug gangs, is also one of the main interview subjects. Jarecki concludes that the War on Drugs is a cruel, expensive, and ineffective policy which has done great harm to the country, including the people who are ostensibly being protected from drugs by the law.

The film opened in select theaters on October 5 and in Los Angeles on October 12 and received an average rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. The trailer can be found here.

If you would like to attend a screening in your area, check the schedule here. We’ll be alerting our members of upcoming screenings as they happen.

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Prohibition

Could D.A.R.E. Quit Lying About Marijuana?

November 8th, 2012 23 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The infamous school drug-education program known as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) may be removing marijuana from its curriculum. D.A.R.E. officer Mike Meyer of Kennewick, Washington explains that program’s materials for December make no mention of the substance, though he says he does not know why.

If true, this is a welcome step, although eliminating D.A.R.E. altogether would be preferable. All credible studies of the program, including a report from the Government Accountability Office, have failed to find any decrease in drug use connected with participation in D.A.R.E. Officials with the organization have apparently been slow in admitting this, however. In a libel suit brought by D.A.R.E. against Rolling Stone magazine, Federal Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that allegations printed in the magazine, including that D.A.R.E. had actually tried to suppress scientific research critical of the program, were “substantially true.” D.A.R.E. appealed the decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court upheld the ruling.

Although D.A.R.E. officials admitted their failure in 2001 and proposed a new, less hysterical curriculum, research since then has still failed to demonstrate any success. The “new” curriculum, as it is described on the website, does not seem to involve any increased commitment to facts, but rather now involves “role-playing sessions” and “discussion groups.” The summary of the new program, revealingly, makes insinuations that drug use is connected to terrorism, and in place of facts, explains that officers will be using “stunning brain imagery” as “tangible proof of how substances diminish mental activity, emotions, coordination and movement.”

Although they have possibly abandoned the anti-marijuana crusade in their school curriculum, D.A.R.E. still disseminates dishonest information on their website. An ironically named “fact sheet” repeats claims that marijuana “has a high potential for abuse,” and although it is short on the details or prevalence of this abuse, it does claim that marijuana can weaken the immune system and cause insanity and lung disease. The “fact sheet” categorically denies the medical benefits of marijuana, suggesting that it causes only “inebriation.” At the same time, it admits that THC, which the page describes as “the psychoactive [in other words mind-altering or “inebriating”] ingredient in marijuana,” has medical benefits. It implicitly denies the countless cases of experiences of medical marijuana patients who tried conventional treatments without success, claiming simply that “existing legal drugs provide superior treatment for serious medical conditions,” and “the FDA has approved safe and effective medication for the treatment of glaucoma, nausea, wasting syndrome, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.” The page even quotes the Institute of Medicine study, “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” the very same study which confirms the medical usefulness of marijuana and refutes claims that it poses a major proven risk of addiction or lung cancer, or that it causes brain damage, amotivational syndrome, suppression of the immune system, use of other illicit drugs, or premature death from any cause. The study further points out the shortcomings of existing legal medications for the relevant medical conditions, including the slow and unreliable action of synthetic THC pills.

According to Mike Riggs at Reason, D.A.R.E. headquarters has neither confirmed nor denied any shift in policy.

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Uncategorized

The beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition: Day 1

November 7th, 2012 17 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Last night, the voters in both Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures to repeal their states’ prohibition on marijuana and replace it with a system of taxation and regulation. These new laws, which will go into effect within the next month, will also remove criminal penalties against the possession and private use of marijuana by adults 21 and older. Colorado’s law also allows adults 21 and older to cultivate up to six marijuana plants (three of which may be mature). Both laws direct state agencies to develop rules and regulations for the registration of marijuana cultivators, product producers, and retail establishments.

As you can probably guess, we here at MPP are overjoyed! Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 54.8% to 45.1%, and Washington voters approved I-502 by a margin of 55.44% to 44.56%. These historic victories represent the first bricks to be knocked out of the marijuana prohibition wall. While we are grateful and joyous in victory, we know there is plenty more work that needs to be done. And so we will continue to work. We will work as hard as we can to change the hearts and minds of all Americans, while continuing to pressure state and federal lawmakers who have the power to enact real change.

MPP is proud to have been the primary financial backer of the Colorado campaign and to have played a key role in the drafting of Amendment 64 and in the coordination of the campaign. We are also so very grateful and proud of the work done by The Colorado Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol out of Denver – where MPP had three paid staffers – and both the ACLU-WA and the New Approach Washington campaign for drafting and passing I-502. These professional, savvy, and intelligent campaigns demonstrated that the public at large much prefers a well regulated and taxed system of adult marijuana use to the tired and failed marijuana prohibition. They proved that when presented with a well thought out plan, voters will listen.

Repeal of marijuana prohibition in Colorado and Washington are the first and most important steps towards seeing an end to marijuana prohibition. The federal government and 48 states still cling to failed prohibitionist policies that do nothing to prevent use or abuse while costing taxpayers a fortune. Please continue to write, email, and call your state and federal lawmakers and urge them to reconsider failed marijuana prohibition. Please remember to be respectful, and be prepared to have an intelligent conversation about the need to reform marijuana laws; we have background materials available. If your friends and family don’t already support reform, start a conversation with them, too.

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Uncategorized

We’ve Got Your Election Night Coverage!

November 2nd, 2012 5 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Tuesday, November 6. Election Day. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be watching the news, reading about exit polls, and trying to figure out the results before the major networks make the call. But how are you going to keep track of all the marijuana-related issues on the ballot? That’s where we come in!

We’re going to be providing coverage of the various marijuana-related measures on the ballot on Facebook and Twitter, providing updates and results as they come in. So, if you haven’t already, please use the links below to ‘like’ our Facebook page and ‘follow’ us on Twitter. Please share these accounts with anyone you know who wants to be kept up to date on the latest results!

We’re just days away from making history! There’s still time to make a difference – please use this online phone bank tool from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol to call Colorado voters and ask them to vote Yes on 64!

Also, if you’re looking for a simple summary of Colorado’s Amendment 64, as well as the latest polling data, be sure to check this out!

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

2012: Marijuana on the Ballot

November 1st, 2012 13 Comments Kate Zawidzki

On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, and our failed experiment with alcohol prohibition was put to rest. Americans grew tired of the ever-worsening violence associated with the rise of the criminal alcohol market that developed in the absence of a legally recognized and properly regulated industry. As a society, we came to realize that the dangerous and unavoidable collateral markets created by prohibition were in fact more detrimental to society than alcohol itself. On November 6, 2012, some 79 years later, many Americans will have the opportunity to strike the very important first blows against another failed prohibition: marijuana’s.

The upcoming General Election will allow millions of Americans to bypass the legislative process and decide for themselves whether prohibitive marijuana policies should stand. Three states – Colorado, Washington, and Oregon – will be voting on measures to end the state prohibition on adult marijuana possession and use. Two states – Arkansas and Massachusetts – will be voting on whether exemptions should be carved out of their state criminal codes to allow possession and use for the seriously ill. One state – Montana – will vote on a referendum to repeal a law that gutted their previously enacted medical marijuana law. Finally, a host of cities and towns across the country will be voting on measures that either reform city codes or send symbolic messages that greater reform is needed.

State measures to end marijuana prohibition

Three states will be voting on measures to tax and regulate marijuana, and odds are at least one will pass. There has been steady majority or plurality support for both Colorado’s and Washington’s initiatives, and Oregon’s question has seen a recent uptick in the polls as well. If any of the three do pass, it would represent a sea change in American marijuana policy.

While the minutia of all three measures differ – and I highly encourage voters in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon to read their measures – they are born of common goals. The idea is to devise a system where marijuana sales are brought out of the criminal market and instead subjected to careful regulation and taxation. With tight controls, marijuana would be legally grown and sold by law-abiding, tax-paying businesses, as opposed to the criminal enterprises that currently hold a monopoly over the lucrative marijuana market. Creating a legal and regulated market ensures safety and transparency with regard to potency by allowing cultivators to legally test their product. Strict age limits on sales will create barriers to underage consumption by imposing penalties on businesses that sell to minors (when was the last time a drug dealer asked for ID?). A taxed and regulated market also means that states will see added revenue that can help with funding education projects, medical research, etc. The current system ensures that states capture no revue on marijuana sales.

So what will the effect of passage be and what will the feds do? The first question is pretty easy: if one, two, or all three of these pass, millions of Americans 21 and older will no longer be subject to arrest for the possession or private use of a plant proven safer than alcohol. It is clear that states can, and do, create their own criminal laws. In addition, 99% of all marijuana arrests are made under state law. So if states remove their criminal penalties against marijuana possession and private use, we can expect to see a significant drop in marijuana-related arrests.

The second question – how the feds will react – is difficult to predict. The feds can choose to allow the states to proceed with implementation of the regulatory structure without interference. This would be what I like to call the ‘laboratory of democracy’ approach. We already know the results of the marijuana prohibition experiment: control in the hands of criminals, laced product, exposure to all kinds of other illicit drugs, violence, and no decrease in use or abuse. It’s high time a state tests a different approach. Although taxation and regulation may not lead to a decrease in use or abuse, it will certainly eliminate or greatly reduce the negative collateral consequences that are inherent in marijuana prohibition.

The feds could also sue to enjoin the implementation of the new regulatory schemes. At first blush, this may seem scary, but as Dominic Holden recently stated, this too represents a major opportunity for change. A suit against Colorado, Washington, or Oregon would force us to have a national dialogue about our current marijuana policies. With 50% of the population – not to mention an ever-growing list of opinion makers – arguing for the end of marijuana prohibition, it’s a conversation that needs to happen. Look at the increase in support for gay marriage after the first lawsuit was filed challenging California’s Prop 8. If we can have an open and honest conversation, we can expedite policy reform.

Either way, we’re not going to know until a state votes to change their marijuana policies. If you live in Colorado, please vote “yes” on Amendment 64. If you’re in Washington, you’re voting “yes” on I-502. For those of you in Oregon, please vote “yes” on Measure 80. To all of you, I’m envious of your ballot.

State medical marijuana questions

In addition to the three states voting on measures to regulate and tax the adult sales of marijuana, two states have initiatives on the ballot that will create medical marijuana programs. Arkansas and Massachusetts, if passed, will become the 18th and 19th medical marijuana states. They will join the District of Columbia and 17 other states that currently recognize the legitimate medical use of marijuana.

The number of medical marijuana states continues to grow despite obstruction and interference from the federal level, and for the most part, the previously enacted laws continue to thrive. Passage of one or two more laws come November 6 will not only protect citizens of Arkansas and Massachusetts from arrest and prosecution for using a medicine recommended by their physicians, but it will further the momentum and send a loud message to federal policy makers: reform your punitive and unscientific marijuana laws.

Unfortunately, the federal government’s attempt to undermine state medical marijuana laws worked in at least one state, Montana. This past legislative session, Montana lawmakers debated a series of bills that proposed severe restrictions and even outright repeal of the voter-approved medical marijuana law. The amendments the legislature settled on are onerous enough that many took to calling it “repeal in disguise.” After passage, enough signatures were gathered to put the new restrictive law to the voters as an up or down referendum. By rejecting the ‘repeal in disguise’ law, voters in Montana can once again affirm their desire to see sensible marijuana policies.

Reform on the local ballots

Reform comes not just from the state level, but from the local level as well. Municipalities across the country will have marijuana policy related questions – some binding, others not – on their ballots.

Five municipalities in Michigan will be voting on marijuana policy measures. Kalamazoo will be voting on whether to allow three medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within city limits. Residents of Detroit and Flint will decide if their city codes should be amended to remove criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana on private property. Grand Rapids will ask its residents if the code should be amended to replace the possibility of arrest for marijuana possession with a nominal civil fine. Finally, Ypsilanti voters will decide on a measure to make the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of marijuana by adults 21 years or older the lowest priority for law enforcement personnel.

In addition to voting on medical marijuana, voters in certain districts in Massachusetts will also vote on non-binding public policy questions that direct elected officials to support taxing and regulating marijuana. While they do not have the effect of law, passage of the questions would send a strong message to the representatives of those districts that their constituents support taxing and regulating marijuana. Further north, voters in Burlington, Vermont will be asked if the city should “support the legalization, regulation, and taxation of all cannabis and hemp products?”

Finally, many cities and localities across California will be voting on measures to allow or ban medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in their municipality. Unlike most laws with regulated distribution, California’s medical marijuana law allows localities to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries as opposed to the state.

High-level political support for marijuana policy reform

It is worth pointing out that marijuana policy reform is not just relegated to a ballot issue. There are many top-level politicians who are starting to either speak up, or speak louder, on the need to reform our marijuana policies. For instance, Gov. Pete Shumlin in Vermont has long supported decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. The Democratic Attorney General and candidate for Governor in Montana, Steve Bullock, opposes the recent assault on patients rights’ and will vote against IR-124. More impressive is the fact that the entire political delegation representing Seattle, Washington, including Mayor Mike McGinn, supports taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.

The beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition

We very well may remember Wednesday, November 7 as the morning we woke up to discover marijuana’s been legalized. If not, then we most certainly will have seen the most support for a regulation and taxation measure to date. Regardless of the outcomes of the various questions, we will have advanced the conversation in a major way. Marijuana policy reform is not about letting a bunch of people get high. It’s about adequately addressing the harms that are associated with marijuana use while stamping out the atrocities that were born from marijuana prohibition. The ballot measures in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon would do just that, while the medical questions being asked of the citizens in Montana, Massachusetts, and Arkansas and the various municipal questions would impact the marijuana policy conversation as well. As a nation, we are moving ever closer to acceptance of a taxed and regulated marijuana marketplace; it’s now just a matter of time.

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Prohibition

Dutch “Weed Pass” Rejected

November 1st, 2012 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki

The incoming Dutch government has rejected a proposal for a “wietpas” or “weed pass,” a compulsory registration for anyone using the country’s famous marijuana cafes. The proposal would have limited access to the cafes to Dutch residents. The mayors of the Dutch cities of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht expressed opposition to the proposal, citing a probable increase in black-market street dealing if the measure were implemented. Instead, the coalition government produced an agreement, which, although lacking a registration system, would still ostensibly allow only Dutch residents access to the cafes.

The weed pass proposal was apparently connected with complaints of “drug tourism” in the Netherlands. Tourists from neighboring countries such as Germany, Belgium, and France are a daily sight and apparently a major source of revenue for the Dutch “coffee shops.” Use of the drug by Dutch citizens is actually relatively rare, even in comparison with residents of other European countries, with less than 6% of adults having used it in the past year. Ard van der Steur, a member of parliament for the right-wing People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, described the current situation as “an incredible criminal industry that we need to get rid of,” and complained that “we now function as a supplier of drugs for the rest of Europe.” Tahira Limon, a spokeswoman for the city of Amsterdam, stated however that marijuana is not a serious problem for the country. “The problems we have with substance abuse are almost always related to alcohol,” she said.

How much, or even if, this new revised restriction will be enforced is still in question. The coalition’s new policy agreement states that it will be “if necessary phased in,” and that details of enforcement will be determined “in discussion with the local councils concerned.” Some cafe owners say that they do not expect an actual change in policy, while others complain that the policy is still unclear.

Marijuana is still technically illegal in the Netherlands, as the country is a signatory to treaties such as the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, requiring the prohibition of cannabis along with several other drugs. In practice, however, small-scale marijuana distribution and possession is tolerated in licensed cafes in several cities, including Amsterdam. This policy has been in place since 1972, when it was recommended by a government commission.

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