2013 isnât even a month old, and already weâre seeing numerous senators and representatives across the country ride the wave of reformation that was generated in November 2012. Since Washington and Colorado put the question of marijuana regulation on the ballot, more and more state leaders have come to the realization that prohibition is not what the people want, and itâs definitely not what the country needs. Read the rest of this entry »
Tax and Regulate
My latest piece on the Huffington Post provides a summary of what MPP has in store for 2013. In particular, it lays out our general plans to change marijuana laws in states around the country and at the federal level, and it describes how we plan to continue building public support for future reform efforts.
Unless people have been hiding under a rock this past couple months, they know that more than 55 percent of voters in Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana on November 6. As a result, many people have grand expectations of how we’re going to get closer to ending marijuana prohibition in the U.S. this year.
Here is what I think we can reasonably accomplish by the end of 2013…
Tax and Regulate
Over the past couple of months, I have been asked the following question many, many times: So which states are next? What people want to know, of course, is where MPP would like to help make marijuana legal for all adults now that we accomplished that historic goal in Colorado. While our executive director Rob Kampia has provided a public answer to that question in a national alert and blog post, I did my part to signal MPP’s intentions this past weekend, with an appearance at a town hall forum in Portland, Oregon on Sunday.
I was joined by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who kicked off the forum by discussing the need for reform of marijuana laws on the federal level. The 100 or so attendees were greatly appreciative of Rep. Blumenauer’s presence at the event, and he deserves strong praise for taking the lead on this issue in Congress. Following Rep. Blumenauer’s remarks, I focused on the major opportunity at the state level. As we see it, Oregon is one of a small handful of states where it is possible to pass a ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in the next four years. We feel so strongly about the prospects for reform, we have already hired a consultant, Roy Kaufmann, to serve as our representative in the state.
During the town hall event, I provided Oregon advocates and activists with a road map to success based on what we learned in Colorado. I placed special emphasis on the need to cooperate and educate over the coming years. The marijuana reform community in Oregon has a history marked by disagreements and division. It is time to overcome those differences so that we can focus on defeating our enemies, not our friends.
With respect to education, I explained how the Colorado campaign was built upon years of work by Mason Tvert (now MPP’s communications director) andÂ SAFERÂ to help the public understand that marijuana is a far less harmful substance than alcohol. We believe that this long-term public education campaign helped diminish the fear of marijuana previously ingrained in the minds of soccer moms and other swing voters. It made it easier, in the end, for people to vote Yes on Amendment 64.
Perhaps most importantly, I conveyed to the attendees MPP’s strong belief that ballot initiatives to regulate marijuana like alcohol should be run during presidential election years when the turnout — notably the much higher percentage of young voters — is more favorable for this issue. The odds of winning in 2014 are significantly lower, and every dollar invested in a signature drive in 2014 is a dollar not being spent on public education efforts that will increase our chances of winning in 2016. Moreover, a loss in 2014 could diminish enthusiasm among potential funders for a 2016 campaign. As evidence of this, we need only look to California, where the Prop. 19 campaign fell short in 2010 and essentially led to the state being off the table in 2012.
Clearly, the drive to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Oregon is going to garner a significant amount of media coverage over the next four years. In fact, the day following the town hall forum, the state’s largest newspaper, the Oregonian, publishedÂ an article about the eventÂ on the front page!
There is much work to do in Oregon between now and November 2016. But if leaders of the marijuana policy reform community in the state can come together and steer their collective energy and resources toward a common goal, a victory in 45 months is not only achievable, it is likely.
Prohibition, Tax and Regulate
Last weekend, California NORML hosted Cannabis in California: Ending the 100-Year War, an inspiring conference that brought together advocates from across the state, country, and even as far as New Zealand. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the event â California will almost surely see a statewide initiative in 2016 similar to those approved in Colorado and Washington, and it appears local and national activists and organizations will be unified in the effort to get it done.
On the first panel, California NORML Director Dale Gieringer explained how the California State Board of Pharmacy quietly pushed a ban on possession of âhemp, or loco-weedâ through the legislature in 1913 without it receiving any press or opposition. In contrast to that very quiet campaign to demonize and ban marijuana, reversing this failed policy will be very public, and it will undoubtedly face some opposition.
For an initiative to succeed in California, however, itâs important that the opposition doesnât come from our base. Hence, it was particularly heartening to see so much unity at the conference and at an MPP-hosted strategy meeting on Thursday. Reform organizations, funders, and advocates overwhelmingly supported putting a marijuana regulation initiative on the next presidential ballot in 2016, rather than 2014 (when voter turnout is much less favorable) and working together to see it through. It will be some time before the details of any measure and campaign are hammered out. In the meantime, there appears to be widespread support for advancing statewide regulations on medical marijuana.
For those who are eager to start building support for 2016, we can look to the 2012 Colorado campaignâs âTalk It Upâ project, which helped build support leading up to the election by encouraging people to start conversations about the issue with their friends, family members, and others. Itâs these personal discussions that change peopleâs minds and make them more comfortable supporting an end to marijuana prohibition, so start talking it up today!
Medical Marijuana, Prohibition
Todayâs New York Times includes a feature story about California medical marijuana provider Matthew Davies, who federal prosecutors are pressuring to accept a five-year mandatory minimum as a plea agreement. Federal authorities indicted Matthew last year on charges of marijuana cultivation, calling him âone of the most significant commercial marijuana traffickers to be prosecuted in this district.â By all accounts, the two dispensaries Matthew owned were in total compliance with state law and were models of professionalism and service.
He brought graduate-level business skills to a world decidedly operating in the shadows. He hired accountants, compliance lawyers, managers, a staff of 75 and a payroll firm. He paid California sales tax and filed for state and local business permits.
âThis is not a case of an illicit drug ring under the guise of medical marijuana,â [his attorney] wrote. âHere, marijuana was provided to qualified adult patients with a medical recommendation from a licensed physician. Records were kept, proceeds were tracked, payroll and sales taxes were duly paid.â
Does this sound like a dangerous criminal who we should spend federal resources to arrest, prosecute, and possibly jail? Medical marijuana providers who followed state law, like Matthew, werenât supposed to be the targets of federal attack and provide an excellent example for others in the industry. Nevertheless, he is facing a significant amount of time in jail regardless of whether he takes the plea, which will surely take a serious toll on him and his family.
âTo be looking at 15 years of our life, you couldnât pay me enough to give that up,â Mr. Davies said at the dining room table in his two-story home along the San Joaquin River Delta, referring to the amount of time he could potentially serve in prison.
Matthew and his family are not taking this lying down. Matthewâs wife Molly published this open letter to President Obama today in the Huffington Post. You can find out more about Matthewâs case and how you can help at http://www.keepmattfree.org/.
MPP Slams Former Congressman’s Plan to Force Marijuana Consumers Into Treatment and Marijuana ‘Education’ Classes
MPP is taking issue with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s plan to force marijuana consumers into treatment and marijuana “education” classes, which his new organization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), is scheduled to unveil in Denver on Thursday.
“The proposal is on par with forcing every alcohol user into treatment at their own cost or at a cost to the state,” said MPP communications director Mason Tvert.Â “In fact, it would be less logical because the science is clear that marijuana is far less toxic, less addictive, and less likely to be associated with acts of violence.”
MPP is calling on Kennedy, whose family made a fortune selling alcohol, to explain why he wants to keep an objectively less harmful alternative to alcohol illegal. Specifically, MPP is asking Kennedy to address the question on SAM’s website and provide facts regarding the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol. MPP also launched an online petition this morning asking Kennedy to provide an explanation or resign as chairman of SAM, which received more than 1,500 signatures within the first hour of being posted âÂ http://chn.ge/13e9Qjl
“Former Congressman Kennedy’s proposal is the definition of hypocrisy,”Â Tvert said.Â “He is living in part off of the fortune his family made by selling alcohol while leading a campaign that makes it seem like marijuana â an objectively less harmful product â is the greatest threat to public health.â
“If this group truly cares about public health, it should be providing the public with facts regarding the relative harms of marijuanaÂ and discouraging the use of the more harmful product,” Tvert continued.Â “Why on earth would they want keep a less harmful alternative to alcohol illegal? Former Congressman Kennedy and his organization should answer this question before calling on ourÂ government to start forcing people into treatment programs and throwing them into marijuana âeducationâ camps.”
The organization, which claims such anti-marijuana zealots as Kevin Sabet and David Frum as members, purports to represent a moderate âthird wayâ of marijuana policy that is supposedly a compromise between legalization and prohibition. The reality is that a well-regulated and taxed system to control cultivation and sale of marijuana is the truly moderate position between total unregulated legalization and the failed policies that constitute the governmentâs war on marijuana.
Leave it to prohibitionists to inaccurately frame a debate!
On Nov. 6 of last year, the state of Washington made the possession and use of marijuana legal for adults. Marijuana remains illegal in Washington, D.C., the home of the Redskins. Last week, the District of Columbia ranked ninth on a list of Americaâs â25 Drunkest Cities,â while Seattle, home of the Seahawks, didnât even make the list.
Is it a coincidence that the Seahawks handily beat the Redskins this past Sunday?
Perhaps. (Nevertheless, it is worth noting that both the Seahawks and the Denver Broncos have yet to lose a game at home since their respective states made marijuana legal.)
But we have to wonder why the NFL continues to prohibit marijuana use by players during the off-season, even in states that have made it legal, while simultaneously promoting alcohol use at every game. Moreover, the league continues to prohibit players in those states from using marijuana for medical purposes, despite its proven ability to ease chronic pain âÂ a condition that affects many players.
Perhaps allowing professional athletes to make the choice to use marijuana instead of painkillers could make a difference in their performances. And so could allowing them to use marijuana instead of alcohol when they are relaxing or socializing with friends. Regardless, it is bad policy to continue punishing these athletes simply for making a safer choice.
Singer, poet, public speaker, and talk show host Henry Rollins has joined the growing ranks of public figures who support ending marijuana prohibition.
Rollins is not a marijuana user, either. As more and more people realize that marijuana prohibition is a harmful failure, the myth that only potheads want to make it legal is continuing to fade into the hazy realm of reefer madness.
This past year was undeniably the most productive 365-day period in the history of the marijuana policy reform movement. There were a number of significant accomplishments, but here is the Marijuana Policy Project’s list of the “Top 10 Marijuana Victories of 2012.” As with our previous annual lists, it includes neither important scientific developments nor important international developments. Rather, this list focuses on the biggest marijuana-related policy accomplishments in the U.S. in the last year.
To read the full list, please visitÂ The Huffington Post.
The law overwhelmingly passed by Massachusetts voters in November officially went into effect on January 1, joining 17 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing the seriously ill to use marijuana with a doctorâs recommendation. Nearly a third of the U.S. population can now access medical marijuana if they have a qualifying condition!
While the people of Massachusetts are generally quite pleased about this, local governments are trying to delay implementation of the new law until the Department of Public Health can establish regulations to govern the program.
Apparently, local leaders would rather continue to arrest the seriously ill than wait four months for guidance from the state.