MPP director of communications Mason Tvert recently sat down with Andrew Sullivan at ¬†The Dish to discuss the state of marijuana policy. In this segment, he talks about the “cannabis closet” and why it is important to come out about support for changing our marijuana laws as well as personal use.
Tax and Regulate
As the winter months approach, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska is in full swing. Currently, petitioners are working to collect 45,000 signatures by December 1 in support of a statewide initiative that would tax and regulate the production, sale, and use of marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older. To date, they have collected over 16,000 signatures from Alaskan voters and need just 29,000 more to qualify for the August 2014 primary-election ballot.
Please help achieve victory at the polls in 2014 by¬†volunteering¬†to collect signatures or¬†making a donation¬†so that the campaign can hire paid signature gatherers. Also, if you are interested in getting paid to petition and you are confident you will be able to collect a large number of signatures,¬†please let us know!
As a result of Alaska‚Äôs current marijuana laws, which are complex, unclear, and flat out contradictory, more people were charged or arrested for marijuana related offenses in¬†2012¬†than were charged or arrested for methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine related offenses combined. The time for marijuana reform in Alaska is long overdue.
With the help of supporters like you, we can replace Alaska‚Äôs outdated policy of prohibition with a sensible system that regulates marijuana while generating tax revenue from its sales. Please check out the¬†campaign website¬†for more information about the initiative, Alaska‚Äôs marijuana laws, and how you can join the campaign.
Medical Marijuana, Research
In a recent¬†poll¬†commissioned by the¬†Oklahoma chapter of NORML, voters spoke loud and clear in favor of improving marijuana laws in the state, and an overwhelming majority support legal access to medical marijuana.¬†If you live in Oklahoma and you agree it‚Äôs time to establish a compassionate and sensible medical marijuana law, tell your legislators today!
Over 71% of voters in the state support allowing seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes with a physician‚Äôs recommendation, with broad support among both parties. Medical marijuana is a safer alternative to many pharmaceutical medications, which can have harmful side effects and even lead to overdose deaths. Seriously ill patients in the state deserve an option that will not make them criminals just for seeking a safer alternative.
Sen. Constance Johnson¬†has long been a champion of medical marijuana in the state, but her efforts to bring relief to seriously ill patients have been blocked by leadership. If you are an Oklahoma resident,¬†send a clear message to your senator and representative that it‚Äôs time to stop frustrating the will of the voters and support a compassionate law for Oklahomans!
In August, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ would avoid prosecuting low-level, non-violent drug offenders with harsh charges that carry mandatory minimums.
Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.
Now, the DOJ has taken another step and announced that the new policy will also apply to persons who have been charged but not yet tried and persons who have been tried but not yet sentenced. The attorney general instructed his prosecutors to re-file charges in these cases so that low-level offenders will not be subjected to disproportionate sentences.
I am pleased to announce today that the department has issued new guidance to apply our updated charging policy not only to new matters, but also to pending cases where the defendant was charged before the policy was issued but is still awaiting adjudication of guilt.¬†
This announcement comes in the wake of a statement by the DOJ last month that the federal government would allow states to continue with their plans to regulate and tax marijuana without interruption, so long as they meet certain criteria.
Research, Tax and Regulate
As a bill to regulate and tax marijuana comes closer to the Uruguayan Senate, public support for the bill seems to be growing. The bill was approved by the Uruguayan House of Representatives on July 31,2013 and is supported by Uruguayan President Jos√© M√ļjica. However, the majority of the Uruguayan public is still opposed to the bill.
Sixty-five percent of Uruguayans polled said that they would sign a petition for a referendum if the law were approved.¬† However, in order for a referendum to appear on a ballot, 25% of the public must turn out for a preliminary vote. This means that the chances of a successful referendum are small. This past June, a referendum failed against a controversial abortion law after it was only able to draw 8.8% of the public for a similar preliminary vote.
The Uruguayan Senate is expected to pass the bill, which would make Uruguay the first country to end marijuana prohibition on a national level.
The Institute for Social and Economic Research, with the University of Essex, recently concluded a study into a cost benefit analysis of regulating and taxing marijuana in England and Wales. The study examined the potential economic benefits of regulation, as well as examining the possible social costs and social benefits of a policy change. The study, which was led by economics professor Stephen Pudney, found that England and Wales could save up to ¬£300m per year on policing, prosecuting, and treatment if marijuana were regulated. Furthermore, by taxing marijuana, England and Wales stand to make a possible ¬£900m per year. According to the study, the total possible tax benefit would be around ¬£1.25 billion per year.
When attempting to quantify social costs and benefits, the researchers considered implications on mental health, what value marijuana users place on the benefits of marijuana, as well as other social factors. When examining the possibility of regulated marijuana causing a gateway for users to harsher illicit drugs, which previous studies have shown to be false, the researchers here also concluded that the gateway effect was weak or negligible. The real risk of a gateway effect, they said, is on the side of distribution, a risk that would be decreased with regulation.
Another greatly exaggerated focus of the public debate on cannabis policy is the ‚Äúgateway effect‚ÄĚ ‚Äď the possible increase in risk of involvement in hard drugs caused by exposure to cannabis.¬† In our view, the evidence for a large gateway effect among cannabis consumers is weak, and there is an often-overlooked offsetting gateway on the supply side, drawing cannabis users into drug dealing.¬† Licensing of supply might lead to a rise in demand and thus harm through the demand gateway, but it would also remove many people from illicit cannabis supply and thus reduce harm through the supply gateway.¬† We estimate the reform could generate a net external benefit in the range ¬£20-80m under the most plausible assumption of a moderate demand increase.
The report concluded with a call for more research into marijuana consumption, price, and potency. Want to know more? Read the full report here.
We‚Äôre excited to announce MPP‚Äôs second annual list of the Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users!¬†There has been quite a bit of variation since last year, including several additions and a number of people dropping in rank¬†or off the list entirely.
To create the list, we adopted the criteria used by Out Magazine to select their ‚ÄúPower 50‚ÄĚ list of LGBT Americans. That means our choices are based on ‚Äúpower to influence cultural and social attitudes, political clout, individual wealth, and a person‚Äôs media profile‚ÄĚ ‚Äď not just on popularity or support for marijuana policy reform. Fortunately, many of them have expressed support, but there are some ‚Äúbad guys‚ÄĚ on there, too.
As you look at the list, you will also notice that our selections do not consist entirely of current marijuana consumers. Rather, it is a list of the most influential Americans who have used marijuana at some point during their lives (although some of them do speak openly about their current use). The goal here is to dispel the myth that marijuana users are losers who lack motivation, and highlight the fact that they are typically productive and oftentimes quite successful people ‚Äď particularly in these 50 cases!
In order to change marijuana laws, we need to change the way people view marijuana and those who use it. So please check out the 2013 list today, and then share it with your friends and relatives by posting a link on Facebook¬†or bringing it up during a conversation.
Tax and Regulate
Last week brought new hope for making marijuana legal in Vermont, a state that just decriminalized marijuana possession this past summer. Harry Chen, Vermont‚Äôs Health Commissioner, indicated support for taxing and regulating marijuana at the end of the week:
Let‚Äôs see what happens in other states. We have a grand experiment going on in Washington state and Colorado, certainly in my discussions with officials around the country we want to see what happens in these states when you start to regulate it.
We want to ensure there‚Äôs appropriate funding for any dealing with the health effects just like we theoretically have liquor taxes and we do devote some of that money to dealing with the health effects of alcohol. [MPP emphasis added]
Chen‚Äôs comments come after Gov. Shumlin (D) said he was open to the idea of marijuana legalization last Wednesday.¬†
Just last Monday, MPP predicted Vermont to be one of the next 10 states to legalize marijuana use and pledged to support efforts in those states to end marijuana prohibition by 2017.
FBI Study Shows Marijuana Arrests Continue at Near Record Levels Despite Changing National Attitudes
Marijuana arrests continued at near record levels in 2012, and the vast majority of them were for simple possession. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation‚Äôs annual Uniform Crime Report, an estimated 749,824 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana, more than 87% of which were for possession. This is a slight decrease from 2011. Marijuana arrests accounted for nearly half of all drug arrests last year.
The report also noted that 59.9% of rapes, 53.2% of all violent crimes, and 81% of property crimes reported in 2012 were unsolved or did not result in arrest.
The full report is available here: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012
These results show that one person is arrested for marijuana possession every 48 seconds on average in the United States. A Pew Research Poll released in April reported that a majority of Americans think marijuana should be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.
In a nutshell, we continue to waste billions of dollars arresting and prosecuting people for using a substance that is safer than alcohol, which most Americans think should be legal, and allow huge numbers of violent attacks and property crimes to go unanswered and unpunished. And we do this year after year. The only bright side is that arrest numbers, while still unacceptably high, appear to be dropping.
Prohibition, Tax and Regulate
Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer Teaming Up With Grover Norquist to Push Marijuana Industry Tax Reform
In yet another case of people with disparate political ideas coming together to support marijuana policy reform, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) president Grover Norquist held a press conference Thursday to announce the release of a white paper protesting the unjust application of tax codes to marijuana businesses, Legal Cannabis Dispensary Taxation: A Textbook Case of Punishing Law-Abiding Businesses Through the Tax Code.
Under current policy, marijuana businesses are not permitted to deduct many of their operating expenses and are forced to pay significantly more taxes than other industries.
Earlier this year, Rep. Blumenauer introduced H.R. 2240, the Small Business Tax Equity Act, to eliminate the unfair treatment of legitimate marijuana businesses by the IRS. The bill is supported by ATR, the National Cannabis Industry Association, MPP, and more than a dozen members of Congress.