Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013. If passed, the bill would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and institute a system similar to the alcohol regulatory structure that federally regulates marijuana. It would also transfer jurisdiction over marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to a newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms, and Explosives.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Marijuana Tax Equity Act, which calls for an excise tax of marijuana at the federal level. It also requires the IRS to develop a steady understanding of the industry. After the first two years, and every five years following, the IRS would produce a study of the trade, offering recommendations to Congress so as to improve upon the administration of the tax. Who ever thought that the words “IRS” and “taxes” would be cause for celebration?
The introduction of these bills was largely inspired by the passage of legalization initiatives last November in Colorado – where MPP provided most of the funding for the campaign – and in Washington state.
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.
He’s played God and the President of the United States. He’s starred in dozens of blockbusters, narrated countless other films and documentaries. And last week, in an interview with Newsweek (released the day before The Dark Knight Rises hit theaters), Morgan Freeman reiterated his support for ending marijuana prohibition.
The whole interview is available here, but the highlight of the interview is his no-nonsense approach to marijuana policy:
You’ve also been a big proponent of the legalization of marijuana.
Marijuana! Heavens, oh yeah. It’s just the stupidest law possible, given history. You don’t stop people from doing what they want to do, so forget about making it unlawful. You’re just making criminals out of people who aren’t engaged in criminal activity. And we’re spending zillions of dollars trying to fight a war we can’t win! We could make zillions, just legalize it and tax it like we do liquor. It’s stupid.
Next week, we’ll be opening voting for the Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users, and Morgan Freeman is already on the list of nominees. Do you think the “former president” will join Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton on the list?
Also, the great folks working on the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Colorado put out this great graphic on Facebook last week, which is spreading like wildfire. Be sure to check it out and share it with your friends and family!
Apple, a company with more cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury, couldn’t stop him from jail breaking the iPhone’s iOS software. He cracked Sony’s PlayStation 3 software, at the time thought to be the most secure video game platform available. But George Hotz seems to have met his match in Texas. According to AboveTheLaw.com, Hotz, who has a medical marijuana card from his home state of California, was stopped at the border patrol checkpoint in Sierra Blanca while on his way to the SXSW conference where he was scheduled to speak. If the location sounds familiar, it’s because it happens to be the same checkpoint where Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg were busted for marijuana possession.
Hotz was arrested for possession of a quarter ounce of marijuana and chocolate edibles containing less than an eighth ounce of marijuana. Rather than being issued a citation and released, as Snoop Dogg was, the local sheriff charged Hotz with a felony, using the weight of the chocolate (rather than the amount of marijuana it contained) as a “correct” indication of how much he possessed.
Who is being served by Texas law enforcement’s focus on arresting individuals for marijuana possession? Certainly not the taxpayers, who end up carrying the financial burden of the misguided war on marijuana users. Last year, Texas cut over $31 billion in spending to close their budget deficit, including cuts to public education, health and human services, and ending financial aid for nearly 60,000 college students. Yet, these senseless arrests and prosecutions continue. Hotz is just the latest victim of the Sierra Blanca checkpoint and of a war that results in 750,000 arrests like this one, with billions of dollars wasted each year.
No family should have to deal with the consequences of the events that occurred in Ogden, Utah on January 3, 2012. So it is with great respect to the families of both Jared Francom and Matthew David Stewart, who no doubt are both dealing with incredible grief of contrasting nature, that I’m offering up these comments.
Whenever a member of law enforcement is killed in the line of duty, like Officer Jared Francom recently was, it’s a tragedy. When the “target” of the military tactical style operation that led to the shootout leaving the officer dead appears to have been a personal marijuana grow, it’s also infuriating.
At 8:40 p.m. on Wednesday, January 3, 2012, members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force in Ogden, Utah conducted a “knock and enter” warrant on the home of 37 year-old army veteran Matthew David Stewart. According to reports, they knocked and no one answered. When they forcefully entered his home in paramilitary style gear, with guns drawn, they encountered gunfire. When it was all said and done, one member of the task force was fatally injured, five members were wounded, Stewart was injured and faces likely charges of aggravated murder (which carries the death penalty) and multiple counts of attempted aggravated murder.
According to DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Smith, the victims and other agents involved in this operation are heroes, and they were “protecting the public.” I tend to agree with Agent Smith, members of the task force are heroes, but in this instance, they certainly were not protecting the public.
The only public reports about why Stewart was raided indicate that Stewart had a personal, indoor marijuana grow for medical reasons. It’s been reported that Stewart suffers from PTSD and grew a small amount of marijuana to self-medicate. In addition, it has been speculated that the reason why Stewart failed to answer the knock is because he was asleep at the time. He worked the midnight shift and would typically be asleep at the time the raid was conducted.
So, it seems an army veteran who suffers from PTSD was suddenly awoken to armor-clad armed men in his home and he allegedly opened fire. The army vet now likely faces the death penalty. One officer is dead. Five wounded. Countless lives have been ruined.
I’d like Agent Smith to explain to Stewart exactly why he was a threat to the public. There has been no allegation that Steward sold marijuana, or gave it away to kids, or that he was a danger to anyone before the paramilitary-style raid on his house. In fact, his neighbors were shocked to learn that there was any drug activity in the area, dispelling the notion that Stewart was an immediate threat to anyone. Without making a fuss and without causing problems in his neighborhood, Stewart simply grew marijuana for personal medical reasons.
I’d also like Agent Smith to explain to Officer Francom’s family why Stewart’s personal medical grow warranted the over-the-top means of enforcement that has been linked to so many needless deaths and injuries.
Finally, I’d like Agent Smith to explain to everyone why — as he stated to Fox 13 News — this situation isn’t a legalization issue? Clearly, the officers involved were just doing their job. They were enforcing enacted laws that their superiors wanted enforced. However, if marijuana were legal, this and numerous other prohibition-related deaths, including the death of another Utah man at the hands of this very same task force, would never have happened.
So long as marijuana remains a law enforcement issue as opposed to a public health issue, we’ll keep seeing tragic stories like these. Officers and civilians shot, and often times killed, over a naturally occurring plant that is safer than alcohol. It’s sad and it’s sickening, and it’s about time that we finally rethink our nation’s devastating marijuana prohibition.
Ron Paul may have achieved something of a victory by coming in third in the Iowa caucus yesterday, which is something few political wonks could have imagined a couple of months ago. Still, something should be said for the fact that he maintained his firm stance against the drug war after being narrowly beaten by candidates who are absolutely against marijuana reform.
In an early morning interview, Paul renewed his call to end federal interference in state marijuana laws and repeatedly called the drug war a failure. He even went so far as to call it a worse failure than alcohol prohibition! And according to Paul, his performance at the Iowa caucus proves that many Americans agree with him and are fed up.
Here’s the video, courtesy of Huffington Post.
And then we have Newt Gingrich. Earlier today at a press conference in New Hampshire, an SSDP member asked the candidate how he felt about states’ rights and how the Founding Fathers would have felt about growing marijuana.
Here’s the video:
Huh. So this is what a self-styled “historian” thinks.
"I think Jefferson and George Washington would strongly discourage you from growing marijuana, and their tactics to stop you would be more violent than they would be today."
While there is no evidence to suggest that George Washington or Thomas Jefferson actually used marijuana (despite what you may have heard in Dazed and Confused), there is plenty of evidence that they both grew hemp and supported its cultivation throughout the country.
There is also no evidence that they would have supported violent tactics against American citizens for growing a plant. That sounds like something King George would have done.
Gingrich is all about it, though. Over the years, he has repeatedly supported creating insanely draconian punishments for drug offenses, even going so far as to push for the death penalty for smugglers. He recently suggested making our drug policies closer to those of Singapore.
So when faced with a loss to a candidate whose supporters often rally around the intent of the Founding Fathers, Gingrich decides to rewrite history to make it sound like men who rebelled against tyranny would support his tyrannical policy stances.
People care about honesty. Maybe that explains why Ron Paul beat Gingrich by eight points last night.
At a press conference at the National Press Club on Friday, representatives of Institute of the Black World, as well as Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, and others met to look at the impact that our nation’s failed war on drugs has had on minorities. One of the ideas mentioned most frequently to eliminate some of the negative effects of the drug war was to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
While this is not a very radical statement, and does not address the problems associated with maintaining criminalization of the marijuana market, it is definitely a step in the right direction. It was little surprising coming from Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), who said he had never made such a statement before:
Good for you, Rep. Conyers! Now we just need the rest of Congress to come around.
Last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, an international organization consisting of high level current and former heads of state and policy experts, released a report suggesting world governments give up the war on drugs and consider more rational harm-reduction policies, including removing all criminal penalties for the possession and use of marijuana. The Commission, which included former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, among many others, urged leaders to consider alternatives to incarceration for drug use to shift their focus toward treatment of drug abusers, rather than punishment and interdiction for recreational users.
"These prominent world leaders recognize an undeniable reality. The use of marijuana, which is objectively less harmful than alcohol, is widespread and will never be eliminated,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “They acknowledge that there are only two choices moving forward. We can maintain marijuana's status as a wholly illegal substance and steer billions of dollars toward drug cartels and other criminal actors. Or, we can encourage nations to make the adult use of marijuana legal and have it sold in regulated stores by legitimate, taxpaying business people. At long last, we have world leaders embracing the more rational choice and advocating for legal, regulated markets for marijuana. We praise these world leaders for their willingness to advocate for this sensible approach to marijuana policy."
This study comes as Portugal enjoys the tenth year of its experiment with decriminalizing all drugs. Since making the bold policy move in 2001, Portugal has seen crime, use rates, addiction rates, overdose deaths, and blood-borne disease all decrease significantly. The study released last week suggests that a similar model could be adopted successfully elsewhere. It also stresses the damage that prohibition policies do to society, including massive government expenditure, enrichment of criminal organizations, and interference with treatment and prevention of diseases like HIV/AIDS.
Today, reports issued by several Senate subcommittees stated that America's massive spending to fight the drug war in Latin America has not stopped narcotics from entering the U.S., nor has it affected use rates.
So what exactly is the justification for this continued insanity?
UPDATE: The Marijuana Policy Project's Robert Capecchi talks about the Global Commision on Drug Policy report on FOX9 in the Twin Cities.
The drug war claimed another victim this week, this time in the form of organized professional sports. On Wednesday, February 2, the LPGA Tour announced that it would postpone the Tres Marias Championship, which was to be held in Morelia, Mexico. Tour officials stated that their security firm determined that safety issues surrounding the event are “too severe” to have the event this year, and in order to hold the event in future years, things would have to “improve dramatically.”
I’ll be the first to admit that losing one golf tournament is nothing to lose sleep over and it should be put into context (we all know the true tragedy of the War on Drugs). However, the fact that a security firm decided that the current state of affairs in Morelia, Mexico renders a LPGA tournament unplayable due to safety concerns should give everyone pause. Today Morelia loses a major golf tournament, tomorrow could see other industry follow suit. Once industry leaves, the only employers are the cartels that create the violence that drives away the business and the police who do battle with them. The cycle of violence continues. Rinse and repeat.
If American officials, who invest heavily in Mexico’s war against cartels, were to simply lift the prohibition on marijuana, we could see real change for our neighbors to the south. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that Mexican drug cartels derive 60% of their profits from marijuana sales to the U.S. market. With one policy decision, we could cripple the cartels’ bank accounts and their power structure, bringing an end to the violence that has devastated vast areas of Mexico. When that day comes, it will certainly be a fine day for golf.
This weekend, Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, joined a growing number of Latin American leaders, academics, and artists in calling for an end to failed prohibition policies:
“[Legalization] is the only solution," said the author. "Drug trafficking can not be defeated by military means.”
It seems strange that such well-respected members of Latin American society are more and more willing to come out in favor of reform, while here in the States, most public officials will not come within a mile of advocating sensible policies. The research supporting these changes is available, and new studies suggesting the same are coming out all the time.
Could it be that this is because our policies cause much more bloodshed abroad than at home, despite America being the largest marijuana market on Earth?