Early this week, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner announced his support for descheduling marijuana at the federal level. At the same time, he revealed his plans to become advisor to a multi-state marijuana industry firm with dozens of locations. This is a stark departure from his previous stance on marijuana. While in Congress, Boehner voted in favor of legislation that prevented the District of Columbia from implementing its voter-approved medical marijuana program for more than a decade, and was a vocal opponent of legalization.
Marijuana Moment reports:
Boehner, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R), is joining the Board of Advisors of Acreage Holdings, which holds 35 licenses for cannabis businesses across the U.S.
“When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” Boehner said. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”
In a tweet, Boehner, who did not endorse marijuana law reform while serving as the House’s top official, said he now supports removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, a process known as descheduling.
In a 2011 letter to a constituent, the speaker wrote, “I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug. I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”
But now, Boehner says that he and Weld will advise Acreage on navigating confusing and conflicting federal and state marijuana laws.
While Boehner should be commended for seeing reason and adding his voice to those calling for sensible marijuana policy reform, many advocates are concerned that he is set to profit from policies he opposed and is not doing enough to counteract the impact of his words and actions while in office.
MPP's Morgan Fox told The New York Times that Boehner "should be actively working to reform federal marijuana laws to allow states to determine their own policies, rather than just consulting with a business to navigate the conflicts between state and federal law. His positions on the issue while in House leadership most likely slowed progress for marijuana reform legislation, and he owes it to anyone whose life has been negatively impacted by a marijuana arrest to use his considerable influence to make up for that.”
On Saturday, The New York Times repeated its editorial support for ending marijuana prohibition, this time calling on Congress and President Obama to be less timid in their support for regulating marijuana.
Even as support for ending marijuana prohibition is building around the country, Congress and the Obama administration remain far too timid about the need for change.
Last year, residents in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted to join Colorado and Washington State in making recreational use of marijuana legal. Later this year, residents of Ohio are expected to vote on a ballot measure that would legalize it. Nevadans will vote on a legalization proposal next year. And Californians could vote on several similar measures next year.
Instead of standing by as change sweeps the country, federal lawmakers should be more actively debating and changing the nation’s absurd marijuana policies, policies that have ruined millions of lives and wasted billions of dollars.
You can read the full editorial here.
In July 2014, the paper of record published a series of editorials covering a variety of marijuana policy issues and supporting making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it similarly to alcohol.
Last night, the Indonesian government executed a group of eight people convicted on drug charges with firing squads. One of the men was only convicted of marijuana charges, and claims he was innocent.
The New York Times reports:
Zainal Abidin was at his modest home in Palembang, in South Sumatra Province, in December 2000 when two friends knocked on his door asking for a place to stay for the night. They were carrying several large burlap sacks that Mr. Zainal, according to his lawyer, believed to contain rice.
Hours later, after the police raided his home in the middle of the night, his lawyer said, he found out that the sacks were stuffed with 129 pounds of marijuana.
The police had arrested one of the visitors, Aldo bin Hasan Umar, who had left the house after midnight and tried to sell a small quantity of the marijuana on the streets.
Mr. Umar was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and a third man convicted in connection with the case was given four years. Both were eventually granted parole and today are free...
[Abidin's lawyer] also said the legal process against his client was flawed because the Supreme Court did not respond to Mr. Zainal’s 2005 request for a judicial review of his conviction and death sentence until this past January, 10 years after he filed it. The court turned down the review on Monday.
The Parliament of Jamaica adopted a law on Tuesday that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana and created a new agency that will regulate the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana. Now that the measure has been approved in the House and Senate, Governor-general Patrick Allen is expected to sign the measure into law.
The act makes possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana a petty offense that could result in a ticket but not in a criminal record. Cultivation of five or fewer plants on any premises will be permitted. And tourists who are prescribed medical marijuana abroad will soon be able to apply for permits authorizing them to legally buy small amounts of Jamaican weed, or "ganja" as it is known locally.
In addition, adherents of the homegrown Rastafari spiritual movement can now freely use marijuana for sacramental purposes for the first time on the tropical island where the faith was founded in the 1930s.
Last Sunday, the New York Times published an editorial that compared marijuana and alcohol use, particularly the relative harms of the two substances and the influence people substituting marijuana for alcohol could have on road safety.
But assuming the argument that alcohol and marijuana are “substitutes” bears out, that could be good news, especially for road safety. Of the two substances, alcohol is far more hazardous.
For the most part, marijuana-intoxicated drivers show only modest impairments on road tests. Several studies have suggested that drivers under the influence of marijuana actually overestimate their impairment. They slow down and increase their following distance. The opposite is true of drivers under the influence of alcohol. [MPP emphasis added]
It should be noted that no one should drive under the influence of any impairing substance, including marijuana. Still, the overall impact on public safety due to making marijuana legal will certainly be positive.
The New York Times has a rapidly growing readership and can have a tremendous impact on public opinion. For a paper of this magnitude to recognize and discuss the respective effects of marijuana and alcohol shows real progress in the changing attitudes towards marijuana.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the trend in journalism to blame marijuana for the violent outbursts of murderous youth. While this unscientific blame game will probably continue in the foreseeable future, it’s nice to see that the primary target of my wrath in this instance, The New York Times, has redeemed itself.
On Wednesday, the juggernaut of journalism on the East Coast wrote an editorial urging New York’s Governor Cuomo to follow the lead of New Jersey and allow seriously ill New Yorkers to use marijuana to treat their illnesses. Coming from a publication of their size and prominence, this is a fairly significant statement, and hopefully one that will garner a lot of support for medical marijuana in the near future.
Here is the editorial in its entirety:
There is no good reason to deprive patients with cancer or H.I.V. or Lou Gehrig’s disease of the relief from pain or extreme nausea that could come from using marijuana.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who once opposed his state’s medical marijuana law, has changed his mind, deciding earlier this month to allow six alternative treatment centers to begin dispensing the drug to those in need, possibly by early next year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York needs to change his mind as well.
Governor Cuomo said during his 2010 campaign that he opposed legalization of medical marijuana. Recently, he said he was still opposed but that he was “reviewing” the issue and “we’re always learning and listening, talking and growing. We hope.” It shouldn’t take much more personal growth to make the right call.
Governor Cuomo should ask Governor Christie about how he resolved his own doubts. Mr. Christie could explain how his law is the nation’s most restrictive and how the federal Justice Department has indicated that its agents will rightly direct their energies in New Jersey to go after big-time marijuana traffickers, not doctors or alternative centers helping the desperately ill.
Under New Jersey’s law, doctors can recommend that a patient suffering from a specific disease or condition use marijuana of limited strength. Patients cannot grow their own, and they can only purchase 2 ounces every 30 days. Physicians must register to recommend the marijuana use, and patients and caregivers must undergo background checks to get ID cards.
Mr. Cuomo should champion a similar and humane system and ensure that New York’s residents coping with illness have the same chance at relief.
Good recovery, NYT. Please keep it coming!