Executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, Rob Kampia, discusses what’s next for the push to make marijuana legal in the United States:
The state that will most likely be next to legalize is Rhode Island, which would be the first to do so via state legislature. Also this spring, the District of Columbia is expected to enact a similar law through its city council.
There's also a real opportunity to legalize marijuana through five more state legislatures between now and 2017 – Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont. There will also be serious legislative activity in other states, such as New York, but it is less clear when such legislation will pass.
In November 2016, at least five states are expected to vote on similar ballot initiatives – Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada – and one could potentially appear on the ballot in Missouri.
By the end of 2017, marijuana could be legalized in 15 states and D.C., which would comprise 26% of the nation's population.
Read the rest of Kampia’s column here.
New York City Mayor and Police Chief Announce New Marijuana Policy; Reform Advocates Say It Is Not Enough
The New York Police Department will stop arresting people for the possession of small amounts of marijuana and instead issue civil citations, city officials stated Monday, citing both a severe racial disparity in the law’s implementation and the burden of arrests on the criminal justice system as reasons for the change.
With the implementation of this new policy, citizens who are stopped by the police with small amounts of marijuana will receive civil summonses, similar to parking tickets, instead of permanent arrest records that limit opportunities later in life.
“Now there will be fewer unnecessary, low-level marijuana arrests,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ran on a campaign last year emphasizing police reform. “That energy goes into fighting more serious crime.”
Bill Bratton, the NYPD Police Commissioner, said he hopes narcotics officers will start going after big transactions or more dangerous drugs – not small amounts of marijuana.
“I want those narcotics buy-and-busts focusing on significant sales of marijuana, or the emerging problem drug we’re having, heroin,” Bratton told reporters on Monday.
Marijuana policy reform advocates regard the new policy move as a good step in the right direction, though they believe much more needs to be done before New York City’s marijuana laws can be considered fair.
“These laws have been used as a means of targeting and harassing people of color,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project.
Moreover, Yeung said that despite the reforms, New Yorkers who purchase marijuana still have to face the dangers associated with an illegal transaction, unlike in states where the substance is legal and regulated.
“In places like Washington state and Colorado, and soon in Oregon and Alaska, people are buying it [marijuana] from safe businesses,” Yeung stated. “But in New York City, people are still going to criminal markets where some people might have weapons or are trying to sell harder and more dangerous drugs. All over the United States, people are using marijuana. That is just a fact.”
Supporting Washington, D.C.’s ballot initiative 71, which would make marijuana legal in the nation’s capital, makes sense in terms of economics, safety, and fairness, according to Economics21.
If the initiative passes on November 4, it would eliminate the criminal and civil penalties associated with personal possession, private use, and cultivation of marijuana — within limits (two ounces for possession, no use in public places, and six plants).
In terms of safety, the infamous argument that marijuana is a gateway drug and leads individuals to resort to harder drugs has repeatedly been called into question. Moreover, a Rand Corporation research report concluded:
“The harms of marijuana use can no longer be viewed as necessarily including an expansion of hard-drug use and its associated harms.”
In terms of legal marijuana’s economic viability, there are many benefits found in easing the burden on legal and corrections systems, money which can be used to fund various beneficial measures associated with public health and safety and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crime
Lastly, marijuana possession makes up nearly half of all drug arrests. The arrests of those who have been labeled as criminals for committing low-level crimes make it significantly harder to find employment.
In an interview in 2013, former Secretary of State George Schultz said, “According to the World Health Organization, the use of drugs is higher in the United States than most comparable countries. So you have to say that the war on drugs has simply not worked... We have wound up with a large number of young people in jail, mostly blacks, a huge cost, and a debilitating one to our society. And big foreign policy costs.”
In the end, it is quite clear that voting yes on Initiative 71 is the safer, fairer, and smarter choice. Please vote November 4 and lead the nation’s capital towards establishing a more sensible approach to marijuana policy. Encourage family, friends, and neighbors to do the same!