President Obama Says Marijuana Should Be Treated Like Alcohol

president_obamaIn a just published “exit interview” with Rolling Stone Magazine, President Barack Obama opined that marijuana use should be treated as a public-health issue, not a criminal matter, and called the current patchwork of state and federal laws regarding the drug “untenable.”

“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse,” Obama said. “And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”

He added, “It is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that’s legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage.”

Although the administration, largely in its second term, has permitted states to experiment with marijuana legalization policies without federal interference, it has not pushed strongly for any permanent changes in federal law, such as amending cannabis’ schedule I classification or permitting banks to work closely with state-licensed marijuana businesses. As a result, some marijuana law reform advocates believe that President Obama has not done enough to move the issue forward during his tenure. Responding to this criticism, Obama said: “Look, I am now very much in lame-duck status. And I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go.”

Why Obama believes that he will have greater opportunities to address cannabis policy as a private citizen than he did as President of the United States leaves us scratching our heads, but we certainly hope that he follows through on his pledge to focus on drug policy reform in the next phase of his political career.

You can read President Obama’s exit interview with Rolling Stone in it’s entirety here.

Government Accountability Office Says The Drug War Isn’t Working; Did Anybody Think It Was?

The federal government’s anti-drug efforts are inefficient and ineffective, according to a just released report issued by the Congressional watchdog agency, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

As if we didn’t know.

The GAO report assessed whether the Obama administration’s anti-drug strategies, as articulated by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (the ONDCP aka the Drug Czar’s office) in its 2010 National Drug Control Strategy report, have yet to achieve its stated goals.

The answer? They haven’t.

States the GAO:

“The public health, social, and economic consequences of illicit drug use, coupled with the constrained fiscal environment of recent years, highlight the need to ensure that federal programs efficiently and effectively use their resources to address this problem. ONDCP has developed a 5-year Strategy to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences, but our analysis shows lack of progress toward achieving four of the Strategy’s five goals for which primary data are available.”

In particular, the GAO criticized the administration for failing to adequately address rising levels of youth marijuana consumption. The GAO also rebuffed the ONDCP’s allegation that increased rates adolescent marijuana use are a result of the passage of statewide laws decriminalizing the plant or allowing for its therapeutic use.

“Other factors, including state laws and changing attitudes and social norms regarding drugs, may also affect drug use. We examined studies on three of these other factors, which we refer to as societal factors, which may affect youth marijuana use. … The studies that assessed the effect of medical marijuana laws that met our review criteria found mixed results on effects of the laws on youth marijuana use. … [S]tudies that assessed the effect of marijuana decriminalization that met our review criteria found little to no effect of the laws on youth marijuana use.”

You can read the full GAO report here.

Brookings Institute: Marijuana Policy and Presidential Leadership: How to Avoid a Federal-State Train Wreck

As previewed last week on NORML’s blog, the Brookings Institute is convening a cannabis policy forum on Monday, April 15.

In advance of the symposium, Brookings has released a comprehensive legal review and critical analysis of the current national and state laws that prohibit cannabis use, cultivation and sales.norml_remember_prohibition_

Excerpts from the Brookings’ press release and description of the issues tackled by Brookings scholar and noted legal writer and commentator Stuart Taylor, Jr. are found below.

Mr. Taylor’s thoughtful and dynamic analysis and policy recommendations are here.

Of equal value and incredibly informative are two accompanying appendixes:

Appendix One: The Obama Administration’s Approach To Medical Marijuana: A Study In Chaos

Appendix Two: Conflicts Of Laws: A Quick Orientation to Marijuana Laws At The Federal Level and CO and WA

Stuart Taylor, Jr. examines how the federal government and the eighteen states (plus the District of Columbia) that have partially legalized medical or recreational marijuana or both since 1996 can be true to their respective laws, and can agree on how to enforce them wisely while avoiding federal-state clashes that would increase confusion and harm communities and consumers.

* * *

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This paper seeks to persuade even people who think legalization is a bad idea that the best way to serve the federal interest in protecting public health and safety is not for the federal government to seek an end to state legalization. To the contrary, Taylor asserts, a federal crackdown would backfire by producing an atomized, anarchic, state-legalized but unregulated marijuana market that federal drug enforcers could neither contain nor force the states to contain.

In this broad-ranging primer on the legal challenges surrounding marijuana legalization, Taylor makes the following points:

  • The best way to serve the federal interest in protecting public health and safety is for the federal government to stand aside when it comes to legalization at the state-level.
  • The federal government should nonetheless use its considerable leverage to ensure that state regulators protect the federal government’s interests in minimizing exports across state lines, sales outside the state-regulated system, sales of unduly large quantities, sales of adulterated products, sales to minors, organized crime involvement, and other abuses.
  • Legalizing states, for their part, must provide adequate funding for their regulators as well as clear rules to show that they will be energetic in protecting federal as well as state interests. If that sort of balance is struck, a win-win can be achieved.
  • The Obama Administration and legalizing states should take advantage of a provision of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to hammer out clear, contractual cooperation agreements so that state-regulated marijuana businesses will know what they can and cannot safely do.
  • The time for presidential leadership on marijuana policy is now. The CSA also gives the administration ample leverage to insist that the legalizing states take care to protect the federal interests noted above.

Stuart also surveys (1) what legalizing states can and cannot do without violating federal law; (2) the Obama’s administration’s approach to medical marijuana and; (3) current marijuana law at the federal level and in Colorado and Washington State.

 

Federal Legislation Reintroduced to Legalize and Reschedule Medical Cannabis

Members of Congress reintroduced legislation this week to protect state-authorized medical marijuana patients from federal prosecution.

House Bill 689, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, would ensure that medical cannabis patients in states that have approved its use will no longer have to fear arrest or prosecution from federal law enforcement agencies. It states, “No provision of the Controlled Substances Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict in a State in which marijuana may be prescribed or recommended by a physician for medical use under applicable State law.”

The measure also calls for the federal government to reclassify cannabis so that it is no longer categorized as a Schedule I prohibited substance with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. It states: “Not later than one year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration shall, based upon the recommendation under paragraph (1), issue a notice of proposed rulemaking for the rescheduling of marijuana within the Controlled Substances Act, which shall include a recommendation to list marijuana as other than a Schedule I or Schedule II.”

In January, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied petitioners request to overturn the Obama administration’s July 2011 rejection of an administrative petition that sought to initiate hearings regarding the reclassification of marijuana under federal law.

Separate federal legislation, House Bill 710: The Truth in Trials Act, which provides an affirmative defense in federal court for defendants whose actions were in compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their state was also reintroduced this week in the US House of Representatives.

Those who wish to contact their member of Congress in support of these federal measures can do so by clicking here.

HuffPost: Obama’s Big Marijuana Mess

Huffington Post reporters Ryan Grimm and Ryan Reilly publish one of the most comprehensive and insightful pieces to date on the current friction between state and federal laws regarding cannabis in America, and conclude that federal prosecutors at the regional level—not elected policymakers or department leaders in Washington—are largely creating an ad hoc enforcement policy from state-to-state.

 

Barack Obama and Medical Marijuana (interview Q&A)

Barack answers questions on his position on medical marijuana.
Video Rating: 4 / 5

Industrial Hemp Reform Emerging From Marijuana Legalization Election Victories

One of the major public policy and business fronts to end cannabis prohibition in America is to pressure the federal government to allow American farmers the same ability to cultivate industrial hemp like farmers in the United Kingdom, France, Russia and even Canada do under current so-called anti-drug international treaties. Ninety percent of hemp used in the United States is cultivated and imported from Canada.

What sane reason can be employed by the federal government to ban industrial hemp cultivation when Canadian farmers can prosper from cultivating it?

Numerous states–just like with decriminalization, medicalization and legalization–have passed industrial hemp reform laws that run afoul of the federal government’s anti-cannabis policies. This has created upward political pressure on Congress to introduce needed hemp law reform.

Check out this recent Washington Post article profiling lobbying efforts to get hemp legalized.

You can help out by signing the White House petition to bring the matter of industrial hemp law reform before the Obama Administration for a public reply.

See the dozen or so state hemp laws here.

To learn more about hemp and law reform efforts in states and Congress check out VoteHemp.

Tell Obama To ‘Just Say No’ to Joe

A White House online petition telling Obama to listen to the voters of Colorado and Washington about the future of cannabis legalization, not the famously anti-cannabis/pro drug war architect Vice President Joe Biden, only needs 7,000 more signatures to be brought to the president’s attention. The signatures are needed by Wednesday, January 9.

If you’ve not yet taken a moment to let the White House know that you too support the voters of Colorado and Washington, please sign the online petition to put it over the top, and get the White House on record to not interfere with the will of voters in states who no longer support cannabis prohibition and want it legalized and taxed.

2012: The Year In Review — NORML’s Top 10 Events That Shaped Marijuana Policy

#1 Colorado and Washington Vote To Legalize Marijuana
Voters in Colorado and Washington made history by approving ballot measures allowing for the personal possession and consumption of cannabis by adults. Washington’s law, which removes criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use (as well as the possession of up to 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form, and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form), took effect on December 6. Colorado’s law, which allows for the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and/or the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants in private by those persons age 21 and over, took effect on December 10. Regulators in both states are now in the process of drafting rules to allow for state-licensed proprietors to commercially produce and sell cannabis.

#2 Most Americans Favor Legalization, Want The Feds To Butt Out
A majority of Americans support legalizing the use of cannabis by adults, according to national polls by Public Policy Polling, Angus Reid, Quinnipiac University, and others. A record high 83 percent of US citizens favor allowing doctors to authorize specified amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses. And nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose federal interference in state laws that allow for legal marijuana use by adults.

#3 Connecticut, Massachusetts Legalize Cannabis Therapy
Connecticut and Massachusetts became the 17th and 18th states to allow for the use of cannabis when recommended by a physician. Connecticut lawmakers in May approved Public Act 12-55, An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana. The new law took effect on October 1. On Election Day, 63 percent of Massachusetts voters approved Question 3, eliminating statewide criminal and civil penalties related to the possession and use of up to a 60-day supply of cannabis by qualified patients. The law takes effect on January 1, 2013.

#4 Schedule I Prohibitive Status For Pot “Untenable,” Scientists Say
The classification of cannabis and its organic compounds as Schedule I prohibited substances under federal law is scientifically indefensible, according to a review published online in May in The Open Neurology Journal. Investigators at the University of California at San Diego and the University of California, Davis reviewed the results of several recent clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of inhaled or vaporized cannabis. They concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

#5 Marijuana Arrests Decline, But Still Total Half Of All Illicit Drug Violations
Police made 757,969 arrests in 2011 for marijuana-related offenses, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report. The total marked a decline from previous years. Of those charged in 2011 with marijuana law violations, 663,032 (86 percent) were arrested for marijuana offenses involving possession only. According to the report, approximately 43 percent of all drug violations in 2011 were for cannabis possession.

#6 Long-Term Cannabis Exposure Not Associated With Adverse Lung Function
Exposure to moderate levels of cannabis smoke, even over the long-term, is not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function, according to clinical trial data published in January in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Investigators at the University of California, San Francisco analyzed the association between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over a 20-year period in a cohort of 5,115 men and women in four US cities. They concluded: “With up to 7 joint-years of lifetime exposure (e.g., 1 joint/d for 7 years or 1 joint/wk for 49 years), we found no evidence that increasing exposure to marijuana adversely affects pulmonary function. … Our findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana … may not be associated with adverse consequences on pulmonary function.”

#7 Cannabis Use Associated With Decreased Prevalence Of Diabetes
Adults with a history of marijuana use have a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes and possess a lower risk of contracting the disease than do those with no history of cannabis consumption, according to clinical trial data published in the British Medical Journal. Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles assessed the association between diabetes mellitus (DM) and marijuana use among adults aged 20 to 59 in a nationally representative sample of the US population of 10,896 adults. Investigators concluded, “Our analysis of adults aged 20-59 years … Showed that participants who used marijuana had a lower prevalence of DM and lower odds of DM relative to non-marijuana users.”

#8 Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Not Associated With Neighborhood Crime
The establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries does not adversely impact local crime rates, according to a federally funded study published in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Researchers reported: “There were no observed cross-sectional associations between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates in this study.”

#9 Rhode Island Becomes The 15th State To Decriminalize Pot Possession Penalties
Governor Lincoln Chafee signed legislation into law in June amending marijuana possession penalties for those age 18 or older from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense — punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. The decriminalization law takes effect on April 1, 2013.

#10 Cannabis Reduces Symptoms In Patients With Treatment-Resistant MS
Cannabis inhalation mitigates spasticity and pain in patients with treatment-resistant multiple sclerosis (MS), according to clinical trial data published online in May in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association. Investigators at the University of California, San Diego assessed the use of inhaled cannabis versus placebo in 30 patients with MS who were unresponsive to conventional treatments. “Smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in symptom and pain reduction in patients with treatment-resistant spasticity,” authors concluded.

Alternet: “Will Obama Go After Legal Pot In Washington And Colorado?”

It has been nearly seven weeks since voters in Colorado and Washington made history, enacting at the ballot box unprecedented measures legalizing the adult possession on cannabis. Yet during this time, federal officials have largely remained silent.

One week ago, US Attorney General Eric Holder cryptically told Bloomberg News that the administration will formally announce its intentions “relatively soon,” but added no further details. Most recently, on Friday, President Obama told ABC News’ Barbara Walters: “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal. … We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” Of course, federal officials do not target minor marijuana offenders now — so the President’s statement provides little clarity as to what actions the Administration may take going forward as Colorado and Washington begin implementing broader regulatory reforms, including measures to license proprietors to commercially produce and sell cannabis to adults.

Today, in Alternet.org, I speculate as to what actions the Administration may take — and what actions they may not take — in the coming weeks as state lawmakers work toward the full implementation of Colorado and Washington’s newly enacted marijuana laws. An excerpt from this commentary appears below.

Will Obama Go After Legal Pot in Washington and Colorado?
via Alternet.org

With public opinion firmly behind the will of the voters, is it realistic to think that the Obama Justice Department will take action to try and nullify Colorado and Washington’s legalization laws? It’s possible, but it may not be as likely as some think.

For starters, states are not mandated under the US Controlled Substances Act to criminalize marijuana or to arrest and prosecute adult cannabis consumers and the federal government cannot compel prosecutors in Colorado or Washington to do so. The Justice Department and the US Drug Enforcement Administration could, theoretically, choose to selectively prosecute those individuals in Colorado and Washington who possess or grow quantities of plant that are compliant with state law. But such a scenario is hardly plausible. The federal government lacks the manpower and the public support – and therefore the political will – to engage in such behavior and this reality is unlikely to change any time soon. As acknowledged by former congressman and ex-DEA director Asa Hutchinson at a recent CATO Institute forum on the subject, the federal government never has prosecuted people for possessing an ounce of marijuana and it is not about to start doing so now.

By contrast, the Obama administration may attempt to actively prohibit states from allowing for the above-ground, licensed production and sale of cannabis by authorized proprietors. Justice Department officials could theoretically do so by either bringing a legal challenge against the states, by threatening local officials, or by proposing to withhold federal funding. But none of these actions are assured. Here’s why.

To date, the Obama administration has done little to interfere with the state-approved production and licensed distribution of medical marijuana in those states that explicitly license and regulate this activity — specifically in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, and New Mexico. (In recent days, some of the first state-approved dispensaries opened for business in Arizona and New Jersey. In coming months, licensed dispensaries are also anticipated to open their doors to the public in Vermont as well as the District of Columbia. **AUTHOR’S NOTE: By contrast, the Justice Department has taken actions to aggressively close operations in California, Oregon, Montana, and Washington — though none of these states explicitly license dispensaries.**) In Colorado – where the state has licensed several hundreds of cannabis dispensaries and oversees “seed to sale” regulations governing the plant’s production and distribution – federal officials have yet to either file suit or threaten any of the state regulators who oversee the program. In response to a lawsuit filed in 2011 by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who sought to invalidate the state’s 2010 medical cannabis law, lawyers for the federal government affirmed that the administration had never engaged in such strong-arm tactics and did not intend to.

The federal judge in the case agreed. She rejected Gov. Brewer’s legal arguments that the operation of state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries was preempted by federal law or put state employees at risk for federal prosecution, determining “[T]he Complaint does not detail any history of prosecution of state employees for participation in state medical marijuana licensing schemes [and] fails to establish that Plaintiffs are subject to a genuine threat of imminent prosecution and consequently, the Complaint does not meet the constitutional requirements for ripeness.”

A Maricopa County (AZ) Superior Court ruling from earlier this month further affirms that states possess the legal authority to regulate the legal distribution of cannabis, at least in some specific instances, without running afoul of federal anti-drug laws. In the case before the Court, White Mountain Health Center, Inc. v. Maricopa County, Judge Michael Gordon determined that the federal Controlled Substances Act did not preempt Arizona’s efforts to authorize “the local cultivation, sale, and use, of medical marijuana.” Writing for the Court, Judge Gordon declared that nothing in Arizona’s law circumvents federal law since Justice Department officials could still continue to locally enforce the Controlled Substances Act. In fact, Judge Gordon suggested that the new law “affirmatively provides a roadmap for federal enforcement of the CSA, if they so wished to” since the statute requires patients and proprietors to register their activities with the state. He concluded: “The Court rejects … arguments that the [law] violates public policy simply because marijuana use and possession violate federal law. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation permitting the use of marijuana in whole or in part. The Court will not rule that Arizona, having sided with the ever-growing minority of States, and having limited it to medical use, has violated public policy.”

Some legal experts, including law professor Robert Mikos of Vanderbilt University Law School, suggest an additional legal theory as to why Colorado and Washington’s proposed regulatory schemes may not be subject to federal preemption. Speaking at a recent CATO Institute sponsored forum, Mikos suggested that the newly enacted state legalization laws do not violate the spirit or the intent of the Controlled Substances Act because the federal law exists for the expressed purpose of limiting the consumption of certain substances by the public, particularly young people. One can argue that the proposed statewide regulatory schemes in Colorado and Washington – which impose age restrictions for buyers and limit sellers to those authorized by the state – are intended to serve a similar purpose. Further, the proposed state programs, “do not stop federal authorities from sanctioning registrants.” Notably, Superior Court Judge Gordon specifically highlighted these arguments in his decision to uphold Arizona’s law and to reject claims that it positively conflicted with federal law.

“No one can argue that the federal government’s ability to enforce the CSA is impaired to the slightest degree [by Arizona’s medical marijuana law],” he opined. “Instead of frustrating the CSA’s purpose, it is sensible to argue that the [law] furthers the CSA’s objectives in combating drug abuse and the illegitimate trafficking of controlled substances.”

You can read the full text of my commentary here.

President Obama Breaks His Silence on Marijuana Legalization: We’ve Got Bigger Fish to Fry Than Cannabis Users

Breaking his silence on the topic of marijuana legalization since two states approved ballot initiatives to regulate cannabis, President Barack Obama addressed the issue in an interview with Barbara Walters this week.

While the administration’s broader policy is still being developed, the president stated that arresting recreational users in these states would not be a priority.

“We’ve got bigger fish to fry. It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal. – President Obama

The president also clarified that he personally is not in favor of leglization, but that it is a more complex issue than his own view on it:

“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law. I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?” – President Obama

One line stands out as particularly interesting, during his answer he says:

“What I think is, that at this point, in Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. – President Obama

This is a great start and an encouraging sign that the federal government doesn’t intend to ramp up its focus on individual users. Though considering it is extremely rare for the federal government to handle possession cases (only a few percent of annual arrests are conducted by the federal government), and that this is the same stance he took on medical cannabis before raiding more dispensaries than his predecessor, his administration’s broader policy will be the one to watch and according to his Attorney General Holder that pronouncement may come soon. Speaking yesterday in Boston, Attorney General Holder stated that:

“There is a tension between federal law and these state laws. I would expect the policy pronouncement that we’re going to make will be done relatively soon.” – Attorney General Eric Holder

UPDATE: Politico has now posted President Obama’s interview for viewing. Check it out below.

Gallup: Most Americans Want The Federal Government To Butt Out Of State Marijuana Laws

Sixty-four percent of Americans oppose federal interference in state laws that allow for the legal use of the substance by adults, according to a random sampling of 1,015 adults by Gallup.

On Election Day, voters in Colorado and Washington approved measures allowing for the personal use of cannabis by those age 21 and older. Both of those state laws took effect in recent days.

According to Gallup, 64 percent of respondents do not believe that the federal government “should take steps to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in those states.” Only 34 percent of respondents agree that the federal government should take actions to interfere with the implementation of these laws.

Gallup also reported that more than four out of ten respondents who oppose legalizing cannabis believe that the Administration should nonetheless respect state laws allowing for its legal possession, use, and sale.

The poll further reported that Americans are evenly divided on whether or not cannabis ought to be legal. Forty-eight percent of respondents endorse marijuana legalization while 50 percent of respondents oppose it — an increase in opposition of four percent since 2011.

Support for legalization was highest among those age 18 to 29 (60 percent) and weakest among those over age 65 (36 percent). Half of self-identified Independent voters back legalization, as do 61 percent of Democrats. By contrast, only 33 percent of Republican voters support legalization.

The Gallup findings regarding legalization are lower than those reported by other polls, including surveys by Public Policy Polling (58 percent support for legalizing cannabis), Angus Reid (54 percent), and Quinnipiac University (51 percent).

The Hill.com: “Voters Say ‘No’ To Pot Prohibition”

I have an op/ed today online at The Hill.com’s influential Congress blog (“Where lawmakers come to blog”).

Read an excerpt from it below:

Voters say ‘No’ to pot prohibition
via TheHill.com

Voters in Colorado and Washington made history on Election Day. For the first time ever, a majority of voters decided at the ballot box to abolish cannabis prohibition.

… Predictably, the federal government – which continues to define cannabis as equally dangerous to heroin – is not amused. According to various media reports, the Justice Department is in the process of reviewing the nascent state laws. Meanwhile, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has already affirmed that the agency’s “enforcement of the [federal] Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.” That may be true. But in a matter of weeks, the local enforcement of marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington most definitely will change. And there is little that the federal government can do about it.

States are not mandated to criminalize marijuana or arrest adult cannabis consumers and now two states have elected not to. The federal government cannot compel them to do otherwise. State drug laws are not legally obligation to mirror the federal Controlled Substances Act and state law enforcement are not required to help the federal government enforce it. Yes, theoretically the Justice Department could choose to prosecute under federal law those individuals in Colorado and Washington who possess personal amounts of cannabis. But such a scenario is hardly plausible. Right now, the federal government lacks the manpower, political will, and public support to engage in such behavior. In fact, rather than triggering a federal backlash, it is far more likely that the passage of these two measures will be the impetus for the eventual dismantling of federal pot prohibition.

Like alcohol prohibition before it, the criminalization of cannabis is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. How did America’s ‘Nobel Experiment’ with alcohol prohibition come to an end? Simple. When a sufficient number of states – led by New York in 1923 – enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol prohibition laws. With state police and prosecutors no longer complying with the government’s wishes to enforce an unpopular law, federal politicians eventually had no choice but to abandon the policy altogether.

… On Election Day, voters in Colorado and Washington turned their backs on cannabis prohibition. They are the first to do so. But they will not be the last. Inevitably, when voters in the other 48 states see that the sky has not fallen, they too will demand their lawmakers follow suit. As more states lead the way, federal politicians will eventually have no choice but to follow.

You can read the entire op/ed here. You can also post your feedback and comments to The Hill by going here. Congress is listening; tell them what’s on your mind.

ABANDONING THE ENLIGHTENMENT

There is difference between Holland’s history and the history of virtually every of the country in the world -except, perhaps, ancient Egypt.

When you look at the geology of the U.S., Romania, Kenya, Japan or almost any other country and see the splendors and vistas that the land offers, you may be tempted to exclaim what beauty nature created. When you look at the land in Holland, you see land that was reclaimed from the North Sea and from cold-water marshes. You would be looking at land that humans have created.

This history gave the Dutch a head start in their journey to a secular culture. Instead of churches encouraging people to pray for God to stop the flooding, local governments designed and created the dams used to drain the land and the windmills used to pump water from flooding it although it was below sea level.

In the early 17th century, the Dutch freed themselves from the yoke of superstitious, myth-driven Spanish rule and soon embraced the enlightenment. It had a profound effect upon the Dutch psyche and they created a nation that used rationalism and available science to guide them.

As the centuries passed, the Dutch contributed to world science and philosophy and have been guided by rationalism and real politic. Then, in the 1960’s, the Dutch looked at the marijuana laws and created a marijuana tolerance policy. By all measures it has been a successful policy and accomplished the goal of separating “soft drugs” from narcotics.

Now the enlightenment is on trial in Holland. The legislature outlawed the sale of marijuana to foreigners because towns along the borders didn’t like people crossing over to spend money in their towns. That sounds a little crazy to me too. I would pass a local law that coffee shops had to be at the furthest point inside a shopping center, sort of like milk at the back of the grocery store, so people would have to pass other shops to get to the buds.

The “morality fascists” probably didn’t consider the fact that Holland has lower marijuana and narcotic use than any of its prohibitionist neighbors. Nor was the fact that the tourist boards surveys show that 26 percent of visitors to Amsterdam make use of coffee shops. That’s why the tourist industry fears the imposition of the new law beginning January 1.

When I was a child, the inference around my world outlook was that science and technology, rather than faith and belief, were being used to make decisions regarding our lives. Now I see that the post-apocalyptic scenarios of science-fiction novels have come to reality. Cults, called religions, are brainwashing populations with lowered expectations into massive movements of irrationality. We can look at what is happening in Pakistan,  Afghanistan and in African countries such as Sudan, Somalia and Mali, torn asunder by religious and ethnic conflicts.

We look at those countries and say but it can’t happen here, but it is happening here. The anti-abortion movement, climate change deniers, evolution deniers and  marijuana prohibitionists are just as much part of the anti-enlightenment movement as the mobs who riot over insults to their prophet,  now dead more than a 1000 years. Most of these reality deniers follow the supposed beliefs of a hermit who they claim lived in the desert 2000 years ago although there are no factual proofs of his existence or that he wasn’t really a mushroom.

The enlightenment didn’t fill in the knowledge gaps. It gave us a map to get to where we are today. Then, in the last 200 years, our world-view was reshaped again. When the U.S. Constitution was written, its creators didn’t have an inkling about atoms, electricity and electro-magnetism, evolution, biological causes of infections, the universe much beyond the solar system, which was discovered to rotate around the sun just 200 years earlier, genetics or much of the information that we absorb as background knowledge and which gives us a rational basis for understanding how the world works .

Now the Dutch government wants to reject the information it has developed for creating a better society in favor of a moralistic, belief centered policy that will wind up wounding society. And here in the U.S. there is an election going on, after the worst storm ever to hit the Northeast portion of the country, and the term “climate change” is never mentioned, not even by Obama.

Time to dust off those mid-twentieth century science fiction novels. Their authors might be the true prophets.

Suit Before Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals Seeks To Halt Federal Actions Against California’s Medical Cannabis Providers

On Wednesday, October 24, a group of California dispensary operators, medical cannabis providers, and patients, as Plaintiffs, filed their Opening Brief before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, asking the Circuit Court to hold that Plaintiffs, in their continuing litigation against the Federal Government, have a constitutional Ninth Amendment and Substantive Due Process fundamental right to distribute, possess and use medical cannabis. The brief, filed by members of the NORML Legal Committee, also contends that the Federal Government’s criminal prohibition of medical cannabis has no rational basis and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Plaintiffs further contend that the Federal Government is Judicially Estopped from enforcing medical marijuana prohibition in states that allow such activity because the Administration has previously asserted in public and in court that they would no longer do so.

Plaintiffs in November 2011 initially filed suit in California’s four federal districts against Eric Holder (United States Attorney General), Michelle Leonhart (Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the individual US Attorneys of each California District: Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego — following increased efforts from the Obama administration and the state’s US Attorneys to crack down on the production and distribution of medical cannabis. Plaintiff’s are asking the Ninth Circuit to reverse the district court’s dismissal of that complaint, and to allow the plaintiff’s the opportunity to prove their contentions in a court of law.

Three members of the NORML Legal Committee — Matt Kumin and David Michael from San Francisco and Alan Silber from Roseland, NJ — are representing the Plaintiffs in this appeal. In a press release, they stated, “The ill, in compliance with state law and with a physician’s recommendation, are made to suffer needlessly by the federal threats and denial of access to medical cannabis due to irrational governmental policy. Judicial intervention is the only way to stop the federal government from acting irrationally and from willfully ignoring the science supporting the use of cannabis as medicine.”

The cases are El Camino Wellness Center, et al. v. Eric Holder et al. (Sacramento), Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, et al. v. Eric Holder, et al. (San Francisco), and Alternative Community Health Care Cooperative, et al. v. Eric Holder, et al. (San Diego).

Other NLC attorneys who participated in the litigation of these cases are Lance Rogers of San Diego, Mark Reichel of Sacramento and Edward Burch of San Francisco.

A copy of Plaintiff’s Opening Brief is available here.

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