In 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.
We have some dire news to share. This morning, President-Elect Trump announced his pick for Attorney General and it couldn’t be much worse for the marijuana law reform movement and our recent legalization victories.
Trump’s pick, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, is a militant prohibitionist. We could go into great detail how Senator Sessions has been an outspoken opponent against reform, but in this case his rhetoric is so off the wall…we’ll let his past statements speak for themselves:
“You have to have leadership from Washington. You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana … you are sending a message to young people that there is no danger in this process. It is false that marijuana use doesn’t lead people to more drug use. It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”
“It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
“Lady Gaga says she’s addicted to [marijuana] and it is not harmless.”
His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
Senator Sessions is clearly out in the deep end when it comes to issues of marijuana policy and he stands diametrically opposed to the majority of Americans who favor the legalization and regulation of marijuana. This could foreshadow some very bad things for the eight states that have legalized marijuana for adult use and in the 29 states with with medical marijuana programs. With the authority the position of Attorney General provides, Sessions could immediately get to work attempting to block the implementation of the recent ballot initiatives, dismantling a legal industry in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska, and begin conducting massive raids on existing medical and recreational retail stores.
We must be ready to fight back. We must be ready to mobilize in defense of all of our hard fought victories. We already have our opponents calling for a recount in Maine and prohibitionists in Massachusetts working to gut core provisions like home cultivation from their state’s initiative. With an assist from a newly minted prohibitionist Attorney General, things might get worse before they get better.
Help us send a message to President-Elect Trump and his Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions that the American people won’t stand for intervention into state marijuana programs and we want to move towards descheduling at the federal level and legalization in all 50 states.
Marijuana legalization opponents in Maine are formally challenging the results of Question 1: The Marijuana Legalization Act, a statewide ballot initiative that received slightly over 50 percent of the vote on Election Day.
Legal counsel for the No on 1 campaign today turned in petitions to the Secretary of State’s office formally requesting a recount. If the recount goes forward, the process is expected to take approximately 30 days and cost taxpayers nearly $500,000.
If the vote is upheld, the measure will become law by January 7, 2017.
The Act permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to possess personal use quantities of marijuana (up to two and one-half ounces and/or the total harvest produced by six plants). The measure also establishes regulations for the commercial cultivation and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Regulations governing marijuana-related businesses are scheduled to be in place by August 8, 2017.
According to the Associated Press, voters in Montana have approved Initiative 182, the Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative. The Associated Press’s final vote count is 58 to 42 percent.
“This decision restores the rights of patients and providers,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Voters were clear in 2004 when they initially enacted the state’s medical law, and they remain resolved in their opinion that state lawmakers ought not to restrict patients access to medical cannabis.”
I-182 expands the state’s medical marijuana laws. It permits licensed medical marijuana providers to serve more than three patients at one time and allows for providers to hire employees to cultivate, dispense, and transport medical marijuana. I-182 repeals the requirement that physicians who provide certifications for 25 or more patients annually be referred to the board of medical examiners. It removes the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities, and requires annual inspections by the state.
The new law takes effect on June 30, 2017. You can read the full text of the initiative here.
According to the Associated Press, voters in Nevada have approved Question 2, the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The AP’s final vote count is 54 to 46 percent.
“With victory in Nevada, it is safe to say that, this time, what happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. Thanks to the support of a majority of voters, Nevada now joins the growing list of states that are rejecting prohibition and taking a smarter approach to marijuana. Success in Nevada will only inspire more Americans to stand up and demand an end to our nation’s embarrassing, failed policy of prohibition and this momentum will only continue to spread across the country.” said Erik Altieri, NORML’s new Executive Director
Question 2 permits adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program to legally grow (up to six plants, including all of the harvest from those plants) and to possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to 3.5 grams of concentrates) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. (Home cultivation is not permitted if one’s residence is within 25 miles of an operating marijuana retailer.) Commercial marijuana production is subject to a 15 percent excise tax, much of which is earmarked to the State Distributive School Account.
“Voters in the western region of the United States continue to lead the way toward the eventual nationwide re-legalization of marijuana by responsible adults,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, marijuana is here to stay. Our state and federal laws need to reflect this reality, not deny it.”
The new law takes effect on January 1, 2017. Regulations governing commercial marijuana activities must be in place by January 1, 2018.
You can read the full text of the initiative here.