During his second inaugural address, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had some harsh words for our War on Drugs:
“We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse,” Governor Christie stated, “We will make drug treatment available to as many of our non-violent offenders as we can and we will partner with our citizens to create a society that understands that every life has value and no life is disposable.”
While critiques of the War on Drugs are always welcomed (Governor Christie had previously made similar statements), it is hard to take his comments seriously when you consider his record regarding sensible reforms to New Jersey’s marijuana laws.
The same day he was calling for an end to this failed policy, two pieces of legislation that would have made pragmatic changes to New Jersey’s marijuana laws were sitting on his desk awaiting signature. The first would have allowed state farmers to receive licenses for industrial hemp cultivation as soon as the federal government changed the national policy on the issue. The other, Senate Bill 1220, would have ensured patients enrolled in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program would be able to receive organ transplants and not be disqualified because of their medicinal use of cannabis. You would think that a governor who just stood at a podium and lambasted our prohibition as a failed policy, would immediately leave the stage and eagerly sign these pieces of legislation.
He didn’t. These two important measures sat on his desk, unsigned and were ultimately doomed to failure by Governor Christie’s pocket veto.
In the previous few years, Governor Christie declared that he would veto any legislation decriminalizing marijuana that came to his desk and also fought against rational reforms to the state’s medical marijuana program tooth and nail. He eventually capitulated slightly on the latter, but not before watering down many proposed amendments to the state’s program.
We appreciate the Governor’s sentiment and welcome him in joining the overwhelming majority of Americans who think the War on Drugs has failed, but his statements are merely political bluster until his rhetoric is matched by his actions. While the ensuing years (and continual rise in public support) will only lead to more politicians, both aspiring and those currently in power, joining us in our call for a new approach to marijuana, we must be vigilante. Actions speak louder than words. If Governor Christie (and President Obama for that matter) want the rubber to meet the road between their statements and actual public policy, they will need to follow these flowery words with legitimate action.
Earlier this year, we came within just 4 votes on the floor of the Maine House of Representatives on legislation that would have put marijuana legalization before state voters this fall. While that effort fell short, voters in the city of Portland will still have the chance to vote on marijuana legalization this November. Question 1 will be on the Portland ballot and would legalize the adult possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. With just two weeks left, we can use all the help we can get to pass this initiative. If you live in Portland and want to find out how you can assist, please contact David Boyer at email@example.com.
WGME CBS 13 will air a special internet broadcast of a Town Hall Forum on Thursday, October 24, from 7:30-8:30pm, concerning the issue of legalizing small amounts of marijuana in Portland. If you wish to attend in person, apply in advance to be in the audience at wgme.com. Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions in person and online via social media, using www.facebook.com/wgme13 and on Twitter using #YourVoiceYourFuture. The forum will air live on wgme.com and be broadcast on WGME CBS 13 on Sunday, October 27th at 11:35 PM.
In further news, it is our distinct pleasure to announce we will once again be pursuing statewide legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana in Maine. NORML and Representative Diane Russell have drafted and prepared legislation for introduction that would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and the personal cultivation of up to 6 plants. Retail outlets would be licensed by the Alcoholic Beverages, Cannabis and Lottery Operation within the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. We will be releasing final bill language as we get closer to its introduction, but we want to make sure this effort is on your radar, as it was the outpouring of grassroots support that helped us get so close to victory this year. If you would be interested in helping with this future statewide effort in Maine, please contact NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also click here to sign on to pledge your support for the legislation here.
Together, we WILL legalize marijuana in Portland this year and across Maine in 2014.
Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California, will chair a blue ribbon committee tasked with studying marijuana legalization in the state. This was announced at a joint press conference held this morning with the ACLU of California.
The panel will “engage in a multi-year research effort to help voters and policy makers as they consider proposals to enact a strict tax and regulation scheme that will enable California to benefit from billions of dollars of potential revenue annually while protecting the health and safety of our children and communities.”
Joining Newsom on the panel will be “leading legal, academic and policy experts from across the state and nation.”
The ACLU also released new polling data which revealed that 65% of Californians support legalizing and regulating marijuana, while only 32% were opposed and 3% undecided. You can view the full poll results here.
“This development is just a further illustration of how the debate over marijuana legalization has moved from the fringe into the mainstream,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “An overwhelming majority of Californians are ready to legalize and regulate marijuana and it is encouraging to see key figures within the state move to address the issue in a forward thinking and serious manner. With a voter initiative likely in 2016, this new survey data also confirms that the people of California are ready to move forward to end their state’s marijuana prohibition, with or without state legislators.”
NORML will keep you updated as this effort moves forward.
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.
The Obama Administration has released its National Drug Control Budget for the FY 2014 and despite their claims that “the war on drugs is over” and that they have “bigger fish to fry” the Office National Drug Control Policy is still prioritizing failed drug war tactics over prevention and treatment.
Prevention, in the form of education and outreach efforts, receives a paltry $1.4 billion dollars. While this is a 5% increase over the previous year’s budget, it is still a minuscule sum when you consider we are spending nine times more on arresting people than we are to educate them on risks of drug use and stop them from ending up in the criminal justice system in the first place. The budget calls for an additional 9.3 billion to be spent on treatment programs for those considered to have drug abuse issues (though $80 million of this funding goes to the drug court program, infamous for giving defendants the “choice” of serving time in rehab or spending time in a jail cell).
For all their rhetoric, this recent budget shows that little has changed in the federal government’s priorities when it comes to the War on Drugs. Funding is still disproportionately spent arresting people or diverting them into treatment programs after the fact, while only a small fraction (13%) of the overall drug budget is spent trying to fix the problem before it starts.
It is time for the Obama Administration’s policy to match its language on the issue of drug law reform. President Obama once promised that he would allow science and factual evidence to guide his administration on issues of public policy, but when it comes to marijuana laws, we are still waiting for him to deliver.
You can view the full text of the budget here.