I just returned from the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, and thought I might share some thoughts about the state of the legalization efforts in the Netherlands, as contrasted to the US.
The Coffee Shops
Amsterdam is famous for its coffee shops, where those over 18 are permitted to purchase and enjoy marijuana. But in recent years the Dutch government has taken steps to close a few of the shops, and limit the amount which one can purchase to five grams from any one shop. Yet, despite these changes, coffee shops remain plentiful and high quality marijuana remains convenient to anyone in Amsterdam.
Importantly for us Americans, contrary to the public statements issued by government officials in recent months declaring the coffee shops are off-limits to foreigners, fear not; there are coffee shops in nearly every block in downtown Amsterdam and I visited at least eight of them during my five days in the country, and never once did anyone ask if I were a citizen of the Netherlands. And in many of the coffee shops I visited, there were several other American tourists also enjoying this unique experience, along with plenty of locals as well.
To read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.com.
Our friends at High Times (and former NORML director Dr. Jon Gettman) are running an online poll asking for consumers’ choice regarding the preferred marijuana distribution that emerges post-prohibition.
Legal Marijuana: Which Market Do You Prefer?
As we approach the new inevitability of legalized cannabis, three models have been proposed for a national marijuana market.
By Jon Gettman
In the past, the goal of marijuana legalization was simple: to bring about the end of federal prohibition and allow adults to use the plant without threat of prosecution and imprisonment. But now that legalization is getting serious attention, it’s time to examine how a legal marijuana market should operate in the United States.
Below are descriptions of the three kinds of legal markets that have emerged from various discussions on the subject. We would like to know which one you prefer.
First, though, let’s touch on a few characteristics that all of these proposals share. In each one, the market has a minimum age for legal use, likely the same as the current age limits for alcohol and tobacco. In each of these legal markets, there will be penalties for driving while intoxicated, just as with alcohol use. You can also assume that there will be guaranteed legal access to marijuana for medical use by anyone, regardless of age, with a physician’s authorization. The last characteristic shared by all three mar- kets is that there will be no criminal penalties for the adult possession and use of marijuana.
Under this approach, there would be no commercial marijuana market allowed. Marijuana would be grown and processed for sale under government contracts, supervised and/or managed by a large, government-chartered nonprofit organization. Marijuana would be sold in state-run retail outlets (similar to the state-run stores that have a monopoly on liquor sales in places like Mississippi, Montana and Vermont, among others), where the sales personnel will be trained to provide accurate information about cannabis and its effects. Products like edibles and marijuana-infused liquids with fruity flavors would be banned out of a concern that they can encourage minors to try the drug. There would be no advertising or marketing allowed, and no corporate or business prof- its. Instead, the revenue earned from sales would pay for production costs and the operation of the state control organization; the rest of the profits would go to government-run treatment, prevention, education and enforcement programs. Regulations would be enforced by criminal sanctions and traditional law enforcement (local, state and federal police). No personal marijuana cultivation would be allowed. The price of marijuana would remain at or near current levels in order to discourage underage use.
Limited Commercial Market
Under this approach, the cultivation, processing and retail sale of marijuana would be conducted by private companies operating under a limited number of licenses issued by the federal government. Advertising and marketing would be allowed, but they would be regulated similar to the provisions governing alcohol and tobacco promotion. Taxation would be used to keep prices at or near current levels in order to discourage underage use. Corporate profits would be allowed, and tax revenues would be used to fund treatment, prevention, education and enforcement programs. Regulations would be enforced by criminal sanctions and traditional law enforcement (local, state and federal police). No personal marijuana cultivation would be allowed.
Regulated Free Market
Under this approach, entrepreneurs would have open access to any part of the marijuana market. Cultivation, processing and retail operations could be legally undertaken by anyone willing to bear the risks of investment and competition. Advertising and marketing would be allowed, but they would be regulated similar to the provisions governing alcohol and tobacco promotion. Prices would be determined by supply and demand, with taxation set at modest levels similar to current taxes on alcohol, tobacco and gambling. (These vary widely from state to state, but assume that under this model, the price of marijuana would be substantially lower than it is in the current market.)
Also, home cultivation would be allowed. Licenses may be required for any sort of cultivation, but these would be for registration purposes only and subject to nominal fees based on the number of plants involved. Individuals and corporations would be allowed to make whatever profits they can through competition. Tax revenues would fund treatment, prevention, education and enforcement programs. Competition and market forces would structure the market rather than licenses or government edicts, and regulatory agencies rather than law enforcement would supervise market activity.
A Different Approach
There are two key issues when it comes to deciding among these proposals. First, should the price of marijuana be kept high through government intervention in order to discourage underage use as well as abuse? Second, does commercialization translate into corporate money being spent to convince teenagers to use marijuana? Many of the proposals for how a legal market should operate are based on assumptions about these two issues, which leads to recommendations that the government must, one way or another, direct and control the marijuana market.
Obviously, the first two proposals outlined above reflect those very concerns. The third takes a different approach, in which marijuana is treated like similar psychoactive commodities, and the public relies on education, prevention and age limits to discourage underage use as well as abuse.
We want to know what type of legal marijuana market you prefer. Please take part in our poll on the HIGH TIMES website.
There are four new videos worth checking out, two provide comic relief…two provide contrasting views about cannabis prohibition.
The same day last week I caught a CNN news piece about high school science students sending and recording an egg with a smiley face launched into space, I received something way cooler:
The first earth-grown cannabis launched into space (unless the US and Russian governments have been ferrying cannabis into space all these years…).
From our friends at High Times:
*Proviso: While ‘space’ cannabis is neat, driving while consuming cannabis is an unwise safety and legal decision in all 50 states.
In what you knew would be a confrontational interview, former Congressman and SAM spokesman Patrick Kennedy bravely goes into the wheelhouse of one of America’s most ardent pro-cannabis supporters: comedian, TV host and NORML Advisory Board member Bill Maher.
The results. As expected. Kennedy came on larding his advocacy with a plethora of old and/or taken out of context ‘science’ claiming that he used to think ‘pot was not a big deal’, but now has learned otherwise. When confronted by Maher that Kennedy’s anti-cannabis advocacy is misplaced and that his rhetoric sounds like a barely warmed over “Just Say No’ rant from the 1980s, Kennedy claims newly gained insights:
Really? If this is true–Mr. Kennedy used to think cannabis no big deal and he possess new insight into why prohibition should go on another seventy five years?–the long-serving former state representative and congressman from Rhode Island, with no public or legislative record record indicating anything other than rote support for cannabis prohibition, certainly never conveyed to his constituents or media that he thought cannabis was ‘no big deal’.
And this new insight that he claims to have gained…might this have come from the ardently anti-cannabis legalization drug rehabilitation industry that Mr. Kennedy is not only had a client of because of his own alcohol and prescription drug abuse, but that he has always been closely associated with this rarely observed side of the pot prohibition perpetuation machinery in Washington, D.C.?
Currently, probably living with the real fear that the government will stop bring clients to them forced with the Hobson’s Choice of ‘rehab’ or to get criminally prosecuted, and to often have the government pick up the financial tab, one of the last (and obvious) proponents for the status quo to maintain the government’s failed cannabis prohibition are some active quarters of the ‘drug rehabilitation’ industry.
Where this newly formed SAM gets its funding (the group appears to be mainly a front group for drug rehabbers and anti-tobacco advocates) will help largely answer the questions: Who likely benefits from cannabis prohibition? Who wants to keep the prohibition policy going, when a majority of the American public no longer does?
A now nearly regular featured anti-prohibition satirist who specializes in using popular music video parodies to make fun of pot prohibition (and advance his political career in Miami Beach, Florida), Steve Berke has forwarded NORML another of his unique takes:
Also, Steve is trying to now produce a documentary movie. If you like his style and how is he is trying to shake up Miami Beach’s political scene, check out his new KickStarter campaign here.
Lastly, and appropriately, the TV originator of the “Last Word’ (a nightly segment on MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell Show), gets the last word on the absurdity and inevitable collapse of cannabis prohibition in America.
Watch O’Donnell’s powerful indictment against the federal government’s continued support for the failed public policy of cannabis prohibition here.
[Editor’s note: Along with signing the below White House petition encouraging the president to grant clemency to these federal prisoners with life sentences for cannabis-only related offenses, please take a moment to do something even more important and write letters of support to the clemency petition to both the President (1600 Pennsylvania, NW, Washington, DC, 20500-0004) and the Office of Pardon Attorney (1425 New York Ave., NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20530) asking for immediate commutation of these prisoners’ sentences.
Additionally, please mention each man by name: John Knock, Paul Free, William Dekle, Larry Duke and Charles Cundiff.]
Cannabis Prohibition is ending in America (and likely soon around the world too). It is not going to end without prolonged legal, political and regulatory battles. This is well known and anticipated by reformers.
Social justice movements take decades to build up credibility, social impetus and political saliency. There are, necessarily, many angles by which cannabis prohibition laws can be assaulted: legislation, binding voter initiatives and impact litigation.Recently, the law office of Michael Kennedy (the principle behind Trans High Corporation, publishers of High Times Magazine; lifetime member of NORML Legal member) filed an historic legal petition with the federal government seeking clemency for five elderly prisoners serving lifetime sentences for cannabis-only related crimes. In the many hundreds of debates and discussions I’ve had with law enforcement officials and elected policymakers about the need to replace cannabis prohibition laws with logical alternatives, I’m vexed to no end when they make the ridiculous claim: ‘no one gets arrested for marijuana anymore and certainly no one is incarcerated for the stuff!’
To wit, 1) there are over 750,000 annual cannabis arrests (90% for possession-only) that generate many tens of thousands of cannabis-only offenders sent to jail or prison, and 2) these five men are serving lifetime sentences, for a product that is no longer contraband in two states, decriminalized in fourteen states and eighteen states (and the District of Columbia) now have medical cannabis laws (with six states allowing commercial retail access to the herb with a physician’s recommendation).
This federal petition to release these men back to their loving families and to get off the tax roll is born out of the non-profit organization called Life For Pot (where the groups is tracking at least twenty prisoners serving life sentences for cannabis-only related offenses), the heart felt project of volunteer Beth Curtis.
Mr. Obama indicated to ABC News that ‘he has bigger fish to fry’ when asked about what if anything the feds are going to regarding Colorado and Washington voters recently approving cannabis legalization measures. Whether the president is going to expend any political capital at all in actually advancing cannabis law reforms in his last four years remains to be seen, but, the man should act post haste, giving a nod to the new legal era America has entered regarding cannabis prohibition, on this well researched and written petition by granting clemency to these former and now elderly pot cultivators and smugglers.
We can all help place greater public focus and attention on this federal petition by letting the White House know that President Obama should ‘do the right thing’ and pardon these lifetime prisoners for growing and supplying cannabis to a willing and wonting population of cannabis consumers while unpopular (and largely unenforceable) prohibition laws were still in place.
Seattle, WA: Event organizers are expecting to break attendance records this weekend for the 21st annual Seattle Hempfest, taking place this Friday through Sunday at Myrtle Edwards Park along the downtown Seattle waterfront.
Hempfest has drawn crowds in excesses of 250,000 people over the three day ‘protestival’.
One of the main focuses of this year Hempfest is Washington’s legalization voter initiative, Initiative 502. Washington is one of three states where voters this fall will have the opportunity to substantively reform their state’s personal use cannabis laws. Oregon and Colorado voters also have limited marijuana legalization measures appearing on their statewide ballots this fall.
Over 60 musical acts and over one hundred speakers — including NORML Founder Keith Stroup, I-502 sponsor, NORML Advisory Board member and travel expert Rick Steves, numerous NORML board members and chapter coordinators, members of Seattle’s City Council, former law enforcement officials and dozens of cannabis law reform activists will participate in the event from numerous stages and at the ‘Hemposium’ educational tent.
A list of speakers is found here.
A complete line-up of this year’s scheduled events, musicians, and speakers is available online at: http://www.hempfest.org/.