Brookings Institute: Marijuana Policy and Presidential Leadership: How to Avoid a Federal-State Train WreckApril 12, 2013
As previewed last week on NORML’s blog, the Brookings Institute is convening a cannabis policy forum on Monday, April 15.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.