In another positive sign of the times for cannabis law reform, please find below a new video from the Washington Post’s The Fold looking at a couple of different situations where parents faced the legal-moral dilemma of whether or not to follow a physician’s recommendation for their young child to use cannabis as a therapeutic. Dr. Ben Whalley From Reading University in United Kingdom is interviewed about his recent cannabinoid research into the use of pediatric cannabis medicine for children, for example, suffering from epilepsy. As a twenty plus year reader of the Washington Post, it is very hard for me to imagine prior editors (and publishers) who would have assigned and widely broadcast a piece that looked at the potential health benefits from cannabis (meaning that as the World War II generation, informed by their government-created ‘Reefer Madness’, that largely ran the storied newspaper until recently has had to logically yield and defer to a decidedly more cannabis-informed generation of Baby Boomers and younger).
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.
In the wake of the historic votes for marijuana law reform on November 6th, there has been a renewed focus on the topic and a shift in tone amongst the mainstream media. While previously, many outlets have either covered our efforts with a wink and a nod (or didn’t cover them at all), now that two states have called for the end of marijuana prohibition, reporters are rushing to cover the story. Along the way it seems they are also getting a crash course education in the concepts of civil liberties, federalism, and the disasters of our country’s prohibition on cannabis. Many are beginning to wake up to the reality that we have long identified: cannabis prohibition is a failed policy that has destructive effects on our society and these effects can be remedied by legalization and regulation.
Look no further for a sign of the changing times than editorials featured this weekend by two of the United States’ largest newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Both papers featured columns from their staff opining in favor of marijuana law reform. It seems the days of traditionally conservative editorial boards writing against cannabis law reforms may be coming to an end.
There is a seismic shift happening in the national consciousness on marijuana policy in response to the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington, we are winning new converts by the day and those previously afraid to speak out are now doing so with passion and vigor. This recent influx of mainstream media outlets jumping on board with reform is just the beginning of the avalanche of change that is to come.
The New York Times by Timothy Egan, NYT Opinion Writer:
Give Pot a Chance
For what stands between ending this absurd front in the dead-ender war on drugs and the status quo is the federal government. It could intervene, citing the supremacy of federal law that still classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug.
But it shouldn’t. Social revolutions in a democracy, especially ones that begin with voters, should not be lightly dismissed. Forget all the lame jokes about Cheetos and Cheech and Chong. In the two-and-a-half weeks since a pair of progressive Western states sent a message that arresting 853,000 people a year for marijuana offenses is an insult to a country built on individual freedom, a whiff of positive, even monumental change is in the air.
…there remains the big question of how President Obama will handle the cannabis spring. So far, he and Attorney General Eric Holder have been silent. I take that as a good sign, and certainly a departure from the hard-line position they took when California voters were considering legalization a few years ago.
The Washington Post by Washington Post Editorial Board:
Marijuana’s Foot in the Door
…Or the Justice Department could keep its hands off, perhaps continuing the approach the feds have largely taken for some time — focusing scarce resources on major violators, such as big growers that might serve multi-state markets, cultivators using public lands or dispensaries near schools. The last option is clearly best.
But it’s unrealistic and unwise to expect federal officials to pick up the slack left by state law- enforcement officers who used to enforce marijuana prohibitions against pot users and small-time growers. Unrealistic, because it would require lots more resources. Unwise, because filling prisons with users, each given a criminal stain on his or her record, has long been irrational. For the latter reason, we favor decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot, assessing civil fines instead of locking people up.
Also, for that reason and others, the Justice Department should hold its fire on a lawsuit challenging Colorado and Washington’s decision to behave more leniently. And state officials involved in good-faith efforts to regulate marijuana production and distribution according to state laws should be explicitly excused from federal targeting.
I’ve followed with more than a passing interest the entire arch of Rahm Emanuel’s substantive and influential career in American politics.
In fact, found in NORML’s extensive forty-two year archives are the hand-typed notes of an author who was working on a major profile of the history of America’s ‘drug war’ and what the then Clinton Administration was implementing as their drug ‘control’ policies.
The author was former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Baum and the book he produced is called ‘Smoke and Mirrors’. Any serious student or activist of drug and cannabis policy must include this book on their short ‘must read’ bibliographic list.
Baum interviewed Emanuel in 1994 in his White House office and, according to Baum’s notes, Emanuel was a tidal wave of expletives against cannabis, and most notably cannabis consumers, calling them ‘leftover hippies’ and medical patients as ‘stoners just looking for an excuse to get high’.
How far has Mayor Emanual come on the issue of cannabis law reform?
The significance of Rahm Emanuel’s progression on cannabis law reform can’t be understated as 1) he was the chief domestic policy advisor during the Clinton era that very actively opposed any medical cannabis reforms or decriminalization efforts at the state/federal level, 2) when he was first elected to Congress he voted against Hinchey Rohrabacher spending amendment bills which sought to limit medical cannabis law enforcement by the feds at the state level, 3) in his last years in Congress he changed positions and voted for the HR amendment, 4) during the last two years in Cook County and in other cities in IL, ‘decriminalization’ measures have either gone into effect or have been proposed without Mr. Emanuel saying “boo” and 5) now the political acknowledgement from Prague no less (talk about a city that can inspire decriminalization and personal freedom!) that he is keen on decriminalization.
Many political pontificators believe Emanual, one of the country’s most aspiring and capable political figures, has his eyes affixed on the presidency in 2016 or 2020, and like his potential rival New York Governor and fellow democrat Andrew Cuomo who recently moved to decriminalize cannabis in NY, might rightly see that being in favor of cannabis law reform is now a political asset, not a liability.
Update: Another clear demonstration that American society is moving towards embracing cannabis law reforms can be found in one of the least likely places on earth: The editorial board of the traditionally (almost reflexively) anti-cannabis Washington Post, who, finally, also now embraces decriminalization.
Hmmm….the pot prohibition plot thickens!
Emanuel backs decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana
BY FRAN SPIELMAN and FRANK MAIN
Last Modified: Jun 15, 2012 05:59AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is throwing his formidable support behind a plan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
If the City Council goes along, Chicago cops will be free to issue a ticket with a fine ranging from $100 to $500. The tickets would apply to people caught with 15 grams of pot or less.
Last fall, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) proposed a ticket carrying a $200 fine and a 10-gram trigger.
Currently, those caught with small amounts of pot face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.
In a press release, the mayor said writing pot tickets “allows us to observe the law while reducing the processing time for minor possession of marijuana — ultimately freeing up police officers for the street.”
Emanuel chose to wade in on the hot-button issue while in Prague for his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. That allows him to avoid questions about whether marijuana tickets would send the wrong message to kids about a drug that some consider a “gateway” to more dangerous substances.
In 2011, Chicago Police officers made 18,298 arrests for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. Read the rest of this Chicago Sun Times article here.
New York Times columnist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof has an excellent column on the NYT‘s opinion page calling to ‘end the war on pot.’
End the War on Pot
via The New York Times
Our nearly century-long experiment in banning marijuana has failed as abysmally as Prohibition did, and California may now be pioneering a saner approach. Sure, there are risks if California legalizes pot. But our present drug policy has three catastrophic consequences.
First, it squanders billions of dollars that might be better used for education.
… Each year, some 750,000 Americans are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Is that really the optimal use of our police force?
In contrast, legalizing and taxing marijuana would bring in substantial sums that could be used to pay for schools, libraries or early childhood education. A Harvard economist, Jeffrey A. Miron, calculates that marijuana could generate $8.7 billion in tax revenue each year if legalized nationally, while legalization would also save the same sum annually in enforcement costs.
That’s a $17 billion swing in the nation’s finances — enough to send every 3- and 4-year-old in a poor family to a high-quality preschool. And that’s an investment that would improve education outcomes and reduce crime and drug use in the future — with enough left over to pay for an extensive nationwide campaign to discourage drug use.
The second big problem with the drug war is that it has exacerbated poverty and devastated the family structure of African-Americans. Partly that’s because drug laws are enforced inequitably. Black and Latino men are much more likely than whites to be stopped and searched and, when drugs are found, prosecuted.
Here in Los Angeles, blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at seven times the rate whites are, according to a study by the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors legalization. Yet surveys consistently find that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young blacks.
… The third problem with our drug policy is that it creates crime and empowers gangs. “The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market,” a group of current and former police officers, judges and prosecutors wrote last month in an open letter to voters in California.
I have no illusions about drugs. One of my childhood friends in Yamhill, Ore., pretty much squandered his life by dabbling with marijuana in ninth grade and then moving on to stronger stuff. And yes, there’s some risk that legalization would make such dabbling more common. But that hasn’t been a significant problem in Portugal, which decriminalized drug use in 2001.
… One advantage of our federal system is that when we have a failed policy, we can grope for improvements by experimenting at the state level. I hope California will lead the way on Tuesday by legalizing marijuana.
Win or lose, there can be little doubt that Prop. 19 has elevated marijuana legalization to a national, and rational, discussion at the highest and most respected levels of public discourse — as these recent pro-reform editorials from heavy-hitters like The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Financial Times (just to name a few) illustrate.
For too long, proponents of the status quo — criminal prohibition — have argued that marijuana law reform should be a national issue, not a state issue. Well, if prohibitionists’ want a national debate, it’s clear that we now have one.