• by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director March 7, 2013

    Among the many hundreds of public policy concerns that Americans care and act upon, what are the top policy concerns in Congress for which citizens search?

    -Military spending?
    -Reproduction Rights?
    -National Deficit?
    -Drones Used In Domestic Law Enforcement?

    None of these supposedly political hot button topics were at the top of a newly created list by Thomas (the online interface the public has with Congressional legislation, run by the Library of Congress).

    According to the March 6 print edition of The Hill, the new marijuana legalization legislation introduced by Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) was the second most popular legislation that citizens have searched on in the previous week (second only to the white hot issue of pending gun control legislation).

    Gun, pot bills attract the most attention online
    By Bob Cusack

    It’s a Top 10 list that will never make David Letterman’s show, but it reveals that people are very interested in guns and marijuana. A relatively new feature on the Library of Congress THOMAS site is a Top 10 list of bills searched on Congress’s official website.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) measure to ban assault weapons has the top spot with Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s (D-Ore.) bill to allow states to legalize medical marijuana in second place.

    However, despite the popularity for marijuana law reform in America, will the leaders in the House allow even a subcommittee hearing on the Blumenauer bill (or the near half dozen other marijuana law reform bills—which range from legalization to banking regulation reform to decriminalization to sentencing reform to industrial hemp)?

    Aren’t elected officials supposed to listen, deliberate and respond to public advocacy—long festering public advocacy, in the case for cannabis law reform going back almost forty-five years—rather than be silent and oppositional?

    Who do they work for? Who pays their salaries? Who is ‘wise’ enough to both elect them to power and also want substantive cannabis law reforms? Why disrespect citizens’ concerns in a democracy?

    The phenomena of ‘malevolent neglect’ specific to cannabis law reform is not of course unique to the legislative branch as President Obama has laughed off basically the number one asked question at his so-called electronic town meetings from the beginning of his presidency.

    The empirical data (all measurable from public surveys to citizen vote totals to public interest with reform legislation to Internet traffic on reform vs. prohibitionist webpages) is clear and elected officials—from all political parties—are rue to ignore it: Ending cannabis prohibition is a major political concern for Americans.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director April 25, 2012

    From Politico:

    President Obama clarified his position on medical marijuana in an interview with Rolling Stone, telling publisher Jann Wenner that he can’t “nullify congressional law.”

    “What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law,” Obama said.

    “I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, ‘Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books.’ What I can say is, ‘Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.’ As a consequence, there haven’t been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes,” Obama said.

    Obama also said in a late night TV appearance Tuesday on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, that he didn’t expect Congress to change that law: “We’re not going to be legalizing weed … anytime soon.”

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director October 14, 2010

    Politico does a twofer and the New York Times remembers an academic titan who well chronicled drug use and ensuing government policies to thwart it–a largely unsuccessful endeavor.

    With unmistakable juxtaposition, Politico’s printed tabloid available in Washington, D.C. featured two informative items married together. First, a column from constitutional scholar and salon.com contributor Glenn Greenwald underscoring the political significance, public health benefits and taxpayer savings if Prop 19 is passed by California voters in a few weeks based on his recent research paper for the Cato Institute examining the benefits of Portugal decriminalizing all drugs in 2000.

    Additionally, Politico wickedly notes that 28-years-ago today President Ronald Reagan declared a ‘war on drugs’, yet these days, the current drug czar is uncomfortable employing the now broadly derided term, deeming it “counter-productive”.

    RIP David Musto, MD

    Today’s New York Times does justice in honoring the recent death of Dr. David Musto, a well respected professor at Yale Medical School, an author of many notable books and expert in the history of drug control policy.

    Before there was an Internet…from 1991 to 1993, David and I frequently corresponded about cannabis use, policy making and law enforcement via letters and faxes. His books (notably for me, The American Disease: Origins of Narcotics Control, along with other very important scholarly works researched and penned by Drs. Lester Grinspoon, Norman Zinberg, Andrew Weil and Consumer Union’s Edward Brecher; along with the writings of law professors Charles Whitebread and Richard Bonnie) quite definitely helped form my political and sociological views about cannabis.

    I note from the Times’ obituary that David passed away in China whilst visiting to deliver his academic papers to Shanghai University. I trust somewhere in what must be an immense collection of papers and correspondences will be our exchanges, and a rare conceit from David in a correspondence to me, replying to my frustration that he was not more of an advocate for reforms rather than a genuine ‘Ivy League’ academician, he noted, I recall, something like: I seem best equipped to point out the history of drug use and government’s efforts to control for such…and let the public and elected policymakers make of my work what they will…I’m not an activist or a solutions person  per se.

    As noted by NYT book reviewer James Markham correctly predicted that The American Disease would “probably become mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand how we got into this mess”.

    True then. True now. You can purchase a copy @ Amazon, or you can get the flavor of David’s writing from his 1972 essay, The History of the Marihuana Act of 1937 at druglibrary.org.