by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be
enforced." — Albert Einstein
President José Mujica has been nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
In late December, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize the production and sale of marijuana. Mujica’s supporters cite marijuana legalization as a “tool for peace and understanding,” arguably the president’s most notable accomplishment of the past year. Under the new law, which comes into effect in April, the market price for marijuana will be set at one dollar per gram, in an attempt to undercut the illegal market price of $1.40. Residents over age 18 must register in a special state database that will track their marijuana purchases, and can buy up to 40 grams a month. Foreigners are prohibited from purchasing legal marijuana.
“I’m very thankful to these people for honoring me,” Mujica said. “We are only proposing the right to try another path because the path of repression doesn’t work. We don’t know if we’ll succeed. We ask for support, scientific spirit and to understand that no addiction is a good thing. But our efforts go beyond marijuana — we’re taking aim at the drug traffic.”
The intent behind the new policy is to take away business from drug traffickers. Uruguay’s drugs chief Julio Calzada explained it best: “For 50 years, we have tried to tackle the drug problem with only one tool — penalization — and that has failed. As a result, we now have more consumers, bigger criminal organizations, money laundering, arms trafficking and collateral damage. As a control model, we’re convinced that it is more harmful than the drugs themselves.”
By passing marijuana legalization in Uruguay, Mujica has violated international treaties that prohibit the production and supply of narcotic drugs. For this, he’s come under criticism from some in the international community; UN International Narcotics Control Board chief Raymond Yans said Uruguay “knowingly decided to break the universally agreed and internationally endorsed treaty.”
Mujica was a top 10 finalist for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, but it went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons instead.
In his home state of Washington, the richest man in America voted “yes” on I-502, the 2012 referendum that legalized marijuana. Gates said he didn’t expect the law to pass, but that now “it will be interesting to see” how the program develops. “It’s an experiment, and it’s probably good to have a couple states try it out to see before you make that national policy,” he told BuzzFeed on Tuesday.
He added that traffickers “are going to make a lot less money, and some of the perverse things about the illegal drug trade will be avoided.”
While at Harvard in the early Seventies, weed was Gates’ “pharmaceutical of choice” and he would occasionally “go off to the country and spend time contemplating the universe” with his roommate Sam Znaimer.
here’s everything the president said about drug policy in yesterday’s new yorker interview
President Obama’s comments on marijuana prohibition in a new interview with The New Yorker have made waves since it was published on Sunday. In it, the president likened marijuana to cigarettes and alcohol, going a step further to admit marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol:
“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol … [Marijuana is less dangerous] in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.
This statement contradicts the federal government’s position on marijuana, which classifies weed as a Schedule I drug, the “most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence” having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” According to the federal government, marijuana is just as harmful as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy — also Schedule I drugs.
The president also discussed the unjust racial impact of our marijuana policies:
“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do. And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties … We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”
To remedy this inequality, he endorsed the pot legalization experiments in Colorado and Washington.
"It’s important for [the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington] to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
But he adds that we should be wary of slippery-slope arguments that could arise about legalizing harder drugs like meth and cocaine — which, by the way, is in Schedule II.
“Having said all that, those who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case. There is a lot of hair on that policy. And the experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge … I also think that, when it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that? If somebody says, We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?”
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Pictured: A U.S. Customs agent points his gun at a car suspected of transporting marijuana, 1969.
Bill Clinton: “I never denied that I used marijuana.”
In an interview earlier this month, former President Bill Clinton retracted his memorable “I didn’t inhale" defense from 1992.
“I never denied that I used marijuana. I told the truth, I thought it was funny,” he told Jorge Ramos at his home in Chappaqua, New York.
When asked about marijuana legalization, Clinton made it clear that he didn’t think marijuana legalization would end gang violence completely, or that cocaine should receive the same treatment as pot.
“It’s too complicated to say that if you legalize it, you wouldn’t have any of these armed gangs trying to exercise a stranglehold over whole communities and lives. Or that we could actually get away with legalizing cocaine and then the criminals would go away.”
The former president acknowledged the changing tide of drug policy and the importance of states’ rights.
“The drug issue should be decided by people in each country, based on what they think is right,” Clinton said. “We have a process in America for doing it that’s being revisited state-by-state. And Latin America is free to do the same thing….It’s obvious that attitudes are changing and opening up.”
Thanks to Fusion
That’s right. On Tuesday, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize and regulate marijuana. By mid-2014, citizens (but not tourists) will be able to buy a maximum of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) from the government each month at $1 a gram and grow up to six plants in their homes each year. Marijuana smoking clubs can grow up to 99 a year. By keeping the price fixed at a low level, the government hopes to push traffickers out of the market and reduce drug-related violence. Take that, cartels!
The weirdest part is that a majority of Uruguayans are against legalization. But public opinion seems to be coming around. According to the most recent poll conducted by Equipos Consultores, 58% of Uruguayans oppose legalization, down from 68% in June.
Though Uruguay has violated United Nations drug policies, which prohibit the production and supply of all drugs not used for medical or scientific purposes, advocates of drug policy reform welcome the government’s progressive approach to tackling the drug war. Drug policy expert Sanho Tree put it best: “For the first time, a country has said we’ll take the profits out of the drug trade and give criminals no reason to traffic the stuff—it’s a counterintuitive solution to the problem.”
2014 Is Looking Like a Good Year for Marijuana Law Reform
Cannabis advocates view 2014 as an important year. Colorado and Washington’s adult-use laws, which were voted on last year, take effect January 1, and it’s the first year that those states can generate tax revenue from the legalized drug. Research by the ArcView Group, an advisory firm that connects cannabis-industry entrepreneurs, found that legalized marijuana is one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S., with profits expected to soar by 64 percent to $2.34 billion next year. Legalization supporters hope that once states and legislatures see how much state income is to be had, more lawmakers will be swayed to follow suit. And with 2014 bringing midterm elections, marijuana lobbyists are hoping that more state ballot initiatives for legalization—like the one poised for Alaska—will pass.
Currently campaigners are pushing bills to legalize in state legislatures in Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. In Oregon, there is both a legislative push and an attempt to put legalization on the ballot—despite a similar bill failing by nearly 7 points in 2012.
Meanwhile, there’s been a pronounced push just this year to introduce reforms on Capitol Hill that would change the way the national government regulates businesses that deal with marijuana and states where use is legal.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle introduced three major pieces of legislation in 2013, aiming to eliminate legal roadblocks for marijuana. The Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act fights a current federal-banking regulation that makes it illegal for banks to give out loans or open up credit-card accounts for marijuana-affiliated businesses. As a result, all cannabis retailers, including medical dispensaries, have to operate on a purely cash basis. The bill currently has 24 cosponsors including Republican Representatives Mike Coffman of Colorado and Dana Rohrabacher of California.
Another bill, with 12 cosponsors, fights an Internal Revenue Service code that limits marijuana businesses from deducting work expenses, including rent and supplies, from their tax returns. The language was included in the code following a case in the 1980s where a drug dealer attempted to write off a yacht as a business expense. The new bill aims to level the playing field for companies who deal with marijuana, since studies show that the IRS code gives marijuana-based businesses an 87.5 percent tax rate while others businesses function at 35 percent.
A third bill takes the role of a state marijuana rights catch-all. The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act aims to codify the recent DOJ announcement that the federal government will not interfere at this time with states that have legalized marijuana. The legislation would bar the federal government from prosecuting people who use and purchase marijuana in legalized states. It now has 20 cosponsors, including four Republicans.
“The goal is simple. It’s really to alleviate the voices of cannabis business-people and then push federal laws so these businesses are treated just like any other businesses in the country,” says Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “They pay taxes, they have insurance and a payroll. These aren’t drug dealers. They are business people and ought to be treated so under federal law.”
Thanks to The Atlantic
Meet the Faces Behind the Drug Policy Reform Movement
The 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference featured an interactive photography project that encouraged attendees to create powerful statements and use social media to challenge the war on drugs. The #NoMoreDrugWar photo booth attracted the young reformer and seasoned activist alike. Attendees shared their commitment to drug policy reform by customizing messages that focused on three themes: criminal justice, marijuana legalization, and health & harm reduction.
Uruguay Is Likely to Legalize Cannabis and Set the Tone for Latin American Drug Policy
This week, Uruguay’s senate is expected to pass the world’s most far-reaching drug legalization. The marijuana regulation bill, which has been passed by the lower house of the Uruguayan parliament, will allow registered users to buy up to 40 grams a month from a chemist, registered growers to keep up to six plants, and cannabis clubs to have up to 45 members and cultivate as many as 99 plants.
The government is designing a new set of legal, commercial, and bureaucratic tools to supplant a violent illegal market in narcotics, improve public health, protect individual rights, raise tax revenues, and research the medical potential of the world’s most widely used contraband drug.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that there are 162 million cannabis users — 4% of the world’s adult population. An estimated 10% of adult Uruguayans — 115,000 people — smoke cannabis. Existing law permits consumption of “reasonable” amounts of marijuana, but forbids sales.
Uruguay is trying to bring the cannabis market under state control by undercutting and outlawing traffickers. If the bill is passed, the government will arrange for a high-quality, legal product to be sold in a safe environment at competitive prices. “If one gram costs $1 in the black market, then we’ll sell the legal product for $1. If they drop the price to 75 cents, then we’ll put it at that level,” says Julio Calzada, a presidential adviser and the head of the National Committee on Drugs.
The market in Uruguay is estimated to be worth $30 million a year, according to Martin Fernández, a lawyer with the Association of Cannabis Studies. The pharmaceutical industry will have more freedom to develop and test marijuana painkillers and other treatments than any other country. The hemp, biotech, and marijuana farming industries are other examples of marijuana-related business opportunities that Uruguay can anticipate to yield big money if marijuana is legalized, as is expected.
President José Mujica, a reluctant advocate of marijuana regulation, says that legalization in Uruguay is “not about being free and open,” but is rather “a logical step” in taking users away from the black market. “We don’t defend marijuana or any other addiction. But worse than any drug is trafficking.”
Thanks to The Guardian
August 30, 2013—Despite 75 years of federal marijuana prohibition, the Justice Department said Thursday that states can let people use the drug, license people to grow it and even allow adults to stroll into stores and buy it — as long as the weed is kept away from kids, the black market and federal property.
In a sweeping new policy statement prompted by pot legalization votes in Washington and Colorado last fall, the department gave the green light to states to adopt tight regulatory schemes to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana industries burgeoning across the country.
The action, welcomed by supporters of legalization, could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska could vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.
[…] “If state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust … the federal government may seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself,” the memo stated. States must ensure “that they do not undermine federal enforcement priorities,” it added.
November 5, 2013—Portland, Maine, voters on Tuesday approved legalizing recreational marijuana for residents 21 and older. The measure, Question 1, passed with about 70 percent of the vote, making Portland the first East Coast city to legalize recreational pot.
Adult residents of Portland — Maine’s largest city — may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana under the referendum. The new measure does not permit the recreational purchase or sale of marijuana, nor does it permit its use in public spaces like parks.
[…] Medical marijuana is already legal in Maine, and the Portland referendum is seen as largely symbolic, as it does not override state or federal laws.
with marijuana now legal in washington and colorado, will the federal government respect the voters’ decision to live with legal weed? this issue will be addressed in a senate hearing next month.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next month to examine clashing state and federal marijuana laws, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced yesterday.
"It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal." Leahy wrote in a press release.
The Vermont Democrat, who has been seeking clarification on this issue since December, supports the states’ right to proceed with their new policies. "I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government,” he continued in his statement.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana last November.
These state marijuana laws conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act, which places marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance—in the same category as heroin and LSD—defined as having no medical use and high potential for abuse. Federal authorities have continued to raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal, but have remained silent on Washington and Colorado.
"There is such a gray area in the law," NORML director Allen St. Pierre told U.S. News. “It’s time somebody had a hearing. The Obama Administration has failed to address this issue at all.”
Leahy called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to testify at the hearing.
Last December, Leahy wrote to the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, asking how the administration would proceed in light of differences between federal and state laws. “Legislative options exist to resolve the differences between federal and state law in this area and end the uncertainty that residents of Colorado and Washington now face,” he wrote. “In order to give these options full consideration, the committee needs to understand how the administration intends to respond to the decision of the voters in Colorado and Washington.”
The hearing is scheduled for September 10.
At Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill on Pacific Avenue, firing up a “fatty” is not just condoned — it’s welcomed. Last fall, Washington state legalized recreational marijuana use, allowing people to smoke the drug in private, but not in public places such as bars. [Frankie] Schnarr, 63, has found a way around that: He’s using a space in his pub he says is private.
The second floor of his sports bar — a mammoth room with TVs, card tables, 10 pool tables, four shuffleboard tables and rows of booths — is the only pub in the state to allow the practice. It’s a rarefied realm where patrons burn joints and bowls of weed in a free-for-all fashion that’s still unknown in most of law-abiding America.
[After reading the new law and spotting a loophole, Schnarr] created what he called a private room on his bar’s second floor, with enhanced ventilation, and invited members (for a $10 annual fee) to puff away to their lungs’ content.
They quickly became known as “Friends of Frankie.” Because they were partaking in a private room, there was no conflict with public anti-smoking laws, Schnarr insisted. More than 10,000 people signed up and received membership cards.
[…] “These stoners are polite people,” [Schnarr] said. “I haven’t heard as much ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No, sir’ in my 25 years in the bar business. And they spend money. After they start smoking, they may not drink as much. But they sure do eat.”