Thursday, November 28, 2013
Folks eager for reform of modern marijuana prohibition have a whole lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and Moms for Marijuana has posted the image reprinted here which has me wondering how many persons now use medical marijuana in order to feel better and have a serious appetite in order to be able to enjoy a traditional holiday meal with family and friends.
As the title of this post hints, I was thinking about my all-time-favorite Thanksgiving leftover meal earlier today when a (lame?) holiday joke came to me. Though turkey pot pie now is the name for a terrific dish to dresss up what is left of the holiday bird, the meaning could become a lot different with a few commas. Specifically, with marijuana reform and legalization efforts continuing to gain momentum, I wonder if in the near future we will hear the term turkey, pot, pie and think this describes the consumption agenda for many Thanksgiving celebrants.
Of course, for those already eager to have Thanksgiving traditions include marijuana, this post at the Weed Blog should satisfy all your holiday needs. The post is headlined "Thanksgiving Marijuana Recipes," and it has a long list of instructions for those interested in "going big and doing a huge feast, with everything containing cannabis."
Sunday, November 17, 2013
With each weekend bringing many marijuana stories that seem worthy of attention, I am going to once again set forth headlines and links those pieces that struck me as especially noteworthy:
From The Daily Beast here, "Pot’s Black Market Backlash: How prohibitionists and nanny staters are trying to keep marijuana illegal — or at least inconvenient"
From the Kansas City Star here, "Dwayne Bowe's arrest fires up debate over marijuana in the NFL"
From The Oregonian here, "Medical marijuana in Oregon: Committee meets Monday to review draft dispensary rules"
From the Provo Daily Herald here, "Utah doctors endorse push for medical marijuana"
From Salon here, "An MBA for stoners: Get ready for the next growth industry"
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Though it would be unwise jump to too many conclusions based on off-year election results, these headlines reporting on results concerning various marijuana initiative in various jurisdictions suggest a continuing affinity for responsible reform and sensible regulation of maijuana laws, policies and practices:
From Colorado here, "Colorado voters approve new taxes on recreational marijuana"
From Maine here, "Portland voters legalize marijuana; The ‘Yes’ vote wins in a landslide, claiming 67 percent of the tally with many of the precincts reporting"
From Michigan here, "Voters in three more Michigan cities pass marijuana decriminalization proposals"
Practically speaking, the Colorado vote is probably the most important and consequential, as it ensures a significant tax revenue stream now flowing from marijuana legalization in the Mile High state. But politically speaking, the voting outcomes in Maine and Michigan, though most symbolic, could still prove important if (and when?) more politicians on both side of the aisle in the northeast and upper midwest see that there could be political upsides in 2014 and beyond from supporting responsible reform and sensible regulation of maijuana laws, policies and practices.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
At a recent speech in Denver, Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann declared that we've hit "the tipping point" on marijuana policy.
With Colorado and Washington getting ready for the first ever legal, regulated, recreational marijuana retail market for adults in the U.S.; with a majority of Americans recently saying for the first time in U.S. history that marijuana usage should be made legal; with a coalition of conservative Mormon mothers fighting for safe access to medicinal cannabis for their children -- it's hard to to disagree with him.
Although much of this is recent history, it has been a long road to what very well may be the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in America. Here's a look back at the major milestones that helped bring the United States to its "tipping point."
1. A long, long time ago, a plant grew on planet Earth....
2. America's founding fathers were quick to celebrate its benefits...
Monday, October 28, 2013
I receive a lot (read: too much) e-mail that promotes infographics on some hot topic in an effort, it would seem, to drive my blog readers to some legal source or website or marketplace. I tend not to be inclined to post these infographics, but one just sent to me dealing with marijuana law, policy and reform today fed my addition for some new visual content. Ergo, thanks to the folks promoting "this new infographic giving a timeline of marijuana usage in the U.S." and related information, here is a visual presentation of (not-quite) all you need to know about the state of marijuana law, policy and reform:
Source: Up in Smoke: A Timeline of Marijuana Use in the U.S.
From ABC News here, "Dot-Bong Era's First Marijuana Brand Debuts"
From the Chicago Tribune here, "Illinois pot law presents hazy legal situation for employers"
From the Denver Post here, "Colorado's new pot laws draw marijuana refugees"
From Salon here, "Science for stoners: What is marijuana 'abuse?'"
From Time here, Study: Marijuana Compounds Can Kill Some Cancer Cells"
From USA Today here, "Marijuana debate catches fire among college students"
From the Washington Post here, "Marijuana likely to be decriminalized in DC"
Saturday, October 26, 2013
We’ve reached the point where there should be no surprise if a major national politician embraces marijuana legalization. Without any large-scale campaign on its behalf, surveys show that approximately half of Americans now support marijuana legalization, including 58 percent in a recent, but potentially outlying, Gallup poll. Regardless of the exact support today, marijuana is all but assured to emerge as an issue in national elections — it's only a question of how and when.
So far, neither party wants to touch the issue. The Democratic governors of Washington and Colorado didn’t even support initiatives to legalize the possession, distribution, and consumption of marijuana, even though the initiatives ultimately prevailed by clear margins. It took the administration ten months to announce — in the middle of the Syria debate — that the Department of Justice wouldn’t pursue legal action against Washington and Colorado. And on the other hand, Republicans weren't exactly screaming about hippies and gateway drugs, either.
Despite their apparent reservation to engage the issue, it’s hard to imagine Democrats staying on the sidelines for too many more election cycles. The party’s base is already on board, with polls showing a clear majority of self-described Democrats in support....
To date, Democrats haven’t had many incentives to take a risk on the issue. Democrats are already winning the winnable culture war skirmishes, at least from a national electoral perspective, and they have a winning demographic hand. And let’s get perspective: Marijuana legalization may be increasingly popular, but it’s not clearly an electoral bonanza. Support for legalization isn’t very far above 50 percent, if it is in fact, and there are potential downsides. National surveys show that a third of Democrats still oppose marijuana legalization. Seniors, who turnout in high numbers in off year elections, are also opposed. Altogether, it’s very conceivable that there are more votes to be lost than won by supporting marijuana. After all, marijuana legalization underperformed President Obama in Washington State.
Even so, Democratic voters will eventually prevail over cautious politicians, most likely through the primary process. Any liberal rival to Hillary Clinton in 2016 will have every incentive to support marijuana legalization. Whether Clinton will follow suit is harder to say, given that frontrunners (and Clintons) are generally pretty cautious. It’s probably more likely that Clinton would endorse steps toward liberalization, like weaker criminal penalties and support for the legalization experiments in Washington and Colorado.
Republicans, meanwhile, are less likely to support legalization or liberalization. To be sure, some Republicans will. They can take a states’ rights position and the party has a growing libertarian bent, perhaps best exemplified by Rand Paul’s willingness to support more liberal marijuana laws. Republicans also have electoral incentives to lead on issues where they can earn a few votes among millennials, who pose a serious threat to the continued viability of the national Republican coalition. If the Republicans can't adjust their existing positions to compensate for demographic and generational change, which (for now) it appears they cannot, then perhaps taking a stance on a new issue, like marijuana, is the best they can do.
Of course, the problem is that a majority of Republicans are opposed to legalization. Two thirds of Republicans voted against legalization in Colorado and Washington, where one might expect Republicans be somewhat more amenable than the nation as a whole. It probably doesn’t help that marijuana is closely aligned with the liberal counterculture. It's also possible that many pro-legalization conservatives don't identify as Republicans at all, but instead might be independents....
With Republicans likely to remain opposed, marijuana could emerge as a big cultural issue in the 2016 election. In particular, Clinton would be well-positioned to deploy the issue. Her strength among older voters and women mitigates the risk that she would lose very much support, while legalization could help Clinton with the young, independent, and male voters who could clinch her primary or general election victory.
But realistically, Clinton or another Democrat won't campaign on marijuana legalization. For one, it’s most likely that the Democratic nominee will support incremental measures....
It’s easier to imagine marijuana playing a role in the 2016 primaries. Many candidates will have incentives to use the issue, whether it’s a cultural conservative using marijuana to hurt Rand Paul among evangelicals in Iowa, or a liberal trying to stoke a progressive revolt against Clinton’s candidacy. And once one party begins to debate the issue, the other will almost certainly be confronted by the same question. Marijuana won’t be decisive in a primary, but 2016’s primary battles will shape the two party’s initial positions on the issue.
Yet marijuana’s big moment will probably come later, perhaps in 2024. Legalization might eventually be popular enough for Democrats to use the issue in general elections, first at the state level and then nationally. As with gay marriage, the GOP’s obvious but difficult solution is to take their own creed on states’ rights seriously, and devolve the issue — and the politics — to the states. Compared to gay marriage, which strikes at the heart of the evangelical wing of the party, it should be easier for the Republicans to make an adjustment on marijuana. But if they cannot, the GOP will again find itself on the losing side of the culture wars.
I see lots and lots of merit to this analysis, and I find especially intriguing the cogent observation that a older female politician like Hillary Clinton might be especially well positioned to experiences far more political benefits than costs from pro-marijuana reform positions. (Indeed, I have been thinking for some time that the marijuana reform movement needs a prominent female (and motherly) face and voice comparable to Pauline Sabin, the first woman to sit on the Republican National Committee, who was a vocal advocate from repealing alcohol prohibition 80 years ago.)
But I think this commentary may be missing one key reality that I am certain will impact dramatically the politics of pot over the next few cycles: the reality and perceptions of what ends up happening, good or bad, in Colorado and Washington as recreational pot goes mainstream in these two distinct states. If legalization is seen as a huge success inside and outside these states over the next 12 months, especially in swing-state Colorado, we should expect marijuana reform supporters to see positive political possibilities as early as 2014. But if things go poorly in these states, the reform politics necessarily will take on a much different character.
Labaoratories of democracy, here we come: buckle up local, state and national politicians, we are likely in for a bumpy and unpredictable politicial ride.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
The special interest marijuana lobby -- who, like the tobacco industry, intend to make millions off of marijuana products by advertising and promoting their substance of choice -- can't stop talking about a recent Gallup poll finding that 58 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization. Media outlets are already calling "game over" on the debate, expressing that, like gay marriage, marijuana is an issue whose time has come.
Not so fast. Though marijuana lobbyists, like other special interest groups, are masters at manipulating and overplaying findings favorable to their crusade -- and ignoring findings that are unfavorable (like the link between marijuana and IQ loss or mental illness), the rest of us should see through the smoke and mirrors. There are at least three major problems with using Gallup as a reliable marker for marijuana attitudes in the U.S....
Earlier this year, former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy and I founded Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), along with a slew of public health researchers and physicians -- from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society of Addiction Medicine, and other prominent medical organizations -- to raise awareness about what the likely real result of legalization will be: this century's version of Big Tobacco. That's because millionaire ex-Microsoft executives are already launching, in their words, the "Starbucks of Marijuana." And multimillion-dollar private holding groups continue to raise money from investors eager to cash in on the "green rush."
People's image of marijuana legalization, however, is not consistent with this new corporate reality. Folks are still stuck in the 1970s -- they think of peace loving, drum playing, harmless pot smokers who just want to light up without the hassle of the law. And thanks to a marijuana industry casting doubt on any shred of scientific evidence (indeed mounds of it) that puts the drug in a bad light, confusion persists.
Hippies, step aside please. Marijuana's Marlboro Man is about to take the stage.
Recent related post:
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Uruguay's drug tsar says the country plans to sell legal marijuana for $1 a gram to combat drug-trafficking, according to a local newspaper.
The plan to create a government-run legal marijuana industry has passed the lower house of Congress, and Uruguay's president, José Mujica, expects to push it through the Senate soon as part of his effort to explore alternatives in the war on drugs....Marijuana sales should start in the second half of 2014 at a price of about $1 a gram, drug chief Julio Calzada told Uruguay's El País, on Sunday – an eighth or less of what it costs at legal medical dispensaries in some US states. Calzada said one gram would be enough "for one marijuana cigarette or two or three slimmer cigarettes".
He said the idea was not to make money but to fight petty crime and wrench the market away from illegal dealers. "The illegal market is very risky and of poor quality," he said. The state was going to offer "a safe place to buy a quality product and on top of that, it's going to sell it at the same price".... Sales would be restricted to locals, who would be able to buy up to 40g a month.
Smoking pot has long been legal in Uruguay, but growing, carrying, buying or selling it has been punishable by prison terms. About 120,000 Uruguayans consume marijuana at least once a year, according to the National Drug Council. Of these, 75,000 smoke it every week and 20,000 every day.
In the US, the states of Washington and Colorado have legalised marijuana and adopted rules governing its sale. Unlike Uruguay, they will tax marijuana, seeing it as a revenue source, when it goes on legal sale next year. In Washington, the state marijuana consultant has projected legal pot might cost $13-$17 a gram. Marijuana in the medical dispensaries typically ranges from $8-$14 a gram in Washington depending on quality.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
From the AP in Chicago here, "Medical marijuana could bring new jobs, attitudes to Illinois
From the Denver Post here, "Denver floats new rules that could make even the odor of pot a crime"
From the Las Vegas Sun here, "Big money clamoring for a piece of Nevada’s medical marijuana pie"
From the Los Angeles Times here, "LA city attorney moves to shut down illegal marijuana dispensaries"
From the Maine Sunday Telegram here, "High hopes for legalizing marijuana in Maine"
From Medical News Today here, "Chemicals in marijuana 'protect nervous system' against MS"
From Michigan's WNLS here, "Oral Arguments Heard In Medical Marijuana Case"
Thursday, October 3, 2013
As burning topics go, marijuana's not up there with the government shutdown. Still, it's more likely than ever before to be a topic in the midterm election, after activists in Alaska, Arizona, California and Oregon — states with medical marijuana laws already in place — announced their plans for similar ballot initiatives in 2014 to allow recreational use of the drug.
Voters in Colorado and Washington state decriminalized recreational use in 2012. And the number of states that allow medical use of cannabis is now up to 20. Although federal law prohibits the sale and possession of marijuana, the Obama administration said it will not challenge state laws regulating the drug, which has opened the floodgates for those urging its decriminalization — even though it's still classified as a Schedule I substance, defined as having a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
In preparation for potential initiatives and pro-marijuana congressional candidates, some organizations are gearing up for the election already, led by the Marijuana Policy Project.
The group — which aims to increase public and congressional support for marijuana policy reform — has been politically active for more than a decade. In the first half of this year, MPP's PAC raised almost $41,000 and spent $20,000, according to Center for Responsive Politics data. At this rate, the PAC is on track — in an off-year — to surpass its 2012 numbers, when it raised about $78,000 and spent almost $52,000.
Campaign contributions from MPP in the last cycle came to about $31,000, with 79 percent of it going to candidates — almost exclusively Democrats. Freshman Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) led the way, receiving $5,000, according to OpenSecrets.org.
MPP spokesman Mason Tvert estimated the PAC will spend about $100,000 by the end of the 2014 election cycle — a number comparable to its 2008 election cycle total when it spent about $118,000, the most since the PAC's existence. "It's also worth noting that our strategy has shifted over the years," Tvert said, "from supporting the few members of Congress who support marijuana policy reform, to focusing on the ever-increasing number of supportive congressional challengers."
But campaign finance isn’t the only arena in which MPP is active; it is also the top organization lobbying on the issue, with more than 72 “marijuana” mentions in filings since 2006.
The group's federal lobbying expenditures peaked in 2007 at $200,000, but has declined over the years. In the first half of 2013, it spent just $10,000, but that doesn't mean its lobbying efforts have decreased. Instead, they have been refocused toward reform at the state legislative level, hoping to move from the ground up. "(This is) an effective way to help create change at the federal level by making marijuana policy relevant to members of congress back home in the district," said Dan Riffle, MPP's director of federal policies.
Federally, MPP's efforts are focused on policy reform and sponsorship of both medical and non-medical marijuana bills that would make federal statutes more compatible with states’ legalization laws.... MPP supports the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act (H.R. 689), which was introduced in the House earlier this year and would push marijuana under a listing other than Schedule I or Schedule II. It also would amend the Controlled Substances Act and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to no longer prohibit the possession, production or distribution of marijuana in states where the medical use of cannabis is legal under state law.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
The fear of sanction or desire for rewards is the most straightforward way that law influences behavior, but it might not always be the most effective. More indirectly, law can change moral attitudes underlying behaviors, and this mechanism is potentially extremely efficient by being self-enforcing. Law can influence moral attitudes by recharacterizing behavior previously thought of as harmless, by signaling moral approval for behaviors previously thought of as outside the domain of morality, or by developing a general reputation for doing what justice requires and by providing high quality treatment to citizens. Laws sometimes affect moral attitudes in the intended ways, but sometimes they do not.
We argue that the success of legal regulation in changing moral attitudes will depend on a number of variables. We focus specifically on: 1) whether the regulation aims to change attitudes which are important to individuals’ cultural identities; 2) whether there is underlying dissensus about the behavior or attitude; 3) whether the law is attempting to change the underlying meaning of behaviors, rather than trying to change the behaviors itself. We examine the influence of law through various mechanisms, including physical architecture, social meaning, attitude change, and consensus. Throughout the discussion of these mechanisms, we focus on factors that lead to success, failure, or even perverse effects.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
From ABC News here, "Feds in Talks With Banks Over Dealing With Marijuana Business"
From AFP here, "US will continue to jail pot dealers 'in all states'"
From the Detroit Free Press here, "U.S. needs smarter approach to marijuana policy, Sen. Patrick Leahy says"
From the Kansas City Star here, "Congress asked to provide fix for cash-only pot stores"
From the Los Angeles Times here, "Senators examine federal marijuana laws as states' rules evolve"
From the New York Times here, Answers Sought for When Marijuana Laws Collide"
From the Seattle Times here, " King County sheriff promises crackdown on public, underage pot smoking"
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Former President Vicente Fox grew up on a farm here in rural Guanajuato, one of Mexico's most conservative states. He is the kind of guy who wears big belt buckles, collects hand-tooled saddles and worships the free market. Ask him about his experience with the drug culture and the big man with the cowboy-movie mustache exhibits a kind of straight-laced pique: Never smoked pot, he says. Hardly knew anyone who did.
But Fox has always fancied himself a policy maverick. And these days, the former standard-bearer of Mexico's conservative National Action Party, or PAN, has emerged as one of Latin America's most outspoken advocates of marijuana legalization.
Fox, 71, came out for legalization a few years ago. But this summer he has significantly ramped up his efforts. In June, he declared that he would grow the plant if it were legalized — "I'm a farmer," he said — and added that he'd like to see marijuana sold in Mexican convenience stores.
Some see him as a visionary, others as a cynical promoter milking the issue for attention (and, perhaps, lucrative speaking fees). Many think he's simply nuts. In a poll published in the liberal Mexico City newspaper La Jornada, 43% of respondents agreed that the former president "had finally gone crazy," while 32% said he should be investigated for promoting criminality. Only 11% said he had the right idea.
It was an unsurprising response from the Mexican left, who have long considered Fox to be a rash bumpkin with an embarrassing history of speaking before thinking. But these days, it is arguably the right-wing Fox who has done the most to promote this pet cause of the left and finally force a serious debate in the Mexican mainstream.
Fox speaks like a true believer about legalization's potential to save his troubled country, at times lapsing into the giddy visionary jargon of online TED talks: It would be a "game-changer," he says, "a change of paradigm." A month after his pot-growing comments made international headlines, Fox built momentum for the cause with an attention-grabbing legalization symposium at his presidential library, the Centro Fox, here in the farming town where he grew up.
Since then, the national discussion has grown considerably. Mexican TV and newspapers are suddenly rife with articles debating the pros and cons. The mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Angel Mancera, has reiterated his promise to debate legalization in the left-leaning capital. More recently, the liberal governor of Morelos state, Graco Ramirez, said he would push to ease marijuana restrictions in his state.
Though Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto opposes the idea, it now seems possible that the nation might follow the pattern of the United States, where residents of Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational marijuana use, despite the continuing opposition of the federal government. The Mexican Congress decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2009.
Fox favors the eventual legalization and regulation of all drugs in Mexico. The idea is to rob the bloodthirsty drug cartels of their profits and power. Legal pot, he says, would be the first step. "This prohibition is the last frontier of prohibitions," Fox told The Times during a break in his July symposium. Revealing a marked libertarian streak, he argued that government efforts to regulate other personal behaviors had been found wanting: "The issue of abortion. The issue of same-sex marriage. The issue of gays. The issue of alcohol," he said. "These arbitrarily imposed prohibitions have ended. And they have ended because they don't work."
Thursday, August 29, 2013
In a memo sent Thursday to U.S. attorneys in all 50 states [and available at this link], Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole detailed the administration’s new stance, even as he reiterated that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
The memo directs federal prosecutors to focus their resources on eight specific areas of enforcement, rather than targeting individual marijuana users, which even President Obama has acknowledged is not the best use of federal manpower. Those areas include preventing distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing the sale of pot to cartels and gangs, preventing sales to other states where the drug remains illegal under state law, and stopping the growing of marijuana on public lands.
A Justice Department official said that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. had called the governors of Colorado and Washington around noon Thursday to inform them of the administration’s stance.
The official said Holder also told them that federal prosecutors would be watching closely as the two states put in place a regulatory framework for marijuana in their states, and that prosecutors would be taking a “trust but verify” approach. The official said the Justice Department reserves the right to revisit the issue....
Until Thursday, the Justice Department and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy had remained silent about those initiatives, despite repeated requests for guidance from state officials....
The issue has been percolating since Obama took office, and he has repeatedly faced questions about the tension between differing federal and state laws.
This (relatively short) official DOJ Press Release provides this account of the decision:
Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to its federal marijuana enforcement policy in light of recent state ballot initiatives that legalize, under state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale.
In a new memorandum outlining the policy, the Department makes clear that marijuana remains an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act and that federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce this statute. To this end, the Department identifies eight (8) enforcement areas that federal prosecutors should prioritize. These are the same enforcement priorities that have traditionally driven the Department’s efforts in this area.
Outside of these enforcement priorities, however, the federal government has traditionally relied on state and local authorizes to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. This guidance continues that policy.
For states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana, the Department expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes that protect the eight federal interests identified in the Department’s guidance. These schemes must be tough in practice, not just on paper, and include strong, state-based enforcement efforts, backed by adequate funding. Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time. But if any of the stated harms do materialize — either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one — federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states.
Cross-posted at Sentencing Law and Policy
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Perhaps like many others today, I have been thinking about (as well as listening again to) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famed "I Have A Dream" speech from the famous March on Washington five centuries ago. In so doing, I noticed this posting from The Crime Report, which is headlined "50th Anniversary March on Washington Will Emphasize Criminal Justice Issues" (and has links to the full speeches of August 1963 speeches of both MLK and John Lewis). Here is an excerpt from the post:
Half a century after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famed "I Have A Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the often-parallel topics of racism and criminal justice have been thrust into the spotlight.
[Today] and on August 28 civil rights leaders will demand reforms to such racially-tinged criminal justice issues as police “Stop-and-Frisk” tactics, “Stand Your Ground” laws and mass incarceration at the Lincoln Memorial where King made his impassioned plea so many years before.
These policies, among others, have added to the increasingly heavy cost of incarceration of African-Americans effectively decimating the fabric of many communities. The numbers are startling: one in three black men can expect to be in jail during their lifetime. African-Americans are arrested at nearly six times more than whites and almost one million of the United States 2.3 million prison population are black.
But in the last month some strides have been giving leaders attending the march more urgency.
Perhaps at no time since King’s famed speech have the often-parallel topics of racism and criminal justice been so intertwined and in the spotlight. On August 12, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the "Smart on Crime" program, a sweeping initiative by the Justice Department that pivots away from decades of tough-on-crime anti-drug legislation. That same day, Judge Shira Scheindlin of U.S. Southern District Court in Manhattan, declared the New York Police Department’s use of “Stop-and-Frisk” unconstitutional. The tactic is used to search individuals — predominantly minorities — for drug paraphernalia and guns....
Among those speaking will be Congressman John Lewis, whose speech at the original March on Washington cited “the constant fear of a police state.”
"We are tired of being beat by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again,” Lewis said at the time. ...
The week of events will culminate on August 28, when President Barack Obama will give a speech in which he is expected to emphasize the “dreams” of King that remain unfulfilled.
I have long believed and long contended that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were he still alive today, would be a vocal proponent of criminal justice reform and that he would consider such advocacy a continuation of his civil rights work. But, as the question in the title of this post suggests, I wonder if some folks (especially those working toward ending marijuana prohibition) think that MLK would be a vocal advocate for marijauana legalization were he alive today. In other words, do folks think it is proper or at least plausible for advocates of marijuana reform to be considered civil rights activists?
Obviously, to the extent MLK stressed the theme of freedom in his famous Dream speech, it is relatively easy for marijuana reform advocates to contend they are working in the MLK tradition when advocating for all people to be able to freely and legally use marijuana. But, as the graphic above notes, the March on Washington 50 years ago was for jobs and freedom. When I think of my own criminal justice reform advocacy, it has a lot to do with freedom but very little to do with jobs. Marijuana reform advocates, however, often can and sometimes do speak of the job-creation possibilities of a fully legalized and regulated marijuana industry. In this way, I do think marijuana reform advocates can arguably claim to be even more in harmony with the DC marchers 50 years ago than even today's criminal justice reform advocates.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
What are the best statistics and strongest research/arguments to support marijuana prohibition and strict criminal enforcement? (Now updated with some...)
I posed the question in the title of this post toward the end of my first class session of the exciting new seminar I am teaching this Fall 2013 semester at OSU's Moritz College of Law. Indeed, I challenged the terrific (and seemingly very insightful and knowledgeable) students taking the seminar to spend the next week looking for (and sending to me for posting here) the very best statistics and the strongest research and arguments they could find to support marijuana prohibition.
Helpfully, and to provide a running start on a question that I hope will generate some dialogue in the comments, there are more than a few anti-drug advocacy groups which have already marshalled materials in support of prohibition. A research assistant helped me assemble links to these notable advocacy groups:
I am hoping that seminar students and other readers might help me cull through the materials on these sites and elsewhere to help provide a sophisticated and detailed answer to the question in the title of this post.
UPDATE: So far, three students from my seminar have sent me a bunch of materials and links concerning what they perceive to be the "best" ideas and arguments to support marijuana prohibition. Here are a few highlights from these efforts:
The DEA in 2010 produced this impressive 81-page booket, titled Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization, which says it is "designed to cut through the current fog of misinformation with hard facts [by] present[ing] an accurate picture of America’s experience with drug use, the nature of the drug problem, and the potential for damage if the United States adopts a more permissive policy on drug abuse." Here are a few (of dozens) of the bullet points from this document discussing the health risks posed by marijuana:
- Harvard University researchers report that the risk of heart attack is five times higher than usual in the hour after smoking marijuana.
- The National Institute of Health found that a person who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as much tar and cancer-causing chemicals into their lungs as someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes every day.
- Smoking marijuana weakens the immune system, and raises the risk of lung infections. Other studies indicate that smoked marijuana causes cancer, respiratory problems, increased heart rate, loss of motor skills, and damage to the immune system.
- According to several recent studies, marijuana use has been linked with depression and suicidal thoughts, in addition to schizophrenia. These studies report that weekly marijuana use among teens doubles the risk of developing depression and triples the incidence of suicidal thoughts.
I have not sought to check or question the references cited for these statements, but I am inclined to take the claims at face value. In addition, building largely on these sorts of medical claims while making a few other arguments, here are links to a couple notable and prominent commentaries making the case in favor of marijuana prohibition:
- Bob Enyart, "Why Marijuana Should be Illegal" appearing in the Huffington Post (dated 3/19/2012)
- Kevin A. Sabet, "The Price of Legalizing Pot is Too High" appearing in the Los Angeles Times (dated 6/7/2009)
Last but certainly not least, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, R. Gil Kerlikowske, gave this notable public statement to California Police Chiefs Association Conference in March 2010 titled "Why Marijuana Legalization Would Compromise Public Health and Public Safety." Here is how he summed up his main arguments against marijuana legalization at the start and tail end of this speech:
The concern with marijuana is not born out of any culture-war mentality, but out of what the science tells us about the drug’s effects. And the science, though still evolving, is clear: marijuana use is harmful. It is associated with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects....
Legalizing marijuana would also saddle government with the dual burden of regulating a new legal market while continuing to pay for the negative side effects associated with an underground market whose providers have little economic incentive to disappear....
Legalization means the price comes down, the number of users goes up, the underground market adapts, and the revenue gained through a regulated market will never keep pace with the financial and social cost of making this drug more accessible.