Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

With GOP debate in California and CNN seeking a real debate, should we expect a question on marijuana reform?

The question in the title of this post is prompted in part by this notable new Washington Post piece, headlined "As California considers looser marijuana laws, Paul calls out Christie." Here are excerpts:

The 15 leading Republican candidates for president have arrived in California just as the state closes in on a fully legal regime for medical marijuana.

Californians have been buying marijuana with medical exception cards since it was legalized by a 1996 ballot measure, but only this month has the state's Democratic legislature passed comprehensive bills to regulate the industry. The state's Department of Food and Agriculture would oversee cultivation; the Department of Public Health would monitor quality. Come Election Day 2016, it's highly likely that Californians will vote on whether to legalize the drug, full stop.

The survival of that experiment could depend on who gets elected president that day. Earlier this month, in New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) told an audience that current experiments with legal marijuana were encouraging "lawlessness," and needed to end. "Marijuana’s illegal in the United States, yet the president allows Colorado and Washington state: Hey, get high! It’s okay! I’ll look the other way!" said Christie. "I won’t change the law, but I’ll look the other way."

A Christie administration would sprint in the other direction. As he described a friend's descent into opiate addiction -- a story he often tells to talk about New Jersey's treatment programs -- Christie said that his DEA would raid the legal pot industry in the West. "Seize their money," he said. "Seize their product. Close their stores."

In an interview here, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) -- Christie's most ready critic in the GOP field -- said that Christie's idea of raiding currently legal businesses puts him "on the wrong side of history," and wasn't even workable. "If he wants to put the parents of a kid who had 500 seizures a day away before he started moderating that with cannabinoid oil, he can say so," said Paul. "He can put someone with MS in jail. He can put someone who's just carrying a little marijuana in jail. Most Americans are not with him, and it's not going to sit well with a lot of conservatives and libertarians, I mean, is he going to send federal troops in to enforce medical marijuana laws?"

Marijuana's legal status, once dismissed as a fringe issue, has evolved after a series of quiet decisions from the Obama administration. The west's experiment with legalization -- so far, a major boost to Colorado's tax revenue -- has been treated with benign neglect. Just three months ago, the administration lifted a public health review requirement that had prevented some research into marijuana's medicinal properties. A new president could reverse all of that with a pen stroke. Only two potential presidents have said much about it.

Regular readers know I am very anxious to see marijuana laws and policies discussed on the Presidential debate stage.  The fact that Senator Paul is brining this up in advance of the debate, combined with the fact that CNN has been talking up its interest in highlighting issues concerning which the GOP candidates have distinct policy positions, has me know believing there is a real chance for a marijuana portion of tonight's big GOP event.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2015/09/with-gop-debate-in-california-and-cnn-seeking-a-real-debate-should-we-expect-a-question-on-marijuana.html

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