- Published on 30 August 2013
- Written by Paul Armentano, NORML
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy is demanding Congressional hearings in September to address the growing divide between state and federal marijuana laws.
With twenty states now having legalized the medical use of cannabis — and two additional states having legalized non-medical marijuana production and retail sales — Congress and the Obama administration have little choice but to acknowledge this rapidly changing reality.
The general public has ‘evolved’ on the issue of cannabis and cannabis policy. Their political leaders will soon little choice but to follow.
Writing in a recently published report by the Washington, DC think-tank The Brookings Institute, authors E.J. Dionne and William Galston concluded, “In less than a decade, public opinion has shifted dramatically toward support for the legalization of marijuana. … Demographic change and widespread public experience using marijuana imply that opposition to legalization will never again return to the levels seen in the 1980s. The strong consensus that formed the foundation for many of today’s stringent marijuana laws has crumbled.”
It certainly has. Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation's nearly century-long experiment with pot prohibition and replacing it with a system legalization and regulation. The proof is in the polls – and at the ballot box.
In November, 55 percent of voters in two states, Colorado and Washington, decided in favor of measures legalizing the personal use, commercial production, and retail sales of cannabis to adults over the age of 21. Perhaps most notably, in Colorado, pot proved to be far more popular with voters than did the President! In the months since these historic votes, national public support for marijuana law reform has only gained momentum.
According to a recent Reason Magazine-Rupe nationwide survey, more than nine out of ten US adults say that people who possess or consume small quantities of cannabis should not face jail time.
A May 2013 nationwide Fox News telephone poll reported that 85 percent of voters support allowing adults to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The total is an increase in support of four percent since Fox last polled the question in 2010 and is the highest level of public support for the issue ever reported in a scientific poll.
Moreover, a highly publicized national survey recently commissioned by the Pew Research Center reports that 72 percent of Americans now believe that "government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth.” Sixty percent of Americans say that the government should no longer enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states that have approved of its use.
Likewise, a December 2012 Angus Reid national sampling of US voters, 66 percent of Americans say that they expect cannabis to be legal within the next ten years.
But Americans may not have to wait that long. Ballot measures to legalize and regulate the plant’s adult use are expected in several additional states, including Alaska, California, Maine, and Oregon. Voters in these and other states are already on board. Recently published polls by survey leaders Gallup, Pew, Quinnipiac University, and Public Policy Polling all find that far more Americans now favor legalizing marijuana for adults than believe in its continued prohibition. Why the dramatic shift in public opinion? The answer should be obvious. The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant's medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color. Furthermore, the criminalization of cannabis simply doesn't work.
Despite more than 70 years of federal prohibition, Americans' consumption of and demand for cannabis is here to stay. It is time for America’s public policies to reflect this reality. Unlike the federal government, which continues to stubbornly define cannabis as an illegal commodity that is as equally dangerous as heroin, a majority of voters now recognize that pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the licensed commercial production and sale of cannabis to adults but restricts use among young people best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or abuse. The public has gotten message. Next month we’ll learn whether or not the administration has also received the memo.
Marijuana legalization is no longer a matter of ‘if’; it’s a matter of ‘when.’
- Published on 30 August 2013
- Written by Erik Altieri, NORML Communication Director
During a conference call with state governors today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the US Department of Justice would allow the marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington to go into effect.
Holder announced that the Department of Justice will take a “trust but verify approach” to the new marijuana laws, but did reserve the right to file a preemption lawsuit at a later date if necessary.
In a three page memo issued by Deputy Attorney General Cole, the DOJ clarified they will still retain the right to prosecute individuals who engage in the following circumstances:
-the distribution of marijuana to minors;
-revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
-the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
-state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
-violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
-preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
“This is a historic step forward for our country,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “If the Department of Justice stays true to their word, we will see these state experiments with marijuana move forward unhindered by federal law enforcement. Our country was founded on the principles of federalism and it is in the best interests of the country for them to move forward with their plans to regulate marijuana for adults. NORML is pleased that the federal government has stated their intent to allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with implementing their laws and hope this signals a larger shift in how the federal government addresses states that wish to reform their marijuana laws and move away from the failed, costly policy that is prohibition.”
US Conference of Mayors Unanimously Pass Resolution Calling for the Feds to Respect Local Marijuana Laws
- Published on 25 June 2013
- Written by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director
The US Conference of Mayors unanimously approved a resolution this morning that calls on the federal government to respect local marijuana laws. Resolution No. 32 “reaffirms the USCM’s support of fair and effective criminal justice and drug policies, states that federal laws, including the Controlled Substance Act, should be amended to explicitly allow states to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference; and that until such time as federal law is changed, The United States Conference of Mayors urges the President of the United States to reexamine the priorities of federal agencies to prevent the expenditure of resources on actions that undermine the duly enacted marijuana laws of states.
The resolution was introduced with 18 co-sponsors, including Bob Filner of San Diego, Mike McGinn of (Seattle), Carolyn Goodman (Las Vegas), Jean Quan (Oakland), Steve Hogan (Aurora), Marilyn Strickland of (Tacoma), Kitty Piercy of (Eugene), and William Euille of (Alexandria). You can read the full text of the resolution here at this link.
We would like to thank all of you who took action on this effort and joined NORML and our allies at the Marijuana Majority (who coordinated this action). Speaking on the success of the resolution, Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority stated, “It’s time for President Obama to enact the changes he promised during the 2008 campaign. A strong and growing majority of Americans want states to be able to set their own marijuana laws without federal harassment. Local officials are enacting policies that serve to protect the health and safety of their communities better than the failed policy of prohibition has, and they deserve the respect they are asking for from the Obama administration.
NORML applauds the US Conference of Mayors for unanimously approving this measure that calls for a federal policy on marijuana that is in line with the desires of the majority of American citizens. Over 50% of Americans support legalizing and regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol and even more believe the federal government should leave decisions related to marijuana to states and their municipalities. This resolution calls for a rational policy that would empower local and state governments to set marijuana laws that work for them, without fear of federal incursion,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “It is encouraging to see that these mayors, many of whom are on the ascendancy of their political careers, engage this important issue directly. Even while many of our elected officials working in Washington, DC continue to drag their feet on the topic of reform, the unanimous passing of this resolution shows that many others working their way up from the local level are no longer willing to sit idle and that they will take action to put our country on the right side of history when it comes to marijuana.