Colorado and Washington State Make History, Become First U.S. States To Regulate, Tax and Control Marijuana Like Alcohol

Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Measure Also Passes

Statement from Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance

Colorado and Washington have become not just the first U.S. states – but the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world – to approve regulating, taxing and controlling marijuana similar to alcohol (

The Drug Policy Alliance and its electoral arm, Drug Policy Action, worked closely with local and national allies to draft these initiatives, build coalitions and raise funds.

“The victories in Colorado and Washington are of historic significance not just for Americans but for all countries debating the future of marijuana prohibition in their own countries,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This is now a mainstream issue, with citizens more or less divided on the issue but increasingly inclined to favor responsible regulation of marijuana over costly and ineffective prohibitionist policies.”

The Colorado and Washington initiatives inspired diverse coalitions that included traditional drug policy reformers, law enforcement, organized labor, advocates for fiscal responsibility, mainstream civil rights organizations, advocates for children, and people from across the political spectrum. The campaign in Washington gained strength and legitimacy from the unprecedented number of endorsements by elected officials as well as former and current law enforcement officials.

“Marijuana policy reform remains an issue where the people lead and the politicians follow,” said Ethan Nadelmann, “but Washington State shows that many politicians are beginning to catch up.” Also notable was the silence of Obama administration officials who had spoken out two years ago against California’s Proposition 19 but who refrained from intervening this year. “That bodes well,” said Mr. Nadelmann, “for both states' prospects of implementing their new laws without undue federal interference.”

Never before has support for making marijuana legal been so widespread. Last year, a Gallup poll found for the first time that 50 percent of Americans support making marijuana legal, with only 46 percent opposed. Public support has shifted dramatically over the last two decades – especially over the last five years – as majorities of men, 18-49-year-olds, liberals, moderates, Independents, Democrats, and voters in Western, Midwestern and Eastern states now support making marijuana legal. Last week, the annual FBI Uniform Crime Report found that police made 757,969 arrests in 2011 for marijuana law violations in the U.S. – 86 percent of these arrests were for possession only. Marijuana arrests comprise one-half of all U.S. drug arrests.

Other reform measures also prevailed in California and Massachusetts. California’s Proposition 36 – which will significantly reform the state’s notorious “three-strikes” law – is expected to pass by a wide margin. Moving forward, Californians convicted of a third nonviolent felony – including drug law violations – will no longer receive a mandatory 25-to-life sentence. The Drug Policy Action Issues PAC was one of the primary financial contributors to the Prop. 36 campaign. Meanwhile, Massachusetts became the 18th U.S. state since 1996 to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

Marijuana Prohibition = Reefer Madness

November 7, 2012
1:29 PM

CONTACT: Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA)
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

On Marijuana Legalization

WASHINGTON - November 7 -

MARTIN LEE [martin at]
Lee is the author of the new book Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana — Medical, Recreational and Scientific and the director of Project CBD, a medical science information service. He is also co-founder of the media watch group FAIR. He said today: “Residents of Colorado and Washington made history on Election Day by voting to legalize the adult use of marijuana. It could mark the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition. From a historical perspective, marijuana prohibition is an aberration. For thousands of years men and women in many cultures have used cannabis as a folk medicine and a source of fiber and oil.

“It wasn’t until well into the 20th century that U.S. legislators and their international counterparts imposed a global ban on ‘the evil weed.’ The first antimarijuana laws in the United States were primarily a racist reaction against Mexican migrants. After millions of middle class Americans began smoking the herb in the 1960s, marijuana became the central focus of a deceitful war on drugs, a venal and destructive policy that fostered crime, police corruption, social discord, racial injustice and, ironically, drug abuse itself, while impeding medical advances and economic opportunities. The drug war that President Richard Nixon set in motion would escalate under Ronald Reagan and his Oval Office successors. Reefer madness has nothing to do with smoking marijuana — for therapy or fun or any other reason — and everything to do with how the U.S. government has stigmatized, prosecuted, and jailed users of this much maligned and much venerated plant. The fact that a disproportionate number of black and Latino youth are arrested and jailed for marijuana possession is reason enough to end the war on drugs.”


A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.

Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) Links:

AP Gets It Sorta Right: Criminalized Citizens Claim Liberty

For once the News-Gazette's coverage of the marijuana issue is finally up to the abysmal standard of the New York Times (more on that in a minute). They noted the passage of cannabis legalization in Colorado and Washington and in an AP article today, noted the overall success of a number of citizen initiatives and referendums on this week's election ballot.

But there are still problems. The AP is already skewing what's at stake by judging the success of these measures on the narrow issue of whether these changes will somehow tame the Mexican cartels (when the DEA, CIA, and ATF haven't been able to.) Acknowledging that marijuana is a relatively safe substance used by millions of hardworking, taxpaying, otherwise law-abiding citizens of the US every day who should be allowed to exercise their rights doesn't shift the responsibility for ending the drug war to the citizens of CO and WA. Framing this historic effort in that specific way is just silly posturing on the part of law enforcement. The drug war failed, not the freedoms Americans should have always enjoyed.

The AP also skims over the early history of pot prohibition, noting simply that it was passed "across the country in the 1930s" without mentioning the fact that this occurred due to the success of a blatantly racist scare campaign. The minions of official morality are smart enough top hide the KKK garments these days, but these bizarrely racist ideas are shown as still operative in the way that nearly all white police fill the jails with mostly non-white kids.

Dumbest of all was the uncritical repeating of the old and long-discredited claim that the "authorities have long focused on dismantling trafficking organizations." Sure, right.

Well, they've been doing that for 40 years now and have accomplished very little beyond making sure that drugs are freely available from unregulated sources on nearly every street corner in America.

"Good job, guys! You say you need just a few billion more in the budget next year and you've about got this drug problem whipped?!?"

More importantly, look at the numbers. Almost half of all drug arrests in this country are for marijuana.

"757,969 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana, more than 87% of which were for possession."

Now, it's true, some young cop begging for a promotion may think all those kids he's busted with dime bags will somehow contribute to breaking those dreaded cartels. More likely, all that's being done is ruining some kid's chance at a real job -- next time there are any -- and acting as a price support enforcement mechanism for the price of marijuana.

"Ah, ain't that cute. The cops and cartels are working together on the only economic stimulus program those idiots in DC can think of these days..."

The New York Times has supplied minimal coverage on this momentous result. Millions of formerly criminalized citizens have finally stood up and insisted on their rights to be treated equal. And the NY Times did a good job of covering one of those groups, our GLBT brothers and sisters right to marry, and their ballot success this week. It's great to see this tidal wave of passion for real freedom for millions in America supported by the people obviously affected, of course, but also by the vast majority of people with aren't GLBT -- or occasionally stoned. The results certainly mirror ongoing, accelerating national trends in public opinion. There is NO going back on gay marriage. And there is NO going back on cannabis legalization, either.

Fortunately, most laws against "homosexual acts" have been overturned in their entirety for some time, with the US military also finally coming on boards. Finally, finally, our GLBT friends are getting the respect at the ballot box that was so long denied to them.

That is what makes this week's two cannabis legalization victories so important. It was AT THE BALLOT BOX where the millions of marijuana users gained their first substantial success beyond the 18 state-string medical cannabis movement. Before Tuesday, we were ALL STILL ILLEGAL. While now there are only two states where pot is formally legal, I want to claim what another important movement in the voting Tuesday, our latino/a friends, who insist that NO ONE IS ILLEGAL over marijuana any more. We may not be totally free yet, but we can see the end of this Freedom Road in sight.

Polls now show majority support for marijuana legalization in most demographic cohorts. If the leaders don't start leading, they need to be replaced by those willing to do the people's business, instead of kowtowing to those intent on continuing to impose a failed, elitist war on millions of Americans.

The domino's are falling and they will fall fast. Legalization crosses all political lines. It doesn't matter if you're Republican, Democrat, Green or purple, you're either already on this train or you WILL be left at the station by voters.

One great example is Massachusetts, which became the 18th medical cannabis state on Tuesday. There, it looks like full legalization is just one more election away, as this update indicates.

Massachusetts Voters Want Full Legalization

Bay State voters called for end of marijuana prohibition in non-binding policy questions

BOSTON, MA — Massachusetts became the 18th medical marijuana state Tuesday night, with state-wide Question 3 cruising to a 63% victory at the polls. But many voters in Massachusetts saw not one, but two, marijuana questions on their ballot as non-binding Public Policy Questions (PPQ) asked voters in 45 cities across the Bay State if they wanted to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana or repeal marijuana prohibition on a federal level.

The answer: A resounding YES.

Voters’ strong support of marijuana legalization in Massachusetts could likely pave the way for a legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot.

When asked if their congressional representative should vote in favor of a Congressional resolution asking for the repeal of Federal prohibition of marijuana, voters in 21 towns answered with a 65% yes vote, consistent with Massachusetts’ ongoing statewide percentage of voters who favor marijuana reform.

More impressively, when voters in 23 towns were asked if their representative on Beacon Hill should vote in favor of legislation that would allow Massachusetts to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol, a resounding 73% shouted YES.

The questions, sponsored by grassroots activists statewide, are non-binding, but send a loud, clear message to Beacon Hill: Legalize and tax marijuana now, or we’ll do it for you with a ballot question in 2016.

Four years ago Massachusetts voters approved Question 2, decriminalizing possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, and last night approved Question 3, making Massachusetts the 18th medical marijuana state in the Nation.

The full results of the Public Policy Questions can be found below: (source: The Boston Globe)
Regulate and tax marijuana
Summary: Should the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow the state to regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol?
City or town Precincts
reporting No Winner Yes
Bernardston 1 of 1 286 733
Charlemont 1 of 1 130 422
Colrain 1 of 1 200 544
Dalton 2 of 2 1,009 2,025
Greenfield 9 of 9 1,916 5,513
Hawley 1 of 1 46 132
Heath 1 of 1 109 235
Hinsdale 1 of 1 243 630
Leyden 1 of 1 103 309
Monroe 1 of 1 17 29
Northfield 1 of 1 427 995
Peru 1 of 1 74 310
Pittsfield 1 of 1 0 0
Rowe 1 of 1 51 140
Savoy 1 of 1 90 212
Windsor 1 of 1 144 292
Total 25 of 25 4,845 12,521
Updated 10:54 AM
City or town Precincts
reporting No Winner Yes
Boxford 3 of 3 1,844 2,751
Essex 1 of 1 519 1,173
Georgetown 3 of 3 1,411 2,916
Gloucester 10 of 10 4,431 8,778
Groveland 2 of 2 1,418 2,051
Hamilton 3 of 3 1,582 2,468
Ipswich 4 of 4 2,534 3,854
Manchester 1 of 1 1,053 2,063
Middleton 2 of 2 1,657 2,375
Newbury 2 of 2 1,412 2,708
North Andover 4 of 4 2,732 3,817
North Reading 4 of 4 3,134 4,329
Rockport 3 of 3 1,271 2,723
Rowley 1 of 1 753 2,356
Wenham 1 of 1 851 1,298
West Newbury 1 of 1 790 1,626
Wilmington 6 of 6 4,472 6,085
Total 51 of 51 31,864 53,371
Updated 10:54 AM
City or town Precincts
reporting No Winner Yes
Cambridge 9 of 9 3,089 9,993
Medford 16 of 16 7,134 15,695
Somerville 0 of 21 0 0
Winchester 4 of 4 2,057 3,532
Total 29 of 50 12,280 29,220
Updated 10:54 AM
City or town Precincts
reporting No Winner Yes
Boston 14 of 14 3,303 9,299
Cambridge 18 of 18 4,205 15,951
Chelsea 16 of 16 2,323 4,191
Everett 12 of 12 4,170 6,116
Total 60 of 60 14,001 35,557
Updated 10:54 AM
Summary: Should the state representative from this district be instructed to vote for a resolution calling on Congress to repeal the federal prohibition of marijuana, so that states may regulate it as they choose?
City or town Precincts
reporting No Winner Yes
Lynn 0 of 2 0 0
Marblehead 6 of 6 3,581 7,128
Swampscott 6 of 6 2,321 4,500
Total 12 of 14 5,902 11,628
Updated 10:54 AM
City or town Precincts
reporting No Yes
Billerica 11 of 11 7,726 8,920
Total 11 of 11 7,726 8,920

Democracy vs Feds Update: Pot Charges Dropped, Feds Attack

While many local and state officials embraced the will of the electorate as expressed in the election last Tuesday that in ended or vastly scaled back pot prohibition in their states, the feds maneuver to attack democracy.


Current drug laws are a legislative artifice. The blatantly racist oppression of pot prohibition was NEVER submitted to a popular vote. It has ALWAYS been an elitist imposition by a tiny minority of sanctimonious power freaks. This unjust and often brutal war has been tolerated too long. There is no going back now that the people have clearly expressed their own position on the topic.

Thus the need to remain vigilant and active to ensure that our democracy rules us, not some hypocritical elite. Here are some important updates on those who respect democracy -- and those who do NOT. Here is some of the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly news of how difficult it is to actually see the will of the people in what is clearly more and more a form of banana republic "democracy" at the federal level.


Washington Prosecutors Dismiss 220 Marijuana Possession Cases in Wake of I-502

SEATTLE, WA — Prosecutors in Washington’s two largest counties announced Friday that they are dropping hundreds of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases that will fall under the legalization guidelines that will go into effect December 6, following Washington’s historic vote Tuesday that legalized possession of marijuana for adults 21 and older.

King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg said his office is dropping 175 cases involving people 21 and older and possession of one ounce or less. Although the law doesn’t take effect until December 6, his office has decided to apply I-502 retroactively, saying it is the right thing to do in light of Tuesday’s vote.

“Although the effective date of I-502 is not until December 6, there is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month,” Satterberg said.

In neighboring Pierce County, Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said he was dismissing around four dozen pending cases that involved marijuana possession as the only offense. In cases where other more serious charges were filed as well, defendants will have to await their day in court to see what – if any – action will be taken for the marijuana offenses.

“The people have spoken through this initiative,” said Lindquist. “And as a practical matter, I don’t think you could sell a simple marijuana case to a jury after this initiative passed.”

Although prosecutors in King and Pierce counties are proactively following the will of the voters, not everyone has taken the same approach. Across the state in Spokane County, the chief criminal deputy prosecutor Jack Driscoll sees things in a different light.

“The only thing that is legal is selling marijuana through those stores,” Driscoll said. “That will be regulated by the state. You can’t under this initiative have an ounce of marijuana that doesn’t come from a state-issued provider. You still can’t have black-market marijuana.”

Satterberg disagrees, however, calling Driscoll’s interpretation a “very narrow reading” of the voter-approved initiative. “I don’t know how you trace where (the marijuana) comes from,” he said, adding that it is likely that federal authorities will attempt to seek an injunction blocking implementation of I-502′s state licensing scheme for marijuana retailers and growers. “I think it’s the kind of issue the U.S. Supreme Court will have a final word on,” he said, calling it an “an important state’s rights issue.”

Sattersberg concluded by saying that it is unlikely that there will be any federal intervention in the misdemeanor cases he is dismissing, noting that states already have widely divergent penalties for marijuana possession.

For those who are charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession in other counties that have yet to make decisions on how, or if, to proceed, criminal defense experts are saying two words: jury nullification.

Jury nullification occurs when a jury reaches a verdict contrary to the weight of evidence, acquitting people who are technically guilty under the law but do not deserve punishment.

“If you are ever on a jury in a marijuana case, I recommend that you vote “not guilty” — even if you think the defendant actually smoked pot, or sold it to another consenting adult,” says New York Times legal analyst Paul Butler. ”As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights; if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer.”


Indiana Lawmakers Looking at Decriminalization to Ease Prison Overcrowding

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Following the historic votes in Washington and Colorado this past week, and continuing the ongoing trend of states relaxing marijuana prohibition laws, bi-partisan lawmakers in Indiana are considering a move to loosen laws in their state, possibly removing criminal penalties for misdemeanor possession – a move that could become a reality in 2013.

Key Republican and Democratic legislators are looking at the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, saying they plan on introducing legislation as early as next year that could decriminalize up to three ounces.

Democratic state Senator Karen Tallian of Portage says decriminalizing cannabis is long overdue and the idea has strong public support in Indiana, and across the country. She will re-introduce a bill next year that will, if passed, decriminalize possession of up to three ounces, about 85 grams, of marijuana.

Last year, Sen. Tallian introduced Senate Bill 347, which would have reduced several marijuana-related penalties, including making the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana a civil infraction, punishable by up to a $500 fine and court costs. SB 347 was referred to the Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters, where it received a hearing but never advanced out of committee for a vote by the full Senate.

This time, Senator Tallian thinks she has her colleagues’ full attention as attitudes towards cannabis continue to change nationwide.

“Two or three years ago when I started talking about that it was, ‘You’re crazy,’” she said. “Now, it’s like: ‘I’m all right with that.’ I’ve gotten that from a lot of people. ‘I wouldn’t put my name on it, but I’ll support you.’

Senator Tallian also pushed for a study in 2011 by the legislature that looked into decriminalization, legalization and sentencing for marijuana related offenses. The study considered whether the use and possession of marijuana should continue to be illegal in Indiana, and if so, what penalties and quantities related to its possession are appropriate. No action has been taken by the legislature on the study’s findings.

Currently, possession of 30 grams or less, a little more than an ounce, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine in Indiana. Possession over 30 grams is a felony with more severe consequences: up to 3 years incarceration and a $10,000 fine. In addition, possession, sale, or distribution convictions result in a mandatory 6-month driver’s license suspension.

“It takes too much toll on the criminal justice system and it accomplishes absolutely nothing,” Tallian said of Indiana’s marijuana laws. “Prohibition didn’t work. This doesn’t work. It’s time to get rid of it.”

Senator Tallian’s Republican counterpart, Senator Brent Steele, also of Portage, agrees that marijuana laws in Indiana need to be changed.

Senator Steele says he plans to introduce legislation in 2013 that would make possession of 10 grams or less a civil infraction.

“I don’t think mere possession alone is worth involving the entire judicial system and all that’s involved with it,” Steele said, adding that in the 14 states that have decriminalized marijuana possession, “Society didn’t melt down, and we didn’t turn into a drug-crazed culture as a result of it.”

Steele, chairman of the Senate committee on corrections, criminal and civil matters, said he’ll include the marijuana provision in a bill that revamps the Indiana criminal code as the committee continues to align charges and sentencing in proportion to the offenses.

Fueled in part by harsh drug laws and tough sentencing guidelines, Indiana has a heavily overcrowded prison system. Sentencing reform and reducing the prison population have been top priority for state lawmakers in recent years, who are hoping to trim an estimated $1.2 billion off the state budget.


Colorado Gov’s Call to AG Holder Could Be First Roadblock in Amendment 64 Implementation

DENVER, CO — Less than a week after Colorado’s successful Amendment 64, intended to establish a regulated cannabis industry, the marijuana legalization initiative has seemingly reached it’s first roadblock.

In an attempt to gauge possible federal response to marijuana legalization in Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper spoke by phone Friday U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who’s medical marijuana crackdown has hurt the thriving medical marijuana community in Denver and other cities across the country.

The governor’s office provided few details on the call and didn’t indicate whether any agreements were reached. State Attorney General John Suthers also participated in the call, which took place a little after 3 p.m.

Hickenlooper opposed Amendment 64 and has downplayed the likelihood of a commercial marijuana market materializing in Colorado, and this could be a sign that the governor may be stalling the state’s implementation of the voter approved marijuana legalization law.

Meanwhile, in Washington state, a spokesman for Gov. Chris Gregoire said this week that Gregoire would respect the will of the people and begin the steps toward implementing I-502, while local prosecutors are already dismissing hundreds of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Co-director Brian Vicente released this statement Friday afternoon:

"The people of Colorado have sent a strong and indisputable message that they want marijuana to be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol. With their vote on Amendment 64, they sent the message that marijuana prohibition has failed and it is time to take marijuana sales out of the hands of cartels and gangs and place them in regulated and state-licensed stores. Within weeks, it will be legal for every Colorado resident over the age of twenty-one to possess and, if necessary, grow marijuana. The people of Colorado did not vote for widespread home cultivation; they voted for a tightly regulated marijuana industry.

"Governor Hickenlooper must use today’s call to ask the Attorney General what concerns the Department of Justice has about the implementation of Amendment 64. And the state of Colorado should do everything in its power to comply with those concerns, assuming they are rational and can be addressed in a manner consistent with the overall goal of regulating marijuana sales. There is a difference, however, between inquiring about the concerns of the federal government and seeking their direction or permission. The federal government will retain the right to arrest anyone they want for marijuana, if they believe that is an efficient and worthwhile use of their resources. But the state of Colorado is free to determine its own path on this issue. And the people of Colorado have established that path.

"Governor Hickenlooper should not imitate Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who held up the implementation of that state’s medical marijuana law, claiming that the state could not implement due to federal law. In fact, Gov. Brewer and her attorney general sought to compel the federal government to provide guidance through a lawsuit filed in federal court. That lawsuit was dismissed, with the federal government responding in court filings that the state of Arizona’s concerns were without basis. Implementation in Colorado, starting with sketching out plans for implementation, should begin today."

Under the direction of Attorney General Holder, medical marijuana states have seen their programs decimated as the DEA and other agencies continue to raid dispensaries, charging operators with federal drug trafficking charges and taking steps to seize the properties under federal forfeiture and seizure laws, despite the dispensaries’ compliance with state and local laws.

Medical marijuana states with laws that focus more on home cultivation and have limited, if any, dispensaries have largely escaped this War on Medical Marijuana thus far, indicating that the federal government is against any regulated market, but tolerant of at-home cultivation and personal use.

Since the historic vote to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington on Tuesday, U.S. Justice Department officials, who consider all marijuana possession and sales illegal under federal law, have said they will continue their enforcement efforts regardless of state law but have been vague on specifics.


Is This the End of the War on Drugs?

As US states Legalize Marijuana, Is This the End of the War on Drugs?
The director of a landmark documentary which chronicles how the current penal approach has resulted in social disaster says the greatest legacy of the US elections may be shifting attitudes towards illegal narcotics
by Eugene Jarecki

Last week was a momentous week, the beginning of the end, perhaps, of a national depravity – the "war on drugs". The voters of Colorado and Washington passed measures to legalize marijuana, amounting to local shifts, for the moment. So we shouldn't delude ourselves that the country will be transformed overnight, but the public thinking, the public spirit is being transformed. Finally, there is a growing realization that this "war" has produced nothing but a legacy of failure. And who wants to be associated with failure?

Let's be clear what we're discussing here. Not in question is the ravaging impact drugs can have on individuals – too many of us know people who have suffered in this way. But we need to see addiction for what it is – not a criminal matter but a public health issue, and a huge social issue, especially for the young. In fact, instead of a "war on drugs", better to call it a war on children.

IMarijuana plants growing in Seattle, Washington. (Ted S. Warren/AP)n many parts of our country, a child strays a little at 14; tries a drug, can't think of any way to pay for it, and then sinks into the underground economy. Before long, he has a strike on his record, a strike that will be with him for the rest of his life. So you have a cycle of degradation, starting at 13, 14, and he never gets out of it. We now know so much about child development, the importance of the early years, how communities develop. Instead we eviscerate neighborhoods, we strip away the infrastructure that once provided towns with resources.

And with this "war", we're talking about the erasure of a population – which was once black America, now just poor America. These are people removed from the official American story – just last week the millions of them locked up, often for non-violent drug-related crimes, did not participate in our democracy. So, at the very minimum, you are taking the poor away from the levers of power.

There is a new consensus that the economic view is becoming more influential in shifting attitudes on drugs, that the amount of money saved from policing and the amount gained through taxing legalized drugs is swaying opinion. Obviously we would all shudder to think we live in a country where only the economic collapse of a depravity like this should bring about its end. But I think it's also true that what's happening is more complicated – economic calculations meeting up with humanitarian concerns. So you have the likes of Grover Norquist, the conservative founder of Americans for Tax Reform, and Chris Christie, the Republican New Jersey governor, finding unlikely bedfellows with Russell Simmons and Danny Glover, producers on my film. All see a failed approach.

When I set off to make my film, I wanted to speak to people all over the country touched by drugs. The users and dealers and family members; but also judges and police and wardens. I expected to be a sort of court reporter, capturing an argument between these two camps.

In fact, everybody sounded like a victim. The people who work in the penal system want those jobs like they want a hole in the head; they are doing work they take no pride in. Ultimately, there are very few people who want to work in a system whose success relies on a churn of your fellow humans to lock up. And, of course – in class terms – there's far more commonality. Prison guards would tell me that they had relatives in prison, high school friends. And, hauntingly, everyone had a story about how broken the system was.

But there's a shocking fatalism in play. What I found was lots of people saying: "Eugene, I know the system is broken and I wish you well. But dream on, it is so vast and has so much bureaucratic thrust you're deluding yourself if you think it can be fixed." But these wardens would then say: "But until you do, I have to do my job, and by God, I'm an American and I'm going to do it better than the next guy."

Admirable in one sense, but it greases the wheels for the continuing operation of the machine. So a judge will quite sincerely tell you how he has no choice but to imprison a non-violent person for 20 years because of mandatory sentencing – and he's right – but then, over lunch, he'll tell you how much he regrets doing so. For a country founded in revolution, we have become spectacularly unmoored from the notion of revolutionary behavior. Instead, we keep the bodies moving through the system.

I'm not going to pretend that the collapse of the "war on drugs" would transform life chances overnight for those born poorest in America. But, if you were to stop kneecapping many communities, you would free them to at least get their feet on the ground in normal ways. You could also save such a tremendous amount of money that you could ask yourself: what could I do that would plant a tree? What could I do in the neighborhoods that would actually foster the values that built civilization and would help young people find pathways other than those that end up in addiction?

Progress is not going to be made immediately on the national stage. Obama, I'm sure, would recognize the logic in the film, and then he would do what he has done for the past four years – he wakes up with the Washington machine. Four years ago, I met with his team; they said all the right things. Don't talk about a war on drugs, they said. You don't have a war against your own people. But, still, they've carried on in the same way.

What will bring about change is public demand. The public has to boo and hiss politicians who pander in this way – who say they are being tough on crime when they are destroying communities. We need to tell them that we won't let them vilify our neighbor to keep the penal system running. We will do that if we recognize that drug-mongering is no more substantial than WMD-mongering. And we know how that turned out. Americans have been an impressionable lot, but we're becoming less so. Bit by bit, we're realizing that the "war on drugs" makes no sense. And, if we let politicians know this, they have no choice but to become smarter and answer our demands.

Eugene Jarecki's The House I Live In, won the grand jury prize at the 2012 Sundance film festival. His 2006 film "Why We Fight" won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival as well as a Peabody Award. He is the author of The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril.

4 New England States to Introduce Marijuana Legalization Bills

The Wall between oppression and freedom begins to crumble...

Four New England States to Introduce Marijuana Legalization Bills

Maine, Rhode Island to Introduce Bills Tomorrow, Vermont and Massachusetts to Follow

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Election Day, voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives to remove criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and regulate the substance in a manner similar to alcohol.

Tomorrow, state legislators from Rhode Island and Maine will join the Marijuana Policy Project to announce that they are introducing similar bills to tax and regulate marijuana in their state legislatures.

Joining on the call to legalize cannabis will be Rhode Island Rep. Edith Ajello (D-District 3, Providence) and Maine Rep. Diane Russell (D-Distrist 120, Portland). Both of these lawmakers have supported marijuana reform legislation in previous sessions.

In addition to Rhode Island and Maine, similar proposals will be submitted in at least two other states — Vermont and Massachusetts.

“Last week, Washington and Colorado replaced their states’ prohibitions on marijuana with a system of regulation and taxation,” said Robert Capecchi, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“Both measures passed with roughly 55% voting in favor. Gallup found 50% support for making marijuana legal last year, and that support has risen over the years. We are passing the tipping point when it comes to this issue. Unfortunately, lawmakers have traditionally been behind public opinion when it comes to marijuana policy reform. With these thoughtful legislators in at least four states planning on introducing sensible proposals to remove criminal penalties and regulate marijuana in their states, it’s clear that ending marijuana prohibition is gaining momentum.”

US Reps File Bill to Protect Legalized Pot in CO, WA from Feds

Colorado Reps File Bill to Protect Legalized Marijuana in CO, WA from Feds

'Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act' would exempt states that have passed marijuana legalization from the marijuana provisions of the federal Controlled Substances Act

by Phillip Smith

Colorado Reps File Bill to Protect Legalized Marijuana in CO, WA from Feds

'Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act' would exempt states that have passed marijuana legalization from the marijuana provisions of the federal Controlled Substances Act

WASHINGTON, DC — Colorado’s congressional delegation is demonstrating that it heard the voice of the voters loudly and clearly on the topic of marijuana legalization.

In the wake of this month’s vote in Colorado to legalize marijuana, which won with 55% of the vote, a bipartisan group from the state’s congressional delegation is stepping up in support of the voters’ choice.

Last Thursday, three Colorado members of the House (as well as 15 other representatives) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to respect the state’s new marijuana law. The following day, one of the same members of the Colorado delegation filed a bill that would ensure that the federal government does not override the vote in Colorado and in Washington, where a similar measure also passed.

The Obama administration should “take no action against anyone who acts in compliance with the laws of Colorado, Washington and any other states that choose to regulate access to marijuana,” the letter penned by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) said. “The voters of these states chose, by a substantial margin, to forge a new and effective policy with respect to marijuana. The tide of public opinion is changing, both at the ballot box and in state legislatures across the country. We believe that the collective judgment of voters and state lawmakers must be respected.”

Urging the administration to have a light touch is one thing; legislation requiring it to do so is another, and that’s what Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) has introduced. Her bill, the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act (, filed with bipartisan support, would exempt states that have passed marijuana legalization from the marijuana provisions of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

“Today I am proud to join with colleagues from both sides of the aisle on the ‘Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act’ to protect states’ rights and immediately resolve any conflict with the federal government. In Colorado we’ve witnessed the aggressive policies of the federal government in their treatment of legal medicinal marijuana providers. My constituents have spoken, and I don’t want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens,” DeGette, of Denver, said in a statement (

“I strongly oppose the legalization of marijuana, but I also have an obligation to respect the will of the voters given the passage of this initiative, and so I feel obligated to support this legislation,” said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO).

The bill has support from outside of Colorado and Washington, too.

“Residents of Colorado and Washington have made it clear that the public is ahead of the federal government in terms of marijuana legalization,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). “It’s time for Congress to pass legislation — such as the ‘Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act’ — that allows states to implement their own laws in this area without fear of federal interference.”

“All across the country, states are choosing to reform their marijuana laws. As Justice Brandeis observed, states are the ‘laboratories of democracy’ and they should be given the opportunity to go forward with this social experiment,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). “I’m proud to cosponsor this important bill, which will ensure that the federal government respects the people’s judgment.”

Phillip Smith writes about drugs and drug policy for (DRCNet), which calls for an end to drug prohibition (e.g. some form of legalization), and its replacement with some sensible framework in which drugs can be regulated and controlled instead.

Give Pot a Chance

by Timothy Egan

SEATTLE – In two weeks, adults in this state will no longer be arrested or incarcerated for something that nearly 30 million Americans did last year. For the first time since prohibition began 75 years ago, recreational marijuana use will be legal; the misery-inducing crusade to lock up thousands of ordinary people has at last been seen, by a majority of voters in this state and in Colorado, for what it is: a monumental failure.

That is, unless the Obama administration steps in with an injunction, as it has threatened to in the past, against common sense. For what stands between ending this absurd front in the dead-ender war on drugs and the status quo is the federal government. It could intervene, citing the supremacy of federal law that still classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug.

But it shouldn’t. Social revolutions in a democracy, especially ones that begin with voters, should not be lightly dismissed. Forget all the lame jokes about Cheetos and Cheech and Chong. In the two-and-a-half weeks since a pair of progressive Western states sent a message that arresting 853,000 people a year for marijuana offenses is an insult to a country built on individual freedom, a whiff of positive, even monumental change is in the air.

In Mexico, where about 60,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence, political leaders are voicing cautious optimism that the tide could turn for the better. What happens when the United States, the largest consumer of drugs in the world, suddenly opts out of a black market that is the source of gangland death and corruption? That question, in small part, may now be answered.

Prosecutors in Washington and Colorado have announced they are dropping cases, effective immediately, against people for pot possession. I’ve heard from a couple of friends who are police officers, and guess what: they have a lot more to do than chase around recreational drug users.

Maine (ever-sensible Maine!) and Iowa, where the political soil is uniquely suited to good ideas, are looking to follow the Westerners. Within a few years, it seems likely that a dozen or more states will do so as well.

And for one more added measure of good karma, on Election Day, Representative Dan Lungren, nine-term Republican from California and a tired old drug warrior who backed some of the most draconian penalties against his fellow citizens, was ousted from office.

But there remains the big question of how President Obama will handle the cannabis spring. So far, he and Attorney General Eric Holder have been silent. I take that as a good sign, and certainly a departure from the hard-line position they took when California voters were considering legalization a few years ago. But if they need additional nudging, here are three reasons to let reason stand:

Hypocrisy. Popular culture and the sports-industrial complex would collapse without all the legal drugs that promise to extend erections, reduce inhibitions and keep people awake all night. I’m talking to you, Viagra, alcohol and high-potency energy drinks. Worse, perhaps, is the $25 billion nutritional supplement industry, offerings pills that make exaggerated health claims and steroid-based hormones that can have significant bad consequences. The corporate cartels behind these products get away with minimal regulation because of powerful backers like Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

In two years through 2011, more than 2,200 serious illnesses, including 33 fatalities, were reported by consumers of nutritional supplements. Federal officials have received reports of 13 deaths and 92 serious medical events from Five Hour Energy. And how many people died of marijuana ingestion? Of course, just because well-marketed, potentially hazardous potions are legal is no argument to bring pot onto retail shelves. But it’s hard to make a case for fairness when one person’s method of relaxation is cause for arrest while another’s lands him on a Monday night football ad.

Tax and regulate. Already, 18 states and the District of Columbia allow medical use of marijuana. This chaotic and unregulated system has resulted in price-gouging, phony prescriptions and outright scams. No wonder the pot dispensaries have opposed legalization — it could put them out of business.

Washington State officials estimate that taxation and regulation of licensed marijuana retail stores will generate $532 million in new revenue every year. Expand that number nationwide, and then also add into the mix all the wasted billions now spent investigating and prosecuting marijuana cases.

With pot out of the black market, states can have a serious discussion about use and abuse. The model is the campaign against drunk driving, which has made tremendous strides and saved countless lives at a time when alcohol is easier to get than ever before. Education, without one-sided moralizing, works.

Lead. That’s what transformative presidents do. From his years as a community organizer — and a young man whose own recreational drug use could have made him just another number in lockup — Obama knows well that racial minorities are disproportionately jailed for these crimes. With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States has 25 percent of its prisoners — and about 500,000 of them are behind bars for drug offenses. On cost alone — up to $60,000 a year, to taxpayers, per prisoner — this is unsustainable.

Obama is uniquely suited to make the argument for change. On this issue, he’ll have support from the libertarian right and the humanitarian left. The question is not the backing — it’s whether the president will have the backbone.

Copyright 2012 The New York Times

The One Big Hurdle Remains

The sensless opposition against legalization has one major obstacle now that popular will has been turned. Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, and Big Alcohol; all three knowing that when it comes to pain relief, anti-depressants, and general recreation: legalized marijuana will surely eat into their bottom line. The Incarceration Industry will find some other behavior to regulate (how about high caloric intake among the obese?); but how will the other big industries react to a new, major competitor?

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