Historic Day as Washington Marijuana Legalization I-502 Takes Effect

Historic Day as Washington Marijuana Legalization I-502 Takes Effect

SEATTLE, WA — Starting today, people aged 21 and over will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana in Washington state as voter-approved I-502 takes effect.

Hundreds of people celebrated at the base of Seattle’s Space Needle at a midnight gathering, celebrating the end of prohibition in the Evergreen State, lighting up following a New Year’s Eve style until midnight.

“This is a big day because all our lives we’ve been living under the iron curtain of prohibition,” said Seattle Hempfest director Vivian McPeak. “The whole world sees that prohibition just took a body blow.”

“It is like Christmas Eve and I’m 6 years old again,” said Keith Saunders, host of The Boston Pot Report, who flew into Seattle for the festivities. “This is something that people have worked a lifetime to achieve.”

Washington law still prohibits smoking marijuana in public, which remains punishable by a fine, similar to alcohol public consumption. Seattle police, however, chose to look the other way for this one-time celebration, and no citations were issued.

“Until further notice, officers shall not take any enforcement action—other than to issue a verbal warning—for a violation of I-502,” said a Seattle Police directive issued Wednesday night.

Officers will be advising people not to smoke in public, police spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee wrote on the Seattle Police Department’s blog. “The police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a `Lord of the Rings’ marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to.”

On November 6, 55 percent of voters in both Washington and Colorado voted to make marijuana legal, making those states the first two to approve legally regulating marijuana like alcohol. Colorado’s Amendment 64 will take effect sometime between now and January 5, 2013.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board now has until December 1, 2013 to implement rules for creating a regulated market for legal cannabis sales. Home cultivation remains illegal, except for those authorized to do so under Washington’s medical marijuana program.

“Those looking to purchase marijuana legally will have to wait a little longer because the retail outlets to purchase it from don’t exist yet,” said Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Speculation is that the existing infrastructure from the now-defunct state run liquor stores, which voters put an end to in 2011, could become the backbone of Washington’s marijuana retail system. Private entities licensed by the state will produce, process, and sell marijuana, and it will be taxed at each step along the way.

Legal cannabis sales could generate as much as $1.9 billion in revenue over the first five fiscal years, according to the state’s Office of Financial Management. The office estimates a retail price of $12 per gram.

The immediate impact of the law will be to end arrests by Washington law enforcement of adults possessing up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use in private.

“Washington’s new law provides a safe and smart alternative to marijuana prohibition,” said Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington. “Our state’s unfair and ineffective marijuana laws have damaged civil liberties in many ways – eroding protections against searches and seizures, putting large numbers of non-violent individuals behind bars, and targeting people of color.”

There were more than 241,000 arrests for marijuana possession in Washington State over the past 25 years at a cost to the state of over $300,000,000. In 2010 alone there were 11,000 arrests for marijuana possession.

A single arrest for possession costs from $1000 to $2000 and creates a permanent criminal record that can severely limit an individual’s ability to obtain housing, schooling, employment, and credit. In Washington, this waste of taxpayer dollars – and human potential – has now come to an end.

With marijuana possession now legal in Washington, and soon in Colorado, attention now turns to New England, where four states – Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont – are all looking at legalizing and regulating the marijuana market in 2013, with other states likely to follow.

“The only way federal marijuana prohibition is going to end is by voters and legislators in other states doing just what folks in those two states just did,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.


Feds Working to Thwart Will of the People -- and Commonsense

Administration Weighs Legal Action Against States That Legalized Marijuana Use
by Charlie Savage

WASHINGTON — Senior White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.

Even as marijuana legalization supporters are celebrating their victories in the two states, the Obama administration has been holding high-level meetings since the election to debate the response of federal law enforcement agencies to the decriminalization efforts.

Marijuana use in both states continues to be illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. One option is to sue the states on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by federal law. Should the Justice Department prevail, it would raise the possibility of striking down the entire initiatives on the theory that voters would not have approved legalizing the drug without tight regulations and licensing similar to controls on hard alcohol.

Some law enforcement officials, alarmed at the prospect that marijuana users in both states could get used to flouting federal law openly, are said to be pushing for a stern response. But such a response would raise political complications for President Obama because marijuana legalization is popular among liberal Democrats who just turned out to re-elect him.

“It’s a sticky wicket for Obama,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin, saying any aggressive move on such a high-profile question would be seen as “a slap in the face to his base right after they’ve just handed him a chance to realize his presidential dreams.”

Federal officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. Several cautioned that the issue had raised complex legal and policy considerations — including enforcement priorities, litigation strategy and the impact of international antidrug treaties — that remain unresolved, and that no decision was imminent.

The Obama administration declined to comment on the deliberations, but pointed to a statement the Justice Department issued on Wednesday — the day before the initiative took effect in Washington — in the name of the United States attorney in Seattle, Jenny A. Durkan. She warned Washington residents that the drug remained illegal.

“In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance,” she said. “Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 6 in Washington State, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.”

Ms. Durkan’s statement also hinted at the deliberations behind closed doors, saying: “The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington State. The department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.”

Federal officials have relied on their more numerous state and local counterparts to handle smaller marijuana cases. In reviewing how to respond to the new gap, the interagency task force — which includes Justice Department headquarters, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State Department and the offices of the White House Counsel and the director of National Drug Control Policy — is considering several strategies, officials said.

One option is for federal prosecutors to bring some cases against low-level marijuana users of the sort they until now have rarely bothered with, waiting for a defendant to make a motion to dismiss the case because the drug is now legal in that state. The department could then obtain a court ruling that federal law trumps the state one.

A more aggressive option is for the Justice Department to file lawsuits against the states to prevent them from setting up systems to regulate and tax marijuana, as the initiatives contemplated. If a court agrees that such regulations are pre-empted by federal ones, it will open the door to a broader ruling about whether the regulatory provisions can be “severed” from those eliminating state prohibitions — or whether the entire initiatives must be struck down.

Another potential avenue would be to cut off federal grants to the states unless their legislatures restored antimarijuana laws, said Gregory Katsas, who led the civil division of the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration.

Mr. Katsas said he was skeptical that a pre-emption lawsuit would succeed. He said he was also skeptical that it was necessary, since the federal government could prosecute marijuana cases in those states regardless of whether the states regulated the drug.

Still, federal resources are limited. Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department issued a policy for handling states that have legalized medical marijuana. It says federal officials should generally not use their limited resources to go after small-time users, but should for large-scale trafficking organizations. The result has been more federal raids on dispensaries than many liberals had expected.

Copyright 2012 The New York Times

Get Over it: War on Marijuana Is Finished

WTF do the rulers still think they can pull the wool over people's eyes on their failure to demonize marijuana?

Hubris. Look it up if you don't know what it means. Pride cometh before the fall -- and their system of mass incarceration and oppression is falling hard and fast now.

That's why you hear all the gnashing of teeth from the feds and some local prosecutors who think they work FOR the drug war and not for the people. They really think that they can maintain their phony war without support from the citizens.

They can't.

There's this little thing called the jury system. While the masters and mistresses of oppression still want to pretend "the law is the law," in fact the law is only what the people are willing to support in a democracy. Polling -- both surveys and elections -- is the bottom line. The oppressor class can pretend that the times aren't a changing, but that's just the sound of them retreating...


The ultimate poll on whether a law is just, valuable, or even worth the bother is the jury system. If you're a prosecutor, you can bluster all you want about the "evil lawbreaker" you have under your thumb, but if it doesn't convince a jury -- you just lost. If you know that half the jury pool isn't going to believe your case is worthwhile, you simply no longer have enough challenges of individual jurors left to give you a chance of winning. You can present all the slam-dunk evidence you have. You're still sunk. People will think you're wasting their time and the taxpayer's money. And all it takes is one person on any jury believing that -- when there's likely to be several -- is all it takes to bring that particular drug war dog-and-pony show to an end.

And once word gets around that jurors are no longer willing to consent to your attacks on people just like them -- game over. Charge someone over marijuana? You're wasting your time. People will be demanding jury trials. A system designed to run on snitches and ridiculous, disproportionate sentencing to bully people into taking plea bargains will come crashing down. They're aren't enough jurors left who still believe the drug war bullshit when it come to marijuana.

Game over.

It used to be that it was the defendant taking the big risk by going to trial. Now it will be the prosecutor. Their Mafia-like system of injustice comes crashing down.

The only question is "Will they go quietly and respectfully?" because if not, there's plenty of reason to take political revenge on them in the next election. If you want to keep your job, you better get with the people on this, defer to the judgment of democracy, and move on with your life. Because the alternative is to hang in there like the stupid, bull-headed people so many of them are, and provoke people into settling scores with their oppressors. You can go easy or you can go hard -- but the war on marijuana is going, going, gone -- whatever you think.

While in many states, this will be as straightforward as putting it to a vote, as the people of Colorado and Washington did, in other states those persecuted for cannabis will begin demanding jury trials. We'll all soon be finding that -- even if the law doesn't change immediately -- it will soon be impossible to use it against people because juries will laugh off such stubborn stupidity on the part of those who fancy themselves our "betters."

We Are Americans

We are Americans.

Every one of us, whether we're straight-edge, drink or smoke.

We implacably resist injustice.

Red, black, brown and yellow people were minorities, but they fought for real equality. You could not stop them.

Women always have been a majority, but they fought for real equality. You could not stop them.

People who smoke marijuana are likely still a minority, but majorities of Americans now clearly support ending the war against ourselves made on them. You can not stop them.

America is far from perfect, in large part because so many of us seem to want to oppress so many more of us. Laws can be changed, but they often have to catch up with the American people's own resistance to injustice.

"The law is the law" is crap in America. The law is what the people are willing to tolerate.

Legislators, police, prosecutors, and judges all have exactly as much power as the people will tolerate. They cross that line at their own risk. They know it. They just have bad habits that some of them are finding trouble getting rid of. Maybe they should try a 12-step to see if they can just get over that urge to lock people up for no good reason?

As Americans, it is our duty to resist injustice.

As Americans, we know that all too often in our nation's history, injustice has been clothed in the garments of the law.

As Americans, we understand what we must do when those who fancy themselves our leaders instead are the leaders of injustice. We must resist, even when they claim the law is above the will of the people.

The following call to action is even more relevant today than when it was first published nearly a year ago. Only those who support injustice should fear its call.

We are Americans and injustice unifies us, injustice empowers us, and those who support it will not prevail.


Jurors Can (and Should) Refuse to Convict in Marijuana Cases

Paul Butler has an important piece in the New York Times reminding all of us that we don’t have to enforce unjust laws when we serve on a jury.

"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. 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." [http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/opinion/jurors-can-say-no.html?_r=1&emc=eta1]

Jury nullification is a critical safeguard against abuses of prosecutorial power in our criminal justice system, and Paul Butler would know. He used to be a prosecutor himself.

Taking your conscience with you into the jury booth is an act of patriotism, and it’s something every citizen should know they have to right to do. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Americans don’t want a war on marijuana anymore, and refusing to convict our friends and neighbors is one very strong way to make that sure that message is heard.

Scott Morgan

For more on jury nullification:

Marijuana Now Legal for Adults in Colorado

DENVER, COLORADO – Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an Executive Order today formalizing Amendment 64 as part of the state Constitution and officially making the personal use, possession, and limited home-growing of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. The governor also signed an Executive Order establishing a Task Force on the Implementation of Amendment 64 consisting of various government officials and other stakeholders, which will provide recommendations to the legislature on how to establish a legal market for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults.

Gov. Hickenlooper's announcement is available at: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=GovHickenloope...

Amendment 64, the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, was approved 55%-45% in last month's election.

Statement from Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project and one of the two official proponents of Amendment 64:

"This is a truly historic day. From this day forward, adults in Colorado will no longer be punished for the simple use and possession of marijuana. We applaud Gov. Hickenlooper for issuing this declaration in a timely fashion, so that adult possession arrests end across the state immediately.

We look forward to working with the governor's office and many other stakeholders on the implementation of Amendment 64. We are certain that this will be a successful endeavor, and Colorado will become a model for other states to follow."



New USA Today/Gallup Poll Shows 63% of Americans Think Federal Government Should Not Interfere in States That Make Marijuana Legal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A USA Today/Gallup poll released today shows that 63% of Americans believe the federal government should not interfere in the implementation of state ballot measures such as those approved in Washington and Colorado last month that make marijuana legal for adults. The poll of 1,015 Americans was conducted Nov. 26-29 and has a margin of error of +/- 4%.

Marijuana officially became legal under state law yesterday in Washington, and the same is scheduled to happen in Colorado within the next 30 days. The laws make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. They also direct the legislatures of both states to create regulations in order to establish a legal market for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults. So far, the federal government has not stated whether it intends to use any resources to interfere with the implementation of the new state laws.

According to a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling released earlier this week, just 33% of respondents said they would approve of President Obama using federal resources to prevent the new state laws from going into effect. It also found that 50% of Americans think marijuana will become legal under federal law within the next 10 years.

Statement from Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy reform organization and the primary funder of the successful Colorado initiative:

"These polls are making it quite clear that most Americans do not want the federal government to stand in the way after a state's voters have approved a ballot measure to make marijuana legal for adults. The initiatives in Colorado and Washington received strong majority support because the voters believe regulating marijuana like alcohol would make their communities safer than the current system of prohibition.

It's not just the people of Colorado and Washington who want to see these ballot measures implemented in accordance with the will of the voters. It's nearly two-thirds of all Americans. The Obama administration should not undermine their sensible action by ensuring marijuana sales remain underground where the profits prop up cartels and gangs instead of legitimate businesses."


In Colorado, Getting Down to Business of Marijuana

by Dan Frosch

GOLDEN, Colo. — It has been a little over a month since Coloradans approved a groundbreaking law legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

Now that the celebratory haze has settled, state officials and marijuana advocates on Monday began sifting through the thorny regulatory questions that go beyond merely lighting up.

Among them: Who can sell marijuana? How should consumer safety be accounted for? How might employers and employees be affected by the new law?

At a packed meeting at a state building in this suburb west of Denver, a task force convened by Gov. John W. Hickenlooper began wrestling with some of these questions in an effort to forge a framework for how the law should work.

The task force, made up of designees from an array of state offices as well as various marijuana advocates, weighed in on matters including the identification of marijuana revenue sources and the prospect of the federal government cracking down on the drug.

“We’re not here to have a discussion on whether legalizing marijuana was the right thing to do,” said Jack Finlaw, Mr. Hickenlooper’s chief legal counsel and a co-chairman of the task force. “Our job is to find ways of efficiently and effectively implementing it.”

Colorado’s Amendment 64 sets the stage for marijuana to be regulated much like alcohol. But the state will have a whole new set of variables to consider, like licensing retail facilities and determining what sort of security measures stores should have.

And Mr. Finlaw said he was not sure that alcohol could be used as a model for marijuana, given the inevitable differences in how it would be sold.

Aside from the regulatory challenges of moving from a black market to a legitimate one, there are also health issues to be considered. Dr. Chris Urbina, the executive director of Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment, raised the prospect that marijuana should be regulated differently depending on whether it is smoked or eaten.

“We expect this to be challenging,” said Mark Couch, a spokesman for Colorado’s Department of Revenue, which will be largely responsible for regulating the sale and use of marijuana.

“The department does have some experience with licensing and regulating products that have certain restrictions,” Mr. Couch said. “Obviously, that is complicated by the fact that federal law makes this product illegal.”

In an interview last week with Barbara Walters, President Obama assuaged the fears of marijuana proponents, saying the federal government would not pursue marijuana users in states where the drug is now legal.

But it was still unclear whether the Justice Department would permit stores in Colorado and Washington, which also legalized marijuana in November, to sell the drug, leaving it in a regulatory netherworld when it comes to federal law.

Barbara Brohl, the executive director of the state’s Department of Revenue and a co-chairwoman of the task force, said Colorado was consulting with officials in Washington State as it moved through its own process.

Christian Sederberg, a Denver lawyer who is on the task force and whose law firm helped draft Amendment 64, said he thought Colorado was well positioned to settle on new regulations, given that medical marijuana was already legal here.

Still, Mr. Sederberg said that medical marijuana rules were undergoing substantial revisions in Colorado and that there was clearly a need for distinct regulations for recreational use.

“I’m of the opinion that we have a very good base to work with on the policies Amendment 64 intended to push forward and how those policies fit in with regulations already in place,” he said.

The task force has until the end of February to make recommendations to Mr. Hickenlooper; the state attorney general, John W. Suthers; and the General Assembly. The regulations must be completed by July 1.

Copyright 2012 The New York Times

Mr. President, End This War

The war on pot is a colossal waste of money and human potential
by Jann S. Wenner

As a teenager, Barack Obama liked to get high in the back of a friend's VW bus. His hallmark: a smoking technique he called Total Absorption. He knows, as did George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him, what we all know: that pot is essentially harmless. Yet the government continues to wage a senseless and costly war on marijuana, treating pot as if it were more dangerous than crack cocaine.

More than 750,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges last year – 87 percent for simple possession. The costs of prohibition are staggering – nearly $8 billion a year wasted on police and prisons alone, with billions more squandered by not taxing pot like tobacco or alcohol. In Mexico – where nearly two-thirds of the pot smoked in this country originates – drug violence has claimed nearly 50,000 lives since 2006. Yet all the while, demand for pot has increased like wildfire: Nearly 30 million Americans enjoyed pot at least once last year.

Mr. President, this war is a sham, a folly, a colossal waste of money and human potential. And you can end it with a few strokes of your pen. Through executive order, you can advance life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and begin to bring another mindless war to a responsible conclusion. All it requires is the same courage you displayed on gay marriage. Simply say what's in your heart – what you know to be true.

© 2012 Rolling Stone

Jann S. Wenner is a contributing writer for Rolling Stone

Jimmy Carter Marijuana Legalization “OK”; Senate Hearings Soon

by Philip Smith

Former President Jimmy Carter said he was fine with marijuana legalization during a Tuesday CNN forum (http://newsroom.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/11/fmr-pres-jimmy-carter-talks-mar...). Carter supported marijuana decriminalization during his presidency in the mid-1970s, but now is prepared to go a step further.

He told CNN host Suzanne Malvaux that he was “in favor” of states taking steps to free the weed. “I think it’s OK,” Carter said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen in Georgia yet, but I think we can watch and see what happens in the state of Washington for instance, around Seattle, and let the American government and let the American people see does it cause a serious problem or not.”

Carter’s comments came as marijuana legalization has become a front burner issue like never before in the wake of the decision by voters in Colorado and Washington to move away from pot prohibition. Now, with marijuana possession by adults already legal in those two states, all eyes are on Washington, waiting to see how the Obama administration will respond to efforts by state officials to craft a system of regulations for marijuana commerce.

The former president also suggested that continued marijuana prohibition contributed to high incarceration rates, especially among racial minorities.

“It’s a major step backward, and it ought to be reversed, not only in America, but around the world,” Carter said, suggesting that the US should look to Portugal, which decriminalized as drug possession in 2000, as a model.

The Carter critique of marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs in general is little surprise. Not only did he favor decriminalization in the wake of the Shafer Commission report, which was commissioned and then ignored by his predecessor, Richard Nixon, in 1972, but he has since gone on to become an increasingly vocal critic of drug prohibition and proponent of marijuana law reform.

US drug policy has “destroyed the lives of millions of young people,” Carter said at a September forum, and he appeared last week in the drug war documentary Breaking the Taboo again arguing that the US drug war has failed both domestically and internationally.



Senate Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearings on Marijuana Policy

WASHINGTON, DC — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said in a statement Thursday (http://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/leahy-to-examine-marijuana-policy) that he intends to hold a hearing seeking information about how the Obama administration plans to respond to the successful marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington. Leahy said he expects to hold the hearing when Congress reconvenes early next year.

Leahy also released a letter (http://www.leahy.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/12-6-12%20copy%20PJL%20to%20Ke...) he sent earlier this month to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar’s office) asking him what recommendations the agency will make to the Justice Department and how, given the fiscal constraints the administration faces, it intends to use federal resources in light of the legalization votes in Colorado and Washington. The veteran Vermont lawmaker also asked Kerlikowske what assurances the administration can give to state officials responsible for the licensing of marijuana retailers to ensure they will face no criminal penalties for carrying out their duties under those state laws.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee has a significant interest in the effect of these developments on federal drug control policy,” Leahy wrote. “Legislative options exist to resolve the differences between federal and state law in this area and end the uncertainty that residents of Colorado and Washington now face. In order to give these options full consideration, the committee needs to understand how the administration intends to respond to the decision of the voters in Colorado and Washington. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.”

The Obama administration has yet to formally respond to the legalization votes, but Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday the Justice Department will announce “relatively soon” where it stands on federal enforcement of the pot laws in the two states.

“There is a tension between federal law and these state laws,” Holder said in response to questions after a speech in Boston. “I would expect the policy pronouncement that we’re going to make will be done relatively soon.”

A series of public opinion polls this month have found little public support for federal interference with state marijuana laws in states where it is legal, with majorities calling for the feds to keep out of the way. Support for federal non-interference is strongest among key Obama constituencies, including Democrats, independents, and young voters.


F Decrim: Majority of New Yorkers Say "Legalize It!"

Demonstrating once again that marijuana prohibition is increasingly viewed by the majority of citizens as an elite imposition on the freedom of ordinary Americans.

Majority of New Yorkers Say Legalize Marijuana
by Philip Smith

Majority of New Yorkers Say Legalize Marijuana

NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk” tactics result in more low-level marijuana possession arrests of Blacks and Latinos, despite higher usage rates among Whites. Legalized marijuana would be one way to end this disparity.

HAMDEN, CT — A Quinnipiac poll released last Friday has New Yorkers supporting marijuana legalization by a narrow majority. The poll found 51% supported marijuana legalization, with 44% opposed.

That puts New York in line with the rest of the country, where most post-election polls are showing support for legalization at over 50%. Those polls come in the wake of victories for the Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington, respectively.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pushing marijuana decriminalization, but the Quinnipiac poll suggests New Yorkers are ahead of their political leaders on the issue of marijuana reform.

New York City has achieved notoriety as the marijuana arrest capital of the world, with the NYPD arresting tens of thousands of mainly young black and brown men each year. Despite recent reforms, those numbers have yet to significantly decrease.

In a report released last month, Human Rights Watch found that between 1996 and 2011, the NYPD arrested more than 563,000 people for possession of marijuana in public (typically after police intimidate them into emptying their pockets and revealing their baggies), including nearly 100,000 in 2010 and 2011 alone. Neither Mayor Michael Bloomberg nor the NYPD “has ever provided a detailed justification for the high number of marijuana arrests, suggesting only that the arrests improve public safety,” the report noted.

But the report also examined the subsequent criminal histories of the 2003 and 2004 cohorts of New York City pot possession arrestees. It found that more than 90% of them had not subsequently been arrested on a felony charge.

The Quinnipiac poll found majority support for legalization in New York City (54%) and its suburbs (50%), and a plurality (49%) for legalization upstate. Majorities supported freeing the weed in every age group except seniors, while majorities of Democrats (56%) and independents (57%) also favored legalization. Only 33% of Republicans did.

Men were more likely to support legalization (56%) than women (47%), while people with college degrees were more likely to support it (58%) than those without (47%). People who identified themselves as belonging to a religious denomination had levels of support ranging from 46% to 48%, while 70% of those who said they had no religion supported legalization.

Gov. Cuomo has been talking decriminalization. Given last month’s election results and this month’s polling, perhaps he should raise his sights.

The poll contacted 1,302 New York state voters between December 5 and 10 and asked”Do you think that the use of marijuana should be made legal in New York State, or not?” The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.


Marijuana, Not Yet Legal in California, Might as Well Be

by Adam Nagourney

LOS ANGELES — Let Colorado and Washington be the marijuana trailblazers. Let them struggle with the messy details of what it means to actually legalize the drug. Marijuana is, as a practical matter, already legal in much of California.

No matter that its recreational use remains technically against the law. Marijuana has, in many parts of this state, become the equivalent of a beer in a paper bag on the streets of Greenwich Village. It is losing whatever stigma it ever had and still has in many parts of the country, including New York City, where the kind of open marijuana use that is common here would attract the attention of any passing law officer.

“It’s shocking, from my perspective, the number of people that we all know who are recreational marijuana users,” said Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor. “These are incredibly upstanding citizens: Leaders in our community, and exceptional people. Increasingly, people are willing to share how they use it and not be ashamed of it.”

Marijuana can be smelled in suburban backyards in neighborhoods from Hollywood to Topanga Canyon as dusk falls — what in other places is known as the cocktail hour — often wafting in from three sides. In some homes in Beverly Hills and San Francisco, it is offered at the start of a dinner party with the customary ease of a host offering a chilled Bombay Sapphire martini.

Lighting up a cigarette (the tobacco kind) can get you booted from many venues in this rigorously antitobacco state. But no one seemed to mind as marijuana smoke filled the air at an outdoor concert at the Hollywood Bowl in September or even in the much more intimate, enclosed atmosphere of the Troubadour in West Hollywood during a Mountain Goats concert last week.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Republican governor, ticked off the acceptance of open marijuana smoking in a list of reasons he thought Venice was such a wonderful place for his morning bicycle rides. With so many people smoking in so many places, he said in an interview this year, there was no reason to light up one’s own joint.

“You just inhale, and you live off everyone else,” said Mr. Schwarzenegger, who as governor signed a law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Some Californians react disdainfully to anyone from out of state who still harbors illicit associations with the drug. Bill Maher, the television host, was speaking about the prevalence of marijuana smoking at dinner parties hosted by Sue Mengers, a retired Hollywood agent famous for her high-powered gatherings of actors and journalists, in an interview after her death last year. “I used to bring her pot,” he said. “And I wasn’t the only one.”

When a reporter sought to ascertain whether this was an on-the-record conversation, Mr. Maher responded tartly: “Where do you think you are? This is California in the year 2011.”

John Burton, the state Democratic chairman, said he recalled an era when the drug was stigmatized under tough antidrug laws. He called the changes in thinking toward marijuana one of the two most striking shifts in public attitude he had seen in 40 years here (the other was gay rights).

“I can remember when your second conviction of having a single marijuana cigarette would get you two to 20 in San Quentin,” he said.

In a Field Poll of California voters conducted in October 2010, 47 percent of respondents said they had smoked marijuana at least once, and 50 percent said it should be legalized. The poll was taken shortly before Californians voted down, by a narrow margin, an initiative to decriminalize marijuana.

“In a Republican year, the legalization came within two points,” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant who worked on the campaign in favor of the initiative. He said that was evidence of the “fact that the public has evolved on the issue and is ahead of the pols.”

A study by the California Office of Traffic Safety last month found that motorists were more likely to be driving under the influence of marijuana than under the influence of alcohol.

Still, there are limits. No matter how much attitudes in California may have changed, it remains illegal in most of the country — as Californians have been reminded by a series of crackdowns by the Justice Department on medical marijuana here. People who use the drug recreationally, who said they would think nothing of offering a visitor a joint upon walking through the door, declined to be quoted by name, citing the risks to career and professional concerns.

That was the case even as they talked about marijuana becoming commonly consumed by professionals and not just, as one person put it, activists and aging hippies. Descriptions of marijuana being offered to arriving guests at parties, as an alternative to a beer, are common.

In places like Venice and Berkeley, marijuana has been a cultural presence, albeit an underground one, since the 1960s. It began moving from the edges after voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana in 1996.

That has clearly been a major contributor to the mainstreaming of marijuana. There is no longer any need for distasteful and legally compromising entanglements with old-fashioned drug dealers, several marijuana users said, because it is now possible to buy from a medical marijuana shop or a friend, or a friend of a friend growing it for ostensibly medical purposes.

That has also meant, several users said,¸that the quality of marijuana is more reliable and varied, and there are fewer concerns about subsidizing a criminal network. It also means, it seems, prices here are lower than they are in many parts of the country.

Mr. Newsom — who said he did not smoke marijuana himself — said that the ubiquity of the drug had led him to believe that laws against it were counterproductive and archaic. He supports its legalization, a notable position for a Democrat widely considered one of the leading contenders to be the next governor.

“These laws just don’t make sense anymore,” he said. “It’s time for politicians to come out of the closet on this.”

Copyright 2012 The New York Times

CA Lt Gov Newsom 'These [pot]laws just don’t make sense anymore'

CA Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom Comes Out in Support of Marijuana Legalization

Newsom Adds Voice to Growing List of Prominent U.S. and World Leaders Calling for Alternatives to Failed Drug War
by Drug Policy Alliance

NEW YORK, NY — California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom is the latest elected official to call for marijuana legalization. In a New York Times article Friday (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/21/us/politics/stigma-fading-marijuana-co...), Newsom said he believes marijuana prohibition is counterproductive and voiced his support for making marijuana legal. Mr. Newsom, widely considered a leading contender for California’s governor in 2016, said, “These laws just don’t make sense anymore,” and “it’s time for policitians to come out of the closet on this.”

Newsom first came to international prominence when, in 2004, as the newly-elected mayor of San Francisco, he issued a directive to the city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“Even as public support for legalizing marijuana and marriage equality have both increased dramatically over the past seven years, with the country now roughly split on both issues, senior elected officials have shied from speaking out in favor of the former,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Gavin Newsom’s leadership is thus all the more important on this issue, as it was with marriage equality.”

Newsom joins a rapidly growing number of former and current political leaders who have come out in support of marijuana legalization and ending the war on drugs over the past year.

In Thursday’s New York Times, the Drug Policy Alliance ran a full-page ad (http://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/images/Publications/Drug_P...) that thanks voters in Colorado and Washington and emphasizes the growing support for drug policy reform among leaders from across the political spectrum.

This year, President Bill Clinton joined several other former presidents in sharply criticizing the war on drugs in the just-released documentary Breaking the Taboo. Meanwhile, two U.S. governors from opposite sides of the aisle who are often mentioned as 2016 presidential candidates – New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Chris Christie – have embraced varying degrees of drug policy reform. Gov. Christie broke ranks with fellow Republicans by calling the drug war a failure, while Gov. Cuomo committed to ending New York’s racially discriminatory marijuana arrest crusade. Even strange bedfellows like evangelical leader Pat Robertson and former President Jimmy Carter spoke out in support of legally regulating marijuana this year. In Latin America, presidents such as Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia), Otto Pérez Molina (Guatemala), and José Mujica (Uruguay) are calling for alternatives to prohibition.

Newsom’s comments come just one week after President Obama commented on marijuana legalization in his first post-election interview – framing the conflict between federal and state law as a question to be resolved and stating that people who use marijuana in states that have legalized it should not be a “top priority” for federal law enforcement.


Ending the Insanity Just That Easy, with a Small Bit of Courage

Good to see democracy working for a change, proving once again that ending the delusional war on marijuana is just that easy...

January 11, 2013
3:14 PM

CONTACT: Americans for Safe Access
Kris Hermes, Media Liaison

Medical Marijuana Advocates Hail San Diego Mayor's Decision to Stop Crackdown on Dispensaries
Mayor Bob Filner announced end to code enforcement attacks by the city, agreed to develop regulatory ordinance

San Diego, CA - January 11 - Advocates applauded the recent actions of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner in trying to put an end to the years-long crackdown on access to medical marijuana in the city. Two days after announcing at a local chapter meeting of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) -- the country's largest medical marijuana grassroots advocacy group -- that he was going to direct city authorities to stop shutting down dispensaries, Mayor Filner delivered on that promise by sending letters yesterday to San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne and Neighborhood Code Compliance Director Kelly Broughton.

Calling on city authorities to "Stop the Crackdown on Marijuana Dispensaries," Mayor Filner directed them to "stop targeted code enforcement against marijuana dispensaries in the City of San Diego immediately," and "stop sending dispensary code enforcement cases to the City Attorney's Office for prosecution." San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has worked hand-in-hand with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy to shut down almost all of the dispensaries in the San Diego area.

Mayor Filner's letter is the result of a promise made Tuesday at a monthly chapter meeting of ASA members. As a guest of the meeting, Mayor Filner spoke to the group and laid out a 3-point plan. In addition to directing the city to stop unnecessary code enforcement, Mayor Filner said he would work with advocates to develop a regulatory ordinance for dispensaries. The mayor also promised to personally lobby the Obama Administration to address the issue of federal law.

For years, San Diego has resisted implementation of state medical marijuana law. Since 2006, Drug Enforcement Administration agents under both the Bush and Obama Administrations have conducted aggressive raids, shutting down hundreds of dispensaries over that time, often with the help of local officials. Finally, in 2009, the city empaneled a task force to make regulatory recommendations to the city council, many of which were ignored when a proposed ordinance was drafted and later passed in early 2011. To avoid what advocates called a de-facto ban on dispensaries, a referendum was passed to overturn the ordinance, which ultimately forced the city to rescind it.

"Now we've got a mayor who will work with us," said Eugene Davidovich, ASA San Diego Chapter Coordinator. "We're ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work on an ordinance that will finally bring the safe access to medical marijuana that our patients deserve." Local advocates will still have to contend with enforcement carried out by the county and federal governments, yet Mayor Filner's actions mark a promising shift for the city.

"The leadership of Mayor Filner is a ray of hope for San Diego patients after years of hostility from local and federal officials," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "Mayor Filner is the latest in a series of local officials to take a bold stand against federal intimidation." The Oakland City Council and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors are both currently engaged in medical marijuana-related litigation against the Obama Administration.

Further information:
Mayor Bob Filner's letter to Neighborhood Code Enforcement: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Filner_Letters.pdf


Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

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