Will States Lead The Way To Legalizing Marijuana?

Jan 28, 2013

When cit­i­zens of Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton voted to legal­ize mar­i­juana in Novem­ber they cre­ated a con­flict, because pot remains ille­gal under fed­eral law and any­one who lights up is com­mit­ting a fed­eral crime and could the­o­ret­i­cally still be arrested for it. After Col­orado passed the ref­er­en­dum, Gov­er­nor John Hick­en­looper said the imple­men­ta­tion of the law in his state would be a “com­pli­cated process” and he warned res­i­dents not to “break out the Chee­tos or Gold­fish too quickly.” While it seems unlikely that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will make much of an effort to arrest pot users in Col­orado or Washington—Obama has said he has “big­ger fish to fry”— the ten­sion between fed­eral and state laws on mar­i­juana remains. Just last week, an appeals court rejected a suit that sought to lower the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of med­ical mar­i­juana under fed­eral drug laws. That court rul­ing threw the issue back to Con­gress and the Drug Enforce­ment Agency, which should start a seri­ous recon­sid­er­a­tion of national pol­icy toward mar­i­juana. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment should start by reclas­si­fy­ing med­ical mar­i­juana, legal­iz­ing it out­right, or at least dial­ing down the penal­ties. And it should begin to have the sort of seri­ous dis­cus­sion about legal­iz­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana that is now occur­ring in the states. The cam­paign to legal­ize mar­i­juana has long been viewed as a fringe cause, backed by young peo­ple and old hip­pies. That per­cep­tion has lin­gered even though pub­lic opin­ion polls have shown that a grow­ing per­cent­age of the pub­lic favors legal­iza­tion – as much as 68% in one recent poll. In the past two decades, sup­port­ers of mar­i­juana have focused on legal­iz­ing med­ical use, and they have had impres­sive suc­cess. Today, 18 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have made med­ical use legal – and at least seven more states are con­sid­er­ing it. Mean­while, the DEA still clas­si­fies mar­i­juana as a “sched­ule 1” drug under the fed­eral Con­trolled Sub­stances Act of 1970 – a clas­si­fi­ca­tion for drugs that have no accepted med­ical use. Amer­i­cans for Safe Access, a pro-marijuana group, chal­lenged this clas­si­fi­ca­tion, but last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Cir­cuit rejected the law­suit. That rul­ing left in place the DEA’s blunt posi­tion that there is “no cur­rently accepted med­ical use for mar­i­juana in the United States.” The votes in Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton were a water­shed, how­ever, because they shifted the debate from med­ical mar­i­juana to out­right legal­iza­tion. And the votes were not even close. In Col­orado, the ref­er­en­dum passed by more than 6%. In Wash­ing­ton, the mar­gin was 10%. After­wards, Pres­i­dent Obama said that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has a lot of crime to pros­e­cute and “it does not make sense from a pri­or­i­ti­za­tion point of view for us to focus on recre­ational drug users in a state that has already said that, under state law, that is legal.” Last week, Wash­ing­ton Gov. Jay Inslee said that he had a con­ver­sa­tion with Attor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder that encour­aged him about his state’s abil­ity to carry out the ref­er­en­dum legal­iz­ing mar­i­juana. It is good that the Obama admin­is­tra­tion appears to be stand­ing down now, but that has not always been the case. As recently as last year, the Jus­tice Depart­ment was crack­ing down on med­ical mar­i­juana pro­duc­ers in Cal­i­for­nia and other states. There is no way to know that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to leave mar­i­juana pol­icy to the states. And what­ever pol­icy the Obama admin­is­tra­tion adopts, it could be undone when a new Pres­i­dent takes office. Jus­tice Louis Bran­deis once said that the states should func­tion as “lab­o­ra­to­ries,” test­ing new ideas for pos­si­ble adop­tion by the whole nation. We have seen enough over the past 16 years from the states that have legal­ized med­ical mar­i­juana to know that the ben­e­fits are real and the alleged dan­gers overblown. With this data in hand, the DEA should reclas­sify mar­i­juana to acknowl­edge its pos­si­ble med­ical uses. In Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton, a bolder exper­i­ment is now under­way. The rest of the nation should watch closely. It is pos­si­ble that legal­iza­tion will lead to higher crime rates, increased use of harder drugs, and other men­aces that mar­i­juana crit­ics warn about. But if legal­iza­tion in these states has few neg­a­tive effects, we will have the strongest argu­ment yet for why mar­i­juana should be legal nation­wide. Source: Time Mag­a­zine (US) Author: Adam Cohen Pub­lished: Jan­u­ary 28, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 Time Inc. Con­tact: letters@​time.​com Web­site: http://​www​.time​.com/​t​i​me/

9ead1c053cijuana.jpg 150x99 Will States Lead The Way To Legalizing Marijuana?

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Will States Lead The Way To Legal­iz­ing Marijuana?

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