Quotes of the day

[A]cross the country, resistance to legal marijuana is also rising, with an increasing number of towns and counties moving to ban legal sales. The efforts, still largely local, have been fueled by the opening, or imminent opening, of retail marijuana stores here and in Colorado, as well as by recent legal opinions that have supported such bans in some states…

Though it seems strongest in more rural and conservative communities, the resistance has been surprisingly bipartisan. In states from Louisiana to Indiana that are discussing decriminalizing marijuana, Republican opponents of relaxing the drug laws are finding themselves loosely allied with Democratic skeptics. Voices in the Obama administration concerned about growing access have joined antidrug crusaders like Patrick J. Kennedy, a Democratic former United States representative from Rhode Island, who contends that the potential health risks of marijuana have not been adequately explored, especially for juveniles — and who has written and spoken widely about his own struggles with alcohol and prescription drugs.

“In some ways I think the best thing that could have happened to the anti-legalization movement was legalization, because I think it shows people the ugly side,” said Kevin A. Sabet, a former drug policy adviser to President Obama and the executive director and co-founder, with Mr. Kennedy, of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The group, founded last year, supports removing criminal penalties for using marijuana, but opposes full legalization, and is working with local organizations around the nation to challenge legalization.

“If legalization advocates just took a little bit more time and were not so obsessed with doing this at a thousand miles per hour,” he added, “it might be better. Instead, they are helping precipitate a backlash.”


Colorado Springs, sometimes known as the “evangelical Vatican,” successfully banned weed commerce in Colorado. Yakima County, Washington, plans to ban marijuana businesses once legal weed goes into effect in the state. Yakima City Council member Dave Ettl told the Times, “There’s some money that’s not worth getting.” In Oregon, where recreational weed will most likely be on the ballot this year, lawmakers are debating a bill that would let municipalities ban or limit medical marijuana sales.

The backlash movement is reminiscent of the post-Prohibition era, when “dry towns” popped up to combat the legalization of alcohol. History shows that this wasn’t an effective tactic in the long term. Still, the backlash movement will make legalization more complicated than it already is. Tension exists, of course, between federal and state law. While President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have come out and said state-by-state legalization is okay, there are still a myriad of issues that threaten to upset the process. Banks, for example, are hesitant to take money from legal weed businesses, forcing dispensaries to deal entirely in cash.


DEA chief Michele M. Leonhart slammed President Obama’s recent comments comparing smoking marijuana to drinking alcohol at an annual meeting of the nation’s sheriffs this week, according to two sheriffs who said her remarks drew a standing ovation.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson said he was thrilled to hear the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration take her boss to task.

“She’s frustrated for the same reasons we are,” Hodgson said. “She said she felt the administration didn’t understand the science enough to make those statements. She was particularly frustrated with the fact that, according to her, the White House participated in a softball game with a pro-legalization group. … But she said her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA was when she learned they’d flown a hemp flag over the Capitol on July 4. The sheriffs were all shocked. This is the first time in 28 years I’ve ever heard anyone in her position be this candid.”


But some people like Mario, a 31-year-old graduate student who works part time at a restaurant, are still turning to the black market for their weed

“I’m afraid that information could get somehow compromised,” he said about his fears of his loans being affected by being on a medical registry. “The last thing I’d want is to get my federal funding cut off.”…

“It’s human nature; nobody wants to be on a list,” said Nelson, a cheerful woman with a curly halo of light red hair and thin purple glasses. “So people have continued to foster the black market.”


“Some check-the-box items that should take a couple of hours take a month,” Kennedy says. Lining up payroll services or security or lawyers or even a bank can be arduous, as many of those companies fear legal ramifications. The Colorado Bar Association recently prohibited attorneys from working with marijuana-related businesses for just this reason—which means that, for now at least, pot businesses can’t hire a lawyer to draw up a contract or close a deal. And even Privateer, with its multimillion-dollar investment deals, was turned down by 16 different banks for a simple checking account…

Meanwhile, an astonishing amount of this fast-growing industry is still conducted in cash—a situation that can leave businesspeople a little jittery. “I’ve been in rooms with a million dollars,” Kennedy says. “It’s not a good feeling.” Companies have to pay for security to prevent robberies, and getting loans is a headache. “We wanted to build a farm on a piece of property where anyone with a credit score over 700 could get it,” Cooley says. “Mine is over 800, but I couldn’t get a loan. Last year, when we were jumping through hoops becoming permitted, instead of a line of credit, we stopped taking salary.”…

And then there are all the requirements from the Justice Department, which, as a condition for allowing the businesses to operate without FBI raids, has mandated a long and complex set of regulations that the new businesses are struggling to meet. Washington’s marijuana-legalization initiative, for example, includes a provision that bans retail stores within 1,000 feet of a park, church or school. “In some parts of our state, it’s tough to get 1,000 feet away from anything!” Heck says.


“It’s a tough issue. We talk about the comparison to alcohol, and obviously alcohol is legal and I’m hardly a prohibitionist, but it does a lot of damage,” [Chuck] Schumer said. “The view I have, and I’m a little cautious on this, is let’s see how the state experiments work.”…

“I’d be a little cautious here at the federal level, and see the laboratories of the states, see their outcomes before we make a decision,” he said.

Todd then asked the senator if he believes states should be allowed to legalize marijuana without federal intervention.

“Yes,” Schumer said. “I think having the states experiment is a good idea.”