State legislators in Rhode Island and Maine will announce bills tomorrow to legalize recreational marijuana, a spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project announced today…
MPP says that “similar proposals will be submitted in at least two other states — Vermont and Massachusetts.” A ballot iniative legalizing medical marijuana passed in Massachusetts last week with more than 60 percent of the vote. Maine voters voted to expand the state’s 1999 medical marijuana law in 2009 to include dispensaries.
Relaxing restrictions on marijuana met with mixed results on Election Day, approved by voters in Colorado, Washington and Massachusetts, rejected in Arkansas and Oregon.
Americans split by 48-50 percent in this survey on “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Nonetheless that marks a new high in support in polls back to 1985, and the first time opposition has slipped to less than a majority. Support for legalizing marijuana has grown sharply from just 22 percent in 1997.
Despite increased acceptance of the idea, intensity of sentiment is tilted against relaxing marijuana restrictions: Thirty-seven percent are strongly opposed to legalization, vs. 26 percent who strongly support it.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón says the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in two U.S. states limits that country’s ‘‘moral authority’’ to ask other nations to combat or restrict illegal drug trafficking.
Calderón says the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado represents a fundamental change that requires the rethinking of public policy in the entire Western Hemisphere…
Mexico insists the violence from cartels has increased largely because drug consumption and arms smuggled from the United States.
“Why do criminals kill so cruelly and with so much evil? Why do they take so many risks? Because they are that dumb, that violent, that savage? It’s their ambition that then causes an increase in drug prices and demand from the consumer markets,” the president said.
This week, Paul also plans to re-engage with Leahy and others about his stance on marijuana, saying it makes little sense to have tough laws against possession that could destroy a young person’s life.
After Colorado and Washington state each approved recreational use of marijuana in ballot initiatives last week, Paul said it “wouldn’t hurt” for his party to take a softer stand on the issue, saying it would show that the GOP is a “little bit rational” and “reasonable” if penalties for pot possession were weakened.
“I don’t think we should put people in jail for mandatory sentences of nonviolent drug crimes, particularly 20-year sentences,” Paul said. “I’d just hate to see somebody’s kid get put in jail for 20 years for making a mistake.”
Young Americans are much more open to reform, about 59 percent of Americans under 34 favor legalization, as do 56 percent among those 35-44. Middle-aged Americans are evenly split, while seniors are most opposed 64 percent to 29 percent in favor. However, even a majority of seniors (58 percent) favor medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor.
Religiosity highly correlates with position on drug legalization. Sixty-seven percent of those who attend church weekly oppose legalizing recreational pot, but 58 percent support medical marijuana. In contrast 75 percent of those who never attend church favor marijuana legalization, as do 61 percent of those who only attend church a few times a year…
Interestingly, significantly more tea party supporters than Republicans favor legalizing marijuana (38 percent to 27 percent). Upwards of 55 percent of both Democrats and Independents also support legalizing the drug.
It would be a mistake to call these ballot initiative victories “pro-pot.” Most of those who voted in favor don’t use marijuana; indeed many don’t like it at all and have never used it. What moved them was the realization that it made more sense to regulate, tax and control marijuana than to keep wasting money and resources trying to enforce an unenforceable prohibition.
Whether or not the two state governments move forward with regulating marijuana like alcohol will depend on two things: how the Obama administration, federal prosecutors and police agencies respond; and the extent to which the states’ senior elected officials commit to implementing the will of the people. The fact that federal laws explicitly criminalize marijuana transactions, and that the federal government can continue to enforce those laws, means that federal authorities could effectively block the initiatives from being fully implemented. But there are also good reasons why the Obama administration should, and may, allow state governments to proceed as voters have demanded…
Will federal prosecutors and police agents continue to repeat the mantra that “it’s all illegal under federal law” and that the federal Controlled Substances Act trumps all state laws? Yes, of course. But they’re up against a powerful host of arguments that also demand deference. These new laws were passed by voter initiatives, which represent the clearest expressions of the will of the people. The final tallies were consistent with public opinion polls earlier in the year, before anyone had spent a penny on political advertising. Voters clearly knew what they were voting for.
Effectively implemented, the new laws could offer fiscal benefits in terms of reducing criminal justice costs and increasing tax revenues, public safety benefits in terms of transforming a criminal, underground market into a legally regulated above-ground part of local economies, and public health benefits in terms of regulating the quality and potency of substances consumed by millions of Americans. They also, it must be said, advance the cause of freedom.
Both initiatives abolish penalties for adults 21 or older who possess up to an ounce of marijuana and for state-licensed growers and sellers who follow regulations that are supposed to be adopted during the next year or so. Pot prohibitionists such as Asa Hutchinson, former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), argue that allowing marijuana sales violates the Controlled Substances Act and therefore the Constitution, which makes valid acts of Congress “the supreme law of the land.”
But the Supremacy Clause applies only to laws that Congress has the authority to pass, and the ban on marijuana has never had a solid constitutional basis. If alcohol prohibition required a constitutional amendment, how could Congress, less than two decades later, enact marijuana prohibition by statute?
The White House is surprisingly uncool when it comes to toking up: A Reuters piece that Charles C. W. Cooke noted on the Corner last week reports that the victories are largely symbolic. Ken Sabet, former assistant to Obama’s drug czar, said that state leaders “are facing an uphill battle with implementing this, in the face of . . . presidential opposition and in the face of federal enforcement opposition.” In other words, the Obama administration cares more about maintaining the concentration of federal power than preventing thousands of bored college students from getting arrested for doing exactly what the president did when he was a bored college student.
For the GOP, this is more than just an opening; it’s a magical messaging moment, which, to paraphrase Rahm Emanuel, conservatives shouldn’t let go to waste. “This is a classic example of where they can walk the walk,” says Tim Lynch of the Cato Institute. This isn’t really a drug-legalization issue; it’s a states’ rights issue and a limited-powers issue. All conservatives have to agree on is that the federal government might have better things to do with its freshly printed money than try to enforce a nigh-unenforceable law that local voters and leaders think was a bad idea in the first place…
If the GOP is going to be competitive in 2016, it has to communicate to young people that intrusive federal government makes their lives worse. It has to communicate that it’s the party that respects personal choice and individual responsibility. And it would probably help to communicate that when in doubt, the GOP doesn’t automatically take the side of the insanely expensive branch of the federal government that breaks into people’s homes, shoots their dogs, and imprisons them because they added a funny ingredient to their brownies.