The Wink In Weed: 2016 Elections, A WTF Moment

By David Rheins

It is the morning after the 2016 elections and I’m still having a WTF moment.  I did not expect to be waking up to a President Trump, and the notion of The Donald as our Commander In Chief for the next four years seems more than a little surreal.

But despite the disappointing news, last night was a clear victory for those of us in legal cannabis.  Like most of my peers, I am excited to see the marijuana reform movement achieve critical mass, even as I remain unsure of what sort of Federal Drug Policy a Trump administration might take, given likely prominent roles by prohibitionists Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani.

Overwhelming, ‘we the people’ have voted for legal cannabis. History was made last night, as the country added 4 new adult-use marijuana states – California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts – doubling the total to 8 states plus D.C. and affirming once and for all that the public has had enough of the failed War on Drugs.

2016 Election Night NORML Women of Washington Fundraiser

2016 Election Night NORML Women of Washington Fundraiser

With the entire Pacific corridor now a legal cannabis zone, federal enforcement of prohibition becomes “untenable” President Obama recently told HBO’s Bill Maher. However, that doesn’t mean that a conservative administration won’t make life more difficult for legal cannabis states to create and maintain regulated legal markets.

Many remain nervous. A cannabis attorney I spoke with this morning suggested that this election could mean huge changes to his business, and could easily dampen the growth of the budding industry that he and his firm have helped to create.

At a NORML Women of Washington fundraiser last night, dozens of industry folks gathered to watch the election results.  Many were shocked by the rejection of Hillary Clinton, and feared what it might mean to hard-fought victories of women and minority communities.   “Although I am happy about the major advances for marijuana legalization that happened all over the country last night, and what that means for my company and our culture, it is impossible for me to celebrate as I have never felt so devalued as a woman,” Cannabis Basics’ CEO Ah Warner told MJNN. “The fact that quite possibly the most qualified candidate ever lost her bid for the Oval to the personification of celebrity, bigotry, misogyny and greed is a devastating wakeup call about who we really are as a country. My heart bleeds for the women, no matter what their accomplishments, who will go to their graves knowing that they were never more than second class citizens.”

Others are optimistic about the economic opportunity of the expanding legal marketplace. “My business just got better,” a cannabis media executive told me. “Eight new markets just opened up. Think of all the new brands that need building, all the companies who will need our expertise and advice. I’m excited! We’re ratcheting our industry up to the next level.”

For while voters soundly rejected Hillary Clinton and the political status quo, Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike overwhelmingly embraced legal weed. The legal cannabis genie is out of the bottle as the topic of legalization take its rightful place on the centerstage of political discourse, creating a dissonance between federal and state law that will force a change in federal marijuana policy.

What began as an “experiment” in Colorado and Washington just four years ago has now spread from coast to coast, in red states and blue states. Last night’s election was a victory for America’s fastest growing industry – and it will certainly mean new interest, investment and acceptance.

 

 

Can D.C. Still Legalize Marijuana? Depends What “Enact” Means

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The House delivered an expected blow to D.C.’s plans to legalize marijuana last night when it voted in favor of a spending bill that contains a provision intended to block Initiative 71—the D.C. ballot measure to legalize the drug that 70 percent of voters supported on Election Day.

President Barack Obama has already said that he would sign the bill into law, despite disagreeing on principle with Congress meddling with local D.C. affairs (and also strong objections from many Democrats to provisions that would let federally guaranteed banks conduct derivatives trades again and raise caps on contributions to political parties).

But at least some officials say there’s still hope for D.C.’s marijuana law, particularly in the favorable reading of the spending bill that Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is championing. And as a result, by Thursday, they had quietly stopped fighting the legislation as aggressively as they were when it was first released.

The bill prohibits D.C. from using funds to “enact any law, rule or regulation” to legalize or reduce the penalties associated with possession of marijuana. Norton argues that Initiative 71 was enacted when voters approved it in November. Now, the District just needs to carry it out and implement it. And the provision does not prevent the District from “carrying out” the law. Typically provisions like this, which attempt to gut a law through the appropriations process, include language preventing use of funds to “enact or carry out,” not just enact, whatever they’re trying to block. Rep. Andy Harris‘ legislation to block D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization, for instance, contained the words “carry out.”

“Based on a plain reading of the bill and principles of statutory interpretation, the District may be able to carry out its marijuana legalization initiative,” Norton wrote in a press release.

MJNN Exclusive: Bush’s Drug War At 25, Part IV

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part four of a four part series that Mr. Hirschburg has written for MJ News Network, as part of our Cannabis Elections 2014 coverage.

By Bailey Hirschburg

Part IV: “…nothing but a handful of useless chemicals…” Following the addresses, Bush received a small bump in public approval, but it dissipated in the following weeks as conflicts with Congress drained his ability to follow though on his “no new taxes” pledge. Crime and drug legislation contributed to Bush reneging and agreeing to new revenue in 1991. Violent crime, economic stagnation, and drug use continued to spike throughout the remainder of his time in office. His only significant crime legislation would be for weapons of mass destruction in 1992.

So what can we learn from the model drug warrior riding the high of a drug war scare? Even adjusted for inflation, the Obama administration’s drug war budget today is larger than Bush’s first national strategy. In the following decades crime has seen a remarkable decline, more thanks to DNA and computer advancements than prohibition. Over the past quarter century drug use fluctuated independently of the national strategy.

Bush’s speech remains a high water mark for prohibition politics. Strict drug laws were becoming uniform nationwide, public support for action remained high despite overall skepticism of big government, casual use was stigmatized, and sweeping expansions of enforcement powers and equipment made the drug war a unifying and lucrative force for law enforcement.

Seeing the drug war through an inherited prism, the president promised contradictory goals, greater freedom through mandatory compliance, bringing prohibition’s fight to the user, while refusing more spending to do so. In trying to inspire more community outrage towards drugs, the president betrayed the reason the war couldn’t continue indefinitely. Black market drugs are more empowered by laws astray are by the casual user. Prevention efforts failed to explain the difference between alcohol and illegal drugs created by prohibiting one but not the other.

As he was concluding his speech before the nation, President Bush assured Americans, “But if we face this evil as a nation united, this will be nothing but a handful of useless chemicals. Victory — victory over drugs — is our cause, a just cause.”

But of course Americans are just now starting to understand what Bush failed to say that night. Drugs ARE useless chemicals, it’s the laws and abuse of them that gives them power.

As we look to the next 25 years, the public today feels that the deadly bacteria eating our nation’s soul is in fact, drug war politics. We’re moving from a golden age of the drug war, to an age of reform. Low level drug arrests are widely criticized, random drug testing is viewed as needlessly invasive. Marijuana legalization is increasingly popular, as are sentencing, prison, and police reforms. 

The Obama administration took over an ONDCP little different then the one Bush left in 1993. Joe Biden, moving from the Senate to the Vice Presidency personifies the change, became a champion of cocaine sentencing reforms along the way. In 2009, Obama’s first drug czar, Gil Kerlikowski, promised a police group “Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine,” Within four years, the Obama administration would lay out guidelines for Washington and Colorado to move forward with their legal marijuana systems. In that way, when it comes to prohibition, President Bush was right. This scourge will stop.

RESOURCES:

http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/CFIDE/roper/presidential/webroot/presidential_rating_detail.cfm?allRate=True&presidentName=Bush%20%28G.H.W.%29

http://reason.com/blog/2009/07/23/legalization-is-not-in-the-pre

As Marijuana Laws Change, Health Risks Of Pot Use Are Weighed

Now that people in Colorado (and, soon, Washington state) can buy marijuana about as easily as they can pick up a 12-pack of Bud Light, it’s a good time to ask: How risky is it to turn to pot?

President Obama has already shared his opinion, telling the New Yorker magazine, “I don’t think [marijuana] is more dangerous than alcohol.” The president’s opinion stands in stark contrast with official federal policy that still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, putting it in the same class as heroin and LSD. [Read more…]

Don't Blame Eric Holder For Confusing Pot Policies

By Mark Kleiman

WASHINGTON:  Federal law makes it a crime to grow, sell or possess cannabis. New state laws in Colorado and Washington state permit those activities, and officials there are issuing licenses to local companies to commit what remain federal felonies.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in August that it would give a low priority to enforcement efforts against state-licensed growers and sellers in states with “strong and vigorous” regulations, except where they involve other activities such as violence or interstate sales. [Read more…]

Don't Blame Eric Holder For Confusing Pot Policies

By Mark Kleiman

WASHINGTON:  Federal law makes it a crime to grow, sell or possess cannabis. New state laws in Colorado and Washington state permit those activities, and officials there are issuing licenses to local companies to commit what remain federal felonies.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in August that it would give a low priority to enforcement efforts against state-licensed growers and sellers in states with “strong and vigorous” regulations, except where they involve other activities such as violence or interstate sales. [Read more…]

Dems Rally Around Marijuana In 2014 Push

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Lawmakers across the country are turning to relaxed marijuana laws as a winning issue ahead of 2014.

A bi-partisan group of House members sent a letter to the White House on Wednesday morning requesting a change in federal marijuana policy. Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon led the group of 17 Democrats plus California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the drafting of the letter, asking the president to “instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way.” The lawmakers requested the changes in part so that businesses in states where recreational or medical marijuana is legal can deduct business expenses and receive tax credits. [Read more…]

Dems Rally Around Marijuana In 2014 Push

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Lawmakers across the country are turning to relaxed marijuana laws as a winning issue ahead of 2014.

A bi-partisan group of House members sent a letter to the White House on Wednesday morning requesting a change in federal marijuana policy. Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon led the group of 17 Democrats plus California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the drafting of the letter, asking the president to “instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way.” The lawmakers requested the changes in part so that businesses in states where recreational or medical marijuana is legal can deduct business expenses and receive tax credits. [Read more…]

It’s Getting Harder For The Feds To Lie About Marijuana And Get Away With It

By Paul Armentano / AlterNet

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Publicly lying about pot isn’t as easy as it used to be.

That’s the lesson White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (aka the Drug Czar’s office) Deputy Director Michael Botticelli learned earlier this week when he testified before U.S. House Subcommittee on Government Relations. Armed with what appeared to be crib notes from the days of Reefer Madness, Botticelli’s spurious anti-pot testimony immediately became the subject of Internet video fodder and mainstream media criticism. Even more tellingly, Botticelli’s comments drew stern rebukes from federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. [Read more…]

President Obama Signs Farm Bill With Amendment To Allow Industrial Hemp Research

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: President Obama has signed the Farm Bill which contains an amendment to legalize hemp production for research purposes. Originally introduced by Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the amendment allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) successfully worked to retain and strengthen the hemp research amendment during the Farm Bill conference committee process. [Read more…]