Will States Lead the Way to Legalizing Marijuana Nationwide?

Changes in state laws may force the DEA to rethink federal policy

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Anthony Bolante / Reuters

Marijuana plants are displayed for sale at the Canna Pi medical-marijuana dispensary in Seattle on Nov. 27, 2012

When citizens of Colorado and Washington voted in November to legalize marijuana, 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 its referendum, Governor John Hickenlooper said the implementation of the law in his state would be a “complicated process” and 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 — President 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 drug 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 use that is now occurring in the states.

(MORE: U.S. Marjuana Laws Ricochet Through Latin America)

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, under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970, still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug — 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 use to general-use legalization. And the votes were not even close. In Colorado, the referendum passed by more than 6%. In Washington, the margin was 10%.

Afterward, Obama said the federal government has a lot of crime to prosecute and so “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 Governor Jay Inslee said he had a conversation with Attorney General Eric Holder that encouraged him about his state’s ability to carry out the referendum legalizing marijuana.

(MORE: New Research Questions Marijuana’s Impact in Lowering IQ)

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 if 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 under way. 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.

140 comments
maryjeanine9
maryjeanine9

My name is Dr. Maryjeanine and I’m a chiropractor. Sports, fitness, exercise and nutrition have long been driving forces in my life. In fact, I used to be the strongest woman in the world. Because of my lifestyle, it came as a complete shock when I learned I had cancer. It started on August 22, 2011 when I found a lump in my left breast. The next day, I went for a mammogram and pretty much knew that something was suspicious. Soon after that, I was diagnosed with stage IIA triple negative breast cancer.To hear that I had breast cancer meant that I needed to give it my full focus, my full attention. The world stopped. I needed to do everything I could not understand what I had. I needed to find the right place for me to go to for treatment and I needed to determine what else I could to do to help my body fight the disease. so i did so research online and found out about cannabis oil and how it has help so many people i decided to try it, i tried to make it my self but learned it was illegal in my state so i had to order it online, i got it via: ricksimpsoncancerfoundation@gmail.com, after few weeks of treatment i felt the high effect of the cannabis oil.

HayvenWilliams
HayvenWilliams

Im a recovering drug and alcohol addict and I found the reason for me using drugs was because I suffer from ADHD and social anxiety disorder and getting drunk and high made it easier for me to go out into the world im 10 years clean and for the first 7 I tried every doctor prescribed medication used for my disorder known to man and every one either made me sick ,tired or had horrible side effects 3 years ago I tried Marijuana and I have to say that its saved my life I was so close to going back to my old ways Marijuana is a blessing to me it may not be right for everyone but for me its great no side effects other then feeling good and wanting to eat chocolate and  now that my body is used to smoking on a daily basis I can function like a normal person you would never be able to tell that I smoke when I tell people they are like no way weed doesnt effect people like you think and its nothing like booze you cant smoke enough weed to get you that loaded .

elizabethcasson21
elizabethcasson21

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LJHepp
LJHepp

Everything in that article made sense up until the second to last sentence.

HayvenWilliams
HayvenWilliams

@LJHepp Dont you love how they threw that in there like weed ever caused a viloent crime to happen maybe candy bar theft or slurpee heist Some folks will never see the light Marijuana use has never been linked to a single death and recent studies show that it not only can help shrink tumore and kill cancer cells but it even can help to cure cancer and yet the federal government still puts it in the same catagory as Meth and cocaine thats like putting tomatos in that catagory

davidsapp18
davidsapp18

 @MiguelLopez It is good for you, it stimulates brain cells, and helps with conditions such as a.d.d, a.d.h.d and thousands of others conditions instead of having to put people on the deadly pharmaceutical medication. And maybe you should take a history class, because then maybe you would see prohibition doesn't work at all. To the sounds of it you don't smoke, but im sure you have a drink; which is a far more dangerous than you and a millions others would like to admit. Just cause you don't smoke doesn't mean you have to support its prohibition. #DontKillOurHgihBitch

MiguelLopez
MiguelLopez

People should take a history class, don't we all remember how they said tobacco was good for you and even doctors were recommending it to their patients like they are now, how taxes tobacco would give us a huge profit but in fact we actually lose way more many than we gain just from the after math of using it, look up your facts before your convince that marijuana is good for you . 


katehannish
katehannish

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Ahumanbeing
Ahumanbeing

Our government is treating us like cattle, they tell us what to eat, what to drink, what medicines to take.. They give us money that is worth nothing, before the federal bank came to power, our money was the notes value in gold, our money is now the equivalent of a theme park currency.   The majority of people in America do nothing about this because they do not care, they are given entertainment, all the varieties of foods they could ever choose from, and a guiding hand to shield their eyes from the iron curtain. The people NEED to care, they NEED to get angry, don't let these people tell us how to live our lives, don't let them withhold medicine that can cure deadly diseases for their sick profit.           We are human beings, it's time we acted like it.

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

Let's respect the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution.  The voters (directly or indirectly) in each of the fifty states should decide on Marijuana laws, not the Federal Government.  Exactly what is the purpose of the Federal preemption of Marijuana laws?

Respect the Constitution. Let's return power to the States as intended by the Framers of the Constitution.


JimHalsband
JimHalsband

When will Obama finally say to the nation, "I smoked it regularly in college and wound up in the Oval Office!"?

MarieKush
MarieKush

The Federal Government Grows Marijuana, Why Can’t We? I am at the point where I am pretty much resigned to the reality that I will someday have to put my life on the line defending my right to choose my own medicine. We have to get together on this issue and fight like the Colorado voters gave the call for marijuana legalization. This situation may be faced by others states too. Check the news on this link from where i get this..  http://bigbudsmag.com/grow/article/marijuana-growers-canada-advanced-nutrients-hydroponics

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

Obama just got back from his so-called vacation in Hawaii where he managed to kill marijuana legalization in the legislature.  Now he is supposedly vacationing in Florida where he is going to try to kill legalization efforts there.


DavidLane
DavidLane

mushrooms are natural as well...... oh and dont forget morning glory seeds.... those can get you high too... there are lots of "natural" drugs out there

cotyseager
cotyseager

weed is not chemacaly made like other drugs, weed is a herb from the earth that god put on this earth for us pot smokers. weed is all natural made, the only "drug" that is not chemacly made.

MikeParent
MikeParent

Proven Science doesn't justify prohibition;  History doesn't justify prohibition;   Clinging to a policy conceived, born and nurtured from lies, greed and racism doesn't justify prohibition.  Thanks to the Internet, Information now goes both ways.  They can't lie with impunity anymore. These comments are proof and why the polls are now favoring legalization.  The Prohibitionists only have time worn lies and  propaganda, and that's all been refuted.  For the Feds to cling to a orally bankrupt policy that more Americans than not, want to see repealed makes no sense.

hdcineman
hdcineman

I was in Seattle the night that the Legal Recreational Marijuana Law (i502) went into effect. I shot a little video of everyone getting high at midnight under the space needle.  It was a good vibe. It's nothing spectacular, but check it out!


http://youtu.be/wp8xfQaCA-4

JeffreyColin
JeffreyColin

I suspect that this issue will heat up shortly when "family values" organizations, religious institutions, and "Conservative" organizations finish their formal responses. I would expect to see numerous lawsuits, and extreme pressure placed on the Obama Administration to crackdown on any activities in the two states, Washington and Colorado, related to establishing a legal marijuana trade. It will entertaining theater to see the numerous forces lined up against each other. Ultimately, the money that flowed into California from Drug Cartels in Mexico to defeat California's legalization initiative will make its way into the hands of key officials, and the pot party will end.

outraged76
outraged76

This will mean it is okay for my child to grow up knowing it legal to eat or smoke cannibals and wonder  if the person in charge of his present during school hours is under the influence or any medical personal who is treating him, because it was voted by the people. Yet knowing that anyone could just walk into any building and start shooting....... WOW...... MIGHT AS WELL LEGALIZE EVERY DAMN CRIME TOO!!!!!!

ChachoPadilla
ChachoPadilla

JURY NULLIFICATION/JURY INDEPENDENCE

Actually, it is time to educate the public and potential jurors regarding "Jury Nullification". If a person is pending criminal charges/trial for marijuana they can escape the charges. I guess we the people will have to take the power back and take care of this travesty on our own...I will not convict.NOT GUILTY!

JURY NULLIFICATION

RICARDO CORTES:“JURY INDEPENDENCE”

thaskins
thaskins

this world is built on choice and if you choose to do a good job at work and then go home and smoke a bowl.thats my choice,i am a better person when i know i can sit back,listen to music,think magically and pray to my god in peace and talk and love my family the way i want to.thats my choice as long as i try to do what is right for this world and not do it while driving or working.use common sence and set the guidelines for pot use,legalize weedand give us our freedom back.you might be surprized.

arjames72
arjames72

Here is a formula to cut the deficit- Legalize pot and tax it significantly + Have the IRS and tax preparers crack down on giving out EIC credit to people who don't deserve it. 


FederalReserveBrown
FederalReserveBrown

this gov't of scum owes the american public an apology too large to make.. I want a civil war, not a clean slate for I was NEVER a criminal in the 1st place,,, the uSA needs to decorate its lamp posts nation wide with judges & police who have ABUSED their powers for decades.


prison for possessing a plant? and we tolerated this for how long?

Tommy34684
Tommy34684

The POTUS agrees.  Minimally if caught with it, increase the amount you can have in your possession before going to jail in Florida.  Second, the facts are in, legalize it for medical purposes in Florida.

WowFAD
WowFAD

As much as 58% (not 68%) that favor legalization.  Read Q1 in the linked report.  25% + 33% = 58%, not 68%

If support were at 68%, even for PPP, that would be a shockingly liberal poll result.

William SP
William SP

I never like it to be used it legally ,but it's better some people using it against chemical synthetic mix drugs...herbalism

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

Voters in California voted the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) into law in 1996. Between 1996 and 2011 the crime rate in California plummeted by 42.492%

The violent crime rate fell 52.347%

 The property crime rate fell 40.547%

http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/cacrime.htm

The number of residents in California increased by just under 20% between 1996 and 2011.

Skeptics will argue that the crime rate has plummeted nationwide, so the California decrease is irrelevant. Between 1996 and 2011 the crime rate in the United States fell by 35.234%

The nationwide violent crime rate fell 39.318%

The nationwide property crime rate fell 34.650%

The population of the United States increased just over 17% between 1996 and 2011.

Please don't forget that 12% of Americans call California home and as a result California's contribution to the nationwide decrease in crime rates was not insignificant.

Paulpot
Paulpot

"But if legalization in these states has few negative effects, we will have the strongest argument yet for why marijuana should be legal nationwide."

This is why we are going to see the collapse of prohibition in the near future but at the same time seeming government acceptance of legalization is the same ploy that was used regarding medical marijuana.

The government said they would stand back but then went in and raided many shops and ordered many others to close down. 

It is war with a smiley face. 

And the government will be no different with legalization. They will wait for the shops to open, then start quietly raiding them and confiscating money and property and smashing what they don't want for themselves. They are pigs and need to be put in a pen. 

The ballot petitions are the only tool we have for ending this destructive war but it is necessary for this revolution to spread across more states to the point that the federal government can no longer dismiss the will of the people.

Get started on ballot initiatives for 2014 now. 

Kelsey Leigh Eagleson
Kelsey Leigh Eagleson

Doping? I hope you don't mean marijuana lmao. If so name one negative effect that could come from a national legalization in the U.S.? (Besides the government losing money from throwing people in prison) I can't believe that people can be brainwashed to hate a plant with many benefits for virtually no reason. You only think its "a big bad drug" because the government forces it into the hands of hard drug dealers. Stop making the mistake of grouping marijuana plants and hemp as drugs. It's seriously ignorant. I hope I see the day that national legalization happens.

TomCockerill
TomCockerill

I too am anxious to see the data that proves the sky didn't fall when WA and CO legalized cannabis for adult consumption and for industrial purposes.  It really will completely destroy the foundation of the prohibitionist's ideology.  I'm glad to see such a notarized publication like Time running this article and also I'm glad to see so many people coming together to speak out against the legitimacy of the current policy.  The writing is on the wall!

19shane
19shane

Estimates show that marijuana is America’s number one cash crop. However, marijuana remains untaxed. This is a new source of income for our nation, an income we desperately need.

Over 500 of the nation’s top economic professors have shared their opinion in supporting the removal of prohibition and imposing the taxation and regulation of marijuana as a way to slow the federal deficit.

Marijuana prohibition is costing America upwards of $20 billion annually. The hemp industry would not only create jobs, it would free up court time and jail space for real criminals among many other benefits. The list could go on.

Sign the petition in the video description.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_tUy6fylQs

MementoMori
MementoMori

"The campaign to legalize marijuana has long been viewed as a fringe cause, backed by young people and old hippies."

Viewed by who? Journalists and reporters who have been perpetuating that exact same narrative?

Whatever happened to introspection? I swear the entire news media industry is lagging about 20 years behind the rest of us. And I'm not young.

Rick_The_Explorer
Rick_The_Explorer

Get on your State Senate and House Reps now. If they won't act, remember their names and vote them out. Check out the White House.gov page entitled, "Marajuana Legalization". It is full of lies, every word of it. Write the President. Keep the hippie lingo, and exostensialness out of it, it will go over their heads. These were not the smart people in school, these were the drone workers.

Tero
Tero

Cannabis is still illegal for two reasons; the liquor industry's lobbyists and the corrupt American system of governance.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

As lead in the air continues to drop and the old lead paint is replaced on the walls, the crime rates will keep falling.  At least, so says science (leaded gasoline shows clear link to crime rates with 23 year lag time with variances by city and country demonstrating the same pattern.  Lead levels in New Orleans soil by community match community crime rates almost perfectly).

brett.sobaski
brett.sobaski

I have a doctor at a Department of Veterans Affairs, psychiatrist and he told me that marijuana releases seratonin, that smoking marijuana increases seratonin in the body.

sacredh
sacredh

"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."

.

I have serious doubts about that. I quit indulging over 30 years ago. We used to argue about who had to get up and change an album. Going out and committing a crime? Jesus, we used to have a hard time convincing somebody to walk cross the street and buy cookies. 

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

Interestingly, Justice Louis Brandeis was on the Supreme Court when states were becoming laboratories for new laws prohibiting marijuana, which you could buy in many drug stores without a prescription, and when Harry Anslinger conducted his propaganda campaign (he claimed pot smoking turned people into maniacal murders - see "Reefer Madness" - and gave people heart attacks) to get it outlawed on the federal level. The Congresscritters who wrote those laws didn't even know what marijuana was. Now most of the cowardly hypocrites have probably smoked it.

sacredh
sacredh

"The campaign to legalize marijuana has long been viewed as a fringe cause, backed by young people and old hippies."

.

I work at a federal installation and we have a total of 2 people under the age of 40. It's mostly ex-military. I doubt if I could find 2 people that think weed should be kept illegal. We get surprise drug tests so nobody uses drugs and we've never had a positive test result. We've been getting tested for over a decade. If pot was legalized, probably 1/4 of the people would smoke.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

I hope so.  Legalize it, tax it, and safely regulate it.  Not only will it help against drug related crime but it will also be a decent source of revenue for the government.

Sea_View
Sea_View

Thank you, Adam Cohen. Very well written. I'm in WA, and I'm really jazzed about seeing how the new legalization affects our state. I'm hoping it will bring with it new jobs and expanded possibilities. I'm also watching for negatives, such as an increase traffic accidents, vagrancy and crime. So far, everything looks normal, but we don't have dispansaries for the general public. I'm in wait and see mode.

I am not a habitual user, but I have enough experience to know that we have been lied to about many of the dangers all this time, and brainwashed by our government to fear something we do not know. I am hoping that maybe, perhaps, we will expand into using hemp for industry and find new treatments for illnesses with cannabis. I don't truly believe that it is the miracle drug people think it is, but I think we have missed an opportunity to learn the best applications for it.

RobynCareyAllgeyer
RobynCareyAllgeyer

Howard Rahta is a retired Cincinnati Police Captain (head of Vice at his retirement) who also spent twenty years as a drug counselor and ED of the Cincinnati Alcoholism Council.  He has just written a book about drug reform - Drugs, Crime and Violence: From Trafficking to Treatment.  Fascinating spokesperson and point of view given his roles on both sides of the "war on drugs."  An active member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), anyone interested in reading about the 49 year history of Nixon's "War on Drugs" and Rahtz's recommendations for a "new prescription for America's drug problem" will be interested in picking up his book. http://howardrahtz.com/

aahpat
aahpat

The war on America's more than 55 million pot consumers starts and ends in the U.S. Congress. No state action can truly move forward unless the Congress gets out of the way.


End The Jim Crow Pot War in 2013
 
Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the powerful U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and a sympathetic ear to pot reform issues, is planning hearings soon to consider the federal response to the legalization votes in Colorado and Washington states.  
 
We can end the war on pot if we engage Sen. Leahy and the Congress NOW on this issue. The war against pot begins and ends in the U.S. Congress.

The time to act is now.
 
If Leahy is your senator PLEASE consider writing to him and asking that the Congress consider removing cannabis from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act and instead include it in subtitle E of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages and tobacco. This would allow the states to regulate cannabis as they see is best in their communities.
 
If Leahy is not your senator you can write to your senators and ask them for forward to Leahy your wish that Congress consider removing pot from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act and instead include it in subtitle E of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages and tobacco. You might also express your wishes that your U.S. senators and Representatives join you in your advocacy on this issue to Sen. Leahy.


Tell Congress: End The Jim Crow Pot War In 2013
http://home.ptd.net/~aahpat/RESCHEDULE/reschedule_cannabis_in_2013.html

Chelsea Gregg
Chelsea Gregg

There's a reason the Prohibition didn't work...

FlyingTooLow
FlyingTooLow

I stayed 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense.

While I was there, I watched armed bank robbers come and go in as little as 17 months. One lad was in for armed Post Office robbery with a sawed off shotgun...his stay, 20 months.

When I went to the parole board after 3 years 'behind the wall,' I pointed this out to the panel members. Their response, "You must understand that yours was a very serious offense."

I laughed about that for 2 more years (as I still sat in prison), then wrote my book:

Shoulda Robbed a Bank

When I was in, the entire Federal Prison population was just over 28,000. Drug offenders made up 53% of that number. I see today that population has risen to over 218,000.

Prison is big business. It used to be called 'slavery.'