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.

139 comments
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.

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.

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

Ahumanbeing
Ahumanbeing

Perhaps you should take your own advice before slandering it.

michaelbrown
michaelbrown

@MiguelLopez @MiguelLopez Actually, marijuana has been proven to help many health problems. It's not good for you as in taking a daily vitamin or anything, but if you have health problems, it can help you. How do I know this? I'm a medical marijuana patient that has multiple health issues. Sure, I enjoy smoking it as well just like I enjoy a nice beer after a long day, but ultimately I rejected the American healthcare system in it's care of me and I smoke pot to help with my physical and mental issues as a result of my service in the Army. How about doing your own homework before you judge people?

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@cotyseager 

Everything you just said about weed is Extremely False.

It is a Drug

and many drugs are made in nature.... the drug is identified and other sources via that magic of chemistry create the original plant based drug..... so long as the drug is pure the SOURCE of the drug cannon be detected by your body...


to even tell a difference you would have to examine isotopes in the drugs... all of which means squat when you ingest it

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@cotyseager 


THC is a chemical... You can produce it from coal tar and it is no different than that which is grown.


Everything that has an effect upon your body is a chemical.


May i suggest a damn chemistry class you idiot hippy?

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

@cotyseager The devil gave us the DEA that and supplies us with all the chemicals the government can provide.

MatthewRoscoe
MatthewRoscoe

@outraged76 Alcohol has been legal for decades now, and you don't see drunk school officials everywhere you go. So why would cannabis be any different. Maybe you should do your homework before spewing off a bunch of "facts" about how everybody is going to be high when cannabis is legalized. Regulatory laws will be in place to ensure people aren't high everywhere they go.

Punisher13
Punisher13

@outraged76  You are just too stupid,your mama didn't teach you free will?If you think like that then you need to leave usa and go live in Afghanistan,here we are open minded...If your child wants to smoke you won't be able to do anything about it,marijuana heals cancer and a lot of disease and also if someone wants to enjoy smoking then WTF is your problem???He is not stealing from you!And for your information weed is legal in Holland and go have some vacation over ther you will see that the crime rate is very low and not high like you may think,change your way of thinking and make this world a better place,if god decided to give us marijuana who are you to say it's bad???You are not smarter than him...May GOD bless you with a healthy mind OUTRAGED...LOL.....

DavidBrown1
DavidBrown1

@outraged76 

Do you know what medications your childrens teachers are on now? Seriously, teachers can be drunk, on pain meds or anti psychotics and you don't have any control over that either.

Face it, prohibition only benefits the cartels. It doesn't prevent your child from being exposed to drugs, it only ensures that whatever drugs they are exposed to are unregulated. That means that when little Johnny gets curious, he might be ingesting pot or pot with PCP or pot with 'who-knows-what'. I'd  rather that the industry be legalized and regulated much the same as alcohol is now. Not perfect and there are still boot leggers out there but at least tax revenues can be set aside to deal with any social issues created.

All that said, know that I haven't smoked or ingested pot in any form for more than 30 years but when I did so, in my youth, I didn't turn into a drug crazed zombie nor did I commit any crimes. I just got mellow. I stopped enjoying the high so I stopped doing the drug. Never had any desire to try anything stronger than booze. (don't do much of that any more either, must've outgrown that as well)

Regards,

RussellCooper
RussellCooper

@outraged76 did you even read your post before you hit the post comment button? You sound like a total moron. Do you honestly believe that your retarded child will be wondering if his teachers and doctors are high on marijuana? It is because of stupid, ignorant people like yourself that this country is in so much trouble. Why don't you try to inform yourself about the issues before you show us how stupid you actually are.

AshleyLawton
AshleyLawton

@outraged76 God forbid you teach your children how to tackle the gray areas of life rather than depending on laws to do it for you.

USconstitutionredo
USconstitutionredo

@outraged76 You are sooo right we should keep marijuana illegal, but I think you stopped a little short. I think we should start a ban on coffee.  Can you imagine all these teachers all hoped up on coffee just letting these people walk into schools? The  poor childern are seeing these caffined crazed teachers. Ugh. It just sickens me. We should take everyone that drinks coffee, and throw them into jail for (lets be a little reasonable) five years that will teach them what is right. If you haven't caught on yet I am doing something that is called a satire an example of this is Thomas Paine "Common Sense."  You are a prime example of a brain washed citizen. If you were younger I would blame "no child left behind", but since this isn't the case. I am just going to say that you are not a very bright person.

Flyingbison
Flyingbison

@outraged76 Smoke cannibals? Clearly marijuana has nothing to do with IQ. This country is straying away from its intended purpose which was for people to have the freedom to do what they want as long as it's not hurting anyone else. If I want to smoke CANNABIS(not cannibals) in the privacy of my own home, how in any way shape or form does that effect you? I am sure they would have regulation to whether teachers can be high or not whilst teaching (For example, a teacher medicated with marijuana would take his medication at night, as the marijuana would have very minimal effects on him the next day).

Blackester
Blackester

@Hadrewsky @cotyseager maybe cause coal tar contains about 10,000 chemicals genius, and the word "if" should be in bold, i'm not gonna pretend to know about pharmaceutical chemistry but i would imagine extracting 1 chemical out of another 10,000 might be slightly difficult.


so wheres the line between a substance being addictive and the persons addictive personality?


you cant say its addictive based on 1 or 2 people that cant seem to quit the stuff.


i know when i smoke i'm not gonna have any withdrawals at all so its not addictive right?


it gets annoying to see folks with such huge ego's after 6 months of schooling.


and its also annoying that people won't see the "drug" for what it is, a plant.

dcskater0075995
dcskater0075995

@Hadrewsky@cotyseager

Of course identical chemicals are identical! my point was that the likely hood of you perfectly synthesizing thc from a substance as structurally different as coal tar, even with the right equipment would be a lengthy process in which the likely hood of impurities being present is significant, and if present then the final product is not the same molecule as found in nature. i should have made the point clearer. In review i was not saying the chemicals are innately different due to alternative origins. I was saying that when you are manipulating such a different substance in synthesis, the chemist would run into the mechanical problem of ensuring ALL lingering impurities are removed thus resulting in a different substance regardless of the 99.99% concentration of the thc suspension. liked the dead mom reference, risque' yet amusing.

dcskater0075995
dcskater0075995

@Hadrewsky @cotyseager 

both of you have a point, and that 'stupid hippie' has a right to his opinion. it is his constitutional right.
as for THC, delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol  synthesized from coal tar IS different from that which naturally occurs in Cannabis sativa because of the increased toxicity level and potency level that would arise from extraction (depending solely on your choice of intermediate substances to isolate the carbon/hydrogen chains) with chemistry you can shoot up Advil, huff morphine or take a suppository of solidified caffeine, the point is that thc is the only non physically addictive mind altering substance to arise naturally from a plant. synthesis of a chemical doesn't make it identical, anyone with a basic understanding of physics and organic chemistry will tell you that. so take your superiority complex and cram it, personal attacks should not be tolerated on a forum of opinion, attack points not people :)

joeymarie68
joeymarie68

Wow, calm down little Fella.....someone needs to smoke some pot LOL!! "idiot hippy." are you 12?  May I suggest some common courtesy classes? Your mama didn't teach you very good manners boy!

joeymarie68
joeymarie68

@RussellCooper 

Wow, while I agree with you in theory, your point is lost in all the name calling. Holy shit dude, calm down, If you go back and take out all of your mean ass comments someone might take your advice. Dont be a bully, shit

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@dcskater0075995 @Hadrewsky @cotyseager 


I agree that THC is VERY low on toxicity but it IS IN FACT Psychologically addicted to the point that there are severe rehab case out there.... weed CAN HOOK you - it is just damned unlikely.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@dcskater0075995 @Hadrewsky @cotyseager 


wit a damn second...


If I get a pharmaceutical lab quality setup and process THC from coal tar and it is FREE from contaminants than YES it is Exactly the same as what comes out of the plant.


Chemical are chemicals and it DOES NOT MATTER where they come from so long as they are free from contaminant... If I took you mother's dead body and cooked it up in ethanol and refined it and then got ethanol from corn the PURIFIED Ethanol from dead mom and the corn would be IDENTICAL.


Chemical are chemicals are it MATTERS NOT where they come from so long as they are pure.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@joeymarie68 


weed makes me anxious unless i abuse a couple of bars of xanax.... that shit never made me chill


But it gets annoying to here folks claim weed is not a drug

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

@DavidBrown1 @JoseGonzales @ChachoPadilla Indeed, Justice Scalia who made the drug war exception to the Constitution just struck down voting rights to the very same people the marijuana laws targeted.

The new strategy to keep marijuana illegal are the Latino immigrants who vote against legalization.