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Will Federal Government Doom Voters' Initiatives to Legalize Marijuana?

Senior U.S. White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans to reverse the recent voter decisions in Washington and Colorado that legalized cannabis for adult recreational use.

From Santa Cruz Patch:

Voters in Washington and Colorado recently made American history by becoming the first two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults over 21. 

By so doing, voters believed that they would be freeing up state law enforcement to deal with violent crimes, reallocate precious tax dollars for education and healthcare, collect valuable new tax revenue to boost the money-strapped state economies, and make a lot of people really happy.

This long-awaited, sane and civilized approach to regulating marijuana like alcohol and tobacco is finally coming to fruition, so everyone should be lighting up a spliff and celebrating, right?

Well, just about everyone, except for the grumpy folks on Capital Hill, who aren’t smoking any of those giggly flowers to celebrate, and, in fact, seem dead set on trying to rain on everyone’s parade.

President Obama recently said to ABC news correspondent Barbara Walters, “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.” 

However, President Obama said pretty much the same thing about medical marijuana patients in California, and then his administration pursued the closure of medical cannabis dispensaries in California more aggressively than any previous presidential administration in U.S. history.

It seems likely that the Obama Administration may try raiding cannabis farmer’s markets in Washington and Colorado, or possibly suing the states themselves, if they try and collect revenue from the sale of cannabis.

Senior federal government officials have stated that they are considering taking legal action to undermine the voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Washington and Colorado. 

According to New York Times reporter Charlie Savage, the federal government is considering several options.

One strategy being considered is to arrest several low-level cannabis users in Colorado and Washington, wait for the defendants to make a motion to dismiss the case because the plant is now legal in the state, and then obtain a court ruling that federal law trumps state law.

Other strategies would include the Justice Department filing lawsuits against Washington and Colorado that would seek to prevent them from setting up systems to regulate and tax cannabis, or to cut off their federal grants, unless they comply with federal marijuana prohibition.

These heavy-handed maneuvers would clearly be a slap in the face to the democratic process, as not only did voters overwhelmingly approve these initiatives, but a recent Gallop poll revealed that the majority of Americans now believe that marijuana prohibition should end, and that the persecuted plant should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco.

If the federal government succeeds in gutting the new state laws, and undermining the democratic process in Washington and Colorado, they will essentially be serving the interests of foreign drug cartels--as, ironically, all this would do is prevent the states from reaping tax benefits.

President Obama told ABC that he doesn’t support broader legalization of marijuana “at this point,” despite the fact that we supposedly live in  democracy, the majority of American citizens support legalization, and the scientific evidence confirms that cannabis use doesn’t present any significant threat to pubic health.

The scientific evidence strongly suggests that cannabis not only reduces dangerous stress levels in the body, with few, if any, negative side-effects, but that it may help to significantly reduce the risk of cancer and brain damage.

“What we’re going to need to have is a conversation about this,” President Obama said.

A conversation? This response sounds a little like “we still need more research,” which the U.S. government  has been saying  now for years about medical marijuana, despite abundant research that’s overflowing with evidence for its many medical benefits and safety. 

Ironically, many of these studies emerged internationally, as--despite the U.S. federal government’s repeated calls for more research, they have, in fact, made deliberate attempts attempt to block any marijuana studies that don’t demonstrate negative effects, by maintaining a monopoly on the supply of research cannabis in the U.S.

President Obama said that the question is “how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?”

That doesn’t sound like a very tough question to me, if we lived in democracy, and respected state rights.

However, I realize that President Obama has a lot of campaign supporters that have publicly expressed their attempts to criminalize cannabis users--the alcohol industry, the prison-industrial complex, and the pharmaceutical industry--so I sympathize with his position.

President Obama, this is my heartfelt plea to you.

You were once a committed cannabis smoker yourself, and it didn’t harm you. You became president of the United States. 

Many young African Americans get caught up in the criminal-justice system, because of their use of cannabis, and are not so lucky. These people deserve a chance to live the American dream, just like you.

Please, for the good of the American people, end the injustice and legalize cannabis today.

You  have the power to end marijuana prohibition under the Controlled Substances Act. You can do it today, if you believed in heading to the democratic will of the people, with a single executive order. 

To learn more about about cannabis legalization see:

http://www.mpp.org/

http://norml.org/

http://ssdp.org/

http://www.drugpolicy.org/

If you enjoy my column, and want to learn more about psychedelic and cannabis culture, “like” my Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/pages/David-Jay-Brown/115740098445882?ref=ts

and follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/DavidJayBrown

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MICHAEL P WILSON "Independent Kid" January 02, 2013 at 06:45 PM
Conservatives have God and Guns. Liberals have Pot and Abortions. Come after our Guns, We may come after your Pot.
Scott Yeager January 02, 2013 at 07:40 PM
That is so simplistic without any lack of nuance it boggles the mind.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau January 03, 2013 at 12:26 AM
Absolutely classic comment, absolutely classic respose! There are times I wish Patch had a "Fave" button. This is one of them. Bravo, Michael and Scott, you made my day.
Diane Dennis January 03, 2013 at 01:50 AM
Come on! I'll share! ;) Maybe you'll find that you enjoy it. ;) Just don't bring your guns. ;)
vocal-de-local January 03, 2013 at 07:33 AM
Cannabis should not be legalized until they can figure out how to protect the children of potheads from second hand pot smoke. If they want to legalize oral use of pot, I don't care as long as users pay for their own health insurance if consequences show up later in life. Cannabis is the equivalent of chemotherapy, potent drugs that can have irreversible side effects. It causes apoptosis, aka cell death. This may not be particularly concerning to an adult with a fully developed brain but it can be extremely damaging to developing brains or for people who have a certain genetic makeup. So please, explain to me how to prevent second hand pot smoke from affecting children in the same space? Until you can answer that question, pot should not be legalized. And please don't give me the argument that "pot smokers are responsible and won't do that in front of their kids". That's BS.
vocal-de-local January 03, 2013 at 07:49 AM
Actually pubkid, I have observed more fiscally conservative Republicans advocate for legalization, far more than any other group. Social Conservatives, less so. Anyone with a social conscience should be concerned about the impact of cannabis on the brains of developing children. Issues to consider go far beyond increasing revenue. Fiscal conservatives should be evaluating the costs of psychiatric services which will be needed down the road for those children who grew up inhaling second hand cannabis. Socially minded liberals should care about this matter on a level of caring for the whole village of children when their parents have failed them. We need to advocate for our kids by making certain our laws protect them from second hand cannabis smoke.
Scott Yeager January 03, 2013 at 02:17 PM
I try USS. I try.
Lorie January 03, 2013 at 02:44 PM
I love it when these people [selectively] demand to respect the "democratic process"...just a clear example of what drugs have done to people's brains! Have any of you visited SC downtown lately? Ewww, it reeks!
Alan E. Mason January 03, 2013 at 03:08 PM
According to a study in JAMA, "Occasional and low cumulative marijuana use was not associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function." See http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1104848. The average cannabis smoker might smoke once or twice a day, versus a cigarette smoker who might smoke a pack or two a day, and expose children to second hand smoke that has been proven to have bad effects. If cannabis smoke isn't that bad the first time around, why should it be bad the second time around. What about the adverse affects on children of arresting their parents for smoking cannabis? Can you cite a study that proves your allegation that cannabis "... causes apoptosis, aka cell death."? But all that aside, are you seriously saying we should keep spending billions of dollars unsuccessfully trying to stop people from smoking cannabis, sending them to jail (for years in some states) or at the least saddling them with a criminal record because their smoke MIGHT adversely affect their children? Taking that to its logical conclusion, we should be giving life sentences to cigarette smokers, and installing cigarette smoke detectors in everyone's home. Welcome to 1984.
Alan E. Mason January 03, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Regarding cannabis' effects on young people's brains: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/21/teens-marijuana-brain-tissue-alcohol_n_2331779.html
Alan E. Mason January 03, 2013 at 03:33 PM
Call me an optimist, but I believe that if the feds really thought they could do something about what happened in CO and WA they would have done it the day after the election. With the hundreds of millions spent by the President to get re-elected, his policy wonks must have seen this coming, and the DOJ and DEA should have been prepared to shut this down on Nov. 7 if they really intended to and thought it would be successful. All this talk about "we're still figuring out how to respond" is just a smoke screen, so to speak. Another thing that keeps getting overlooked in this discussion is that the Feds have already allowed de facto legalization by 18 states and DC. I'm talking about medical cannabis. Here's the logic. Cannabis' presence on Schedule I of the CSA means it has no accepted medical uses. The Feds have allowed medical cannabis since 1996, when Cali passed their Med MJ law. Saying you are not going to go against states who allow medical use may sound like you are being compassionate, but it is meaningless from a legal standpoint - medical use is just as illegal as recreational use under federal law. The feds lost their chance to stop this train when they didn't shut Cali down 16 years ago. Prohibition IS going to end, its just a question of how soon.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau January 03, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Living causes apoptosis. I think the point that you are trying to make is that smoking anything does not contribute to the effort to live as long as possible. While toxins from occasionally burning marijuana will effect non-smokers to some extent it is absolutely minor when compared to the carbon monoxide and carcinogens produced continually from vehicles. Valid point, moot argument.
vocal-de-local January 04, 2013 at 09:16 AM
http://psychcentral.com/lib/2012/cannabis-may-cause-schizophrenia-like-brain-changes/ Oh, just what we need - a bunch of psychotic pot smokers running around in a country with lax gun laws.
vocal-de-local January 04, 2013 at 09:43 AM
Effect of cannabis on teen brains http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23188199 No one has yet answered my question. How do we protect children from second hand cannabis exposure? And existing second hand tobacco smoke exposure during childhood does not justify making another grave mistake. Who pays for the lung cancer these kids develop later in life? Taxpayers and those who love them, that's who. Same argument for cannabis induced psychosis in teens and its impact later on in their lives.
vocal-de-local January 04, 2013 at 09:52 AM
Alan, do you work for the tobacco industry? If you're one of those who believes they can get rich off of growing pot once it's legalized, think again. Tobacco companies will get filthy rich, very quickly, because they already have the resources and knowledge to mass produce at lower cost. Sorry but you will not be able to compete with that. It's the equivalent of a guy trying to brew beer in his backyard and believing he can compete with Anheuser Busch. Give it a rest.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau January 08, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Doornbos, to try to answer your question: I would imagine that children could be protected from second-hand marijuana smoke the same way they are protected from any source of second-hand smoke. Just because it's marijuana smoke doesn't mean that it needs special precautions.
Alan E. Mason January 15, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Doornbos. As for your second hand smoke question, I stick with my original premise. Since there is no evidence of lung damage from cannabis smoke to users on the scale of tobacco smoke, this does not seem a valid reason for continuing a multi-billion dollar failed policy. If we shouldn't legalize cannabis because it MIGHT cause problems to children whose parents were irresponsible enough to smoke around them, then there are a whole lot of other activities that we need to make illegal right now. How many activities do parents engage in on a daily basis that MIGHT harm their children. Can't buy aspirin, little Johnny MIGHT get into the medicine cabinet and kill himself. Seriously, this is such a nanny state argument. And no I don't work for the tobacco industry. Where did that come from? Not sure what your point was there or what that had to do with what I said, or why you think I would want to compete with them. But yes, someone with time and a green thumb can grow some very nice cannabis in their back yard, just as millions are already doing legally in medical MJ states, in Colorado and Washington, and illegally in all the others. Maybe the tobacco industry will get into it, but there will still be a large number of those who chose to grow their own as they have been doing for decades. Its like micro-brewed beer or home grown veggies. A lot of consumers may not care about where there beer or food comes from, but a lot prefer to buy from a local producer.
Alan E. Mason January 15, 2013 at 07:24 PM
Doornbos - read the last paragraph of the abstract for the NIH study. "These data SUGGEST that SIGNIFICANT cannabis use during adolescence MAY be a contributory causal factor in the development of CERTAIN features of schizophrenia..." Putting aside the argument that legalizing would help keep cannabis away from children, by their very qualified statements the authors of the study made it clear that evidence that it DOES cause schizophrenia is not there. The other article also includes the word MAY. Also, when you have a minute, you might look up 'psychotic.' Its not the same as schizophrenic, that's why they're two different words.
Alan E. Mason January 25, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Please sign this petition @ We The People demanding that ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske and DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart be fired. We need to send a message that we aren't going to listen to their Reefer Madness crap anymore, and that they should let the people of WA and CO get about their business of moving into the 21st century. The threshold has been raised to to 100,000 signatures, so I need all the help I can get. Thanks. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/fire-dea-administrator-michelle-leonhart-and-ondcp-director-gil-kerlikowske-good-cause/zcLf3w1h
Lorie January 25, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Pro-Potheads should go hangout at some of those teen/young adults drug dependency rehab centers and gather those much needed signatures and let's see what they get. If anything, they might just at least listen to a different point of view from a different perspective, from a very young generation.
kathleen February 12, 2013 at 01:13 AM
I should add..all about politics..makes me wonder about what our Government has come to. Senator's and Governor's a like, have not been standing up for what they believe in. Only for what their side if the isles they are sitting on.

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