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Sen. Alexander (R-TN) Opposes Feds Interfering in State Marijuana Laws

By: Friday October 24, 2014 9:58 am

Sen. Alexander is not the first traditional Republican from a red state to adopt the states’ rights position on marijuana reform

Republican Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander has adopted a states’ rights approach to marijuana reform issues. From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

“Sen. Alexander believes that Washington, D.C. should not be telling states what to do about the decriminalization of marijuana,” Alexander spokesman Brian Reisinger said in an email response to questions posed by the Times Free Press.

Reisinger said that as for Alexander’s “own views, while there may be some valid medicinal uses for cannabis, he is concerned about the potential abuse and widespread use of drugs for recreational purposes and is carefully watching the de-criminalization process in the states of Colorado and Washington.”

Alexander is not the first traditional Republican from a red state to adopt this position. During a debate last month Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), who is in a tough re-election fight, called marijuana legalization a “state issue” that should be decided locally not federally.

Moving in this direction politically would be smart for Republican leaders as marijuana reform continues to grow in popularity. While the Republican base doesn’t support marijuana legalization, they also overwhelmingly oppose the federal government interfering in what they see as a state matter. This is the stance Congressional Republicans can take that makes their base as well as supporters of marijuana reform happy.

We may soon get to see how truly committed Alexander is to the principle of leaving marijuana issues up to the local government. Voters in D.C. are set to overwhelmingly approve a marijuana legalization initiative this November, but Congress has the power to rewrite any local laws in the District so it could step in to overturn the will of the electorate.

Last Month’s Anti-Pot Poll in Colorado Appears to Have Been a Fluke

By: Thursday October 23, 2014 7:42 am

Somewhere in Colorado

Last month prohibitionists aggressively highlighted a Suffolk poll showing a majority of likely midterm voters in Colorado don’t support the new marijuana law, but now it looks increasingly clear that poll result was a fluke.

The September poll found 45.8 percent of likely midterm voters in Colorado agreed with the decision to legalize marijuana, while 50.2 percent disagreed. Yet their new poll out Wednesday tells a different story with a plurality supporting the law. The new poll has 45.4 agree with the decision to legalize, and only 44.8 percent opposed to the decision.

As I said at the time, it is important to keep in mind that this is a poll of likely voters in a low turnout midterm election. The people who vote in midterm elections are on average noticeably older and more conservative than those who turn out for Presidential elections. And registered voters tend to be a slightly older subset of all adults. That would mean we can assume from this poll that support for legalization among all adults in Colorado is much higher, which is what several other polls have shown.

This is of course why we look at the average of multiple polls instead of a single poll whenever possible. There is always the chance that any single poll can be an outlier.

Not surprisingly, I’ve seen none of the opponents of marijuana legalization who aggressively highlighted the Suffolk poll last month mentioning their more recent survey.

Washington Post Editorial Board Goes Full Reefer Madness

By: Wednesday October 22, 2014 8:05 am

The Washington Post editorial board already came out against Initiative 71, which would legalize marijuana in the D.C., in an error ridden op-ed they still refuse to issue a correction for. Now they are doubling down with this Reefer Madness op-ed against the Council getting ready to fulfill the will of the electorate. From the Washington Post:

As The Post’s Marc Fisher recently detailed, some leaders in the African American community worry that legalization would not keep more young blacks out of jail because a more readily available drug could lead young people to harder drugs. “Scratch the surface of most homicides and rape cases, and the perpetrators were high on drugs, including marijuana,” said Arthur Burnett of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition.

We are not in the Reefer Madness school of marijuana prohibitionWe favored decriminalization. But the drug can have harmful effects; Its active ingredient has been linked to memory problems, impaired thinking and weakened immune systems. And we question whether it is possible to legalize the drug for adults without sending a message to youth that its use is risk-free.

Printing unfounded speculation that implies marijuana legalization could possible be responsible for rape is the very definition of Reefer Madness.

Instead of highlighting fact-free worries, what we should look at is real data. Studies actually show that marijuana use is actually associated with decreased levels of domestic violence.

Data also indicates marijuana legalization could easily decrease both access to and use of harder drugs by reducing the power and number of interactions people have with the black market. A 2013 European Commission report found, “Excluding the Netherlands, between 26% (Czech Republic) and 52% (Sweden) of the cannabis users indicate that other drugs are available at the location where they usually buy cannabis. The relatively low proportion in the Netherlands (14% overall, 9% for those who buy in coffee shops), is likely to reflect the policy of separation of the cannabis and hard drugs markets.

Finally, this “question” about how it might be impossible to properly message to young people is pathetic. We already have proof that a substance can be legal for adults but we still let young people know using it is bad idea. We have successfully done it for years when it comes to cigarettes. In fact thanks to a smart regulation-based approach, in 2013 the rate of past month cigarette use among 12-17 year olds was actually lower than the rate of past marijuana marijuana use in that same age group.

It is growing increasingly clear that the Washington Post editorial board members personally oppose marijuana legalization and are just lazy about looking for excuses to justify their personal opinion. It is pathetic that they don’t even bother to examine the current research about the concerns they raise while having the gall to claim their opposition is based on not having enough “scientific research” yet.

The Heritage Foundation’s Dishonest Attack on Vanita Gupta

By: Tuesday October 21, 2014 2:03 pm

Vanita Gupta

Charles Stimson at the Heritage Foundation is opposed to President Obama nomination of Vanita Gupta to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. While it is fine to disagree with a person’s policy position or oppose their nomination, his dishonest attempt to distort the facts is unacceptable. From his article in the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal:

Yet just last week the current Democratic Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, said that legalizing recreational use of marijuana was a “reckless.” And there is a growing body of evidence to prove his point: (1) pot-positive auto fatalities have gone up 100 percent in 2012, the year the state legalized pot; (2) the majority of DUI drug arrests involve marijuana and 25 to 40 percent were pot alone; (3) from 2011 through 2013 there was a 57 percent increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits–and there are many other indications of failure. New research, from a 20-year study, proves the dangers of marijuana.

But Gupta does not stop with marijuana. In calling for all drugs to be decriminalized–essentially legalizing all dangerous drugs–Gupta displays a gross lack of understanding of the intrinsic dangers of these drugs when consumed in any quantity.

First, the line about a pot-positive test in 2012 is doubly dishonest. Given that marijuana metabolites remain in the body for potentially weeks after use, this statistic tells more about the increase in overall testing than any impact on driver safety. More importantly, even though marijuana possession was technically legalized in Colorado in 2012, it didn’t go into effect until December 10th, way too late in the year to make a real impact on statistics for the year. So even if it was a good data point, this would still be a very deceptive way of using it in the argument.

Even worse is Stimson’s pathetic attempt to distort Gupta’s position by claiming decriminalization of drugs is “essentially legalizing” them. Either this is an active attempt to divide the public, or a depressing inability to understand a very basic legal distinction from a self-proclaimed ‘leading expert in criminal law.’

What Gupta wrote was, “Decriminalize/”Defelonize” Drug Possession. States should decriminalize simple possession of all drugs, particularly marijuana, and for small amounts of other drugs.” Decriminalization is merely reducing some of the harsh penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs, but that is not the same as legalization. Under decriminalization, the drug is still illegal to possess or sell. There are still punishments for possession, just ones less draconian and costly for the government; fines and possibly mandatory treatment instead of incarceration.

Legalization on the other hand is making a drug completely legal for adults to use and possess. In the context of drug policy debates, the term almost always also includes establishing a regulated system for adults to be able to legally purchase it.

According to Stimson’s twisted logic, marijuana is already essentially legal over a dozens states, including Mississippi where possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized in 1978 and is punishable with a $250 fine. I suspect the people in Mississippi would laugh in the face of anyone trying to make the claim marijuana is “legal” in their state.

Sheriff of Washington’s Largest County Tells Oregon Voters that Marijuana Legalization Works

By: Tuesday October 21, 2014 10:08 am

King County Sheriff John Urquhart, who represents the largest county in Washington state, is letting voters in Oregon know that marijuana legalization is working well in his state and can work well in theirs. He is featured in the latest ad from the Yes on Measure 91 campaign.

Urquhart points out that the evidence is showing that tax revenue are up, wasteful arrests are down, and schools are getting more funding.

I really like this ad for two reasons. First, it is a powerful message to directly counter many of the attacks against the measure. Second, it highlights why political support for legalization may start really snowballing in the coming years.

Just a few years ago many of the attacks against marijuana reform tried to scare voters, focusing on the uncertainty involved in doing anything new, and exploiting the lack of real-world data to make unfounded scary predictions. Now there is actual data proving the sky hasn’t fallen, and clear examples for how legalization can be implemented. When there are experts with direct experience who can speak about the subject, it becomes much more difficult for the other side to scaremonger.

I wouldn’t be surprised if similar ads feature prominently in all the legalization ballot measure campaigns expected in 2016.

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