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Congress Plans to Overturn Democracy in D.C.

By: Tuesday December 9, 2014 9:07 am

Last month, people living in the District of Columbia turned out to overwhelmingly vote in favor of marijuana legalization. But now Congress is potentially planning to abuse their power by stripping the district’s roughly 650,000 citizens of their basic democratic rights. In budget negotiations, Congressional Democrats are thinking of giving in to the Republicans’ demand to effectively overturn the recent initiative. From the Washington Post:

Tucked in the massive spending bill needed to prevent a federal government shutdown may be a measure sought by conservative House Republicans to halt marijuana legalization in the nation’s capital, advocates for the measure say.

Seven in 10 D.C. voters backed an initiative last month to follow Colorado and Washington state in legalizing marijuana.

But three people who have been closely tracking the issue say budget negotiators in the Democratic-controlled Senate have agreed to curb the popular measure. Congress has the power to do so by restricting city spending.

While the people of D.C. are denied any representation in Congress, the federal government has the unfair power to overturn any local law in the District. Over the years, Congress has used this power to force unpopular and often damaging policy changes on people living in our nation’s capital.

Overturning the will of the voters would not just be unfair, anti-democratic, and immoral; it would also be bad politics. National polls have found that the public overwhelmingly thinks marijuana’s legal status should be a local matter and not decided by Congress.

Democrats have the ability to stop this abuse of power if they want. The party still controls the Senate until next year and President Obama can veto any bill. In its veto threat against a previous spending bill, the White House stated, “the Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally-passed marijuana policies.”

More details should be known relatively shortly when the omnibus spending bill is actually released.

Update 3:00pm – The National Journal is reporting that the omnibus bill will allow D.C. to legalize personal possession and limited home cultivation of marijuana, but will prevent the District from creating a system of taxed and regulated recreational marijuana businesses. The D.C. Council had been working on a tax and regulate bill that they were planning to approve early next year. Negotiations around the omnibus are ongoing so thing could still change.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy, on sale for just $0.99

Public Overwhelmingly Wants Marijuana Legalization Left up to the States

By: Monday December 8, 2014 11:23 am

While the country remains relatively split on whether they want marijuana to be legal, according a new poll from the Third Way, there is overwhelming consensus that the Congress should leave the issue up to the states.

On the basic question of whether nor not marijuana should be legal, the poll found 50 percent are in support and 47 percent are opposed. There is a strong partisan divide on legalization with roughly two-thirds of Democrats in favor but only a third of Republicans feel the same way.

Support for Legalization

When it comes to how the public wants Congress to deal with marijuana opinions, though, there is clearly bipartisan support for the federal government turning over control. From the Third Way:

  • 67% of voters said Congress should pass a bill giving states that have legalized marijuana a safe haven from federal marijuana laws, so long as they have a strong regulatory system, and;
  • When given an option of state or federal control, a clear majority of the electorate believes states should control and decide whether to legalize marijuana (60% state control compared to 34% federal government enforcement).

This is effectively how the federal government has dealt with alcohol for the last eight decades. The 21st amendment simply gave the states the option to permit alcohol sales or continue prohibition at the state level. Many states actually kept their alcohol prohibition going for several years after the 21st amendment was ratified.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy, on sale for just $0.99

What to do about Enhanced Marijuana Buds?

By: Sunday December 7, 2014 6:49 am

I recently came across a California product on Instagram that raises interesting policy questions. Kurupt’s MoonRock is marijuana buds that have been enhanced with hash oil and kief.

The government treats distilled alcohol differently from beer. It is subject to different tax rates and rules on where and when it can be sold.

Similarly, the state governments in Colorado and Washington State treated recreational marijuana flowers different than recreational marijuana concentrates. For example, the limits on how many grams of concentrate you can purchase is lower than it is for flowers.

So how should the government treat marijuana flowers that have been enhanced with concentrates?

Should the governments create new categories for enhanced buds? Should it use some enhancement threshold, like 5 percent by weight, to divide concentrates and flowers? Or should it create a simple rule that any amount of enhancement, no matter how minor, will automatically get any product categorized as a concentrate?

That final option seems the simplest and most likely solution that regulators will coalesce around, but I can think of some theoretical reasons why providing some flexibility might be called for.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy, on sale for just $0.99

Wyoming Residents Not Ready for Marijuana Legalization

By: Thursday December 4, 2014 6:14 am

Even though recreational marijuana has been legal for over two years for their neighbors to the south the people of Wyoming continue to oppose legalizing in their own state.

According to a new University of Wyoming poll, 35 percent of Wyoming residents support legalizing the personal use of marijuana for adults and 60 percent oppose. Support for legalization has grown 13 points since 2000 when the University’s previous poll found only 23 percent approved of legalizing marijuana.

The poll result isn’t too surprising given that given that Wyoming is the most conservative state in the country and will probably be one of the last states to embrace legalization.

While the people of Wyoming aren’t ready to support full legalization, they still want significant changes made to their current marijuana laws. According to the poll, 72 percent support allowing medical marijuana in their state. It also found that 62 percent believe that the penalty for simple marijuana shouldn’t include possible jail time.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy on sale for just $0.99

Legal Marijuana in the States is Undermining Illegal Marijuana in Mexico

By: Tuesday December 2, 2014 10:36 am

marijuanaIn another sign that marijuana legalization in the United States is achieving the goals of the reform movement, there are indications that it is already undermining the illegal marijuana trade in Mexico. From NPR:

“Two or three years ago, a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of marijuana was worth $60 to $90,” says Nabor, a 24-year-old pot grower in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa. “But now they’re paying us $30 to $40 a kilo. It’s a big difference. If the U.S. continues to legalize pot, they’ll run us into the ground.”

Legalization won’t immediately eliminate the black market, but it will steadily shrink it until it is only a shadow of what it used to be. This is what we saw after the end of alcohol prohibition in this country. International alcohol smuggling into the United States used to be a huge business funding significant criminal organizations, but re-legalizing alcohol sales eventually crippled that.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy on sale for just $0.99

Photo by Alexodus under Creative Commons license

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