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Attorney General of California Calls Legalization Inevitable

By: Tuesday November 18, 2014 11:25 am

In another positive sign of how quickly the debate around marijuana reform is shifting, California Attorney General Kamala Harris now thinks marijuana legalization in her state is inevitable. From Buzzfeed:
Hog's Breath, Sativa-2

“I am not opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I’m the top cop, and so I have to look at it from a law enforcement perspective and a public safety perspective,” Harris told BuzzFeed News in an interview in Washington, D.C. “I think we are fortunate to have Colorado and Washington be in front of us on this and figuring out the details of what it looks like when it’s legalized.”

“We’re watching it happen right before our eyes in Colorado and Washington. I don’t think it’s gonna take too long to figure this out,” Harris said. “I think there’s a certain inevitability about it.”

The national marijuana reform groups have already proved they have the desire, knowledge, infrastructure, money, and public support to spread marijuana legalization with ballot initiatives. It is not a matter of if legalization is coming to California, just a when and how.

I hope state politicians will see that it is inevitable and decide to proactively work to bring about legalization in the most sensible way possible. The ballot initiative is a blunt and imperfect tool for dealing with complex regulatory issues. This is especially true in California because its unique, strong anti-legislative tamper rules can make small problems a pain to fix.

Sadly, at the moment it seems unlikely the California legislature will move forward on their own legalization bill, so a 2016 ballot initiative campaign will be necessary. I at least hope this means officials like Harris will do some of the preemptive groundwork to allow for a smooth implementation when the time comes.

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

Eric Holder’s Pathetic Reason for Continuing to Shirk His Responsibility on Marijuana Rescheduling

By: Monday November 17, 2014 11:00 am

Even though Attorney General Eric Holder has both the power and duty to reschedule any drug based on the latest science, he continues to to claim rescheduling marijuana should be left to Congress. From an interview on The Marshall Project:

[Holder:] I think the question of how these drugs get scheduled and how they are ultimately treated is something for Congress to work on. I think we’ve pushed. We have done an awful lot. You look at what’s going on now in COLORADO AND WASHINGTON5 and the way we’ve dealt with those initiatives, identifying the EIGHT PRIORITY AREAS6 that we thought still would warrant federal involvement, and yet if you look at where we are now with those states and with what other states are doing, and the way we view the whole issue of the use of medical marijuana, we’re in a fundamentally different place than we were when Barack Obama became president and I became attorney general.

So I think we’ve made significant progress in looking at that drug in a more realistic way. But I think our society has to ask itself the question of how ultimately we are going to view the use of marijuana.

It is disappointing that Holder’s only justification for not using his power to reschedule marijuana is not based on facts or data, but purely some vague concern about political sensitivity and perception of overreach. It is also pathetic given how silly and misguided these political considerations seem to be.

Holder moving marijuana to a lower schedule would be perfectly in line with public research, precedent, current law and political norms. Our system traditionally doesn’t treat the rescheduling of drugs as a job for Congress. The vast majority of drug rescheduling is done by the executive branch and marijuana should be no different. For example when the administration made the big decision to move hydrocodone combinations from schedule III to II, they didn’t go to Congress but instead did it on their own.

There is also no reason to believe rescheduling marijuana would upset the general public or Congress. The American public overwhelmingly wants the government to acknowledge medical marijuana and earlier this year a majority of the members of the House of Representatives voted in favor of two big provisions meant to help state approved medical marijuana programs

It is just mind boggling that while the Obama administration is looking at ways to stretch their legal authority to use executive actions to get around Congress on issues, like the environment and immigration, they would still refuse to move forward on the one issue where they are so explicitly given the power to act under current law.

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

In the Future All Marijuana Edibles Might Need to Be Pre-Approved By Colorado Government

By: Monday November 17, 2014 7:22 am

In the ongoing effort to decide how to handle the regulation of marijuana edibles, the Colorado Department of Health is planning to recommend that all marijuana products need to go through an approval process before they can be sold. The worry is that some products are too appealing or confusing for children. From the Huffington Post:

A Health Department recommendation, obtained by The Associated Press in advance of a final meeting Monday on edible marijuana regulations, suggests a new state commission to give “pre-market approval” before food or drinks containing pot can be sold.

The recommendation comes a month after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment suggested banning the sale of most kinds of edible pot. That suggestion was quickly retracted after it went public.

This is of course only a recommendation and it will be up to the state legislature to decide whether or not to adopt it.

If the legislature does adopt this rule, it won’t be an unprecedented move. After all the name of the organization behind Amendment 64 was the “Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol,” and this is basically how our government regulates alcohol.

Most people don’t know that before any new label for a beer reaches the market in this country it basically needs to be approved by one guy working in the Treasury Department. His name is Kent “Battle” Martin and he is an interesting character. There are several obscure regulations about what can and can’t appear on a beer label and this one guy is the main referee who every year decides if thousands of labels meet the rules.

If Colorado adopts this recommendation it will be end up recreating this federal job for beer at the state level for marijuana products. Once again our history of alcohol regulation seems to be a useful predictor of how we will treat legal marijuana.

That is the focus of my book After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy, which is now on sale for only $0.99.

Signatures Submitted to Get Marijuana Legalization on the 2016 Nevada Ballot

By: Friday November 14, 2014 9:11 am

The 2014 election just ended but already marijuana reform supporters are getting ready for the 2016 election. According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Nevada has turned in what should be more than a sufficient number of signatures to get their legalization measure put on the ballot in 2016.

The ballot measure would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for adults age 21 and over. It is very similar to the legalization measure approved in Colorado back in 2012. Adults legally would be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their home.

The signatures will first need to be verified by the state government. If the campaign cleared the required valid signature threshold then the measure will be sent to the state legislature. The legislature will have the option to either directly adopt the measure or let the initiative get placed on the 2016 November ballot. At the moment it seems likely the legislature will do the latter.

Nevada will likely be the first state where a marijuana legalization initiative qualifies for the ballot in 2016, but it won’t be the last. Campaigns are planning similar measures across the country for the next presidential year election. We will likely see marijuana legalization measures in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Arizona. Effectively any state that allows ballot initiatives and where a polling found a majority support legalization are potential targets.

Watch Ethan Nadelmann Make the Case Against the Drug War

By: Thursday November 13, 2014 11:58 am

If you want a good speech highlighting the problems caused by the international war on drugs and its origins, you should listen to this TED talk by Ethan Nadelmann executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Whether you agree or disagree with Nadelmann’s positiona, the work Drug Policy Alliance is doing is worth paying attention to because they are playing a real and very direct role in reshaping public policy in this country.

For example, their advocacy and political arm, Drug Policy Action, played a significant role in helping the recent marijuana legalization initiatives in both Washington D.C. and Oregon.

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