Toward the end of Prohibition, John D. Rockefeller Jr., the powerful businessman who supported the US ban on alcohol, admitted defeat. Seeing the effect Prohibition had on America, he concluded that the policy was doomed. So in the 1930s, he underwrote a study that laid out how to legalize alcohol while strictly regulating it. The study shapes alcohol policy to this day, as Garrett Peck explained for Reason.
Pennsylvania has become the 24th state to legalize a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
The two states, Nebraska and Oklahoma, began legal proceedings months after Colorado began allowing marijuana dispensaries to start selling pot for recreational use at the start of 2014.
For pot fans, 2015 was a money year on the state level but Congress proved a reliable buzzkill, yet again, for the greenest lobby in town. In the rush to get out of Washington for the holiday, Pollyanna-ish lawmakers used the year-end government funding bill to kill almost every new proposal to continue the state-led effort to basically make marijuana the national plant. As in: States are embracing greenery, while members of Congress are still hiding their stashes.
Come November 3, I will be enthusiastically voting in Ohio for Issue 3, a ballot initiative that will make recreational marijuana use legal in the Buckeye State. Issue 3 is in many ways an absolutely flawed piece of legislation--so much so, in fact, that many of its harshest critics are people who believe in legalization. But let’s be clear about the stakes here: Any law that makes pot legal is preferable to a status quo that empowers the police to arrest 700,000 people a year (almost all for simple possession) and that underwrites black-market violence around a substance nearly half of American adults have used.
On November 3rd, voters in Ohio will decide the fate of legal weed — making the Buckeye State an unlikely ground zero in the national divide of the legalization movement. The fight pits the movement's ponytailed old guard against its rising carpetbaggers, a cadre of Rolex-wearing, politically connected businessmen intent on controlling the growth, sale and subsequent $100 million profits of legal weed. Unlike Ohio's longtime activists, the new weed elite has a $23.5 million war chest to campaign for dispensaries on every block.
This November, Ohio will vote on whether to become the biggest state to fully legalize marijuana. But the measure is very different from what's come out of other legal pot states — and not in a good way, according to drug policy experts and legalization advocates. Ohio is already an unexpected candidate for full legalization compared with the four legal pot states. It isn't especially progressive like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state, or libertarian like Alaska. It doesn't even have medical marijuana yet, although it was one of the states to decriminalize pot back in the 1970s.
Over the weekend, the New England Conference of United Methodist Churches, which represents 600 congregations, voted for a resolution that calls for a complete end to the War On Drugs. The resolution points to Christian principles of redemption and restoration to replace the current system of punitive sanctions against drug users:
Gov. Bill Walker has signed into law legislation creating a new board to regulate the legal marijuana industry in Alaska. Voters last November approved an initiative legalizing recreational use of pot for those 21 years of age and older. The initiative delegated rulemaking for the industry to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board unless the Legislature created a new Marijuana Control Board. Walker this week signed into law a bill he introduced creating the new board.
A landmark case in Connecticut could radically change the way marijuana convictions are handled. What happens to the millions of Americans with existing marijuana convictions once it’s legal? This week, with a groundbreaking case in Connecticut, the U.S. may be one step closer to an answer. The ruling came in favor of 31-year-old Nicholas Menditto, who argued that the two marijuana possession convictions on his record should be erased now that less than a half-ounce of the drug has been decriminalized. His case was initially struck down by an appellate court, which ruled that the law pertained more to “legalization” than “decriminalization.” But when Menditto brought the case to the state’s supreme court, they disagreed.
On March 10, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) was among a bipartisan group of senators that introduced a historic bill that would, for the first time, force the federal government to acknowledge that marijuana has some medical value. Booker, who has become one of the leading voices for criminal justice and drug policy reform in the US Senate, is also pushing the REDEEM Act, a bill that would, among other changes, allow nonviolent drug offenders to more easily seal their records and apply for welfare programs. I sat down with Booker on the same day he introduced the medical marijuana bill to discuss some of his broader thoughts about the criminal justice system — and why he sees reform in this area as being as urgent as the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Alaska's voter initiative making marijuana legal takes effect Tuesday, placing Alaska alongside Colorado and Washington as the three U.S. states where recreational marijuana is legal. The new law means people over age 21 can consume small amounts of pot — if they can find it. It's still illegal to sell marijuana. "You can still give people marijuana, but you can't buy it — or even barter for it," Alaska Public Media's Alexandra Gutierrez reports. "So, it's a pretty legally awkward spot. That probably won't stop people from acquiring it, though." The ballot measure that was adopted in November allows Alaskans to possess marijuana harvested from up to six plants on private property. For now, that's the biggest change in the state's pot practices.
On Tuesday, Alaska became the first red state to legally allow the possession, gifting, and growing of marijuana. The legal change comes after Alaska voters in November approved a ballot initiative that fully legalized marijuana in the northernmost state. Alaska is the third state to legalize the drug after Colorado and Washington. Oregon and Washington, DC, will follow later this year. As of Tuesday, Alaska's Ballot Measure 2 lets adults 21 and older possess up to one ounce of pot, maintain six marijuana plants, and gift and transport the drug. Smoking in public remains prohibited.
The conservative wave of 2014 featured an unlikely, progressive undercurrent: In two states, plus the nation's capital, Americans voted convincingly to pull the plug on marijuana prohibition. Even more striking were the results in California, where voters overwhelmingly passed one of the broadest sentencing reforms in the nation, de-felonizing possession of hard drugs. One week later, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD announced an end to arrests for marijuana possession. It's all part of the most significant story in American drug policy since the passage of the 21st Amendment legalized alcohol in 1933: The people of this country are leading a dramatic de-escalation in the War on Drugs.
In a little over two years, four states have legalized the cultivation and distribution of marijuana—Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska—under state law. Of course, marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the Obama administration has taken a hands-off approach, explaining in a 2013 Justice Department memo that prosecution of marijuana cases would henceforth be a limited enforcement priority. Meanwhile, potent cannabis grown with scientific techniques under license has started finding its way into states where the weed is still illegal. Last December, Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado in the Supreme Court, arguing that its regulations undermine the federal Controlled Substances Act, create a nuisance in their states, and should be struck down.
Citizens voted this year to legalize recreational cannabis, but the history of legal weed in the Last Frontier goes back to a bold move by lawyer Irwin Ravin in 1972.
A handful of D.C. officials and activists began a longshot bid Wednesday to turn the tide in Congress , launching a sit-in on Capitol Hill over a federal budget deal poised to upend the city’s voter-approved measure to legalize marijuana. “This isn’t about marijuana, this isn’t about drug policy, this is about local democracy,” said Kimberly Perry, president of D.C. Vote, a group dedicated to full voting representation for the nation’s capital in Congress.
Statewide marijuana legalization measures in 2014 got more support from voters than most of the major politicians on the same statewide ballots. The recreational marijuana legalization initiatives in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, won a higher percentage of the vote than many of the gubernatorial, mayoral, and congressional candidates who were also on statewide (or district-wide) ballots. Even in Florida, the medical marijuana measure that fell short of the 60 percent approval it needed to pass performed better than any of the gubernatorial or attorney general candidates. Here's how support for marijuana initiatives stacked up against support for some of the states' winning politicians.
President Obama lost his mandate to govern Tuesday, as his party ceded control of the Senate and additional seats in the House. For partisans who obsess over the ups and downs of every election cycle, that makes Democrats seem like the biggest losers in the midterms, though they could realistically regain the Senate in 2016. Indisputably, the Democrats had a terrible night. But the 2014 losers least likely to regain ground in future elections are marijuana prohibitionists. Oregon and Alaska just became the third and fourth states to legalize the drug. Washington, D.C., voted for legalization, as did the city of South Portland, Maine. The island territory of Guam chose to allow medicinal marijuana.
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), in an interview with Talking Points Memo last week, became the first sitting US senator to publicly support marijuana legalization. Merkley told TPM he will likely vote in support of Measure 91, which would fully legalize marijuana possession and sales in Oregon. "I lean in support of it," he said. "I think folks on both sides of the argument make a good case. And there is concern about a series of new products — and we don't have a real track record from Colorado and Washington. But I feel on balance that we spend a lot of money on our criminal justice system in the wrong places and I lean in favor of this ballot measure."