Even as support for ending marijuana prohibition is building around the country, Congress and the Obama administration remain far too timid about the need for change.
Last year, residents in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted to join Colorado and Washington State in making recreational use of marijuana legal. Later this year, residents of Ohio are expected to vote on a ballot measure that would legalize it. Nevadans will vote on a legalization proposal next year. And Californians could vote on several similar measures next year.
Instead of standing by as change sweeps the country, federal lawmakers should be more actively debating and changing the nation’s absurd marijuana policies, policies that have ruined millions of lives and wasted billions of dollars. Their inaction is putting businesses and individuals in states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana in dubious legal territory — doing something that is legal in their state but is considered a federal crime. Many growers, retailers and dispensaries also have to operate using only cash because many banks will not serve them, citing the federal prohibition. Recently, the Federal Reserve denied a master account to a credit union in Colorado seeking to provide financial services to marijuana businesses.
Lawmakers who hope their colleagues in Congress will act face an uphill struggle. For example, a bill introduced in the Senate by Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrats of New Jersey and New York, respectively, and Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, would allow states to legalize marijuana for medical use. It would also allow banks and credit unions to provide financial services to cannabis-based businesses in states that have legalized the drug. The bill has 16 sponsors, including two Republicans, but the Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, has not scheduled it for a hearing or a vote. An identical bill in the House with 17 sponsors, eight of them Republican, is also languishing in committee.
Congress has taken a few positive steps, like approving a provision that would prevent the Justice Department from using federal funds to keep states from carrying out their own medical marijuana laws. And some senior Republicans, including Mr. Grassley and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, have expressed support for the medical use of a compound known as cannabidiol, which is found in the cannabis plant but is not psychoactive. The Obama administration recently made it easier for scientists to study marijuana by removing a requirement that studies not funded by the federal government go through an additional review process, beyond what is required for researchers working with other drugs.
But both Congress and the White House should be doing more. Specifically, marijuana should be removed from the Controlled Substances Act, where it is classified as a Schedule I drug like heroin and LSD, and considered to have no medical value. Removing marijuana from the act would not make it legal everywhere, but it would make it easier for states to decide how they want to regulate it.
Even as Washington demurs, efforts to legalize marijuana continue in the states. In California, several activist groups are trying to get legalization measures on the 2016 ballot. The state was the first in the country to legalize medical marijuana, in 1996, and a majority of residents favor legalizing recreational marijuana, according to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.
State legalization efforts are not uniformly well thought out, which is another reason for Congress and the president to act. For example, activists in Ohio are trying to legalize marijuana with a constitutional amendment that would allow commercial cultivation of the plant on just 10 dedicated sites listed in the measure. This would grant a lucrative monopoly to a few businesses. Ohio officials will soon decide whether organizers have collected enough signatures to put the proposal on the ballot.
Direct democracy can sometimes produce good results. But it would be far better for Congress and the president to repeal failed laws and enact sensible drug policies.
VIA NY Times
On Tuesday, March 10, at 12:30pm EST, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will host a press conference to announce sweeping bipartisan legislation that will end federal prohibition of medical marijuana, and allow patients, doctors and businesses in states with medical marijuana laws to participate in those programs without fear of prosecution. The press conference to announce the details of this wide-reaching bill will take place in the Senate and will be attended by patients and advocates, as well as the Senators.
The Drug Policy Alliance will subsequently host a teleconference on Tuesday, March 10, at 3pm EST for reporters from state and local media officials who cannot make the in-person press conference. Journalists are invited to dial in and speak to policy experts, patients, and advocates.
“Almost half the states have legalized marijuana for medical use; it’s long past time to end the federal ban,” said Michael Collins, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “This bipartisan legislation allows states to set their own medical marijuana policies and ends the criminalization of patients, their families, and the caregivers and dispensary owners and employees who provide them their medicine.”
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have laws that legalize and regulate marijuana for medicinal purposes. Twelve more states have laws on the books or are about to be signed into law by their governors regulating cannabidiol (CBD) oils, a non-psychotropic component of medical marijuana which some parents are utilizing to treat their children’s seizures. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for non-medical use.
Senate Press Conference:
What: Announcement of Sweeping Medical Marijuana Bill
Who: Senators Paul, Booker, and Gillibrand, advocates and patients from New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
Where: SVC 203
When: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 1230pm EST
Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) Teleconference:
What: Teleconference on Medical Marijuana Bill
Who: Policy experts, advocates, and patients from New York, Kentucky, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Where: Call Tony Newman for call-in information.
When: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 3pm EST
Via The Weed Blog
by Debra Borchardt
Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) offered an amendment that would keep the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency from spending federal money to undermine states who have legalized marijuana. The House passed a similar amendment in May, but without the Senate the passage meant nothing. The DEA continues to harass groups involved with marijuana in states that have some legalization. Boston doctors were complaining of intimidating tactics by the DEA who threatened their licenses if they continued to support medicinal marijuana. A NY legislative vote has yet to happen today.
Via The Street
Ky voices: Rand Paul: Legalize hemp to aid Ky. economy
A recent national poll concluded that 43 percent of Americans believe unemployment and job creation is the most important issue facing our country. So it's no surprise that Republicans and Democrats in Washington claim to be big supporters of creating jobs.
But the truth is D.C. policy-makers on both sides of the aisle stifle jobs and opportunity with regulations and policies that hurt our work force. And often, it flies in the face of common sense. The perfect example of this is the debate over industrial hemp.
Prior to World War II, Kentucky led the nation in providing 94 percent of all industrialized hemp. However, it was outlawed under an umbrella law that made marijuana illegal. This was simply because they are in the same botanical family and look similar.
But there are major differences in the two plants. Marijuana is made up of 20 percent tetrohydrocannabinol (THC), the mind-altering chemical, while industrial hemp plants contain less than 0.3 percent.
Comparing hemp to marijuana is like comparing poppy seeds found on bagels to OxyContin. Poppy seeds are in the same family of opiate — the same family that contains codeine, morphine, OxyContin and even heroin.
Yet, you can buy and consume food containing poppy seeds, as thousands of Americans do each day, without experiencing the narcotic effects the rest of its plant is harvested for.
So, the issue with hemp isn't that the plant is harmful. It's that the plant might be mistaken for marijuana.
This presents some challenges for law enforcement. But we can address those challenges. And we can return to growing and producing hemp in Kentucky. And in the process, create jobs and opportunity here.
Let me share an example of the economic potential for industrial hemp.
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is based in California and sells products made from hemp plants. David Bronner, the company's CEO, says it grossed over $50 million in sales this past year. But since the production of industrial hemp is outlawed in America, the company must import 100 percent of the hemp used in their products from other countries.
The company sends hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars every year to other countries because American farmers are not allowed to grow this plant. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not allow the legal growth of hemp.
Today, hemp products are sold around the U.S. in forms of paper, cosmetics, lotions, auto parts, clothes, cattle feed and so much more. If we were to start using hemp plants again for paper, we could ultimately replace using trees as the main source for our paper supply.
One acre of industrial hemp plants can grow around 15,000 pounds of green hemp in about 110 days. For every ton of hemp converted into paper, we could save 12 trees. It is a renewable, sustainable, environmentally conscious crop.
Back in August, I stood alongside Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and a bipartisan group of legislators and promised Kentuckians that I would join the fight to allow the growth and production of industrial hemp. Comer stated that day that the soil and the climate in Kentucky are perfect for the growth of hemp, and that could ultimately allow the commonwealth to be the nation's top producer.
Recently, Comer revived the long-dormant Kentucky Hemp Commission by calling its first meeting in more than 10 years. This took real leadership and I applaud him for his action. To help get the ball rolling and show our commitment, Bronner wrote a $50,000 check to the commission and I have pledged to match that donation from my personal political action committee.
While Comer and the commission work to address this issue in Kentucky, I have co-sponsored legislation in the U.S. Senate that would require the federal government to honor state laws allowing production of industrial hemp and would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana.
My vision for the farmers and manufacturers of Kentucky is to see us start growing hemp, creating jobs and leading the nation in this industry again. These jobs will be ripe for the taking, and I want the farmers in Kentucky to be the first in line.