America’s Going Green: Marijuana under Obama

pot

Big Green Bush

Here at Notes, we’re generally more interested in booze than any other mind- and mood-altering substances, but today I want to take a detailed look at drugs. More specifically, I want to look at what’s happening with cannabis in the U.S. My interest in this has been piqued by a couple of pieces of news/information that I stumbled across this week of which I was previously unaware.

The first of these was the number of U.S. states that now sell medical marijuana, and the second was the changes in law enforcement responses to cannabis  since Barack Obama took office.

And the only reason I started looking into these two aspects of weed was because of the following ad that was posted in a Colorado alternative weekly paper called Westworld:

Do you have a medical condition that necessitates marijuana? Do you have a way with words? If so, Westword wants you to join the ranks as our freelance marijuana-dispensary reviewer.

The job is simple: Visit a different dispensary each week (without revealing you’re working for Westword) and pen concise, impartial and snappy accounts of your experiences. Keep in mind this isn’t about assessing the quality of the medicine on site; it’s about evaluating the quality of the establishment. After all, we can’t have our reviewer be stoned all the time.

Until I read this, I had always assumed that California was the only state with medical marijuana laws. Was I in for a surprise!

medical marjuana

Sticky Medical Bud

Author’s Declaration:  OK, before we get into this, I just want to make a few things clear. A job reviewing pot doesn’t interest me because I don’t smoke pot. But I have smoked weed many times and enjoyed it until I stopped enjoying it. Finally, I am 100% for decriminalisation and legalisation. 

Medical Marijuana

So, let’s start with medical marijuana. According to USA Today “thirteen states, from New England to the Pacific Northwest, have passed laws by ballot or legislative action permitting marijuana possession for some medical reasons even though the drug is illegal under federal law.”

The following table courtesy of Procon.org shows all the states with medical marijuana laws as well as possession allowances: 

13 Legal Medical Marijuana States

State

Year Passed

Possession Limit

1. Alaska

1998

1 oz usable; 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature)
2. California

1996

8 oz usable; 18 plants (6 mature, 12 immature)
3. Colorado

2000

2 oz usable; 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature)
4. Hawaii

2000

3 oz usable; 7 plants (3 mature, 4 immature)
5. Maine

1999

1.25 oz usable; 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature)
6. Michigan

2008

2.5 oz usable; 12 plants
7. Montana

2004

1 oz usable; 6 plants
8. Nevada

2000

1 oz usable; 7 plants (3 mature, 4 immature)
9. New Mexico

2007

6 oz usable; 16 plants (4 mature, 12 immature)
10. Oregon

1998

24 oz usable; 24 plants (6 mature, 18 immature)
11. Rhode Island

2006

2.5 oz usable; 12 plants
12. Vermont

2004

2 oz usable; 9 plants (2 mature, 7 immature)
13. Washington

1998

24 oz usable; 15 plants

Politics and Law

As far back as 2004, Obama is on record (here on You Tube) openly stating that the war on drugs had failed. He made no attempt to backtrack on this belief during the presidential campaign, as evidenced by Kelly McParland in a National Post article entitled “Benign White House unleashes marijuana boom”:

Barack Obama, during his campaign for the presidency, promised to lay off on the heavy-handed approach (by federal law enforcement officers under the Bush Administration), and soon after taking office made good on his word. Attorney General Eric Holder said in February Washington would suspend the raids [on medical marijuana dispensaries], and concentrate instead on dealers who violate both federal and state law.

That was like Christmas in July for pot enthusiasts and set off a surge, especially in Colorado, where a wave of “ganjapreneurs” have fuelled a growth industry in marijuana dispensaries. In doing so, they’ve pretty much shot down any pretense that medical marijuana can be liberalized without simultaneously increasing recreational access.

dispensary

Licenced Dope Dispensary

That’s right, the number of medical marijuana facitilies has blossomed since that the DEA stopped busting them  (which they did periodically under Bush). This “backing off” had an immediate effect in terms of registered users, as Joe Warner at Westworld recently discovered in an extensive and well researched analysis of the Colorado pot scene. Warner found that in the nine years since Colorado legalised pot for medicinal purposes only 5000 poeple had applied to the state registry and there were only a couple of dozen dispensaries. This year, under an Obama government, the landscape has changed dramatically:

 As of June 30, the Colorado medical marijuana registry had swelled to more than 10,000 applicants, with the state receiving more than 400 new applications each day. To meet that demand, at least seventy Colorado dispensaries have opened, forty in the metro area alone.

And what does it take to become a registered user? Not too much apparently, as Kelly McParland once again informs us:

Two of the top three reasons for using medical marijuana are “chronic pain” and “mood disorders,” both catch-alls that could include anything from cancer to a bruised elbow. Other justifications include stress, anxiety, headaches, depression — which would take in the bulk of the working world on any given day.

Legalisation: Any Chance Soon?

Naomi Klein has written about the way in which capitalism can use disasters for profit and to drive through legislative changes that are advantageous to both governments and big business. A “disaster” such as the current recession may not be the sort of calamity that Klein was envisaging, but nonetheless it may have unintentionally allowed paths towards legalisation to open up far more quickly than in the past. Moves towards legalisation are being driven, in part, by the desperate financial straits in which many states now find themselves as their tax revenues have collapsed in the last two years.

Thus, given a recession and a liberal president, all it needs is for one state to get the decriminalisation and legalisation ball rolling.  As AP recently reported this is very likely to originate in California where:

marijuana advocates are gathering signatures to get as many as three pot-legalization measures on the ballot in 2010 in California, setting up what could be a groundbreaking clash with the federal government over U.S. drug policy. At least one poll shows voters would support lifting the pot prohibition, which would make the state of more than 38 million the first in the nation to legalize marijuana.

Governor Schwarzenegger has indicated that he is not adverse to such a proposal, and you can see why when you read what Newsweek has just reported today:

In California marijuana is a booming business. Some reckon the state’s annual harvest is worth $14 billion—more than agriculture and wine combined. The local police know who’s growing the stuff but can’t or won’t stamp it out because, frankly, the local economy depends on it.

This has moved far beyond being some hippy/liberal initiative designed to bring about the fall of traditional American values. In fact, vast numbers of conservatives support legalisation, chiefly for economic reasons, because they too believe that prohibition has been a costly failure. This week, one such article from the Wall Street Journal features the thinking of Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of State, George Schultz on this issue. Here is the key paragraph:

Then, as now, [Schultz] believed that we need to look at the problem from an economic perspective and understand what happens when there is high demand for a prohibited substance. When his comment hit the press, he says he “was inundated with letters. Ninety-eight percent of them agreed with me and over half of those people said I’m glad you said it, but I wouldn’t dare say it. The most poignant comment was from [a former member of the House of Representatives] who wrote and said I was glad to see your statement. I said that a few years ago and that’s why I’m no longer a congressman!”

Would that congressman lose his job today? I don’t know, but when you start to get consensus across the political spectrum on an issue like this, it’s only a matter of time before the insanity of prohibition comes to an end.

 weeds


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2 Responses

  1. […] Further reading on drugs at Notes: America’s Going Green: Marijuana under Obama […]

  2. I just want say thank very much for marijuana legalisation because it make reason for kill many young people on jail and street,blackmail,and impulsif act for police ,

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