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 Repeal Prohibition, Again 
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Modmin Dude
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Post Repeal Prohibition, Again
NY Times wrote:
Repeal Prohibition, Again
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.

There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.

We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.

But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.

The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the “Reefer Madness” images of murder, rape and suicide.

There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.

Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime.

In coming days, we will publish articles by members of the Editorial Board and supplementary material that will examine these questions. We invite readers to offer their ideas, and we will report back on their responses, pro and con.

We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014 ... inion&_r=0

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July 28th, 2014, 10:48 am
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Modmin Dude
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Post Re: Repeal Prohibition, Again
NY Times wrote:
Let States Decide on Marijuana
By DAVID FIRESTONE
JULY 26, 2014

In 1970, at the height of his white-hot war on crime, President Richard Nixon demanded that Congress pass the Controlled Substances Act to crack down on drug abuse. During the debate, Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut held up a package wrapped in light-green paper that he said contained $3,000 worth of marijuana. This substance, he said, caused such “dreadful hallucinations” in an Army sergeant in Vietnam that he called down a mortar strike on his own troops. A few minutes later, the Senate unanimously passed the bill.

That law, so antique that it uses the spelling “marihuana,” is still on the books, and is the principal reason that possessing the substance in Senator Dodd’s package is considered illegal by the United States government. Changing it wouldn’t even require an act of Congress — the attorney general or the secretary of Health and Human Services could each do so — although the law should be changed to make sure that future administrations could not reimpose the ban.

Repealing it would allow the states to decide whether to permit marijuana use and under what conditions. Nearly three-fourths of them have already begun to do so, liberalizing their laws in defiance of the federal ban. Two have legalized recreational use outright, and if the federal government also recognized the growing public sentiment to legalize and regulate marijuana, that would almost certainly prompt more states to follow along.

The increasing absurdity of the federal government’s position is evident in the text of the Nixon-era law. “Marihuana” is listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act alongside some of the most dangerous and mind-altering drugs on earth, ranked as high as heroin, LSD and bufotenine, a highly toxic and hallucinogenic toad venom that can cause cardiac arrest. By contrast, cocaine and methamphetamine are a notch down on the government’s rankings, listed in Schedule II.

That illogical distinction shows why many states have begun to disregard the federal government’s archaic rules. Schedule II drugs, while carrying a high potential for abuse, have a legitimate medical use. (Even meth is sold in prescription form for weight loss.) But according to the language of the law, marijuana and the other Schedule I drugs have “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

STATES TAKE THE LEAD No medical use? That would come as news to the millions of people who have found that marijuana helped them through the pain of AIDS, or the nausea and vomiting of chemotherapy, or the seizures of epilepsy. As of this month, 35 states and the District of Columbia permit some form of marijuana consumption for medical purposes. New York is one of the latest states to defy the tired edict of the Controlled Substances Act.

It’s hard for the public to take seriously a law that says marijuana and heroin have exactly the same “high potential for abuse,” since that ignores the vastly more addictive power of narcotics, which have destroyed the lives of millions of people around the world. (There are no documented deaths from a marijuana overdose.) The 44-year refusal of Congress and eight administrations to alter marijuana’s place on Schedule I has made the law a laughingstock, one that states are openly flouting.

In addition to the medical exceptions, 18 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized marijuana, generally meaning that possession of small amounts is treated like a traffic ticket or ignored. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have gone even further and legalized it for recreational purposes; two others, Alaska and Oregon, will decide whether to do the same later this year.

The states are taking the lead because they’re weary of locking up thousands of their own citizens for possessing a substance that has less potential for abuse and destructive behavior than alcohol. A decision about what kinds of substances to permit, and under what conditions, belongs in the purview of the states, as alcohol is handled.

Consuming marijuana is not a fundamental right that should be imposed on the states by the federal government, in the manner of abortion rights, health insurance, or the freedom to marry a partner of either sex. It’s a choice that states should be allowed to make based on their culture and their values, and it’s not surprising that the early adopters would be socially liberal states like Colorado and Washington, while others hang back to gauge the results.

PRE-EMPTED BY WASHINGTON Many states are unwilling to legalize marijuana as long as possessing or growing it remains a federal crime. Colorado, for instance, allows its largest stores to cultivate up to 10,200 cannabis plants at a time. But the federal penalty for growing more than 1,000 plants is a minimum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10 million. That has created a state of confusion in which law-abiding growers in Colorado can face federal penalties.

Last August, the Justice Department issued a memo saying it would not interfere with the legalization plans of Colorado and Washington as long as they met several conditions: keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors or criminal gangs; prohibiting its transport out of the state; and enforcing prohibitions against drugged driving, violence and other illegal drugs. The government has also said banks can do business with marijuana sellers, easing a huge problem for a growing industry. But the Justice Department guidance is loose; aggressive federal prosecutors can ignore it “if state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust,” the memo says.

That’s a shaky foundation on which to build confidence in a state’s legalization plan. More important, it applies only to this moment in this presidential administration. President Obama’s Justice Department could change its policy at any time, and so of course could the next administration.

HOW TO END THE FEDERAL BAN Allowing states to make their own decisions on marijuana — just as they did with alcohol after the end of Prohibition in 1933 — requires unambiguous federal action. The most comprehensive plan to do so is a bill introduced last year by Representative Jared Polis, Democrat of Colorado, known as the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. It would eliminate marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, require a federal permit for growing and distributing it, and have it regulated (just as alcohol is now) by the Food and Drug Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. An alternative bill, which would not be as effective, was introduced by Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, as the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. It would not remove marijuana from Schedule I but would eliminate enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act against anyone acting in compliance with a state marijuana law.

Congress is clearly not ready to pass either bill, but there are signs that sentiments are changing. A promising alliance is growing on the subject between liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans. In a surprise move in May, the House voted 219 to 189 to prohibit the Drug Enforcement Administration from prosecuting people who use medical marijuana, if a state has made it legal. It was the first time the House had voted to liberalize a marijuana law; similar measures had repeatedly failed in previous years. The measure’s fate is uncertain in the Senate.

While waiting for Congress to evolve, President Obama, once a regular recreational marijuana smoker, could practice some evolution of his own. He could order the attorney general to conduct the study necessary to support removal of marijuana from Schedule I. Earlier this year, he told The New Yorker that he considered marijuana less dangerous than alcohol in its impact on individuals, and made it clear that he was troubled by the disproportionate number of arrests of African-Americans and Latinos on charges of possession. For that reason, he said, he supported the Colorado and Washington experiments.

“It’s important for it to go forward,” he said, referring to the state legalizations, “because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”

But a few weeks later, he told CNN that the decision on whether to change Schedule I should be left to Congress, another way of saying he doesn’t plan to do anything to end the federal ban. For too long, politicians have seen the high cost — in dollars and lives locked behind bars — of their pointless war on marijuana and chosen to do nothing. But many states have had enough, and it’s time for Washington to get out of their way.

On Monday at 4:20 p.m. Eastern Time, Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, will be taking questions about marijuana legalization at facebook.com/nytimes.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/opini ... ion-series

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July 28th, 2014, 10:57 am
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Post Re: Repeal Prohibition, Again
NY Times wrote:
The Public Lightens Up About Weed
By JULIET LAPIDOS
JULY 26, 2014

When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, he admitted that he had “experimented with marijuana,” but said he “didn’t like it,” “didn’t inhale it” and “never tried it again.” Whatever the accuracy of that statement, he was accused of pandering to the marijuana-wary voting public.

Flash forward to the early stages of the 2008 presidential campaign. At an event in Iowa, then-candidate Barack Obama disclosed that he had not only smoked marijuana as a young man, but inhaled it, too. “That was the point,” he said. The public responded with a shrug.

Between the two campaigns, Americans had loosened up considerably. By the time Mr. Obama was wooing voters in Iowa, Nancy Reagan’s “just say no” slogan was a relic of a fustier era, and “Weeds,” a comedy about a widowed mother who sells marijuana to support her family, was on TV. Few people remembered Judge Douglas Ginsburg, who in 1987 had to withdraw from consideration as a Supreme Court justice after admitting that he had used marijuana while a professor at Harvard Law School.

Seventy-eight percent of Americans thought marijuana should be illegal in 1991. That figure fell to 57 percent in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2013, for the first time in over four decades of polling on the issue, prohibition was a minority position. Fifty-two percent said they favored legalizing marijuana use; 45 percent were opposed.

It seems likely that the legalization majority will continue to grow. Pew’s latest survey says 54 percent of Americans now support legalization. That includes 52 percent of baby boomers (who opposed legalization in the 1980s) and 69 percent of millennials. As with same-sex marriage, young people do not seem to understand what all the fuss is about. On these two social issues, they’re libertarians.

So what happened? How did we get from “just say no” to “no big deal,” from “I didn’t inhale” to “that was the point”? Americans are not, on the whole, more liberal politically than they used to be — Gallup polling on ideological self-identification has been quite consistent for 20 years. They simply appear to have come around to the view that the war on marijuana is more harmful than marijuana itself.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 72 percent, say government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth. Even Republicans, who tend to be more skeptical of legalization, overwhelmingly hold that opinion: 67 percent. And a shrinking share of the population believes marijuana is a “gateway” substance that leads to harder drugs (38 percent in 2013 versus 60 percent in 1977), or that marijuana use is “morally wrong” (32 percent in 2013, down 18 points since 2006).

Starting with California in the mid-1990s, Americans have seen state after state legalize the drug for medical use — and two states legalize it for general use — without enduring fire and brimstone. They’ve heard about ordinary people arrested on possession charges who cannot find jobs because of their criminal record. And they’ve read statistics showing a persistent racial bias in enforcement: Black citizens are nearly four times as likely as white people to be arrested for possession.

Perhaps Americans have also been swayed by the array of public figures who have spoken out against prohibition. Pat Robertson, the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, told The Times in 2012 that “we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol.” “I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to,” he added, “but it’s just one of those things that I think: This war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.” Bob Barr, a former congressman, and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, signed a letter to Congress in 2009 arguing that each state should have the right “to dictate its own marijuana policy.” Giving states this authority, they said, “would free federal law enforcement resources for the more urgent tasks of thwarting, apprehending and prosecuting international terrorists or murderers.”

But Americans are not deriving their opinions on marijuana just from the media. Forty-eight percent of respondents told Pew in 2013 that they had tried marijuana, up from 38 percent a decade earlier. One in 10 said they had used the drug in the last year. Someone who’s tried marijuana is unlikely to succumb to “Reefer Madness"-style fear-mongering, or to less hysterical but equally invalid ideas about the medical risks of occasional use. Roughly seven in 10 Americans believe alcohol is more detrimental to a person’s health, which is what the scientific establishment believes.

This isn’t the first time the nation seemed to be heading toward more liberal marijuana laws. In 1972 the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse unanimously recommended decriminalization; in 1977 President Jimmy Carter asked Congress to accept that advice. But there was a backlash movement, led in part by suburban parents worried that weed was turning their children into layabouts.

Americans still associate smoking marijuana with apathy. There’s a whole subgenre of Hollywood comedies devoted to stoned antics, like “Pineapple Express” or the “Harold and Kumar” series, which keep alive the impression that weed is the drug of choice of young people who’d rather sit on the couch eating snacks than grow up and get a job. Only a minority of Americans now think it’s the government’s responsibility to discourage that behavior through the criminal justice system. A majority believe that the war on marijuana has failed and that it’s time to end it.

On Monday at 4:20 p.m. Eastern Time, Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, will be taking questions about marijuana legalization at facebook.com/nytimes.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/opini ... ion-series

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July 28th, 2014, 10:59 am
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