The State of Marijuana Reform in America
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The State of Marijuana Reform in America
Posted by CN Staff on April 18, 2011 at 05:43:18 PT
By Julian Brookes 
Source: Rolling Stone
USA -- As a few of our readers may be aware, "420" is a quasi-mystical number for pot smokers. According to stoner lore, it was the time of day, in the 1970s, that a small group of smokers at San Rafael High School in California would meet to get high. Somehow, the number has come down to us as "the universal time to get high" and/or a convenient shorthand for marijuana. For our purposes, it's a flimsy but welcome pretext to spend this week -- hinged as it is by Wednesday, 4/20 -- digging into the politics of pot in America. We start, below, with an overview of developments from the past year.
Under federal law, it's illegal to possess or use, cultivate or sell marijuana. Period. True, in 15 states (plus the District of Colombia) using pot on the recommendation of a doctor for medical purposes -- say, to manage symptoms of HIV or glaucoma or cancer -- is perfectly legal under state law; as is growing and dispensing it, for those same purposes. But the feds reserve the right to prosecute, right along the supply chain -- state laws be damned.America's prisons are crammed full of low-level drug offenders; most were collared for having on them a drug, marijuana, that's arguably less harmful -- to themselves and anyone else -- than tobacco and alcohol. (Of course, for people dealing with, say, chronic pain, it has health benefits.)There are advocates of more liberal marijuana laws who want legalization outright--that is, not just for medical uses but for... stoner uses; others want to soften the unduly harsh penalties for marijuana possession, which tend to fall heaviest on minorities; others want more states to pass medical marijuana laws. Some want all of these things -- one as a means to another. All agree that the status quo cannot stand.Liberalizers have had a busy 12 months -- since the last 4/20 -- and so have their opponents. Here's a quick overview of the year, covering both "progress" (from the liberal reform standpoint) and "setbacks."  Progress May 2010: The District of Columbia Council voted unanimously to allow people with certain chronic illnesses -- including HIV, glaucoma, and cancer -- to obtain medical marijuana, on a doctor's recommendation, from city-approved dispensaries. July 2010: The Department of Veterans Affairs announced it would formally allow patients treated at VA hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, a policy clarification veterans had long sought. October 2010: A Gallup poll found a record 46 percent of Americans approving of legalization, compared with 50 percent opposing. October 2010: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill changing the crime of marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction, the lowest level of offense under state law. November 2010: With the narrow passage of Proposition 203, Arizona became the 15th state to approve medical Marijuana for people with chronic or debilitating diseases. March 2011: The San Francisco-based ArcView Group formed the medical marijuana industry's first investment network to link cannabis entrepreneurs to qualified investors with "seed" money. March 2011: Medical marijuana industry leaders launched a Washington-based trade association, the National Cannabis Industry Association, focused primarily on lobbying Congress. March 2011: A high-profile report predicted the U.S. medical marijuana market would reach $1.7 billion in sales in 2011 and double in size in the next five years as the number of patients grows and more states allow medical marijuana. "We're witnessing the beginning of a legal business ecosystem forming around medical marijuana," said the editor of the report. March 2011: According to a Harris poll, three quarters of Americans say they support legalization of marijuana for medical treatment (74%) with almost half saying they strongly support it (48%). Opposing: 18% April 2011: A bill legalizing medical marijuana in Delaware sailed through the state senate, 18-3, moving on to the House. April 2011: Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed a Republican-backed bill that would have repealed the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law, calling it “frivolous, unconstitutional or in direct contradiction to the expressed will of the people of Montana." April 2011: Arizona's medical-marijuana law came into effect, allowing people to apply with the state health agency for permission to use marijuana to treat debilitating medical conditions.  Setbacks June 2010: Hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles were forced to close up shop for failure to comply with a new anti-pot city ordinance. November 2010: Attorney General Eric Holder said his Justice Department would prosecute federal marijuana laws in California aggressively even if state voters went ahead and approved a legalization initiative on the November ballot. November 2010: Californians defeated Proposition 19, a ballot measure that would have legalized possession and growing of marijuana outright, and taxed and regulated its use. February 2011: The Montana House of Representatives voted to repeal the state’s six-year-old medical marijuana law. February 2011: An analysis by the Drug Policy Alliance found that arrests for marijuana possession in New York City had risen for six years in a row, with 2010's numbers 69 percent higher than 2005's. Last year, 50,383 people were arrested, or 140 a day, at a cost to the city of $75 million. March 2011: Los Angeles city told 60 marijuana dispensaries they must shut down immediately, two weeks after the city attorney's office ordered another 141 pot shops to shutter. April 2011: Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire said she wouldn't sign legislation to create licensed medical marijuana dispensaries after the Justice Department warned it could result in a federal crackdown.Source: Rolling Stone (US)Author: Julian Brookes Published: April 18, 2011Copyright 2011 Rolling StoneContact: letters rollingstone.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #1 posted by Storm Crow on April 18, 2011 at 08:13:29 PT
Just counting the progress vs the set backs- 12 vs 7! Looks like we ARE making progress! Not quite 2 steps forward, one step back, but we are getting there! 
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