My course through the remaining thickets of prohibition is taking a turn.
For many years, one of my modest contributions to the legalization effort has been the maintenance of this archive on the narrow subject of cannabis regulation and taxation. Happily, the reg/tax movement hardly needs my help these days, as the encouraging prospects of victory in Colorado OR Washington–and maybe even Oregon, where TWO marijuana reform initiatives are close to reaching the November ballot–will trigger an upheaval in federal law and policy, resulting in the feds’ ceding control of the cannabis industry to the states, in which event the medical marijuana states will be able to operate openly and safely, under regulation by authorities, and gradually reg/tax bills will flood state legislatures and governors will race to sign them. Justice, jobs and sanity shall have been restored to humankind.
Or so I’d like to think.
In any event, I’ve decided to devote my attention in coming months to medical marijuana as it may play out in Massachusetts, if the initiative on November’s ballot is approved by the voters. It is none too soon to be looking past November, risky as it always is to predict the future. My colleague, Mike Cutler, and I have decided to combine our knowledge of the subject with our legal skills, different but complementary, and pursue what opportunities that may be presented. I shall check in here from time to time, but for now you can catch me at www.evanscutler.com.
TWO reform initiatives are working their way to the November ballot in Oregon, and organizers of both are confident that they will reach it. One proposes a constitutional amendment to prohibit prohibition, so to speak, and the other establishes a system of regulation and taxation. More here. Success of either in November, or Colorado, or Washington, will trigger a long-overdue upheaval in federal policy.
… contains a column by Tom Jackman, “The State of NoVa,” describing a legislator’s proposal for a formal study of the prospective revenue from cannabis taxation, and speculating that Virginia could raise $500 million in new revenue annually. That number sounds slightly low to me, but what’s significant is that this column is being read today throughout the D.C. area, and will surely spark further discussion. The page of history is turning!
Plus, an AP story, dateline Melbourne, Australia, reporting that “The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports — which represents cricket, soccer, Australian Rules football, rugby league, rugby union and tennis — said on Tuesday it believes marijuana should not be grouped with performance-enhancers such as Human Growth Hormone and anabolic steroids which carry two-year bans.”
“Coalition chief Malcolm Speed,” the story reports, “will meet the World Anti-Doping Agency on Wednesday as part of regular discussions and will ask that ‘where a substance is on the banned list but isn’t a performance-enhancing substance, it should be removed.’”
A refreshing breath of sanity from Down Under.
Today it was my privilege to speak at Extravaganja, the annual pot rally put on by the Cannabis Reform Coalition at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. It was a beautiful day and the town common was blanketed with young people, all attentive, well behaved, and mostly stoned. Here’s what I told them, the gist of which is that the tectonic plates of public attitudes are shifting before our eyes. Now it can confidently be said that a majority of Massachusetts voters support marijuana law reform, and significantly the vast majority of them are non-smokers of marijuana. They’re what I call them: pot-tolerant, or Tols: they don’t smoke marijuana, but they’re perfectly cool with people who do, and they get it that prohibition is a fraud. Legalization, in other words, isn’t for stoners anymore
Today word has it that the Colorado Democratic Party has officially endorsed Amendment 64, the constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot that would “regulate marijuana like alcohol.” Money quote:
This is a mainstream issue. Polls show that more than 60 percent of Democrats and a solid majority of Independents believe marijuana should be treated like alcohol. A broad coalition is forming in support of Amendment 64 and I am proud to say that it now includes the Colorado Democratic Party.
So said Cindy Lowery-Graber, chair of the Denver County Democratic Party, during this weekend’s state party convention in Pueblo.
In other words, the emperor has no clothes. She didn’t tell politicians what they didn’t know; rather she merely said what politicians are afraid to say.
Brava to her, and to Colorado!
… in the evolution from prohibition to legalization is the press lead-up to the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, this weekend, reporting that a number of Latin American heads of state will be pressing President Obama for a frank discussion about the wisdom and efficacy of the drug war. While the L word (legalization) is being mentioned, the P word (prohibition) has not yet emerged to describe the status quo, but it’s likely to make an appearance, providing a significant rhetorical advance for our cause. The fact that the taboo against even discussing the subject has been broken is huge. History is coming our way.
The Washington (state) Office of Financial Management has conducted a study to determine how much new revenue can be expected if I-502, the marijuana legalization initiative, is approved by the voters this November.
The number: “at least $560 million a year.” “Business and sales taxes would raise an estimated $130 million more,” according to an article in the Seattle Times.
That news should bring a lot of smiles, especially to revenue collectors.
For a fuller glimpse of what happened at the Judiciary Committee hearing on March 6, here is my report to the Massachusetts activists who came out in support, and who were responsible for the bill having even been introduced in the first place, and here is what I told the committee.
In a word, it was a good day.
Representative Ellen Story, the bill’s sponsor, spoke solidly in support of the bill, pointing out that she filed it in response to the 2010 Public Policy Question in her district instructing her to do so; indeed she complied 100% with those instructions from her constituents. And she went even further by reading and understanding the bill and doing her independent research on the issue, and speaking intelligently with the media. And, she sportingly endured the teasing from her legislative colleagues, more than a few murmuring that she was right but their constituents just “aren’t there yet.” (That is followership masquerading as leadership.)
Her testimony before the committee represented the first occasion ever, to the best of my knowledge, that a Massachusetts legislator has ever so endorsed the repeal of marijuana prohibition in favor of a system of regulation and taxation. That’s measurable progress.
Another sign of measurable progress was the lack of opposition to our bill. When it first came up in 1981, the hearing room was packed with anti-drug crusaders. We few supporters were given the formal respect granted the lunatic fringe, and were glad to escape safely. This time, 31 years later, only a handful of speakers opposed the bill, and all they could do is re-hash lame and ancient canards like sending wrong messages to children. They also appeared to be employees of taxpayer-funded anti-drug agencies, hence are expected to spout the usual pious platitudes lest they get in trouble at work.
We will hear nothing more from Beacon Hill on H1371, but they will hear from us. As politicians were the last to embrace repeal in the late 1920s, so too they will be last to embrace repeal of marijuana prohibition. Hence leadership has fallen to the voters, and they will be exercising that leadership this November. In Massachusetts, they will have the opportunity to legalize medical marijuana. In Washington and Colorado, they will have the opportunity to enact statewide tax/reg plans, not unlike H1371.
Here’s a recent piece about legislative abdication, though I didn’t call it that.
Now all eyes turn to Washington and Colorado. Success in either state will trigger a long-awaited confrontation with the feds, and when the feds blink, the state revenue collectors will smile.