Marijuana Legalization Coming To Washington State?
Today an initiative will be filed by the group Sensible Washington“that would remove all state criminal and civil penalties for the possession use and sale of marijuana in any quantity.” Last year the group tried to get a similar measure on the ballot but came about 50,000 signatures short of their goal.
Last year’s measure was criticized by some for its lack of “regulations” concerning the legal marijuana industry, but this initiative would direct the state legislature to create regulations, including possible taxation.
The group needs 241,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.
Sensible Washington tried to get a similar initiative on the ballot last year, but fell about 50,000 signatures short. That proposal was criticized for not including a state regulatory system overseeing the marijuana industry; advocates insisted that the state's single-subject rule for initiatives barred them from removing legal penalties and regulating the drug in the same measure.
This time, the initiative includes language directing the Legislature to develop such regulations, including possibly taxing marijuana sales.
"It clears up any issue about whether we believe in regulations and would support them," said Sensible Washington attorney Douglas Hiatt.
He also said the group has received support from farmers around the state who are interested in growing hemp, cannabis plants cultivated for their fibers to make clothes, rope and myriad other items.
Montel Williams Seeks Medical Marijuana Bill
The famous talk show host Montel Williams is urging state lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana in Maryland, saying it has a role helping those with painful ailments such as his own. The Baltimore native spoke on Monday at a news conference with Maryland lawmakers who support legalized medical marijuana
Williams, 54, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1990. He says he has been living with pain in his lower extremities, face and side for years and adds marijuana provides the only relief he can find. When questioned by The Associated Press, he declined to comment about just where he obtains the drug. The Maryland Senate passed a bill last year to allow physician-approved use of marijuana. The House didn't pass the measure but lawmakers say they'll try again this year.
Boulder Democrat Polis plans to push decriminalizing marijuana at federal level
If Colorado was allowed to treat marijuana like alcohol — or any other medicine, for that matter — pot dispensaries could freely set up business bank accounts without fear of federal prosecution and marijuana could, like corn and wheat, be grown openly in national forests.
This is according to U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, who said he plans to push a law in the new Congress that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level so that states with medicinal laws on the books, like Colorado, could treat it as they wish.
Under Polis' structure, marijuana laws would be extremely local — similar to states that have so-called dry, alcohol- free counties.
"It's not in the federal government's realm," Polis said. "I'm proud of Colorado being a pioneer in this regard and setting up a regulatory structure. We've benefited in tax revenues and I think it's dealt a big blow to criminalize it."
The Obama administration has urged federal prosecutors' tolerance in prosecuting pot possession in the more than a dozen states that have medical-marijuana laws on the books.
But Polis continues to push full decriminalization in case future administrations — and federal Drug Enforcement Agency chiefs — may not be so friendly.
He also believes that a law protecting states means banks would be more comfortable setting up interstate accounts with pot dispensaries.
In August, Wells Fargo & Co. said it was going to stop handling marijuana-dispensary accounts because of federal laws.
Though other banks will take the accounts, Polis wants dispensaries to have a choice.
Polis has supporters in the libertarian movement, who believe that legalizing marijuana would be kind to already- clogged courts and, perhaps, cause less havoc because people "are a lot less danger to themselves and society when they are smoking marijuana than when they drink too much alcohol," said David Kopel, an adjunct law professor at the University of Denver.
"Marijuana was legal from the time when the pilgrims showed up through the 1930s, and the country grew from humble beginnings to a world superpower with legal marijuana," Kopel said. "I think it's a waste of criminal justice resources," to prosecute pot cases.
But former U.S. Attorney Troy Eid has a different opinion. He is not in favor of full decriminiliazation but respects voters' approval of a medical-marijuana laws. He wants to see it put through a clinical trial like other drugs.
"With all due respect, we just don't know the pros and cons of marijuana as medicine from a scientific perspective," said Eid, now a private attorney. "It's very important we have a dispassionate conversation about this. Voters have said they want medicine. We should treat it like medicine."
Polis plans to push his proposed law in Washington early this year, though its prospects in a Republican-controlled House appear to be dim.
Plans are underway to get a pot legalization ballot measure on Colorado's 2012 ballot (a similar measure failed in 2006).
"Every state should be able to take this issue on its own," said Mason Tvert, executive director of SAFER Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, which is working on fundraising for the ballot measure.
Tvert said the rumored help from Democratic billionaire George Soros was not true, but "if whoever is saying that wants to put us in touch, that would be wonderful."
Marijuana Officially Decriminalized in California
Marijuana Possession in California Equal to Parking Ticket
Marijuana Legalization Push Gets Voice On Capitol Hill
The cannabis industry has flexed its muscles in 15 states where it's legal to smoke marijuana for medical purposes. Now the industry is ready to go to work in Washington. A new trade group called the National Cannabis Industry Association is an attempt to bring together sellers, growers and manufacturers and to promote pot on Capitol Hill. "Our intent is to be the go-to organization in Washington for this industry," said Aaron Smith, the group's executive director.
For the past five years, Smith worked as the California director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "There's been a lot of enthusiasm. It's pretty clear that the medical marijuana industry is becoming recognized more and more by the mainstream as a fully legitimate part of the economy." Even though California voters last month rejected a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for all adults, it was just a matter of time before the drug was fully legalized.
"Legalization is looking inevitable," he said. "It didn't happen in 2010, but it's likely to happen in 2012. It's going to be relatively soon we're going to see states move from medical marijuana into broader legal markets. And the federal government needs to catch up. Frequently the American people are ahead of the Congress." But Smith will have a hard time finding many marijuana advocates in Congress. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted 400-4 to back a resolution sponsored by California Republican Rep. Wally Herger that calls on authorities to get tougher with those who cultivate marijuana on federal land.
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