DemDaily: Marijuana Meltdown

January 5, 2018

Maijuana captured headlines this week with the opening of public dispensories for retail sale of the drug in California, soon to be followed by Maine and Massachusetts.  They join Colorado and Washington, which were the first to legalize recreational use in 2012, as well as NevadaAlaskaOregon, and the District of Columbia.

State Stats
A total of 29 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have legalized the sale of
medical marijuana. 14 states and the US Virgin Islands have decriminalized possession and consumption of small amounts of the drug, and another 17 have laws allowing access to cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of cannabis.

Most have done so through grassroots petitions or ballot initiatives, which are allowed in twenty-six states, while the other half requires action through state legislatures.

VermontRhode Island, and New Jersey are already poised to pass marijuana reform legislation, and related initiatives are expected to be on the ballot in 2018 in Arizona, Michigan, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Missouri.

Substantive Support
An October 25-30 Pew Research Center Survey shows six-in-ten Americans (61%) support legalization of marijuana, which is double the number in 2000.

Pew Research Center Survey

Aside from the steady surge in public support for legalization, the financial benefit for passing reform legislation is also a motivating factor. In 2016 Colorado benefited to the tune of nearly $195 million in revenue from marijuana taxes, licenses and fees.

Federal Fallout
Just 48 hours after dispensories opened in California, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump Administration was rescinding the current Obama-era policy of federal non-interference with  marijuana-friendly state laws - and will be more aggressively enforcing federal law.

Although cannabis remains prohibited as a Schedule One drug at the federal level, the Justice Department has tolerated commercial distribution in states where it is has been legalized -- under the guidance of a 2013 memorandum issued by then US Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Under the Trump Administration's new policy US attorneys will have the discretion to prosecute marijuana cases.

Public Pushback
Sessions' announcement was met with immediate criticism from lawmakers in both parties.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) denounced the decision on the Senate floor, "Prior to his confirmation, then-Senator Sessions told me there would be no plans to reverse the Cole memorandum ... One tweet later, one policy later, a complete reversal of what many of us on the Hill were told ... and without any notification, conversation, or dialogue with Congress."

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Marijuana Justice Act (Pic: GQ)

In response, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) immediately introduced the Marijuana Justice Act.

"This legislation would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level... it would also incentivize states to change their marijuana laws if those laws are shown to disproportionately affect low-income individuals and/or people of color."

The bill would be applied retroactively to those serving time for marijuana-related offenses, providing for a judge's review of marijuana-related sentences. "That means that we could reduce our prison population-a goal that Democrats and Republicans alike have claimed to support."

Support the Marijuana Justice Act!

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Marijuana Business Daily, OpinionToday, Pew, GfarmaNews, Norml, Vice, CNBC, Wikipedia

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