Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says

Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says

A Democratic lawmaker who many political observers believe will likely be the next chairman of the powerful U.S. House Judiciary Committee implied in an interview on Wednesday that he supports legalizing other currently illicit drugs in addition to marijuana.

“From everything we have learned, people are going to do drugs. And certainly the softer drugs like marijuana, there’s no good reason at all that they cannot be legalized and regulated properly,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said.

“The major effect of the war on drugs has been to fill our prisons with huge numbers of people to no great effect except to waste money and to ruin lives.”

In the comments, which Nadler made during an interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, the congressman did not specify with substances he believes should be legalized, but his use of the pluralized phrase “softer drugs like marijuana” and the word “they” suggests his anti-prohibition views extend beyond just cannabis.

There is no precise definition of what constitutes a “soft drug” as compared to a “hard drug,” but some analysts categorize substances like LSD, psilocybin and MDMA in the former category in light of their lack of addictive potential.

Nadler is currently the top ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal law enforcement agencies involved in drug enforcement and prosecution. If Democrats take control of the House in the midterm elections, as many poll watchers predict, he would likely ascend to the panel’s chairmanship and have the power to bring marijuana and other drug reform bills up for a vote.

Also in the radio interview, Nadler called the war on drugs an “abject failure” that is “not succeeding in reducing crime or doing anything else.”

“We ought to look at drugs as a public health issue.”

The comments came shortly after another key Democrat, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), released an eight-page memo to fellow party members laying out a step-by-step strategy for how they can accomplish federal marijuana legalization in 2019 if they take control of one or both chambers of Congress. The plan includes a hearing on marijuana descheduling before the Judiciary Committee.

When it comes to marijuana, Nadler sees it as “far less damaging than nicotine to people’s health and we should probably regulate it similarly,” he said in the interview, adding that its current restrictive Schedule I status “doesn’t make any sense.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Marijuana And Other Drugs Should Be Legalized, Likely Next House Judiciary Chair Says

Melissa Etheridge Talks Art, Culture and Marijuana Advocacy In The Legalization Era

Melissa Etheridge Talks Art, Culture and Marijuana Advocacy In The Legalization Era

It’s been a little over a year since singer, activist and marijuana entrepreneur Melissa Etheridge was arrested for cannabis possession by federal agents in North Dakota near the U.S.-Canada border. Her tour bus was stopped and searched shortly after touring in Alberta, and agents discovered a vape pen containing cannabis oil.

Etheridge, who’s become an outspoken advocate for legalization in the years since she started using the plant medicinally after being diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s, told Marijuana Moment in a new interview that the experience of being busted did not deter her.

Rather, it has motivated her to continue advocating for patients and spreading the word about marijuana’s therapeutic potential.

Later this month, the singer plans to continue that mission, giving a keynote talk on how art and culture can help bring cannabis into the mainstream at the California Cannabis Business Conference in Anaheim. In the interview below, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity, she speaks about what the audience can expect and the role of celebrities in the legalization movement.

Via Tina Lawson.

Marijuana Moment: Let’s start by talking about your upcoming speech. How exactly can art and culture “mainstream” cannabis?

Melissa Etheridge: I know that I have lived my life in art. I have made my life art, and my art is my life. I write music and I have experience—when I went through my breast cancer experience, and I used cannabis as medicine for the first time, it was inspiring. It made sense to me on so many levels. Artists, we spend a lot of time in our right brain. We get inspiration—which means “in spirt”—from nothing and make something of it. So it’s easy for us to understand plant medicine. Why shouldn’t we be the ones to help bridge that gap?

MM: Inversely, I wonder how using marijuana has influenced your artistic career?

ME: Oh my goodness, well if you hear everything from after my cancer on, you can hear it. The difference in the work, the depth of my soul-searching, the depth of my spiritual journey. It changed my understanding of parenting. To be more balanced in one’s consciousness, to understand that we have a problem-solving consciousness—the left side, and that gets everything done—yet we need a balance of the oneness, the all there is that’s in the right side.

MM: Where do you see the role of celebrities when it comes to advancing marijuana reform?

ME: Celebrities have a funny role in our world, you know? We keep saying, we’re just people, people. And sometimes we’re just people who have done one thing really well for a long time and that’s what you become a “genius” at—that’s all that that is. So all of a sudden, people are interested in that, so you get this currency, this energy, that is celebrity. Then it’s up to each of us.

I went through this with the LGBT community. I proudly came out and said ‘yes!’ and I’ve heard from, and know that I’ve inspired, many, and that makes me just so happy in my life. Yet I’ve made some mistakes, you know? And we’re all just walking through this. Celebrities, if they choose to, can do a lot. My hope is that I can help others look at cannabis as medicine, as an alternative, when the choice that they’re given is a painkiller, an opioid, to say, “Hey, let’s try to put the stigma away and really get into this plant medicine that won’t harm us as much.” I hope my celebrity can help there.

MM: Do you think there’s a greater need for celebrities who are profiting from the marijuana industry to contribute to the movement in terms of grassroots organizing or contributing to national advocacy groups, for example?

ME: I think that’s a natural byproduct of the movement. I think that the majority of people in the cannabis industry understand it is as a social game-changer on so many levels—on justice reform, on racial inequality, it goes deep. This is a movement.

MM: You also run a marijuana business based in California. What has your experience been like since Proposition 64 went into effect?

ME: We all agree that legalization is a good thing. Prop. 64 is full of almost impossible criteria to me, and it’s causing undue financial burdens. No other industry has ever had to meet these regulation requirements—not even the food industry and certainly not the pharmaceutical industry.

MM: The anniversary of your arrest near the border recently passed. I wonder what you make of the progress we’re seeing in Canada, which is set to launch its legal cannabis system next week, compared to the United States.

ME: Oh, Canada. Again, there are parallels with the LGBT movement. I remember Canada went completely federal—we’re doing gay marriage, bam, same-sex marriage, equality. I don’t know what it is, unless it’s just that anybody who would come to Canada to live—because it’s so darn cold—that they really believe in rights for all, this great thing. I think they also jumped on cannabis pretty early and have seen what it can do for communities, what it can do medicinally, what it can do for businesses and that’s what’s going to just kill us. We are missing out on the opportunity to be the international leaders on cannabis. And it’s these beautiful people up in Canada who are doing it so well. It’s like when the Japanese started making better cars than us.

MM: As a longtime activist, what message would you send to our elected official in Congress, where cannabis reform has stalled for decades?

ME: I’d say, I understand the fear. It has been many decades of misinformation telling us that cannabis is evil. I get it. I’ve heard that also. These are different times and it’s possible to think differently about this medicine. This is an answer for you. Really give it a chance.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Melissa Etheridge Talks Art, Culture and Marijuana Advocacy In The Legalization Era

Successful Constitutional Case Against Death Penalty Works For War on Drugs, Too

Successful Constitutional Case Against Death Penalty Works For War on Drugs, Too

The movement to restore civil liberties and resolve systemic racial injustices in the criminal justice system scored a major victory on Thursday. And no, this time we’re not talking about ending the war on drugs. Or at least not yet.

Washington became the 20th state to abolish the death penalty, with the state Supreme Court ruling that capital punishment is unconstitutional because “it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.”

If you’re already seeing parallels to arguments for ending drug prohibition, you’re not alone.

Many of the same points the court made in their ruling against the death penalty ring true for the war on drugs, too. For example, the court argued that death sentences have been disproportionately carried out against black defendants, at a rate more than four times higher than it is for white defendants.

There were three main factors the justices cited as justification for abolishing capital punishment.

  1. “There is significant county-by-county variation in decisions to seek or impose the death penalty, and a portion of that variation is a function of the size of the black population but does not stem from differences in population density, political orientation or fiscal capacity of the county.
  2. Case characteristics as documented in the trial reports explain a small portion of variance in decisions to seek or impose the death penalty.
  3. Black defendants were four and a half times more likely to be sentenced to death than similarly situated white defendants.

“The most important consideration is whether the evidence shows that race has a meaningful impact on imposition of the death penalty,” the justices wrote in their opinion. “We make this determination by way of legal analysis, not pure science.”

“Given the evidence before this court and our judicial notice of implicit and overt racial bias against black defendants in this state, we are confident that the association between race and the death penalty is not attributed to random chance. We need not go on a fishing expedition to find evidence external to Beckett’s study as a means of validating the results. Our case law and history of racial discrimination provide ample support.”

Similarly, drug reform advocates have long maintained that prohibition is racially discriminatory given disproportionate rates of enforcement and arrests for drug-related offenses. Black Americans are nearly three times as likely to be arrested for a drug-related crime, compared to white Americans. That’s in spite of the fact that rates of consumption are roughly equal among both groups.

What’s more, a 2012 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that black men serve drug sentences that are about 13 percent longer than those applied to white men.

The Washington court said another factor that contributed to their decision concerned “contemporary standards and experience in other states.”

“We recognize local, national, and international trends that disfavor capital punishment more broadly. When the death penalty is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner, society’s standards of decency are even more offended.”

The parallel here couldn’t be more clear. If such trends demonstrate a need to review and reform an existing law, the same rationale could theoretically apply to drug prohibition. A majority of states have legalized cannabis for medical or adult-use, and national interest in changing federal marijuana laws has steadily grown in recent years. Beyond marijuana, a broader drug reform push has included calls to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses.

Of course, marijuana is already legal in Washington, and no other states have yet legalized drugs, so this part of the ruling’s applicability to a potential case seeking to strike down broad drug prohibition in the state might not be quite ripe yet.

While it’s unclear whether the constitutionality of prohibition could be reasonably challenged on similar legal grounds, the similarities are striking. The justification for capital punishment was another point of interest for the justices, who noted that the system failed to achieve its “penological goals” of “retribution and deterrence.”

For all intents and purposes, drug prohibition too has failed to achieve similar goals. Decades of drug war have not appreciably deterred consumption. From 2001 to 2013, the rate of marijuana use among American adults almost doubled, for instance.

The Cato Institute analyzed the impact of the drug war in a 2017 report. It concluded that prohibitionist policies “fail on practically every margin.”

“Economic thinking illustrates that these failures are not only understandable, but entirely predictable. As a result of prohibition and the changes it induces in the market for drugs, increased disease, death, violence, and cartels are all expectable outcomes. Moreover, economics can help us link together these policies with other issues, such as race relations and police militarization.”

A last note from the Washington Supreme Court justices:

“Under article I, section 14, we hold that Washington’s death penalty is unconstitutional, as administered, because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner,” the justices wrote. “Given the manner in which it is imposed, the death penalty also fails to serve any legitimate penological goals.”

Now swap “death penalty” with “drug prohibition” in that last quote… Fits like a glove.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Successful Constitutional Case Against Death Penalty Works For War on Drugs, Too

Bernie Sanders Supports Ending Federal Prohibition of Cannabis

Bernie Sanders Supports Ending Federal Prohibition of Cannabis

In a historical move during a speech in Virginia, Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, announced that he believes it is time to end the prohibition of cannabis at the federal level.

The Vermont senator and self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” shared his views with students from the acclaimed George Mason University and other GOP contenders. Sanders supports removing marijuana from it’s current Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act. Those listed as Schedule I, a classification which means they have a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value, are considered to be the most dangerous drugs outlawed by the US government. Heroin and bath salts are among those listed as Schedule I substances.

“Right now marijuana is listed by the federal government as a schedule-one drug, meaning that it is considered to be as dangerous as heroin. That is absurd,”

Sanders said during the speech.

“In my view, the time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana. In my view, states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco.”

While Sanders did not endorse full legalization at the federal level he did point out that he believes that states should have the right to choose how to regulate cannabis like alcohol and tobacco. Sanders also mentioned that cannabis consumers should not face federal prosecution, and that legally operating cannabis businesses should have full access to banking services and tax deductions just like any other business. While he supports policy reform, Sanders believes that those caught unlawfully trafficking and distributing should still face federal prosecution.

No other presidential candidate has called for cannabis to be rescheduled, leaving Sanders as the only candidate who’s views are aligned with 58 percent of the American people who support full legalization, according to the most recent Gallup poll.

“If Sen. Sanders follows through on these comments with legislation, it will be the first time in history that a bill will be introduced in the U.S. Senate to end federal marijuana prohibition,”

said Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority.

bernie sanders presidential candidate

Mexico Supreme Court Considering Legal Cannabis

Mexico Supreme Court Considering Legal Cannabis

The Supreme Court of Mexico is scheduled to discuss a cannabis law reform proposal on Monday October 28. If approved, the proposal would legalize the use of cannabis, both medicinally and recreationally, throughout the country.

Mexico’s Supreme Court Judges will take the known medicinal benefits of cannabis as well as how legalization could overturn the prominent presence of drug cartels into consideration.

This proposal has made it all the way to the Supreme Court after The Mexican Association for Responsible Self-Consumption and Tolerance (or SMART in Spanish), filed an appeal for the right to grow, possess and consume cannabis for recreational purposes in 2013.

Although the prohibition of marijuana has held strong in Mexico since it was enacted in 1925, following the International Opium Convention, a federal judge granted the family of an 8 year old girl suffering from epilepsy permission to import cannabidiol (CBD) oil in September. These factors have reportedly influenced Mexican citizens to reconsider the previously taboo subject of legal cannabis. Support for legalization in Mexico has been steadily increasing since several states in America have made international news with cannabis law reform.

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