Archive for March, 2009

Glenn Greenwald on Legalizing Marijuana

Courtey of Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald brings us a list of phrases equally stupid as ‘If you want to legalize marijuana, that just means you want to get high’. 

Among the list:

(5) Anyone who believes abortion should be legal just wants to have reckless sex without consequences.  

and

(7) Anyone who opposes unrestrained government surveillance must be doing bad things in private that they want to hide.

Thanks to Mr. Greenwald for the amusing – but still accurate – article. You’d be surprised how often I hear comments like the first one, and it still surprises me too. But I guess this gets at the notion of what a civil liberty is.

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March 30, 2009 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

Repeal of Rockefeller Drug Laws – Senate Votes Tomorrow

The Drug Policy Alliance just sent an email reminding all New Yorkers that the state legislature votes tomorrow on a repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Contact your legislators and Governor Paterson to ensure that this repeal passes. (The DPA’s automated feature will send your letter to both your state senator and Governor Paterson in one go).

March 30, 2009 at 1:59 pm Leave a comment

California Hearing on Marijuana Postponed

The hearing on Assembly Bill 390, which seeks to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in California, has been postponed. This is good news; it gives activists more time to contact officials and urge them to support the bill.

As stated before, this bill could prove to be a landmark in the quest for drug policy reform. Make the most of this added time to ensure that your legislators support the bill.

March 29, 2009 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

Does Marijuana Legalization Stand a Chance in Massachusetts?

From Phishhook:

I hate to be all Sobering Suzie, buuut:

This bill has no chance of getting a favorable report from a committee, let alone passing both the House and the Senate. 

In Massachusetts, any citizen can file a bill through their local legislator. If the legislator agrees with the bill, they can file it as a normal bill, solicit cosponsors, write letters and provide testimony to committees, contact Leadership, etc. If the legislator does NOT agree with the bill, they can file it “By Request.” When a bill is filed by request, it means that they do not agree with the bill, and are solely filing it on behalf of their constituent. 

This bill was filed By Request — in the House and in the Senate (it’s the same bill in both, filed for the same, single community member). 

Neither bill has a single cosponsor, and neither the Representative nor the Senator who filed the respective House and Senate bills will do anything to advocate for them. The whole process of allowing citizens to file bills through their local electeds is largely a facade. Bills filed By Request NEVER even get out of committee. It will be burried in a study order next March, and will die with thousands of other bills.

Now, on the other hand, if there was ever an appetite for a bill like this in MA, it is right now. The state is overwhelmingly liberal (the republican party comprises a little bit more than 10% of the legislature), and needs badly new revenue. However, if this IS something that could happen in MA, it won’t be these bills that do it. 

But hey, at least it was decriminalized this past November with a ballot initiative (2-1 no less).

The anonymous poster who left this message has a point, but I’m not convinced that it’s a lost cause. Keep in mind that, just a few weeks before Question 2 passed, police officials were launching a smear campaign and the polled support had dropped by 30 points in some demographics. And in January 2008, who would even have predicted that Massachusetts would have enough signatures on the measure to put it on the ballot, let alone support it by 65%?

I look at Sobering Suzie’s post as challenge rather than a blockade. It’s clear to me that, if any two states can legalize marijuana, California and Massachusetts are certainly well-equipped. Both have very progressive laws regarding marijuana, both have decriminalized possession to some extent, and both have high rates of marijuana use. (It should be stated that this last point is probably a reason that Question 2 passed more than it is a result of it).

It is possible to pressure officials into taking action on a bill such as this. The key is to make them realize that their constituents’ support rests on it. In some sense, it is also pretty easy to get this point across to local officials. So, while I think that the fate of the bill is by no means certain, if we put pressure on legislators, it is still very much in the cards.

March 28, 2009 at 11:02 am 1 comment

Obama Insults Internet Voters

While it would have been a shock to see Obama declare his intent for legalizing marijuana in the town hall meeting today, his actual response was even more shocking. (The video is also available on YouTube).

“There was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation, and I don’t know what this says about the online audience” – Obama

What does it say about the online audience? It says that we’re serious. Marijuana was not just one high-ranking question. It was more like fifteen high-ranking questions.

It says that we’re aware of our economic troubles. It says that we understand the consequences of Prohibition. It says that we are intelligent enough to vast sums of money being wasted on a completely counterproductive war (not to mention the opportunity cost of all the tax revenue).

Obama just cracked a joke that reinforces the ‘stoner’ stereotype. This is a slap in the face of everyone who supports drug policy reform – be they users of marijuana or not. 

It’s pretty easy to contact the President, by email, online form, written letter, or (best of all) a phone call. Tell Obama how disappointed you are.

 

Dear Mr. Obama,

I was extremely disappointed by your town hall talk this morning. In your response, you managed to brush off fifteen of the top questions on the Open for Questions forum. In doing so, you also insulted the people who took you at your word when you opened a forum to hear our voices.

The fact that so many people support marijuana policy reform is not a joke. It shows that we are concerned citizens who care about the economy, about crime, and about civil liberties. Mr. Obama, you yourself have admitted to smoking marijuana. To imply – as you did – that everyone who supported these fifteen questions is a marijuana smoker, and then to imply that this is a laughing matter is blatantly disrespectful to many, many people who helped you win your seat in the Oval Office.

Two states voted to reform their marijuana laws during the 2008 election: Michigan and Massachusetts. In both states, more voters supported the marijuana policy reform laws than the Obama/Biden ticket. Please do not insult and alienate such a large audience. We voted on these questions because we wanted to hear a respectful answer. What we got was a slap in the face and the realization that our president is completely unwilling to listen to an enormous plurality of his constituents.

We are extremely offended by your response, and we hope that you will apologize to all the online voters – both those who smoke marijuana and those who do not –  and subsequently reaffirm your campaign trail commitment to reforming marijuana policy.

 

Sincerely,

__________

March 26, 2009 at 4:07 pm 2 comments

Marijuana Tops Open for Questions Again

Open for Questions is open again, and you can ask Obama questions directly. Voting ends tomorrow morning at 9:30, and he will answer the questions at 11:30.

It should come as no surprise that marijuana is an important topic. Fifteen questions about drug policy reform are in the top ten of their category. That is, the top two questions under ‘Green Jobs and Energy’, the second question under ‘Jobs’, the top four questions under ‘Financial Stability’, and the top seven questions under ‘Budget’. 

Clearly, people understand that marijuana policy reform is important for a variety of reasons. Make sure Obama receives this message so loudly that he cannot brush the question off again. Vote now.

The current top questions per category:

Budget:

  1. “With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control, and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money making, money saving boost to the economy? Do we really need that many victimless criminals?”
  2. “Mr. Obama, Thank you for allowing us to ask our questions to you, unfiltered. What is your stance on legalizing marijuana federally, taxing it and regulating much like alcohol and tobacco? I believe that the Drug War has failed, and needs overhaul.”
  3. “I am not a marijuana user, but I do believe that making marijuana legal could provide some relief as to it could be heavily taxed and regulated. Legalization of marijuana will also be a detriment to the drug cartels in Latin America.”
  4. “Have you considered legalizing marijuana and taxing/regulating it like alcohol? Marijuana is America’s largest cash crop. The tax revenue from marijuana sales would provide a massive source of new revenue and cut the insane costs of the “Drug War.””
  5. “Mr. President, we the people continue to ask you this general question, please do not fail to respond: Will you allow science and common sense to reign and end this failed WAR ON DRUGS starting with the legalization and taxation of Marijuana?”
  6. “Should the recreational use of marijuana be legalized and taxed if it will help California reduce its budget deficit? How will you and the federal government respond if such a law is passed by the California legislature?”
  7. “Are you willing to seriously consider the idea of curtailing the failed & expensive drug war in favor of a fair, responsible policy of decriminalization? With Mexican gangs, drug-related disease, & addicition going unchecked we need another solution.”

Green Jobs and Energy:

  1. “”Will you consider decriminalizing the recreational/medical use of marijuana(hemp) so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?””
  2. “Has your administration given any serious thought to how legalizing marijuana could help solve the economic crisis? We could tax this green product and create an influx of cash while reducing violence created by the war of drugs & illegal trafficking”

Financial Stability:

  1. “Would you support the bill currently going through the California legislation to legalize and tax marijuana, boosting the economy and reducing drug cartel related violence?”
  2. “Has the administration given any thought to legalizing marijuana, as a cash crop to fuel the economy? Why not make available, regulate, and tax something that that about 10 million Americans use regularly and is less harmful than tobacco or alcohol.”
  3. “Growing up I have noticed many around me always talk about legalization of marijuana, and I always thought, why not put a tax stamp on it. If marijuana was legalized it could really change a lot of things. America had the same problem with Alcohol.”
  4. “Could legalizing marijuana and laying a tax on it, given restriction allow the government make back some of the glaring debt considering it’s inelasticity and the history of economics of prohibition?”

Jobs:

  1. “As a student, who like so many others works full time and attends school full time, only to break even at the end of the month. What is the government doing to make higher education more affordable for lower and middle class families?”
  2. “What are your plans for the failing, “War on Drugs”, thats sucking money from tax payers and putting non-violent people in prison longer than the violent criminals”

March 25, 2009 at 6:43 pm 1 comment

California Hearing on Marijuana Legalization Approaches

One week from today, the Committee on Public Safety and Health will hear testimony surrounding Assembly Bill 390. The Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act (as it is known) would allow people over 21 to purchase legal marijuana in California. (The existing medical marijuana policy in California would not be affected, and medicinal marijuana would not be taxed).

Contact your representatives and urge them to support the measure. (This is especially important if he or she serves on the committee). A letter or phone call takes only a few minutes and could allow this bill the chance to be put to a vote – and even enacted. A sample letter is available through NORML’s automated feature, and an alternative sample letter/call script is below:

 

Dear Assemblyman/Assemblywoman _____________:

I am writing to ask for your support on Assembly Bill 390. The bill, also called the  Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, would regulate and tax marijuana while restricting its availablity to adults over the age of 21.

If passed, the taxes would raise over $1.3 billion dollars in revenue every year, according to reports by the State Board of Equilization. It would also limit access to those over 21, which would reduce use by children. Finally, it would allow law enforcement to focus on more serious and dangerous crimes, improving public safety.

Prohibition wastes taxpayer money at a huge cost to public safety, whereas a legal source of regulated, taxed marijuana would eliminate the illegal marijuana trade. For these reasons and the huge tax benefits in these economic times, I urge you to vote “yes” on Assembly Bill 390.

Sincerely, 

___________

 

The act is indeed seminal; Massachusetts has already introduced two similar bills (SB 1801 and HB 2929). If this passes, it would be a monumentous step forward in drug policy reform. Please help ensure that it passes by contacting  legislators.

March 24, 2009 at 8:13 pm 1 comment

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