Posts tagged ‘decriminalize marijuana’

Mexico May Decriminalize Marijuana

On Tuesday, the Mexican Senate passed a bill that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana,  as well as of certain other drugs. Felipe Calderón, the President of Mexico, sponsored the bill, which means that he will certainly sign the bill if it passes through the lower house. The Mexican Congress already passed a similar bill in 2006; however Vicente Fox (then-President of Mexico) vetoed the measure.

This bill would send low-level drug dealing cases to state courts, making the offfenses no longer federal crimes.

If passed, this law could provide a new incentive for the federal government – or even especially state governments in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas – to adapt local laws in order to make the drug trade from Mexico less profitable. (Hint: one way to do that would be to provide a legal market for drugs within those states!) One of those states is already ahead of the curve with Assembly Bill 390, introduced by Assemblyman Ammiano.

May 1, 2009 at 6:57 pm 1 comment

Bipartisan Bill for Drug Policy Reform Introduced

Senate Bill 714, also known as The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009, has been introduced to the Senate by Jim Webb (D) of Virginia and Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania. The purpose of the bill is as follows:

The Commission shall undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, make findings related to current Federal and State criminal justice policies and practices, and make reform recommendations for the President, Congress, and State governments to improve public safety, cost-effectiveness, overall prison administration, and fairness in the implementation of the Nation’s criminal justice system.

But wait, there’s more:

In conducting the review, the Commission shall make such findings as it deems appropriate, including…an examination of current drug policy and its impact on incarceration, crime and violence, sentencing, and reentry programs, to include an analysis of the general availability of drugs in our society, the impact and effectiveness of current policies on reducing that availability and on the incidence of crime, and in the case of criminal offenders, the availability of drug treatment programs before, during, and after incarceration…

In other words, if the commission is reasonably well-conducted, it should confirm thousands of other pieces of research which also demonstrate that current drug policy – specifically, current policy with respect to marijuana – is entirely counterproductive. I’m fairly confident of this simply because I remember the Shafer Commission, conducted under Nixon.  The findings of that report included:

[T]he criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only ‘with the greatest reluctance.

And yet, nothing was done about it. So why should we be more confident now?

Well, for starters, we have a president who is more likely to be amenable to drug policy changes (despite the town hall debacle last week). Even if Obama refuses to relegalize marijuana, it should certainly be easier to decriminalize marijuana under his administration than in past administrations – particularly if yet another commision recommends it.

Have a bipartisan bill of this type introduced is definitely an improvement. It’s not much in itself – it’s just a start – but it’s an important step forwards.

April 2, 2009 at 10:00 am 1 comment


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