By The Times Editorial Board
DECEMBER 28, 2016
Californians may have voted overwhelmingly on Nov. 8 to legalize marijuana, but Americans also elected Donald Trump, whose position on legalization has been a bit — hazy. That’s a potential problem because marijuana is regulated under federal law, giving Trump and his administration veto power over whether California and the seven other states that have voted to legalize cannabis can really do so.
So where does the president-elect stand on pot? He has said he supports individuals’ right to use medical marijuana “100%,” which is good news for the 29 states that allow medicinal use of pot. As for adult recreational use, which Californians approved through Proposition 64, it’s hard to say what he believes because his statements have been all over the map, shifting from audience to audience.
In a 1990 speech in South Florida, where drug cartels had waged a bloody fight in the 1980s, Trump said that the nation’s war on drugs had been a failure; it would be better, he said, to legalize and tax drugs and spend the money on drug prevention. (Sounds a bit like The Times’ endorsement of Proposition 64.) But that was 26 years ago. During his presidential run, Trump told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, a staunch prohibitionist, that he was concerned Colorado’s decision to legalize recreational use was causing “a lot of problems out there.” Then, while campaigning in Nevada (where voters last month passed a ballot measure to allow adult use of marijuana), Trump said legalization should be decided by the states.
If that last statement gave a glimmer of hope to advocates of legalization, Trump undermined it with his nominee for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a hard-line opponent of reforming marijuana laws.
During a Senate hearing in April on how the Department of Justice was dealing with states that have legalized cannabis, Sessions declared that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” And he’s been a frequent critic of the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to states that allow medical and recreational marijuana.
For the last three years, the Justice Department’s policy has been to not interfere with states that allow the commercial sale of marijuana as long as there are strict regulations in place, including rules to prevent sales to minors and to block criminal enterprises from participating. That policy guided California lawmakers as they crafted new medical marijuana licensing regulations in 2015, as well as the advocates who wrote Proposition 64. Sessions, however, has said the DOJ’s policy is wrong. “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger,” he declared in April.
If Sessions does take charge of the Justice Department, he could reverse the DOJ policy and undermine California’s new rules. That would be a step backward. In most of the states that have voted to legalize marijuana, commercialization has ushered in much-needed regulation. It’s how Colorado sought to ensure the safety of the marijuana people were already consuming. It’s how California will attempt to stop illegal cultivation, which has devastated sensitive ecosystems. The goal of Proposition 64 is to eliminate the black market and transform the existing multibillion-dollar underground industry into one regulated for consumer safety, environmental protection and public health.
Even if the new administration doesn’t reverse the Justice Department policy, it will still need to be a partner in creating common-sense policies. For example, because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, pot shops typically can't open bank accounts or accept credit cards because financial services companies fear being penalized by federal regulators for handling money from unlawful drug sales.
That means marijuana products are typically sold for cash, and dispensary owners pay their employees, their landlords and their taxes in cash, inviting crime and making it harder to regulate the sale of cannabis. With such problems in mind, California Treasurer John Chiang recently sent a letter to Trump seeking guidance on how his administration would deal with the conflict between state and federal law.
Decades of experience has shown that the U.S. can’t win a war on marijuana. It would be foolhardy for the federal government to dig in on cannabis prohibition now, when voters are increasingly choosing to legalize the drug for medicinal and recreational use. Trump and his attorney general ought to adhere to the will of state voters and demonstrate the kind of pragmatic leadership on marijuana policy that has too often been missing in the federal government.
Read more here.
By Robin Abcarian
DECEMBER 21, 2016
The door to legalized marijuana in California cracked ajar in 1996, when voters approved the Compassionate Use Act, which allowed doctors to recommend cannabis to their patients.
In November, the door flew open as voters approved Proposition 64 by a wide margin, a measure that legalizes marijuana for adult recreational use and could herald the beginning of the end of the federal government’s misbegotten war on weed.
Really though, for nearly two decades, pot has more or less been available to anyone 18 or older willing to pay for a medical recommendation, which you could get without ever leaving your bedroom. It’s as easy as signing onto a website, paying a few bucks, and Skyping with a physician. Dispensaries sprouted like weeds, bedeviling cities like Los Angeles, which has struggled to develop regulations.
Yet as easy as it is to procure, marijuana continues to be listed by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule 1 drug, with no accepted medical benefit, officially considered as dangerous as cocaine or heroin. This strains credulity.
No one has ever died from an overdose of marijuana. And medical literature, though research has been limited in this country by the federal ban, is rife with studies showing potentially beneficial uses for the drug.
Pot has been shown to be effective with certain kinds of intractable childhood epilepsy, for helping the nausea of chemotherapy patients, for stimulating the appetites of people with AIDS. It is believed to help with certain kinds of neuropathic pain. Many combat veterans experiencing PTSD use marijuana to alleviate their symptoms. Professional athletes have extolled the benefits of pot over prescription drugs for chronic injuries.
There are some marijuana activists who reject the idea that pot is ever used recreationally. They believe it always has a medical use, even if that use is simple relaxation after a hard day’s work.
In any case, after medical marijuana was legalized, lots of Baby Boomers who had used pot in high school and college, then put it away as adults, started to rediscover it. In some affluent circles, pot has become as commonplace as chardonnay, and carries about as much stigma.
For others — especially teenagers, and low-income African Americans and Latinos — marijuana has continued to function as a gateway drug … to the criminal justice system. For police, the whiff of weed offered an excellent pretext to stop, to search, to run license plates, and to arrest. Under the new law, that is no longer the case.
Read more here.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was an early and vocal supporter of Donald Trump's presidential bid. Now that his man is headed for the White House, the 69-year-old senator seems likely to be rewarded with a plum cabinet position.
Sessions' name has been floated for a number of cabinet positions, including Attorney General, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of Homeland Security.
Here are five reasons Sessions would be no friend to libertarians if he does indeed leave the Senate and join the Trump administration:
1. He was not only for "the Wall" before Trump thought it was cool, he's against legal immigration, too.
More than a decade ago, Sessions was pushing for a fortified barrier on our Southern border, and has never let go of the dream. He has also opposed every congressional attempt at immigration reform since then, of which Reason's Shikha Dalmia wrote, "Sessions has done more than any human alive to torpedo every sensible immigration reform effort and makes no bones about his wish to basically stop all immigration. He moves the goalposts on reform constantly, recently even calling for the elimination of the H-1B visa program for foreign techies, which sent chills down the IT sector's spine."
It's not just illegal immigration Sessions opposes, he's also fond of spreading the canard that all immigrants are a drain on the economy and take the jobs which are the birthright of all native-born Americas, when in fact, the opposite is much closer to the truth.
As Nick Gillespie noted, Sessions' hostility to the free movement of people also makes him no friend of free trade. On that topic, Daniel Griswold wrote at Cato at Liberty that "Sen. Sessions supports our freedom to trade only as long as it does not affect any noisy special interests in his own state."
2. He thinks only bad people do drugs, m'kay.
After previously mischaracterizing certain countries' efforts at drug decriminalization as "legalization" and incorrectly arguing that they have "failed," Sessions lamented that Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaign against drugs has been relegated to history and replaced by a growing tolerance for the legalization of adult recreational use of marijuana.
At a hearing earlier this year, Sessions said:
I can't tell you how concerning it is for me, emotionally and personally, to see the possibility that we will reverse the progress that we've made....
It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it's not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don't smoke marijuana.
Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote of Sessions' comments:
This is not the first time that Sessions, who served as a U.S. attorney during the Reagan administration, has pined for the days of Just Say No. But crediting Nancy Reagan for a decline in drug use that began before she latched onto her pet cause is scientifically problematic, and so are the messages Sessions wants the youth of America to hear—especially the idea that "good people don't smoke marijuana," which condemns at least two-fifths of the population (and probably more like half, allowing for underreporting by survey respondents).
Read more here.
By David Garrick Contact Reporter
DECEMBER 8, 2016
San Diego unveiled a proposal on Thursday to allow the city’s 15 permitted medical marijuana dispensaries to also sell marijuana to recreational users when that becomes legal in California in January 2018.
San Diego is the only city in the county that has indicated it intends to allow the sale of recreational marijuana, which state voters approved Nov. 8 as Proposition 64.
Any new dispensary seeking to sell recreational marijuana would need to meet the same rigorous zoning and security regulations the city applied to permitted medical marijuana dispensaries.
Those regulations prevent dispensaries from opening near housing, schools, churches, parks and other sensitive uses, while also requiring security guards, cameras and other safety measures.
But the proposal, which the Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss next Thursday, would make several small refinements to those regulations.
Customers would need to be 21 years old — a requirement under Proposition 64 — to buy recreational marijuana, while medical marijuana would still be available to those 18 and up.
The regulations would be loosened by making the definition of a park more specific, eliminating open space and riparian areas that have stymied some medical marijuana dispensary applicants.
Sign regulations would be tightened to allow only alphabetic characters spelling the name of the business. This change is in response to dispensaries seeking to add graphics of marijuana plants or related images.
Dispensaries would also face a new requirement to remove graffiti within 24 hours and keep the area surrounding their businesses free of litter.
And the regulations would clarify that delivery of marijuana would only be legal from permitted dispensaries.
Read more here.
Susan Soares has written for Cannabis Now Magazine, Alternet, and Sensi Magazine.