The Beginning of the End of Marijuana Prohibition

It’s only a matter of time before marijuana is taxed, controlled, and regulated in the United States.
Even I can’t believe the way that the marijuana issue is opening up right now.

(Source – Alternet, Feb 16) There’s been steady progress on medical marijuana — as evidenced by the Obama administration’s new guidelines directing federal drug agents not to arrest legitimate patients and suppliers in medical marijuana states. Then there’s the recent victories in MaineNew JerseyRhode Island and Washington D.C., — not to mention the medical marijuana bills making progress in numerous other states around the country. Last month’s ABC News/Washington Post poll reported a record 81 percent support for medical marijuana. If ballot initiatives could be held in all 50 states, voters would approve it in all but a small handful.

What’s even more remarkable is the recent jump in support for taxing and regulating marijuana. I was pleasantly stunned by the Gallup poll late last year finding that support for making marijuana legal jumped from 36% in 2005 to 44% in 2009. Fifty-four percent of Democrats, 53% of people living in the West, and roughly half of Independents and 18-49 year-olds now support making marijuana legal. In the past year, legislative proposals to tax and regulate marijuana have prompted hearings in California, Washington, and New Hampshire — and California voters will have their say this November at the ballot box.

What does all this mean?

Despite such progress, I don’t expect bold leadership from the Obama administration, mostly because presidents rarely provide any sort of leadership on hot-button issues involving cultural conflict, personal behavior and morality. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that Obama expresses concern that 750,000 people are arrested each year for doing exactly the same thing he did as a young man — possessing a small amount of marijuana.

Still, though, Obama has already made a difference in two critical ways. First, his candid discussion of his own experiences using marijuana set a new standard for honesty. Second, the Department of Justice’s new guidelines on medical marijuana opened up significant political and legal space for states to get more deeply involved in regulating the otherwise illicit product. This move took the dialogue around medical marijuana to a new level of seriousness and sophistication, and effectively invited an emerging public conversation about making marijuana legally available for non-medical use.

Neither the administration nor Congress is ready for a serious dialogue on ending marijuana prohibition, though. Congress is even stymied when it comes to medical marijuana — many elected officials still insist they can’t spend their political capital on it. With support for medical marijuana at 81 percent, one has to wonder — just how popular does something have to be before elected officials are willing to stand up to the vested interests behind the war on drugs?

Since the public is so far ahead of national policymakers, I think the best we can hope for is that the federal government allows change to continue bubbling up from the state and local levels. That’s the nature of movements for individual freedom and social justice — the people lead, elected officials follow grudgingly.

It’s only a matter of time before marijuana is taxed, controlled, and regulated in the United States. The tragedy is that in the meantime tens of billions of dollars will be wasted, and millions of people will be harmed by our marijuana laws. It’s up to us — as conscientious members of society who care about science, compassion, health, and human rights — to make sure that the time comes as soon as possible.

Ethan Nadelmann is founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

By Ethan Nadelmann,
Posted on February 16, 2010, Printed on February 17, 2010



2 thoughts on “The Beginning of the End of Marijuana Prohibition

  1. Dear Ethan,

    Well, it’s good to read you from Europe, as USA has always been the steering force of the anti-drug policy. European Union also share this role, especially because as in USA, each states design its policy, but at the difference have no real “federal” law to follow.

    In USA, by recognizing with polls the need of medical cannabis for patients, returning the main prohibitionnist argument stating that narcotic drugs scheduled have “no therapeutic interest” !

    In the light of this analysis I would like, by this message, to convince you to express more interest on the global scale of this strategy : by supporting an EU referendum, gathering One million signatories asking for EU policy to include in its next action plan “legalisation of medical cannabis and use of cannabinoïds” ; then even just campaigning at EU level on this issue could be a positive step…

    I would like to inform you that the current french law is 40th years, and that Sarkozy seems to play the “bad cop” (last EU action plan was draft under french EU presidency, which didn’t take into account Reuter-Trautman report commissionned by EU)… And next year will be the hungarian EU presidency (I have a special argumentation on this, but I can’t express it here, too long and may be sensitive, please Ethan send me an email).

    I think that it is very important to have a big international event (as you organise it with DPA) within EU, at least next spring 2011.

    Since last EU elections, I launched an international movement “Cannabis With no Borders”, and we would like to launch this initiative for EU referendum.

    Just to remind you who am I : in 2005, as ENCOD’s chairman I was delegates to DPA conference in LA. I was blocked in San Francisco transit, and send back to France (now registered into US homeland security) because I try to enterred US soil with 0,0001 gram of cannabis/marijuana.
    Thus, during my special “USSA trip” , I found one gram of crack/cocaine into my custody cell. The morality is that I made 20 000 km to testimony that drugs are available on jails, but those who try to show all negatives effects of prohibitionnist rules are under strict control…
    Sorry for being so long, and many thanks for all what you’re doing to challenge International Narcotics Control Board.

    Sincerely yours,
    Farid Ghehioueche
    PS : You can contact me on the footer of the website


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