State and Local Support for Marijuana Decriminalization

Article by Stuart Bramhall.


Sativex - marijuana by prescriptionSativex – marijuana by prescription

This is the last of three posts on ending the War on Drugs.

Unlike the federal government, states aren’t allowed to run deficits. Since the 2008 economic collapse, both Democratic and Republican dominated states have been extremely proactive in reducing law enforcement costs by enacting drug liberalization legislation. This mainly takes the form of laws legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes and laws reducing personal marijuana use to a misdemeanor punishable by a fine.

While marijuana decriminalization is typically associated with liberal Democratic states, it enjoys growing support in Republican states facing harsh budget realities. According to Mother Jones magazine, among Republicans, 61% support legalizing marijuana for medical use and 33% support total decriminalization. Approximately 50% of Americans overall support marijuana decriminalization. http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/09/tea-party-marijuana-legalization

Tea Party Support for Decriminalization

The Georgia Tea Party also supports decriminalization (http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=115334838544068&topic=56), as does a Kentucky Tea Party group called Take Back Kentucky. The latter, who were instrumental in Rand Paul winning a 2010 Senate seat strongly back hemp legalization, in part as an alternative crop for tobacco farmers hurt by anti-smoking legislation (http://www.willowtown.com/promo/blogfpnov10a.htm).

Decriminalization to Reduce Budget Deficits

Fifteen states and Washington D.C. have passed medical marijuana laws. This includes a number of traditionally Republican states (Kansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Nebraska, Alaska, Montana, and Nevada). Sixteen states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania) have passed laws making any marijuana possession (and in some states cultivation) for personal use a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine. The California law was signed by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before leaving office last year. Local authorities in eight other states (Arkansas, Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Montana, Missouri, Michigan and Kansas) have made marijuana possession a misdemeanor within city limits.

Eight states are considering bills to fully decriminalize marijuana. Connecticut, the first state to enact paid sick leave, is also expected to be the first make marijuana possession a civil offense, like a traffic ticket, punishable with a $150 fine.

Decriminalization Efforts in California

With marijuana its largest cash crop, California has the strongest decriminalization movement. At $14 billion annually, cannabis-generated revenue is double that of vegetables and grapes combined.

A decriminalization initiative on the November 2010 ballot was narrowly defeated (53.8% No to 46.2%). A recent analysis in the Nation attributed the defeat to a conspiracy theory circulating among pot growers and elderly users that the tobacco giant R J Reynolds was buying up land and planning a corporate takeover of California production and distribution once personal marijuana use became legal. This was despite an absolute denial by the cigarette manufacturer that have any interest in expanding into marijuana. http://www.thenation.com/article/157001/altered-state-californias-pot-economy

Enter Big Pharma

The rumors have some basis in reality, given the way Big Pharma has moved into the medical marijuana market. In 2007, the British drug company GW Pharmaceuticals announced that it had partnered with the Japanese company Otsuka to bring “Sativex” – a liquefied marijuana sprayed under the tongue – to the U.S.  Sativex recently completed Phase II efficacy and safety trials studies, and the manufacturer is in discussion with the FDA regarding Phase III testing. Phase III is generally thought to be the final step before the drug can be marketed in the U.S.

Sativex is already in use in Britain, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Canada, the Czech Republic and New Zealand.

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