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  1. #1
    Finally Resting In Peace medpot's Avatar

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    Default US: Marijuana Push in D.C. Spurs Congress to Weigh Legalizing

    Bloomberg



    Marijuana Push in D.C. Spurs Congress to Weigh Legalizing




    Andrew Hetherington/Redux

    Alliance, say the effects of pot are less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, the U.S. government

    maintains that marijuana can lead to serious mental-health issues.


    A proposal backed by most District of Columbia council members to decriminalize small amounts of pot may spur federal lawmakers to consider marijuana regulation for the first time since two states legalized recreational sales.

    Congress has the power to block legislation approved by the Washington council. U.S. lawmakers can also stop local initiatives in the nation’s capital through the federal budget, which authorizes the city’s spending, as they did to stall the use of medical marijuana there for a decade.

    The push to loosen local pot penalties, which few expect Congress to block, would set up what supporters say is the next step: legalizing recreational use. Growing support for legal pot and the billions in tax revenue and prison savings the change may bring has convinced some that Congress will ease laws.

    “This is where you’re going to see federal movement coming in the next year or two,” said Erik Altieri, a spokesman for the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which was founded in 1970.

    Groups such as Norml and the DC Cannabis Campaign are considering a ballot initiative next year to legalize pot sales in the district. If approved, it would force Congress to consider an issue the federal government has mostly left to states. The hands-off approach has created a patchwork of laws ranging from Missouri, where possession of 35 grams, about 1.25 ounces, can mean seven years in prison, to Colorado and Washington state, which legalized recreational sales last year.

    Gaining Support

    For the first time, a majority of Americans now favor legalization, according to a Gallup Poll last week showing that support has increased 10 percentage points in one year.

    Seventy-six percent of doctors worldwide favor using pot for medicinal purposes, according to a May poll published by the New England Journal of Medicine. Forty-eight percent of U.S. adults reported using it, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

    While advocates, including the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance, say the effects of pot are less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, the U.S. government maintains that marijuana can lead to serious mental-health issues.

    “Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety,” said an April report from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

    “It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior and drugged drivers.”

    Drug Arrests

    Sale or possession of marijuana accounted for 48 percent of the 1.55 million drug arrests in the U.S. in 2012, Federal Bureau of Investigation data show. While drug busts have dropped, those for marijuana have risen by 18 percent since 2001, according a June report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

    At the same time, racial disparities have increased, according to the report. In the U.S., pot use among whites and blacks is about the same, yet blacks are arrested for possession almost four times as often. In Washington, blacks accounted for 91 percent of marijuana arrests in 2010, even though they account for about half of the population of 632,000.

    “We’re saving thousands of black boys and a few girls from having a criminal record for small amounts of marijuana, and that’s important because most employers won’t consider you if they see an arrest record,” said council member Marion Barry, referring to the proposal.

    Prison Sentence

    Barry is no stranger to drug laws. He was sentenced to six months in prison in 1990 for possession of crack cocaine while he was mayor. He said that experience hasn’t informed his support for the pot proposal.

    Barry wouldn’t say whether he supported legalization. Asked whether that was the next step in D.C., he said, “Yes.”

    Estimates on a potential national marijuana market vary from $10 billion to $120 billion a year, with $35 billion to $45 billion being likely, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Tax collections from such sales could reach as much as $20 billion, according to a March report by Brad Barker, a Bloomberg Industries analyst, who cited projections by the Cato Institute, a nonprofit research group, and the Congressional Research Service.

    When voters in Washington and Colorado legalized pot a year ago, they forced the federal government’s hand. In an Aug. 29 memo, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the Justice Department wouldn’t intervene in the states’ pot regulations, so long as they prevented out-of-state distribution, access to minors, impaired driving and kept revenue from going to gangs and cartels.

    Tea Party

    In Congress, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in an Aug. 26 statement that “these state laws should be respected.”

    The Tea Party movement that helped restore Republican control in the House in 2010 included a wave of libertarian lawmakers who are more receptive to loosening marijuana regulation.

    A House bill from California Republican Dana Rohrabacher to give state marijuana laws priority over the U.S. Controlled Substances Act has 20 co-sponsors, ranging from Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva, among the most liberal members of Congress, to Justin Amash of Michigan and Steve Stockman of Texas, both Republicans aligned with the Tea Party movement.

    Kentucky Grass

    A triumvirate of Kentucky Republicans is backing proposals to allow farming of hemp, which U.S. law classifies the same as marijuana even though it has a non-intoxicating amount of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant.

    In the Senate, the measure has support from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016. A third Kentucky lawmaker, Representative Thomas Massie, has 48 co-sponsors for the same bill in the House.

    “We’re seeing Congress move this way,” Norml’s Altieri said. “It’s hard to see them really rolling back.”

    Rohrabacher said he doesn’t expect his bill to pass until the Republican Party nominates a presidential candidate who supports marijuana legislation. The limited-government Tea Party movement increases the chances, he said.

    “It all depends on whether or not, with this Tea Party group, we end up with a Republican that has courage enough to be more libertarian on the marijuana issue,” Rohrabacher said.

    Parking Ticket

    The District of Columbia proposal to decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana has support from 10 of 12 local lawmakers and may get final approval in January, said council member Tommy Wells, who is sponsoring the measure.

    Wells’s plan would mean fines of $100 for small amounts of pot, instead of a maximum six months in prison. Wells said in an interview that he’ll probably change his bill at a December hearing to reduce the fine to $25 -- the same as the punishment for parking at an expired meter.

    Sixteen states have decriminalized first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to Norml.

    Once it passes the council and gets a signature from Mayor Vincent Gray, who supports it, Congress has 60 days to object with a disapproval resolution. Congress hasn’t used that method since 1991, when lawmakers overturned a proposal to exceed a 110-foot height limit for downtown buildings.

    When voters in the nation’s capital were among the first in the U.S. to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1998, Congress prevented the district from spending money on the program for a decade with a budget rider.

    There are now three dispensaries and three cultivation centers in the district, said Najma Roberts, a D.C. health department spokeswoman.

    Both Wells and council member David Grosso said they’d back legalization in Washington, a question that two-thirds of district votes said they’d support, according to an April poll by Public Policy Polling. Neither Wells nor Grosso would venture a guess as to how Congress might respond.

    “That fight would have national repercussions,” Rohrabacher said.

    To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Michael C. Bender in Washington at

    mbender10@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at

    jschneider50@bloomberg.net

  2. #2
    Flowering Member nohibition's Avatar

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    While advocates, including the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance, say the effects of pot are less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, the U.S. government maintains that marijuana can lead to serious mental-health issues.

    “Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety,” said an April report from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

    “It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior and drugged drivers.”


    I have 3 grandsons and have taken the time to educate them about pot, both the recreational and the medical side of the issue. They know that I've been a life long pot user and understand that I know more than the average joe does on the subject. I have explained to them that there will always disagreement and many will distort the facts for their own benefit. We have watched documentaries together and they now know the potential effect that marijuana has on young under developed brains and that many young people have developed problems associated with recreational marijuana use. In the end they understand that there are many medical benefits and that recreational use in adults is relatively save because our brains are fully developed. Most important is the fact that they trust me. In addition we have three grown children, the two youngest do not use pot and our oldest who suffers from anxiety and depression uses pot when the Paxil and other medications are messing up her head and her life. When this happens she finds refuge here at Mum and Dads house where she can relax smoke some pot and sort things out. She always leaves here happier and in a clearer state of mind, and knows where to come when life overwhelms her. EDUCATION and PARENTING, LOVE and UNDERSTANDING.

    The problem is not pot it is politicians who are so far removed from the truth that they cannot make educated decisions and who care more about the bottom line than they do about and individuals quality of life. There is one pain that marijuana has little effect on... the one I get in my ass from this kind of mentality... sorry I digress

    Thanks MedPot I like to read the news every morning...it's getting to be a habit.
    Last edited by nohibition; 11-01-2013 at 01:05 PM.
    I fall upon the earth, and I am embraced. Water gives me life, and I spring forth into the light. My roots run deep into the earth, and I am nourished. With wind and water, light and earth, I conspire to ease your pain and heal your wounds, to bring you peace and calm your mind, to give you wisdom and truth of heart.
    I return to the earth and I am embraced.I am Cannabis
    Nohibition

  3. #3
    Finally Resting In Peace medpot's Avatar

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    You're welcome nohibition!

    Marc

    - - - Updated - - -

    The Daily Chronic


    Washington DC on Fast Track to Marijuana Decriminalization


    By Associated Press November 3, 2013





    WASHINGTON, DC — It took nearly 15 years after voters approved medical marijuana for it to become available in the District of Columbia, but the next major change to pot laws in the nation’s capital is on the fast track.

    The D.C. Council is poised to approve a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, and Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray announced last month that he supports it.

    He could sign the bill into law as early as January.

    Some activists want the city to go further by legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana as Colorado and Washington state do, and they’re considering a ballot initiative if the council doesn’t take that step.

    It’s a big change from a year ago, when there was no medical marijuana in the capital and elected officials weren’t talking about relaxing recreational pot laws. Now, there are three tightly regulated marijuana dispensaries in the city, although there aren’t many patients yet.

    City leaders have long been cautious about pot, in part because Congress has the final say on what’s legal in the district. But with 17 states having some form of decriminalization and the Justice Department taking a hands-off approach to legalization in Colorado and Washington state, city leaders think Congress won’t be interested in fighting that battle.

    “What the states do would not matter if there were serious interest in the subject” on Capitol Hill, said Del.

    Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the district in Congress. “I don’t think there’s a serious interest in the subject.”

    The new sense of urgency has been fueled in part by two studies released this year that found large racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the city. Blacks were eight times more likely to be arrested than whites in the district in 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union found, and 91 percent of those arrested that year were black. About half of the city’s 632,000 residents are African-American.

    “We have hundreds of young black men, black boys, being locked up, for simple possession of a couple bags of marijuana,” said Democratic Councilmember Marion Barry, one of the bill’s sponsors. “We don’t want to be proud of the wrong kind of thing here.

    We need to stop that kind of injustice from happening.”

    Democrat Paul Zukerberg, a defense attorney who represents people charged with marijuana offenses and who campaigned for the council this spring on liberalization of marijuana laws, said he’s pleased members have embraced the issue.

    “A lot of things came together,” Zukerberg said. “This is a movement that’s national – in fact, it’s an international movement. We’re part of a larger shift in people’s attitudes toward marijuana.”

    Congress has disapproved of only three pieces of legislation passed by the D.C. Council, the last in 1991. A more frequent tactic for members who disapprove of policies in the heavily Democratic district is to insert language in the city’s appropriations bill. That’s what then-Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., did in 1999 to block the city from spending money on its medical marijuana program, which district voters approved the previous year.

    The so-called rider remained on the city’s budget until 2009. After a lengthy regulatory process, medical marijuana became available this year.

    It’s allowed only for patients with HIV or AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and conditions such as multiple sclerosis that cause severe muscle spasms. City health officials said last month that only 59 patients had registered to buy medical marijuana.

    Even with decriminalization, the district is not about to become a pot haven. Possession would still be barred on federal land, which encompasses more than 20 percent of the city. And federal law enforcement officers – such as the U.S. Park Police or Capitol Police – can make arrests for violations of federal law on local property.

    “Decriminalization is a local law,” said Janene Jackson, director of the mayor’s Office on Policy and Legislative Affairs. “We don’t want people thinking you’re free to puff up on federal property. You’re not, and you will be arrested.”

    The bill would decriminalize possession of less than 1 ounce of pot. While potential fines haven’t been finalized, Democratic Councilmember Tommy Wells, the bill’s lead sponsor, is considering $25. That would be lower than the civil fines in any state except Alaska, which has none.

    While such laws are widespread on the West Coast and in New England, no state in the mid-Atlantic region has decriminalized pot. In the district, 10 of the 13 councilmembers have signaled their support for the decriminalization bill.

    Still, opponents remain. Bernard Howard, pastor of a church in Southeast Washington, said criminal penalties deter some people from smoking marijuana.

    “The message is going to be sent that it’s really not that bad of a choice of drug,” Howard said. He said he smoked pot as a teenager and then moved onto other drugs, but has been drug-free for 20 years.

    “I think it’s very detrimental to the psychological development and social development of young people that are using marijuana, and especially our young black men,” he said.

    Others believe the district is being too cautious. Independent Councilmember David Grosso has introduced a legalization bill, although it doesn’t have co-sponsors.

    Adam Eidinger, a legalization advocate who heads a group called D.C. Marijuana Justice, said decriminalization is a compromise between those who want to keep the laws the same and those who want to legalize pot. Eidinger is weighing a ballot initiative on legalization next year.

    “By playing the legalization card, it’s getting us decriminalization. I’m sure of that,” Eidinger said. “And hey, you know what, if that’s what we get out of this, compared to a year ago it will seem like a huge improvement.”

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