One person from Kentucky on President Obama’s Pardon list…

Image result for no jail for pot

  • Francis Darrell Hayden (Loretto, Kentucky). Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants or 1,000 or more kilograms of marijuana; manufacture of 1,000 or more marijuana plants.

    I want to personally congratulate #9 known as Francis Darrell Hayden, of Loretto Kentucky for being the ONLY ONE on President Obama’s “Pardon list” that had been convicted on Marijuana charges.

    MSNBC broke the story today that Obama had pardoned 22 “drug offenders” serving federal time for various offenses. 

    “To further this progress, the President has established a clemency initiative to encourage individuals who were sentenced under outdated laws and policies to petition for commutation,” White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote shortly after the president’s commutations were announced.

    Each of the sentences commuted on Tuesday will expire on July 28, 2015.

    The rest of the individuals pardoned where doing their time for other drug offenses which include cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.,

    “I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around,” Obama wrote. “Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity.”

    Although I am glad to see any non-violent drug offender released from prison, it is somewhat bittersweet that only one of those who were pardoned was convicted for Marijuana and that person just happened to live in Kentucky.  I would like to see President Obama release ALL Marijuana non-violent offenders from the prison system as well.  Not only is it clearly a mistake that they were convicted of a victimless crime in the first place it is equally as bad to continue to keep them confined. 

    The entire list can be seen here.

    Continue Reading…

  • Whoops: Indiana’s anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ act opens the door for the First Church of Cannabis

    Tom Boggioni

    Tom Boggioni
    29 Mar 2015 at 20:55 ET

    Rastafarian businessman (Shutterstock)

    Rastafarian businessman (Shutterstock)

    Don’t miss stories. Follow Raw Story!

    In a classic case of “unintended consequences,” the recently signed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana may have opened the door for the establishment of the First Church of Cannabis in the Hoosier State.

    While Governor Mike Pence (R) was holding a signing ceremony for the bill allowing businesses and individuals to deny services to gays on religious grounds or values, paperwork for the First Church of Cannabis Inc. was being filed with the Secretary of State’s office, reports RTV6.

    Church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that the church’s registration has been approved, writing, “Status: Approved by Secretary of State of Indiana – “Congratulations your registration has been approved!” Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.”

    Levin is currently seeking $4.20 donations towards his non-profit church.

    According to Indiana attorney and political commentator Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, Indiana legislators, in their haste to protect the religious values and practices of their constituents, may have unwittingly put the state in an awkward position with those who profess to smoke pot as a religious sacrament.

    Shabazz pointed out that it is still illegal to smoke pot in Indiana, but wrote, “I would argue that under RFRA, as long as you can show that reefer is part of your religious practices, you got a pretty good shot of getting off scot-free.”

    Noting that RFRA supporters say the bill “only spells out a test as to whether a government mandate would unduly burden a person’s faith and the government has to articulate a compelling interest for that rule and how it would be carried out in the least restrictive manner,” Shabazz contends the law may tie the state’s hands.

    “So, with that said, what ‘compelling interest’ would the state of Indiana have to prohibit me from using marijuana as part of my religious practice?” he asked. ” I would argue marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and wine used in religious ceremonies. Marijuana isn’t any more ‘addictive’ than alcohol and wine is used in some religious ceremonies. And marijuana isn’t any more of a ‘gateway’ drug than the wine used in a religious ceremony will make you go out and buy hard liquor. (At least not on Sunday.)”

    Shabazz concluded, “I want a front row seat at the trial that we all know is going to happen when all this goes down.”

    CONTINUE READING…

    Lawyer Argues Police Have No Right To Stop You At DUI Checkpoints

    no-searches

     

    Have you ever been pulled over at a DUI police check point? Even if you were not drinking, or perhaps aren’t even a drinker, these checkpoints fill many drivers with anxiety, as police officers scour cars they pull over for anything amiss.

    Most of the tickets given out at these checkpoints are for seatbelt violations or other things not related at all to drunk driving and DUIs. If you have nothing to hide, waiting in line for these checkpoints is at best a time-consuming nuisance that might make you late for work or dinner.

    But now, a bold lawyer is arguing that these checkpoints are not only unconstitutional, but that police do not have legal grounds to do anything but tell you to drive on if you present your drivers license at the window – with the window rolled up – and a sign that tells them you do not consent to a search, that you have no comment and that you want your lawyer.

    Warren Redlich is a South Florida attorney, but he says this holds true everywhere.

    Redlich explains that his goal is not to protect drunken drivers, but to instead inform innocent people about their rights to not be presumed innocent and illegally detained without probable cause.

    Some clients, he explained, have never had a drop of alcohol, but if they rub police officers the wrong way, then they are slapped with DUI charges, because the officer claims he could “smell alcohol” on them or that their speech was “slurred.” It’s then up to them to prove their innocence in court.

    “The point of the card is, you are affirmatively asserting your rights without having to speak to the police and without opening your window,” Redlich explained.

    But Sheriff David Shoar of St. Johns County, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association says that “they wouldn’t be allowed out of that checkpoint until they talk to us. We have a legitimate right to do it. If I was out there, I wouldn’t wave them through. I want to talk to that person more now.”

    One video from December 31 at a Levy County, Florida checkpoint, shows Redlich’s associate Jeff Gray with the flyer that his attorney suggested, along with his license, registration and insurance card, all in a plastic bag dangling outside barely cracked car window. The officers examine the contents, then waive him on.

    The flyer boldly states: “I remain silent. No searches. I want my lawyer.”

    “I’m not anti-cop. I’m anti-bad government and anti-bad cop. I support good cops,” Redlich said. “I would like if police didn’t waste their time with something like checkpoints and would focus their attention on violent crime.”

    Have you tried this at a checkpoint before? Let us know what happened.

    (Article by Reagan Ali)

    CONTINUE READING…

    Historic Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Momentum

    A comprehensive bill introduced in the House of Representatives Tuesday aims to deal a significant blow to the federal government’s long-running war on medical marijuana.

    The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, introduced by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), is a House companion bill to identical Senate legislation from Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced earlier this month. Each bill seeks to drastically reduce the federal government’s ability to crack down on state-legal medical marijuana programs and aims to encourage more research into the plant.

    The historic Senate version of the bill has also gained traction with two new sponsors since its introduction: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

    “The science has been in for a long time, and keeping marijuana on Schedule I — with heroin and LSD — is ludicrous," Cohen said in a statement Tuesday. "I am pleased to join with Congressman Don Young in introducing this important bill to bring the federal government in line with the science and the American people, respect states’ rights, remove the threat of federal prosecution in states with medical marijuana, and help our citizens access the treatments they need.”

    Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group, told The Huffington Post that the House version of the bill was introduced because "momentum is so strong" for the bipartisan CARERS Act.

    "This has become one of the few issues Democrats and Republicans can agree on," Piper told HuffPost in an email. "The tide is quickly turning against marijuana prohibition, and the war on drugs in general; it’s only a question of when, not if, reform will happen."

    The bill calls for six major policy changes. Here’s what it aims to accomplish:

    Allow patients, doctors and businesses to participate in their states’ medical marijuana programs without fear of being prosecuted by the federal government.

    Under this legislation, the Controlled Substances Act would be amended so that states could set their own medical marijuana policies. It would clarify much of the legal ambiguity that currently exists between federal guidance, congressional intent and state laws on medical marijuana — not by forcing states to legalize medical marijuana, but by protecting the states that choose to do so.

    The sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana all remain illegal under federal law. The states that have legalized the drug in some form or another have only been able to do so because of federal guidance urging prosecutors to refrain from targeting state-legal marijuana operations.

    To date, 23 states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana and 12 others have legalized the limited use of low-THC marijuana for medical purposes. All such state laws, and the people who act in compliance with them, would be protected by this bill.

    Reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous substance, moving it from Schedule I to Schedule II.

    Under the Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. has five categories for drugs and drug ingredients. Schedule I is reserved for substances that the Drug Enforcement Administration considers to have no medical value and the highest potential for abuse. Marijuana has been classified as Schedule I for decades, alongside substances like heroin and LSD.

    This legislation would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug — a category for less dangerous drugs that have an accepted medical use. Rescheduling marijuana wouldn’t make the drug legal under federal law, but such a move would essentially mark the federal government’s first-ever acknowledgement that the plant has any medical benefits.

    Give veterans easier access to medical marijuana.

    Currently, doctors who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs are prohibited from helping patients acquire medical marijuana, even in states where it is legal.

    This legislation would lift that ban and would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients suffering from certain conditions, where permitted by state law.

    Nearly 30 percent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a 2012 VA report. Some research has suggested that marijuana may help with PTSD symptoms, which can include anxiety, flashbacks and depression. A recent study found that PTSD symptoms in patients who used cannabis were reduced by an average of 75 percent.

    Eliminate barriers to marijuana research.

    Getting the federal government to sign off on a marijuana study is exceedingly difficult — but two of the most prohibitive federal barriers to marijuana research would be lifted under this new legislation.

    Currently, all marijuana research must go through a Public Health Service review, a process established in 1999 by the federal government after a 1998 Institute of Medicine report called for more scientific research into the medical value of marijuana. No other Schedule I substance is subject to this process. That extra step would be removed entirely under the CARERS Act.

    Secondly, federal authorities have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the substance. The DEA has also been accused of not acting quickly enough when petitioned to reschedule marijuana and of obstructing research into the drug.

    Currently, the federal government is the only institution authorized to grow research-grade cannabis. The CARERS Act would allow for no fewer than three additional licensed growers, a move that would end the federal monopoly on marijuana research and potentially hasten the discovery of new medical applications for the plant.

    Remove low-THC strains of marijuana from the controlled substances list.

    The strength of a strain of marijuana is generally measured by its percentage of THC, the plant’s main psychoactive ingredient. There are multiple strains of marijuana that have little to no THC, but high levels of CBD, or cannabidiol, a compound that has medical value but does not produce the "high" sensation associated with THC.

    While nearly two dozen states have broad medical marijuana laws that allow for the cultivation, production and distribution of medical marijuana, another 12 states only make provisions for low-THC strains, and those only under certain circumstances. Because those states generally don’t allow for the regulated sale or cultivation of marijuana, patients are forced to seek out the plant on the black market, or from another state with more relaxed laws that allow out-of-state patients to purchase medical marijuana. Even so, transporting marijuana across state lines remains illegal, leaving patients in a bind.

    The CARERS Act would remove marijuana with less than 0.3 percent THC from the CSA’s schedules altogether, allowing states to import low-THC/high-CBD strains for patients who need it.

    Open up banking for marijuana businesses.

    The legislation would expand banking access for medical marijuana businesses, enabling them to function more or less like traditional businesses.

    Legal marijuana is already a billion-dollar industry. But because of banks’ fears of being implicated as money launderers, marijuana-related businesses are often forced to be cash-only, putting retailers’ safety at risk and creating problems with taxes and employee payroll. Despite Treasury Department guidance that supporters hoped would ease interactions, most banks are still extremely wary of working with marijuana businesses since the plant remains illegal under federal law.

    CONTINUE READING…

    Quality-Testing Legal Marijuana: Strong But Not Always Clean

    March 24, 201511:22 AM ET

    Poncie Rutsch

     

    Recreational marijuana has been legalized in four states, but that doesn’t mean it’s a tested consumer product. Some of those potent buds are covered in fungus while others contain traces of butane, according to an analysis of marijuana in Colorado.

    Last May, after people began getting sick from edible marijuana products, the state of Colorado began requiring all products to be tested. Washington has mandated testing too, with a detailed checklist of items to analyze, including potency, contaminants, moisture and microbiology.

    Marijuana testing is a new phenomenon. Even though people have been purchasing medical marijuana in Washington since 1998, the state never mandated testing until it approved recreational marijuana in 2013. Other states are still in the process of building a list of requirements for marijuana testing.

    Each state has licensed private labs to analyze the products; they charges manufacturers a fee. Consumers can find some parts of the results, such as potency, printed on packaging, while others are available by request. And the lab must be independent from the producer and manufacturer; there’s no in-house testing like there is in the cigarette industry.

    So what are labs looking for? First, it’s important that manufacturers and producers show how potent the weed is, kind of like printing the alcohol content on a bottle label.

    "It became very clear [that we needed to test for potency] when we had people coming in from out of state," Mary Meek, director of business development for CHARAS Scientific, a Denver lab, tells Shots. "We had 21 years olds coming in on spring break and getting sick," she explains.

    Because many growers don’t yet test their weed for potency, two buds might vary in their THC content – and in effects. So even if a manufacturer uses the same recipe every time, their products might vary from brownie to brownie.

    Since labs like CHARAS Scientific are the ones evaluating every marijuana product, they are the ones who can use their analyses to look for trends. They presented some of their findings on Monday at an American Chemical Society meeting in Denver.

    They found that marijuana’s potency has been increasing, with THC content as high as 30 percent. That’s about three times stronger than marijuana in the 1980s. THC is the component that produces the marijuana high.

    Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesperson with the Washington State Liquor Control Board, told Shots that some of the labs in Washington have seen THC levels as high as 40 percent.

    As THC levels climb, the levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, have been declining. That’s problematic for medicinal marijuana users since it is more often associated with medical benefits than THC.

    "They kind of counteract each other," explains Meek. "You have these artisan growers that have been focused on cross breeding for THC and they’ve been losing CBD."

    And then there are the contaminants. Many of marijuana products contain traces of butane, a chemical used to extract the potent THC from marijuana buds. Bacteria and fungi can grow anywhere, and sure enough, they’re growing on marijuana buds, which means that they’re in marijuana products.

    "I think it’s rare that you would ever find zero fungal growth," says Meek. "But what we’re testing for is the stuff that will make you sick." Neither she nor the state of Colorado want to see E. coli or Salmonella in marijuana products.

    To add to the complication, Meek and her colleagues have to think about how each product will be used. "There’s no data for what the consequences would be for smoking rather than consuming," she says. The jury’s still out on how smoking E. coli might impact human health.

    For now, the goal is to find an acceptable level for contaminants in marijuana products, just as the FDA requires manufacturers to test food and hygiene products for bacterial contamination. Meek thinks this is only the beginning. "Eventually it will all have to be on the label," she says.

    CONTINUE READING…

    UN Investigates U.S. and Uruguay for Violation of Drug Treaties

    The United Nations remains adamant that the efforts displayed by the United States and Uruguay to reform marijuana laws is a direct violation of international drug treaties, and perhaps the beginning of an international shakedown – if an adequate explanation for the blatant disregard for world law is not communicated.

    The latest report from the International Narcotics Control Board claims it is keeping a watchful eye on Uruguay and the U.S. due to their policies on the legalization of marijuana being “inconsistent” with the regulations hashed out during the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

    In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to establish a national cannabis industry, while Uncle Sam has permitted Colorado and Washington state to operate retail pot markets for the past year. To add to the apparent defiance of international law, the U.S. government recently allowed Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes.

    This states’ right approach to legalization will likely continue to be authorized for any state that wants to implement similar policies in the future. However, all of the laws that have legalized cannabis, so far, go against the grain of signed treaties, according to the report.

    Interestingly, the INCB indicates that they are likely the culprit behind the continued prohibition of marijuana in the United States, as the report states that Board “continues to engage in a constructive dialogue” with the American government, and strongly encourages the government to maintain marijuana’s Schedule I status.

    Although INCB president Lochan Naidoo said he understands the U.S. plans to supervise the impact of legal marijuana on public health and safety, the treaties limit the use of cannabis for only medicinal and research purposes; therefore the events currently underway in Colorado and Washington are clearly insubordinate. Even in the case of medicinal cannabis, the Board is not entirely sure if these programs comply with drug treaties.

    The INCB concludes that “In the United States, the results of ballot initiatives in the states of Alaska and Oregon, and in Washington D.C., on the use of cannabis for non-medical purposes represent further challenges to the compliance by the Government of the United States with its obligations under the international drug control treaties.”

    Mike Adams writes for stoners and smut enthusiasts in HIGH TIMES, Playboy’s The Smoking Jacket and Hustler Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook/mikeadams73.

    CONTINUE READING…

    Grow Hack: What Is Cannabigerol [CBG]?

    By Sirius J · Fri Mar 13, 2015

     

    Here’s a bite-sized primer on cannabigerol, commonly known as CBG, and its place on the forefront of cannabinoid research.

    What is CBG?

    IMG_20140810_003225

    Scientists first discovered cannabigerol, or CBG, in 1964 as a constituent of hashish. In 1975, researchers found out CBGA (the acid form of CBG) is the first cannabinoid formed in the plant; the first expression of cannabis’ unique class of constituents. From there, CBGA gets transformed into THCA, CBDA or CBCA by the action of enzymes. CBGA is the essential precursor for all the cannabinoids we know and love.

    Does CBG get you high?
    While mostly regarded as a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, technically the jury is still out on this one. Until someone dabs purified CBG, we won’t know what ingesting significant amounts of it actually does. CBG needs higher temperatures to vaporize.

    What does the medical research say about CBG?
    Just recently in January 2015, researchers discovered that CBG had neuroprotective effects in mice with Huntington’s Disease, a disease characterized by the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain. CBG slowed down progression of colon cancer in mice, a promising result that may soon lead to a new treatment method. Evidence suggests CBG is a highly potent alpha-2-adrenoceptor agonist and moderately potent 5-HT1A-receptor antagonist, giving it a wide range of potential therapeutic potential as an antidepressant, for the treatment of psoriasis, and as an analgesic.

    In spite of all the good research, in one study CBG reversed CBD’s antiemetic properties by interacting with it at the 5-HT1A-receptor site.

    Where do I find CBG?
    CBG is minor cannabinoid in pretty much all varieties of Cannabis, generally less than 1%. Nevertheless, narrow-leafleted drug strains from the Indian-subcontinent, were found to have slightly higher levels of CBG than others. Without becoming a landrace strain hunter, relatively high amounts of CBG can be extracted from budding plants about three-quarters of the way through flowering. Information on CBG content throughout flowering can be gathered from an analysis done on Bediol®, a medicinal strain produced by Bedrocan BV Medicinal Cannabis, a Dutch supplier of research grade pot. They flowered the Bediol® for eight weeks and analyzed the content of different cannabinoids every week; CBG was the highest at week 6.

    What is the future for CBG?
    Another puzzle piece in the story of medical cannabis, research on CBG is certain to continue. As consumer interest in CBG rises as well, breeders will soon be on the case of making a high-CBG strain.

    CONTINUE READING…

    Report: $620 Million in Hemp Products Sold in the U.S. in 2014

    Report: $620 Million in Hemp Products Sold in the U.S. in 2014

    Hemp Foods and Body Care Retail Market in U.S. Achieves 21.2% Growth in 2014

    WASHINGTON, DC — The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a non-profit trade association consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, has released final estimates of the size of the 2014 U.S. retail market for hemp products.

    Data from market research supports an estimate of total retail sales of hemp food and body care products in the United States at $200 million.  Sales of popular hemp items like non-dairy milk, shelled seed, soaps and lotions have continued to skyrocket against the backdrop of the new hemp research provision in the Farm Bill, and increasing grassroots pressure to allow hemp to be grown domestically on a commercial scale once again for U.S. processors and manufacturers. The HIA has also reviewed sales of clothing, auto parts, building materials and various other products, and estimates the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2014 to be at least $620 million.

    The sales data on hemp foods and body care, collected by market research firm SPINS, was obtained from natural and conventional retailers, excluding Whole Foods Market, Costco and certain other key establishments, who do not provide sales data — and thus it underestimates actual sales by a factor of at least two and a half. According to the SPINS data, combined U.S. hemp food and body care sales grew in the sampled stores by 21.2% or $14,020,239, over the previous year ending December 31, 2014 to a total of just over $80,042,540. According to SPINS figures, sales in conventional retailers grew by 26.8% in 2014, while sales in natural retailers grew by 16.3%. Indeed, the combined growth of hemp retail sales in the U.S. continues steadily, as annual natural and conventional market percent growth has progressed from 7.3% (2011), to 16.5% (2012), to 24% (2013), to 21.2 in 2014.

    “The HIA estimates the total retail value of all hemp products sold in the U.S. to be at least $620 million for 2014,” says Eric Steenstra, Executive Director of the HIA. “Eleven new states have passed legislation and new businesses are rapidly entering the market now that American farmers in a handful of states are finally beginning to grow the crop legally. Challenges remain in the market and there is a need for Congress to pass legislation to allow farmers to grow hemp commercially in order for the market to continue its rapid growth,” continues Steenstra.

    When the 2013 farm bill was signed into law in February of 2014, the hemp amendment to the farm bill, Sec. 7606 Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research, defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana in states where hemp is regulated under authorized hemp pilot programs. This was an historic moment in the longstanding effort to legalize hemp as the act asserts that industrial hemp is not psychoactive, having less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol on a dry weight basis and therefore presenting no drug value.

    The bill further allows for states that have already legalized the crop to cultivate hemp within the parameters of state agriculture departments and research institutions. In 2014, 1831 acres of hemp were licensed in Kentucky, Colorado and Vermont. Many licensees were unable to obtain seed in time to plant due to DEA seed import requirements. We estimate that approximately 125 acres of hemp crops were planted during 2014.

    In January of 2015, The Industrial Hemp Farming Act was introduced in both the House and Senate, H.R. 525 and S. 134 respectively. If passed, the bill would remove all federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, and remove its classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

    Currently, 21 states may grow hemp per Sec. 7606 of the Farm Bill, including California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

    CONTINUE READING…

    A new Senate bill maps out how weed will eventually become legal in the U.S.

    Gillibrand, Booker, Paul

     

    A trio of high-profile senators this week unveiled a package of drug reforms that would effectively end the federal war on medical marijuana once and for all. The bill, from Republican Rand Paul and Democrats Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, wouldn’t legalize medical weed across the country, but it would remove the threat of federal prosecution for patients who use it in states where it is legal. It would also represent a federal acknowledgment of weed’s medicinal potential—something the U.S. government has repeatedly refused to concede since Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs in the 1970s.

    Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

    Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.

    The legislation is bipartisan, sound, and long overdue. Frustratingly albeit unsurprisingly, then, it is unlikely to make it very far in the current Congress, a reality even the nation’s chief weed advocates have readily admitted. Its short-term fate notwithstanding, though, the bill is a clear sign of just how quickly the drug debate is evolving in Washington—and may just foretell how nationwide legalization will eventually come to pass.

    That Paul, Booker, and Gillibrand have teamed up on the bill is telling, and the good news for the pro-pot crowd comes in both the chicken-and-egg variety. On the one hand, as rising stars on the national stage, all three will have ample opportunity to further their cause—particularly Paul, who is expected to officially jump into the race for the GOP presidential nomination later this year. On the other, it’s unlikely that the trio would have made this a priority if they were the least bit nervous that their efforts would come back to bite them. And they have good reason to be confident in that regard: A majority of Americans back full-scale marijuana legalization, and even those who don’t tend to believe that it’s simply a matter of when, not if, the nation’s eight-decade-long prohibition of pot comes to an end.

    Still, believing legalization is inevitable doesn’t make it so. The question, then, is how we get from the present—with Congress bullying Washington, D.C., officials in a bid to stop them from following the will of voters and making weed legal—to full, nationwide legalization?

    The Senate legislation offers just such a road map. The bill’s most important provision would change how pot is classified under the Controlled Substances Act, the 1970 law that is the backbone of federal drug policy. Currently, the government labels marijuana a Schedule I drug, a classification that puts it in the same category as heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and a handful of other heavyweights. Those drugs, according to the federal definition, have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” The Senate bill would drop weed to Schedule II, a classification for drugs that still have a significant potential for abuse, although less than their more restricted brethren. More importantly, the Schedule II classification is reserved for drugs with some medical benefits—things like methadone and Adderall—meaning placing pot in that category would be a de facto admission that weed does indeed have a role to play for some patients.

    The path from legal medical weed to the recreational stuff isn’t as straight of a line, although the two are clearly connected.

    It’s hard to overstate just how much that would change the way the federal government deals with pot. It would open the door wider for universities to research medical uses for marijuana without fear that Drug Enforcement Administration agents are seconds away from kicking down their doors, while also giving the green light to doctors at Veterans Affairs hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans. In many ways, the reclassification would represent the biggest change in the government’s attitude toward pot since Nixon decided that weed was what was fueling his counterculture critics. (Or, as he famously put it, “They’re all on drugs.”)

    To date, 23 states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana, siding with the medical consensus that cancer patients and others can benefit from marijuana use and against the federal ban that has always been more about politics than science. (Another 12 states, meanwhile, have legalized the limited use of low-THC, high-CBD pot for those with prescriptions.) A change in classification would be the first major domino to fall in the fight to end federal prohibition. Not only would it allow medical marijuana to more easily flourish in those states where it is already legal, it would also make other states where medical weed is not yet legal more likely to follow suit.

    SINGLE PAGE

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    When States Dare to Decide on Medical Marijuana

    Three senators want to stop federal law enforcement from interfering with legal pot.

    Conor Friedersdorf Mar 10 2015, 8:30 AM ET

     

     

    Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, but the drug remains illegal under federal law. Imagine a retired grandmother who is suffering terribly with a serious illness. Her doctor believes that marijuana might help. Her neighbors don’t mind if she fills a pot prescription: They overwhelmingly voted to give her that right. Sure enough, the woman finds that smoking weed lessens her suffering. Should the federal government be empowered to arrest her for consuming it?

    Many in Congress think so. And while federal agents are unlikely to intervene in this sort of case because the optics would be so awful, the law allows for it.

    But Senator Rand Paul, a Republican, and his Democratic colleagues, Senators Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, hope a legislative majority will endorse a less-callous approach. Tuesday, they are introducing a bipartisan bill that would "allow patients, doctors and businesses in states that have already passed medical-marijuana laws to participate in those programs without fear of federal prosecution."

    Exaggerated notions of the harmfulness of marijuana cannot survive in a society where cancer patients consume it.

    The bill is expected to divide Republicans. Senator Paul, his colleague Ted Cruz, and Governor Rick Perry, among others, have some regard for the 10th Amendment, which states that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." They also believe that states can act as laboratories of democracy: People in different regions can live under a system of their liking while acting as a model for other Americans as they weigh the best approach.

    Other Republicans want the federal government to override the will of the people in various states. They argue that many people who get medical marijuana cards don’t really need the drug—it’s hardly unique among prescription medications in that sense—and they fear that the availability of medical marijuana will lead to full legalization, as it has in states including Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. They’re right to think so. Exaggerated notions of the harmfulness of marijuana cannot survive in a society where cancer patients consume it. And as exaggerated worries fade, support for prohibition plummets.

    That isn’t because marijuana is harmless. Regular use is bad for one’s health. Some users become psychologically addicted. Long-term use carries unknown risks. There are prohibitionists who have a very clear understanding of the drug’s costs and benefits, and continue to staunchly oppose legalization of any kind. But most people who see the costs and benefits of marijuana clearly conclude that preventing other Americans from smoking it at the point of a gun is deeply immoral. Most people are unwilling to send SWAT teams into family homes, lock humans in cages, and enrich drug cartels all in the hopes that a War on Drugs that has failed for decades will improbably turn out to be successful in the end.

    Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, an advocacy group, sees this latest bill as evidence that popular opinion is influencing politicians. "The fact that two young Democrats with likely long political futures have teamed up with a probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate shows how medical marijuana is a nonpartisan, noncontroversial issue that draws support from across the spectrum," he wrote.

    Roughly half of Americans now favor outright legalization of recreational marijuana. The day isn’t far off when public opinion will have shifted enough to bring about a bill to that effect at the national level. That various states are experimenting with medicinal and recreational marijuana leaves us better prepared for that moment. Enabling those experiments is a step in a responsible direction.

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