Commentary

Could marijuana policy be one area on which the right and left finally find some common ground?

Marijuana legalizationThose desperately seeking some hopeful news from the divided world of modern American politics will find a measure of it in an article published yesterday by John Hudak of the Brooking Institution. In “Why the CARERS Act is so significant for marijuana policy reform,” Hudak explores the growing bipartisan movement to remove existing federal roadblocks to the safe and sane implementation of medical marijuana policies in nearly two dozen states.

“CARERS” is the acronym that’s been developed for the “Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act.” This is from Hudak’s article:

“CARERS, as its name implies, addressed policy challenges in a variety of areas, involving a variety of stakeholders. It seeks to protect patient access in states with existing medical marijuana programs from federal intervention. The current state of policy offers patient protection through an informal agreement with the Obama administration. CARERS codifies the collection of Justice Department memos that currently duct tapes together federal marijuana policy.

CARERS also expands opportunities for medical and scientific researchers to study marijuana and its therapeutic uses. The legislation makes it easier for researchers to be registered and approved to study the drug and reduces some of the currently onerous rules research institutions must follow in order for marijuana studies to be conducted on their campuses. The bill also breaks down the current DEA-mandated, NIDA-contracted monopoly on the production of research-grade marijuana by expanding the number of federal government-approved grow operations.

CARERS, among its other provisions, seeks to specifically address two of the biggest challenges the current federal framework poses for state-level medical marijuana systems: veterans’ access and banking issues. The legislation would allow (not require) VA doctors—only in states with legal medical marijuana programs—to recommend medical marijuana to wounded warriors who qualify under a state’s laws. In addition, CARERS transforms current federal banking laws that would allow cannabis enterprises in medical marijuana states to have access to traditional banking services. Those reforms would lower costs to businesses (and thus consumers), shift the medical marijuana market away from its current cash-only system, and ultimately increase the safety that financial products provide firms and customers.”

What makes the proposal even more promising than its substance, however, is the bipartisan support it enjoys. Again, here’s Hudak: Read more

Commentary

The drug war wins again

Mayor McFarlane made some good points in her State of the City address yesterday. Raleigh has come together after Officer Twiddy shot Akiel Denkins last week, but the city is not better yet. A mother has lost her son. Two children have lost their father. A cop has taken a life, which is certainly traumatic for him and probably for all of the force. No, on balance, Raleigh will not be better than it would be if this hadn’t happened at all.

This is a tragedy for two families, and it’s a predictable one. A pernicious, malicious force caused this homicide (have I been listening to too much Hamilton?). That force is the drug war. That force is the same one that entraps young black and brown men in jail or leaves them dead in the streets while white men and women go freely about their business. It’s the same force that is brought to bear on city street corners across this country while doctors openly run pill mills and never got shot by the police, though the evidence is good that they’re the root of some of the drug trade’s worst public health effects in decades. I’ve yet to hear that a chipper young drug – sorry, pharmaceutical – rep has been spotted and chased by a cop while she hung around a doctor’s office shilling oxy. Why is that?

The drug war.

The drug war pays the Raleigh police, and all the departments like it, to bring in drugs, dealers, and money. It pays them to jack people up for misdemeanors, or, perhaps, minor felonies, even when those people aren’t violent. Instead of paying cops to develop good information about the violent criminals who terrorize the same neighborhoods that are already suffering, left out of economic progress and opportunity, the drug war pays them to make drug arrests that don’t stick and have never stopped the flow of drugs in any community in this country. Instead of overtime to attend community events in order to build relationships, we pay overtime for court appearances behind arrests that don’t make people safer.

And who suffers the most? Read more

Commentary

Medical cannabis bill killed in the House Judiciary Committee

MarijuanaA bill to legalize medical marijuana, introduced by Representative Kelly Alexander, was considered by the House Judiciary I Committee today. Despite heart-wrenching testimony from veterans and others with serious medical conditions, the committee took less than thirty seconds to vote to give the bill an unfavorable report.

If passed, the bill would have allowed North Carolinians to obtain prescriptions and legally buy cannabis from licensed distributors. The distributors in turn would have purchased the plant from licensed growers, who would have been regulated by the Department of Agriculture. The bill would have taxed each sale of marijuana at 5% and created a revenue for the state.

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Uncategorized

New report: Marijuana arrests in N.C. are costly, racially biased

New report shows that in North Carolina, African Americans are 3.4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite equal use rates

State spent almost $55 million enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010; ACLU-NC says North Carolina needs to change failed laws

RALEIGH – According to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union, North Carolina spent nearly $55 million enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010, while statewide African Americans were arrested for marijuana possession at 3.4 times the rate of whites, despite comparable marijuana usage rates. The report, Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests, released today, is the first ever to examine state and county marijuana arrest rates nationally by race. Read more