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Drug War Challenged After Colorado And Washington Vote To Allow Recreational Pot

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  1. SmokeTwibz
    View attachment 29636
    DENVER -- First came marijuana as medicine. Now comes legal pot for the people.

    Those who have argued for decades that legalizing and taxing weed would be better than a costly, failed U.S. drug war have their chance to prove it, as Colorado and Washington became the first states to allow pot for recreational use.

    While the measures earned support from broad swaths of the electorate in both states Tuesday, they are likely to face resistance from federal drug warriors. As of Wednesday, authorities did not say whether they would challenge the new laws.

    Pot advocates say a fight is exactly what they want.

    "I think we are at a tipping point on marijuana policy," said Brian Vicente, co-author of Colorado's marijuana measure. "We are going to see whether marijuana prohibition survives, or whether we should try a new and more sensible approach."

    Soon after the measures passed, cheering people poured out of bars in Denver, the tangy scent of pot filling the air, and others in Seattle lit up in celebration.

    Authorities in Colorado, however, urged caution. "Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly," said Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed the measure.

    As the initial celebration dies down and the process to implement the laws progresses over the next year, other states and countries will be watching to see if the measures can both help reduce money going to drug cartels and raise it for governments.

    Governments in Latin America where drugs are produced for the U.S. market were largely quiet about the measures, but the main adviser to Mexico's president-elect said the new laws will force the U.S. and his country to reassess how they fight cross-border pot smuggling.

    Analysts said that there would likely be an impact on cartels in Mexico that send pot to the U.S., but differed on how soon and how much.

    Both measures call for the drug to be heavily taxed, with the profits headed to state coffers. Colorado would devote the potential tax revenue first to school construction, while Washington's sends pot taxes to an array of health programs.

    Estimates vary widely on how much they would raise. Colorado officials anticipate somewhere between $5 million and $22 million a year. Washington analysts estimated legal pot could produce nearly $2 billion over five years.

    Both state estimates came with big caveats: The current illegal marijuana market is hard to gauge and any revenue would be contingent upon federal authorities allowing commercial pot sales in the first place, something that is very much still in question.

    Both measures remove criminal penalties for adults over 21 possessing small amounts of the drug – the boldest rejection of pot prohibition laws passed across the country in the 1930s.

    Pot has come a long way since. In the 1960s, it was a counterculture fixture. In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs. Twenty-five years later, California approved medical marijuana. Now, 17 states and Washington, D.C., allow it.

    Meanwhile, many more cities either took pot possession crimes off the books or directed officers to make marijuana arrests a low priority.

    On Tuesday night, broad sections of the electorate in Colorado and Washington backed the measures, some because they thought the drug war had failed and others because they viewed potential revenue as a boon for their states in lean times. A similar measure in Oregon failed.

    "People think little old ladies with glaucoma should be able to use marijuana. This is different. This is a step further than anything we have seen to date," said Sam Kamin, a University of Denver law professor who has studied the history of pot prohibition.

    The Justice Department says it is evaluating the measures. When California was considering legalization in 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder said it would be a "significant impediment" to joint federal and local efforts to combat drug traffickers.

    Federal agents have cracked down on medical pot dispensaries in states where it is legal, including California and Washington. Individual pot users may not be immediately impacted, as authorities have long focused on dismantling trafficking operations.

    Peter Bensinger, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration from 1976 to 1981, and other former DEA heads urged Holder to make more noise this year about the pot votes. Colorado was a critical state for President Barack Obama's re-election.

    Now, he said, "I can't see the Justice Department doing anything other than enforce the law. There's no other out."

    Brian Smith of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, which will implement the new law, said officials are waiting anxiously to find out what federal law enforcement authorities plan to do. "They have been silent," Smith said.

    Both states will have about a year to come up with rules for their legal pot systems.

    In Mexico, which produces much of the pot that gets into the U.S. and where cartels and the government are embroiled in a yearslong deadly battle, the man in charge of Enrique Pena Nieto's presidential transition said the administration opposed legalization.

    "These important modifications change somewhat the rules of the games in the relationship with the United States," Luis Videgaray told Radio Formula.

    A former high-ranking official in the country's internal intelligence service who has studied the potential effects of legalization said he was optimistic that the measures would damage the cartels, possibly cutting profits from $6 billion to $4.6 billion.

    Alejandro Hope, now an analyst at the think tank Mexican Competitiveness Institute, said among the complicating factors could be whether a strong U.S. crackdown on legal pot could negate all but the smallest effects on the cartels.

    In Seattle, John Davis, a medical marijuana provider, called passage of the state's measure "a significant movement in the right direction." But he said he expected some confrontation with federal authorities.

    "This law does not prevent conflicts," he said, adding that its passage "will highlight the necessity to find some kind of resolution between state and federal laws."

    Associated Press writers Nicholas K. Geranios in Seattle, Pete Yost and Alicia Caldwell in Washington, and Michael Weissenstein in Mexico City contributed to this report.

    By KRISTEN WYATT 11/07/12 09:40 PM ET EST
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/08/drug-war_n_2091985.html

    Author Bio

    SmokeTwibz
    My name is Jason Jones. I'm from Rochester, MN and I'm 35 years old. I scrap metal and work as grounds keeper at a local trailer park. In the winter, I shovel a bunch of driveways and sidewalks to make some extra money and to stay busy. In my free time, I try to find interesting articles about the war on drugs that I can post on Drugs-Forum, so that the information can reach a wider audience.

Comments

  1. talltom
    And Then There Were Two! Pot Officially Legal in CO

    And then there were two. On Monday, December 10, 2012, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order certifying last month's Amendment 64 victory and legalizing the use, possession, and limited cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 and over.

    Colorado now joins Washington as states where voters approved marijuana legalization last month and where the will of the voters has now become law. In both states, it is only the possession (and cultivation in Colorado) parts of the new laws that are now in effect. Officials in Denver and Olympia have a matter of some months to craft and enact regulatory schemes for commercial marijuana cultivation and distribution -- provided the federal government does not seek to block them from doing so.

    While the federal government may seek to block implementation of regulations, it cannot make the two states recriminalize marijuana possession. And the states have no obligation to enforce federal marijuana laws.

    In both states, however, it remains illegal to sell marijuana or cultivate it commercially pending the enactment of regulatory schemes. Still, pot possession is now legal in Washington and Colorado.

    "Voters were loud and clear on Election Day," Hickenlooper wrote. "We will begin working immediately with the General Assembly and state agencies to implement Amendment 64."

    In addition to the executive order certifying the election results, Hickenlooper also signed an executive order establishing a 24-person task force charged with coming up with a way to implement Amendment 64's taxation and regulation provisions. The task force consists of government officials and other stakeholders, including representatives of medical marijuana patients, producers, and non-medical consumers, and will make recommendations to the legislature on how to establish a commercial marijuana market.

    "All stakeholders share an interest in creating efficient and effective regulations that provide for the responsible development of the new marijuana laws," the executive order said. "As such, there is a need to create a task force through which we can coordinate and create a regulatory structure that promotes the health and safety of the people of Colorado."

    Issues that will be addressed include: the need to amend current state and local laws regarding the possession, sale, distribution or transfer of marijuana and marijuana products to conform them to Amendment 64's decriminalization provisions; the need for new regulations for such things as security requirements for marijuana establishments and for labeling requirements; education regarding long-term health effects of marijuana use and harmful effects of marijuana use by those under the age of 18; and the impact of Amendment 64 on employers and employees and the Colorado economy.

    The task force will also work to reconcile Colorado and federal laws such that the new laws and regulations do not subject Colorado state and local governments and state and local government employees to prosecution by the federal government.

    "Task force members are charged with finding practical and pragmatic solutions to the challenges of implementing Amendment 64 while at all times respecting the diverse perspectives that each member will bring to the work of the task force," the executive order emphasized. "The task force shall respect the will of the voters of Colorado and shall not engage in a debate of the merits of marijuana legalization or Amendment 64."

    Marijuana legalization supporters cheered the issuance of the executive orders.

    "This is a truly historic day. From this day forward, adults in Colorado will no longer be punished for the simple use and possession of marijuana. We applaud Gov. Hickenlooper for issuing this declaration in a timely fashion, so that adult possession arrests end across the state immediately," said Mason Tvert, one of the two official proponents for Amendment 64 and newly appointed communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

    "We look forward to working with the governor's office and many other stakeholders on the implementation of Amendment 64," Tvert continued. "We are certain that this will be a successful endeavor, and Colorado will become a model for other states to follow."

    Not everyone was as thrilled as Tvert. Both US Attorney for Colorado John Walsh and Colorado State Patrol James Wolfinbarger issued statements Monday warning respectively that marijuana is still illegal under federal law and that driving while impaired by marijuana is still a crime.

    "The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington state," Walsh said in his statement. "The Department's responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. Neither states nor the executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 10th in Colorado, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses."

    "The Colorado State Patrol would like to remind motorists that if you chose to consume marijuana and make the decision to drive that you are taking a huge risk," Wolfinbarger said. "Drivers must realize that if you are stopped by law enforcement officials and it is determined that your ability to operate a motor vehicle has been affected to the slightest degree by drugs or alcohol or both, you may be arrested and subjected to prosecution under Colorado's DUI/DUID laws. It is imperative that everyone takes responsibility for public safety when driving on Colorado's highways."

    While the implementation of regulations for marijuana commerce in Colorado and Washington is by no means assured, the legalization of pot possession in the two states is a done deal. And with it, a huge hole has been blown through the wall of marijuana prohibition. Since the election last month, public opinion polls have shown increasing support -- and in three out of four cases, majority support -- for marijuana legalization, as well as little patience for federal interference in states that have legalized.

    Marijuana prohibition may not be dead yet, but voters in Colorado and Washington have delivered a mortal blow. The clock is ticking.

    Alternet
    December 9, 2012

    http://www.alternet.org/and-then-there-were-two-pot-officially-legal-co
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