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  1. SmokeTwibz

    Whew, what a year! Two more states legalize it -- and DC, too -- decriminalization spreads, and more. But it wasn't all good news. Here's our Top 10:

    1. Marijuana Legalization Wins at the Polls in Alaska, Oregon, and DC. In an Election Day clean sweep, voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, delivered a marijuana legalization trifecta. Legalization won with 53% of the vote in Alaska, 55% in Oregon, and a whopping 69% in Washington, DC, the highest percentage vote for legalization ever recorded. With victory in Oregon this year, every state that has had the chance to vote for legalization since 2012 has now done so.

    2. The Sky Hasn't Fallen in Colorado and Washington. It's now been two years since the first two states to legalize marijuana did so, and the predicted horrible consequences have not materialized. While possession became legal almost immediately, legal sales commenced in January in Colorado and in July in Washington. Teen pot smoking declined this year, according to the annual Monitoring the Future survey, and Colorado teens in particular were consuming less weed, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment. Neither have traffic fatalities increased, according to The Washington Post. Nor has crime increased. What has increased is state revenues from the taxation of marijuana, from zero before legalization to tens of millions of dollars annually now.

    3. Big Eastern Cities Decriminalize Pot Possession. The city councils in Philadelphia and Washington, DC, this year approved the decriminalization of small-time pot possession. Although New York state decriminalized in 1978, New York City had been the marijuana arrest capital of the world, thanks to NYPD's habit of stopping people, telling them to empty their pockets, and then charging them with the misdemeanor office of public possession instead of the civil infraction. Now, thanks to Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York cops can't do that anymore. And let's not forget Baltimore; the state of Maryland decriminalized this year, too.

    4. The Death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman Crystallizes Rising Concerns About Heroin and Prescription Opiates. The February overdose death of the acclaimed actor turned a glaring spotlight on the issues of heroin and prescription pain pill addiction and overdoses. Ever since, government at the federal, state, and local level has been moved by the urge to "Do something!" And it has -- with responses covering the gamut from harm reduction measures like 911 Good Samaritan laws and increased access to overdose reversal drugs to calls for more drug treatment to more-of-the-same drug war approaches and calls for more money for law enforcement.

    5. California Defelonizes Drug Possession. With one fell swoop, California voters struck a big blow against mass incarceration when they approved Proposition 47 in November. The initiative makes drug possession and five other low-level, nonviolent offenses misdemeanors instead of felonies. It becomes the 14th state to do so, and by far the largest.

    6. Congress Tells the Justice Department to Butt Out of Medical Marijuana States. In passing the omnibus spending bill last week, Congress approved an historic amendment barring the Justice Department from spending taxpayer funds to go after medical marijuana in states where it is legal. Passage does not promise an end to all federal interference -- it doesn't address taxing issues, for instance -- and it is only for this fiscal year, but this is still a landmark vote.

    7. Floridians Vote for Medical Marijuana, But It Still Loses. Florida should have been the first Southern state to approve medical marijuana, and 57% of Florida voters agreed in November. But because the Florida initiative was a constitutional amendment, it needed 60% of the vote to pass. Even with that high bar, the initiative still could have passed, if not for some campaign gaffes. Some $5 million worth of contributions to the "no" side by conservative casino magnate Sheldon Adelson didn't help, either.

    8. Medical Marijuana Lite. Maryland passed a medical marijuana law and Minnesota and New York passed limited medical marijuana laws, but this was the year of low-THC, high-CBD medical marijuana laws. Such measures passed in a number of states where full-blown medical marijuana hasn't, including Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Utah. They typically provide access to high-CBD cannabis oils to a limited number of patients.

    9. The Obama Administration Moves to Reduce the Federal Drug War Prison Population. It didn't do it all by itself -- the US Sentencing Commission deserves recognition for proposing sentencing reforms -- but the president and Attorney General Eric Holder spoke our vigorously and repeatedly against mandatory minimums and over-incarceration. It wasn't just talk; the Justice Department instructed US Attorneys to find ways to reduce the use of mandatory minimum sentencing, and exhorted federal drug prisoners to seek clemency.

    10. But The Drug War Juggernaut Continues to Roll. Despite all the good news this year, the reality is that we are still nibbling around the edges. While marijuana arrests the previous year were down to just under 700,000 (the historic high was 872,000 in 2008) and overall drug arrests declined by about 50,000, there were still 1.5 million people arrested on drug charges. And the number of people arrested for drugs other than marijuana actually increased.

    December 24, 2014
    P. Smith | StopTheDrugWar.org

    Author Bio

    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.


  1. SmokeTwibz
    The Year in Drug Policy: Movement at a crossroads
    The 43-year-old war on drugs had never seen such a barrage of opposition as it did in 2014, with successful marijuana legalization initiatives in several U.S. states, California’s historic approval of sentencing reform for low level drug offenders and world leaders calling for the legal regulation of all drugs — all of which cement the mainstream appeal of drug policy alternatives and offer unprecedented momentum going into 2015.

    Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. joined Colorado and Washington state in legalizing recreational marijuana and will soon start seeing the tax benefit from the estimated $41 billion that U.S. consumers spend annually on marijuana. That these states voted for legalization during a Republican romp in November elections underscores the conviction among drug policy analysts that legalization has entered the mainstream culture. It’s a matter of time, they say, before more states — and countries — follow suit.

    Proof of that allure lies in the South, where conservative states had kept their distance from the marijuana legalization until recently. Legalization activists have spearheaded decriminalization and medical marijuana campaigns in Texas, Alabama and Georgia, with initial bi-partisan support in some state legislatures, and 2015 promises further momentum. California, though, remains the state to watch. If the most populous state, and the world’s 8th largest economy, legalizes cannabis use via ballot initiative during the 2016 presidential elections, as it’s expected to do, it may lead to a dramatic chain reaction across the country — following the path of the gay marriage movement — and ultimately force the federal government to revisit its policy on the drug.

    And California is not idly waiting for 2016 — in November the state made a salvo on another drug war front. Voters approved Proposition 47, which will reduce penalties for low-level drug crimes. The possession of small amounts of cocaine and heroin, for example, will soon be treated as misdemeanors, not felonies — a move that is expected to affect about 40,000 offenders annually and save hundreds of millions of dollars.

    The coming year will also witness implementation of a landmark decision in 2014 by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which acted on the recommendation of Attorney General Eric Holder. Starting in November, low level drug offenders — an estimated 46,000 prisoners who have spent at least 10 years in prison — will be released from prison as part of a clemency initiative to reduce sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

    And there are other signs Washington may be shifting direction in the drug war. Tucked away in the $1.1 trillion spending bill is an amendment that prohibits the Justice Department from using federal funds to target state-run medical marijuana programs —a major shift in federal drug policy. The provision also keeps federal agents from arresting people involved in pot businesses who are complying with state laws.

    Expect similar legislative efforts in Washington during 2015, say drug policy watchers. There is no way Congress will take up full legalization yet, especially with the GOP still divided on cannabis. But Congress will continue to introduce reform-centered legislation — though probably with not enough support to see passage — on issues like drug sentencing, industrial hemp use and medical access to marijuana.

    Washington’s deviation will likely also reverberate through Latin America. In October at the United Nations, Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield recognized the growing disconnect between Washington’s approach to marijuana legalization in the U.S. and abroad. He responded to growing criticism toward U.S. drug policy from Latin American leaders, who openly question why they should channel resources — and lives — against the drug trade when several U.S. states have legalized recreational cannabis. “We have to be tolerant of different countries, in response to their own national circumstances and conditions, exploring and using different national drug control policies," said Brownfield.

    No country better exemplifies that exploration than Uruguay, which in late 2013 became the first country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana. This year saw the José Mujica slowly roll out the law, with some delays, and survive what would have been the measure’s demise, when Mujica’s ruling party won a presidential run-off against Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, of the right-leaning National Party, who had vowed to repeal the law’s major provisions.

    Countries like Mexico and Colombia have already decriminalized possession of drugs for personal use. And the coming year will see the legalization of medical cannabis debated in Colombia, Chile and Jamaica. Additionally, Otto Perez Molina, the president of Guatemala and a major drug reform proponent, has vowed to decide on marijuana legalization in early 2015.

    In response to drug-fueled violence, in September the Global Commission on Drugs, headed by several former Latin American leaders — and the likes of Kofi Annan and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz — called for the legal regulation of all drugs in a landmark report, adding that the 2016 U.N. Special Session on Drugs is an unprecedented opportunity to redirect global drug policy. “We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works rather than policies that criminalize drug use while failing to provide access to effective prevention or treatment,” said Annan upon release of the study. “The facts speak for themselves. It’s time to change course.”

    December 27, 2014
    Alfonso Serrano | AlJazeera
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