Today, a broad, diverse group of renowned scientists, led by the first Black United States Magistrate Judge and researchers from Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical School, sent a letter to former Vice President and current presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, commending him for his unwavering commitment to a well-reasoned approach to marijuana policy. The former vice-president respects the science on this issue.
Pew Research released a new poll from late August and early September that shows 57% of American voters favor marijuana legalization. Based on the question and the article, the poll probably means that 57% of the voters favor marijuana decriminalization. Next time the poll should be more specific in its meaning. The same day this poll was released, a headline from the Cape Cod News in Massachusetts read: Support Scarce for Legal Pot. There could not be a bigger difference in meaning between these headlines. Why the difference?
Despite this poll, all 5 states with ballots for marijuana legalization this November poll at less than 57% in favor of legalization. There is a disparity between the survey question and legalization in practice. Legalization creates a new industry expected to make a lot of money for investors. It is the reason that Weed Maps, ArcView group and Soros-funded groups contribute to the ballots. There’s a big difference between legalization and decriminalization. Did those conducting the survey explain what legalization means?
Legalization creates commercial marijuana stores regulated by the state . Administering and implementing it is very difficult to do. Pot sales are taxed at various levels and earn some money. But as Colorado marijuana director, Andrew Freedman said, it’s not worth legalizing for the benefit of tax revenues.
When presented with facts, voters are skeptical of commercialization and don’t want more impaired drivers. The cost of regulation is high. On October 1 in Colorado, new rules began. and the packaging must make it more difficult for children to access. Gummy candies in the shape of animals are now forbidden. The number of hospitalizations and overdose deaths from marijuana edibles which make up nearly 50% of the market necessitated these changes.
Opting out of commercial pot is very tough, too. Dealing with inconsiderate neighbors who grow a lot of pot plants is difficult. In Colorado, city governments are often greedy for tax money while residents say no to pot. When voters want to ban dispensaries, other forces such as the marijuana industry fight them. It’s one of the reasons Colorado now has buyer’s remorse.
Why Marijuana Decriminalization ?
Decriminalization means that marijuana is not treated as a crime but as a mistake; offenders are charged with a small fine, like a speeding ticket. In legal terms, it’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony. The marijuana lobbyists have successfully convinced Americans that large numbers of people go to jail for marijuana possession only.
The only people who go to jail for marijuana possession charges have committed other crimes and have plea bargained to get convicted of lesser charges. Other crimes include drug dealing, transportation of drugs or possession of a large amount of drugs that indicates intent to sell. Selling drugs is not a victimless crime.
Marijuana lobbyists omit information about drug courts which allows users an alternative and provides addiction treatment.
The reason that marijuana possession is a felony crime in some states is so that it can be used as evidence to convict when there are more serious crimes. Drugs and drug paraphernalia become supporting evidence when other crimes may be harder to prove.
How are Minorities Really Affected by Drug Laws?
Minorities have the most to lose by using marijuana. Daily or near daily use of marijuana by teens nearly doubles the risk of dropping out of high school. Dropping out of high school makes future education and job prospects dim. Furthermore, a study of long-term marijuana users in New Zealand over a 25-year period found an average 7-point drop in IQ by age 38. People who complain that this study did not adjust for IQ differences as reflected by socio-economic class should realize that IQ differences resulting from socio-economic factors are in play seen before age 13, when participants first entered the study.
A recent study from UC Davis showed how chronic marijuana users faced more downward mobility than chronic alcohol users. In the US, the disproportionate arrest of minorities may reflect concern about dropping out of school and what that means for the future. The higher conviction rate for minorities is probably a reflection of income disparity and poverty. A disproportionate number of black and Hispanic drug dealers go to jail. Minorities are less likely to be able to afford the legal fees that allow wealthy white drug dealers to get less time in jail or wiggle their way out of going to jail. Justice reform should not be centered on legalizing drugs, but on giving minorities better legal representation.
There’s a strong misconception that people go to jail just for having a joint. (The threat of jail is not the reason to tell kids not to use pot, but defense of your brain is!) There’s also a misconception that inequities in the justice system would be solved by legalization.
Maybe next time Pew Research present the polls with a bunch of different options between decriminalization, allowing home grows only or commercialization. Or Pew Research should a better job at explaining what they mean by legalization.
African-Americans in Washington, DC, do not embrace marijuana legalization as readily as whites in DC — by a difference of 18 percentage points. Judge Arthur Burnett, National Executive Director of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, observes that opposition among blacks to legalization stems from experience. African-American communities already suffer from a liquor store on every corner, and black voters know commercial marijuana would prey on their communities at a much higher rate. “Do we really want to substitute mass incapacitation for mass incarceration?” Judge Burnett asks. He spoke along with others opponents to legalization at a Press Conference in Washington sponsored by Two. Is. Enough. D.C. (TieDC).
Vanita Gupta is the nominee to head the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice. According to a recent article, Gupta, a former ACLU lawyer, endorses the complete legalization of marijuana in every state, with taxation and regulation. No DC official is more popular in Washington than Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who contends the ACLU doesn’t understand the city (to bediscussed in another article). Washington residents should vote No on Ballot 71 to legalize marijuana and reject the posturing of outside groups.
Gupta has an impressive resume, but the 39-year old would not be where she is today if she lived by the drug policies she allegedly endorses. Had Gupta partaken in pot culture as a teen, she would not have been accepted into Yale University. If she had spent young adulthood frequently using marijuana, she wouldn’t have become a successful attorney.
Does she understand the nature of addiction? Does she understand why every minority group voted against marijuana legalization in California? We cannot have a national discussion of policy without including a discussion of drug abuse and addiction.
Our education about the nature of addiction and what drugs actually do—at all our schools, and at every level–should be top priority. Here is evidence that was recently published in “Press the President,” which featured National Families in Action’s review of the science that underlies drug abuse and addiction.
Five Unavoidable Statistics
1. Availability drives use. The more available a given drug is, the more people use that drug. The most effective prevention strategy is to keep availability to a minimum.
2. 137 million Americans use alcohol regularly; 67 million use tobacco; 20 million use marijuana.
3. The alcohol industry spent $3.5 billion in 2011 to market and advertise its products; the tobacco industry spent $8.4 billion. A commercial marijuana industry will do the same.
4. Age limits don’t prevent underage use: five of ten new smokers every year are under age 18, eight of ten new drinkers are under age 21. Age limits won’t stop underage marijuana use in legalization states.
5. About half of Colorado’s medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011 were located in one city, Denver. That year, marijuana use among Denver’s middle-school students was double that of middle-school students in the rest of the state; marijuana use among Denver’s high school students was 25 percent higher.
Shocking Facts for Drug Policy-Makers
– It’s not your daddy’s weed. The marijuana of the 60s and 70s contained 2-3 percent THC. Today’s marijuana contains 15 percent THC on average. Marijuana extracts such as Butane Hash Oil contain from 75 to 100 percent THC.
– Colorado pot shops are selling candies, cookies, and soft drinks infused with marijuana. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are showing up at emergency rooms because they ate them and overdosed. Some have required intensive care to recover.
– Marijuana is not harmless. A just-published review of 20 years of marijuana research worldwide finds that marijuana can impair adolescents’ intellectual development and ability to perform in school. Use that begins before age 18 can result in an average IQ drop of 8 points, enough to place a person of average intelligence in the bottom third of the IQ scale.
– Using marijuana before driving doubles the risk of having a crash.
– One in six teenagers who use marijuana regularly will become addicted; so will one in ten adults.
– Marijuana use doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia.
Another View — Judge Arthur Burnett
Vanita Gupta has said “The war on drugs has been a war on communities of color.” There’s a lot she could learn from Judge Arthur Burnett. He spent 31 years as a judge in the District. He doesn’t think legalization would keep young black men out of jail, Marijuana would be more readily available, leading more young people to harder drugs. Scratch the surface of most homicides and rape cases, and the perpetrators were high on drugs, including marijuana. Marijuana introduces people to a culture where they get drawn into other drugs, though it might not be a gateway for everyone who tries it.
Gupta’s passion for racial fairness is admirable, but she doesn’t seem to have drug culture experience. Drug use brings pain and misery to the users and families of users. Gupta needs to understand the limited hope for children who begin drug use at an early age. Being a racial minority it hard enough, but why add another strike against minority youth by advocating a program that would increase their drug usage?
“Mass incapacitation of blacks instead of mass incarceration.” Judge Arthur Burnett, National Executive Director of National African American Drug Policy Coalition, was describing how he views marijuana legalization, at a meeting this summer which pre-dated the formation of Two is Enough D.C.
Two Is Enough D.C. (TIED.C.) officially registered September 23 as the No on 71 campaign — signaling the opposition to legalizing marijuana in Washington, DC. TIED.C. announced its formation on Wednesday, September 17, with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy giving an introductory speech. The group urges the voters of Washington, DC, not to approve Initiative 71 on November 4, 2014.
The grass-roots campaign is another example of David vs. Goliath. Initiative 71 has received more than $200,000. David Bronner, a Californian, jump-started the campaign to legalize marijuana in the District of Columbia. After the campaign gathered more 57,000 signatures, DC Board of Elections approved the Initiative in August. Though Initiative 71 concerns private possession and usage, the city council would be able to commercialize marijuana. City council currently is considering a bill to tax and regulate marijuana. However, in the states that have legalized it, the black market remains and taxes have been far below expectations.
“We have seen the negative impact of tobacco and alcohol on our youth, families and communities,” Will Jones III, founder of Tiedc, said. Companies that produce these two legal drugs have disproportionately targeted and affected communities of color. “With the costs in health care, education, accidents, lost productivity and law enforcement as a result of substance use, Washington, DC cannot afford a third legal drug. Thus, we declare that ‘Two is enough’ and urge our fellow citizens to do the same by voting NO on Initiative 71.”
Judge Burnett spoke at the Press Conference, along with Will Jones, representing the millennial generation. They were joined by other community representatives who gave forceful speeches: Dorothy Armstead, retired schoolteacher; Dr. William B. Lawson, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Howard University; Pastor Ronald L. Demery of Bible Way Church in Washington, DC., a local civil rights leader; Kathy Henderson, Realtor, parent, and elected representative for ANC 5D05; Ambrose Lane, Founder of Ward 7 Health Alliance Network and President and CEO of Washington East Development Alliance (WEDA) and founder of ; and Andre Murphy, who is in the process of making a film, with Bernard Howard, who spoke of his struggle to overcome addiction.
The speakers agreed that legalizing marijuana will mean more youth access to it, more drug addiction and the problems that go with it. Increased use at younger ages also means more school dropouts and fewer children who are able to complete schooling and get jobs. Under the initiative, the city council could allow commercialization which would then open the door to dangerous edibles, known to trick children and others with appealing packages.
Health and Biology
“Even if you don’t smoke marijuana now, you will be smoking it.” Kathy Henderson said at a community planning meeting opposed to legalization.
“Since decriminalization, marijuana smoke is everywhere. People smoke on their porches and you can’t get away from it.” Currently the maximum fine for smoking marijuana is $25 and police do not bother to ticket. This de-facto legalization of marijuana in the nation’s capital means that it carries a fine less than the $75 charged for littering and less than the $50 for under-age tobacco smoking.
Ms. Henderson, who received her undergraduate training in Biology, understands the dangers of marijuana from a health and public safety perspective, as well as from the perspective of a parent. Other speakers have seen it all.
Dr. Lawson, in addition to his position at Howard University, is President of the DC Chapter of Mental Health America, past President of the Washington Psychiatric Society, past President of the Black Psychiatrists of America. He received the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s Exemplary Psychiatrist Award and the Multicultural Workplace Award from the Veterans Administration for the advancement of diversity and multicultural understanding. Twice Dr. Lawson was named one of America’s Leading Black Doctors by Black Enterprise Magazine. He is an author of over 170 publications.
Speakers’ Vast Public Policy Expertise
Other speakers at the Press Conference are experts in public policy and community organizing. Representative Patrick Kennedy, son of former Senator Ted Kennedy and nephew of President Kennedy, served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is known as the author and lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. The dramatic legislation provides millions of Americans who were previously denied care with access to mental health treatment. He is a co-founder of Project SAM, which supports an alternative policy for marijuana, neither legalization or incarceration. As a mental health advocate, Kennedy stands strongly against marijuana legalization. He says it increases “permissiveness for a drug that directly contributes to mental illness.”
Judge Burnett, in addition to being National Executive Director of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc., was senior judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He was appointed the first African-American United States Magistrate in the United States, was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, was a Chair of the National Bar Association Juvenile Justice Task Force and a Chair of its Juvenile Justice Committee. Judge Burnett has about 40 years of experience as a judge and recalls some of the worst cases of domestic violence and child abuse that arose from drug use and alcohol.
Ambrose Lane is also a policy specialist, and a community organizer. Among his many community leadership positions, he has been Director of DC Circle of Hope Violence Prevention City-Wide Project and the Founder, Principal organizer of DC Youth Advisory Council (DCYAC).
Pastor Demery organized a “no ticket” Gospel concert in June of this year, with hopes to increase public awareness of the dangers of policies that increase marijuana access and the resulting risk of “naive” initiation into life-long drug use and addiction. Last September he hosted a Conference: No Access, No Use.
The disparities in the criminal justice and larger issues of racism in the United States were brought up by some of the speakers. “However, drug arrests are only one factor in the larger issues of racism and disparities in the criminal justice system. It is wrong to think that legalizing marijuana would make a dent in these larger problems,” Will Jones concluded. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a downward trend in the rate of incarceration in federal prisons, following the release of non-violent drug offenders.
Though some voters may think Initiative 71 only covers private possession, with an individuals allowed two ounces or to grow up to six plants. The city council at any time could vote to allow commercial sales of marijuana.
A recent problem is BHO explosions. It would be difficult to stop and control the making of BHO, butane hash oil. The fire departments, hospital emergency rooms and ambulances of Colorado, California and Washington have become overburdened with a rash of butane hash oil explosions, and this activity would be totally legitimate if Initiative 71 passes. Despite eight explosions in Denver and 31 in Colorado this year, the city of Denver has had difficulty passing laws to change the situation.