Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Ten stories that made 2013 the year of legal pot
What a difference a year makes! With pot now legal in Colorado and Washington, 2013 saw more marijuana news than ever before. Here are some of the top stories from this historic year in cannabis law reform.
After voters in Colorado and Washington legalized cannabis, all eyes were on the federal government. Would they gear up for a legal fight to prove the supremacy of federal pot laws or would they back down from their forty-year drug war? A month after the historic pot votes, President Obama said "we have bigger fish to fry" than cannabis users. But the feds remained essentially silent for ten months on the issue, until Attorney General Eric Holder made a number of speeches indicating the feds will lighten up on pot. Finally, in late August, the Justice Department issued guidance to legal pot states, saying they would not challenge the votes, and citing eight primary concerns that could result in federal interference.
2. Uruguay legalizes marijuana
The tiny South American country of Uruguay legalized cannabis, a little more than a year after proposing such a plan. The move was hastened by the legal pot votes in Colorado and Washington, and U.S. advocates helped advise Uruguayan campaigners. Uruguay is the first signatory to the UN Single Convention Treaty on Narcotics to legalize recreational cannabis, and the country plans on selling pot for $1 per gram.
3. Epileptic children migrate to Colorado for medical pot
Parents of children with severe epilepsy are moving to legal pot states. The moves come after increasing research shows that strains of marijuana with trace amounts of psychoactive THC, but high concentrations of another compound called cannabidiol or CBD, can greatly reduce the number of daily seizures experienced by these young epileptics. In states like New Jersey and Utah, parents are pushing for medical cannabis laws to help their epileptic kids.
4. Colorado and Washington enact legal pot rules
With voters choosing legal pot, state regulators in Colorado and Washington drafted rules to govern a newly-legal recreational pot industry. The rules are markedly different in each state -- Colorado requires pot shops to produce the majority of the product they sell, and Washington requires a complete separation between cannabis retailers and pot growing businesses. Federal officials have been mostly hands-off, but responded to Washington’s proposed rules to demand a change to how 1,000-foot zoning buffers are measured.
5. Some federal prosecutors continue cannabis crackdown
Despite guidance from the Attorney General's Office recommending federal prosecutors lighten up on pot, U.S. Attorneys in California continued a crackdown against state-legal cannabis clubs, despite advice from their boss. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag fought to shut down Harborside, the state's biggest dispensary, DEA agents raided numerous dispensaries, and prosecutors sent several dispensary operators to prison.
6. Banks want weed money, regulators work to give it to them
Pot businesses clamored for legal access to the banking system, and state officials tasked with regulating the legal cannabis industry joined those calls. U.S. Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced federal legislation to allow cannabis banking, and Congress held a hearing on the issue. Bank of America agreed to deposit Washington's cannabis taxes, and state officials in talks with federal banking regulators said they expect changes to federal banking rules in the next six months.
7. DEA spying rivals NSA and CIA
Security contractor Edward Snowden revealed to Americans the extreme scope of their federal government's domestic spying program, in which the feds have compiled massive databases of phone records and other data on American citizens. The purpose for this program is ostensibly to help catch terrorists among us, but Reuters revealed that the federal Drug Enforcement Agency is tapping those databases to fight against homegrown cannabis criminals. Further investigation by the New York Times showed that the DEA actually pays telecom employees to join its domestic spying program and funnel phone data to the agency.
8. Israel moves medical cannabis forward
Israel has been a world leader in medical cannabis research for decades, and that story is finally receiving significant media coverage in light of the legal pot votes in Colorado and Washington. The country's medical cannabis program has expanded dramatically, and a research report estimated Israel stands to earn $450 million in pot taxes if it legalizes the forbidden flower. Israeli doctors developed no-THC versions of the plant and researched its possible treatment of MS-like symptoms. Meanwhile, legislators approved a bill to distribute pot through pharmacies and increase the number of doctors who can authorize its use, and legislators introduced a bill to decriminalize recreational cannabis for non-patients.
9. More jurisdictions move to relax pot laws
States and cities across the country enacted marijuana reforms. New Hampshire legalized medical cannabis through its legislature, and Illinois followed suit, making 20 states that now recognize medical cannabis. Oregon legalized dispensaries and medical cannabis retailers opened in Washington, DC, where politicians indicated they will decriminalize marijuana entirely. Portland, Maine voted to legalize it, and voters in three Michigan cities did the same. Vermont legalized hemp production, and Colorado regulated its new hemp industry.
10. Public support for legalization at all-time high
For the first time ever, reputable polling revealed a majority of Americans support pot legalization. One poll found only 6% of Americans favor jail time for cannabis, and another showed 60% of Californians want legal pot. By October, polling numbers inched even higher, with Gallup reporting 58% support for legalized cannabis. Voters in legal pot states say they made the right choice, and most of them don't even want to smoke pot.
By Ben Livingston
Source: The Smell the Truth