In most places throughout the U.S., producing, selling and even consuming marijuana is still a serious crime, despite some exceptions made for regulated medicinal purposes and the landmark laws recently passed in Washington state and Colorado.
However, attitudes toward the drug have shifted dramatically in recent years, with the Pew Research Center reporting that 52 percent of Americans now believe marijuana should be legalized not just as medicine but for recreation. How long before we see the policy tides shifting that direction as well?
Unfortunately as it now stands, the federal government still nonsensically categorizes marijuana as being more harmful than cocaine. Our California marijuana lawyers believe it is much more a question of “When?” than “If?”
We aren’t the only ones to hold this position. Policy analysts from a round the county have said that rapidly shifting public attitudes – even across political lines that are sharply divided on other matters – are a precursor to changes to come.
Some have predicted that by 2016, 1 out of 5 states will have legalized recreational marijuana for adults. Even columnist David Frum, who is a vocal critic of legalized marijuana, conceded that it won’t be long before half of all U.S. states will likely sanction marijuana for recreation.
Robert Mikos, a law professor focused on marijuana policy at Vanderbuilt University Law School, has been quoted as saying that while there are a lot of political forces at play, a game-changer is the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent announcement that it will not pursue criminal action marijuana industry insiders in states like Colorado and Washington, so long as there are strong regulatory measures in place.
Marijuana advocates across the nation have been emboldened by this news, and are now working diligently to draft regulatory policy that will meet the DOJ’s standards. Even in the south, North Carolina and even Mississippi recently decriminalized pot possession, and Florida is weighing a medical marijuana initiative.
Even the U.S. Treasury Department has announced it is looking at ways to ease its prosecutorial stance on banks that accept deposits and transfers from marijuana cultivators and distributors. (The fact that these operations have been forced to conduct most business in cash-only has left them vulnerable to armed robbery.)
California, as the first state to pass medical marijuana legislation, was expected to become a stoner wasteland. That never happened, though we have had our share of stumbles with regard to regulation. Still most people recognize that legalization, regulation and taxation are preferable to having it sold on the black market.
Another factor that may have provided some momentum was the Great Recession. States are cash-starved. Legislators see a cash crop. An opportunity for more jobs. A way to reduce expensive overcrowding in prisons. The drug war has failed. Even the most conservative among us can recognize when throwing good money after bad no longer makes sense.
The Justice Department is going to continue to investigate and prosecute drug-related crimes that occur outside the regulatory framework established by the states. The problem for California has been our patchwork of regulation left primarily to local governments. Without a strong, state-enforced system, growers, dispensaries and patients are going to continue to find themselves under pressure from federal prosecutors.
Until our policies can catch up with public opinion, our marijuana lawyers are prepared to defend the rights and interests of those in the industry.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
Legal marijuana: Will most states head that way? Sept. 17, 2013, By Patrick Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor
More Blog Entries:
California Drug Sentencing Reform Bill Goes to Governor, Sept. 14, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog