Pubdate: Thu, 12 Sep 2013
Source: Herald News, The (Fall River, MA)
Copyright: 2013 The Herald News
Author: Steven S. Epstein
Note: Attorney Steven S. Epstein of Georgetown is
a founder of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform
Coalition and has written many letters and
columns lauding liberty and cannabis.


Westport- Late last month, the U.S. Justice
Department announced that it is "deferring its
right to challenge" the Colorado and Washington
initiatives that "tax and regulate marijuana like
alcoholic beverages." The announcement and
accompanying memorandum, coming after Senator
Leahy announced Senate Judiciary Committee
hearings on the conflict between federal and
state law, signal the administration is willing
to discuss marijuana law reform with Congress and the states.

As the conversation proceeds, three things are
important to remember. First, as the department
concedes, federal resources are inadequate to a
task that "traditionally relied on state and
local authorities." Second, no state in our
federal system is required to address marijuana activity.

Third, national polling by the Pew Research
Center indicates more than 70 percent of
Americans more than 18 percent believe the task
"costs more than it is worth," a belief shared by
67 percent of the most dedicated Massachusetts
voters in a June 2013 Suffolk University poll.

Yet the department, in very strong language,
insists that Colorado and Washington implement
tight controls "backed by adequate funding" that
address eight priorities guiding federal
enforcement or it will seek to close those
systems and "act aggressively" despite scarce
resources "to bring individual prosecutions. The
department's stance makes the complicated
Colorado and Washington "tax and regulate
marijuana like alcohol" models cost each state
more than the revenue saved by "legalization" and
the revenue they create combined.

Replacing prohibition must not cost states more than prohibition.

Instead, the states and Congress should adopt a
"child-protection agricultural produce" model for
the cultivating of cannabis and commerce in its
produce, marijuana, by adults only. A 2011 poll
commissioned by the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform
Coalition found 58 percent of Massachusetts voters already support this

It punishes distribution to minors with
significant jail time and/or fine and requires
adults take steps to prevent access to growing
plants and marijuana by children.

For those under age it remains a crime to grow
cannabis, sell or possess more than an ounce of
marijuana and a civil offense to possess an ounce
or less, with no change in the "drug-free" schools policy.

By recognizing marijuana as the herb it is, all
laws that now apply to selling fruits and
vegetables =80" including regulation of fertilizers
and pesticides, income tax and land use =80" would apply.

Four other department priorities are preventing
marijuana commerce from profiting "criminal
enterprises;" being used as a "pretext for the
trafficking of other illegal drugs or other
illegal activity;" "violence and the use of
firearms" in the trade; and growing on "public
lands." Created by prohibition, all vanish with
the return of the plant to lawful agronomy and
the end of prohibition's built-in price support.

Existing laws, including DUI, child abuse,
drug-free workplaces and smoking bans in some
places already address the department's fear of
"drugged driving and the other [supposed] adverse public health

Not addressed by the agricultural produce model
are the department's fears of the "diversion of
marijuana" from legalizing states to states that
still suffer from prohibition and "possession and
use of marijuana on federal property."

The former concern, no different from the tax
evasion-induced movement of tobacco products from
states with low excise taxes to states with high
excise taxes, is the province of the state with
higher taxes. The latter concern is exclusively federal.

So, other than superstition, racism, contempt for
science, and crony capitalism, nothing stands in
the way of the Massachusetts Legislature
repealing the constitutionally suspect and
wasteful prohibition of marijuana and
implementing a "child-protection agricultural produce" model.

Which leaves one question: Legislative
intransigence forced the people to win two
initiatives reforming marijuana policy since
2007. Will it put an end to what most everyone
recognizes as a wasteful policy before the people do?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom