Pubdate: Sun, 15 Sep 2013
Source: North Shore Sunday (Beverly, MA)
Copyright: 2013 GateHouse Media,sInc.
Author: Steven S. Epstein, Esq.
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.


North of Boston - 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 model.

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 - including regulation of 
fertilizers and pesticides, income tax and land use - 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 consequences."

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