Pubdate: Sun, 16 Feb 2014
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2014 Associated Press
Author: Gene Johnson, Associated Press
Page: 23


(AP) - In a former colonial mansion in Jamaica, politicians huddle to 
discuss trying to ease marijuana laws in the land of the late reggae 
musician and cannabis evangelist Bob Marley. In Morocco, one of the 
world's top producers of the concentrated pot known as hashish, two 
leading political parties want to legalize its cultivation, at least 
for medical and industrial use.

And in Mexico City, the vast metropolis of a country ravaged by 
horrific cartel bloodshed, lawmakers have proposed a brand-new plan 
to let stores sell the drug.

 From the Americas to Europe to North Africa and beyond, the 
marijuana legalization movement is gaining unprecedented traction - a 
nod to successful efforts in Colorado, Washington state and the small 
South American nation of Uruguay, which in December became the first 
country to approve nationwide pot legalization.

Weary of drug wars

Leaders long weary of the drug war's violence and futility have been 
emboldened by changes in U.S. policy, even in the face of opposition 
from their own conservative populations. Some are eager to try an 
approach that focuses on public health instead of prohibition, and 
some see a potentially lucrative industry in cannabis regulation.

"A number of countries are saying, 'We've been curious about this, 
but we didn't think we could go this route,' " said Sam Kamin, a 
University of Denver law professor who helped write Colorado's 
marijuana regulations.

That's largely because of a White House that's more open to drug war 

U.S. President Barack Obama recently told The New Yorker magazine 
that he considers marijuana less dangerous to consumers than alcohol, 
and said it's important that the legalization experiments in 
Washington and Colorado go forward, especially because blacks are 
arrested for the drug at a greater rate than whites, despite similar 
levels of use.

His administration also has criticized drug war-driven incarceration 
rates in the U.S. and announced that it will let banks do business 
with licensed marijuana operations, which have largely been cash-only 
because federal law forbids financial institutions from processing 
pot-related transactions.

Such actions underscore how the U.S. position has changed in recent 
years. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it wouldn't 
target medical marijuana patients. In August, the agency said it 
wouldn't interfere with the laws in Colorado and Washington, which 
regulate the growth and sale of taxed pot for recreational use.

Government officials and activists worldwide have taken note. Also 
not lost on them was the Obama administration's public silence before 
votes in both states and in Uruguay.

It all creates a "sense that the U.S. is no longer quite the drug 
war-obsessed government it was" and that other nations have some 
political space to explore reform, said Ethan Nadelmann, head of the 
nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, a pro-legalization group based in New York.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom