Pubdate: Sat, 12 Jul 2014
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2014 The Irish Times
Author: Simon Carswell
Page: 13


Decriminalised in Brooklyn and Legal in Washington State, the Drug Has
Had a Big Week in the US

Buying marijuana in the United States for recreational (read: fun)
purposes may be legal in two American states now but for some it is
far from acceptable, as security guard Mike Boyer learned to his cost.

Boyer (30), from Spokane in Washington, stood in line for almost 20
hours waiting to become the first customer on "Green Tuesday" to buy
recreational marijuana in one of 334 retail dispensaries licensed to
sell grass. The shops opened this week two years after voters in the
Pacific northwest state voted to approve its sale.

Local television news stations rushed to cover the landmark moment
featuring Boyer high-fiving customers as he walked out of Spokane
Green Leaf shouting "first customer!" with his purchase - four grammes
of Sour Kush marijuana - on his way home.

"His high was quickly brought low," the New York Daily News reported:
his employers, having spotted him on the TV, requested a urine
analysis and fired him for smoking pot. "I don't regret it," Boyer
told the Big Apple tabloid newspaper. "I'm sad it happened but I got
the title: I'm No 1. I regret nothing."

Others in the Washington community are equally unconcerned about
marijuana purchases. Seattle's city attorney Pete Holmes, an elected
official who had campaigned for the legalisation of recreational
marijuana, was the fourth customer at Seattle's first pot shop,
Cannabis City, when it opened its doors last Tuesday.

He bought two two-gramme bags of OG Pearl weed, one "for posterity"
and one for "personal enjoyment", he said. The announcement was a bold
move for a public official and in contrast with Denver city attorney
Scott Martinez who told The Cannabist website that he hasn't bought
weed since pot shops opened in January in Colorado, the first state to
let everyday customers enjoy a legal high.

The bigger story in Washington was not the legalisation of marijuana
but the shortage of it. Colorado had a regulated medical marijuana
market by the time it legalised recreational use so there was a steady
supply of grass that could be sold in new retail dispensaries. No
regulation While medical marijuana has been legal in Washington since
1998 there was little or no state regulation of that market. Even
though recreational marijuana has been legal there since December
2012, there were, as of last week, only 79 growers licensed to produce
weed, leaving supply sorely lagging demand in the first week of sales.

This week, on the other coast, New York was swept up in the wave of
marijuana legislation crossing the country, though it didn't go quite
as far as Washington. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New
York, signed the Compassionate Care Act into law on Monday, making the
state the 23rd in the US (along with the District of Columbia) to
allow doctors prescribe marijuana for patients not looking to get high
but to receive some much-needed relief from pain.

In addition to the changing views about the drug's medicinal benefits,
the legalisation of recreational marijuana is seen as a major social
change in the US. Even though the changes are coming for the most part
in Democratic-leaning states, politically they should not be seen
solely as a shift towards liberalism. On the right of the ideological
spectrum, libertarians hail legalisation as a victory for citizens
wanting less government intrusion in their lives and having a greater
individual say in what they think is right or wrong. Ease up The
changing views towards marijuana use is also being felt in the
criminal justice system. This week, also in New York, Brooklyn became
the latest place to ease up on prosecutions of people caught with a
small amounts of marijuana so as to direct resources to more serious

Brooklyn's African-American district attorney Kenneth Thompson said he
would no longer prosecute adults charged with low-level marijuana
offences with limited or no criminal records. This was because, he
said, too many, "especially young people of colour" were being
"unfairly burdened or stigmatised" by being drawn into the criminal
justice system for non-violent conduct that poses no threat to others.

Prosecutors may take this view but the city's police do not intend to
show the leniency. New York Police Department commissioner William
Bratton noted the Brooklyn DA's stance on enforcement in relation to
marijuana but said police had to enforce state laws in all five
boroughs of New York, even in the most populous in the city.

Despite the latest advances toward marijuana's legalisation and
decriminalisation this week, getting high - across the United States -
comes dropping slow.
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