Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions' decision to withdraw an Obama-era directive
discouraging the enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that
have legalized pot shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with Sessions'
views on drug laws.
The attorney general has every right to enforce federal drug laws as
vigorously as he sees fit. But just because he can doesn't mean he
should. The truth is that resuming the discredited war on marijuana
would be neither a smart step nor welcome policy, and just the threat
of it is a reminder of the shortsightedness of the federal
government's approach to drugs.
[continues 570 words]
JERSEY CITY - Every city in America knows that it's a bad idea to
prosecute low-level, nonviolent marijuana offenses. It wastes scarce
municipal resources and does nothing to enhance public safety. What's
more, even though whites and blacks use marijuana at similar rates,
blacks are more harshly punished for it.
That's why, on July 19, marijuana offenses were effectively
decriminalized in Jersey City, New Jersey's second most populous city.
Prosecutors treated every marijuana case that day as a violation
instead of a misdemeanor, unless driving under the influence was
involved. We told our prosecutors to ask for no more than a $50 fine,
or just five hours of community service if the defendant couldn't pay
that fee. Instances like the absence of any public nuisance or a low
likelihood of re-offense would warrant outright dismissal. We also
stressed the importance of diverting people with an obvious drug
addiction toward social services.
[continues 665 words]
The federal government should follow the growing movement in the states
and repeal the ban on marijuana for both medical and recreational use.
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end
Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise
law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and
flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the
current ban on marijuana, inflictingA great harm on society just to
prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
[continues 460 words]
Jersey City's mayor is planting himself at the forefront of a national
movement to stop destroying people's lives for having a little marijuana.
Steven Fulop is firmly on the right side of this issue, and Gov. Phil
Murphy's attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, is not fighting him on it --
once again demonstrating that he is not just concerned with law and
order, but justice.
Grewal has been receptive to reform efforts in general, creating a
statewide team to investigate wrongful convictions, for instance,
after a bungled murder case in Passaic County.
[continues 485 words]
One of the nation's top public-health officials has explained why the
fight against the opioid epidemic is so personal to him.
At a conference in New Orleans, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention Director Robert Redfield Jr. opened up about his family's
experience with opioids, saying that one of his adult children nearly
died of an overdose of cocaine mixed with fentanyl, a potent synthetic
opioid that is 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin, according to the
[continues 681 words]
That old New Orleans con of, "I betcha I can tell you where you got
them shoes," just took on a whole different meaning.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration's just released list
of "Drug Slang Code Words," for 2018, "shoes" is one of 353 terms the
cool kids are using for cannabis these days. (I bet you thought there
would be 420.) So, offering to tell the tourists where they obtained
their footwear could spark a panic.
[continues 364 words]
Seldom a day goes by when financial pages don't highlight new
developments in the marijuana industry.
So, this is who we are today. Former B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake
is now on the corporate board of a major marijuana company. Former
Toronto police chief and current MP Bill Blair is a point man on
marijuana legalization. Former B.C. Solicitor General and West
Vancouver Police Chief Kash Heed is a consultant for marijuana
companies. The list of government and policing honchos who have jumped
on the bandwagon is substantial.
[continues 757 words]
They might be reluctantly legalizing cannabis. But they'll never stop
thinking they know better than us how we should live
The Canadian government announced this week that marijuana would be
legal for recreational in just under four months, by Oct. 17, 2018.
The intervening time will be used to get legal distribution networks
established and give provinces and police forces time to prepare for
And, the government probably hopes, for Canadians to decide they're
not so into this marijuana stuff, after all.
[continues 377 words]
A few years ago when I served on the board of the co-op building where
I live in Brooklyn Heights - a fact suggesting a degree of squareness
so profound it should discredit my authority to go on - my next-door
neighbor came to me with recurring complaints that her apartment, at
various points, but mostly in the evenings, reeked of pot (that,
children, is what we of the Atari generation call it) so intensely
that it seemed as if someone had come in and lit up right on her sofa.
That her oldest daughter began to worry that she was getting a contact
high while she was doing her homework made me despair for a generation
and suggested that perhaps a certain unwarranted hysteria had taken
hold. Then one night, at a moment of extreme fragrancy, my neighbor
texted and asked me to come over and take a sniff for myself, and it
seemed as if I had walked into a commune in the Redwoods sometime
between the Tet offensive and the presidency of Gerald Ford.
[continues 772 words]
New York City's Police Department suffered a major embarrassment this
spring when a New York Times investigation demolished the department's
claim that people of color were more likely than others to be arrested
on petty marijuana charges, because citizens in their communities
complained more about pot smoking. The investigation found that even
when complaints were factored in, the police nearly always arrested
people at a higher rate in black areas.
A new policy Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday will lead to
fewer people being arrested for smoking marijuana in public. But the
new approach - in which officers would usually issue summonses instead
of hauling people off to jail - does not address the core problem of
racial inequality and poses new dangers.
[continues 466 words]
In 2012, Washington State voted to legalize marijuana. By 2014, the
world's first system for legally growing, processing and retailing
cannabis was operating.
As Canada prepares to go live with pot sales in a few months, what can
we learn from four years of practical, hands-on experience in the
western United States?
The first take-away is that all the fretting about the impact on
children and teens is largely unwarranted.
Before legalization, 17 per cent of Grade 10 students in Washington
State said they had smoked pot in the previous month. Four years of
legal doobies later, 17 per cent of Grade 10 students say they have
smoked pot in the previous month.
[continues 663 words]
Legalizing marijuana makes sense for a lot of reasons, but there's one
valuable thing we'll lose when police stop arresting people for
smoking pot: A sense of just how misleading our crime data are.
Data on arrests and reported crime play a big role in public policy
and law enforcement. Politicians employ them to gauge their success in
making neighborhoods and the entire country safe. Police departments
use them to determine where to deploy more officers to look for more
crime. They are fed into recidivism-risk algorithms, which help judges
and parole boards make decisions on sentencing and release.
[continues 638 words]
After U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued his memorandum on
marijuana in January, I committed to taking a methodical and
thoughtful approach to developing an enforcement strategy for Oregon.
In early February, our marijuana summit brought together more than 130
people from 70 organizations representing a wide range of interests,
values, and perspectives.
Among those in attendance were Gov, Kate Brown, representatives from
14 U.S. Attorney's offices, Oregon congressional delegation staff, and
members of the Oregon Legislature. The summit featured presentations
by state officials, policymakers, federal and state law enforcement
agencies, industry representatives, adversely affected landowners,
public health organizations, banking executives and tribal leaders.
[continues 581 words]
After the death of her father, a prominent hotel owner in Seattle,
Ella Henderson started taking morphine to ease her grief. She was 33
years old, educated and intelligent, and she frequented the upper
reaches of Seattle society. But her "thirst for morphine" soon
"dragged her down to the verge of debauchery," according to a
newspaper article in 1877 titled "A Beautiful Opium Eater." After
years of addiction, she died of an overdose.
In researching opium addiction in late-19th-century America, I've come
across countless stories like Henderson's. What is striking is how,
aside from some Victorian-era moralizing, they feel so familiar to a
21st-century reader: Henderson developed an addiction at a vulnerable
point in her life, found doctors who enabled it and then
self-destructed. She was just one of thousands of Americans who lost
their lives to addiction between the 1870s and the 1920s.
[continues 901 words]
Microdosing is hot. If you haven't heard - but you probably have, from
reports of its use at Silicon Valley workplaces, from Ayelet Waldman's
memoir "A Really Good Day," from dozens of news stories - to microdose
is to take small amounts of LSD, which generate "subperceptual"
effects that can improve mood, productivity and creativity.
Michael Pollan's new book, "How to Change Your Mind," is not about
that. It's about macro-dosing. It's about taking enough LSD or
psilocybin (mushrooms) to feel the colors and smell the sounds, to let
the magic happen, to chase the juju. And it's about how mainstream
science ceded the ground of psychedelics decades ago, and how it's
trying to get it back.
[continues 1098 words]
The New York Police Department has claimed that more black and Latino
people are arrested for petty marijuana offenses because complaints
are more voluminous in neighborhoods where black and Latino people
predominantly live. That excuse was blown apart this weekend by a
Times investigation showing that the complaints about marijuana use do
not fully account for the racial arrest gap - and that, when
complaints were held constant, "the police almost always made arrests
at a higher rate in the area with more black citizens."
[continues 533 words]
Some time this summer, marijuana will be legal in Canada. It's
already legal in Washington state and has been for four years.
But Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth warned this week that
there's a significant problem looming at the border crossing,
because it's still going to be illegal there.
It makes no sense whatsoever, but the U.S. federal government controls
the border crossing, and marijuana is still nominally illegal in the
"People [meaning, cannabis users] are going to naturally assume, on
either side of the border, that they cross back and forth because
it's legal in each jurisdiction,a" told the house. "But the
reality is it will not be legal at that federal border crossing."
[continues 626 words]
It's all about harm reduction and improving community health outcomes
No doubt some Hamiltonians are chuckling to hear city council is
considering banning sugary drinks from city buildings to protect
With good reason.
The proposed ban by the public health department lands at the same
time the city is moving ahead with opening its first safe injection
site for drug addicts.
It's more than a little ironic that the city may be cracking down on
sugar while enabling the use of illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine.
[continues 581 words]
Cannabis sales likely won't prove a financial bonanza.
Those counting on help from cannabis sales to balance the provincial
budget are in for a disappointment.
As far as Statistics Canada can tell, cannabis prices in this country
have been dropping for the past three years, perhaps the past dozen
years. Since weed-market watchers in the United States have found
roughly the same thing, it's probably true.
Canada's provincial treasurers, along with private investors in the
cannabis trade, may still be able to turn a profit, but the bonanza
that used to beckon has probably evaporated already.
[continues 618 words]
The Senate seems determined to slow the Liberal government's timeline
for marijuana legalization and Justin Trudeau seems just as determined
to deliver his legalization on time - give or take a few weeks.
The prime minister will get his way, but that doesn't mean the Senate,
and Indigenous leaders, are not flagging some important issues.
Opposition Conservatives would like nothing more than to push the
rollout of legal recreational pot into an election year, the better to
take political advantage of the inevitable stumbles that will come
with such a momentous move.
[continues 649 words]