A Major Night For Marijuana

Marijuana Map

Friedersdorf deduces that “the 2014 losers least likely to regain ground in future elections are marijuana prohibitionists”:

“With marijuana legal in the federal government’s backyard it’s going to be increasingly difficult for national politicians to continue ignoring the growing majority of voters who want to end prohibition,” says legalization advocate Tom Angell. “We can expect to see many more ambitious national politicians finally trying to win support from the cannabis constituency instead of ignoring and criminalizing us.”

That last bit may be too optimistic. I would be surprised to see any contender in the 2016 presidential field endorse legalization. I do expect more candidates to take the position that this is a matter that ought to be left up to the states and the people.

Rand Paul already took that position:

“I’m not for having the federal government get involved. I really haven’t taken a stand on … the actual legalization. I haven’t really taken a stand on that, but I’m against the federal government telling them they can’t,” Paul said.

Sullum wonders if Congress will block legalization in DC:

Initiative 71 legalizes home cultivation of up to six plants by adults 21 or older, along with possession of up to two ounces and transfer of up to an ounce at a time “without remuneration.” Residents who are not horticulturally inclined and do not have friends who are will be out of luck unless the D.C. Council approves a system for commercial production and distribution. The council heard testimony on that issue last week, and The Washington Post reports that “a majority…has vowed to also take up legislation early next year that would establish a system to sell and tax marijuana.”

Whatever D.C. voters and legislators do can be undone by Congress, which has 30 days to overturn Initiative 71. Congress also can block Initiative 71 by forbidding D.C. to spend money on implementing it, as it did for years with the medical marijuana initiative that D.C. voters approved in 1998. One possibly hopeful sign: When the D.C. Council made possessing up to an ounce of marijuana a citable offense subject to a $25 fine earlier this year, Congress let the law take effect.

Kleiman, a longtime opponent of fully commercialized weed, hopes that DC won’t allow sales:

District residents will be able to grow a limited number of plants, possess a limited amount of the resulting cannabis, and give away—but not sell—whatever they don’t want to smoke themselves. The system is called “grow and give.”

… D.C. should try “grow and give” and see how it works. It wouldn’t generate any tax revenue, or offer consumers the same convenience or product variety as a commercial system, and of course policing the boundary between “giving” and “selling” would be virtually impossible. But it might be a big improvement on the current prohibition. Eliminating organized marketing would likely lead to a much smaller increase—if any—in cannabis abuse than we would expect if we sell pot the way we now sell beer.

Sullum compares Alaska’s legalization law to those that have come before it:

Alaska’s tax will be $50 per ounce, collected from growers. From the government’s perspective, the advantage of that approach, which is similar to the way alcohol is taxed (by volume),  is that proceeds from a given quantity of marijuana remain the same as prices drop, which is what will happen as the market develops unless something goes terribly wrong. The disadvantage, from a social engineer’s perspective, is that a tax based on weight does not take potency into account (unlike alcohol taxes, which fall more heavily on liquor than on beer).

In fact, a weight tax might encourage higher potency, especially as it becomes a larger and larger component of the retail price. If production costs fall as expected, Alaska’s weight tax could amount to a rate of 100 percent or more within a few years, giving consumers an even bigger incentive to buy the strongest pot they can find.

Sullum turns to one aspect of Oregon’s new law:

One distinct advantage of the Oregon initiative is that it does not change the standard for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII, a.k.a. DUID). Under current law, convicting someone of DUII requires showing that he was “affected to a noticeable degree” by marijuana or another controlled substance, based on the “totality of the circumstances.” By contrast, Washington’s current rule, established by I-502, says any driver whose blood contains five or more nanograms of THC per milliliter is automatically guilty of DUID, a standard that in effect prohibits driving by many daily consumers, including patients who use marijuana as a medicine, even when they are not actually impaired.

German Lopez looks ahead:

The big year, experts and advocates say, is 2016, when legalization will likely be on the ballot in California, where medical marijuana is already legal, and several more states. “It’s an uphill battle, but we see support growing at the state and federal level,” Tvert said. “We’ve filed committees to support initiatives in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada.”

A reader sounds off:

I voted in DC yesterday, proudly and happily for Ballot Initiative 71. My boss, a white guy in his late forties with two kids, also voted for it, and we freely talked about it at work.  How awesome is it when a 20-something single woman of color and a 40-something married white dad can high five about getting to legalize marijuana?

Know dope.

(Chart from Vox)