drug war decline
February 19, 2019

Wisconsin should legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize the use, growth, and sale of small amounts of recreational marijuana, Gov. Tony Evers (D) said Monday.

"As a cancer survivor, I know the side effects of a major illness can make everyday tasks a challenge," Evers said in his pitch for medical legalization. "People shouldn't be treated as criminals for accessing a desperately-needed medication that can alleviate their suffering."

The new governor's case for recreational decriminalization emphasized its implications for criminal justice reform. "Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate in the country for black men," Evers noted in a press release, "and drug-related crimes account for as many as 75 to 85 percent of all inmates in our prisons."

His proposal would bar law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin from creating their own rules and penalties to effectively reverse decriminalization. And it would expunge the records of those who have completed their sentences for past convictions of possession, production, or distribution of 25 grams of marijuana or less, which is the quantity this proposal would decriminalize.

The medical legalization portion of Evers' plan stands the better chance of success in Wisconsin's state legislature, where Republicans hold the majority in both houses. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) has indicated support for medical marijuana but said Monday he does not support recreational decriminalization.

Michigan is at present the only Midwestern state with legal recreational marijuana use, though Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio have legalized medical marijuana. Bonnie Kristian

July 2, 2018

Running on a slogan of "abrazos, no balazos" — "hugs, not gunfire" — Mexico's new President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador is planning a radically new approach to drug violence in his country.

López Obrador argues that more than a decade of militarized response to drug gang violence has been unproductive, and that combating violence with more violence cannot work. "You can't fight fire with fire," he said on the campaign trail, proposing negotiations with drug cartels in pursuit of a "plan for reconciliation and peace," as well as anti-poverty programs to lessen the appeal of smuggling work, potential legalization of some drugs, and perhaps even amnesty for nonviolent drug offenders.

So far, he has yet to release a comprehensive, detailed proposal. The amnesty idea in particular will receive significant pushback from much of the Mexican public as well as the United States, which partners with Mexico in military enforcement of drug laws.

"The failed strategy of combating insecurity and violence will change," López Obrado declared in his victory speech. "More than through the use of force, we will tend to the causes that give rise to insecurity and violence." Bonnie Kristian

July 1, 2017

Recreational marijuana sales began Saturday in Nevada, the fifth state to legalize recreational pot use despite continuing federal prohibition, with some dispensaries opening at midnight Saturday morning. The legalization was approved by ballot initiative in November with 55 percent public support.

Pot purchases are regulated much like alcohol, allowing buyers over 21 to purchase up to one ounce of marijuana at a time. However, it is still illegal to use recreational marijuana anywhere outside private residences, and it is also illegal to bring marijuana purchased in another state where it is legal, like Washington or Colorado, into Nevada.

Legalization is expected to be a major tourist draw for Las Vegas as well as a significant new source of state revenue. Bonnie Kristian

February 19, 2017

A bipartisan group of lawmakers — Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), and Don Young (R-Alaska) — this week announced the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. The group is the first of its kind, devoted to prodding the federal government to catch up with the move toward legalization and decriminalization of marijuana at the state and local level. Notably, all four representatives hail from states that have already made pot legal for recreational use.

"The federal government's decades-long approach to marijuana is a colossal, cruel joke, and most Americans know it," Rohrabacher said in a press release introducing the caucus. "Not only have incalculable amounts of taxpayers' dollars been wasted, but countless lives have been unnecessarily disrupted and even ruined by misguided law enforcement."

Though the caucus did not spell out particular policy goals, its members indicated a willingness to fight any Trump team moves toward a more aggressive drug war. "I'm very happy with the idea that if we have to we'll bump heads with the attorney general," Young said of new Attorney General Jess Sessions, a die-hard drug warrior. Rohrabacher was more blunt: "The Trump administration should and will get the word that things have changed in the countryside, and they better not just be stuck in the '50s and '60s," he said. Bonnie Kristian

December 3, 2016

Just days after the NFL's decision to suspend Seantrel Henderson, Buffalo Bills offensive lineman, for 10 games for using marijuana to treat his Crohn's Disease, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr — the NBA's coach of the year last season — expressed support for a softer stance on pot from professional sports leagues.

"I'm not a pot person. It doesn't agree with me. I tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all," Kerr said in a podcast interview that aired Friday. "So I'm not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you're an NFL player, in particular, and you got lot of pain, I don't think there's any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin," he continued. "And yet, athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it's Vitamin C, like it's no big deal."

Kerr said he hopes to see a more reasonable approach to medical marijuana in pro sports, noting that concerns about negative public perception of pot users are increasingly a thing of the past. The full podcast is available here. Bonnie Kristian

July 8, 2016

In states where medical marijuana is legal, doctors prescribe fewer prescription drugs for conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, and sleep disorders, finds a new study published by researchers at the University of Georgia in Health Affairs.

"Using data on all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013," the abstract explains, "we found that the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly, once a medical marijuana law was implemented."

Although only 17 states had legalized medical marijuana use at the time of the study — today that number has risen to 24 states plus the District of Columbia — the resultant decline in prescription drug use saved Medicare Part D millions each year, rising to $165.2 million by 2013. The researchers estimate if medical marijuana is legalized nationwide, those savings could increase to $468.1 million annually, or about 0.5 percent of Medicare drug spending as of 2013. Bonnie Kristian

May 19, 2016

In what may be the most San Francisco story ever, the city's last gun shop has closed, and its space will be filled by a nonprofit medical marijuana cooperative.

The dispensary was eager to move into the vacant storefront — where it will begin operations in July — because the shop is located in a "green zone," one of the regions in the strictly-zoned city where marijuana stores can be housed. "There are very few areas in San Francisco that are green zones," explains co-op board member Sean Killen, "so we needed to keep it close."

The building's previous occupant, High Bridge Arms, had been in business since the 1950s. Its owner, Andy Takahashi, decided to close his doors in October 2015 in response to the growing regulatory burdens his shop had to adhere to. Takahashi was "thrilled, frankly" with the new occupants, Killen said. "He thought it was cool. It certainly wasn’t lost on us that the fact that it was a gun store turning into a pot collective … It just seems very San Francisco." Bonnie Kristian

May 4, 2016

Recreational marijuana sales have been legal in Washington State for about two years now, and during that time, the price of weed has plummeted. Down from a post-legalization high of about $25 per gram on the retail market, the same amount of pot now costs less than $10.

(Washington Post)

The economic explanation for this price drop is simple and predictable: The drug war makes the marijuana business dangerous and expensive because, as The Washington Post summarizes, black market drug sellers "must operate covertly, forgo advertising, pay higher wages to compensate for the risk of arrest, and lack recourse to civil courts for resolving contract disputes."

Once marijuana is legalized, these added costs of doing business disappear, making for a cheaper product and safer industry. Similarly, the Prohibition era of the 1920s and '30s caused the price of liquor to roughly triple before the Twenty-First Amendment, ending Prohibition, was passed in 1933. Bonnie Kristian

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