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Drug prohibition and the Commerce Clause

I don’t have the time or knowledge to write much about this, but I’ve just learned that:

  • In the 2005 case, Gonzales v. Raich, SCOTUS ruled that “Congress may ban the use of marijuana even where states approve its use for medicinal purposes” (Wikipedia). “The regulation is squarely within Congress’ commerce power because production of the commodity meant for home consumption, be it wheat or marijuana, has a substantial effect on supply and demand in the national market for that commodity”
  • I find this worrying because it seems to me that if any states vote to legalise cannabis next year, the federal government has a good precedent for ignoring it and continuing to prosecute. Depending on the political climate, maybe they just wouldn’t direct any resources to interfering within states, or maybe there’d be some fudge such as (finally) rescheduling marijuana to help alleviate the conflict.
  • There were some good dissenting opinions!

and that:

  • Alcohol prohibition didn’t really need a constitutional amendment (or wouldn’t need one today) but the contemporary interpretation of the commerce clause and federal powers was different, and important precedents hadn’t been set, while the high visibility and power of an amendment meant it was also good politics. (The alternative, of course, is that it did need an amendment, and that all current federal drug prohibition is unconstitutional!)
 
 


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Posted at 8:48pm • Permalink  • Tags: prohibition drug policy marijuana cannabis

 


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Posted at 12:03am • Permalink  • Tags: prohibition cannabis marijuana

 


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Posted at 10:49pm • Permalink  • Tags: prohibition drug policy cannabis marijuana

 


Two remarkable press releases:

Thurs: Members of Congress to Introduce Historic Legislation Ending Marijuana Prohibition

The Legislation, Modeled after the Repeal of Alcohol Prohibition, Comes on the 40th Anniversary of the Failed War on Drugs and on the Heels of a Global Commission Report Recommending Marijuana Legalization

The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal. The legislation is the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

and

United States Conference of Mayors Unanimously Passes Resolution Calling the War on Drugs a Failed Policy That is Driving Over-incarceration and Racial Disparities

"The war on drugs – declared 40 years ago this weekend – has been the principal driver of mass incarceration in America," said U.S. mayors in a resolution adopted on Monday at the United States Conference of Mayor’s annual meeting in Baltimore. The mayors pointed out that the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.4 million of its residents in prison or jail, including roughly 500,000 Americans behind bars for drug law violations – an increase of 1200 percent since 1980.

In their resolution, the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) officially endorsed pending bi-partisan federal legislation, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2011, sponsored by Virginia Senator Jim Webb and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.  The Act would “take the long-overdue step of creating a national, bi-partisan, blue-ribbon commission charged with undertaking a comprehensive, 18-month, top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice system and proposing concrete, wide-ranging reforms,” according to the resolution.

The marijauna bill will get “more [debate] in the media than on the floor of the House” but it’s still good to see, and may be something that people go back to if any state legalises in 2012 (international law aside, but that doesn’t seem to apply to the US).

I seem to remember writing about Webb’s bill last year, when nothing came of it, but I dearly hope that it gets somewhere.

 
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Posted at 9:49pm • Permalink  • Tags: marijuana prohibition crime drug policy ron paul

 


Poll: Brits consider current drug policies ineffective but still wary of change

A new drugs policy poll has popped up to get in the way of my sleep and work.

Good news for drug policy reform:

  • Only 11% believe current government’s approach to illegal drugs is very or fairly effective; 53% say ineffective.
  • Only 8% agree that “It is possible to eliminate drugs completely from our society: that is, to stop everyone, or almost everyone, from using drugs”.
  • 59% say drug users “should be treated as people who may need treatment and other forms of support”, vs 31% who agree they “should be treated as criminals and brought before the courts”.
  • 60% agreed that there’d be benefits to legalisation (30% said none), which I think is a very encouraging sign compared to the reluctance of politicians to discuss pros and cons.


On the other hand:

  • 40% believe that “all illegal drugs are much the same”. 54% agreed that “distinctions should be made between more and less harmful illegal drugs” but still…
  • Despite the majority saying that the criminal justice system is not the right place for drug users, there was no such support for the scary word that is “decriminalisation”.
  • Only 34% (or is that a lot?) want one or more drugs legalised.*


* But as I’ve said before “should this be ‘legalised’, yes/no?” may not be a good question as it leaves the post-legalisation world to the person’s dark imagination. When setting out what regulations could be used, another survey found 70% in favour of either strict or light regulation of marijuana.

I also think it’s fair to criticise the wording used here. Legalisation is defined in the survey as “make possession and use of them legal” but that sounds more like “decriminalisation” than a legal market. Meanwhile, the numbers of those unsupportive of decriminalisation must include some who would prefer legalisation or who were put off by the suggestion of monetary fines. I’d be very interested to know who commissioned this survey.

Other observations:

  • Interestingly, younger people are much more likely than their elders to judge the government’s approach to drugs as effective and to consider a drug-free world possible, and yet much less likely than the over-60s to think all drugs are much the same.
  • A few comparable results from 2006 are included, showing negligible change in views about eliminating all drug use and about courts vs treatment.
  • 14% think Cheryl Cole should re-join Girls Aloud
  • There are some clear gender and regional differences in views but they’re more complicated than I’d expected.
  • I’ll blog about the breakdown by voting intention separately, as I imagine few care except me and people I know. In short, the prize goes to Liberal Democrat voters.
  • Raw results available here.
 


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Posted at 9:58am • Permalink  • Tags: prohibition marijuana
Reblogged (Link reblogged from fuckyeahdrugpolicy)

 



This week’s Economist-YouGov poll contains some exciting news… A huge majority of Americans, more than two to one once don’t knows have  been excluded, support the legalisation and taxation of marijuana. Even  without excluding the don’t knows, a clear majority favours treating  the drug equivalently to tobacco and alcohol. … If our poll is right, then it can only be a matter of time before laws start to change, at least in the more liberal states.

This week’s Economist-YouGov poll contains some exciting news… A huge majority of Americans, more than two to one once don’t knows have been excluded, support the legalisation and taxation of marijuana. Even without excluding the don’t knows, a clear majority favours treating the drug equivalently to tobacco and alcohol. … If our poll is right, then it can only be a matter of time before laws start to change, at least in the more liberal states.

Posted at 9:49pm • Permalink  • Tags: cannabis prohibition war on drugs marijuana prop19