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August 4, 2012

New astute articles on the modern realities of pot politics, policies and practices

GOV-august-2012-coverAnyone following closely discussions and debates over marijuana policy (which is a sentencing law and policy issue in so many ways) can and should find time to read these terrific recent articles on the topic:

Both of these pieces present effective and sober assessments of the state of pot politics, policies and practices circa summer 2012. Both also highlight the degree to which state marijuana policies and practices will always be significantly (and unduly?) shaped by federal marijuana policies and practices. Here is a small excerpt from the first piece to that point:

Colorado’s evolution reflects the broader lessons states have learned in the decade and a half since California became the first state to approve medical cannabis in 1996. In that time, California has gained a reputation as something of the Wild West for weed: no state regulatory model, notoriously lax enforcement and an undefined set of prescription criteria that makes obtaining a medical marijuana card little more than a wink-wink formality.  But as more states have legalized medical marijuana -- today it’s legal to some degree in 17 states plus the District of Columbia -- a more tightly controlled approach seems to be emerging. Ten states and D.C. have set up a system of authorized dispensaries, and 16 states have outlined specific conditions for which medical marijuana can be used.  Even California has considered reining things in: Lawmakers moved this summer to develop the state’s first comprehensive licensing and permitting structure.

But no matter how controlled a state’s medical marijuana policy may be, federal law still bans the cultivation, distribution and possession of marijuana for any purpose.  The Obama administration has stated that it will not prosecute patients, but growers and distributors in medical marijuana states have still been targeted by multiple federal agencies, including the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  Medical marijuana businesses continue to operate in a legal gray zone.  “In any other business, if you fail, you file for bankruptcy and move on.  If you fail in this business, you go to jail,” says Arbelaez, a patient himself and a former attorney who moved to Denver from New Orleans in 2009.  “The one thing I can hold onto is complete compliance.  The Colorado legal code is our only line of defense.  It’s the only way to show regulation is better than prohibition.”

The Governing magazine also has these related articles for its August 2012 issue:

August 4, 2012 at 07:27 AM | Permalink

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