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History was made this week- "the first time a full house in a state legislature approved legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana for all adults." In other good news, Floridians will have the chance to vote on medical marijuana this year!

Washington, D.C. is also poised to decrim marijuana soon, to go along with their recent implementation of a medical marijuana program.

As many marijuana activists have been noting for some time now (myself included), Alcohol Prohibition was felled state-by-state, not with one fell swoop from a President's pen. By the time FDR signed the dotted line on re-legalizing beer, many states had already changed their own laws. While the apathetic cynics bleated that marijuana reform was hopeless because politics in D.C. is hopeless (and it is), the truth was that states themselves would need to make the first move (along with municipalities).

And in just a few short years, what was once a goal is becoming reality. State by state, we are changing the law, culture, and political possibilities.

Many of us were here blogging a few years ago, even in the Bush Years, about how elections could be WON using cannabis. This was at a time when the mere mention of drug reform by candidates was seen as death (keep in mind that even 'liberal' cities like san fran and LA have pursued multiple crackdowns on pot dispensaries]. Now it's 2014, and when hannah montana is smoking pot on stage at mtv awards shows, it's clearly not that scary anymore.

Back when Prop 19 failed in California, advocates looked to be disorganized, divided, and (in the case of Prop 19) prone to conspiracy theories. I still remember going to a Gary Johnson rally (ha) in 2008 at the downtown Los Angeles Cannabis Fest to see a "broad coalition" working on behalf of Prop 19. I also remember the finger-pointing and confusion after Prop 19 lost (in a presidential election, when its chances were best). [Even as we speak there's almost half a dozen competing ballot initaitves for CA in 2014. Seriously people, what the hell.] Obama had appointed a drug warrior to lead the DEA in the war against marijuana, and a few of his handpicked federal prosecutors took it upon themselves to crusade against medical pot, even after Eric Holder claimed the DOJ wasn't interested in those cases in states with mmj (unless they were violating state laws, and some of the raided dispensaries appear to not have done so). Things didn't look rosy for marijuana reform, as the horizon seemed full of speed bumps. But not anymore.

In Maine, PA, and Colorado, Democrats have grown balls to go along with their brains. Polls repeatedly indicate that re-legalizing cannabis is a winning vote in blue and purple states. I never tire of reminding people that pot got more votes than Obama in Colorado, and more votes than the Republican in CA's 2008 gubernatorial race. A former pot dispensary owner even became mayor of a city in California.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is on board, too-- California Attorney General: Legalizing Marijuana Would Save Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars A Year


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Over the years, we've been pointing out to the DNC that marijuana reform was a winning issue, not a liability.

The DNC finally woke up in 2012 and realized that the marijuana vote, while no silver bullet, was at least ONE strategy for energizing the lackluster youth vote (not to mention Independents).
Not too long ago, only a few voices (like that of Congressman Jared Polis , D-CO) in Congress would speak out strongly in favor of marijuana reform. But now it's practically trendy to come out in favor of reform. Exhibit A: Harry Reid has now jumped on the bandwagon.
Several Nevada municipalities are issuing moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries, but Harry Reid really thinks they should be moving in the opposite direction – toward making medicinal pot legal.

“If you’d asked me this question a dozen years ago, it would have been easy to answer – I would have said no, because (marijuana) leads to other stuff,” the Senate majority leader told the Sun today. “But I can’t say that anymore.”

“I think we need to take a real close look at this,” Reid went on. “I think that there’s some medical reasons for marijuana.”

We are now seeing the truth finally manifest itself in politics. Ever since the UCSD study that effectively decoupled the medical and recreational effectsof marijuana several years ago, it seems inevitable that the medical argument in favor of marijuana would defeat the anti-mmj propagandists.

But not all Democrats get it. The historic bill to legalize pot in New Hampshire is already stymied by a Democratic Governor who has promised to kill the measure for her own personal reasons, and not for scientific or medical reasons (because that's democracy is about, imposing your personal opinion on a populace). Nevermind the pesky fact that 60% of her constituents want marijuana reform. Nevermind the fact that  even NH prison officials  are calling for legalization of cannabis.  Even Democrats in the NH legislature are still stuck in Reefer Madness:

Opponents of the bill say marijuana poses a public health risk and shouldn’t be legal. Rep. William Butynski (D-Hinsdale) said the House should wait to see how marijuana legalization pans out in Colorado and Washington state.

“Please use common sense. Be patient. Protect our children,” he said.

I'm not sure how giving your children a criminal record and prison time for choosing to use a safer substance than alcohol is protecting them from anything except future employment opportunities and happy lives. But then again, the politics of marijuana have always been the politics of affliction disguised as 'concern for children.' That's why hypocrites like Steve Katz vote against marijuana, even as they are caught by police in possession of it.

But there's also Democrats who get it that are running for office in Maine and PA. Take PA gubernatorial candidate John Hangar, for instance. He's calling for legalization and pointedly linking marijuana laws to the schools-to-prisons pipeline in Philly and PA, andgetting support  from the Democratic base. This comes at a time when Philly is closing schools even as a new $400 million prisonis being constructed.

Meanwhile, even down here in the reddest of red states (Alabama), we have some of the harshest marijuana laws in the nation, worse even than Mississippi (which has enacted a limited form of decrim). The prison chief here says current policies aren't working, and acop visited our governor personally to lobby for medical marijuana to save his daughter's life.

More prison beds and increased paroles would be great, but the long-term solution to reducing Alabama's swollen inmate population must include changes in sentencing laws, Corrections Commissioner Donal Campbell said Friday.

Otherwise, he said, the state's inmate population will continue to grow.

"As long as we have the laws that we have today, it's not going to change," Campbell said during an interview with The Associated Press.

Just over a year into office, Campbell has become well versed in the statistics that paint a staggering picture of overcrowding in Alabama's prisons. The prison population has skyrocketed from about 5,500 inmates two decades ago to more than 28,000 presently - all crammed into lockups built to hold fewer than half that many people.

Change is coming.
One such state could be Texas, which opted not to build new prisons about 5 years ago. Instead, the state improved its probation and parole systems and in-prison reform programs. They saved over $3 billion dollars by not building new prisons and saw their crime rate hit its lowest point in a half century.

North Carolina is another state that achieved a significant reduction in its prison population by prioritizing space for violent offenders, strengthening probation and parole supervision and sending low-level drug offenders to drug courts.

Katherine Robertson of the Alabama Policy Institute said it best, “(Our) leaders must act to improve and expand alternatives to incarceration for low-risk and nonviolent offenders to ensure that costly prison space is focused on those who pose a long-term threat to our public safety, not those we are simply mad at.”

Word on the street is that Vermont and Maryland are going to introduce legislation this year to legalize marijuana. Meanwhile-- Maine Could Elect The First Senator To Support Legalizing Marijuana :
Shenna Bellows, the Democratic candidate for the 2014 Maine Senate race, calls herself a progressive and a libertarian. A former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, Bellows supports bold action on climate change, a higher minimum wage, and less government surveillance. She is also the most prominent Senate candidate to boast her support for legalizing marijuana during a campaign.

Bellows faces a very tough road. In November polling, her opponent Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) remained among the top five most popular senators in the country, with a 61-percent approval rating.

Perhaps because of this, Bellows isn’t interested in avoiding controversy or tough questions. In the past, positions that could be considered soft-on-crime were the third rail for political candidates.

We should also never forget that our backwards drug laws are DIRECTLY responsible for thousands of deaths in Mexico. I've seen and blogged varying estimates of how much legalization would impact cartel profits. One recent estimate: "Mexican analyst Alejandro Hope estimated that the Sinaloa Cartel stands to lose up to half of its profits from legalization in Colorado, Oregon and Washington alone."

So for those Republicans and Democrats who think pot policy is just about "kids who want to get high", they might want to spend more time looking at Mexico. Or looking at how the War on Drugs by the USA in Afghanistan failed just as miserably as it did domestically, despite the loss of blood and treasure by the American people, according to a recent report released.. People are dying around the globe because of our stupid drug policies, and marijuana is an easy fix we can make. Now.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to BikingForKarma on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 01:16 PM PST.

Also republished by DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform.

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