A Greener TomorrowBy Jasen T. Davis
Update: The Marijuana Policy Project dissects the next step for MMJ and legalization victories in 2014 and beyond
Last month, Colorado and Washington made history when voters showed their support for this country’s first two examples of state-level legalization of cannabis for adults 21 and over. More than 50 percent of each state’s populations went to the polls to cast their ballot in support of a common-sense approach to the plant.
However, as much as Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 stand poised to reshape the way our country’s leaders shape cannabis policy, the plant remains illegal at the federal level.
What does this all mean for the future of medical cannabis? Rob Kampia, executive director and co-founder of the Washington D.C.-based, Marijuana Policy Project, spoke with CULTURE about these recent positive developments and what we can look forward to in the coming years.
So, how were Washington and Colorado able to pass legalization measures?
Kampia believes the laws got changed because the alternatives had failed. “The voters felt that cannabis prohibition has not worked,” he says. Advocates of cannabis legalization did their best to show voters there were other cheaper and safer options.
“Our Washington campaign was called ‘A New Approach,’” Kampia adds. Other states could soon end up following in Colorado and Washington’s legalization footsteps, he says. Plus, with Massachusetts being the latest state to approve medical cannabis laws, the compassionate family is expected to grow.
“The MPP and other organizations are going to try to pass similar medical marijuana initiatives in Idaho in 2014,” Kampia says. “California is also at the top of the [legalization] list in 2016 along with Oregon, Maine and Massachusetts.”
Will these initiatives succeed? It’s a matter of financing, he says.
“It really depends on how much money the four campaigns have to throw around,” Kampia explains.
Two other bills rolling around Congress could also change the way the laws treat cannabis. One bill, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act (HR 1983) is simple. “That law would allow states to determine their own medical marijuana policies without federal interference,” Kampia says. At that point, the DEA and the FBI would be kicked out of the process to let growers, dispensary operators and distributors operate in peace.
Though it would be rendered moot if HR 1983 passes, another proposed bill, States’ Medical Marijuana Property Right Protection Act (HR 6335), would prevent the DEA and Department of Justice from seizing property when they raid medical cannabis dispensaries and facilities.
“HR 1983 sounds promising, but it’s going to be a while,” Kampia says. “There’s a lot of support for it in the House, but it hasn’t been heard in a committee so there has been no vote for it.”
To Kampia, the real problem is that elected officials have always been slow to adapt to the changing needs and beliefs of the people they govern (just check out Obama’s “evolving” stance on same-sex marriage). “Politicians are always behind when it comes to social issues,” he says. “They also tend to be more conservative, because they are older and nervous about casting votes for controversial bills in public.”
Until HR 2306 becomes law, the real key is to get more congressional support by legalizing cannabis (medical or adult-use) in more states.
“It’s only a matter of time.”
The Ultimate Bill
While some would argue there’s no silver bullet to ending cannabis prohibition with one decisive blow . . . there is one bill that seeks to do just that. It’s called the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act (HR 2306), but it’s not up for vote until 2016. Is that a reason to hope? Marijuana Policy Project executive director and co-founder Matt Kampia says that the outlook should be positive.
“HR 2306 would just treat cannabis like alcohol throughout the country,” he explains. “It’s the ultimate bill . . . If that bill passes, states would just decriminalize everything and our work would be essentially over.”