The End of Prohibition in Two States!By Meital Manzuri
By now, we have all celebrated the victories of legalization in Colorado and in Washington, but what do those victories mean for Californians and the rest of America? Is this the beginning of a state-by-state trend to end prohibition?
Yes, that is how federal prohibition of alcohol ended and we are headed the same way. Today, polls show nationwide support for cannabis legalization, voters in two states have passed legalization measures, 18 states have MMJ laws on the books and a partridge in a pear tree! With all this, expect to see more states jumping on board! Experts also say that we expect to see more public support from members of Congress and other elected officials. These once-closeted MMJ-supporting politicians are starting to realize that there’s political opportunity in getting in front of this issue.
Why were Colorado and Washington successful, and how we can learn from them?
1. Better timing and a better political climate. I could bore you to death with legal jargon, but the bottom line is Colorado created medical cannabis laws that were written more practically and, because of this, it had an existing MMJ environment in which voters trusted and supported cannabis policies. This was not the case in California where MMJ laws continue to leave voters feeling deceived.
2. Colorado allows for the taxation of legalized marijuana to give back to the community financially. The new law dedicates the first $40 million in annual tax revenue to the public school capital construction assistance fund. In this economy, that is a no-brainer!
Where things stand in California
Sorry, my fellow justice fighters, California is no longer the pack leader in marijuana policy. We can do one of two things in this situation:
1. Be disappointed by our failure and continue to take a backseat approach to these issues or 2. Take the opportunity to learn from Washington and Colorado and use the next two years to create policies that best fit our state and needs.
In the mean time, dispensaries can be compared to modern day speakeasies because they are illegal according to federal prosecutors in California who say nothing has changed as far as they are concerned.
The Million-Dollar Question: How will the federal government react? The overall silence from the Obama administration indicates an understanding of the dynamics surrounding this issue. The President has an opportunity to make good on his previous promises to let states set their own cannabis policies without federal interference.
Though it will likely leave individual users alone, we may see the federal government flex its muscles (and undermine the will of the majority of voters by doing so), once Washington and Colorado seek to implement a statewide regulatory framework for commercial production and sale of cannabis.
In Colorado, the feds have, by and large, left dispensaries alone. That may mean that they will do the same when it comes to the distribution of recreational marijuana. The more aggressive approach in California, though, keeps us all guessing on whether the feds will circumvent the will of the people or not.
Finally it is time for elected officials to respect the voice of the voters. The majority of Americans now agree that regulation allowing for the limited, licensed production and sale of cannabis to adults best reduces the risks associated with its use or abuse. This is a far superior policy than that of criminalization and blanket prohibition.
Attorney Meital Manzuri is a medical cannabis expert, collective consultant and experienced criminal defense attorney. Those with questions about starting a collective or interested in scheduling a free consultation can call (310) 601-3140 or go to manzurilaw.com.