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Nov. 1, 2012 02:58

75 Years of Prohibition—Is the End Really in Sight?

Although Nixon’s War on Drugs began in the 1970s, on Oct. 1, 1937 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Marihuana Tax, which criminally outlawed the possession and cultivation of cannabis—setting in motion the federal government’s foray into the criminal enforcement of marijuana laws which continues unabated today.

As a result, there are approximately 850,000 arrests a year and there have been more than 20 million arrests since 1965 (See FBI annual Uniform Crime Report). Not only is the human cost high for this failed war, but so is the financial one. In California alone, experts conservatively estimate marijuana is approximately a $4-$6 billion dollar industry. Nationally, marijuana is the fourth or fifth largest cash crop. Furthermore, enforcement of marijuana related crimes cost approximately $10-$15 billion dollars a year. Therefore, considering the cost of enforcement, the United States would enjoy a boost of approximately $30-$40 billion dollars a year if marijuana were legalized. In this economy, who can ignore those numbers?

Thankfully, Americans are finally wising up. For the first time ever, the majority of American people favor replacing the failed war on marijuana with legalization and regulation. Seventeen states have enacted medical marijuana laws and 14 have decriminalized it. That means that nearly one-third of Americans live in a city or state where marijuana is either decriminalized or medicalized.

Most exciting, though, is that on Nov. 6, voters in Colorado, Oregon and Washington will decide whether to allow for the limited legalization of cannabis for adults. According to the latest polls, voters in Colorado and Washington appear ready to take this historic step, while Oregonians remain closely divided on the issue.

Progress In Federal Court. Last month marked another exciting landmark on the federal level. For the first time in decades, a federal appeals court agreed to hear arguments surrounding the reclassification of marijuana. Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic—a drug without medical use and with a high potential for abuse. As a Schedule 1, its high classification puts marijuana in the same category as heroin and in a more restrictive category than cocaine, morphine or methamphetamine.

During oral arguments, the DEA argued that not enough science exists to demonstrate a medical benefit and that marijuana is the most highly used drug in the U.S., and thus its potential for abuse is self-evident. ASA countered by presenting hundreds and hundreds of scientific studies to the contrary. News reports indicate that the judges and the audience appeared unmoved by the DEA’s excuses that the science is lacking to demonstrate a medical benefit.

Although the appellate court will probably not rule on removing marijuana from the restrictive Schedule I status. It could, however, order the DEA to take a more in-depth look at the available evidence. If this happens, marijuana could be classified as a potentially useful drug that can be safely used under medical supervision.

The Feds Refuse Reform. Amidst all of this progress, the U.S. Attorney General has been clear that even if voters legalize marijuana in one of these three states, the Obama administration will continue to enforce federal law. Similarly frustrating, the federal government is cracking down on dispensaries in Southern California. It gave 71 dispensaries in L.A. until late October to close their doors, “or else.” So here we are, two steps forward and one step back.

To ensure we continue this battle forward, get involved today and we will see the end of prohibition.

Attorney Meital Manzuri is a medical marijuana 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.
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