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How will the US federal government respond to Colorado and Washington state having legalized (limited) marijuana possession?

On November 6, 2012 the US states Colorado and Washington voted to legalize possession of limited amounts of marijuana. While, just as in the Netherlands, these states have still not fully legalized the grwoing, selling, owning and smoking of marijuana in the way that alcohol and tobacco are treated these states have set historic precedents, both in a legal sense and because a majority of the population spoke out in favor of legalization, and they are now heading for a confrontation with the US federal government. What do you think will the federal government's response be? We know president Obama is ambiguous on the issue, but he has "evolved" on the issue of gay marriage and finally embraced it and there are powerful figures within the administration (like vice president Joe Biden) and law enforcement who support legalization while polls indicate a majority of Americans favor legalization. Do you believe the Obama administration will come down hard on Colorado and Washington or do you believe that it will either come out in support of legalization or say they will leave it up to the states?

Topics: marijuana
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    Nov 7 2012: considering how the US government sought to solve problems in the past, i would recommend to try drone attacks
  • Nov 11 2012: they should do nothing, stay out of it and mind their own business of sinking the country.
    they will do something however
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    Nov 9 2012: David, it is true that I have never heard anyone argue that marijuana use promotes violent behavior in the user. I don't know anything about the relative effect on driving safety. I imagine you may have friends who could make such a comparison anecdotally and that there could be some research.
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      Nov 10 2012: Nope... I write emotionally and try to entertain, but usually my main point is backed up by relevant peer reviewed scientific data. You can find a great abstract here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722956/?tool=pubmed

      I would highlight "Surprisingly, given the alarming results of cognitive studies, most marijuana-intoxicated drivers show only modest impairments on actual road tests.37, 38 Experienced smokers who drive on a set course show almost no functional impairment under the influence of marijuana, except when it is combined with alcohol.39

      Many investigators have suggested that the reason why marijuana does not result in an increased crash rate in laboratory tests despite demonstrable neurophysiologic impairments is that, unlike drivers under the influence of alcohol, who tend to underestimate their degree of impairment, marijuana users tend to overestimate their impairment, and consequently employ compensatory strategies. Cannabis users perceive their driving under the influence as impaired and more cautious,40 and given a dose of 7 mg THC (about a third of a joint), drivers rated themselves as impaired even though their driving performance was not; in contrast, at a BAC 0.04% (slightly less than two “standard drinks” of a can of beer or small 5 oz. glass of wine; half the legal limit in most US states), driving performance was impaired even though drivers rated themselves as unimpaired.41 Binge drinkers are particularly likely to rate themselves as unimpaired, possibly because they tend to become less sedated by high doses of alcohol
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        Nov 10 2012: I thought there might be research on this subject.

        When I was in college, there certainly was a lot of marijuana use going on but no driving that I remember. No one had a car where I went to school.
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    Nov 8 2012: Obama will do nothing about it. He likes status quo.

    The drug war is profitable, as are all wars. In 1980, 1 in 27 children had a parent in jail. Today, thanks to the drug war, one in 7 children and 1 in 4 black children have a parent in jail/prison. 80% of these are in for simple possession (not with any attached gun or other charges) It is not uncommon for someone arrested for simple possession to have a longer sentence than a murderer. These prisoners are great slave labor and the government and other major corporations rely on that labor where inmates are paid either nothing or between 60-80 cents per hour. That's cheaper than the Chinese slave labor.

    Obama, though against legalization of pot, is also not pushing pot elimination in the streets (such as in CA). The feds depend on the states for enforcement. Their attention is to growing the black market along with all of the ensuing crime that puts more people in prison.
    • Nov 9 2012: "Obama will do nothing about it. He likes status quo."

      That may be true, but with public support for legalization growing and his vice president being in favor of legalization it may be interesting to think about how much trouble Obama is willing to go through to maintain the status quo.
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        Nov 10 2012: Obama will do whatever is politically expedient for his party - whatever that means at any given time. But in that regard, he is no different from the other bums
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        Nov 10 2012: The causal link between schizophrenia, and marijuana, has been greatly discredited. Most in depth research is finding it far more likely that schizophrenia causes long term heavy marijuana use, as a form of self medication... but you are right, there is still evidence on both sides, and it is a subject of debate. To be fair though, I believe heavy alcohol use has the same correllation with schizophrenia.
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      Nov 7 2012: I have not looked this up, but I would guess that many states, including these two, already provide students with information about marijuana, tobacco, alcohol and so forth as part of their health classes. As students dabble in these anyway, legal for them or not, it would absolutely not be prudent not to educate them in these areas.
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          Nov 8 2012: Well, I would guess that other developed countries do not offer superior marijuana-related education. There is no reason that that would be correlated with the quality of, say, math education.

          I am curious as to the "great benefits" that you expect.
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        Nov 8 2012: I remember health class in the 60s. The teacher, after talking about the bad effects of pot and alcohol - especially in undeveloped minds, said that if you are going to be so stupid as to smoke pot or drink alcohols, do NOT mix them. Pot is a "downer" and so is alcohol. Putting them together is dangerous.

        I remember that class these many years later. I also remember, after trying pot in college, how much respect I lost for all of those who had lied to me about pot.

        Not teaching about pot is like not teaching sex-ed. those states that do not teach sex-ed have the highest teen pregnancy rates. Those that do have the lowest. Education is never a bad thing.
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          Nov 8 2012: Health class has changed a lot since the sixties, I believe, and information has improved. Fears are much reduced.

          In Washington State, police chiefs and former police chiefs were some of the most avid and articulate spokespeople for legalization. That would not have been true when you were in health class, I think.
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        Nov 9 2012: Most health classes still teach disinformation about marijuana, rather than information. In health class I was taught that it was a "gateway drug" which leads to hard drugs. I was taught that it is physically addictive. It makes you hallucinate, causes schitzophenia... and all sorts of other nonsense, proven false by numerous psychological studies, long before my health textbooks were written.

        You can read about the Shafer Commission if you're interested. A teaser from wiki

        On March 22, 1972, the Commission's chairman, Raymond P. Shafer, presented a report to Congress and the public entitled "Marijuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding," which favored ending marijuana prohibition and adopting other methods to discourage use.

        The Commission's report acknowledged that, decades earlier, “the absence of adequate understanding of the effects of the drug” combined with “lurid accounts of [largely unsubstantiated] ‘marijuana atrocities” greatly affected public opinion and labeled the stereotypical user as “physically aggressive, lacking in self-control, irresponsible, mentally ill and, perhaps most alarming, criminally inclined and dangerous.” However, the Commission found that the drug typically inhibited aggression “by pacifying the user… and generally produc[ed] states of drowsiness, lethargy, timidity and passivity.”

        After the Commission's widespread study and analysis, it concluded that "Looking only at the effects on the individual, there, is little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis."

        To this the honorable Richard Nixon responded "That's a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob, what is the matter with them? I suppose it's because most of them are psychiatrists"... possibly the single dumbest thing ever said by a human being, let alone president.
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          Nov 9 2012: That's amazing that you were taught these things, what 15 years ago in California!

          I will have to ask my three kids, two of whom are slightly younger than you are and one much younger, whether they learned that marijuana is a hallucinagen or causes schizophrenia.

          By now too many legislators, parents, and other decision-makers know these claims to be false.

          I remember that in the sixties and seventies when marijuana use was widespread that there were popular fears of its being a gateway drug. I don't know that there ever was an "honorable" Richard Nixon.
        • Nov 9 2012: Actually cannabis can cause schizophrenia after years of heavy use, that doesn't make it more dangerous than alchool or cigarettes (which is the real issue, as long as alcohol and tobacco are legal) which will give you liver cirrhoses and lung cancer, respectively, but it's simply not true that cannabis causing schizophrenia has been proven false. It is howver possible the research done in the 60s and earlier was not of sufficient quality to conclude that cannabis causes schizophrenia and was therefore considered unscientific in the 1970s, but recent research does show a link between prolonged cannabis use and schizophrenia.

          Anyway, "gateway drugs" probably don't exist at all, and if they do cannabis most certainly is not one of them, so you're right to consider claims to the contrary as baseless scaremongering.

          I doubt cannabis will become the drug of choice for most people, working class or otherwise, because cannabis does not have the same effect on inhibitions as alcohol and its effect doesn't last nearly as long.
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        Nov 9 2012: As to great benefits... I don't know about that, but if I had to guess, as marijuana replaces alcohol as the drug of choice for working class people, there will be much less violence, and car accidents.
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    Nov 7 2012: I don't know what they WILL do, but I know what I believe they SHOULD do. I believe they should commit to ending prohibition of marijuana and industrial hemp nationwide and fairly regulate and tax it. I also believe that an educational campaign should take place to educate the public on what marijuana IS and what it IS NOT. I would like to think that they will jump on the chance to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities legalization brings with it. I also think that if the Federal government came out in support of it, many of the states would as a result.