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russell lester

Orchardist, Grange

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Debate: Washington state's legalization of marijuana

Yesterday in WA state I-502 was passed. What are the pros and cons as you see them of this act? What should the federal government do?

In plain language, here is what Initiative 502 will do:

This law legalizes the possession of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. The only marijuana that would be legal to sell in this state would be grown by specially-licensed Washington farmers and sold in standalone, marijuana-only stores operated by private Washington businesses licensed and regulated by the state. There would be a 25% sales tax, with 40% of the new revenues going to the state general fund and local budgets, and the remainder dedicated to substance-abuse prevention, research, education and health care. Advertising would be restricted. A new marijuana DUI standard that operates like the alcohol DUI standard would be established.

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Closing Statement from russell lester

So far the biggest change I have personally seen is that their are more people open about their use of pot, and to tell the truth a general improvement in mood and communication. Some of my friends have reacted with a powerful pro democracy sentiment that was absent in them prior to the passage by this state of legal recreational pot use and gay marriage, a strong identification with Washington State and unprecedented loyalty to the state. There remains a lot of curiosity as to the Federal response and to the longer term effects. What if for example this has the unintended consequence of affecting the federal supremacy of law? I am very grateful to all who contributed and read this conversation thank you.

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    Nov 17 2012: It is difficult to comprehend each side of the argument, as there are so many lies, so much propaganda, and so many pro- legalization groups spewing out both of the aforementioned. Then there is the Government (UK) which has labeled it a class B drug due to the mental health concerns which appear unfounded.
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    Nov 14 2012: Here's how it works:
    Why do you criminalise a behaviour when it is known that it will not stop the behaviour?
    There are 2 main reasons:
    1. It is popular in a significant section of the electorate who do not understand that criminalisation will not work. I.E. to get votes.
    2. It creates a business opportunity to capture a monopoly supply - there is no anti-trust mechanism for criminal activity.

    So then, why would a government de-criminalise something?

    1. The electorate has learned that criminalisation has failed to stop the behaviour - and there are no more votes in it.
    2. The criminal organisation that holds the monopoly has become too powerful for the state to control. So you bring it back into the house.

    Do not fool yourself that governments don't do this kind of thing all the time. For every unavoidable behaviour criminalised ther is a warlord enjoying monopoly supply - these guys sit around the table with governments and trade illegal favours and maintain power hierachies. In this way, govenments are able to govern by proxy in areas that the voter is not aware of the shaddow government that operates outside of the common law.

    California would have 2 big issues with this law change:
    1. Assasination would be a real risk - no warlord will go down without a fight. Perhapse the dope warlord has already been killed to pathe the way.
    2. Electoral considerations have to be totally risk-evaluated. The mood of the electorate would need to be polled very carefully so as not to provoke backlash.
  • Nov 12 2012: Why did it take so damn long. Honestly look how legalizing liquor inproved society, and no one seemed to believe that the same should be done for weed.
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    Nov 11 2012: Hi Russell,

    Controversial topic for some. There is usually a lot of misinformation regarding drugs, who uses them and why. There is also the irrational (and mostly unfounded) fear that legalization will lead to a widespread use and total decadence in society

    Two things come to mind every time i hear the drug legalization debate

    First, let's look at the experience in this country during the prohibition. Do we see any parallels there? organized crime taking advantage of the fact that established businesses could not supply a product that had demand. The forced "scarcity" drove prices up making these illegal sales even more profitable. The subsequent violence triggered by the fierce competition between these groups, and the inevitable collateral damage

    Did the USA descend into chaos and decadence after the prohibition ended?

    The second example is more recent. In 2001 Portugal decided to decriminalize all drugs. This included marijuana, cocaine, heroine, etc. They did it in a peculiar way. They decriminalized the purchase, possession and consumption, they established a limit corresponding to 10 days or personal use, (defined more specifically in the law)

    They did not use the term "legalization", instead they changed it from a crime into an administrative violation. The key concept was to remove this drug purchase, possession and consumption from the context of criminal law

    Almost 10 years later, there was a study by the Cato institute, following up on the consequences of this decriminalization. I would invite you to read it. Suffices to say that Portugal did not become the drug mecca, nor drug consumption skyrocketed. As a matter of fact, drug consumption remained the same or even decreased a little, and the deaths and transmission of viral diseases went down dramatically, rehabilitation rates went up significantly too

    I think that we must stop demonizing, we should be skeptic about doomsday scenarios, and we should let people be individually responsible

    cheers
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    Nov 10 2012: During a plane ride I was on shortly after California legalized cannabis, I happened to sit next to an executive of a major pharmaceutical, who will remain nameless. He told me that they had plans "on the shelf" to deploy high quality cannabis as an over the counter medication that anyone could pick up. Of course, being a pharma, it would be all processed and pill form, and that's a whole other issue. But I thought that was fascinating, and I wonder how that would play in the whole larger market.

    One of the amazing things about Cannabis is that it is extra-ordinarily cheap and easy (and fun) to grow large amounts of high quality herb for personal use in your own backyard or inside your closet. I think that's just one of numerous medicinally useful plants that many people could and perhaps should grow themselves.

    Anyone who researches the history of the anti-cannabis movement in the early part of the 20th century will quickly see that it originated from lies and greed. Refer Madness is a classic example of our government lies and propaganda machine focused on its own citizens. It's so farcical that it's actually played as a form of comedy today.

    Our country went through 13 years of the so-called era of "Prohibition" (1920-1933), during which we made alcoholic beverages a crime. Our current era of cannabis prohibition stretches back over 70 years. Being so much longer, it's probably going to harder for society to adjust back to the way things always were before cannabis got banned in the first place.
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      Nov 10 2012: How would this scenario take you. In the morning you get up, put the coffee on, smell the rich aroma wafting up and then load the shot inhaler with a spot or decide to take it old style and smoke it, i had guys work for me who, if they smoked gave more of themselves than they would if they didn't but the reality is is that the majority loses focus while on the job and red eyed guys while on site doesn't sit well with the clients. I used to be a social smoker until i realized i was getting to the point where i was going out and actually looking for it, I'm not against it but let's hope that the law states that it can only be used within your domicile only.
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        Nov 11 2012: I just read a story on Yahoo news that was a Q and A about the law that just passed in Washington State. The law is evidently that an employer who learns that you are a user of marijuana CAN still fire you, even if the drug is legal.

        Beyond this, just as a workplace does not need to allow tobacco smoking on site, a workplace obviously would not need to allow marijuana smoking on site.

        http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Washington-marijuana-law-Answers-to-I-502-4021918.php
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        Nov 11 2012: I think some people will use any drug as a way to check out to avoid a deeper pain in their lives. Others can handle it. Yet others get a true medicinal value from it. Whether it was pot or something else, I think some people will find anything to abuse and then they check out. They would likely become psychologically addicted, as they would to whatever they were using to numb a personal pain.

        Certainly many people do this with alcohol. To modify your scenario, there are real people who will put the coffee on and have a bloody mary while they're waiting.

        And even more will have those multiple cigarettes in the morning. We know that this kills hundreds of thousands of people a year. Statistically, you are more likely to have an employee that is addicted to cigarettes and then gets cancer and dies, or drinks too much after work and then crashes their car into someone else, as opposed to someone who smokes pot and either gives you more or less on the job.

        Comparing cannabis with alcohol and cigarettes, the toll on human life is significantly smaller with cannabis, according to all the available data I've seen. [If anyone has counter evidence I would love to see it!] I think it's hypocritical of us (society/government) to support the two most harmful substances while arresting people for the least most harmful.
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          Nov 12 2012: Those are two very real strong arguments that can't be denied, In my country they are powerful revenue generators for our government, Tax cigarettes and tobacco high and get the spinoff from those that can't give it up. We've allowed alcohol to be sold through small business outlets where we use to only have it sold by Pubs and special outlets, The area of my city where i live voted to keep it under the old system, This may seem strange to some but we don't have alcohol in our supermarkets.

          Drive to another part of our city and you see alcohol outlets on every corner and in every supermarket and now my small country has a drinking problem and our country tried to reform the bill that allowed it but was defeated by the power of the small businesses that the bill created, it was amazing to see my government give in citing how it impinged on the rights of the people to have access to entertainment, there was never ever a cause to stop access just limit the amount of licenses available. This in itself doesn't stop alcoholism but our stats has shown that by allowing alcohol outlets everywhere has shown a marked rise in alcohol consumption and a go-fast drinking culture. I would say Marijuana would be better sold by small business but not in alcohol shops, a limited amount of licenses for special outlets. It will be a great tax revenue source.

          EDIT

          As the Law states, it will free up police resource time.
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      Nov 11 2012: Refer Madness was played as comedy in the 60s as well, wasn't it?
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    Nov 9 2012: This conversation will align between those who love it and those who hate it. There are few inbetween. However, if you can seperate your emotions and discuss facts it could be productive.

    It is still a federal violation and the Feds sued Arizona (nothing new there) after the law passed here. Arizona is still in the federal crosshairs on that issue and the governor cannot get a answer from the feds on their intentions. However Washington is a blue state and may get a blessing from the feds.

    I do not know costs so bare with me. Say you pay $100 for XX amount and add a $25 tax add to that would be all of the operating costs that go with any business plus lisencing stock etc .... say 15 to 20 per cent per $100. So with all the costs in place the 100 dollar pax now runs close to $150.

    I understand that some people will play by the rules and will buy at the shops. Now there is a competative market do you not think that the dealers could not beat the price. I doubt they will walk away from big business.

    If crimes were being committed to purchase drugs prior to this new law why would you think that it will not continue.

    The state accepts that it will be abused and has set funds aside for substance abuse programs. The education part will probally be directed to minors which the state also acknowledges that the substance will become more readily available to minors as there is no longer a need to hide it. Anyone want to guess why health care was added. Duh.

    This presents a problem for employers. High hazzard areas, police, fire, heavy equipment, planes, you get the idea ..
    Not only will this endanger the person but I can envision the insurance for the projects and the employees will increase. Insurance agents are licking their lips.

    Rewrite laws, rules of evidence, and consequences. Much to do. Look for many changes in state law.

    I expect a lot of hits .. I am just pointing out that there are other concerns.

    Bob.
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    Nov 9 2012: A signicant victory for state's rights and for societal disintegration.
    • Nov 9 2012: State's rights? How on earth?? Apart from more taxes for the state. Societal disintegration? I must invite you to the Netherlands or even any country in Western Europe -- getting some is never a problem. The countries are far more civilized than the US -- by any secular measure.

      How about this being a victory for individual rights? Before this, the state said "no", and the sheeple had to follow.
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        Nov 9 2012: You don't see how state's rights enters in to this issue? Each state is a sovereign entity whose residents pledge allegiance to the Republic which is the federal government. The feds should not dictate to states in matters outside the rights granted to them by the Constitution. Washington and Colorado have exercised their rights as sovereign states. Bravo for them!
        However, the particular issue they chose is potentially most unfortunate. Data from the Netherlands and Portugal does not prove this new law will have the same effect in the USA. It is not valid to say because it worked there it will work here. The truth is we do not know what the overall impact will be. Based upon the effects of drug use I have personally observed I believe the end effect could well be negative.
        • Nov 9 2012: Ah... you meant US State... I had interpreted the term as "nation state". So, I agree with you on that.

          "Data from the Netherlands and Portugal does not prove this new law will have the same effect in the USA."
          Not just those two countries. It is fairly easy to get it in most of Western Europe. In the country I live in, which shall go unspecified, it is still illegal, but when the police catch users, (for example, when the party is to noisy) they typically do nothing. As for societies dealing with access, well... all these (including the US) are countries where the law enforcement is fairly effective (compared to most African or Asian countries). The people have reacted in fairly similar manners to similar circumstances, be it opening up everything or be it communism.
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        Nov 9 2012: I agree that the available evidence, however scant, supports the conclusion that legalization does not increase use, abuse or crime. However, good logic says we must allow for the same cause to have a different effect under different circumstances. That is all I'm saying based on my consistently negative experiences with dopers throughout the last 50 years. I just don't see how the legalization of recreational use will change that. Thanks!
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      Nov 9 2012: Edward

      It might do you some good to take up dope smoking in fighting Alzheimer s

      http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,218042,00.html
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        Nov 9 2012: I am not opposed to legitimate medical use of drugs. If I detect the onset of dementia I will look into weed. Also, if I detect the onset of dementia I will look into weed. By the way, fyi, if I detect the onset. . .
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          Nov 9 2012: Oh yea what were we talking about again..

          Ironic that a drug notorious for causing short term memory loss is supposed to be a cure for Alzheimer
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      Nov 10 2012: tell that to the mexican mob they are going out of 80% of the biz now we can get the ice and coke dealers
      if you thought about the 40 million smokers and the 50000 dead i think you would call a truce in this war
      taxes are going down revenue up
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        Nov 11 2012: Sorry Mr. Goldstein, I do not get your point. Can you dumb it down for me?
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    Gail . 50+

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    Nov 8 2012: .
    Pros:
    Black market with its violence goes away.
    Income stream improves
    Hard drug usage should decline of the Netherlands and Portugal are reliable evidence.
    State will be spending a lot less on prisons
    People will start making even better decisions because minds will open.

    Cons:
    • Nov 8 2012: Cons;
      The black market will not go away for those trying to profit in on this by selling the stuff tax free and unlimited by age.
      Hard drug use will not disappear.
      An open mind is not dependent on drugs, and an open mind is only beneficial when it's rational, not busy having a snack attack and hallucinating.

      Question;
      Anyone else find it ironic that substance abuse prevention will be one of the uses for the revenue?
      • Nov 9 2012: 1. Is there now a black market for selling tobacco and alcohol to under-aged people?
        2. "TED Lover" said "decline", not "disappear". How is this a Con?
        3. "TED Lover" did not say that only those using drugs have open minds. I don't use hallucinogens. I'm very open-minded about other people using it. As a society, when people learn that it's OK to use drugs (responsibly), they will become more open-minded and tolerant.

        "Anyone else find it ironic that substance abuse prevention will be one of the uses for the revenue?"
        Given that the US now has nationalized healthcare, NO. If the healthcare were a free industry, I would have found it ironic.
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        Nov 10 2012: "Anyone else find it ironic that substance abuse prevention will be one of the uses for the revenue?"

        No, that's the benefit of legal taxation. Currently, no taxes are paid, and non drug users, are forced to pay for the rehab of drug users. By taxing marijuana to pay for rehab programs it puts the responsibillity for rehab on users and dealers, rather than non users. I find it ironic, that people still find it ironic though.
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    Nov 8 2012: Pro: Substantial revenue stream for Uncle Sam. More users will use more. Suits Green movement.
    Con: Substantial revenue stream for Uncle Sam. More users will use more. Suits Rehab movement.
    • Nov 8 2012: "More users will use more."

      That's not what happened in the Netherlands.
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    Nov 8 2012: Russell, as you live in Washington, I imagine you are actually quite familiar with the pros and cons. Probably some of the pros include: 1)There is no reason to treat marijuana use differently in terms of legality than alcohol use, 2) Law enforcement resources are best spent on crimes with victims (note that there are already avenues in place for prosecuting matters like driving under the influence), 3) There is an expectation that legalizing marijuana could reduce the variety of dangerous activities of drug cartels to protect their markets. Cons:1) Probably a fear that legalizing marijuana will make it more readily available to minors than it is now 2)Like alcohol and cigarettes, it isn't good for you and some people might abuse it.
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    Nov 21 2012: actually legalization is neccessary for some people who have strong pain ilnesses .However this issue absolutely cause to abusement of the law even if strict regulations are applied... all in all it can be conccluded that I think this law is not innocent...
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    Nov 13 2012: The American History of marijuana/hemp is really quite interesting, and this article a must read to get a better idea of exactly who is behind it's prohibition.......
    http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-02-09/politics-hemp
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    Nov 12 2012: This article from the conservative zealot Fox News is worth a quick read just for the history of Mary Jane in America. I learned, for example, that it was once, up until fairly recently, legal. Any critical thinking Tedsters will find this at least worth fact checking:http://www.foxbusiness.com/government/2012/11/09/regulatory-catch-22-legalized-marijuana/
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      Nov 21 2012: I found the banking issue raised the only interesting problem in this article, and judging by the complete denial of reality in most of the other claims I would only expect that the banking problem to as well be a complete hoax.

      Legalization will not exacerbate drug-related crime unless it is done at a federal level, in which case there will be quite a mess at the Mexican boarder.

      Long-term use does not in fact lead to "brain changes that cause violent behavior".

      THC metabolites are common among criminals first, because marijuana is the most widely used drug besides alcohol and secondly, because those same metabolites are naturally occurring in the body.

      The Dutch may have seen recent declines in education (down to 7th in the world, while the US is 14th), but this in no way relates to marijuana consumption, as it should be noted that only 5% of Dutch nationals use marijuana, a much lower number than in the US.

      Also, rates of violent crimes in California around "marijuana clubs" rising...I could not find a single institution on Google promoting them selves as a "marijuana club".

      The quote about "not a danger because its illegal, its illegal because its a danger" is borne from the true fact that marijuana was feared because it was a Black drug. It is in fact the least harmful common drug we have.

      Sorry for quoting you. I feel like we probably agree on all of these issues, but that article saddened me quite a bit. I just cannot believe this is still going on and a man like Chris Williams from Montana is being sent to prison for a minimum of 80 years for running a state sanctioned grow house. As a single parent his child has been sent to state care. What do you tell that kid? As a neuroscience major it is just brutal to watch FOX's portrayal to the public.
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        Nov 21 2012: No, we do not agree. No apology needed for quoting me. Pro-dope folks argue vehemently for legalization and anti-dope folks (like me) argue for its continuing ban. My guess is we don't know. Overeating is bad, but it simply leads to bad health, not to more bad habits like crack, heroin, LSD, etc. The gateway argument seems to have some substance to it. Not many folks went straight to heroin. They started with MaryJane. I think that is sufficuent cause to continue prohibition. I am a conservative zealot and I appreciate FOX News very much as a way to balance the New York Times and MSNBC. I can't comment on Mr. Williams. Thank you!
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          Nov 21 2012: In light of nearly 50% of the prisoners in federal prisons, those prisoners who you pay to keep alive, being in for small possession charges, do you still think that the gateway argument holds up?

          In regards again to the gateway argument, I would contend that both tobacco and alcohol are equally, if not much more important, as gateway drugs.

          Also, can you speak to marijuana being a schedule 1 drug? Do you agree that:
          a) It is proven to be an addictive substance and
          b) It has no proven medical use
        • Nov 21 2012: Your gateway drug argument is so old and has been disproven many times. In a 1999 report to the US Congress, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences admits that there is no conclusive evidence that marijuana leads to other drug use.
          Its similar to saying that bicycle use as a teenager is a gateway habit to becomming a Hells Angel. Coorelation but not Causation.
          Then again - you get your news from Fox so you probably think you're up to date.
  • Nov 12 2012: Ok an oz of weed, the equilivent of a cigarette can put you in jail for a months. Yet people can buy and get High on as many Peracet as they want without fear of serious legal action.

    Second I know people who gotten high on a regular basis for years and not died from overdose. Yet people can easily die from overdose of Pain Killers. One bottle of Aspripin can apparently kill you. One bottle of weed in a container with same size and weight will not.
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    • Nov 12 2012: I can honestly say it's for political gain.

      One they will reduce illegal production and increase revenue with a very pricey license to farm. This will motivate people to keep the business running clean for fear of termination of license.

      Second the amount of crime goes down because people charged and in jail for drug trafficing weed. Will be released and charges removed. With new possiblities of employment

      Third businesses will be charge with a lot of taxes therefore helping the state government. Plus over years time the government will increase the tax to reduce the weed compsumption.

      Finally Police will still ticket and arrest people for smoking under the influence, and being under aged, and more importantly selling to people under the age.

      I don't have a problem with weed not because I belief it will truly improve your health nor do I believe it will cause people to become mentally retarded. To me smoking weed is like smoking cigarettes, they may not necessarily be good for your health, but they do take the stress away from everyday life. I say maybe unhealth because I haven't found unbias research.

      Main concern is who will regulate the Private washington Businesses that own the weed bar.
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    Nov 11 2012: A news article in the Arizona Republic yesterday stated that 24 doctors issued 80% of all user cards in our state.

    That is not news as everyone knows the doctors to go to for a work excuse, meds, etc ...

    The elephant in the room is still the Feds. They have repeatedly stated that it is against federal law and they will enforce that law. Has Washington received any feedback on that issue?
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      Nov 11 2012: I don't know about Washington, but here in California the feds are using tax loopholes to target the major dispensaries. They are not going after individuals. What I've heard - and this is not first hand, so rumor alert - I've heard that it's not Obama driving this, but other agencies within the Federal government that he has not yet chosen to spend political capital on changing. Post-election, that may or may not change. We'll have to see.

      I agree with you Robert. I think the biggest issue of all here, is the states rights issue. I think this has to end up in the supreme court. As far as I can see, the federal government is clearly violating the constitution here. Not that that's stopped them from violating other constitutional rights in the past.
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      Nov 11 2012: I concur with you Bob, feds will be the issue. I think that in this case though, the feds should take a step back and let it play out in these two states, given the overwhelming evidence against the previous model

      Have you ever looked at the experience in Portugal after the decriminalization of drugs in 2001? Very interesting outcomes

      cheers
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      Nov 13 2012: In this case the LCB liquor control board has said that they will be working with the federal government to find a way to make the state law compatible with the federal position, I don't know what they have heard from the feds but the seem very confident for a group that was not vocally in favor of the new law that they will work the details out.
      They will be working on details till Dec 2014, and my guess is that the huge tax revenues anticipated and the share of that the feds will see is going to be a part of them working things out. What does anyone know about the production of fuel from cannabis?If we can finally openly grow large crops can we make a profitable desirable replenish able fuel?

      I think that I will look into providing a service for the farmers that provides security and verification of compliance with the rules for Grassp and state law as well as providing reliable witness testimony and risk reduction for insurance companies. It seems like a good rewarding business and it would provide a needed service to the new industry without actually taking the gamble of being involved in the industry.
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        Nov 13 2012: Russell, A Cal responder said that the feds are going thru taxes to stop them, in Arizona we worked with them also and it ended up being we will go after you, it is against fed law.

        I wish you better but do not expect it.

        For the time being I would not work in the industry until all things are settled with the feds and the new laws are written and passed. Someone will have to serve as a test court case. I do not want to enter into that lottery .... probally the only one I would ever win. Not telling you what to do just sayin ...

        Good luck. Bob.
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    Nov 10 2012: If you're going to legalize it then let it out to small business, it's still cheaper to buy a small $20 hit on the corner than to get a $150 legal hit. So, is this law just to assuage the old who still feel that it's wrong?
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      Nov 10 2012: Kind of made me laugh, because the very, very old would still remember the days when statesmen and proper society smoked it, before business and government tried to wipe it out.
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        Nov 10 2012: I come from nz and unofficially we're country full of smokers, 90% of all teenagers will try it here at sometime but we are a small enclosed society surrounded by water, there isn't much to do for kicks here for the young but i'm against legalizing it here for fear of rampancy,i have a family that have a lot of addicted heavy users and it affects their money, The States might prove different, who knows.
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    Nov 10 2012: The Mexican mob is going down crime down and law endorsement can go after coke and meth..40 million people will not be criminals now..Thank God the people have spoken..
  • Nov 10 2012: let people grow their own.
    why should any other authorities be involved?
    get money out of it and it won't be abused most of the time
    crime connected to it will be rare if it is easily, readily and plentifully available. there will be
    no reasons for greed, crime and so on.
    abuse of it might happen and more than likely will, as with virtually any other commodity
    humans are involved in using.
    i don't have a problem with it being legalized.
    legalize prostitution too, so women can control their own lives and list all occupations as
    prostitution, which is what they are anyway.
    a good way to really grow is to get to and admit the real truth and stop separating and
    demonizing one another for being different.

    put governors in every car, truck, motorcycle, train,bus and so on, to slow everything down
    so that one can enjoy the ride........man, this is good stuff. Life is good.
    I don't smoke it but others might.
    Figure out the bumps after a trial legal period of time, and I don't mean incarceration.
    completely outlaw, ban and get rid of all cigarettes and don't let any "official departments or agencies" have access to
    putting anything in the weed.

    Use this as initiative to begin eliminating most laws as most are worthless and created for the wrong reasons with
    the wrong results. those results show they don't work.
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      Nov 10 2012: Children must be protected dude regulation is the key and taxes a good thing as rehab money is always needed
  • Nov 8 2012: When Washington State stores start selling hemp shirts, the real controversy will start.
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    Nov 8 2012: I have to say that think that the pro's out weight the cons in this situation, however the second part of my question is what should the federal government do in response and what sort of legal impact will that have vis a vis the federal supremacy and the possibility of state laws that allow or restrict behavior that the federal government currently prohibits or protects?