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Weekend Reader: ‘A New Leaf: The End Of Cannabis Prohibition’

Memo Pad Weekend Reader

Weekend Reader: ‘A New Leaf: The End Of Cannabis Prohibition’


Today Weekend Reader brings you A New Leaf: The End of Cannabis Prohibition, by award-winning investigative journalists Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian, whose work has also appeared in The New York Times and The Nation. Martin and Rashidian argue that American society is now at a turning point, heading toward increasing acceptance and inevitable legalization of cannabis across the country. The growing number of Americans using medical marijuana is on the rise in states that now legalize the practice. Colorado and Washington have led the way, passing recreational legalization laws and demonstrating the benefits of ending the prohibition of marijuana. A New Leaf is a collection of interviews with individuals from a broad spectrum of this debate: from activists and politicians to patients and growers.  

You can purchase the book here.

When voters in Washington and Colorado closed the curtain, considered their choices, and punched the ballot on Election Day 2012, why did most choose cannabis legalization?

Over the past two decades, more Americans have been exposed to cannabis than at any other time in recent history. According to The Path Forward, a report co-authored by Colorado representative Jared  Polis and Oregon representative Earl Blumenauer and released in February 2013, more than 106 million people now live where cannabis is legal for medical or general use. As of April 2013, according to Pew Research, 77 percent of Americans believe cannabis can legitimately be medicine and a landmark majority, 52 percent, support legalization for general use. Yet the federal government refuses to accept these broader societal shifts. Americans are, for the first time, truly weighing the harms of cannabis prohibition against the harms of cannabis. For example, prohibition has led to more than 8 million cannabis-related arrests in the last decade—of those, 88 percent were for mere possession.

One reason for the change in public opinion is the education Americans have received from over twenty years of access to medical cannabis. The more often people saw the cannabis plant on TV screens, in newspapers, and, sometimes, down the street, the more comfortable they grew with the notion of legalization. When he led the reefer madness crusade to banish cannabis in 1937, Harry J. Anslinger, first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, warned, “This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.”  But if cannabis now legally replaces or supplements conventional pharmaceuticals for an estimated 1 million Americans in twenty states and Washington, D.C., it’s increasingly clear that it must not be as dangerous as we were—and, in some cases, continue to be—told.

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More Americans feel comfortable coming out about their cannabis use, too. Forty-eight percent of adults eighteen or older admit they tried cannabis at some point in their lives. Popular culture has accurately reflected shifting views about the plant. Increased use and acceptance of cannabis for medical (and “medical”) reasons might be why even Meryl Streep and Steve Martin could light a joint, party with the kids, and feast on chocolate croissants in the movie It’s Complicated without controversy.

On top of that, numerous influential types have spoken in favor of reforming drug policy, including Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post; Deepak Chopra, the man who made millions by making people feel better holistically; and Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. All three sit on the honorary boards of the nation’s foremost drug policy reform organization, the Drug Policy Alliance. Year after year, cannabis continues to make the strangest bedfellows, uniting liberal Barney Frank and Tea Partier Ron Paul in Congress, for instance; they worked on two cannabis law reform bills and co-authored a letter to President Barack Obama to insist the federal government not intervene in states with cannabis laws.

The economic and social implications of cannabis legalization, both domestic and international, have also become more apparent in recent years. As Americans clawed their way out of a recession, more and more states passed medical cannabis laws and, slowly, more brick-and-mortar storefronts emerged. It soon became obvious that there is money to be made. When budgets started to feel the recession pinch, voters wanted to harness the economic power of cannabis to mitigate the impact. Colorado earned $5.4 million from medical cannabis sales taxes between 2011 and 2012; California estimates annual sales tax revenues between $58 million and $105 million. Now, with the passage of Initiative 502, voters in Washington have opened the door to over half a billion dollars in annual tax and fee revenue for their state, money that can be directed toward cannabis education, research, and dependence treatment, among other public health initiatives. Voters in Colorado know that, beginning in 2014, $40 million in tax dollars from general-use cannabis each year will be earmarked for schools.



  1. lemstoll March 15, 2014

    Drunk drivers are the real terrorists.

    1. lancesharpe March 16, 2014

      Made is a huge threat to this nations freedom the learn the truth there is nothing good about that power drunk bunch of whiners

      1. Allan Richardson March 17, 2014

        True: like the original Temperance (misnamed) crowd, they may not want to ban alcohol outright, but they want to make it unfeasible to enjoy in small amounts, except at home when you have no intention of driving anywhere for 24 hours. They do mean well, but I suspect the role of alcohol in traffic deaths may be overstated. What percentage of crashes are caused by people who are bad drivers EVEN WHEN SOBER, and then have a drink? Remember, no matter what OTHER factors contribute to an accident, the alcohol factor is listed as THE CAUSE if any driver has blood alcohol. A driver who had one drink and is driving in accordance with all traffic laws can be rear-ended by a crazy NASCAR-wannabe who was stone cold sober but ran a red light while speeding, and the ONE DRINK puts the fault on the safer driver (or at least splits the legal liability for the accident).

        Personally, I think MADD should change their mission and their name, perhaps to MAUD, for Mothers Against Unsafe Driving. And one component of unsafe driving that may be worse than drinking is AGGRESSIVE driving: trying to make other drivers on the road more fearful (making them more likely to make a mistake); thinking that everyone else should get out of MY way; shining high beams at oncoming drivers, or in the rear view mirrors (or worse, SIDE view mirrors) of cars ahead while tailgating them or waiting at a signal; and trying daredevil moves because “I know that I can make it, I have before” but not realizing that you made it before because the OTHER driver was not as careless as you were, and avoided hitting you. I would rather share the road with a courteous, rational driver with a drink than with a stone cold sober psychopath with a sense of entitlement (in my area, they tend to drive BIG trucks, BIG SUVs, EXPENSIVE luxury cars or EXPENSIVE sports cars).

        Oh, and the unconstitutional roadblocks to see how many people who have NOT had an accident may have had a TINY bit of alcohol, so that the cars can be seized and sold to boost the department’s budget, and the legislator’s buddy gets to fill another bed in his private prison at the taxpayer’s expense. You moms (and dads and students) mean well but that is not making the roads safer.

  2. Arizona Willie March 15, 2014

    The question is: Why hasn’t Obama issued an Executive Order to remove marijuana from the Schedule 1 drug list?

    The next question is: Why hasn’t President Obama pardoned all the people in prison for simple possession of marijuana? A crime he admits he committed himself?

  3. dtgraham March 16, 2014

    Full marijuana legalization is rapidly coming now. It’s just a matter of time, and not much time. A lot of U.S. states are now leading the way on this. Amazingly, even the Canadian Conservative government has just announced that marijuana will be removed from the criminal code and will simply be a ticketable offence in the future with fines that will be in line with parking violations. They tried to walk a fine line between their own small base and the public as a whole. All of the opposition parties are in favour of full legalization in Canada, as is the general public. That will happen next year after the change in government.

    The United States has spurred the debate on this and has been the progressive leader, and good for them. I just recently heard a story on this though that really ticked me off. Apparently, the Chretien Liberal government in the early 2000’s was about to fully legalize marijuana in Canada until the Bush White House got wind of it. I’m not clear on all of the details but the White House supposedly threatened Canada with holy hell, vis-a-vis trade sanctions and other retaliatory measures if they had gone ahead with this. It was enough to cause them to back off. This story is just starting to come out up here now and I didn’t know anything about this.

    At any rate, I don’t even smoke. I’ve never used weed and never intend to, but I still think it’s ridiculous that it was ever illegal.

    1. charleo1 March 16, 2014

      You make some very good points, it seems to me. And saved the
      best one for last. That you had never used pot, and didn’t intend
      to. But you see the reduction of penalties imposed as a result of
      the marijuana laws, as a positive. I couldn’t agree more! The fact
      of the matter is, although pot is the most widely used of any drug
      deemed illegal. If it were completely legalized tomorrow, most
      people would not begin using it. The same would apply to heroin, cocaine, LSD, and so on. The truth is, the laws in and of themselves, are not a deterrent for those so inclined to experiment, or use drugs. And in the case of opiate, or cocaine addicts, the law locks them up for behavior which they have little or no control over. These very troubled, and trapped individuals should be looked upon as we would a mentally ill person. Who in their present state, should not be held accountable for their actions. Not punished, but, treated for their malady.

      1. dtgraham March 16, 2014

        Yes it’s definitely a positive charleo, but this new legislation being proposed in Canada also seems a little silly. At that point you may as well just completely decriminalize it like Colorado and so on. Why bother with a ticket.

        Veteran Canadian journalist Craig Oliver remarked on a political talk show that it might create more headaches for the police than before, as they had a tendency to look the other way whenever weed was spotted. Possession laws are different up here. Now they may feel compelled to write a ticket. Oh well, the ticket is goin’ out next year anyway. America, here we come. Pretty surprising coming from the Conservatives I gotta say. They must be even more desperate than I thought.

        1. charleo1 March 16, 2014

          From what I’m reading, the Conservative Right in
          the U.S. has decided to oppose decriminalization. They always take the side of business over people, or Civil Rights. Then, they have the religious zealots to cater to. As all the new laws are made at the State level. The Federal Laws remain in effect. So, there’s a real possibility, if the Right makes political gains, they could launch a huge crackdown. It all depends on whether they decide doing so, would be so unpopular, it would hurt them politically. It’s interesting. I was a young adult in the 70s, and there was always a lot of it around. It was very cheap, and reasonably potent. And there was a lot of talk about legalizing it. Then the Ronald Reagan became President. And, we started hearing of 18 year old, first time offenders, getting 20 years for less than an ounce. In five years they couldn’t build prisons fast enough to keep up with all the newly convicted, that had no idea how drastically the legal landscape had changed. To say we had become a police state, overnight is a subjective opinion. But one a lot
          of people, myself included, held nonetheless. Plus, there were real fundamental changes to the way probable cause was established, search warrants were issued, and situations where warrant-less searches could be conducted, were greatly expanded. It was a time when the local police started to become more militarized. And police interactions with citizens, became more physical, and much more likely to involve officers with weapons drawn, pointed at the heads of certain citizens, in certain localities. In short, it was the beginning of the end, in inner city neighborhoods, of people widely considering the cop as the good guy. And, as someone to be respected, and cooperated with. Today, in too many neighborhoods, they are feared, and often loathed. The goodwill between those charged with enforcing the harmful, draconian drug laws, and the people they are suppose to serve. Being one more causality of the war on drugs.

          1. dtgraham March 17, 2014

            Well articulated as always charleo. Yes I think those would be the two differences. There is no private prison industry in Canada with their own lobbyists. Prisons are all government run and this kind of lobbying is simply not allowed anyway. Political donations from corporations, unions, and third party interests are illegal and banned. Private political donations are limited to $1200.00 per individual.

            As to your other point, there really is no “religious zealot” component of the federal Conservative party in Canada to speak of. It’s not something they have to answer to. Not really. Religion is practically verboten as a topic in Canadian politics.

            One has to remember though that there is a libertarian component of the modern Republican party that has no problem striking down all drug laws. Right now the leading candidate for the Republican party nomination in 2016 is Rand Paul, and he’s no advocate for any illegal drug laws; just as his dad wasn’t.

            That libertarian social issues thing is one strain of the modern Republican party that I hope they keep. Nothing else…just that. However, I notice that they don’t apply it to a woman’s right to reproductive choice though, the hypocrites.

            I do appreciate the Democrats in the various states who’ve reignited the pot debate though, and who’ve led the charge on decriminalization. They’ve shown the way for others, both within the U.S. and around the world.

          2. DurdyDawg March 17, 2014

            OMG dt.. Are you telling us that your g’ment is as good as ours was in it’s beginnings?
            ” There is no private prison industry in Canada with their own lobbyists.
            Prisons are all government run and this kind of lobbying is simply not
            allowed anyway. Political donations from corporations, unions, and
            third party interests are illegal and banned. Private political
            donations are limited to $1200.00 per individual”..
            That sounds absolutely wonderful!.. How long have you been ahead of us in logical standing laws? I’d move to Canada in a heart beat if I could only stand the cold.

          3. dtgraham March 17, 2014

            There’s a damn funny segment on youtube where Prime Minister Stephen Harper explains to Rick Mercer (the Bill Maher of Canada) that it doesn’t matter what someone is able to give to a politician financially. It only matters what a politician should be allowed to accept.

            As much as I hate that rat bastard Harper, I’ll give him credit for at least that.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2km cewst-10

            Unfortunately, the URL doesn’t turn into a link.

            I’d hold off on that whole moving to Canada thing DurdyDawg. You’ve got the cold thing down. If you had experienced this last winter, you’d know what I mean. Well…Victoria, Vancouver maybe. They’re OK.

            Anyway, Canada has it’s own problems DurdyDawg. No place is the promised land.

          4. DurdyDawg March 18, 2014

            Well your right about that dt (promised land) but with our conservatives ragging on the current leader and blocking him (probably) from even going to the crapper and taking a righteous dump, I’m willing to see what it’s like on the ‘other’ side of the fence, uh.. the grass does grow green up there doesn’t it? (maybe even greener?).. In any case I’m tired of one party blocking the other according to who’s the top clown at the time.. Getting along, compromising, progressing!.. That’s my ideal of polities but since it isn’t coming fast enough in this land, well maybe.. just maybe I can find a better promise.. of course with politicians in general, we know what their code of ‘promise’ represents.. Anyway, you have a good day dt and thanks for the gab fest.

          5. Allan Richardson March 17, 2014

            The original “reefer madness” madness seems to have come from three main directions: first, and most openly, religious and moral crusaders of the same persuasions as those who got Prohibition passed in 1919, disappointed that it was repealed in 1934 for ideological reasons (overshadowing ANY practical considerations in their minds); second, not quite so honest about their true intentions, police and law enforcement officials who suddenly had less work to do after repeal of Prohibition (and the remaining work, regulating the legal sale of alcohol and investigating crimes involving its misuse, not as easy as busting people for just buying and selling drinks), needed to keep their employment up during the Depression; and third, but SECRETLY, the criminal empires that had grown rich selling illegal alcohol needed something else illegal but greatly in demand to create continuing black market profits. Plus a dash of anti-immigrant sentiment, profiling marijuana as a “Mexican’s” drug.

            Ironically, the 1930’s marijuana fad faded among middle class youth (the biggest potential market) until the 1960s created the rebellious counter culture. ANTI-reefer madness peaked again as their attacks on war (good for business), greed, sexism, and conservative religion were discounted BECAUSE they had also promoted legalizing pot and other drugs (and wore their hair long and dressed funny). But during those decades the Mafia found out it didn’t need a mass market for pot to remain profitable.

            We have some of the same elements today as well, although the ideologues have bigger “fish to fry” (they seem to want to outlaw any “improper” sex and are willing to punish it by forcing the conception of babies that cannot be raised in a middle class environment), they still have some time to pay attention to reefers. The law enforcement community, bolstered by the bonanza of unconstitutionally seized property from civil forfeitures giving them the budget for para-military toys, and aided by the lobbyists of for-profit prisons, is still opposed to any cutback in punishment (although state lawmakers are pushing back at the cost, which helps somewhat). And rather than a Mafia afraid of losing ILLEGAL business, we have the tobacco and alcohol industries afraid of losing LEGAL business as people prefer marijuana to either one (of course, the tobacco industry could switch more easily to selling pot than the liquor industry, but they would have to adapt packaging, marketing, growing, etc. for a few years before resuming the profitable cash flow).

    2. DurdyDawg March 17, 2014

      That’s great to hear dt.. A fine example of freedom for all.. It’s a pity your a Canadian, not for your sake but for ours.. We need more philosophies like yours here in the states and as for the Bush thing, that’s just one issue of many that we’re ashamed of concerning this former leader..

      1. dtgraham March 17, 2014

        There are plenty of American politicians that I really admire and empathize with. Jim Mcdermott, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Jerry Brown, Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson, Bill Deblasio, and many others. Just as much as a lot of Canadian politicians that I can think of…the names of which you wouldn’t know of course.

        I’m a democratic socialist DurdyDawg, and what I believe in has no boundaries and no national borders.

        1. Allan Richardson March 17, 2014

          But we all know Ron Ford, thanks to OUR media’s obsession with celebrity misbehavior (excuse me, misbehaviour)!

          1. dtgraham March 18, 2014

            That’s Rob Ford—Canada’s national shame. I hear his new reelection slogan this year will be, “get Toronto back on track…vote for the guy who likes to smoke crack.” I can’t see that working personally.

            By the way, I got the shout out on the “u” in misbehaviour. That’s the Canadian British Commonwealth spelling. They slip in a lot of “u’s” in suffixes. Very perceptive and well done my friend.

          2. Allan Richardson March 18, 2014

            I used to live in Miami, where lots of condo projects, on the water of course, have nautical names. The running joke was “what is the difference between ‘harbor’ and ‘harbour’?” Answer: about $200 thousand!

          3. dtgraham March 18, 2014

            LOL. Good one.

    3. Markas Alan March 19, 2014

      I hope you will consider lowering your cancer risk by starting to use cannabis.

      1. dtgraham March 19, 2014

        I had never heard of that but I’ll take your word for it. It’s my lungs that I would be concerned about. I spent about 20 years in competitive distance running as a hobby and never smoked a cigarette in my life, yet ended up with a mild case of asthma later in life if you can believe it. I don’t doubt that cannabis may offer some health benefits, but breathing smoke into my asthmatic lungs probably wouldn’t be that good an idea.

  4. jne4klpk March 16, 2014

    The nexus is de-criminalize, not “legalize”. It is the wordage that is important in these discussions of laws. This “Mexican head ache cure” sold in Sears catalogue for $.90 a pound in the 1880’s. Only “criminalized” after the “Black Duck” incident ended alcohol probation. Law enforcement had all this power and then poof out of work, what to do?

    1. dtgraham March 16, 2014

      You’re right. The term is decriminalize. My bad.

  5. paulyz March 16, 2014

    This is fantastic, now we can smoke as often as we like without worrying about being arrested, plus we don’t need to have a job or worry about paying for health care with Obamacare. I can finally play my guitar all day on the beach and sip rum & smoke weed! ! !

    1. CrankyToo March 16, 2014

      That’s right. We’re all down here at the beach, sipping pina coladas and smokin’ bush. All 47% of us.

    2. DurdyDawg March 17, 2014

      Your an idiot if you think we ‘re doing all this just to get a worry free buzz.. There should never had been an issue in smoking a NATURAL: herb.. Put it through big pharma’s chemical processes and even I would protest it’s legality but as it is, I applaude the sacrificess that our advocates have had to endure in attempting to legalize a natural plant. Anyone who identifies marijuana as a DRUG has been zombilized by manipulating, self-serving toads and psychotic propagandists.

  6. spktruth200 March 16, 2014

    Because the public would rather smoke cannabis than get addicted to Big Pharma drugs, it IS the main reason why state governments are rushing to get those medical dispensaries up and running. Delaware spent $13M in 2010 imprisoning pot possessers, when we could have treated 1102 people addicted to big pharma drugs. Big Pharma is the biggest drug dealer in the country. Now we have a nation of addicts and prisons overcrowded and operated by sadistic, brutal guards…go going America. cannibus is a god given natural medicine used for 6000 yrs all over the world.

    1. lemstoll March 16, 2014


      1. dtgraham March 16, 2014

        Love your toons. Keep ’em coming.

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