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Medical Marijuana Update

From the village board to the halls of Congress, medical marijuana is popping up all over. And there's action at various state houses, too. Let's get to it:

National

Last weekend, Americans for Safe Access hosted the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference in Washington, DC. The conference featured numerous panelists, as well as lobbying on Capitol Hill.

On Monday, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the States' Medical Marijuana Patients Protection Act (House Resolution 689) at a press conference surrounded by attendees at the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference. The bill would get the federal government out of states where medical marijuana is legal.

Arizona

Last Thursday, an unapproved dispensary was shut down in Kingman and its proprietors arrested on a variety of marijuana-related and weapons charges. Police seized several pounds of marijuana, $7,000 in cash, and a shotgun.

California

Earlier this month, Shasta County moved a lawsuit filed against it by a medical marijuana collective from state to federal court, and the attorney representing county supervisors has already filed a motion there to dismiss it. The Medicine Man Collective Spiritual Center Corporation sued in state Superior Court in January, naming the supervisors, the county sheriff, and three deputies as defendants. The suit charges that the county conspired to deprive the collective of its contractual, constitutional and state rights by enacting a ban on dispensaries. The collective closed its Main Street doors in May 2011 after being evicted following implementation of the ban in 2010 and its finalization the following year.

Last Thursday, the LA city council voted to approve a third dispensary measure for the May ballot. This third measure is the council's own and would allow about 100 dispensaries to stay open, restrict them from locating near schools and churches, and increase taxes on them. One of the other measures would allow a similar number of dispensaries to stay open, while the other would allow most of the hundreds of currently existing dispensaries to stay open. The initiatives come after the council tried to impose a total ban last year.

On Tuesday, Butte County supervisors adopted a cultivation ordinance. The measure prohibits outdoor marijuana gardens on lots smaller than 0.5 acre. It allows up to 12 plants (six mature and six immature) on parcels larger than 0.5 acre but smaller than 1.5 acre. On parcels smaller than 3 acres, 36 plants (18 mature and 18 immature) are allowed. The total allowable number of plants tops out at 99 on property larger than 40 acres. The gardens have set-back requirements that increase as the lots grow, and the plants have to be screened from view with fencing. Grows are prohibited within 1,000 feet of schools and parks. The growers have to be able to prove they have been county residents for a year, and there has to be written proof the landowner is aware of the garden and approves of its existence. The ordinance allows  indoor gardens in free-standing buildings of 120 square feet on lots anywhere in county jurisdiction.

Florida

On Tuesday, a statewide poll had support for medical marijuana at 69%. The poll showed strong support among Democrats and independents and even among Republicans, 56% of whom said they supported marijuana. The poll comes as its sponsor, People United for Medical Marijuana, pushes for medical marijuana to come to the Sunshine State.

On Wednesday, a medical marijuana bill was filed. The bill is Senate Bill 1250.

Iowa

On Sunday, a statewide poll found that 58% support legalizing medical marijuana. That's down six points from a similar poll in 2010. The poll comes as the Iowa legislature considers medical marijuana bills.

Massachusetts

On Tuesday, the Westborough Board of Health supported zoning for dispensaries. The board did not reach agreement on whether Westborough should ban dispensaries or whether to zone or ban home grows for medical use. The town planning board has already proposed a zoning bylaw that would ban both dispensaries and home grows. It goes before voters at the annual town meeting on March 16.

Montana

Last Thursday, two more medical marijuana providers were sentenced to federal prison terms. Ross Pattison and Brandon Strecker were partners in Eastern Montana Cannabis. Pattison got 20 months and Strecker got a year and a day. They are only the latest Montana medical marijuana providers to be sent to federal prison after a spring 2011 crackdown by the DEA and the Justice Department.

Nevada

Last Friday, legislators held a hearing on problems with access to medical marijuana. During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, members acknowledged that it is almost impossible for the state's 3,600 card holders to acquire their medicine. Sen. Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) said after the hearing that he soon will introduce a bill to set up a regulated system where marijuana is grown at farms and then distributed and taxed through licensed dispensaries.

New Hampshire

Last Thursday, a House committee held a hearing on a pending medical marijuana bill. The bill, House Bill 573, would allow patients to grow up to four plants or obtain their medicine through one of five state-licensed dispensaries. Similar bills have twice passed the legislature since 2007, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. John Lynch (D). New Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) supported the bills as a legislator, but has expressed concerns that the system be tightly regulated.

Oklahoma

On Monday, a medical marijuana bill died in the legislature. The bill, Senate Bill 710, would have allowed patients to possess up to eight ounces and grow up to 12 plants. It would also have allowed state-sanctioned collectives. It was killed in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee after members heard testimony. The bill was defeated 6-2 in a party line vote.

Washington

On Monday, the Spokane city council approved a six-month moratorium on new dispensaries. The council feared a proliferation of marijuana businesses before the state finishes writing its rules for legal non-medical marijuana commerce. Spokane currently has about a dozen dispensaries.

Brits Want Marijuana Reforms, Drug Policy Review

According to a new Ipsos Mori poll, a majority of Britons favor either decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana and two-thirds support a comprehensive review of all the options for controlling drugs, from legalization to tougher enforcement.

The poll found that 53% of those surveyed supported either decriminalization or one form or another of legalization. Legalization, whether under "strict," "moderate," or "minimal" control, was supported by 41%, and decriminalization by 12%.

Only 35% favored the status quo (21%) or harsher treatment of marijuana (14%). Eight percent had no opinion and 4% said "I have never heard of this drug."

Britain down-scheduled marijuana from a Class B to a Class C drug in 2004, but reversed course in 2008, placing it back on the more serious Class B amid rising fears of the dangers of "skunk" marijuana, Britain's generic term for high-potency, domestically-produced weed. 

When it comes to other drugs, a majority (60%) favored the status quo, while only slightly more than one-third (36%) favored either decriminalization (14%) or a pilot decriminalization program (21%).

But more than two-thirds of respondents (67%) wanted a comprehensive independent review of Britain's drug policies. Support cut across party lines, with 69% of Labor supporters and 70% of Conservative supporters calling for a review of drug policy.

Britain's Conservative-led government has shown distinct disinterest in revisiting the country's drug policies, although that has led to some friction with its Liberal Democrat junior partners.

"These results just show how far ahead of politicians the public are," said the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which commissioned the poll. "Whilst Labor and Conservative politicians shy away from the debate on drugs, around half of their supporters want to see legal regulation of cannabis production and supply or decriminalization of cannabis possession, and a significant majority want a comprehensive review of our approach to drugs -- including consideration of legal regulation," the group said.

"Politicians have repeated their 'tough on drugs' propaganda for so long that they assume the public are more fearful of change than they really are," Transform said. "In fact the world has changed, and the public are far more progressive than was thought, right across the political spectrum. At the very least the government should heed long standing and growing calls for a review of all policy options, including legal regulation. And as a matter of urgency the coalition should engage in experiments in the Portuguese style decriminalization of possession of drugs for personal use. Now is the time for the heads of all parties to show the leadership citizens surely deserve."

United Kingdom

Poll: Feds Should Leave Legal Marijuana States Alone

Strong majorities of Americans believe people should be able to use, grow, and sell marijuana in states where it is legal, according to a new Reason Foundation-Rupe poll. Nearly three out of four (72%) said pot smokers should not be arrested in those states, more than two-thirds (68%) said the federal government should not arrest growers in those states, and nearly two-thirds (64%) said it should not arrest sellers.

The poll comes in the wake of last November's marijuana legalization victories in Colorado and Washington and as the Obama administration contemplates its response. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The poll consisted of a representative sample of 1,000 American adults interviewed by telephone, half by landline and half by cell phone. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.8%.It was conducted between January 17 and 21.

Although it is Republicans who typically make states' rights or federalist arguments, Republicans had the highest level of support for federal interference in states that have legalized marijuana. In all three cases -- using, growing, or selling marijuana -- independents and Democrats were more likely to say the federal government should not interfere.

The poll also asked two questions about marijuana legalization, one about whether it should be treated like alcohol and one about whether it should be legalized for recreational use. While the two questions are essentially identical, they generated slightly different responses, showing yet again that marijuana legalization is on the cusp of majority acceptance (and that the phrasing of polling questions matters).

Some 53% agreed that marijuana should be treated like alcohol, but only 47% agreed that recreational use should be legalized. Majorities of Democrats (57%) and independents (58%), but not Republicans (35%), agreed with "like alcohol," while only a majority of independents (59%) supported legalization for recreational use, with support at only 46% for Democrats and 25% among Republicans.

Gender and age differences also remained. Support for legalization was higher among men (52%) than women (42%), and there was majority support for legalization among all age groups except people over 65, two-thirds of whom opposed it.

Slim Majority of New Yorkers Say Legalize Marijuana

A Quinnipiac poll released last Friday has New Yorkers supporting marijuana legalization by a narrow majority. The poll found 51% supported marijuana legalization, with 44% opposed.

That puts New York in line with the rest of the country, where most post-election polls are showing support for legalization at over 50%. Those polls come in the wake of victories for the Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington, respectively.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pushing marijuana decriminalization, but the Quinnipiac poll suggests New Yorkers are ahead of their political leaders on the issue of marijuana reform.

New York City has achieved notoriety as the marijuana arrest capital of the world, with the NYPD arresting tens of thousands of mainly young black and brown men each year. Despite recent reforms, those numbers have yet to significantly decrease.

In a report released last month, Human Rights Watch found that between 1996 and 2011, the NYPD arrested more than 563,000 people for possession of marijuana in public (typically after police intimidate them into emptying their pockets and revealing their baggies), including nearly 100,000 in 2010 and 2011 alone. Neither Mayor Michael Bloomberg nor the NYPD "has ever provided a detailed justification for the high number of marijuana arrests, suggesting only that the arrests improve public safety," the report noted.

But the report also examined the subsequent criminal histories of the 2003 and 2004 cohorts of New York City pot possession arrestees. It found that more than 90% of them had not subsequently been arrested on a felony charge.

The Quinnipiac poll found majority support for legalization in New York City (54%) and its suburbs (50%), and a plurality (49%) for legalization upstate. Majorities supported freeing the weed in every age group except seniors, while majorities of Democrats (56%) and independents (57%) also favored legalization. Only 33% of Republicans did.

Men were more likely to support legalization (56%) than women (47%), while people with college degrees were more likely to support it (58%) than those without (47%). People who identified themselves as belonging to a religious denomination had levels of support ranging from 46% to 48%, while 70% of those who said they had no religion supported legalization.

Gov. Cuomo has been talking decriminalization. Given last month's election results and this month's polling, perhaps he should raise his sights.

The poll contacted 1,302 New York state voters between December 5 and 10 and asked"Do you think that the use of marijuana should be made legal in New York State, or not?" The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.

NY
United States

Majority Says Feds Should Stay Out of Marijuana Legalization States

A slight majority of adults say the federal government should not attempt to enforce federal marijuana laws in states which have voted to legalize it, according to a new YouGov poll. Some 51% of respondents said the federal government should "exempt adults who follow state law from enforcement."

The poll was conducted December 5 and 6 among 1,000 adults. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.4%.

The poll comes as the Obama administration ponders how to respond to last month's passage of marijuana legalization measures Amendment 64 in Colorado and I-502 in Washington. While possession of up to an ounce by adults became legal last week in Washington and will become legal within weeks in Colorado, both states have a matter of months to come up with regulatory structures for commercial marijuana cultivation and distribution.

There has been speculation that the administration may attempt to block the regulatory and tax components on the initiatives, but this poll suggest little support for that among the public.

Fewer than one-third (30%) of respondents said the federal government should "enforce the drugs laws the same way it does in other states," while an unusually high 20% of respondents were not sure.

This is the second poll this month to find a majority saying the question of legalization should be left to the states. A CBS News poll last week  had 59% of respondents saying it should be up to the states. Like the YouGuv poll, this poll had only about one-third (34%) saying it should be up to the federal government.

Marijuana is Now Legal in Washington State! [FEATURE]

As of today, Thursday, December 6, 2012, marijuana possession is legal in the state of Washington. Under the I-502 initiative passed by the state's voters last month, adults 21 and older can now legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana (or 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles) without fear of arrest or criminal prosecution.

King 5 news report (nwcn.com)
The date comes just one day after the 80th anniversary of the end of alcohol Prohibition and could mark the beginning of the end for marijuana prohibition in the United States. Colorado voters also legalized marijuana, and it will be legal to possess an ounce there -- and grow up to six plants -- sometime between now and January 5, the last day the governor has to ratify the November election results.

Alaska had been the only state to allow the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But, citing the state constitution's privacy protections, Alaska courts found that right only existed in the privacy of one's home.

Emboldened by the popular vote in Colorado and Washington, legislators in at least four states so far have now filed or will soon file marijuana legalization bills, with more to follow. And in states where the initiative process is allowed, activists are chomping at the bit in a race to be the next to legalize it at the ballot box (although they may want to wait for 2016, when the presidential race increases liberal turnout). And a spate of public opinion polls released since the election show support for legalization nationwide now cracking the 50% barrier.

While the federal government may attempt to block efforts to tax and regulate legal marijuana commerce in the two states, it cannot block them from removing marijuana offenses from their criminal codes. Nor can it make them reinstate them. News reports have noted that the federal government has no plans to intervene in Washington state's legalization today.

I-502 isn't a free for all. It remains a criminal offense to grow or distribute marijuana, and the state-licensed producers and stores for legal cultivation and sales and regulations governing them are a year away. There is no way in the meanwhile to legally buy marijuana. You can't smoke it in public (though that proscription is unlikely to hold for today at least), or drive in a vehicle with a lit joint (an offense equivalent to open container laws). If you live or work on federal property, you are still subject to federal drug laws. And if you're under 21, you're out of luck.

But, those caveats aside, pot possession is legal today in Washington, with sales and production coming, and that's a big deal.

"Washington state and Colorado made history on Election Day by becoming not just the first two states in the country -- but the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world -- to approve the legal regulation of marijuana," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The only way federal marijuana prohibition is going to end is by voters and legislators in other states doing just what folks in those two states just did."

"This is incredibly significant," said freshly minted Marijuana Policy Project communications director Mason Tvert, who just took the job after leading the Colorado Amendment 64 campaign to victory. "This is having a major impact on public perceptions and is showing that times are changing and a majority of people in various areas are ready to take these steps."

"This is the single most important event that has occurred in 75 year of marijuana prohibition," said Keith Stroup, founder and currently counsel for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "The change in the perception of what is possible has been dramatic. Now, elected officials and state legislatures all over the country are honestly considering the option of tax and regulate where before November that was generally perceived as a radical proposal."

The election results are shifting the parameters of the discussion, the silver-haired attorney and activist said.

"Several states are considering full legalization now, and that makes decriminalization sound like a moderate step, which could work in a lot of Southern and Midwestern states where they're perhaps not quite ready yet to set up a regulated market," Stroup pointed out. "The context of the public policy debate has totally changed as a result of Colorado and Washington. It's as dramatic as anything I've witnessed in my lifetime."

While reformers are elated, author and marijuana scholar Martin Lee had a slightly more sober assessment.

"It's way too early to tell whether I-502 in Washington state signals the death knell of marijuana prohibition in the United States," said Lee, who recently published Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana -- Medical, Recreational, and Scientific.

"The cultural momentum in the United States favors marijuana legalization, but the political response, thus far, has been lagging," Lee noted. "Political change can sometimes happen very quickly -- think of the sudden demise of Soviet Bloc Communism after the Berlin Wall unexpectedly toppled in 1989. Swift, dramatic change seems possible with respect to cannabis prohibition, which is based on lies and could collapse like a house of cards. But powerful political interests in the United States -- in particular law enforcement -- have long benefited from the war on drugs and they are reluctant to throw in the towel."

Lee also raised the specter of law enforcement retaliation, especially against some of its easiest targets.

"My biggest concern is that the new state law in Washington will do little to prevent or discourage law enforcement from selectively targeting and harassing young people, especially young African-Americans and Latinos. Racial profiling is endemic in Washington state and throughout the United States," he said.

"It's also disconcerting that I-502 includes a zero tolerance provision for under 21-year-old drivers, who could be punished severely if blood tests show any trace of THC metabolites (breakdown products) in their system. Because THC metabolites can remain in the body for four weeks or longer, blood and urine tests for marijuana can't measure impairment. What's to stop law enforcement in Washington from randomly testing and arresting minority youth under the guise of public safety?"

It remains to be seen just how the DUID provision will work out, either for young drivers or for drivers over 21, who face a presumption of impaired driving if THC levels are over a specified standard. The record from other states with either zero tolerance or per se DUID laws suggest they make little difference in DUID arrest rates, perhaps because of probable cause standards needed to conduct blood tests or the time and complexity involved in doing so.

Regardless of valid concerns, the fact remains that the wall of marijuana prohibition in the US has just had a huge hole punched in it. And the margins of victory in Colorado and Washington -- each initiative won with 55% of the vote -- leave breathing room for activists in other states to consider not including such controversial provisions, which were seen by proponents as necessary to actually win the vote.

As veteran activist Stroup put it, despite the contentiousness and the sops to the opposition, for marijuana activists, "This is a great time to be alive. I wish folks like Mezz Mezrow, Louis Armstrong, and Allen Ginsberg, who helped form LEMAR (Legalize Marijuana), then Amorphia, which morphed into NORML, could have been around to see this."

While Stroup took a moment to look backward, DPA's Nadelmann was looking forward.

"Now, the race is on as to who will be first to leapfrog the Dutch and implement a full legal regulatory system for marijuana:  Washington, Colorado or Uruguay!” he told the Chronicle.

WA
United States

Quinnipiac Pollster Calls Marijuana Legalization "Just a Matter of Time"

The third different poll in less than a week to report a majority favoring marijuana legalization was released Wednesday, with the pollster saying the results showed marijuana legalization was "just a matter of time." The Quinnipiac poll asked if "the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States," and 51% said yes, while 44% were opposed and 5% undecided.

Including this one, four polls on marijuana legalization have appeared in the past week. Only one of them had support for legalization at less than 50% (and it was still a record high 47% for that poll, tieing opposition). The other two had legalization at 54% and 57%.

Legalization was supported by majorities of Democrats and independents (58% each), but not Republicans (31%). It was strongly supported by men (59%), but not women (44%). It was supported by younger voters (under 30, 67%; 30-to-44; 58%), but not older ones (45-to-64, 48%; over 65; 35%). Racially, support was strongest among blacks (57%), followed by whites (50%) and Hispanics (47%).

"With the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes legal in about 20 states, and Washington and Colorado voting this November to legalize the drug for recreational use, American voters seem to have a more favorable opinion about this once-dreaded drug," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "There are large differences on this question among the American people.

Then he dropped a bombshell.

"This is the first time Quinnipiac University asked this question in its national poll so there is no comparison from earlier years. It seems likely, however, that given the better than 2-1 majority among younger voters, legalization is just a matter of time."

CBS Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at All-Time High

A CBS News poll released late last week has support for marijuana legalization at an all-time high, with as many Americans now saying it should be legal as saying it should not. Some 47% of respondents said it should be legal, while another 47% were opposed.

This poll marks the first time a CBS News poll has shown as much support for legalization as there is opposition. And the number favoring legalization has climbed two points since CBS last asked the question in September, while the number opposing it has declined by two points.

The poll is in line with a growing number of polls in the last couple of years that show marijuana legalization hovering on the cusp of majority support. A Gallup poll last year had support at 50%, while an Angus-Reid poll last week had support at 54%.

And in what could be a warning signal to Washington, the poll found that 59% thought states should determine whether marijuana should be legal, while only 34% thought the federal government should.

Pot legalization had majority support among independents (55%) and Democrats (51%), but not Republicans (27%). It had majority support among young people (18-to-29, 54%; 30-to-44, 53%), but not among the middle aged (46%) or those 65 and older (30%). The poll did not provide a breakdown by gender.

The poll also found overwhelming support for medical marijuana (83%), even though only 29% thought most medical marijuana "is being used to alleviate suffering from serious illnesses."

The poll was conducted November 16-19 with 1,100 respondents using both land lines and cell phones. The margin of error is +/- 3.1%.

New Polls Show Even Split on Marijuana Legalization

Two polls released last week show support for marijuana legalization hovering just under the 50% mark, with the American public split almost evenly on the issue. Both polls showed that support for marijuana legalization continues to trend upward.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday had 45% in support, 45% opposed, and 10% undecided, while a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday had 48% in support, 50% opposed, and 2% undecided. The support figure in the latter poll rose one point to 49% when only registered voters were polled.

The polls come a week after two US states passed initiatives legalizing marijuana. Amendment 64 in Colorado and Initiative 502 in Washington both won with 55% of the vote. National polls have consistently show higher support for legalization in the West than in other regions of the country.

The Rasmussen poll showed support for legalization up five points since the firm last asked the question in 2009. It also found that 60% of respondents thought marijuana legalization was best left to the states, with only 27% saying the federal government should decide. And it found that fewer than out of ten (7%) think the US is "winning" the war on drugs, with 83% don't.

Both polls showed plurality support for marijuana legalization among all age groups except seniors. And both polls showed that the gender gap remains intact. Support for legalization was higher among men than women by 12 points in the Rasmussen poll and nine points in the Washington Post/ABC News poll.

The Rasmussen poll surveyed 1,000 adults nationwide on November 9 and 10 and has a margin of error of +/-3%. The Washington Post/ABC News poll surveyed 1,023 adults nationwide between November 7 and 11 and has a margin of error of +/-3.5%.

Colorado Marijuana Measure Sees Lead Shrink in New Poll

A SurveyUSA poll released Sunday shows Colorado's marijuana legalization initiative, Amendment 64, still winning, but with a shrinking lead and with approval under 50%. A University of Denver poll released a week earlier had Amendment 64 right at 50%. These latest polls only add to the sense that the marijuana legalization vote in Colorado is going to be a nail-biter.

The SurveyUSA poll had support for Amendment 64 at 48%, with those opposed at 43%, and 9% undecided. That's a five-point lead, down from 11 points in a SurveyUSA poll done five weeks ago.

According to the latest poll, the initiative is losing support among women, who five weeks ago favored it by 10 points, but now oppose it by eight. It is also losing support among people with a college degree, who favored it by nine points five weeks ago, but now oppose it by five. It is also losing ground among upper-income voters.

The erosion of support for drug reform initiatives in the final weeks of a campaign is not unexpected. Voters begin to finally pay attention as the campaign season goes into its frantic final weeks, and the opposition gears up its efforts to defeat them. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, though, has a pre-paid $700,000 advertising campaign ready to go and is aiming to win over those groups where support is weakening.

The latest SurveyUSA poll also had President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a virtual dead heat, with Romney winning 48% to 47% head-to-head and 46% to 45% in a three-way race that includes Libertarian Gary Johnson polling at 2%. Johnson supports marijuana legalization, and some reform activists have been hoping that he will pull pro-legalization voters away from the major party candidates, but this poll doesn't suggest that is the case.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

CO
United States

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