Marijuana Legalization

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What Happens Next?

We noted this morning that marijuana is now legal in Washington State. (!) But what happens next?

As WA press noted, federal authorities had no plans to intervene at this time -- the expected celebrations proceeded unmolested, at least we've not heard of any problems.

Seattle skyline
Of course that's not what the feds would do. As we've noted here, most law enforcement is state and county and local -- federal arrests for marijuana possession are a rarity, and mostly occur in places like national parks that are specifically federally controlled. Thinkers within and without our movement have been speculating what the federal response might be and what options they will legally have at their disposal once the courts weigh in.

As one of our advisors, Eric Sterling, commented in our newsletter after the election, officials at the Dept. of Justice were taken by surprise, perhaps by the passage of the initiatives and certainly by the strong margins of victory. A New York Times story today by Jack Healy noted that the Obama administration has yet to announce any policy on the matter, but have simply noted that federal law remains unchanged. According to the article, officials asked about it referred to a statement released yesterday by the US Attorney in Seattle, Jenny Durkan:

"In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance," [Durkan] said. "Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 6 in Washington State, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law."
 

Which tells us nothing we didn't know. But Durkan did say that the administration is reviewing the initiatives. And according to Healy's article, "several people familiar with the [administration's] deliberations" say they are considering legal action. There are a few legal issues at stake:

  • Can the government "preempt" the states' regulatory systems -- that is, not just raid marijuana stores if they choose to, but prevent the state from exempting any growers or distributors or sellers under state law?
  • If they can, will that endanger the rest of the laws? The argument for that, Healy posits, would be that voters mightn't have passed the laws without the regulations.
  • Do the state laws run afoul of our government's treaty obligations, particularly the 1961 Single Convention on Drugs?

Many scholars are skeptical that a preemption challenge would succeed. Gregory Katsas, a DOJ official in the George W. Bush administration, pointed out to the Times that there is nothing in the laws that prevent the federal government from bringing marijuana cases in the states. The argument there is that the laws are not in "positive conflict" with the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), despite their clear "tension" with it. Several legal scholars submitted a brief in a California case on this subject earlier this year taking that viewpoint.

My takeaway from the brief was that the feds might not be able to preempt even the regulatory portions of the laws, and would probably have to amend the CSA to have a chance. The very same law that would be invoked in a court case, is the same one at work in prohibition of medical marijuana. And in 16 years of state medical marijuana laws, including now 10 dispensary states, no federal prosecutor has sought to invalidate any of these laws in court. That suggests they are not confident of what their prospects would be.

Regarding the treaties, my guess would be that the same reasons federal law might not preempt state marijuana legalization applies to the treaties too -- marijuana is still federally illegal. The treaties do seem to frown even legalized possession. But they explicitly allow for alternatives to criminalizing possession, such as health and education-based approaches -- which we don't have as much of as we should, but which we do have. So it's not clear that the treaties will be a problem either.

All that said, we do not know what will happen, and Congress's power to regulate commerce is broad -- the pressure on the feds to do something is greater, and the set of arguments they can bring to court are more numerous.

I am excited but also anxious about what may happen next. Are Amendment 64 and I-502 going to federal court? What will the courts say? Will the feds try to scare Washington and Colorado officials from implementing regulations -- will the states' governors stand up to them if they do, or will they seek delays as happened in a number of medical marijuana states? Will the federal raids being made against medical marijuana facilities be expanded when legalized marijuana stories eventually open? Such a strategy would be more effective in Washington, less so in Colorado where there will be more stores and where home growing is legal. But they can probably take down anyone in Colorado as they choose. Will there be threats to withhold highway funds over the laws, or law enforcement funds?

Hopefully the Obama administration will finally choose to be on the right side of history on this issue. But we'll ses. What happens next? For now we wait -- I am nervous but also excited.

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."

Colorado Business Groups Ask Feds to Enforce Marijuana Laws

Some 20 Colorado business organizations wrote a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder last Friday urging him to enforce federal laws barring the sale and possession of marijuana. In doing so, the business groups are taking direct aim at the will of the voters, who passed Amendment 64 legalizing marijuana with 55% of the vote last month.

"Passage of Amendment 64 left considerable uncertainty for employers and business in Colorado with regard to their legal rights and obligations," the letter said. "We encourage enforcement of the [federal Controlled Substances Act] to provide the certainty and clarity of law we seek."

Amendment 64 legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to six plants by adults 21 and over. That part of the amendment will go into effect by January 5 at the latest. It also directs the state to craft a system of regulations for commercial marijuana cultivation and sales. The state has until October 2013 to complete that task.

Still, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but the Justice Department headed by Holder has yet to signal how it will respond. The Obama administration initially backed off enforcing federal laws in medical marijuana states, but for the last two years has stepped up enforcement actions.

For Coloradans and others who want to know who is attempting to undercut the will of the voters and respond in an informed and appropriate manner, here is the complete list of signatory organizations:

  • Colorado Concern
  • Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance
  • Associated Builders and Contractors -- Rocky Mountain Chapter
  • Colorado Technology Association
  • Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce
  • Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce
  • Greeley Chamber of Commerce
  • Pueblo Chamber of Commerce
  • Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance
  • Northern Colorado Economic Development Corporation
  • Upstate Colorado Economic Development Association
  • Colorado Contractors Association
  • International Electrical Contractors -- Rocky Mountain Chapter
  • National Federation of Independent Business -- Colorado and Wyoming Chapter
  • Club 20
  • Loveland Chamber of Commerce
  • Colorado Bankers Association
  • Colorado Auto Recyclers Association
  • Chrisland Commercial
  • Douglas County Business Alliance

(Update: One of our readers has posted contact information for these organizations, here in the comments section.)

CO
United States

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%.

Marijuana Legalization Favored in US, Canada

A new Angus-Reid Public Opinion poll has majorities favoring marijuana legalization in both Canada and the US. According to the poll, 57% of Canadians and 54% of Americans are ready to free the weed.

In Canada, support for legalization was strongest in the Atlantic provinces (64%) and British Columbia (60%), while in something of a surprise, in the US, support was strongest in the Northeast (61%), followed by the West (56%). The US West has traditionally had the highest levels of support for legalization.

In both countries there was majority support for marijuana legalization in every region. The provinces or regions with the lowest level of support for legalization were Alberta (50%) in Canada, and the US Midwest (50%) and South (51%).

In Canada, men (64%) are more likely than women (50%) to call for the legalization of cannabis, while there was no wide gender gap in the United States (55% male, 53% female). The bulk of support for legal marijuana comes from respondents aged 18-to-34 in the United States (65%) and those aged 35-to-54 in Canada (61%).

Two-thirds (66%) of both Canadians and Americans believe marijuana will be legal within 10 years.

While two-thirds (65%) of Americans say their country has a serious drug abuse problem, only 43% of Canadians agree. Still, in both countries, two-thirds (68% in Canada and 66% in the US) describe the war on drugs as a failure.

While both Canadians and Americans agree that the drug war is a failure, they remain unwilling to contemplate the legalization of drugs other than marijuana. Support for legalizing cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, or methamphetamine didn't rise above 11% for any of those drugs in either country.

The poll was an online survey of 1,005 Canadians and 1,002 Americans conducted November 19 and 20. The results were weighted to ensure a representative sample of the two country's adult populations. The margin of error is +/- 3.1%.

Two US states, Colorado and Washington, voted to legalize marijuana in November. Legislators in at least four more plan to offer up legalization bills next year, while activists in Montana are working toward putting a legalization initiative on the 2014 ballot.

Chronicle DVD Review: Code of the West

DVD Review: Code of the West, directed by Rebecca Richman Cohen (2012, Racing Horse Films, 71 minutes)

In Code of the West, Emmy nominated filmmaker Rebecca Richman Cohen brilliantly tells the story of Montana's late medical marijuana wars. And now the film is itself part of the story; excerpts from it were played by the defense during the sentencing of Tom Daubert, a central figure in the film, and undoubtedly helped him escape the clutches of the federal Bureau of Prisons with an unanticipated sentence of five years' probation.

But we get ahead of ourselves. Montana's voter-approved medical marijuana program was small-scale and operating quietly for its first five years, but in 2009, when the Obama administration indicated it was not going to go after medical marijuana providers in states where it was legal, the scene exploded. Dispensaries blossomed across Big Sky County, and caravans crisscrossed the state signing up patients after, shall we say, sometimes less than adequate examinations by physicians.

Within two years, the backlash against medical marijuana and its excesses resulted first in a bill passed by the radical Republican legislature to totally repeal the 2004 voter initiative -- vetoed by Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer -- and then in a second bill that was as close to outright repeal as you could come without calling it that. Schweitzer let that one stand, effectively wiping out the state's booming industry.

Then, as the legislature was deliberating that spring, the feds struck. In a series of coordinated raids, DEA and FBI agents raided 26 Montana medical marijuana operations in one fell swoop, sending an even clearer signal that the state's medical marijuana glory days had come and gone.

Code of the West takes you behind the scenes during that contentious year at the state house, featuring interviews with medical marijuana patients and providers, state law enforcement and legislative officials, and concerned citizens convinced that medical marijuana was going to turn their children into stoners and their state into a laughing stock.

Two of the central figures in the film are long-time state house lobbyist Tom Daubert, who ran the 2004 medical marijuana initiative and later formed Montana Cannabis, one of the state's larger providers, and Daubert's partner in Montana Cannabis, Chris Williams. Both ended up being indicted on federal marijuana trafficking charges -- this came after the period covered by the film -- and while Daubert copped a plea to earn probation, Williams refused to bend, was convicted on marijuana and weapons charges (because they had shotguns at their grows) and is now facing an 80-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence.

"Even now, the DEA could come kick our door in and arrest us all," Williams says presciently in the film.

Cohen succeeds at portraying the opposition to medical marijuana. But while Daubert may diplomatically
praise opponents' sincerity and while Cohen takes pains to portray them with a certain degree of sympathy, they don't come off well in my book. Rock-ribbed Republicans like House Speaker Mike Milburn come off as earnest culture warriors, while the conservative Billings church ladies of Safe Kids Safe Communities, the main backlash group, come off as, well, conservative church ladies.

And not only do the Republicans and the church ladies come off as mean and pinched, they lie through their teeth about medical marijuana. (Not to mention having allies who worry about marijuana demons.)

"We stand to lose a whole generation of kids to medical marijuana," declaimed Safe Kids Safe Communities' Cherrie Brady, trumpeting a favorite opposition theme that medical marijuana was leading to skyrocketing teen pot use. The numbers actually show a slight decline.

Speaker Milburn, while attempting to appear earnest and statesmanlike, was also capable of throwing Reefer Madness-style rhetorical bombs.

"Children are prostituting themselves to gain access to drugs and this problem happened because of medical marijuana," he dared say with a straight face "These people who are medicating, they're hippies and the children of hippies."

And one final example of what we're up against. When the 2011 repeal bill passed the state Senate, the Safe Kids Safe Communities ladies were overjoyed. How overjoyed?

"All of the angels are flying up to the ceiling singing hosannas for this repeal," one gushed.

Code of the West is both a civics lesson -- this is how laws get made and unmade -- and a cinematographic pleasure. Scenes of state capital hallway lobbying and floor speechifying are intercut with glorious Montana landscapes. The film is a pleasure to watch and an important intervention in a still-running battle.

While the film ends with the federal raids of spring 2011 and the legislative follies that resulted in repeal-in-all-but name, the story doesn't end there. The worries Williams and Daubert expressed in the film about possible federal prosecution after the raids were all too true. Both were indicted on marijuana cultivation and trafficking charges by the feds, and while Daubert walked away with only probation, Williams now looks likely to become another medical marijuana martyr.

Cohen knows she stopped filming in the middle of the story, and is now working on a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $30,000 she needs to do an update. And it's not just the trials. An effort to undo last year's gutting of the program failed at the polls in November, and some medical marijuana activists have now decided to quit screwing around and just go for out and out legalization. They've already filed a ballot initiative for 2014.

There's likely to be an updated version of Code of the West in a few months.  But the current version is powerful, enlightening, and beautiful. Watch it now.

MT
United States

New Poll Finds Canadians Want Marijuana Law Reform

Even as the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephan Harper institutes harsher penalties for some marijuana offenses, a new poll finds that nearly two-thirds of Canadians favor either decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana, while less than one-third favor the status quo or harsher penalties.

The poll, from Forum Research, found that 33% backed legalization, while 32% favored decriminalization of small amounts. Support for legalization was down seven points over last year's Forum Research poll, while support for decriminalization was up by six points. Overall, support for marijuana law reform was essentially unchanged from last year.

Only 17% supported leaving the laws as they are, while 15% wanted stiffer penalties. Support for the status quo or stiffer penalties was strongest among Conservatives.

Support for legalization was highest among people under 35, men, people with incomes over $100,000, and Ontario and Atlantic region residents. British Columbians, Ontarians, and Quebeckers also had strong support decriminalization.

"Legalization is a smart policy for the Liberal Party to adopt as it plays into their natural strengths and against those of the government. It's an issue many Canadians appear willing to rally around," said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff. "Public opinion has been ahead of government on this issue for a while."

The Forum Poll was an interactive phone survey of 1,849 randomly selected Canadian residents over 18 conducted on November 19. It has a margin of error of +/-2%.

Canada

Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed in Montana

They're back. Although a late effort to get on the ballot this year fell short, Montana marijuana activists are determined to get on the ballot in 2014, and just 10 days after the election, they submitted the first 2014 ballot question received by the secretary of state's office.

The constitutional initiative is proposed by East Helena medical marijuana advocate Barb Trego and lists as contact person Chris Lindsay, former partner in Montana Cannabis and now a convicted federal marijuana offender for his efforts.

The language of the 2014 initiative is not yet on file with the secretary of state's office, but it is said to mirror this year's failed CI-110, which would have amended the state constitution so that "adults have the right to responsibly purchase, consume, produce, and possess marijuana, subject to reasonable limitations, regulations, and taxation.  Except for actions that endanger minors, children, or public safety, no criminal offense or penalty of this state shall apply to such activities."

To qualify for the ballot, initiative organizers must obtain the signatures of 10% of qualified voters, as well as 10% of qualified voters in each of the state's 40 legislative House districts. It's not clear yet what the exact numbers are -- they are based on this month's election results -- but this year, organizers needed about 45,000 signatures and came up with only 19,000.

This next time around, organizers will have the benefit of more time. They will also have the benefit of the examples of successful legalization initiatives this year in Colorado and Washington.

Helena, MT
United States

Uruguayan Deputies Say Legalize All Drugs

Even as Uruguay considers a groundbreaking proposal from President Jose Mujica to legalize state-regulated marijuana cultivation and sales, parliamentarians from most of the leading political factions in the country are calling on the government to go even further and legalize all drugs in a bid to blunt the power of and threat from illicit drug traffickers.

The comments came in interviews solicited by and published in the Uruguayan news weekly Busqueda and appeared in its November 22 issue.

The war on drugs has been "a resounding failure" because it has "fortified crime," said Independent Party Deputy Ivan Posada. Forty years of drug war has created a reality where there exist "true international enterprises dedicated to the traffic in drugs," which can only be effectively combated by "establishing the legalization of the traffic of all drugs," he said.

The legalization of marijuana sales and cultivation (use and possession are already legal in Uruguay) proposed by Mujica and his Broad Front (Frente Amplio) government is "doomed to failure" because it is only a half-measure and not a global strategy, Posada sniped.

The war on drugs approach "will fall sooner or later in this century," said Deputy Jose Bayardi of the Artigist Tendency (Vertiente Artiguista), a social democratic current within the Broad Front. "The only solution there is to defeat the drug trade is the legalization of all psychoactive drugs," he said.

"There will come a moment in which all the drugs that are today illegal -- heroin, cocaine, etc. -- will be administered in the same manner, with an informative pamphlet," said Bayardi, a former defense minister. "Then, the individual will take the responsibility for doing with them what he wishes. We are going down this path. Sooner rather than later, we will arrive, and then we will really be fighting the drug trade," he said.

The steps the government is taking to legalize and regulate marijuana sales and cultivation "are a beginning, a point of departure" on a path where "the state will regulate all drugs," said Broad Front Deputy Sebatian Sabini, who chairs the Commission on Addiction in the Uruguayan House of Representatives. "As a society, we aren't ready to discuss it, but in the long run we have to do it, also for public health reasons. We can carry the same analysis of the drug trade that leads us to legalize marijuana on to [cocaine] base, to cocaine," he said.

National Alliance Deputy Pablo Itturralde said what was needed first was a an educational campaign illuminating the dangers caused by drug abuse. "After that, if someone wants, he can consume what he will," he said.

Marijuana users aren't the problem, Itturalde said. "If there is a drug that is implicated in public safety, it is paste base," he said. "Marijuana users are peace and love people." [Ed: Paste base is also known as "pasta de cocaína," thought of similarly to crack cocaine, and is considered Uruguay's most worrisome drug problem.]

The leader of the House of Representatives, Deputy Jorge Orrico, also said that the way to fight the drug trade is to "legalize all drugs," although he caviled about paste base because of its negative effects. "Of all the other substances, I have no doubt because the business works in clandestinity. At the least, we can diminish the mafia," he said.

While the talk of legalization of all drugs cuts across the political spectrum in Uruguay, at this point it is only the legalization and regulation of marijuana commerce that is on the legislative agenda. But it sure looks like many Uruguayans are interested in looking further.

Montevideo
Uruguay

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