Landmark Case Could Pave the Way for Marijuana Legalization
Today, in a 4 to 1 vote, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of the consumption and cultivation of marijuana for personal use is unconstitutional. The Court determined that the prohibition of the consumption of marijuana – and its cultivation for non-commercial ends – violates the human right to the free development of one’s personality. This landmark case could lead to the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes if followed up with legislation.
“This vote by Mexico’s Supreme Court is extraordinary for two reasons: it is being argued on human rights grounds and it is taking place in one of the countries that has suffered the most from the war on drugs,” said Hannah Hetzer, Senior Policy Manager of the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Uruguay became the first country to legalize marijuana, Canada is expected soon to follow suit, medical marijuana initiatives are spreading throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and marijuana is legal in a number of U.S. states. Now with this landmark decision out of Mexico, it is clear that the Americas are leading the world in marijuana reform.”
The public debate on marijuana has surged in Mexico in recent months since the case of an 8-year old girl with epilepsy who became Mexico’s first medical marijuana patient made national and international headlines. The government granted the right to import and administer a cannabis-based treatment for the young patient.
Marijuana reform has gained unprecedented momentum throughout the [...]
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders filed a proposal Wednesday to let states decide whether to legalize marijuana
It marks a clear position from the Democratic candidate who has been attacking the war on drugs more frequently
Sen. Bernie Sanders filed a Senate bill Wednesday that would allow states to decide whether to legalize recreational use of marijuana and decriminalize the drug at the federal level. It's a sign the Democratic presidential candidate is willing to stake out a clear contrast on the issue with front-runner Hillary Clinton.
While some states have legalized pot, it remains illegal on the federal level.
"It's a state and a federal issue. The federal issue is that we should remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act. That's a federal decision," Sanders told CNN. "The state decision is that we live in a federal system of government where issues like tobacco and alcohol are significantly regulated by the states. And I think that is a province of the states."
The bill is a long-shot in the Senate and Sanders declined to say whether he had any co-sponsors for the measure. But Sanders and others say it would allow growers and dispensers in states where marijuana is already legal to use the banks.
The proposal plays to his base of younger and more liberal supporters, who have helped build his campaign into one that packs arenas and has mobilized the grassroots. That momentum has been slipping recently, with the latest polling finding Clinton even retaking the lead in New Hampshire.
Sanders only recently staked out a clear position on marijuana, promising last week in a campaign speech that he would seek to place the decision with states. But he has been inching toward the proposal in recent weeks.
During the October 13 CNN/Facebook sponsored Democratic debate he said would vote in favor of a Nevada referendum to legalize marijuana. And he said Tuesday that he supported the Ohio referendum to legalize marijuana, though voters ultimately weighed in against it.
"The state wants to go forward, they should be able to go forward without legal impediments from the federal government, and that's what this legislation is about," Sanders said. "Colorado wants to legalize marijuana, it's their decision. If Alabama does not want to legalize marijuana, that's their decision. But if a state wants to go forward, it should be able to do so without impediments from the federal government, which now prevent stores that sell marijuana from using banks, because that's in violation of federal law."
Though Sanders proposal comes on the heels of the Ohio vote against legalizing pot, pro-marijuana activists say the Ohio measure split their community because of the way it licensed growers.
"A growing majority of Americans want states to be able to enact their own marijuana laws without harassment from the DEA, and lawmakers should listen," said Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority and a veteran marijuana activist in a statement. "The introduction of this b [...]
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Most Americans want pot to be legal, and as many as 70% of Americans want to legalize it for medical use. Nonetheless, the war on pot rages on. The Obama administration has actually increased raids on state-sanctioned medical pot programs, prosecuting both patients and their providers. Medical pot defendants have little protection in the justice system, which denies as evidence mention of their marijuana prescription or state-sanctioned use. A review of some of the sentences over the past few decades — punishments that plague individuals for decades, even after release — reveals the injustice of the drug war. Here’s a rundown of the people who received the harshest penalties handed down for pot in recent history.
1. Christopher Williams
A Montana medical marijuana provider is facing 82 to 85 years behind bars, due to mandatory minimum laws linked to some of his charges. Convicted of crimes like manufacturing marijuana, intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense, Christopher Williams appeared to be in the for the worst. But in a rare move this September, U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter offered to drop four of Williams’ charges and bring his sentencing down to “as little as 10 years,” so long as Williams waived his right to appeal.
Williams refused the offer on moral grounds. The case isn’t about medical pot, says Williams, whose judge prohibited discussion of Montana’s medical marijuana program at trial. Rather, he says, it is about government abuse of power. “I have decided to fight the federal government, because for me not defending the things that I know are right is dishonorable,” Williams wrote to the Independent Record, “Every citizen has a responsibility to fight for what is right, even if it seems like the struggle will be lost.”
Michael Donahoe, Williams’ attorney, said that federal prosecutors often bring gun charges against medical marijuana defendants without the intent to prosecute them. Rather, they are hoping for a plea bargain — one Williams is not willing to take.
“We know this for two reasons,” Donahoe told the Missoulan, “First, because the government readily agreed to dismiss the firearms counts for virtually every other medical marijuana defendant in those cases where firearms violations had been charged. And second, because insofar as [Williams’] ‘conspiracy’ is concerned, every other defendant had no real choice but to plead guilty in exchange for the firearms charges being dropped.”
He added, “Given the government’s conduct here that was a false choice inspired by an abusive exercise of government power, considering that it was the government’s reckless decision to change its medical marijuana policy that was the first cause of all these problems.”
2. Patricia Spottedcrow
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