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CNN Report: are American opinions on marijuana reaching tipping point?
« Reply #1 on: 09-04-2013 at 09:19:48 PM »

As haze clears, are American opinions on marijuana reaching tipping point?


(CNN) -- The question has dipped in and out of the national conversation for decades: What should the United States do about marijuana?

Everyone has heard the arguments in the legalization debate about health and social problems, potential tax revenue, public safety concerns and alleviating an overburdened prison system -- but there isn't much new to say.

The nation has moved from the abstract matter of "if" to the more tangible debate over "how," said Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and co-author of "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know."

Changing attitudes about weed are part of a larger shift in the country's collective thoughts on federal drug policy. Just this week, on the heels of CNN's Sanjay Gupta reversal of his stance on medical marijuana, Attorney General Eric Holder announced an initiative to curb mandatory minimum drug sentences and a federal judge called New York City's stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional.

"Between Attorney General Holder's announcement, the decision made on stop-and-frisk and Dr. Gupta coming out with his documentary, it was a big week for drug policy," Kilmer said.

Peruse the Marijuana Majority website and you'll see decrying pot prohibition is no longer confined to the convictions of Cheech and Chong.

"The law is simply going to die before it's repealed. It will just go into disuse," Kane said. "It's a cultural force, and you simply cannot legislate against a cultural force."

Kleiman, who is also chairman of the board for BOTEC Analysis Corp., a think tank applying public policy analysis techniques to the issues of crime and drug abuse, said the federal government may have tripped itself up in the 1970s by classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.

States to take lead

Kleiman said the infrastructure he is helping establish in Washington could provide a model for other states, but ideally, he'd prefer a model that involved federal legalization and permitted users to either grow their own marijuana or patronize co-ops.

"All the stuff I want to do you can't do as long as it's federally illegal," Kleiman said. "By the time we get it legalized federally, there will be systems in place in each state," which will make uniform controls at a national level tricky.

The push for legalization has gained momentum, though, he said, and he doesn't foresee it moving backward. In 10 years, proponents might even move politics at a national level, he said, though predictions are problematic so long as pot prohibition endures.

"It's sustained right now. Whether it's going to be sustained is another question," he said.

In the meantime, states are expected to continue to lead the charge. Alaska could put a legalization ballot before voters next year, while Maine, Rhode Island, California and Oregon may give it a shot in 2016, when the presidential election promises to bring younger voters to the polls.

"I think a lot's going to depend on how legalization plays out in Colorado and Washington -- also, how the federal government responds," Kilmer said. "We still haven't heard how they're going to address commercial production facilities in those states."

The next White House administration could easily reverse course, just as it could on mandatory minimums, Kilmer said, but while pot's future is nebulous, the nation's change in attitude -- not only since the 1960s, but even since a decade ago -- is clear. That makes proponents hopeful, if reluctant to make predictions.

"I didn't see this (shift in opinion) coming, and I think that's true of my collaborators," Reuter said. "So much for experts."
« Last Edit: 09-04-2013 at 09:31:50 PM by Sea Mac »
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