After years in the political wilderness, marijuana lobbyists find themselves in a strange position as 2014 approaches: Suddenly their power and support are growing, lawmakers are courting them, and the prospects look brighter to build on major progress the movement made in 2012.
Last year, voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of marijuana, the first states to do so. Those victories have bestowed new legitimacy on the cannabis community, giving it a better field on which to fight. By engaging in political-money games, endorsing candidates, confederating cannabis-related businesses, and old-fashioned lobbying, the pot movement is working to expand the playing field to more states and confront the federal government’s long-standing and entrenched opposition to marijuana infrastructure head on. Campaigners hope to make legalization the sort of social issue candidates have to take a stand on, just as gay marriage and abortion before it became crucial litmus tests.
Read more. [Image: Jason Redmond/Reuters]
In January 1989, in the wake of the extreme measures passed by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, the marijuana-centric magazine High Times ran an advertisement from a group calling itself the Freedom Fighters asking readers to join its “cannabis protest movement”:
“For three years we’ve been asking our readers to get involved in the cannabis reform movement,” the ad read. “During that time, we have witnessed the steady erosion of our civil rights. Now Congress has passed a truly reprehensible bill aimed at illegal drug users. Don’t you think it’s about time you stepped out of that cannabis closet you’re hiding in?”
The advertisement was primarily speaking to men. After all, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that, even in 2012, men were nearly 50 percent more likely to smoke pot than women. High Times, with its centerfolds of scantily clad women and often boorish humor, has reflected those statistics for nearly 40 years. But, given the current softening of pot’s political and social stigma, more women than ever are following the Freedom Fighters’ advice and are coming out of the “cannabis closet” by exposing themselves in public as marijuana users.
Read more. [Image: Jeffeaton/Flickr]
On a warm summer afternoon three years ago, Scott Bauer was hiking near the redwoods in Northern California when he came upon a clearing in the forest. As a scientist with the state’s department of fish and wildlife, Bauer had heard about marijuana farms in national parks, but he had never seen one up close. The scale of destruction surprised him. Towering pines and Douglas firs, some over a century old, had been leveled, and a bulldozer had dumped several tons of sediment into a nearby creek, choking it off.
As Bauer got closer he found piles of burnt trash, half empty sacks of toxic pesticides seeping into the soil, and the withering stalks of hundreds of marijuana plants spread out over five acres of denuded landscape.
"The growers had split," Bauer says. "But it was clear they had little regard for the damage they were causing."
Read more. [Image: Alexandria Sage/Reuters]
Margo Bauer was desperate. Dealing with chronic nausea and frequent bouts of vomiting — both attributed to her multiple sclerosis — the retired nurse was constantly exhausted and in pain. That was, until she attended an informational meeting where she was introduced to medical marijuana.
Under California’s Medical Marijuana Program, she received a medical marijuana card and now legally grows her own plant at a Southern California assisted living facility where she lives with her husband who suffers from Alzheimer’s. She smokes a rolled joint occasionally, which she says keeps her nausea at bay, and her pain lifted to the point that she joined an all-female synchronized swimming team called the Aquadettes.
Bauer, now 75, has also become an outspoken advocate for medical marijuana use among seniors and was instrumental in starting a collective at her assisted living facility.
"I carry a little container with a rolled cigarette," she said, "and if I have nausea I know that it is because I haven’t taken enough pot."
Read more. [Image: Reed Saxon/AP]
Considerations for the debate about age and pot.
NEW MAP! The locations of 102 San Jose marijuana dispensaries and their happy tech neighbors.
By: Allison McCann/Jennifer Daniel
Convincing women — mothers, especially — that legalization wasn’t simply about stoners and libertarians was essential to ending blanket prohibition. They needed to be assured this was sound policy and that their children would not be affected.
"We definitely wanted to reach [women]," says Tonia Winchester, the outreach director behind the Yes on I-502 camp. "We were very much focused on not being a pro-pot campaign but a pro-policy campaign, showing that we could shift resources from incarcerating and focus on programs we knew would work."
Read more. [Image: AP]
It’s an interesting look into the American psyche that even now, four years after the housing bubble brought the national economy to its knees, few things have the power to fascinate like real estate. And there’s no better example than Mitt Romney’s house in La Jolla, California.
First there was the infamous car elevator. In today’s New York Times, Michael Barbaro visits La Jolla and gets the Romney family’s neighbors to dish on their gripes about the relatively new arrivals. Many of those complaints are exactly what one might expect. A good number of the adjacent homeowners are liberal, and take issue with the former Massachusetts governor’s politics, though there’s no reason one can’t enjoy a barbecue with an ideological adversary. There’s some standard NIMBYism about the Romney family’s plans to drastically renovate the property. And others are upset about the presence of Secret Service agents, an inconvenience that the Romneys can’t do much about.
One particular gripe sticks out, though.The Romneys rarely entertain neighbors, but they have tried to weave themselves into the fabric of local life. Mr. Romney and his wife take regular walks around La Jolla, exchanging pleasantries with fellow strollers and occasionally enforcing the law. A young man in town recalled that Mr. Romney confronted him as he smoked marijuana and drank on the beach last summer, demanding that he stop.Read more. [Image: Reuters]
My Fellow Americans:
Every day this Administration seeks as best it can to evaluate our nation’s existing policies and priorities to determine whether they continue to make sense or whether they are counterproductive to America’s evolving goals and ideals. As individuals, we make these sorts of re-evaluations all the time in our own lives. We learn from experience what works and what does not. We change our minds. We strive to be better. And as a nation we must do the same to ensure that the path we have chosen is still the one we want to be on.
So, after careful consideration and a through review by the Justice Department, and with the consent and cooperation of other relevant federal agencies, I announce today that this Administration will have a new approach to the issue of medical marijuana in those states which have legalized it. Our new policies are consistent with the promises I made as a candidate, they finally make good on pronouncements I made early in my term, they are faithful in their traditional deference to states’ rights, and they sensibly redirect federal resources at a time when we need every budget dollar we can find.
I have directed the attorney general to issue a directive to all U.S. attorneys and other federal officials that they may no longer raid or threaten to prosecute medical-marijuana growers and distributors in those states that have legalized the use of the drug. As of today, the federal government will be content to allow state authorities to monitor those growers and distributors to ensure that they are complying with state law. To those states we say: We are still here to help you if you need us. To the American people we say: No longer will your federal tax dollars be spent interfering with these particular state policy choices.
Read more. [Images: Reuters]
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