ChrisWeigant.com

Marijuana Legalization Has Passed The Tipping Point

[ Posted Wednesday, January 24th, 2018 – 18:38 PST ]

The state of Vermont has just made some history. It has become the first state in the Union to legalize the recreational adult use of marijuana through its legislature. There was no citizens' referendum where the people voted the new law in; instead, representative democracy worked as designed -- a clear majority of Vermonters were in favor of legalization and their elected representatives actually represented this viewpoint by changing the law. This is important because there are many states like Vermont (24 in total) where the direct democracy of ballot initiatives never took hold. When the people can't directly vote on the issue, it is up to the state government to act, to put it another way. Vermont will become the ninth state with legal recreational marijuana this July, when the new law takes effect. Over one-fifth of the American population now lives where weed is legal. Marijuana legalization can now be said to have reached -- and passed -- the tipping point. There is no going back, at this point, to the failed War On Weed, which has been waged for approximately the last century of American history. All that is really left to happen is for the federal government to wake up to this new reality. That may still take a few years, but at this point it has to be seen as all but inevitable.

Some might call such a proclamation premature. But at this point it is really hard to see how anyone can reverse this tide, even that infamous weed-hater Attorney General Jeff Sessions. There are just too many legal pot smokers and too many other citizens who have seen that life has not appreciably changed after legalization. All the horror stories that were supposed to have happened by now have not, in fact, happened. This is largely due to the fact that the drug warriors have been flat-out lying about the demon weed for almost the entire century that marijuana was illegal. Go see Reefer Madness if you need any proof of this exhaustive propaganda campaign's history. The public has been fed a steady diet of lies about marijuana ever since it was originally demonized as the way Mexican laborers and African-American jazz musicians were destroying American society from within. Again, these are historical facts, easily available for anyone to peruse. The War On Weed didn't just become racist, it actually began with racist motivations.

The first drug warrior was almost as long-lived as J. Edgar Hoover was over at the F.B.I. When alcohol Prohibition ended, a new campaign to create a federal department (for all those would be out of the job of battling rum-runners and beer barons) began under the leadership of Harry Anslinger, who became head of the newly-created Federal Bureau of Narcotics in the 1930s. Here's just a quick sample of how he sold the War On Weed to Washington politicians:

Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him.

And that's not even the worst quote from him, not by a longshot. Anslinger personally launched the federal crusade against weed, and he remained at the head of the new agency until he resigned at the mandatory retirement age in 1962. President Richard Nixon began the more-modern phase of the War On Weed in the early 1970s, with the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Top Nixon advisor John Ehrlichman, in an interview much later in his life, admitted the Nixon White House's true motivation for ramping up the Drug War:

You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black people, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

The War On Drugs had evolved from being merely racist to being racist and being used as a handy political weapon against Nixon's perceived enemies. Fast-forward to today, and we have a man running the Justice Department who was once caught joking that his opinion of the Ku Klux Klan was that they were: "okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana."

Despite this ignoble history (which continues right up to this very day), the War On Weed has been a massive failure all around, unless you view it through the warped lens of: "maximizing the number of people of color who have had their lives destroyed by the criminal justice system" (or, perhaps: "increasing how many people lose their right to vote due to marijuana crimes," a related subject).

Prohibition of alcohol ended because of widespread disregard for the law and because the people had finally had enough. Marijuana prohibition is ending for similar reasons. Up until very recently, politicians -- on the left and the right -- have refused to provide any sort of leadership on the issue at all. Nixon was right, the War On Drugs proved to be a dandy bludgeon for Republicans to politically beat on Democrats with, especially in the 1980s (the "Nancy Reagan 'Just Say No' Era"). So Republicans have long been locked into their "tough on crime, pro-law-and-order" political stance, and for roughly the past 40 years, Democrats have been terrified of being painted as "soft on drugs." This has led to the current political impasse on the national level.

But, slowly, this tide is turning too. In the last presidential election, all the candidates on stage for a primary debate, except for one, voiced support for state-legal medicinal marijuana -- in a Republican debate (the lone holdout who spoke against it was Chris Christie). On the Democratic side, one of the final two candidates spoke openly of allowing the states to legalize recreational marijuana as well (Hillary Clinton waffled a bit, but Bernie Sanders was pretty clear on the issue). Slowly the politicians are learning that they must follow the will of the people on marijuana, and the will of the people is turning overwhelmingly towards ending the federal War On Weed.

In Vermont, the legalization bill was signed by a Republican governor. However, because of this, the law is really only a half-step towards full acceptance of legalization. Vermonters will be allowed to grow and possess and use marijuana, but there will be no legal marketplace. Selling it will remain solely a black-market activity, at least for now. Vermont's legislature actually passed their first legalization bill last year, but the governor vetoed it. In the initial bill, a commission would be set up to study and make recommendations about how to create and regulate a legal marketplace. The new bill (the one signed into law) shifts the appointment power of this commission to the governor. There are fears he'll try to pack it with people adamantly opposed to the idea, but even if this happens sooner or later the politicians are going to get tired of ignoring the windfall of taxes they could easily be collecting. The people clearly support the idea, so sooner or later the politicians will get out of the way and let it happen.

In some states, politicians (Democrats, for the most part, at least so far) have fully embraced the idea of recreational legalization. Gavin Newsom, the up-and-coming California politician (he is currently the frontrunner to become the state's next governor) has long been pro-weed, and is unafraid to stand on his convictions. He helped lead the ballot initiative push when California's voters legalized recreational use (California's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, led the opposition, showing politicians' support of legal weed may be a generational issue, even among Democrats). And very recently, New Jersey's newly-sworn-in governor actively campaigned that he would push a recreational legalization bill through his own statehouse -- in his first 100 days in office. That's pretty wholehearted support.

If New Jersey legalizes recreational marijuana in the next few months, it will become the tenth state overall to do so and the second to do so legislatively. Other states are also eyeing legislative legalization (Rhode Island may not be far behind) and all that lovely tax money that is currently being left on the table. In the 2018 midterm election, several states will have ballot initiatives for either outright legalization or medicinal legalization. This could push the total number of states with medical marijuana laws into the 30s, and the number with full legalization into the teens. Since Colorado and Washington state pioneered legal recreational marijuana, the only ballot initiatives which have failed have mostly been badly written and/or inadequate. When thoughtful and comprehensive initiatives are drafted, they have been winning from coast to coast. This trend will likely continue in 2018.

Marijuana legalization has reached the tipping point, folks. We are simply not going back, no matter what Jeff Sessions thinks. We are fast approaching the point where one out of every four Americans lives in a state with legal weed. In 2018, more and more politicians at the national level are going to start realizing it is in their own best interest to support legalization. It probably won't be that big an issue this year, at least outside the states that are holding referenda (there are many other issues which will dominate the 2018 election cycle, in other words), but look for it to be a core issue in 2020.

The individual states are leading the way, but so far the federal government has largely refused to budge. Federal law still states that marijuana has no accepted medical use and is actually more dangerous to the public than opium, cocaine, or crystal meth. This is laughably incorrect and out of date, but it is going to be up to Congress to change this continued idiocy. Which means that more and more voters are going to start caring about where their candidates for the House and Senate stand on the issue. This pressure will eventually effect real and lasting change -- the final end to the federal War On Weed.

Vermont politicians have chalked up a new milestone in this fight. A state legislature has passed -- and a Republican governor has signed into law -- state-level legalization of recreational marijuana. The tipping point has happened, if indeed it didn't happen years ago. The public wants to see the federal government treat marijuana the same as it currently treats alcohol and tobacco, because it makes so much sense to do so. Jeff Sessions can try to deny this new reality all he wants, but in the end he's not going to change a thing (unless he actually accelerates the process of moving towards federal acceptance, by spurring a backlash in Congress). The tide has turned. The dam has burst. Choose whatever metaphor you wish -- my favorite is probably: America's second Prohibition is almost over.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

42 Comments on “Marijuana Legalization Has Passed The Tipping Point”

  1. [1] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Shouldn't the title have been "Marijuana Legalization Reaches New High"?

  2. [2] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    "Prohibition of alcohol ended because of widespread disregard for the law and because the people had finally had enough."

    So the laws only work when people cooperate with the laws.

    Why not apply that strategy to other problems?

    For example, if we stopped cooperating with the Big Money interests that control our political process by voting for their candidates and instead started voting against their candidates the Big Money candidates might get the message that we have had enough or we could build enough opposition to replace them if they don't get the message.

    The question is, CW, have you had enough of the Big Money interests?

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:

    But at this point it is really hard to see how anyone can reverse this tide, even that infamous weed-hater Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Reversing the marijuana tide is the least of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III's "weed" troubles as Poor Jeff has done gone and allowed his mouth to get him deep into the weeds. You would think that a man of Jeff's "stature" would know that the United States gathers signals intelligence of Russian nationals.

    "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay." ~ The Shadow

  4. [4] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    I'm guessing CW is right about the the country perhaps having passed the "tipping point". I'm having trouble relating to the "anti black" aspect of the the whole crazy 'war on drugs' thing, because my part of the country will likely be the last to see the light, and we don't even have any black folks among us.

    It will no doubt happen here, but I may not be here to see it.

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Don Harris [1] -

    Dave's not here, man.

    Heh.

    OK, your comment was pretty funny, have to admit!

    :-)

    Kick [3] -

    Nice! Didn't know anyone still remembered The Shadow...

    Here are some other good ones:

    Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?”
    - Henry Ford

    When I was a kid I inhaled frequently. That was the point.
    - Barack Obama

    The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.
    - Carl Sagan

    C. R. Stucki [4] -

    It may not be happening where you are, but it is definitely happening, that's for sure. It was built into the design from the beginning, in fact. Peruse that Anslinger link, and pay close attention to the jazz musician references, for a start....

    -CW

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    The problem with ya'all is that, as per the norm when pushing a Party agenda, is ya'all ignore the negative aspects...

  7. [7] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Michale-
    Okay. Since you are going on a cruise soon try listening to Jamie Brockett's version of "The Legend of the U.S.S Titanic".

    497 and half feet of rope.

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    I'm kinda partial to THE WRECK OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD..

    The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
    Of the big lake they called 'gitche gumee'
    The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
    When the skies of November turn gloomy

  9. [9] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Okay, but the Titantic song is on topic and what you asked for.

    "What's that you're smokin', first mate?

    That ain't nothin' but a little old cigarette, captain.

    The captain said I don't believe you give me a puff.

    The first mate said alright."

    The rest is history.

  10. [10] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW [34] {moved forward}

    OK, I see I am going to have to start cracking down on completely unrelated tangents here in the comment threads. What does this possibly have to do with the price of tea in China, or the taxes addressed in the article?

    I need a new acronym. "Off Topic, Ignored" (OT;I) perhaps? Anyone else have suggestions??

    Since you asked, I have a suggestion. You could simply respond in shorthand using the acronym STFU.

    STFU -- Subject Tangent Fundamentally Unrelated

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    CW [34] {moved forward}

    And THAT is off topic to this particular commentary....

  12. [12] 
    Kick wrote:

    And THAT is off topic to this particular commentary....

    STFU

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    Facts hurt, don't they Victoria. :D

  14. [14] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Michale

    Thanks to you I think I might have've finally figured out what "Victoria's Secret" really is - that she ain't very smart!!

  15. [15] 
    Kick wrote:

    Facts hurt, don't they Victoria. :D

    Again with the whining and projection from Mugshot Michale?! Yes, we know your history and how the facts hurt you, but that is off topic so... STFU. :D

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki
    14

    Thanks to you I think I might have've finally figured out what "Victoria's Secret" really is - that she ain't very smart!!

    Smart enough NOT to use my real name on a comment blog, old man. :D

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    CRS,

    Thanks to you I think I might have've finally figured out what "Victoria's Secret" really is - that she ain't very smart!!

    hehehehehehe So factually accurate...

  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    Again with the whining and projection from Mugshot Michale?! Yes, we know your history and how the facts hurt you, but that is off topic so... STFU. :D

    Says the moron who dragged the topic here from a totally unrelated commentary.. :D

    Yer not very good at this, Victoria.. :D

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    Smart enough NOT to use my real name on a comment blog, old man. :D

    She has a point there.. Victoria is known for taking information and paying someone to research the person that kicks her ass...

    She then attempts to extort people in an effort to silence them...

    I know.. What kind of luser, what kind of low-life scumbag does that??

    I give you our Victoria...

  20. [20] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Kick -

    Forgive me, but I never did understand that. Always seemed to me that the only possible justification for writing opinion pieces pseudonymously is being ashamed of what you're saying, right???

  21. [21] 
    Kick wrote:

    Michale
    19

    She has a point there.. Victoria is known for taking information and paying someone to research the person that kicks her ass...

    Michael is known for his fabrication, trolling posts, and unmitigated ignorance. One obviously would NOT purchase that which one could obtain from sources. :D

  22. [22] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki
    20

    Forgive me, but I never did understand that.

    You are forgiven.

    Always seemed to me that the only possible justification for writing opinion pieces pseudonymously is being ashamed of what you're saying, right???

    Wrong... in so many ways. :)

  23. [23] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Kick [22]

    So give me a few of the "many says" I'm wrong (about the shame thing).

    XOXOXO

  24. [24] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Kick [22]

    So give me a few of the "many says" I'm wrong (about the shame thing).

    XOXOXO

  25. [25] 
    Kick wrote:

    Michael
    18

    Says the moron who dragged the topic here from a totally unrelated commentary.. :D

    Says the troll who hijacked my comment to CW in answer to his question about comment threads, but then you've never been one to miss an opportunity to prove your unmitigated ignorance. :)

  26. [26] 
    Michale wrote:

    Forgive me, but I never did understand that. Always seemed to me that the only possible justification for writing opinion pieces pseudonymously is being ashamed of what you're saying, right???

    Sounds about right to me.. There are a few here who use phony names..

    And the idea that they are ashamed of what they are saying makes a lot of sense..

  27. [27] 
    Michale wrote:

    Says the troll who hijacked my comment to CW in answer to his question about comment threads,

    You could have answered it in the commentary it was in..

    But you had to drag it forward and make it off topic...

    That's what trolls do...

    Come to think of it, trolls ALSO use phony names...

    So, the facts CLEARLY show that you are the troll..

    Over 15 OFF TOPIC comments could have been avoided if you didn't troll the group like you always do...

  28. [28] 
    Michale wrote:

    Says the troll who hijacked my comment to CW in answer to his question about comment threads,

    You could have answered it in the commentary it was in..

    But you had to drag it forward and make it off topic...

    That's what trolls do...

    Come to think of it, trolls ALSO use phony names...

    So, the facts CLEARLY show that you are the troll..

    Over 15 OFF TOPIC comments could have been avoided if you didn't troll the group like you always do...

  29. [29] 
    Michale wrote:

    CRS,

    So give me a few of the "many says" I'm wrong (about the shame thing).

    Shirley, you can't be serious...

    Veronica NEVER backs up anything she says with facts...

  30. [30] 
    Kick wrote:

    23, 24, 27, 28

    STFU -- Subject Tangent Fundamentally Unrelated :)

  31. [31] 
    Michale wrote:

    Victoria,

    10,12,15,16,21,22,25

    STFU

    :D

  32. [32] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Another stunning comment thread.

  33. [33] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Due, of course, to a complete lack of self-control.

  34. [34] 
    Michale wrote:

    Due, of course, to a complete lack of self-control.

    Yea, well you know how trolls are....

  35. [35] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I know you are you.

  36. [36] 
    Michale wrote:

    I know you are you.

    Of course I am me. Who else would I be??

    But we're discussing Veronica's off-topic trolling...

  37. [37] 
    neilm wrote:

    CRS: It will no doubt happen here, but I may not be here to see it.

    Well firstly, for many reasons, I hope you are here to see it, if it happens, even if it is well into the future.

    I say "if it happens", but frankly I expect, with the exception of maybe Utah, most states will legalize medical or recreational marijuana in the next 10 years or so.

    You wrote, the last time we discussed this that your local cops profited from nabbing cars with weed as you were surrounded by legalized states - I'm guessing Utah fits that bill - as does Idaho. I'm not fishing, you don't need to confirm or deny. My guess is that Idaho will legalize well before Utah however.

    This is moot of course if there is a big Democratic wave in 2018 and 2020 and legalization at the federal level is a major issue - it would, as CW has frequently stated, be a good one for Democrats as it will match with their base's thinking, and probably prompt some reaction from the evangelical right wing (I'm assuming libertarians would be for legalization, and the country club crowd would be mostly indifferent).

  38. [38] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    neilm

    I'm Idahoan, and there ARE actually people starting to publicly push for some degree of legalization around here, but I'm pretty pessimistic about their hopes. Dems/Libs are damn near an endangered species here, so I don't see it happening for a long time.

    I'm telling locals to forget the morality and look at the economics. Our jails/prisons are bulging at the seams with people jailed over drug violations, which requires a ridiculous portion of our state and county budgets. Hopefully some day that argument will resonate with taxpayers, but not in the short run.

  39. [39] 
    Michale wrote:

    Once again, we see the clear indication that ya'all choose to ignore the negative aspects of marijuana legalization in favor of a Party agenda...

    "Party Uber Alles" Even if it kills...

  40. [40] 
    Michale wrote:

    Russ,

    Since we are of a kind when it comes to most LEO issues, I am sincerely interested in your thoughts on marijuana legalization...

  41. [41] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Kick - 30, Liz 32 etc.

    I've always liked the catch phrase of the late, great Tom Magliozzi:

    Unencumbered by the Thought Process

    or the Boston Brahminated Latin version:

    Non Impediti Ratione Cogitationis

  42. [42] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I could learn to love those acronyms, TS. :)

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