Even Cops Say It’s Time to Legalize Drugs

When thousands of police veterans agree it’s time to end the War on Drugs and legalize marijuana, you know it’s time. Our interview with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) staff Neill Franklin (Exec. Dir.) and Diane Goldstein (Sec.).

Washington State Update: Cannabis Public Media

July 8th, 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of retail cannabis sales in the state of Washington, and while the implementation of I 502 has been a success on many levels, a recent change in cannabis laws regarding medical marijuana enacted during the last legislative session have mandated many radical and unpopular changes to the nation’s second oldest medical marijuana program … for an update on cannabis in Washington state CPM’s Brian Bahouth spoke with Michael Stusser, Seattle Weekly columnist and host of Higher Ground TV … listen to this mix of words and music

Higher Ground: Weed in the Rose Garden

The legalization battle arrives at our nation’s capital.

Every single day there’s breaking news in the marijuana movement. Alaska officially legalized weed on February 24, making it the fourth state in the Union to toss aside the chains of prohibition, and the next day, at the stroke of midnight, our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., followed suit. #CommanderInSpleef!  LincolnHG

But if ya think the “Just Say No” Nancy Reagan types are gently stepping aside, and the taxation and regulation of cannabis are going along swimmingly, you’ve been smoking too much of the recently legalized chronic.

In the District of Columbia, an hour before the city officially made recreational ganja legal, Republicans in the House of Representatives tossed a little fear-mongering into the mix.

“You can go to prison for this,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told The Washington Post—and the citizens of D.C. who overwhelmingly approved the initiative. ”We’re not playing a little game here.”

Reps. Chaffetz and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) sent a memorandum to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, threatening that if the city chose to move forward with pot in the District, “you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law.” The right-wing reps were trying to nullify legalization—and the will of the people—through riders they’d previously attached to the unrelated trillion-dollar Congressional spending bill.

The letter went on to demand that Bowser create a list of all D.C. employees who participated in the enactment of the ballot measure, fork over their timecards, and share their salaries, apparently in an effort to create a sort of Green List. Joe McCarthy would be so proud.

Bowser’s no pushover (hell, in D.C., mayors often smoke crack just to deal with the toughness of their constituents); she let the world know she would do what more than 70 percent of her residents made clear they wanted when they passed the measure last summer. “My Administration is committed to upholding the will of DC voters,” she tweeted. “We will implement Initiative 71 in a thoughtful, responsible way.”

Police Chief Cathy Lanier is also on board, telling the American News Women’s Club, ”All those [marijuana]arrests do is make people hate us.” She added, “Marijuana smokers are not going to attack and kill a cop. They just want to get a bag of chips and relax. Alcohol is a much bigger problem.”

D.C.’s decriminalization law is a particularly big deal because of the massive racial biases behind marijuana arrests in the city. According to the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, nine out of 10 people arrested for drug offenses in D.C. between 2009 and 2012 were black. And while blacks make up slightly more than half of the city’s population, surveys show they’re no more likely than whites to use marijuana. The craziest fact of all, according to The Washington Post: White folks are more likely than any other race to be selling drugs. Let’s just say it loud and clear: The War on Drugs is a war on black Americans.

Beyond that, the new D.C. law is largely symbolic, as sales of any kind are not allowed (which also means they won’t be collecting any of those sweet tax dollars). Individuals are allowed to possess and cultivate up to six plants, but only three can be budding in the government’s backyard at a time. District residents can’t fire up on federal land (yes, that means the Lincoln Memorial), in bars or restaurants, or in public housing. Medical marijuana is allowed (it was passed in D.C. in 2010), and if you’re feeling particularly generous, you can “gift” an ounce to friends, family, and fellow residents, so long as they’re over 21. (“Mr. Speaker, I hereby offer this peace-doobie to break the gridlock . . . ”)

The road to national legalization will be paved with setbacks, scare tactics, and a social conversation about what it means to be high. As with moonshine, civil rights, and same-sex marriage, we’ll have to tinker a bit to get it right. Nebraska and Oklahoma are taking Colorado to the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming legalization is causing massive drug-enforcement problems, with too many pickups full of Denver ganja entering their backyards. Last week all nine former DEA heads joined the brief. It points to red state/blue state differences, and serves as yet another reminder that, yes, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

But in a sign that we can all get along, a man walked into the Sixth District police station in D.C. last Monday and asked for his previously seized weed back. (He’d been arrested for a charge unrelated to drugs, and, along with a belt and a wallet, had his stash taken during processing.) As possession of two ounces or less is fully legal, an officer gave him his baggie of marijuana. Progress, apparently, comes in small doses.

This article first appeared in The Seattle Weekly.

The Votes Are IN: Prohibition On the Way OUT

Alaska? YES! Oregon? YES! Washington DC? YES! Guam? YES? Higher Ground? YES!

And while the referendum in Florida did not pass, let us give you some good news from the Sunshine State (where 58% of the voters supported medical marijuana initiative!). The issue brought out young voters, and they supported the measure big-time. Politicians from BOTH parties must now pay serious attention to States where marijuana is on the ballot, as young citizens will flood to the polls, and paying attention to geriatric politicians and other progressive causes as they vote on various important issues.

November brought a significant set of votes and victories. And once California joins the recreational realm in November of 2016 (after pioneering the medical dispensary vote in 1996), the catnip will be out of the bag. It’s a long ride, and looking up for the legalization movement.

For further analysis on the elections, votes on decriminalization, and future of legalization, here are the 5 fab articles on the subject.

Hillary Should Admit She Didn’t Inhale with Bill

Hillary Clinton is by far the most reasonable Presidential candidate about marijuana policy, but we have a hard time inhaling her non-admission about never trying it. After all, she’s married to…Bill!

Exclusive Video of Maureen Dowd …STONED!

Higher Ground has obtained exclusive footage of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd chowing marijuana brownies. It’s not pretty.

Marijuana’s Moment Has Arrived

When we find people more articulate than ourselves, we feature them. I mean, why wouldn’t we? The following essay by Princeton University historian Julian Zilizer breaks down the reason legalization is inevitable. We couldn’t have said it better….

GrassIsNotGreener Is a Downer, Man

At HigherGround, our responsibility is to show you all sides of the debate in and around the legalization of marijuana (aka Prohibition), and let you decide where you stand. The following is an ad from a coalition who opposed the recent editorial decision at the New Times Editorial Board which endorsed the legalization movement. Have a read, and we’ll be following up with additional thoughts and perspectives.

(From the Washington Post)
A coalition of groups is running a full-page advertisement in the New York Times this weekend, advocating against the maturing movement to legalize marijuana.

The ad comes in response to a New York Times editorial series launched last weekend arguing for an end to marijuana prohibition. In it, the newspaper’s editorial board advocated for an end to the federal ban on the drug. The ad, pictured below, features a businessman with the pasted-on head of a hippie, a visual metaphor for what the groups warn is the disconnected perception and reality when it comes to legalization.

“The legalization of marijuana means ushering in an entirely new group of corporations whose primary source of revenue is a highly habit-forming product,” the ad reads. “Sounds a lot like another industry we just put in its place. Many facts are being ignored by this and other news organizations. Go to to see why so many major medical associations oppose marijuana legalization.”

The website, which contains resources about the dangers of marijuana, is affiliated with Project SAM, which stands for Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The nonprofit was co-founded by former congressman and former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Patrick Kennedy and former Obama administration drug policy adviser professor Kevin Sabet. It advocates against legalization, but in favor of dropping mandatory minimum sentences and removing criminal penalties while expunging records for low-level users of the drug, and pushes for better access to treatment, education and prevention. The group contends that legalization risks the creation of a predatory industry

“In the marijuana business, the values of the flower children have been quickly replaced by the values of Wall St. power brokers,” Sabet said in a statement. “We’re on the brink of creating the next Big Tobacco. We feel like this is an important message most Americans have not considered.”

The implementation of legalization by Colorado officials–some of them at least initially opposed to it–has been described as a success, though it’s too early to assess the public health impact of the law itself. In Washington, the only other state to also legalize pot, the drug went on sale this month. Legalization is on the November ballot in Oregon and Alaska.

The coalition behind the new website includes:

The American Society of Addiction Medicine, a group that boasts more than 3,000 addiction physician and professional members
The National Association of Drug Court Professionals, a nonprofit whose members include judges, attorneys and clinical specialists
National Families in Action, a group dedicated to getting state laws passed to prevent marketing of drugs and drug use to children.
Parents Opposed to Pot.

(Thanks to Niraj Chokshi for this story. Niraj also reports for GovBeat, The Post’s state and local policy blog.)

New York Times Endorses Legalization

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.
We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.
There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.
We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.
But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.
The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.
There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the “Reefer Madness” images of murder, rape and suicide.
There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.
Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime.
In coming days, we will publish articles by members of the Editorial Board and supplementary material that will examine these questions. We invite readers to offer their ideas, and we will report back on their responses, pro and con.
We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.

Never Fear, The Pot Will Appear: Everything You Need to Know About Washington’s Recreational Roll-Out

The moment in history has arrived – enabling citizens to walk into a store and LEGALLY buy a bag of marijuana! But hold on a sec…

If there’s any way you can wait a few days to buy your legal weed from a recreational store in Washington State, you should. Seattle’s first retail pot shop, Cannabis City, is going to be a mob-scene when the doors open at (high) noon – and then they’re gonna run out of marijuana. The same will be true with the other 23 stores given retail licenses by the state today. 

Though Washington State made weed legal a year and a half ago with the passage of Initiative 502, it’s taken some time to fine-tune the details. State agencies have had to vet growers, deal with inspections (now there’s a fun job!), quarantine herb before it could be shipped, and grant licenses to retailers who then had to install security cameras, tinted windows, pot-tracking software(!) and hopefully a Slurpee machine! (Imagine if they ran these kinds of background checks for folks trying to buy firearms!) 

Right off the bat, there will be extremely limited supplies for ganja, as only 79 growers got the permits (from over 7000 applications!), and most those harvests won’t come in until late this month. So if you were looking forward to the PowerPurpleKushBerryCrunch that won the Cannabis Cup, yer gonna be waiting a bit longer. But hey – all good things are worth waiting for – besides, that SuperChronicHydroponic stuff will put you on the couch for days on end. Moderation, man! Prices will start high (up to $400 an ounce – ouch), but like Teslas, Furby dolls and the Galaxy S5, come down over time. Besides, would you rather pay $25 for a legal gram, or go black-market style, potentially rooming in the tank with Big Bubba while funding Mexican cartels and an over-crowded and money-sucking prison system?

Oh – and those Reefer’s Peanut Butter cup brownies you were so excited to try – that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon either. No edibles have so far been given the green light in Washington, as the process for licensing kitchens has been painfully slow. (Part of the debate has been a good one, with lawmakers wishing to make sure THC-laden edibles and sodas are not targeted to kids and that labels are clear enough even for Maureen Dowd to understand.) While I like the idea of child-resistant packaging, it’s hard enough for non-stoned adults to open a damn aspirin bottle, so I do hope they don’t make things too difficult

Within a month or so, things will be running as smooth as the cool-kids have it goin’ on in Colorado, with varied and plentiful products, and more tax dollars than ever to blow on items like roads, infrastructure, and, hopefully, drug education and teacher’s salaries. Unlike Colorado, a major hurdle in Washington that has never been addressed is the way medical marijuana dispensaries will be treated. As of now, the myriad of retail regs are not being applied to these long-standing dispensaries, causing hell and havoc for many card-carrying marijuana patients who are truly in need and benefit greatly from the medicinal uses of weed.

The good news for those who do have marijuana cards – the strange gray-area they currently reside in allows them to purchase edibles of all-kinds – including licorice chews, gourmet chocolates and marijuana-infused hard candies. Not that I’ve tried any

When it comes to the marijuana movement, it’s important to keep the mellow in mind, and visualize the Big Picture. As of this very moment: two States have legalized weed, and 20 more are scheduled to vote on the issue in the next two years. Like marriage equality, it’s going to happen – we just need the naysayers, Bible-thumpers and right-wing fundamentalists to come to their senses or, more likely, succumb to the will of the people – and the democratic process.