Along with a much-needed policy change presented Oct. 19 by a more receptive White House, the year 2009 also saw an upswing in positive media, record high poll numbers on support for legalization — and record numbers of marijuana arrests around the country.
Now is the time to look ahead. We thank President Obama for his steps towards justice, but urge him to go further by issuing clemencies for cannabis POWs, backing Rep. Barney Frank’s decrim and hemp bills, and ordering the DEA to reschedule cannabis. NIDA should recognize that cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco and act on the AMA’s call for research. An election year, 2010 promises to be a pivotal time with vast potential for change. California voters may pass the TaxCananabis2010 initiative to allow adults to legally possess an ounce and grow a small, personal garden, and to allow cities and counties to tax and regulate non-medical adult sales as a local option. This approach, while too conservative for some, may strike the right balance for the general voting populace and advance the cause as it lays a framework for future reforms. If advocates collect enough signatures, Arizona may vote to become another medical state, and Oregon may approve a dispensary system to increase access for patients there. Californians will choose a new governor and all American voters will elect Congressional representatives and other officials, giving everyone the opportunity to press candidates about their positions on Frank’s bills, the Truth in Trials Act, and California’s AB 390 legalization bill, etc.
Los Angeles needs to come up with fair and reasonable regulations for an adequate number of patient dispensaries and reject the ongoing attempt to put medical cannabis back on the streets for the profit of gangs and criminal markets. People setting up collectives need to insist on their right to do so, but also to act as models of responsible community business and avoid becoming ‘nuisances’ that draw negative attention and neighborhood opposition. San Diego needs to recall and replace its DA.
The worsening economic crisis will force more budget cuts. Will students continue to pay for prison expansions with a rise in their tuitions — or will legislators wake up to the fact that the best way to ease prison crowding is not only to support education but also to release non-violent marijuana prisoners and stop violating parolees caught in the revolving prison door for failing flawed and discriminatory drug tests? Too many serious and violent crimes need the attention of law enforcement’s limited resources for politicians to continue to be whores to the prohibition lobby. Consider the savings decriminalization will bring to the budget combined with new revenues that a regulated market will bring — estimated at $1.4 billion for California alone by the State Board of Equalization.
The cannabis movement has gained much momentum over the past year. We need everyone to keep it going, to get involved, and to show up in court to support those facing unjust prosecutions. Hopefully this time next year will bring hemp farming and equal rights for cannabis consumers back to America. The wind is at our backs.