Drug Policy Alliance: U.S. Senate to Hold Sham Hearing on Marijuana Legalization

Reform Advocates Denounce Hearing as One-Sided “Prohibitionist Party” —  Senator Grassley Stacks the Deck with Known Anti-Legalization Zealots and Ignores Benefits of Legalization, Such as Massive Drop in Marijuana Arrests and Prohibition-Related Violence, as well as New Tax Revenue

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 4, 2016.  On Tuesday morning, Senator Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Feinstein (D-CA) will hold a hearing in the Caucus on International Narcotics Control titled “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?” The hearing is ostensibly a response to a recent GAO report that criticized DOJ for a lack of oversight of states that have legalized marijuana. However, the hearing is likely to be nothing more than a prohibitionist party.

“These hearings are a one-sided sham with the deck stacked with witnesses who have a track record of vehemently opposing marijuana legalization,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “An honest evaluation of marijuana legalization would include the undeniable benefits of legalization like the massive drop in marijuana arrests, the billions in taxes, and the transition from an underground market to a regulated one. A more even-handed hearing would also address the destructive harms of marijuana prohibition.”

Grassley and Feinstein have invited the Attorney General from Nebraska, whose lawsuit against Colorado and its legalization law were recently thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court. Another witness is a board member of notorious anti-marijuana group Project SAM. And another witness  is a U.S. Attorney who has vigorously prosecuted medical marijuana cases in California. Grassley’s own views on marijuana legalization are well-documented. In 2009, he commented that “marijuana is a gateway to harder drug use,” a theory that has been widely debunked.  Grassley has been known for his openness and impartiality on many issues, often allowing witnesses to appear on panels and oppose bills he supports.

Against this backdrop, this hearing is all the more disconcerting.  “Invites to policymakers and experts who have worked in support of marijuana reform must have been lost in the mail,” said Collins.

Grassley’s decision to hold a hearing on marijuana legalization is bizarre given the fact that he is under pressure to hold a hearing and vote in the Judiciary Committee on the bipartisan CARERS Act.  The CARERS Act has broad support and would affirm the right of states to set their own medical marijuana policies, reschedule medical marijuana to Schedule II, enable access to CBD oil, allow banks to provide financial services to marijuana dispensaries, permit VA physicians to recommend medical marijuana to veterans, and eliminate barriers to medical marijuana research. “Grassley should concentrate on issues that affect his state, instead of grandstanding,” said Collins.

Related Material:

Huffington Post

Colorado Celebrates Legalization Anniversary: Massive Drop in Arrests and Millions in Tax Revenue, By: Art Way, 01/05/2016– http://www.huffingtonpost.com/art-way/colorado-celebrates-legal_b_8918022.html?1452023682

More than three years have passed since Colorado residents voted to legalize marijuana, which immediately allowed adults to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. This past New Year’s Day marked the two-year anniversary of adults being able to legally buy marijuana in Colorado. The policy is still in its formative stage, but the first year after marijuana sales started in Colorado went very well and we continue to see the good shape of things to come.

The destruction imagined by opponents of legalization in 2012 never came true and is unlikely to materialize. Public safety benchmarks are under scrutiny in a manner never seen under prohibition and there is no real cause for panic in the foreseeable future. In short, the current state of legalization is more reflective of the world imagined by proponents — legalization works!

Of course that doesn’t prevent many from making broad assumptions and speculating about dangers associated with legalization. What’s important for the world to know is the policy is growing under the guidance of a family of state regulators, reform advocates, health practitioners and responsible industry affiliates.

As we mark the Jan 1st anniversary of marijuana legalization in Colorado, let’s take a look at some unquestionable characteristics this policy is starting to reveal in its first couple of years.

1) Thousands Not Arrested for Marijuana in Colorado

This initial and foundational aspect of marijuana legalization is often overlooked – marijuana arrests in Colorado have plummeted. We’ve seen possession, cultivation and distribution charges for marijuana cumulatively drop over 80%. Thousands of people in the state are no longer facing the immediate or collateral impact of a marijuana arrest. These thousands we speak of are disproportionally young black and brown men who now face one less obstacle of the many they endure in this country. We’ve also seen all drug-related charges drop by 23% on a judicial district level since the passage of amendment 64.

2) Revenue Allocation for Important Services

Colorado is projected to have brought in over 125 million dollars in taxes for 2015. These monies are put into a fund to improve local public schools or are collected by the state to be divvied up via the Governor’s allocation plan. The Governor’s plan provides a snapshot as to what a public health approach to marijuana looks like–funds are distributed to public education, behavioral health, law enforcement and youth prevention.

The Governor’s plan in the 2015/2016 fiscal year alone will allocate 23 million dollars to such groups as the Tony Grampsas Youth Development program, which provides necessary services to youth at risk likely to be disproportionately targeted by punitive prohibition policies in the first place.

Colorado and other pioneering states are showing us what a reality-based, public health approach to marijuana looks like. These states are laboratories of democracy funding studies on the impact of marijuana and looking to allocate resources where needed and most effective. This while other states are still depending on users and possessors to remain fodder for their criminal justice system.

Happy anniversary, Colorado!

Art Way is the Senior Director of National Criminal Justice Reform Strategy and Colorado State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org).

This piece first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog: http://www.drugpolicy.org/blog/colorado-celebrates-legalization-anniversary-massive-drop-arrests-and-millions-tax-revenue

DPA Fact Sheet:

The Life-Changing Consequences of a Marijuana Arrest

Source: http://www.drugpolicy.org