Over the past few decades, society has had a significant change in attitude toward cannabis. With this, we have seen shifts in our institutions, such as medical marijuana laws in 18 states, and outright legalization in two. Riding this current, on Sunday, July 21, in Costa Mesa, California, the California Democratic Party passed two landmark resolutions on the issue of marijuana. These resolutions happened within weeks of the Conference of Mayors calling on the President to end federal interference with local marijuana laws. While there are clearly still federal obstacles to legalization, the strong movements at the state level have continued to reflect these evolving social attitudes on marijuana.
The first resolution calls on President Obama to respect the voters of Colorado and Washington and not to allow any federal interference in the enactment of their marijuana legalization initiatives, end federal raids on patients and providers in medical marijuana states, and appoint a commission to look into the reform of our nation’s marijuana laws. The second resolution calls for statewide guidelines for medical marijuana distribution from the state legislature that respects the rights of municipalities to regulate and license medical marijuana.
These resolutions follow a very strong declaration from the nonpartisan US Conference of Mayors (USCM). The USCM unanimously passed a resolution last month calling on the Obama Administration to stop interfering with state and local efforts to resolve problems caused by marijuana prohibition, and to reclassify marijuana in the federal drug laws out of Schedule 1.
Both of the California Democrat resolutions, if adopted by Obama Administration, would be a large step in the direction of legalization. Under the Obama Administration, there have been hundreds of raids on medical marijuana dispensaries that have operated legally in California since the Compassionate Care Act of 1996 (Prop 215) was passed. This was in addition to other federal actions in California, such as threatening to seize landlords’ property if they did not evict medical marijuana dispensaries.
This is all possible because the federal government is not constrained by state law, despite ballot initiatives in states like California specifically allowing medical marijuana. What this means is, while the average California police officer would have no grounds to arrest someone smoking marijuana with a medical marijuana card, the FBI, as a federal law enforcement agency, can continue to raid medical marijuana dispensaries on their own volition. The White House website has the following to say on medical marijuana:
“Regardless of state laws to the contrary, there is no such thing as ‘medical’ marijuana under Federal law. Marijuana continues to be a Schedule I substance meaning that it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
While the federal government’s “War on Drugs” continues to lag behind popular sentiment, the above statement lags behind facts: in Washington and Colorado, the legalized marijuana is no longer “medical.”
While it is hard to see which route legalization will take, even it’s opponents see the steady change on this issue: Partnership for a Drug Free America’s poll found that approximately 70% of parents wanted medical marijuana to be legalized. The changes in the California Democrat Party does not merely help other institutions that will follow as public sentiment steadily builds behind reforming marijuana laws: it foreshadows them.