Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Problems ahead for marijuana reform





pot leaf.jpg


Any way you look at it, marijuana will be big in news in 2015. After all, 2014 was a good year for proponents of legalization with victories at the ballot box in several states and in Congress. The year was so good for marijuana that Delaware will finally open a long-awaited medical marijuana dispensary. In addition, the Delaware General Assembly is expected to at least decriminalize marijuana possession in the state. Possession of marijuana may finally be almost a non-criminal act in 2015.
However, 2014 ended with an ominous legal action that could not only set back the legalization movement, but could create feuds between the states that could spread to other topics and put a greater emphasis on the difference between red and blue states.
Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to force the federal government to enforce U.S. laws. The sale and possession of marijuana is still illegal in the United States no matter what Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon say. Nebraska and Oklahoma allege that Colorado’s 2012 legalization of marijuana sales has created a cross-border drug problem for them. Colorado, the lawsuit claims, is allowing Nebraska and Oklahoma residents buy marijuana in bulk there and then resell it in the neighboring states. Under the U.S. Constitution, states can go directly to the Supreme Court to settle arguments against with each other. So, if the court takes the case, we may see the Supreme Court having a say in whether you can smoke pot or not.
Such a ruling could derail the pro-legalization movement. States with ballot measures are the target of pro-pot campaigns. Proponents target 2017 as the year marijuana becomes legal throughout the country. A Republican Congress is unlikely to do it, so the campaign is going state by state. It is raising a lot of money along the way.
Colorado’s relatively smooth to a recreational marijuana market has encouraged forces in other states to do likewise. It does not hurt that ailing legislatures are hungrily watching the pot taxes roll in. Minor inconveniences, such as pot dealers having enormous cash amounts on hand do not seem to bother people. The trouble comes from misaligned federal and state laws. The cash problem comes because banks are not allowed to handle drug money. Marijuana possession can be illegal in one state and legal in another, such the problem between pro-pot Colorado and anti-pot Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Decriminalization is a lot different from outright legalization. Under the 2014 proposed law in Delaware, individuals could possess a small amount of marijuana and smoke or eat it in private. Public use would have been limited to a fine. Legalization means marijuana stores can openly grow, sell and buy marijuana. Medical marijuana was just approved as one of the last acts of Congress. However, recreational pot is still against federal law.
This is obviously a potential problem. Just ask the Supreme Court.

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