Things That Matter

The ‘War On Drugs’ Is Changing As Voters Across The Country Continue To Legalize Marijuana

Across the United States, weed has become so normalized it’s barely even cool anymore. Many blame the likes of Martha Stewart and Elon Musk for taking the edge off the marijuana industry but it was a process long in the making.

Long gone are the days of dirty bongs, replaced by high-tech vaporizers and edibles ranging from extravagant chocolate candies to curated, catered dining experiences. Brewers are dabbling in non-alcoholic THC beers, and the country’s first-ever weed restaurant, where you can smoke and dine in public without feeling anything more than your regular dose of paranoia, opened in West Hollywood. 

Obviously, legalization has a lot to do with that. In the U.S., recreational marijuana legalization is seeing victories on a state-by-state basis. In the 2016 election, which was bad for most reasons but good for this one, four states got on board, raising the total to eight states to legalize since Colorado kicked off the movement in 2012. 

Now, we can add at least four more states to that ever growing list of places in the U.S. where adults over 21 can legally use marijuana.

Legal weed got a major boost on Election Day as at least three states voted to approve its use.

With Election Day votes, some 16 million Americans have been added to the list of places where adults can legally use marijuana. Voters in New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota and Montana on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved ballot measures on weed.

They will join about 93 million Americans who live in states that already have legalized weed, meaning about 1 in 3 Americans now live in states where marijuana is legal for anyone at least 21 years old.

The initiatives would only be the first step in the process, said John Hudak, deputy director at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in state and federal marijuana policy. After voters approve the measures, he said, the state legislatures normally would need to set up regulatory structures within each state. Currently, 11 states have legalized full, adult marijuana use.

Many credit this year’s success to reworked ballot questions that highlight racial inclusivity.

In Arizona, where a similar ballot measure failed just four years ago, advocates credit higher support for this year’s effort to a reworked ballot question.

Besides legalizing marijuana, the proposition would set up a pathway to strike prior convictions for marijuana from criminal records and includes a provision for home growers.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey opposed this year’s ballot measure, asking voters to again vote “No.”

“The current system with medical marijuana is serving the people who need it for health-related reasons,” Ducey wrote in the state’s compilation of arguments for and against the measure, provided to voters. “We don’t need the wholesale expansion that full-throttle legalization will bring.”

After such strong support for marijuana’s legalization, many are now calling on the federal government to act.

The momentum in states, including deep red parts of the country, should be a call to action for the federal government, since marijuana remains illegal under federal law. 

“Regardless of who controls the White House, the House and the Senate, we should demand landmark federal marijuana reform in 2021,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of legalization advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project, told Politico.

Regardless of what actions the remaining states and the federal government take, it’s important that any future legislation include provisions that strike prior offenses from records (since those most likely targeted were Black men) and offer protections for home growers.

Marijuana wasn’t the only winner last night – Oregon voted to decriminalize all drugs.

Credit: Josh Edelson / Getty Images

Thanks to voters, Oregon will be the first state in the country to decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Oregonians passed Ballot Measure 110 with 59 percent of the vote; it’s the most far-reaching of numerous successful drug-related measures on ballots nationwide.

The success of Measure 110 is a rebuke to the notion that any person who uses drugs, no matter what the substance, is best served by an interaction with the police and prison system.

“This is part of how we reform policing: by getting them out of the drug business,” wrote Brooklyn College sociology professor Alex Vitale, author of “The End of Policing,” on Twitter.

It’s worth noting that decriminalizing drugs isn’t the same as legalizing them. Oregon’s law will remove the criminal penalties for small amounts of illegal substances. After February 1, the penalty for drug possession will be akin to a hefty traffic ticket: a $100 fine.

Those who cannot or do not want to pay can choose to agree to a “health assessment” at an addiction recovery center. The ballot measure also includes the expansion of access to recovery treatments, housing, and harm reduction services, to be funded through the reallocation of tens of millions of dollars from Oregon’s cannabis tax. Money saved by not arresting, prosecuting, and caging people found with drugs will also be redirected to a fund for treatment services.

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Colombia Is Thinking About Legalizing and Subsidizing Its Immense Cocaine Industry

Things That Matter

Colombia Is Thinking About Legalizing and Subsidizing Its Immense Cocaine Industry

Photo: CARLOS JULIO MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images

The idea of the “War on Drugs” is shifting globally. Not only did America pass a record amount of legislation this past election regarding legalizing marijuana (and all drugs completely in Oregon), but other countries are taking steps to decriminalize drugs as well.

The most surprising country to take steps towards decriminalizing drugs is Colombia. Everyone knows that Colombia has a serious problem with cocaine trafficking and drug cartels. Colombia is estimated to export 90% of the world’s cocaine supply. And unfortunaely, Colombia decades-long War on Drugs is failing.

That’s why some politicians are suggesting that Colombia legalizes immense cocaine industry.

One politician in particular, Senator Iván Marulanda, is spearheading this fight. In an interview with Vice, Marulanda explained the reasoning behind his push for cocaine legalization as well as an outline of how Colombia can put the plan into action.

Marulanda is putting forward a bill that will legalize coca farming. The Colombian government would, in turn, completely buy the country’s entire stock of coca leaves. Per Marulanda, the state would supply the coca leaves to indigenous communities who have an ancestral relationship with the plant. These communities would create “foods, baking flour, medicinal products and drinks like tea”.

But above all: the state would produce cocaine and supply it to cocaine users.

The plan is ambitious, but Marulanda believes it could change everything for Colombia–a country that has been wracked by drug-related violence and deaths for decades.

“In Colombia, the personal consumption of cocaine is legal. It’s legal because of a court ruling that recognizes personal consumption as a human right,” Marulanda explained to Vice. “However, what we don’t have is the legal cocaine to meet that demand. Instead, we have consumers who are in contact with organized crime groups who supply them cocaine in local drug markets. It’s poor quality cocaine and it’s often mixed with unregulated substances. It’s everywhere: in our schools, in universities, in parks and bars. It’s in all these public spaces.”

Marulanda’s bill will attempt to legalize cocaine for medicinal purposes only. Users would go to their doctor for a prescription–mostly for pain-relief purposes.

Marulanda was also careful to outline the economic benefits of legalizing the cocaine industry in Colombia.

According to the senator, Colombia spends $1 billion annually trying to eradicate drugs from their country. In contrast, buying up all the coca leaves that coca farmers produce would only cost $680 million. Marulanda also insists that the farmers could “push the price up if they need to.”

Marulanda explained that the legalization of cocaine could diminish drug-related violence that is linked to cartels, but it could put a damper on the rampant deforestation that coca farmers wreak on Colombia’s land.

Because of the stigma of coca leave farming, coca farmers are forced to live in the shadows. “Usually, these farm families end up displacing themselves, deforesting new areas, and re-planting coca while they’re running from the authorities,” Marulanda explained. “Second, Colombia is destroying around 300,000 hectares of forest per year. It’s estimated that coca-growing families are responsible for 25 percent of that annual deforestation.”

The bottom line is: the old-school methods behind the “War on Drugs” are failing.

Marulanda believes that Colombia–as well as other countries–must reevaluate the way they’ve been approaching drug regulation.

“We’ve been going 40 years with a policy that costs billions of U.S. dollars with zero success and so much cost and destruction,” Marulanda said. “Let’s try out this other policy. Because something that hasn’t worked in the last 40 years is something that’s just not going to work.”

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Menendez Brother Of 1989 Murders Forced Into Solitary Confinement After Receiving Hoax Marijuana Package In Prison

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Menendez Brother Of 1989 Murders Forced Into Solitary Confinement After Receiving Hoax Marijuana Package In Prison

Photo by Kypros/Getty Images

Just when you thought the Menendez brothers would be out of the public eye for good, a bizarre story thrusts them back into the spotlight.

Back in October, TMZ reported that Erik Menendez (of the notorious Menendez brothers murder duo) had received a package of marijuana at the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.

Before the package could reach Menendez’s hands, a prison official intercepted it. Shortly after, Menendez was moved into solitary confinement, as receiving recreational drugs in jail is definitely a no-go.

According to TMZ, prison officials were investigating whether Menendez “planned on either distributing the weed or using it as currency, or whether it was just for his personal use.” But now, the case is closed.

Per the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, “the investigation is complete and the allegations against him were unfounded.”

There is no word about who would have thought to send Erik Menendez a package of marijuana while he is literally in federal prison. Sounds like someone who is almost as unhinged as he is.

Erik Mendenez, along with his brother Lyle Menendez, are both serving life sentences without parole for the murder of their parents, José and Kitty, Menéndez in 1989.

Back in the day, the trial of the Cuban-American Menendez brothers captured the attention of the nation.

The crime was incredibly unusual. Not only was it uncommon for two children to team up on the murder of both their parents, but the Menendez brothers seemingly had it all. The Menendez family was extremely wealthy and the boys were incredibly privileged–Lyle even attended Princeton University before he was suspended for plagiarism.

On August 20, 1989, a hysterical Lyle Hernandez called 911, claiming his parents had been murdered in their Beverly Hills home. When police arrived at the scene, they found José and Kitty Menéndez dead. José had been shot five times, while Kitty had been shot 10 times.

At first, 21-year-old Lyle and and 18-year-old Erik played the roles of grieving sons perfectly, so police didn’t suspect them.

But soon, the boys’ facades began to unravel. In the months following their parents’ vicious murders, Erik and Lyle began to spend their late parents’ fortune with abandon, buying luxury purchases like expenses watches and private tennis lessons.

The lavish spending provided police with an otherwise-absent motive and they began to investigate the brothers for their parents’ murders. In March of 1990, both brothers were arrested for the murder of their parents.

The two brothers claimed that they had been tortured by years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their parents. The subsequent trial became a media sensation–America was fascinated by these rich, seemingly innocent young men who murdered their parents in cold blood. After a long and drawn-out trial, the brothers were sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in July of 1996. They have been serving out their sentences ever since.

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