Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Exciting times for drug law reformers

It's nice when there's so much going on on the drug-law reform front that it's almost difficult to keep up with it. Last night I mentioned the vote in the New Jersey legislature to allow the medicinal use of marijuana, although on a more restrictive basis than I would like to see. The new law is based on a law-enforcement model rather than a medical model. Doctors, the ones with at least some claim to medical knowledge, generally have discretion to prescribe most prescription drugs (most much more dangerous than cannabis) for whatever condition they consider appropriate, including "off-label" uses for conditions the drug was originally not approved for. But in NJ the politicians -- people with no claim to medical knowledge, guided by law enforcement, people with even less knowledge -- will dictate what conditions marijuana can be recommended for. Control freaky still. But it's still an improvement over absolute prohibition of medical uses.

Meanwhile, in California, I talked to Steve Gutwillig , head of the Calif. Drug Policy Alliance, about the Assembly public safety committee passing SF Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's legalize/regulate/tax bill. Genuinely historic. Unfortunately, it would have to be passed by the health committee by Friday to get considered by the full Assembly this year, and for various reasons that's not going to happen. Tom will probably introduce a new bill for consideration next year -- or perhaps a bill that parallels Richard Lee's initiative measure, which will be on the ballot in November. I don't know how aggressive the opposition will be, but I do know it will be dishonest. The basic MO of the drug warriors is to lie about marijuana, and they're still getting away with it.

And meanwhile yet, Washington state's Assembly will consider a legalization bill, and activists have announced they have filed an initiative they hope to get on the November ballot. Going back and forth with Steve Kubby on Facebook this afternoon, he predicted California's initiative will pass in November. I hope so but I'm feeling a bit more cautious. Win or lose, however, having it on the ballot is definite progress.

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