US marijuana victories may not last

2012-11-08 13:00

Washington - Votes making Colorado and Washington the first US states to legalise marijuana for recreational use could be short-lived victories for pot backers because the federal government will fight them, two former US drug control officials said on Wednesday.

They said the federal government could sue to block parts of the measures or send threatening letters to marijuana shops, followed up by street-level clampdowns similar to those targeting medical marijuana dispensaries the government suspects are fronts for drug traffickers.

"This is a symbolic victory for [legalisation] advocates, but it will be short-lived," Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to the Obama administration's drug czar, told reporters.

"They are facing an uphill battle with implementing this, in the face of ... presidential opposition and in the face of federal enforcement opposition," Sabet said.

Colorado and Washington state legalised the possession and sale of marijuana for adult recreational use on Tuesday through ballot measures in defiance of federal law, while a similar initiative was defeated at the polls in Oregon.

The initiatives appeared to reflect growing national support for liberalised marijuana laws, as indicated by a Gallup poll last year that found 50% of Americans favored making it legal, versus 46% opposed.

Lawsuit expected

The US Department of Justice, which considers marijuana an illegal drug liable to being abused, said enforcement of the federal Controlled Substances Act "remains unchanged".

"We are reviewing the ballot initiatives and have no additional comment at this time," a government statement said.

Sabet said he expected the Obama administration would at some point file a federal lawsuit to challenge and seek to block aspects of state-level legalisation measures and that this "is going to be caught up in the courts for quite a while".

But federal action was not expected to snuff out state-sanctioned marijuana in those states - especially the ability of individuals to possess an ounce or less of the drug without risk of arrest by local police.

Sabet, who opposes legalisation, acknowledged that states were free to eliminate their own penalties for possession. But he said US Attorneys could send letters to Colorado and Washington governors warning them not to implement provisions to regulate and tax marijuana at special stores.

Or the federal government could wait until such a system is created and sue to block it, he said.

Obama under pressure

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, had said he personally opposed his state's legalisation measure. But he has since said he plans to respect the will of voters.

In Washington state, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee, who was leading in the vote count in a tight race, has spoken out against his state's initiative but is committed to implementing it, campaign spokesperson Jaime Smith said.

If the Obama administration reacts too harshly, it could suffer politically with younger, more left-leaning voters who chose legalisation and typically lean Democratic.

But President Barack Obama also faces pressure from anti-drug groups to protect young people from harm they say would result if states set up a regulated and taxed marijuana trade.

Robert DuPont, who served as drug czar for former Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and opposes legalisation, said he welcomed a confrontation.

"I think it's time to resolve it," he said.

Ian Millhiser, senior constitutional policy analyst with the left-leaning Centre for American Progress, said the federal government, even if it sues to challenge the Colorado and Washington initiatives, cannot force police in those states to arrest people for marijuana infractions.

"If I were Barack Obama, I would look at this and say I would rather have young voters with me," Millhiser said.

  • mchingwe - 2012-11-08 13:11

    Puff 'n' pass

      danie.strydom.7 - 2012-11-08 13:18

      Democracy at work, the people voted, the government spends tax money to change their minds and effect laws to ban a plant. LMFAO. Money would be better spent on clearing your deficit USA, not prohibiting a plant being grown.

      nick.armstrong.1800 - 2012-11-08 13:40

      F#ck the government!! So much for "liberal" Obama... !! Freedom of Choice I say to every backward, pre-historic, tosser who still thinks it's up to others to tell you what to do with your own life... My life = my mind = my body = my choice. So long as in the execution of my Freedom of Choice I am not hurting anyone else, or potentially doing so (like drinking and driving); not hurting any animals; not damaging any property; not harming the Earth and environment in any way - then, please tell - WTF am I doing wrong??? Nothing! F#ck all man-made backward laws that inhibit Freedom of Choice of an individual to do unto him/herself as he/she so chooses... It's called civil liberties too... Backward man still has a long, long way to go before we are all truly - truly - free... Free your Mind - Think for yourself.. :)

      thando.gqabaza - 2012-11-08 13:41

      The plant being grown , if left unchecked, would indirectly lead to the deficit increasing

      dracolusus - 2012-11-08 13:44

      The amount of tax money they could make on it would be large. They could become the next Amsterdam and cut a nice chunk of that deficit they moan about.

      sibusiso.hlongwane.92 - 2012-11-08 13:46

      how do you figure that Thando? pass to the left..

      richard.hipkin - 2012-11-08 14:09

      I just want that jar... :)

      eric.vanvuuren - 2012-11-08 14:14

      As a “Free conscious Human” I say... Who on this earth has let us except that we need approval or acceptance from corrupt leaders that is supposed to represent our interests. Your people have spoken, you arrogant prick’s. Who has given all our freedoms to governments, and who decides over what life we choose as free human beings? You do not own us; we are not your properties. It’s time for the poor and the middle class to unite against all leaders around the world and just refuse to follow them to "Our end". Because: our goals are aligned. As long as this current system is allowed to continue the gaps will exist and increase; not because of this or that. I will no longer listen!!! Because I am paying attention and consciously choose my future and own my actions from now on. No excuses no regret. Only: love and understanding. This site has become a tool for propaganda and it’s sad to see how free people willingly get manipulated through the mechanisms of the media. WE ARE BORN FREE!!! Our rights cannot be given or taken away it is arrogant to think any other way. Watch out we are paying attention and refuse to be lulled into a falls sense of security again. So tread carefully.

      preshen.govender.12382 - 2012-11-08 14:25

      going green

  • irene.laskowskadebeer - 2012-11-08 13:14

    not the govt... big pharma under the guise as govt, we all know money talks. you only have to look where campaign money comes from to realise big business pulls the strings of both Dem and Rep. they're the ones who'se gonna lose out, a couple of years back, Obama's appointment of food Czar of the FDA was... any guesses? former Monsanto CEO, i kid you not.

  • philip.vde - 2012-11-08 13:24

    Governments are the biggest drug dealers and want to stop any competition .... God made weed , man made beer .... in God I trust

  • kenpeg.dawson - 2012-11-08 13:25

    If they cant make it stick why have a poll in the first place?

  • stefan.kruger.1297 - 2012-11-08 13:26

    Ive got a deal for you... Ban Weed, but give free Cancer treatments... We all know Cancer is a multi billion dollar corporation... And we know this wont happen anyways.. so yeah.. puff n pass!

  • ClassWarTrotsky - 2012-11-08 13:41

    The state has FA right to dictate what substances I use.

  • zane.zeiler - 2012-11-08 13:48

    Those 'former' drug control officials can voice their opinions all they want, the people have spoken and in time the US federal government and most other democratic governments will follow suit, it's plain and simple, recent scientific studies have proven that there are numerous beneficial properties to marijuana and all previous 'ailments' associated with its use have been proven to be false and nothing more than outdated conservative propaganda. So get with the times folks and vote yes for pot when the time comes here in SA!

  • cj.venter - 2012-11-08 13:53

    as long as corporations pay billions on research for chemicals to kill bugs, marijuana will be banned/illegal.

      ClassWarTrotsky - 2012-11-08 14:09

      Too true. And the introduction of hemp fibres would eliminate the need for a myriad other synthetic substances, but alas, they are all produced by the petro-chemical industry = Big Oil. So for now, I will just be satisfied with smoking it :)

  • sachasea - 2012-11-08 14:00

    68% of Times Live readers want to legalise dagga in South Africa. Vote in our "Would you vote to legalise the recreational use of dagga?" poll

      sachasea - 2012-11-08 14:05

      They will last, because the people have fought so hard for them. Just look at all the most recent major efforts by countries and cities to ban pot - In the Netherlands the new government has overturned the law banning sales of dagga to foreigners thanks to opposition from the mayor of Amsterdam among others. In Los Angeles the city voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries earlier this year. They too have had to back track on this due to so much pressure from the public. The people always win in the end.

  • harley.mills.129 - 2012-11-08 14:04

    Washington or bust!! Here I come

  • buzz.rsa - 2012-11-08 14:56

    The people have decided for themselves. Using their tax money to defend the agenda of a minority does not reflect the will of the majority. This is the first time that the legalization of cannabis has been determined by the people for the people... lawsuits and dictatorship would have to be a brave (though stupid) choice of any politician who wishes to have a political future, as it is these same people who will decide how long the careers of these politicians last. The decision has been made. Any politicians who object should put on their big girl panties and swallow their pride. The people have spoken! - 2012-12-28 20:26

      Try to change the tune next time.

  • - 2012-12-28 20:24

    And you bunch will be arguing until the end of time and end up in a federal prison but who the donner cares.

  • pages:
  • 1