Marijuana Ballot Initiatives In Washington and Colorado Raise Legal Questions

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Every year, approximately 750,000 people are arrested in the United States for marijuana-related offenses.  

That number might be about to decrease, though — thanks to the legalization of the drug in Colorado and Washington. Newly-passed ballot initiatives in those states decriminalize the use of recreational marijuana. Those new laws, however, come with a host of complicated legal questions. 

Kevin Sabet, former senior adviser to the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, explains some of the conflicts the new legislation poses. Gregory Gianforcaro is an attorney and legal expert.


Gregory Gianforcaro and Kevin Sabet

Produced by:

Maggie Penman and Mythili Rao

Comments [11]


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Mar. 07 2013 03:07 AM
sm from ny


In promoting alcohol over mj, maybe you can try put my destroyed family together again. Alcohol turns insecure specimens of your gender into raging monsters that not only beat but mutilate and kill their spouses for nothing. When you were smoking pot, did you or any of your cohort try to beat or kill anyone? did you total numerous cars until they took your licence away when you crippled another driver? did you watch your divorced mother ruin her health working double shifts to make ends meet after you'd begged her to leave him? could you afford college without any parental support? did you spend thousands instead on therapy to undo the emotional damage alcohol did to your family? Let's be honest about the destruction alcohol creates in families and stop wasting breath on the relatively minor drawbacks of pot. I am neither a pothead or alcoholic, but would have much preferred my father a pothead, since he was bound to be addicted to something. Would have saved us so much terror, scarring, misery, poverty, maladjustment, ruined family relationships, and that innocent bystander's broken back.

Nov. 15 2012 01:06 PM
Rj percy from Nyc

I don't know what to think, but whether pot is legal or illegal, parents have to teach and be an example for their children. That said, it rarely if ever is mentioned that marijuana became illegal - or to be more specific, the cultivation of hemp, which is one and the same as marijuana, was made illegal in 1937 when DuPont introduced nylon. Hemp was (and had been since the beginning of this country) a natural, plentiful, tremendously easy and inexpensive crop to grow from which good quality fabrics (among many other useful things) were made.

Nov. 15 2012 09:51 AM
Mike from NY

@wetsignal - the problem with pot, and why it creates such a separate sub-culture, is that its illegal. Normalcy will not breed these results, rather encourage a better understanding of it's social impacts - like alcohol for the majority of the nation. Sweeping issue under the rug is not a smart way of dealing with the truth.

Nov. 15 2012 08:20 AM

I'm in my 40s, liberal and smoked a fair amount of weed starting at age 13 in my home state of Missouri (been in Colorado for 13 years and thought it was permanent). My friend's dad was a pothead and got us stoned regularly. Throughout junior high, high school and college I watched more and more friends get into it and I can say without a doubt that it was NOT neutral. I myself dropped out of college as did many of my smoking friends. Interestingly, those I knew who abstained from pot and only drank alcohol had MUCH better life outcomes. And for myself and several other friends...we only straightened our lives out AFTER we stopped smoking. I'll admit, this is not a scientific study, but come on, it certainly doesn't help otherwise healthy people succeed and what are the chances it is exactly neutral?...almost nil.

Does anyone really think a retail system will make it harder for teens to get? Come on. Yes, I could get weed when I was younger, but alcohol was ridiculously easier to get. If pot had been legal there would have been 10x the amount flying around. Think of all the cases and kegs of beer at all those parties and now imagine pot is just as easy to obtain. It makes my stomach sick. And I read a very recent article from CNN that proved the ill effects of pot on the young developing brain. Do people really think this is the right example to set for our children? And don't we have bigger things to worry about like rebuilding our country? More stoners, that is what we really need to help us compete in the global economy. Please.

And yes, alcohol is bad in its own way, but what is more likely, that people will choose pot OVER alcohol or that they will simply do both? And pot is different from alcohol, it displaces normal reality in a way that inhibits the normal social interaction between people. Legalizing it and in fact, promoting it to such a degree is a tragedy for the state of Colorado. I moved here for the healthy atmosphere and because it was supposedly a great place to raise a family, but now we are a "specialty vice" state like Nevada where people can come and engage in what is (and should be) illegal activity in their state.

And what about our reputation? Will parents from other states want their kids going to Colorado univerisites? Or is there any doubt that "legalization" won't cross the mind of admissions staff at out of state colleges when they see an application from a Colorado student? And if stoners invade the state, who do you think will leave? We have a two year old daughter and there is no way I am going to allow her to be a guinea pig in a social and medical experiment of this magnitude. No way. It has never been legal and sold this freely before in the US (or anywhere, really) and nobody knows what the consequences will be. I'm not sticking around to find out. I know someone will tell me not to let the door hit me in the a** on the way out and believe me, I won't.

Nov. 14 2012 12:11 PM

In its current state it is not able to be regulated by the fda due to its federal illegality. I personally know people who dealt with crippling pain and nausea for many years and marijuana was the only thing that would allow them to eat. In addition that friend is a successful college graduate who is employed full time and makes a good living as a software developer. In fact many of my friends who smoke pot regularly are very successful.

Nov. 14 2012 11:28 AM
Heather from GA

Its irresponsible for The Takeaway to be discussing this issue without explaining the difference between decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana.

Nov. 13 2012 03:34 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Well, the legalization in Colorado and Washington may cause headaches but at least at the end of the day, all sides on the issues can chill with a blunt.

Nov. 13 2012 01:04 PM
Paul D from Texas

Colorado and Washington are correct to re-legalize cannabis. it had no business being made illegal to begin with. We've wasted hundreds of billions, of not trillions of dollars creating a class of criminals out of a segment of society. We've also ruined many of their lives/careers and turned them from taxpayers into tax liabilities as we spend 35k or more per year to house them in prison. And for what? So we can "send a message" (because you're not reducing usage or availability by its illegal status)? A message about what? That cannabis is dangerous? But it isn't - it's not lethal in any dose, unlike both nicotine and alcohol which together kill almost 500,000 Americans every year. To the extent that cannabis REPLACES alcohol is a win-win for the user and for society.

Nov. 13 2012 11:41 AM
Serge Rogasik

Think about your friends that used to smoke pot very regularly and still do. Got them? Now think about what they have achieved in their life. If you find one that is really impressive past 50 and is a look up for your children please send me his name, I would love to meet with him. I could not find one in my acquaintances. I am amazed that any society would chose to facilitate the numbing of its children's minds, with any substance. 70% of my 15 year old daughter's class mates have tried marijuana, not because it is legal or illegal but because society let them believe it is OK, or even more, a required rite of passage. None of them would classify pot as a drug. It is one, legal or not. It has a biological effect on our neurones and we need all our neurones and sharpness as we enter in an ever more global and crowded 21st century.

Extremist jihadist around the world are probably cheering for any new dispenser created. The future leaders of the free world are numbing their kids neurones with the blessing of their leaders and elders. This is sad, as sad as Amsterdam under the rain.

Nov. 13 2012 10:48 AM
Serge Rogasik from Somewhere in the world

If Marijuana has a therapeutical benefit and can be seen as a pharmaceutical drug, great!It is easy: make it a drug and CVS should be selling it as a prescription drug. I do not understand why we need special dispensers that obviously target more the leisure user and resale than medical support. Many states in the US are entering in an amazing debate that negates this country's own values and the principles of the FDA and it is puzzling to see from outside.

Nov. 13 2012 10:46 AM

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