On Monday, politics columnist and KHOW talk-show host David Sirota, filed a petition through the Obama administration's "We the People" program on the White House website requesting the president support a federal law to protect marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington and any other states that decide to pass similar laws in the future.
Sirota's petition reads:
Citizens in Colorado and Washington overwhelmingly voted to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in similar fashion as the more hazardous substance, alcohol, is already legalized, regulated and taxed. We request the president support a federal law requiring the federal government to protect - rather than undermine or overturn - these state laws and similar laws that other states pass in the future. Specifically, we request the president to support a pending congressional proposal that would amend the federal pre-emption section of the Controlled Substances Act (section 903) to exempt from the act any state provisions "relating to marijuana."
Less than 24 hours since Sirota started the petition it has nearly 10,000 signatures, but the petition needs a total 25,000 to reach its goal. Read the full petition here.
The congressional proposal that Sirota references is regarding the proposed legislation that Colorado Reps Diana DeGette (CD1), Ed Perlmutter (CD7) and Jared Polis (CD2) are working on independently and together that would exempt states that pass marijuana legalization legislation from the federal Controlled Substances Act, The Colorado Independent reported over the weekend.
Sirota, who has frequently reported on the drug war, is a vocal supporter of marijuana legalization. On the Young Turks, Sirota recently discussed why marijuana legalization is actually a centrist point of view in America, not extremist. “People in Washington would have you believe that those who support legalization are the extremists," Sirota said on the Young Turks (watch that clip below). "When you look at where people are on legalizing marijuana -- full legalization, treat it like alcohol -- Gallup's poll just a few weeks ago found record high support for legalizing marijuana. 50 percent of Americans now say they want to legalize marijuana. If you look at those numbers, what you see is the mainstream, centrist position is to support legalizing marijuana and the extremists are those who say we should continue to fight the drug war.”
The federal government's enforcement intent on marijuana law remains unclear, now a week since Amendment 64 passed in Colorado and Initiative 502 passed in Washington. U.S. Attorney John Walsh's office said about A64's passage, "We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time." But Walsh's office is no friend to marijuana. Walsh has been at the top of an unprecedented crackdown on medical marijuana businesses in Colorado since the beginning of 2012 that has resulted in the forced shut-down of 57 dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools.
Last week, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, also a vocal critic of marijuana legalization, made a strong statement about his position on the matter, one that was not optimistic. However it was revealing for at least the fact that Suthers appears to be confounded by the passage of A64 and is asking for the DOJ to step up and make its intentions clearly known so he knows how to proceed in the state:
Despite my strongly held belief that the ‘legalization’ of marijuana on a state level is very bad public policy, voters can be assured that the Attorney General’s Office will move forward in assisting the pertinent executive branch agencies to implement this new provision in the Colorado Constitution.
Coloradans should be cognizant of two caveats, however. First the ability of the federal government to criminally sanction possession, use and distribution of marijuana, even if grown, distributed and used in a single state, was recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Raich (545 US.1,2005). Therefore, absent action by Congress, Coloradans should not expect to see successful legal challenges to the ability of the federal government to enforce its marijuana laws in Colorado. Accordingly, I call upon the United States Department of Justice to make known its intentions regarding prosecution of activities sanctioned by Amendment 64 (particularly large wholesale grow operations) as soon as possible in order to assist state regulators and the citizens of Colorado in making decisions about the implementation of Amendment 64.
Two former U.S drug officials also weighed in telling Reuters that the marijuana initiatives that passed in Colorado, as well as in Washington state, could be short-lived victories for pot advocates. "This is a symbolic victory for (legalization) advocates," Kevin Sabet, former advisor to the Obama administration's drug czar, said. The former drug officials said the federal government could sue to block the measures or threaten the shops with shut-down letters similar to what Walsh has already been doing in Colorado this year.
AG Holder, who was a vocal opponent of California's legalization initiative in 2010 saying he would "vigorously enforce" federal marijuana prohibition, has continued to remain silent on the issue during the election cycle and has continued to remain silent now that Colorado and Washington have passed their measures.
In September, Holder was urged by nine former heads of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to take a stand against marijuana legalization again. "To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public and the global community a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives," the nine said in the letter to Holder obtained by Reuters.
A month later, those same drug warriors put added pressure on Holder saying that states that legalize marijuana for recreational use will trigger a "Constitutional showdown" with the federal government.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who has been a vocal opponent of Amendment 64 but has since said that he intends to respect the wishes of the voters, did have a phone call with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday to discuss Colorado's legalizing of marijuana and how the feds might respond, but the results of that call gave no clue as to whether or not the Department of Justice will sue to block the marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington, according to The Associated Press.
If the Obama administration does decide to crackdown on legalized marijuana in Colorado -- where more people voted for marijuana legalization than for the president's reelection -- the administration could face some serious political fallout with much of the same population of the Centennial State that handed him Colorado on election night, namely: the left-leaning and youth voters who support pot's legalization.
However many proponents of legalization say they don't foresee federal agents interfering in states that have legalized cannabis, NBC News reported, citing the federal government's silence on the issue this election cycle.
$13.7 Billion Saved On Prohibition Enforcement Costs
The government would save an estimated $13.7 billion on prohibition enforcement costs and tax revenue by legalizing marijuana, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/economists-marijuana-legalization_n_1431840.html" target="_hplink">according to a paper endorsed by 300 economists</a>.
Marijuana Inmates Cost Prisons $1 Billion A Year
Inmates incarcerated on marijuana-related charges cost U.S. prisons $1 billion annually, according to a 2007 study, <a href="http://www.alternet.org/rights/47815/" target="_hplink">AlterNet reports</a>.
Marijuana Prohibition Costs Taxpayers $41.8 Billion A Year
Including lost tax revenues, a 2007 study found that enforcing the marijuana prohibition costs tax payers $41.8 billion annually, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2007/09/29/marijuana-laws-work-biz-cx_qh_1001pot.html" target="_hplink">Forbes</a> reports.
California Marijuana Crop Worth $14 Billion A Year
Marijuana growers account for <a href="http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1884956,00.html" target="_hplink">$14 billion a year in sales in California</a>, making it the state's most valuable cash crop, TIME reports.
Illegal Marijuana A $36 Billion A Year Industry
It's estimated that <a href="http://madamenoire.com/106691/capitalizing-on-the-billion-dollar-marijuana-industry/" target="_hplink">illegal marijuana is a $36 billion industry</a> in the U.S., MadameNoire reports.
One-Third Of Americans Think Legalization Would Boost The Economy
About one-third of Americans say they think <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/20/legalizing-pot-will-not-b_n_544526.html?" target="_hplink">legalizing marijuana would boost the economy</a>, according to a 2010 poll by Associated Press-CNBC.
Dispensary Ads Boost Newspapers' Revenue
The <em>Sacramento News and Review</em> saw a big boost in ad revenue when it offered advertising space for more than 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, enabling the publication to hire three additional employees, <a href="http://www.news10.net/news/local/article/144285/2/Marijuana-ads-mean-big-money-for-weekly-newspaper" target="_hplink">according to News 10</a>.
Mendocino Zip Tie Program Raised $600,000
Mendocino County, California's zip tie program aimed at regulating medical marijuana growing by charging permits for each plant raised <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/09/medical-marijuana-license-mendocino_n_1193198.html" target="_hplink">$600,000 in revenue in for the Sheriff's department</a> in 2011.
Oakland Raised More Than $1 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenue
The city of Oakland, California raised $1.3 million in tax revenue from medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011, 3 percent of the city's total business tax revenue, according to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/cities-turn-to-a-crop-for-cash-medical-marijuana.html?_r=1" target="_hplink"><em>The New York Times</em></a>.
Colorado Pulls In $5 Million From Pot Sales Tax
In 2011, Colorado pulled in $5 milllion in sales taxes from medical marijuana businesses, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/cities-turn-to-a-crop-for-cash-medical-marijuana.html?_r=1" target="_hplink"><em>The New York Times</em></a> reports.
Legal Marijuana Could Be $100 Billion Industry
Economist Stephen Easton estimated in 2010 that <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2010/03/legalize_mariju.html" target="_hplink">legal marijuana could be a $45 to $100 billion industry</a>, <em>Bloomberg Businessweek</em> reports.
Each weGrow Center Creates 75 Jobs
When hydroponic marijuana growing supply chain weGrow opens a new store it <a href="http://aznow.biz/small-biz/wegrow-phoenix-opens-cultivates-opportunities-arizona)" target="_hplink">creates an estimated 75 jobs</a> indirectly, according to AZBusiness Magazine.
Majority Of States Support Taxing Marijuana
More than <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/20/legalizing-pot-will-not-b_n_544526.html?" target="_hplink">60 percent of states agree with taxing marijuana</a>, according to a poll by Associated Press-CNBC.
Marijuana Affects Workplace Motivation
A Norwegian study 25 years in the making came to the shocking conclusion that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/marijuana-use-has-adverse-affect-workplace-motivation_n_1300278.html?" target="_hplink">frequent marijuana use lowers employees' motivation at work</a>.
More Than 1,000 Dispensaries In California
There could be more than 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries operating in California, <a href="http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/how_does_your_pot_grow/8070/" target="_hplink"><em>Pasadena Weekly</em></a> reported in 2009.
Denver Counts More Dispensaries Than Starbucks
As of July 2011, the city of Denver <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/06/medical-marijuana-denver-starbucks_n_891796.html" target="_hplink">counted more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks franchises</a>.