Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley would loosen marijuana laws
During a visit to Denver on Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley said if elected he would use executive order to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug.
“I would reclassify it with the executive authority that the president already has,” he said. “A lot of times on emerging issues the executive branch has to exercise leadership and then the legislature can follow.”
The subject of cannabis legalization was also a topic of conversation during the Republican primary debate on Wednesday. In contract to O’Malley, GOP candidates were not pushing for direct federal involvement.
Rand Paul said states should be left alone to establish policy related to cannabis.
“I don’t think the federal government should override the states,” he said.
Paul said Colorado has made a decision and the feds shouldn’t interfere.
“I would let Colorado do what the Tenth Amendment says,” Paul explained.
Jeb Bush appeared embarrassed when admitting he used marijuana in his youth.
“I’m sure that other people might have done it and may not want to say it in front of 25 million people,” Bush quipped. “My mom’s not happy that I just did.”
Bush echoed Paul’s state rights perspective.
“What goes on in Colorado, as far as I’m concerned, that should be a state decision,” he said.
Despite this stance, Bush did not support Florida’s push for medical marijuana, saying there was a significant loophole in the legislation.
In November 2014 Florida State Bill 528, The Florida Medical Marijuana Act, received 58 percent of the vote, just shy of the 60 percent required to enact a constitutional amendment.
“It was the first step towards getting to a Colorado place,” he said. “As a citizen of Florida I voted no.”
Chris Christie said the war on drugs has been a failure, but he does not support legalizing cannabis, which he called a gateway drug.
“I’m not against medical marijuana, we do it in New Jersey,” he said. “But I am against the recreational use of marijuana.”
O’Malley’s comments followed his attendance at a marijuana legalization listening session at the law offices of Vicente Sederberg in Denver on Thursday. Brian Vicente, who co-authored Amendment 64, moderated the discussion.
Among the participants was Barbara Brohl, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, who said that with no model on which to base the social experiment the state has been charting unexplored waters since Amendment 64 passed.
“We were the first in the world to do that,” she said. “There were a lot of bumps in the road.”
PROS AND CONS
O’Malley was curious about efforts to prevent Colorado grown marijuana from filtering into other states.
Brohl explained that Colorado has a system to monitor sales.
“All plants are tracked from seed to sale,” she said.
She also said the state is working with local and federal law enforcement to prevent marijuana from being exported out of Colorado.
Offering a perspective on policing was Jason Thomas, an activist with LEAP, or Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
“We speak out against the drug war and its unintended consequences,” he said. “We believe marijuana is not as harmful as alcohol or many other mainstream drugs.”
Since legalization passed in Colorado, Thomas said drug offenses and violent crimes related to drugs have decreased.
CURBING THE CARTELS
Thomas also said Colorado’s legalization of marijuana has decreased the profit margin for Mexican drug cartels.
“Mexican farmers no longer grow marijuana and have shifted towards poppy production,” he said.
Mason Tvert, communications director for the marijuana Policy Project, shared financial data from Colorado that illustrates the market share drug cartels have lost.
“In 2014 there was $313 million in adult marijuana sales,” he said.
Tvert also noted that during fiscal year 2104-15 marijuana raised $70 million in excise taxes, while alcohol brought in $42 million.
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