Column by Jan Studer


To a passerby, the gathering in the dining room at the Seasons restaurant on August 2nd might have appeared to be seniors participating in a presentation on Medicare or Social Security.  This presumption would not have been far-fetched, since many of the 16 attendees were indeed in their sixties or older. However, perceptions can be deceiving.

The audience members—not all, but most—came of age in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. The topic of the evening meeting was Growing Industry or Chronic Problem? Federal Marijuana Enforcement Priorities and State Cannabis Licensing and Regulation.  Any change to your first presumption?

During my time as a teacher in a classroom of eighth graders, I was often asked about when I had graduated from high school. Innocently—at first—I would respond “In 1970.” Then, I would almost always be asked the question, “Were you a hippie?”  I would demur, knowing that their imaginations were whirling about what I might have been doing in my youth.

In her presentation, Courtney Beebe, an Administrative Law Judge for the state of Washington, brought history full circle, covering the restrictive laws that rose up during the “hippie generation.” The timeline progressed from the use of marijuana at the beginning of the twentieth century up to the realities of today’s licensing and regulation of marijuana at the federal level where this drug is illegal and at the state level where recreational and/or medicinal use is legal. Interesting fact: the federal statute that made marijuana a controlled substance was not passed until 1970. Imprisonment for marijuana has exploded, disproportionately affecting males, especially people of color since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

New Mexico became the first state to allow marijuana for medical research purposes (1978). Today, California (1996), Oregon, Washington and Alaska (1998), Maine (1999), and Hawaii, Nevada and Colorado (2000) all allow therapeutic research on this Schedule One Substance. Only three states continue to recognize any use of marijuana as illegal: Idaho, Nebraska and Kansas. The states that allow medical and/or recreational use of marijuana are following what is called Seed to Sale guidelines for harvesting, processing, distribution, inventory and sale. Even the American Legion has endorsed the use of medical marijuana. In the words of Bob Dylan, “Oh, the times they are a changin’.”

Courtney covered the evolution of enforcement priorities starting with the Department of Justice during the Nixon years right up until today and the actions of Trump and Attorney General Sessions. The eight most up-to-date federal enforcement priorities come to us from a memo written by James M. Cole on August 29, 2013. Attorney General Sessions continues to state publicly that he staunchly condemns legalization of marijuana in any form or for any use.

Here are a few questions for you to consider:

  • Is AG Sessions willing to enforce federal laws that remove substantial tax dollars from state budgets where these monies have already been allocated?
  • Will America continue the war on drugs that has filled our prisons with nonviolent offenders?
  • Will legislation, such as Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, prevail and make marijuana legal across the country?

You decide for yourself what this administration will do — what they should do; and what action are you willing to take to support your beliefs.

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