In November 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states—and the first jurisdictions in the world—to legalize the possession, use, and regulated distribution of marijuana. Although Attorney General Eric Holder promised in March 2013 to announce a Department of Justice policy to address the state initiatives, the White House has yet to take a position. This shifting legal terrain is the subject of “High Crimes: Strategies to Further Marijuana Legalization Initiatives,” a new report by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG).
The NLG report analyzes the legalization process under way in the states, suggests strategies to further marijuana legalization initiatives, and highlights current obstacles to ending prohibition. Among the NLG recommendations: reframe drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice problem, challenge the punitive international drug policy framework, support states’ rights to regulate marijuana use, and reclassify marijuana to allow for medical research.
“High Crimes” also calls attention to the role of law enforcement agencies and private prison industry interventions in the field of US drug policy. “It is crucial to examine who profits from the continued prohibition of marijuana,” said NLG Senior Researcher Traci Yoder, the report’s author. “The increasing militarization of police forces is funded through property and financial seizures during drug arrests. Continued profit making by private corrections corporations is contingent upon ever-increasing rates of incarceration.”
As the nation waits for a response from the White House, the NLG joins other organizations and individuals in calling for the end to marijuana prohibition. “Marijuana legalization will create new jobs, generate millions of dollars in tax revenue, and allow law enforcement to focus on serious crimes,” said Brian Vicente, NLG member and one of the primary authors of Colorado’s legalization amendment. “It would be a travesty if the Obama administration used its power to impose marijuana prohibition upon a state whose people have declared, through the democratic process, that they want it to end.”