The Next Marijuana Voter Initiative
by Steve Kubby
Now that California has made possession of an ounce of cannabis the equivalent of a $100 parking ticket, our best best is to pass a similar voter initiative for personal cultivation and sales. Growing and selling cannabis would still be illegal, but the penalty for possessing or selling under a pound or growing less than 25 plants would be a $100 fine and a citation.
We won with Prop. 215, because every time our opponents marched out horror stories about teens using pot, we marched out more frightening stories about cancer and aids. To win again, we must focus on all the horrible things that happen to otherwise good young people, as a result of the excessive criminal penalties currently being used against young people who experiment with marijuana.
Whatever new initiative is drafted, it should focus on the horrors of how cannabis prohibition can ruin a young person’s life, label them a criminal, lose college funding, get raped in jail, and expose them to hardened criminals in prison. We would then argue that the best way to fix this problem is to reduce criminal penalties for the personal possession, sales, or cultivation of cannabis to $100 fine and a citation.
As a Libertarian, I applaud the call for full legalization. However, as an activist, I recognize that the non-medical use of cannabis is absolutely forbidden by federal law and international treaties, whereas medical use has been recognized by the courts so that federal law does NOT trump state law on medical issues. As we have seen with the pronouncements of US Attorney General Eric Holder, the feds plan to respond to non-medical use in a far more aggressive and punitive manner.
The US Constitution specifically requires that states must obey treaties signed by the US Government. If you read those treaties, enclosed below, you will see that marijuana cultivation and sales is absolutely forbidden, except for medical purposes.
Given that the US government has signaled it’s determination to fight non-medical use of cannabis as a threat to national security, the idea of full legalization must be seen as something that will be extremely difficult and problematic. In contrast, reducing penalties from serious felonies to $100 fines upholds the treaties and federal law, while still accomplishing our key goal of keeping people who grow or sell cannabis out of cages.
Waging war with the Feds would be a losing battle, whereas reducing a majority of marijuana felonies and penalties to $100 fines would be an immediate success in keeping people out of cages. Allowing people who grow and even sell cannabis to friends isn’t something society is ready to approve, especially under threats from the US Attorney General, but reducing the penalties and eliminating jail time, especially for young people, is something that voters will support and pass.
Here are the treaties:
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is an international treaty to prohibit production and supply of specific (nominally narcotic) drugs and of drugs with similar effects except under licence for specific purposes, such as medical treatment and research. As noted below, its major effects included updating the Paris Convention of 13 July 1931 to include the vast number of synthetic opioids invented in the intervening 30 years and a mechanism for more easily including new ones. From 1931 to 1961 most of the families of synthetic opioids had been developed, including drugs in whatever way related to methadone, pethidine,morphinans and dextromoramide & related drugs; research on fentanyls and piritramide were also nearing fruition at this point.Earlier treaties had only controlled opium, coca, and derivatives such as morphine, heroin and cocaine. The Single Convention, adopted in 1961, consolidated those treaties and broadened their scope to include cannabis and drugs whose effects are similar to those of the drugs specified. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the World Health Organization were empowered to add, remove, and transfer drugs among the treaty’s four Schedules of controlled substances. TheInternational Narcotics Control Board was put in charge of administering controls on drug production, international trade, and dispensation. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was delegated the Board’s day-to-day work of monitoring the situation in each country and working with national authorities to ensure compliance with the Single Convention. This treaty has since been supplemented by the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which controls LSD,Ecstasy, and other psychoactive pharmaceuticals, and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, which strengthens provisions against money laundering and other drug-related offenses.
The Convention on Psychotropic Substances is a United Nations treaty designed to control psychoactive drugs such as amphetamines, barbiturates,benzodiazepines, and psychedelics signed at Vienna on February 21, 1971. The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 could not ban the many newly discovered psychotropics, since its scope was limited to drugs with cannabis-, coca-, and opium-like effects.During the 1960s such drugs became widely available, and government authorities opposed this for numerous reasons, arguing that along with negative health effects, drug use led to lowered moral standards. The Convention, which contains import and export restrictions and other rules aimed at limiting drug use to scientific and medical purposes, came into force on August 16, 1976. Today, 175 nations are Parties to the treaty. Many laws have been passed to implement the Convention, including the U.S. Psychotropic Substances Act, the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.Adolf Lande, under the direction of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, prepared the Commentary on the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The Commentary, published in 1976, is an invaluable aid to interpreting the treaty and constitutes a key part of its legislative history.Provisions to end the international trafficking of drugs covered by this Convention are contained in the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. This treaty, signed in 1988, regulates precursor chemicals to drugs controlled by the Single Convention and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. It also strengthens provisions against money laundering and other drug-related crimes.