Obama, 2016 Contenders Deal With Changing Attitudes On Marijuana

The divide between Republicans and Democrats on pot politics is narrowing, President Barack Obama said in an interview Monday.

"What I'm encouraged by is you're starting to see not just liberal Democrats but also some very conservative Republicans recognize this doesn't

make sense including sort-of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party," the president said in an interview with Vice News.

During the wide-ranging interview, Obama noted that the American criminal justice system is "so heavily skewed toward cracking down on non-violent drug offenders" and has has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, as well as taking a huge financial toll on states. But, Obama added, Republicans are beginning to see that cost.

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Why This New Poll Speaks Volumes About Legal Marijuana's Potential

It has been a largely positive but wild ride for marijuana supporters, who last year saw voters double the number of states in which marijuana is

legal for recreational purposes (Oregon and Alaska joining Colorado and Washington). Perhaps the one monkey wrench in an otherwise great year for supporters was the failure of Florida to reach the required votes to legalize medical marijuana. Only 58% of voters supported the necessary change to the state's Constitution, just shy of the required 60%.

The motives behind the legalization movement
The movement to legalize marijuana across the country is primarily based on two key factors.

First, marijuana sales offer a new way for states, and potentially the federal government if the drug were legalized nationwide, to gain revenue through taxation and licensing fees. Instead of passing along tax increases throughout a state to all individuals, only those who purchase marijuana would incur the extra tax. Based on what we're witnessing in current recreation-legal states Washington and Colorado, taxes on the product will generally be quite high, generating reasonable income for a relatively small dollar amount of sales.

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Moms with sick kids bearing down on Pa. lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana

A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is getting a second look Wednesday in the state Senate. It's been about a year since the first hearing on the matter in the Legislature, and, since then, it's gone from a fringe issue to a center-stage policy debate.

Most people have attributed that progress to a group of mothers known as "mama bears" who want medical marijuana to treat their very ill children.

Among them is Latrisha Bentch. There was a time when her oldest daughter, Anna, was not sick but she was still just a little different.

"She was just so odd," said Bentch. "She was like obsessed with peeling wallpaper and books. We'd give her books, and she would peel them and rip them into bits and pieces. And that was one of the ways she entertained herself."

 

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Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill Would End Federal Ban

Yesterday, United States Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rand Paul presented a new bill that would dramatically shift the federal government’s long-time position on medical marijuana. The law would effectively end the nominal national ban on the drug, opening up avenues for states to pursue medical programs without interference from Washington.

Currently, a lot of ambiguity exists around the federal government’s official ban on medical weed, and how it affects states’ individual medical marijuana programs. Doctors can prescribe the drug in its natural form in 23 states and Washington D.C., but serious legal conflicts make it a thorny issue for medical professionals, as well as banks that deal with pot-related businesses. (Twelve other states have partial laws, or only allow use of certain extracts or synthetic forms of marijuana.) Booker, Gillibrand, and Paul’s proposal, called the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARERS), would end these conflicts, allowing those who use or prescribe medical marijuana to do so without worrying about running afoul of federal law.   

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Two House Bills Would End Federal Prohibition Of Marijuana

Two congressmen filed separate House bills on Friday that together would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana at the federal level, effectively ending the U.S. government's decadeslong prohibition of the plant.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act's schedules, transfer oversight of the substance from the Drug Enforcement Administration over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and regulate marijuana in a way similar to how alcohol is currently regulated in the U.S.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, which would set up a federal excise tax for regulated marijuana.

The bills would not force states to legalize marijuana, but a federal regulatory framework would be in place for those states that do decide to legalize it. To date, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana (however, D.C.'s model continues to ban sales), 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and 11 other states have legalized the limited use of low-THC forms of marijuana for medical use.

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