Marijuana Policy Experimentation Goes Nationwide | Smoke Signals | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Coverage for Central Oregon, by Central Oregonians.

The Source Weekly has been here for you, keeping you in the know throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

We’ve delivered important updates and dispatches from a summer of racial unrest.

We’ve interviewed dozens of state and local political candidates to help you make an informed decision during election season.

And we’ve brought you 22 years of important news and feature reporting—along with all the events, happenings, food, drink and outdoors coverage you’ve come to know and love. We’re a newspaper for Central Oregon, by Central Oregonians, and it is and always has been free for readers.

If you appreciate our coverage, we invite you to spread the love and to join our growing membership program, Source Insider.
Support Us Here

Culture » Smoke Signals

Marijuana Policy Experimentation Goes Nationwide



America's federal system of government allows states to function as "laboratories of democracy." Under the U.S. Constitution, states have the authority to "try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country," as esteemed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Bandeis so eloquently said in 1932. That is exactly what is happening with cannabis law and policy around the U.S. right now.

At one end of the spectrum are the states doubling down on prohibition. In Arizona, for example, possession of any amount of cannabis is a felony resulting in an automatic sentence of four months to two years in jail. And in Florida, possession of less than one ounce of cannabis can result in a 15-year prison sentence.

There is no evidence to indicate that such draconian laws have reduced cannabis use in these states, but the Republican Party's domination of these states' legislatures means that there is no prospect of any "experimentation" on cannabis policy in the foreseeable future.

Even in states with lighter penalties for cannabis possession, police still arrest cannabis users en masse. These police practices disproportionately affect minority and economically disadvantaged populations. In New York City, for example, African-Americans and Hispanics are far more likely to be arrested for cannabis than Whites or Asians, despite similar use rates. Social justice activists are starting to bring facts like these to the attention of lawmakers, and many states with Democratic majorities are considering experimenting with new approaches to cannabis.

Some states have already taken the step of "decriminalization" or partial decriminalization, which eliminates or reduces criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of cannabis. Oregon was at the forefront of decriminalization. In 1973, the Oregon legislature made possession of one ounce or less a civil fine rather than a criminal punishment. Since 2012, states as diverse as Nebraska, Ohio, and North Carolina have followed suit.

About The Author

Add a comment

More by Steve Holmes