TIME Law

Nebraska and Oklahoma Are Trying to Kill Colorado’s Buzz

By suing over Colorado's legalization of marijuana

Two neighbors of Colorado filed suit against the state on Thursday, claiming its legalization of marijuana has pushed some of the drug over state lines and asking the Supreme Court to strike the law down.

Attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma allege that Colorado’s legalization violates the Supremacy clause of the constitution, which specifies that federal law takes precedence over state law. “Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems,” the suit alleges, according to the Denver Post.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said at a news conference that pot from Colorado has been turning up at Nebraska’s border, which has led to an increase in arrest and prosecutions. “Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost,” Bruning said, according to the Omaha World-Herald, adding that “federal law undisputedly prohibits the production and sale of marijuana.”

Kevin A. Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a bipartisan organization made up of mental and public health professionals, supports the lawsuit. “We support this action by the attorneys general of Oklahoma and Nebraska because Colorado’s decisions regarding marijuana are not without consequences to neighboring states, and indeed all Americans,” Sabet said said. “The legalization of marijuana is clearly in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and is not implemented in a vacuum.” Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, seeks a “middle road between incarceration and legalization” in dealing with pot offenses.

Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers said in a statement that he plans to defend the state’s marijuana laws in court. “It appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado,” he said. “We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

TIME Drugs

Texas Lawmaker Proposes Lower Marijuana Possession Penalties

File picture shows marijuana plants at a indoor cultivation in Montevideo
Marijuana plants are seen at a indoor cultivation. Andres Stapff—Reuters

A new bill would make the possession of up to one oz. punishable with a $100 ticket

On Monday, Texas State Rep. Joe Moody introduced a bill that would remove criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Moody said in a statement. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”

Under current Texas law, possessing up to two oz. of weed can yield six months of jail time and a $2,000 penalty. Under the proposal, adults caught with up to one oz. would get a $100 ticket, similar to a parking violation. Larger amounts would still lead to criminal penalties. The measure would make Texas the 20th state plus the District of Columbia to remove the threat of jail time for the possession of small amounts of weed.

The bill is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the pro-legalization group that spearheaded the passage of Colorado’s historic legalization measure. The bill is also the first in a series that the MPP expects to be introduced in Texas this year, the next attempting to legalize medical marijuana and the third attempting to legalize recreational marijuana.

The latter two are long shots, and the first won’t be an easy sell to the Republican-controlled legislature. Texas Governor Rick Perry has said he opposes legalization. He has intimated that he supports decriminalizing weed, but has also said that the state has “kind of done that.” In 2007, Texas passed a measure giving local governments the power to respond to marijuana possession with a summons rather than an arrest, but few counties have adopted it and someone issued a summons may still end up in jail.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, another pro-legalization group, says that Texas is in a tier of states that are the least likely to ease marijuana restrictions. These “third tier” states, he says, are ones in which “the legislature has never shown any want to move in this direction and/or there is an executive at the top who is going to oppose and veto any reforms.”

A poll commissioned by MPP in 2013 found that 61% of Texas residents would support a penalty reduction like the one Moody is proposing, while 58% would support the legalization of medical and recreational weed.

At a press conference on Monday, Moody was joined by representatives from other groups who support the bill, such as the ACLU of Texas and Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. Support from such libertarian-leaning conservatives will be crucial in the heavily Republican state.

“Texas doesn’t seem to be ready for a full legal market,” acknowledges Heather Fazio, a representative for MPP in Texas. “That doesn’t mean that the conversation shouldn’t be happening.”

TIME 2016 Election

The Next President May Not Have Tried Pot

File picture shows marijuana plants at a indoor cultivation in Montevideo
Marijuana plants are seen at a indoor cultivation. Andres Stapff—Reuters

Would be the first since 1993

When the next president is sworn in, it will have been nearly a quarter-century since the United States was led by someone who has never tried marijuana.

Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all used pot when they were younger. (To varying degrees: Clinton famously said he didn’t inhale, Bush never publicly admitted it while Obama has been fairly open about his years in the Choom Gang.)

But several of the leading contenders to move into the Oval Office in 2017 say they’ve never tried it or won’t say whether they have. And their language indicates they think that’s exactly how it should be, thank you very much.

When asked at a CNN town hall if she would ever try marijuana, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “absolutely not,” adding “I didn’t do it when I was young, I’m not going to start now.”

Asked by talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel if he’d ever smoked pot, Texas Gov. Rick Perry answered “No, thank God!” Faced with the same question, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio asked people to think of the children: “If I tell you that I haven’t, you won’t believe me. If I tell you that I did, then kids will look up to me and say, ‘Well, I can smoke marijuana, because look how he made it.'”

Even among those who have admitted trying it, the tone is similarly harsh.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who admitted experimenting with marijuana as a teen-ager when he first ran for governor in 1994, was harshly self-critical. “It was a stupid thing to do, and it was wrong,” he said in 1998.

Less harsh but still regretful was Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who can’t exactly deny his past use. (See: Aqua Buddha.)

“Let’s just say I wasn’t a choir boy when I was in college and that I can recognize that kids make mistakes, and I can say that I made mistakes when I was a kid,” Paul said in a radio interview earlier this month.

Does it matter whether the president has ever smoked pot? At a practical level, not really. A 2013 Gallup poll showed only 38 percent of Americans will admit to having tried marijuana, a rate that is relatively unchanged since the Reagan administration.

Federal policy on marijuana is much more likely to be driven by the results of experiments with legalization in Washington state and Colorado, polls which show a majority of Americans support legalization and politicians’ natural risk aversion than by their past personal use.

Still, it’ll be interesting to note if the next president is the first one since 1993 to have never tried marijuana, even as the marijuana movement has its first real momentum in decades.

 

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: December 12

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Gorbachev Wary of ‘New Cold War’

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tells TIME that the U.S. is to blame for starting a “new Cold War” with Russia and that President Vladimir Putin shouldn’t back down. “I learned that you can listen to the Americans, but you cannot trust them”

Congress Avoids Shutdown

Congress narrowly averted a government shutdown on Thursday night, squeaking through a $1.1 trillion spending bill with only hours to spare

CIA Chief Defends Agency

CIA Director John Brennan defended his agency from a sharply critical Senate report into its post-9/11 detention and interrogations

How Ridley Scott’s Exodus Strays From the Bible

The Biblical story of Exodus hits the big screen on Friday with the release of Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. Like any retelling of a classic, Scott’s blockbuster invites questions about the tale’s origin and meaning

Storm Hitting California May Be Worst in 5 Years

A storm described as perhaps the strongest to hit California in five years barreled in from the Pacific Ocean on Thursday and hammered the state with all manner of weather misery — hurricane-force winds, sheets of rain and heavy snow in the mountains

DOJ Allows Native American Tribes to Grow, Sell Marijuana

The U.S. Justice Department announced that Native American tribes would be allowed to grow and sell marijuana on their sovereign lands if they abide by the federal statutes laid out for the states that have already legalized the drug

Pope Francis Says There’s a Place for Pets in Paradise

Pope Francis confirmed during his weekly address in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square that canines, along with “all of God’s creatures,” can make it to heaven. “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ,” he said

Drug-Resistant Superbugs Could Kill 10 Million By 2050

Rising rates of drug-resistant infections could lead to the death of some 10 million people and cost some $100 trillion in 2050, according to a new report which called for “coherent international action” to regulate antibiotic use in humans, animals and the environment

Shonda Rhimes Slams ‘Racist’ Leaked Sony Emails

Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, took to Twitter on Thursday to condemn an email exchange between a Sony Pictures executive and an Oscar-winning producer that was leaked during the recent hack

Keira Knightley Is Expecting Her First Child

Just a day after Keira Knightley nabbed two big acting nominations, the star has more happy news: she is about three months pregnant. Knightley, 29, is expecting her first child with husband James Righton, of the Klaxons, whom she married last year

No Casualties in Ukraine Truce

A tentative truce between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine has resulted in the first 24 hours free from deaths and injuries since a civil conflict began in February, the Ukrainian President said on Friday

NYC Cops Want More Tasers

Law-enforcement experts are skeptical that a move to get 450 more Tasers on the street will address use-of-force concerns that have buffeted the NYPD. The talk of Tasers comes amid incidents that have put city cops under scrutiny for their use of force

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TIME Drugs

U.S. Justice Department Allows Native American Tribes to Grow, Sell Marijuana

Marijuana Tribes
A sample of cannabis appears on display at Shango Premium Cannabis dispensary in Portland, Ore. Don Ryan—AP

The ruling may spur help new waves of economic growth

The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that Native American tribes would be allowed to grow and sell marijuana on their sovereign territories if they abide by the federal statutes laid out for the respective states that have already legalized the drug.

Analysts say the ruling could provide a financial bonanza for the 556 federally recognized tribes across the U.S., according to the Associated Press.

“If tribes can balance all the potential social issues, it could be a really huge opportunity,” Seattle attorney Anthony Broadman told the AP.

[AP]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 11

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A rule in the Affordable Care Act could make hospitals safer.

By Mike Corones at Reuters

2. As U.S. influence in the Middle East wanes, the United Arab Emirates is stepping up.

By Steven A. Cook in the Octavian Report

3. How do you extend banking services to an industry that’s illegal under federal law? Colorado’s answer is a credit union for pot growers and sellers.

By David Migoya in the Denver Post

4. A simple step — lighting pathways to latrines and latrines themselves in rural areas — can improve safety for women and girls.

By Dr. Michelle Hynes and Dr. Michelle Dynes at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

5. The International Olympic Committee vote to protect gay athletes is an important first step, but more work remains.

By Laura Clise in the Advocate

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: December 11

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Here’s the New Way Colleges Are Predicting Student Grades

U.S. schools are combing through years of data covering millions of grades earned by thousands of former students to gauge the probability that a student will finish school, and prop up those who might not by sending academic advisers or deans to intervene

Congress Hands a Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana legalization movement, plus a painful setback

Why Uber’s Rape Scandal Is More Than a ‘Growing Pain’

Uber’s breakneck growth isn’t an excuse for the controversial rideshare and taxi service’s problems, TIME’s Jack Linshi writes

White House Salutes TIME’s Person of the Year

W.H. Press Secretary Josh Earnest congratulated Ebola responders Wednesday for being named TIME’s Person of the Year. “The President could not be prouder of the brave men and women who’ve committed themselves to this effort in a foreign land,” Earnest said

Hong Kong’s Main Democracy Protest Camp Falls

Authorities began clearing Hong Kong’s largest protest camp on Thursday, putting an end to a street occupation that has been a flashpoint for a bitter confrontation between pro-democracy protesters and city authorities, as well as the central government in Beijing

Dick Cheney Says Senate Torture Report Is ‘Full of Crap’

Former Vice President Dick Cheney called the recently released report on the CIA’s use of torture after 9/11 a “terrible piece of work,” in an interview that aired on Wednesday, “We did exactly what needed to be done,” Cheney said

Ebola Rages on in Sierra Leone With Over 1,000 New Cases

Sierra Leone has reported 1,319 new cases of Ebola virus infections in the last 21 days, according to WHO. The country has surpassed Liberia, which has experienced a steady decrease in cases over the last four weeks

NFL Owners Approve Revamped Personal Conduct Policy

Owners voted to approve a revamped personal conduct policy after scrutiny for the league’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal. Commissioner Roger Goodell had acknowledged that under the previous policy, “our penalties didn’t fit the crimes”

U.S. Support of Guns Is Up After 2012 School Shooting

Americans’ opinions on gun rights have shifted further into the “pro” column since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which is approaching its second anniversary this month, according to new data from the Pew Research Center

eBay Is Said to Mull Big Layoffs Ahead of PayPal Split

The online marketplace is reportedly considering a plan to lay off as much as 10% of its workforce in anticipation of its planned split with online payment processing service PayPal by mid-2015, according to a new report citing company insiders

Survey: Most Millionaires Want Hillary Clinton for President

Hillary Clinton polled the most votes in a new survey that asked 500 U.S. millionaires whom they would choose for President. She came in a comfortable front-runner at 31%. Second was Jeb Bush with 18%, and the remaining votes were split between seven other politicians

Bill Cosby Accuser Files Defamation Lawsuit

A retired California attorney who says the comedian and actor drugged and groped her more than four decades ago filed a defamation lawsuit on Wednesday, claiming he “impugned” her reputation and exposed her to “public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace”

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TIME Congress

Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

Charlotte's Web harvest at the Stanley Brother's farm in Wray, Colorado for Pot Kids story.
Industrial grade hemp grows on the Stanley Brother's farm near Wray, Colo., Sept. 22, 2014. Matt Nager for TIME

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback

For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.

Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal pot—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.

First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.

At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for pot sales in 2015.

Now those plans have gone up in smoke. The omnibus bill contains a measure that would block D.C. from using funds to enact legalization. Congress has the power to scuttle the District’s plans because it controls the capital’s budget. D.C. politicians blasted the move, while many in Congress lamented the agreement. But there appears to be little that members can do to stop it.

Trampling on the district’s sovereignty was especially galling, says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and a D.C. resident, when it happens at the same time that lawmakers uphold states’ rights elsewhere. “Republicans see D.C. as so rock-solid Democratic,” St. Pierre says, “that they won’t give it the autonomy they are otherwise willing to grant states.”

The spending bill caps a year in which pot moved to the forefront of the political debate in ways that longtime advocates never thought possible. A majority of Americans now support full marijuana legalization. In January, Colorado became the first state to establish a legal recreational pot market, following by Washington last summer. Both debuts had successes, yet both states were beguiled in their own ways by lingering federal challenges. In Colorado, legal million-dollar businesses still must conduct their business largely in cash, because federal law that classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug blocks legal merchants from the banking system. In Washington State, the new weed shops comprise just a small slice of the marijuana economy, a thin legal layer piled atop the entrenched medical market and an illicit black market that continues to thrive because of better prices.

But Washington struggles also underscore why the medical-marijuana measure in the Congressional spending bill is important. Medical patients in the Evergreen State have been at the whims of overzealous U.S. attorneys or members of the Drug Enforcement Agency, who had discretion to ignore the Obama Administration’s admonition to let the local experiments play out.

That left medical-marijuana patients like Larry Harvey, a septuagenarian retiree, trapped by a legal paradox. Harvey and his wife Rhonda were legal medical-pot patients who cultivated cannabis at their home in the mountains above Kettle Falls, Wash., until they were arrested on federal drug charges. They are currently awaiting trial. Larry Harvey, who has long suffered from gout and was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, has been unable to use marijuana to ease the pain. Now, says Kari Boiter, a medical-marijuana advocate at Americans for Safe Access who has worked closely with the Harveys, the family’s attorneys can argue that the government has no standing to pursue the case.

Overall, the spending bill is “more mixed signals from Washington, D.C.,” Boiter says. “But for medical marijuana patients, it is a real clear blow to the Department of Justice prohibition that has been crushing them. It feels like we’ve been vindicated.”

Update, 12/12: The original version of this story noted the bill contains a measure that would block D.C. from using federal funds to enact cannabis legislation. It also blocks the use of local funds.

Read next: Colorado Approves Credit Union for Pot Store

TIME Marijuana

Colorado Approves Credit Union for Pot Stores

The credit union could open in January even as it waits to be granted insurance by federal regulators

America’s rapidly-expanding marijuana industry faces a major quandary: large, national banks are afraid to do business with cannabis businesses for fear of running afoul of strict federal regulations.

That could change with the creation of the first financial institution dedicated solely to serving the cannabis industry. This week, the Colorado Division of Financial Services issued a charter to The Fourth Corner Credit Union, which could be doing business and serving the local cannabis community as soon as January, a spokeswoman for the state’s regulatory agencies confirmed.

The dearth of reliable banking opportunities has turned the marijuana “green rush” into a mostly all-cash affair as business owners are unable to store their pot proceeds in a checking account. Fortune wrote about how banking restrictions have helped give rise to a number of ancillary businesses serving the cannabis industry by offering cash management and security services.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper called the charter issued to Fourth Corner, the first credit-union charter granted by the state in almost a decade, “the end of the line” for the industry’s banking problem, The Denver Post reported.

Of course, Fourth Corner still must seek insurance from federal regulators at the National Credit Union Administration while the U.S. Federal Reserve will also have to offer its blessing. The credit union plans to serve any legal marijuana businesses in Colorado, as well as any members of non-profits that support legalized marijuana.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 18

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The worst ceasefire: Russia and Ukraine are both preparing for war as their uneasy peace slips away.

By Jamie Dettmer in the Daily Beast

2. With the rise of legal cannabis, the small-holders running the industry may soon be run off by the “Marlboro of Marijuana”

By Schumpeter in the Economist

3. From taking India to Mars on the cheap to pulling potable water from thin air: Meet the top global innovators of 2014.

By the writers and editors of Foreign Policy

4. Some charter schools promote aggressive policies of strict discipline, and that strategy may be backfiring.

By Sarah Carr in the Hechinger Report

5. As local police forces become intelligence agencies, we need sensible policies to balance privacy and public safety.

By Jim Newton in the Los Angeles Times

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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