City Councils. State Supreme Courts. In the halls of our national legislature. Battles to protect the rights of citizens to use marijuana are being fought in every imaginable venue across America- and those battles are being won.
In Michigan, the Supreme Court issued an unanimous decision preventing municipalities from banning legally registered medical marijuana patients from growing and using the medicinal herb in accordance with state law. The case involved the city of Wyoming, Michigan's citation of federal law to effectively ban all use of marijuana, or cannabis, within city limits.
A local resident and retired attorney, John Ter Beek, sued the city to overturn the ordinance. He won, and now the state's highest court has given marching orders to all municipalities: you cannot ban activity that is empowered by the state Medical Marihuana Act (MMA). The Court also addressed the issue of federal supremacy and the attempts of some to have the entire five-year old MMA dissolved. The Court's response: no way.
In Washington, DC, Rep. Blumenauer and 17 other members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to President Obama asking him "to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way." Marijuana is currently classified as the most dangerous drug in the nation, alongside This comes on the heels of the President making a statement in The New Yorker magazine that marijuana use is no more dangerous than alcohol consumption.
Even though the President has not acted upon the suggestions made by the 18 Representatives, the filing of the letter is a big win for marijuana law reform advocates. Efforts to reschedule marijuana go back more than a decade, but this is the first large-scale push to entirely remove cannabis from the listing of controlled substances. National organizations like MPP and ASA are lining up in support of the Representatives.
In Arizona, an overly-enthusiastic homeowners association tried to force a new policy on their members that would not allow consumption of cannabis on their porch or lawn, even if it is on private property or if the person was a member of that state's medical marijuana program, started in 2010. It took only a few days for the Association to realize they'd bitten off more than they could chew; under threat of a signature drive, the new rule was rescinded. Tom LaBonte, a cancer survivor, took the Association to task for their efforts and won.
Candidates in races for Governor from Texas, Pennsylvania and Maryland have proclaimed their support for liberalized marijuana laws this week. A recent MSNBC report underscores the successes Dems are having with their constituents as a result of becoming more visibly pro-marijuana.
In Washington, DC, the District Council voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana from a criminal offense to a $25 fine. Both the Mayor and Congress are expected to pass the bill and make this right-sizing of penalties permanent.
LaBonte, Blumenauer and Ter Beek are agents of change in a movement that, in a very large part, started on the West Coast and flooded across to the Atlantic. The revolution is not confined to American shores: Italy will roll back their prohibition laws after finding them unconstitutional, Uruguay has moved to legalize marijuana and the legality of Brazil's cannabis laws are being questioned.
America has experienced a tsunami of people proclaiming a paradigm shift on the subject of medical and legalized marijuana. It's illogical to think those millions of mind-changers have been miraculously educated within the last twelve months; I suspect most of them were cannabis supporters all along who were afraid to speak out. Eventually this green tsunami will reach every one of the nation's nooks and crannies but for now we'll have to take our victories- both large and small- in waves.