Welcome to Terra Firma, the blog of WVC. We are a community of thoughtful people who support investigations into non-ordinary forms of consciousness. We seek access to self knowledge and aligned, informed service to those around us. We recognize that there are many ways to cultivate our creative energy and connection to the natural world. We have named this blog Terra Firma because as we explore the world of ideas, we keep our feet firmly on solid ground. Expect measured, carefully considered commentary from contributors to this blog. And expect us to address challenging topics. Today we will look at the recent wave of measures by states to change laws governing cannabis. We support the right to cognitive liberty and look forward to the day when those who use this plant are no longer targeted for harassment or treated as second class citizens.
We are not alone. Voters in the 2014 U.S. mid-term elections acted decisively to disassemble the century-long war on drugs which has prosecuted millions of global citizens, many of them people of color. Voters passed measures to legalize cannabis for recreational use, decriminalize cannabis possession, and shorten prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Let’s begin by commending the voters of Oregon who legalized the possession, use and sale of recreational cannabis for adults 21 and over. Oregon now joins Colorado and Washington which both ended the prohibition of cannabis in 2012. It will be interesting to see how Oregon spends the estimated $17 to $40 million in additional tax revenues from the sale of cannabis.
In Washington D.C., voters also sent a strong rebuke to federal prohibition by legalizing adult cannabis use, possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, and home cultivation of up to six plants for personal consumption. While the sale of cannabis remains illegal in D.C., we have faith that the Council of the District of Columbia will pass a pending bill for cannabis regulation and taxation. Voters in South Portland, the fourth-largest city in Maine, removed all legal penalties for adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. They followed the lead of voters in Maine’s largest city, Portland, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2013.
Up in Alaska, voters legalized the possession, use and sale of recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older who may also grow up to six plants. The Alaskan measure also legalizes the manufacture, sale and possession of cannabis paraphernalia. Not to be outdone, residents of the U.S. territory of Guam passed a medical marijuana bill by a margin of 56% joining 23 other states which have legalized medical cannabis. In Florida, 57 percent of voters supported a medical cannabis measure, but fell short of the 60% needed for passage.
My home state of California made me proud by passing Proposition 47, which reduced the classification of most “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor. This means that an estimated 40,000 nonviolent felonies a year for offenses like shoplifting and drug possession will now be downgraded to misdemeanors. As many as 10,000 people could be eligible for early release from California state prisons, striking a blow against decades of mass incarceration. California voters also turned down Prop 46 by 67.15% and I was among those who voted against it. Prop 46 would have created the first US law to require mandatory random drug testing of doctors. CalNorml has more information on the measure.
In New Jersey, voters passed a bail reform measure that will reduce the pre-trial incarceration of those accused of low-level drug violations. People who can’t afford bail, and are not considered a threat to the community, can now be freed through an alternative release system while awaiting trial. The Drug Policy Alliance, which championed the bill, found that almost seventy-five percent of the nearly 15,000 people in New Jersey jails are there simply because they could to afford to pay bail.
Cannabis and other materials such as LSD and psilocybin are still classified as Schedule I substances under federal law. But we expect more states to support the right to cognitive liberty by putting bills up for vote in the 2016 elections to end cannabis prohibition and by passing this legislation through actions by lawmakers. States are the laboratories of democracy in the political process. But the art and science of cultural discovery that these new laws make possible take many forms. Look to this blog for lively discussions as we continue our fight for fair governance and insights into the challenges and benefits offered by cannabis and other tools used in the exploration of consciousness.