29 October 2012, 14:39

Marijuana: legalization versus decriminalization

Marijuana: legalization versus decriminalization
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Voice of Russia correspondent Kevin Tripp on marijuana leaglization issue.

Kevin, is this really federal versus states’ rights issue?

Yeah. It really is. When you get down to the law and the enforcement of the law or the non-enforcement of the law as the case may be, it’s an issue of state passing laws that are still in violation of current federal statutes and it’s the matter of whether the federal government is going to enforce those statutes and how vigorously they will enforce them and under what circumstances they’re going to enforce them. And we have seen different levels of enforcement under the Bush administration and under the Obama administration and even under the Clinton administration going back into the late 90s. So it’s a pushing poll over who’s going to be able to prevail. But, I think, when it comes to an outright legalization of marijuana, which we might very well see in Washington and in Colorado, I think the federal government’s approach to that will be much different than it has been with medical marijuana.

Is the legalization of medical marijuana necessary for doctors in that state or in case of D.C. City to prescribe it?

What they call it – is a recommendation. So it is not a prescription, because a prescription is a very specific and legally defying action by a doctor. If a doctor writes a prescription for something, it has to be something that is under the federal government’s purview. But if a doctor writes a recommendation for something under an existing state law, the doctor isn’t saying, “I’m specifically prescribing this.” The doctor is just saying, “I’m recommending that this would be something that would help you with this ailment.” And the way the state laws are written, and the way the laws are written in Washington D.C. as well, says that you can get this legal marijuana issued by the state if a doctor recommends that you can benefit from medical marijuana.

There’s a marijuana issue on the ballot in California, right?

There was going back in 2010. That was a legalization issue. That issue was defeated, and a lot of people took this as a sign that maybe legalization was going a little too far. It’s on the ballot right now in Colorado, Washington and Oregon. And it looks as it might pass in Washington and in Colorado, but not in Oregon.

How about Prop. 35, if I’m correct on that?

I’m not familiar with that one. There might be additional propositions regarding medical marijuana that I’m not familiar with. That might be the one.

We talk about this in legal terms – obviously there’s a big legal debate about the legalization of marijuana. But then we talk about the decriminalization of marijuana. And I think in one of our interviews you had a very good point – do we keep this in dark underground economy which is certainly funding these drug cartels or do we decriminalize it so it doesn’t become a source of such violence? Is this really being discussed in these states? Decriminalization versus legalization?

It is. And a lot of times it gets lost in the weeds when people talk about legalization versus decriminalization, the way people think of it is either the cops are going to arrest me or they’re not going to arrest me. And it gets tricky though – whether it’s legalized or decriminalized – we still have this issue of whether the federal government is going to enforce federal laws or not. And I think what we’re seeing, regardless of which party is in power in the White House, is the federal government and, in particular, Justice Department sending the message as Eric Holder did a couple of years ago in California that if there’s a decriminalization or a legalization for recreational use, the feds won’t stay idly by, like they have in some cases with medical marijuana.

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