tv Inside Story Al Jazeera January 29, 2014 5:00pm-5:31pm EST
for president assad to step down. this round of talks is scheduled to end on friday. there is no date set yet for the second round of talks. those are the headlines. i'm tony harris in new york. "inside story" is next on al jazeera america. >> recreational use of marriage legal and production for recreational use. but authorities still consider both a crime. the careful walk through the new legal landscape is the new inside story.
>> hello, i'm ray suarez. americans' attitudes about marijuana have changed a lot since the worst days of the drug war. they've come to think of the drug as more benign and less dangerous than cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine, but the federal government still classifies marijuana as a narcotic that can lend its users, sellers in jail. now two states have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use. how can state law, revenue collection, law enforcement, be made to mesh with the federal code. another win for weed. a spot on november's ballot to determine if marijuana could be used for medicinal purposes.
opponents challenge its language in court. >> this particular initiative has nothing whatsoever to do with medicine. it is not tightly restricted. it is wide open. it would allow pretty much anybody to use to treat any condition whatsoever. >> the legislations language spacifies that medical marijuana can only be used in, quote, debilitating diseases like cancer, a.i.d.s. and parkinson parkinson's. >> just because it's deadly does not keep it out of the suffering. the supposed fear of abuse by some can no longer deny its medicinal benefits. >> two states, washington and colorado, allowed legal recreational use starting this month. but even in colorado tensions are still high on dealing with
legalization. monday colorado supreme court agreed to review the case of quadriplegic who was fired from his job for failing a drug test. in washington state there is another point of friction on marijuana legalization. driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal there, just as it is with alcohol. but determining a user's condition is harder. because traces of the drug remain in one's system long after use. how to deal with newly legal recreational marijuana and existing laws lay in the hands of the state's liquor control board and they're swimming in uncharted waters. largely silent on a state issue president obama made this comment about marijuana to the "new yorker" magazine earlier this week. i view it as a bad habit and a
vice, not very different from the cigarettes that i smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. i don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol. and he said, i told my daughters i think it's a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy. washington and colorado are pioneers in the new world of weed, and in some ways directly contrasting federal law. one big factor of the federal and state marijuana conversation is also green, money. last week attorney general erik holder spoke about dispensaries and bank relationships. >> businesses that are recognized by state government generating cash as a result of the sale of a product, and you don't want huge amounts of cash in these places. they want to be able to use the banking system. we'll be issuing some regulations i think very soon. >> at the moment it's illegal for some banks to accept
deposits or offer other services like loans and lines of credit to marijuana providers, even if it's legal in their state. >> there is a public safety component to this. huge amounts of cash substantial amounts of cash just lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited is something that would worry me just from a law enforcement perspective. >> colorado has projected close to $600 million in combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales for 2014. $70 million of that will be tax revenue, of which about half will be used to build schools. >> now that recreational marijuana use is legal in two states how will the federal government act? how will counties and cities within these states, what does it mean for a black market industry is to become legal? the nuts and bolts of marijuana
legalization in colorado and washington state. with us to discuss the new legal landscape are from seattle, allison holkum of the earn civil liberties union of washington, the lead author of the ballot initiative that legalized marijuana in washington state. and jonathan seagull, former attorney at the u.s. department of justice, he specializes in federal-state government relations, and from pittsburgh, professor of public policies, he consulted washington state on how to implement marijuana legalization. let me start with you in pittsburgh. this isn't a single variable problem, is it, when something has been illegal for a long time and a lot of government resources have been dedicated to enforcing that, it's not as easy as throwing a switch and saying, no, you can do it now, is it? >> no, you're exactly right.
there is a lot of complexity. and it's further complicated b t no one has done this before. the only place it has-legalized anywhere else is personal use and retail sale up to 5 grams. >> was there any guidance from the prohibition. making something legal again that was once illegal. >> yes and no. precisely because no one has done this particular thing before we looked all over to try to find historical analogs that provided circumstantial evidence, but it is at best circumstantial evidence. a lot of what you try to do is act as an student who is trying to build a business model and trying to understand and model
what that industry will look like in this new terrain. >> did you have to anticipate some of these very questions? >> absolutely. we knew that if and when initiative 502 passed everything that was authorizing under washington state law would continue to technically be illegal under federal law. so part of our goal was to craft something so thoughtful and careful that the federal government would give us permission to go forward. >> give me some specifics, how would you at least not attracts the ire of the federal government as we figure out steps forward in what really is a social experiment for washington and colorado? >> well, a few things that we suspected the federal government would be concerned about were how close marijuana stores would be to youth-sensitive areas like schools, playgrounds and parks.
also, how tightly would the marijuana be controlled so we wouldn't have to worry about marijuana seeping over into states where it's not legal or getting into the hands of young people. also how well would we do in taking the marijuana out of the black market, undermining the illicit market, and bringing it under regulation? >> professor seagull, i segal, e something in the unwritten law with law enforcement, positions of responsibility like the attorney general? >> oh, yes, marijuana is still illegal under federal law in every state. so people who use marijuana or sell it or produce it in colorado today are breaking federal law. but the department of justice has determined that it is not a federal priority to enforce the marijuana laws against people who are doing things that are legal as a matter of state law so long as federal interests are
not threatened, and identified the federal interests is something that the previous guests have mentioned, keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors, keeping it from going into other states and making sure that the profits d't go to criminal enterprises. >> this is a matter of policy of this administration. a new president will raise his or her hand in january 2017, could they simply reverse all those policies and begin a tougher reading of the federal statute? >> as a legal matter, yes. i mean, there might be political obstacles to doing that, but as a legal matter the next president could change the policies. the current president could change the policies, and, indeed, the policy does not prevent the federal government from bringing prosecutions even in colorado. it just said it's not a priority. >> professor, if we were to go to washington state, you and i, and two fairly large
municipalities right near idaho, spokane and pullman, what happens when you are near or step over a border. is everything that was permitted in washington suddenly illegal when you take that step, and do you have to worry about the money that changes hands in order for someone to possess marijuana? >> well, the law changes as soon as you go across the border. what doesn't change dramatically would be price or supply. it will be a real challenge to try to. even before passage washington was a big exporter of marijuana. it produced purely black market marijuana for export to other states, and that continues it
will be possible perhaps that the existing black market was also serving the rest of the country and the rest of the country as a black market. it's very hard to put walls around state purpose. >> you discussed crafting a law with that in mind, keeping it from leaking in states that it's still illegal. >> just the same way we track pharmaceutical drugs, and you need to fund the administration and enforcement of these systems to make sure there are adequate watch keepers. that's what we did with the initiative 502. we made sure that the taxes we're generating, we're dedicating a lot of that to the enforcement of the law as well as strategies for preventing youth use, treating it, doing
education research a lot of beneficial goals we hope responsible marijuana measures would include. >> we're going to take a short break, when we come back we'll dig deeper into the question of money. a lot of new laws to discourage the use of drugs in this country have had to do with the movement and changing of hands of money. this is inside story. the congress to hopefully shed line on immigration reform as a path to citizenship. for the center of american progress, he's in washington d.c. this morning. and good morning, mr. fietz. >> good morning, del. >> are you confident that this
year immigration reform passes and are you sure why it pass it's. >> i'm confident that the president will be talking about the importance of find of bipartisan agreement with this congress, and this is obviously the issue that seems more teed up to have the senate has passed a bill by a bipartisan super majority and now it's up to the house to pass it. and we know that the pass republican conference is meeting in a retreat this week, and one of the things they will be discussing is how to move forward on immigration reform. al jazeera america.
we understand that every news story begins and ends with people. >> the efforts are focused on rescuing stranded residents. >> we pursue that story beyond the headline, pass the spokesperson, to the streets. >> thousands of riot police deployed across the capital. >> we put all of our global resources behind every story. >> it is a scene of utter devastation. >> and follow it no matter where it leads - all the way to you. al jazeera america, take a new look at news. >> welcome back to "inside story." i'm ray suarez. on this edition of our program we're talking about the brave new world where voters of a state say yes while their federal government still says no. the debate is over recreational marijuana, and the industry that has sprung forth from its legalization in colorado and washington state. a lot of new laws we've seen passed in this country has tried
to throttle marijuana commerce and illicit drug commerce at large, making it tough to move money around, to hide it, to bank it, and yet here we are as we heard attorney general holder say earlier in the program that they don't want people sitting around with big piles of money. are we going to have to evolve a system for threading our way through what money is illicit and what money is elicit. >> you can't identify particular money so there has to be some mechanism for making sure that you can identify the money. as mentioned in the show's opening, banks will be worried about tak taking it, and there l be regulations that will give banks comfort that they won't be prosecuted for taking dirty
money. >> if you're a licenses seller in a state like colorado, would you be smart if you had other corporate haves to wall them off? >> i would like to have a local subsidiary that was just in that state and make sure that that the money was not moving to another state into the parent cooperation where some other state might try to say that it's i will his the money that could be forfeited. >> professor, had you anticipated questions like this, and what did you advise washington? >> we anticipated as a team that particular question isn't my area of expertise, but it's a great example of the complexity that comes along, how do you provide banking services to an industry that is illegal under federal law. there are a whole host of these. my guest would be the simplest way to deal with these is just
pertaining to money laundering. this could be changed just by changing the money laundering statutes. >> allison, is there a parallel in alcohol in this case where there are in many states authorized and unauthorized sellers, and where perhaps in washington state, help me if i'm wrong, if you sell a bag of marijuana on your porch, that's probably still illegal, as illegal as it ever was before, that's one way of keeping things straight. >> that's right. it will continue to be a felony under washington state law for anyone who is not a licensed retailer to be selling marijuana to somebody else. so we still have quite a bit of criminal law enforcement that comes into play in establishing this new legal market. however, a big factor that we have to remember the
overwhelming majority of people, even those who are current marijuana users, other than marijuana being illegal, are law-abiding citizens. most of us want to play by the rules, buy from a legal market, from a legal business owner that is paying his or her taxes to the community. i think there will be a natural migration of the market that's currently being supplied by the illicit market to the new legal and regulated market. >> so you're anticipating the illegal market and all the problems that came with it, what, to dry up in a place like seattle? >> well, i think we have to be realistic. only washington and colorado have passed these laws. in the alcohol prohibition, there were two different factors in play there. we had a legal industry before the alcohol prohibition. and when it was legalized it was
nationwide and it competed with the black market nationwide. we're not there yet. we'll migrate to more the legal supply. >> if you're selling dope illegally in boise or portland, could you launder it in denver or seattle? >> that certainly is one of the concerns that the federal government has, that legal marijuana will seep into states where it's illegal. and the memo from the department of justice tells the local u.s. attorneys to go ahead and prosecute if they feel that is happening, and it also emphasizes that it's up to the state to have a robust system of enforcement, and specifically says not just on paper but in actual practice that prevents local legal marijuana from going to another state. >> just like money is fungible, marijuana is probably fungible,
with carnegie university. allison, one question that has been asked many times now there is another substance that you have to worry about people using and driving, part of the challenge being that there is no test that is reliable as a breathalyzer for alcohol when it comes to thc in the system and trying to determine how long someone remains impaired after smoking. >> we do have a learning curve when it comes to thc on driving. there are political studies that suggest guidelines for standards. that's what we looked at when we established a per se standard for active thc. when i say active thc, there is the active thc that causes impairment, and the enactive metabolized that will show up in workplace tests for example.
our workplace does not apply to the inactive standard but only to the active standard. >> now in the case of alcohol, it's been said, well, my whole life i guess, that it effects different people in different ways, different weights, different body types, different personal chemistry, is that the case with smoking marijuana? do we even know, or do we have to have a blanket ban to capture all those variations? >> i think when it comes to driving policy, really what we've decided with per se standards both in the context of marijuana use as well as with alcohol is that the risks that we take when we impair ourselves with any substance and get behind a two-ton piece of metal on our public highways those risks are high enough that justifieds setting a standard that hopefully deters someone who may be close to that line or
not from getting behind the wheel in the first place. that's the policy we're trying to push with the per se standard. >> professor, is this one of the tougher nuts not when it comes to the inside legal world but when it comes to talking to the public about what pulling down prohibition means. >> hum, well, it's definitely a hard one to figure out. i think that the majority of the public, maybe not just washington state but the majority of the public around the country did not have to think threw these things. i will turn it to the future tense, i think it's going to be one of the things that the public in general will be debating and worrying about in the coming years as legalization likely spreads to other states. >> now, professor segal, i wonder if there isn't a federal role here because so much that has to do with highways and operating motor vehicles, and ends up implicating the federal
government. i recall when the states moved their drinking age ages from 18o 21. the federal government said look we can't regulate your drinking age but we can withhold federal highway fund going to you don't move it to 21. it's your choice. >> i think that's a good analogy. highway safety measures would be a local matter and the federal government would provide incentives such as highway money. >> and another very important federal role is in education and messaging around the use of substances like this. the federal government, i'm sure, will keep up with all the drug prevention andy version strategies that it has tried over the last decades, but it's not going to make it an exception of colorado and washington. aren't we going to have multiple voices in the culture about what to do with these substances? >> i suspect that's right.
if you have something that is legal under state law and illegal under federal law theree are going to be different messages. in the state of washington and colorado will hav want to promoe responsible use just like with alcohol. from a federal perspective it's just illegal so you might get a different message from the federal government. >> allison holcomb are you still on the learning curve? >> absolutely, this is the most important aspect of designing marijuana reform. how are we going to strike the right balance between no longer treating marijuana use as a crime but not promoting it's use especially to younger people. >> and jonathan, tough to do?
do you think washington state help is on the way? >> yes. i think one of the really important things for countries tto realize.the big question ise supplying? washington state and colorado chose to make it for-profit businesses. another state might make it non-profits and another state might go with a co-op model. there are going to be a wide range of ways, and they'll have to mock up their learn be curve and look at the first two states. >> said by a monday who suspects there will be more states. good to talk to you. >> thank you. >> that brings us to the end of this edition of inside story p.m. thanks for being with us. in washington, i'm ray suarez.