As government officials and residents of Washington and Colorado wait to see how the Justice Department and federal law enforcement agencies will respond to the legalization of marijuana, politicians and celebrities are questioning current drug policies.
On Thursday, Digital Journal reported that the Washington law which made it legal for adults 21-years-old or over to possess one ounce or less of marijuana came into force at midnight on December 6th, 2012. Colorado passed a similar law in November, although it is unclear when the law will come into effect.
A spokesman for Seattle's U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a statement on Wednesday saying:
“Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on Dec. 6 in Washington state, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law."
Officials with the White House and Justice Department are still deciding what actions, if any, should be taken regarding the new laws.
As the legal limbo surrounding the Washington and Colorado laws continues, a documentary entitled "Breaking the Taboo" premiered on Friday. The film focuses on The Global Commission on Drug Policy's attempt to break the "political taboo" surrounding the U.S. led War on Drugs, as well as showing how it and global policies have failed over the last 40 years.
Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film includes interviews of former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
During the Clinton administration, the position of Drug Czar was raised to cabinet-level status. Nearly 60 percent of all federal and 25 percent of all state prisoners were imprisoned for nonviolent drug offenses during the Clinton Presidency. In Latin America, the use of military and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) forces grew considerably and marijuana arrests soared. Despite Clinton's reputation as being one of the harshest Presidents to date when it comes to the War on Drugs, he now believes that the war is not working.
In the film, Clinton is quoted as saying:
“What I tried to do was to focus on every aspect of the problem. I tried to empower the Colombians for example to do more militarily and police-wise because I thought that they had to. Thirty percent of their country was in the hands of the narcotraffickers,”
Clinton continued by saying:
“Well obviously, if the expected results was that we would eliminate serious drug use in America and eliminate the narcotrafficking networks — it hasn’t worked.”
Cater offered his support to the legalization of marijuana, reminding the film's audience that he proposed decriminalizing the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in 1977. He also warned against filling prisons with those who were "no threat to society: He felt the money spent on law enforcement efforts and the housing of prisoners charged with minor marijuana possession crimes would be better spent on more intensive treatment options for those addicted to drugs. He goes on to say:
"These ideas were widely accepted at the time. Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself."
Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told US News he believes law enforcement efforts will always play a major role in preventing drug violence, but he also acknowledges that the drug problem is as much of a public health issue as it is a criminal justice issue.
The release of "Breaking the Taboo" comes three months after another documentary, entitled "The House I Live In", was released. In that film, David Simon, creator of the HBO TV show "The Wire", said:
"What drugs haven't done, the war against them has."