Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, advocated for the legalization of marijuana in the District and across the country Thursday evening.
In 2010, the D.C. City Council approved a medical marijuana legalization initiative originally voted on in 1998. The District’s first store specifically catering to those who want to grow marijuana, weGrow, is slated to open Friday.
However, St. Pierre said he believes it will be another year before citizens have the ability to legally purchase medical marijuana at District dispensaries, though he is used to setbacks in legislation.
“You need to develop a marathoner’s muscle, not a sprinter’s muscle,” he said in his talk organized by the Lecture Fund.
St. Pierre described American criminalization of marijuana as contradictory and dangerous, noting that punishments for the possession of drugs range from fines to criminal prosecution across the United States.
“You will be arrested, which is a violent interaction between you and your government. … Who is the victim? Who is the government representing in this interaction, since nobody’s being beaten, no property’s being stolen, nobody’s being harmed?” St. Pierre said.
Although legalization of marijuana is on the ballot in seven states, St. Pierre anticipates that only Colorado and Washington are viable candidates for legalization because they are the only two states with heavily funded campaigns.
St. Pierre equated the fight for marijuana law reform to Prohibition-era politics, as some of the people most vehemently opposed to legalization of marijuana are those who profit most from the illegal drug trade. He noted that a significant portion of the opposition to Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California, came from the “Emerald Triangle,” a region known for growing cannabis.
According to St. Pierre, one bright spot for marijuana law reform is the growing support for legalization nationwide. According to a poll published by Gallup in October, 50 percent of Americans supported legalization, while 46 percent were against it. St. Pierre hopes that this level of support will eventually spur the federal government to act.
“What idiot cannot look at [the majority] of people supporting something across all strata and not, in a democracy, know that that’s where you need to go?” he said.