tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera March 21, 2016 9:00pm-9:31pm EDT
crisis. others grew up fearing, hating america. children in the u.s. were taught the same about cuba. today marks a milestone for both nations. with images like this perhaps a turn away from that hate on both sides. that's our program. thank you for watching. i'm john siegenthaler. ali velshi "on target" is next. >> i'm ali velshi. "on target" tonight. are marijuana in america. legalization is paving the way for big business but it also exposes plenty of problems that need to be solved. americans' attitude towards illicit drug use has softened
over the years. 23 states have legalized marijuana for use, california, oregon, washington and colorado, legalized portions of spall amounts of marijuana for personal use. now officially, state laws decriminalizing pot are at odds with federal law which bans it but since drug prosecutions are mostly done at the state level decriminalization is here to stay. next door in canada, local jurisdictions have experimented with decriminalizing marijuana but canada's new prime minister, justin trudeau promises to make pot the law of the land. drug use is considered a public health issue not a crime. since 2001, porsche gal porschet
only decriminalized it, less than a ten day supply that person appears before a three judge panel activitying of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker. recommending treatment for addiction, small fine or more often than not, nothing at all. here in america, drug decriminalization of at least ceacial marijuancasual marijuant just talking about health concerns from an uptick in addiction or road accidents, the question of how to regulate pot use with those concerns in mind is a real issue. think about all the rules already in place for alcohol. they restrict consumption. advertising. and how much is too much when it comes to drinking and driving. yet america's big alcohol industry generates $200 billion in sales every year.
as the move towards decriminalization picks up, it is debatable if marijuana will get that big in the coming decades. either way, we're in for a big cultural shift. here is jacob ward. >> marijuana could soon join alcohol as the other big legal intoxicant of american life. at least ten states are expected to put marijuana in front of law makeers olawmakers this year. think about drinking and all the occasions it's appropriate. oh you lost your job? i'm sorry, let me buy you a drink. you lost your wife, let me buy you a drink. that's why alcohol last become a huge and fundamental industry. we know what big alcohol looks like as a cultural finance and a
big powerhouse. what will marijuana look like if that drug becomes legal in the united states? bruce livingston runs a watchdog organization called alcohol justice. it's important to understand how alcohol became so influential. >> the play book has been advertising advertising advertising. its product placement, creating products that are very youth oriented, it's controlling the policy sector having massive lobbying at the local state and national level. >> if marijuana becomes legal across the 61 its promoters will have a lot to learn from thebusi ss of booze which has worked it into sports, movies even our traditions. >> about half the alcohol in the united states is sold around december during holiday seasons. it's often given as a gift. in fact you show up at a party, you bring a bottle of wine or a six pack. >> adam rogers, an editor at
wired magazine said, we'll know when pot has joined the commodity, small batch liquor. >> when you look at what the connoisseurship of alcohol has, it shas almost nothing t has neo with the psychological aspects. the different flair notes, the aromatics, the skillfulness with which the creator created thisness object, we call it artisanal. artist technical. >> prospect of marijuana legalization in california he ss that for the sake of public health, marijuana like any mind altering drug must be
constrained by regulation and taxation. >> broccoli, you can -- just make sure it's clean and the pesticides aren't bad and the public will sort it out. they'll bias much broccoli as is good for them and it's not hard to regulate. the problem with psychotropic are substances, be let broccoli, the market will handle that. be the public will are judge that on its merits. you can't count on that westbound marijuana.marijuana. >> we may be sending brownies to a retiring colleague. marijuana is likely to change the traditions of american life. >> welcome to the neighborhood. here's a pound of weed. farmers in california are considering the economic benefits of switching growing fruits and vegetables to a bigger cash crom.
crop. it all matters on legalizing marijuana. being jacob ward continues now on the impact of the vote might be. >> when you think about growing pot you probably think of a backyard operation, something high tech, hidden away. >> all of our products where are be gluten free, glycemic. >> the business around it is about to upgrade. >> organically grown flour. if you want a nighttime feeling a body high you want -- >> now marijuana is still illegal under federal law so it remains a shadow industry. there might be a couple of greenhouse he over here maybe a couple of acres over there. but nobody is doing it on a large scale. what happens if the government legalizes this plant and farmers get in on the act? what happens when the standards and the scale of modern
agriculture are applied to marijuana? a few years ago, cannon michael discovered a quarter acre of marijuana growing on his farm and called the authorities. >> when i called the agents, they gave me a street value of $19 million to $20 million, it was mind blowing, because it was a quarter acre of a 10,000 acre farm. >> michael did the math and roiched i realized if this crop baimed legal, a couple of acres could earn him millions. >> crops we are in the two to 4,000 an acre range, perhaps a two to tenfold ranger. it's worth it to look at it. >> a powerhouse from citrus to wine grapes, bringing that expertise to marijuana cultivation could make the
chemistry content more consistent and could change the market. >> will people get so good at growing it or are people so good at growing it that they get it right every time? i've got that one hillside in humboldt and i grow it and it's great and the thc level is great, it has a great blueberry lemon aroma when you smoke it. and i can sale that. if alcohol is any indication, they're going to be able to charge more once the stuff is legal. >> something we could use to plant. >> the worry ss cannon michael is flooding the market. >> california is super-productive and if you bring large acreages into the marijuana game i don't know if the market can withstand it. i have a sister that seems to believer the market can handle whatever. i just don't know. >> a post potential revolution
in america's most influential state. and if the law changes california's oldest industry agriculture would be transformed as well. >> here's something to remember, not all legal is created equal. i'll explain that and what it means for marijuana in america, just ahead. it's not always pretty, but it's real... and we show you like no-one else can. this is our american story. this is america tonight.
>> we're talking about marijuana in america. legalized pot has opened up a pandora's box. let's continue with our science and technology editor jacob ward who is with us from san francisco. jake, let's talk about what we actually know scientifically about marijuana and its effects. there are lots of laws being put into effect or regulations that are developing but how far out ahead of the science is the law? >> well, it's really tremendously premature if you talk to the addiction scientists, behavioral scientists who are look at this problem ali. when you spoke to the people who actually wrote these initiatives, they often say that their inspiration was in some way a social justice inclination. changing the play book on how it affects society through the criminal justice system. that unfortunately does not mean they had a lot of science to
draw on. when i spoke to the author of the washington state initiative, her description of it was very much a social justice issue. she said i had very much littl little.law to go on. how stoned is too stoned to drive? marijuana has been so difficult to study in the united states. >> let's talk about the forces that affect regulation. you've got people who want marijuana for medical reasons. you've got the social justice issues. you've got the business concerns the ability to raise lots of money and those who think it's bad for business and of course you have political considerations. give me a sense how these have come together to drive the changes in legislation. >> it's fafnedding. fascinating. libertarian pro-business camp
that believes that the market should decide everything and at the same time, very progressive socially minded social justice reform folks. those people have come together in this very weird and unlikely partnership over marijuana. and so you have these initiatives that on the face of it do have this incredible potential to reduce the impact on communities of color which are very, very disparately sentenced to vanishing quantities sometimes of marijuana. at the same time out of that impulse will come things there was an initiative on the books of the midwest, where a prominent group of businessmen tried to write the issue in their state, where they would become the sole growers and distributors of them. the opportunity to corner the market on an addictive by some counts substance and then that comes together with the political leanings of those who
get unfairly sentenced on this issue. >> you say addictive to some people, let's talk about the research. everybody who asked, seems to have a whole lot of detailed information about the effects of marijuana. in terms of studying, because it hasn't been studied very will, give me a sense of the best, what kind of research has been done on marijuana. >> it's really important to understand ali how hard it has been to study marijuana in the united states. marijuana has been under a sort of monopoly at a federal level when it came to research. even though it is somehow legal to use in washington state, colorado and oregon, they have to go through federal authorities in order to study it and under federal law it is still forbidden. so you have to go through what
researchers say is is an onerous situation, it's almost impossible to get your hands on the stuff certainly in any kind of quantity or quality we see on the streets now. very, very hard to study. beyond that the social stigma of studying it the social stigma of using it has made it difficult for people to report their marijuana use openly so it's very hard to study people and know over a long period of time how often do you smoke marijuana, how do you say it affects your life, people can't come forward with it because it's been illegal, and studies have come out outside the united states, and rumor has it that in the coming week we'll see a study that shows long term effects of people over decades. this is the first study of its kind, people have been sort of you are draw out population wide statistics about this. the idea that we say it's a
perfectly harmless drug or much less harming e-ful than alcohol we just don't know nap we think so but it's anecdotal at this point. >> when people say they absolutely know or people who say it's absolutely harmful or harmless we don't have enough science as far as you're concerned? >> that's right. mental health professionals, psychiatrists who are dealing with this, there is a talk in the country that cs statistically significant or small number of people who when they smoke marijuana over a long period of time they can have a psychotic reaction, we don't know that because studying it has been hard compared to other drugs in the country. >> all right, jake ward, thank you. i want to talk to a plan we spoke of earlier who drew a line about highway society should draw line on say, broccoli. that man is keith humphries, also served as a senior policy
advisor of the white house's office of national drug control policy. he's helping shape currently the surgeon general's report on substance abuse. joins us now. keith thank you for joining us. >> happy to be here. >> we talked a blinlt big alcohol and the -- little bit about big alcohol. paint a picture of what the marijuana industry looks like and its relationship to regulation. >> been it's an infant industry so it could grow in a variety of ways that aren't fully known yet. but it's clear that it's attracted a huge amount of investments. there are companies up to $100 million of venture capital in this space, but whether it gets to a level of big alcohol or big tobacco is going to depend enormously setting the rules about what corporations can do, what constraints are on them and how much control the public will have on their behavior.
>> you mentioned broccoli in your story and that stands out. i want zero regulation about broccoli, i need it to be relatively safe and there should be regulations around handling. but thinking about something more complicated like marijuana, potentially addict of, potentially dangerous, potentially health benefit to some people, what are the larger frameworks, around which we should think about the states as they're doing it now? >> the renal i draw the contrast to broccoli which is not a psychoactive substance, as long as it's clean people can eat it, it's fine, people can always eat it. but marijuana is not always fine. one out of ten people say it's addictive. costs are going to fall on not just the users but all of us. when people drop out of school
there's consequence and when people get high and drive a car there's consequences. there's consequence that are public health and different than broccoli which is not psychoactive. >> four states, which have legalized the use of marijuana war the lessons you have learned? >> the state of washington which has a medical system loosely regulated, almost working like a recreational system, the recreational system can't compete with that. if medium ask get it and it's relatively free from taxes they won't go to the other market. they have people who use it for medical reasons but all in one system. i think that's an important model that other states should look at carefully. >> a study from the state of
michigan, sponsored by the national organization for drug abuse. is legal marijuana not being the threat that some people think it was going to be? >> we don't -- it's so early you know, and we don't really know. even if you saw a spike right away, that could be novelty seekers, that could be tourists, that sort of thing. so this is the kind of thing that we will not know the effects of for a fair amount of time. it's not line heroin kills people acutely. one dose can kill you. that's about impossible for marijuana. if marijuana hurts someone, they use it heavily over years. we won't know that effect for five, ten years. >> we have a federal governmental that sets it's hands off but as the states emerge should we be looking at a
federal regulatory framework? >> the current situation is really unsustainable. where the federal government and the states are doing very different things and the reason it's unsustainable is it's not fair. you can't get people to follow the law if they can't understand what the law is and right now it's very ambiguous. and that's not a situation to promote justice. the other thing is the federal government has a unique interest in regulation. in most areas the federal government doesn't say, well states if it's okay with you it's okay with us. they generally put a floor or the situation. no matter what states say, that would be a legitimate fair thing to do. but so far the federal government has been kind of paralyze hed and let states run. >> that would confuse this issue even further.
keith humphries is a professor. how stoned is too stoned to drive? what scientists say about that next. >> coming up tonight, we'll have the latest... >> does the government give you refugee status? >> they've marched to the border. >> thousands have taken to the streets here in protest. >> this is where gangs bury their members. >> they're tracking climate change. .
plenty of parallels between the pot business and the booze business which begs the inevitable question: what happens when you get stoned and get behind the wheel? once again jacob ward with what science has to say about that. >> very little research into just how stoned is too stoned to drive. even in washington state, where initiative 502 recently legalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana. >> without a doubt the science around impairment and marijuana is very unclear. and it's not obvious that it will ever get clearer, that we'll ever be able to create a bright line standard. >> reporter: the science that does exist is spotty and contradictory. in the united states federal law prevents most researchers from studying street-quality weed. what we do know is largely from foreign studies and evenly those findings are highly variable. one well-known study found risk of an accident may be higher when a driver has 5 nanograms or
more of thc in their blood, that's marijuana's psychoactive ingredients. but scientists point out experienced pot mokers may be able to drive safely. the automatic stuff that we do when we're driving the lane-keeping and so forth that's what begins to fall apart. it's the conscious stuff the turning a corner or coming at a stop at a red light that we do pretty well even though we're baked. perhaps our scientific understanding of marijuana is too limited to establish a sensible law. >> this is why virtually every scientific or traffic safety agency that has assessed this issue that has posed the question can we correlate behavioral impairment from the presence of thc or its metabolite in a single blood
sample says no, we can't do it. >> but states are setting limits on thc anyway. both nevada and ohio set it at 2 neenanograms but any level, some states say, is unreasonable. >> let's take top end of that reasonable range, because the standard will end up with automatic conviction for people driving. >> spot test for thc, it takes a full two milliliters of blood to test for thc in the blood now. as a result, the dream of a cop being able to administer a test at the side of the road is in the distance future.
ground break law on inconclusive science. some things other states could soon need to do. >> that's our show for today. i'm ali velshi. thank you for joining us. the news continues here on al jazeera america. >> thanks for joining us i'm joie chen. we have seen cases of police misconduct in which police proven inj