[Update: Yes, I meant "proponents", not "opponents". An 11-point gender gap and 52% believing medical marijuana is not for the severely ill, but for "something else" should trouble proponents of legalization. -"R"R]
The latest poll to ask the American people their opinions on medical marijuana and marijuana legalization reveals some disturbing trends for opponents of marijuana prohibition.
According a recent CBS News poll conducted at the end of October, a slim majority of 51 percent continues to think that marijuana use should be illegal. But support for specifically allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions – or legalized “medical” marijuana – is far stronger: 77 percent Americans think it should be allowed.
CBS’s poll compares well to the bulk of polls on the issue over the past two years, which have ranged from 40% to 46% support for full-legalization. It’s interesting to note that no news organization has ever shown a poll with majority support for full-legalization; the five polls showing 50% or greater support all come from Zogby, Angus Reid, and Gallup.
Still, even though most Americans support this, just three in 10 believe that the marijuana currently being bought in this country under state-authorized medical marijuana programs is being used in the way it has been authorized: for alleviating suffering from serious medical conditions.
In previous posts we’ve noted the gap between medical-only and full-legalization has shrunk from 44% to 20% in the Gallup Polls. This CBS poll shows 77% nationwide for “Do you think doctors should be allowed to prescribe small amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses?” but also shows only 31% of the country believes “marijuana that is purchased in this country through state authorized medical marijuana programs is being used to alleviate suffering from serious medical illnesses”. Majorities of Republicans (62%) and Independents (51%) and a plurality of Democrats (44%) believe “most of it is being used for other reasons”.
As usual, people between the age of 18-29 support legalization (52%) as do liberals (66%). Greatest support geographically is again found in the West (48%). But surprisingly, the Midwest (43%) beats the Northeast (41%) in support and Independents (48%) have greater support for legalization than Democrats (45%). Also as usual, and still vexing for legalization proponents, is the gender gap of 11 points between men (46%) and women (35%).
View full post on NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform
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DEA raids Washington marijuana dispensaries in cities that set marijuana as lowest enforcement priority.
The Thurston County Narcotics Task Force served search warrants at five medicinal marijuana dispensaries Tuesday morning and shut them down, according to a police spokesman.
Five dispensaries were targeted in Thurston County and five in Pierce County, law enforcement officials reported. So far, no arrests have been reported from the searches in Pierce and Thurston counties.
The warrants targeted locations that are suspected of not complying with state law on medical marijuana, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.
“The places we hit are not compliant with state law so we initiated enforcement,” he said. “There are facilities and people that are in compliance with the law that we did not hit.”
Medical marijuana activist group ‘Sensible Washington’ tells KOMO News searches have been conducted so far at Seattle Cannabis Co-op, Game Collective, Tacoma Cross, Lacey Cross and Seattle Cross among others.
KOMO News asked DEA spokeswoman Jodie Underwood if agents were serving search warrants on dispensaries in other counties as well and she acknowledged agents were serving several search warrants locally.
Remember, these raids are taking place in Tacoma, which just had an election last week on this very issue of marijuana law enforcement:
(Seattle Times) Tacoma voters easily passed citywide ballot Initiative No. 1 — the measure seeking to make “marijuana or cannabis offenses … the lowest enforcement priority” of the city.
After Tuesday night’s count, 65 percent of voters favored the measure, while 35 percent cast no votes.
And Seattle, which had made marijuana law enforcement its cops’ lowest priority in 2003 by a 58% vote:
(Seattle P-I) Since Seattle voters famously made the Emerald City a bit greener by mandating that cops mellow out when it comes to marijuana possession busts, a funny thing has happened.
Nothing. Nada. Nil. No crazy hopheads running amok with “reefer madness.” No groundswell of support to legalize the drug (at least no more than usual), and no discernible protest by law enforcement that a pro-drug message effectively has been sent — or received.
“I’d say it’s had little to no effect,” said [former] City Attorney Tom Carr, an outspoken opponent of Initiative 75, the 2003 ballot measure that directed Seattle police to make low-level pot busts their lowest priority. “And that’s good. It hasn’t been a problem. You can tell by the numbers.”
Seattle is so accepting of marijuana that the new city attorney, Pete Holmes, won’t even prosecute you for personal possession and believes marijuana should be legalized, as does the mayor, Mike McGinn. Even the Seattle City Council is unanimous in their support for medical marijuana dispensaries.
The people of Washington State don’t seem to have as much problem with marijuana as the people of Washington, D.C.
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Two municipal election results from yesterday ought to come as no surprise.
In the cities of Kalamazoo, Michigan and Tacoma, Washington, municipal voters overwhelmingly favored local ballot measures to mandate that the criminal enforcement of cannabis possession offenses be law enforcement’s “lowest priority.”
In Tacoma, voters decided in favor of Initiative 1, which states that minor marijuana offenses shall be “the lowest enforcement priority of the City of Tacoma.”
In Kalamazoo, voters approved a similar ‘deprioritization’
measure by a margin of almost 2 to 1.
Given that one out of two Americans now favor outright legalizing the adult use of the marijuana plant, and given that voters have consistently voted in favor of similar ‘deprioritization’ measures before (e.g., Seattle, 2003; Oakland, 2004; Columbia, Missouri, 2004; Santa Cruz, 2006;Denver, 2007; etc.) last night’s results are hardly surprising.
Equally unsurprising is the response from local law enforcement, whose public comments once again belie the myth that ‘police just enforce the laws; police don’t make the laws.’
Marijuana amendment will have little effect on law enforcement in Kalamazoo, chief says
via The Kalamazoo Gazette
Little, if anything, about how his officers do their job will change, Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said Wednesday, less than a day after city residents voted to make possession of a small amount of marijuana the lowest priority for police.
“I certainly respect the democratic process,” Hadley said. “It certainly gives you an insight to what some of the voters are thinking in terms of their views on marijuana. However, it really has little to no impact on how we operate at Public Safety.”
The ballot measure, which amends the city charter, was overwhelmingly endorsed by voters Tuesday, with 65 percent giving their approval.
The ballot question voters approved Tuesday was: “Shall the Kalamazoo City Charter be amended such that the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21 years or older is the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel?”
Hadley reiterated Wednesday what he has said previously about the ballot measure, which is that it will have no effect on his agency because the city charter only addresses ordinances and marijuana possession and use are illegal under state and federal law, which will continue to be enforced.
“The charter amendment only has an impact on city ordinances, which we do not have any existing city ordinances relative to the possession or use of marijuana and we still have every obligation to enforce state and federal laws,” the chief said.
For further analysis on law enforcement’s resistance to marijuana law reform, please see NORML Outreach Coordinator Russ Belville’s excellent, archived commentary on The Huffington Post here.
View full post on NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform
NORML Attorneys Matt Kumin, David Michael, and Alan Silber, have filed suit (read here) in the four federal districts in California to challenge the Obama Administration’s recent crackdown on medical marijuana operations in the Golden State. Aided by expert testimony from NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano and research from California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, the suits seek an injunction against the recent federal intrusion into state medical marijuana laws at least and at most a declaration of the unconstitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act with respect to state regulation of medical marijuana.
*** JOIN US AT 1:00 PM PACIFIC TODAY FOR NORML SHOW LIVE’S INTERVIEW WITH ATTORNEYS KUMIN AND MICHAEL. You can view our live stream at http://live.norml.org or by visiting the “Audio/Video” link on the menu above ***
The NORML attorneys allege the federal government has engaged in entrapment of California patients and their caregivers. They point to the courts’ dismissal of County of Santa Cruz, WAMM et al. v. Eric Holder et al. where the Department of Justice (DOJ) “promised a federal judge that it had changed its policy toward the enforcement of its federal drug laws relative to California medical cannabis patients.” So after 2009, California providers had reason to believe that the federal government had changed its policy. The legal argument is called ‘judicial estoppel’, which basically means that courts can’t hold true to a fact in one case and then disregard it in another.
Kumin, Michael, and Silber also argue the government has engaged in ‘equitable estoppel’, which most people commonly think of as ‘entrapment’. That is to say, you can’t bust a person for committing a crime when the authorities told him it wasn’t a crime to do it!
Under established principles of estoppel and particularly in the context of the defense of estoppel by entrapment, defendants to a criminal action are protected and should not be prosecuted if they have reasonably relied on statements from the government indicating that their conduct is not unlawful. That principle should be applied to potential defendants as well, the plaintiffs in this action. Such parties, courts have noted, are “person[s] sincerely desirous of obeying the law”. They “accepted the information as true and [were]…not on notice to make further inquiries.” U.S. v. Weitzenhoff, 1 F. 3d 1523, 1534 (9th Cir. 1993).
The US Constitution figures prominently in the legal challenge as well. The 9th Amendment says that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The NORML attorneys argue that threatening seizure of property and criminal sanctions violates the rights of the people to “consult with their doctors about their bodies and health.”
The 10th Amendment provides that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The NORML attorneys argue that the States have the “primary plenary power to protect the health of its citizens” and since the government has recognized and not attempted to stop Colorado’s state-run medical marijuana dispensary program, it cannot suggest Colorado has a state’s right that California does not.
The 14th Amendment says that all citizens have equal protection under the law. The NORML attorneys argue that the federal government:
1. Actively provides cannabis for medical purposes to individuals through its own IND program.
2. Actively allows patients in Colorado to access medical cannabis through a state-licensing system that allows individuals to make profit from the sales of medical cannabis.
3. Actively restricts scientific research into the medical value and use of cannabis to alleviate human suffering and pain.
Thus, according to Kumin, Michael, and Silber, the government can’t be allowing Colorado medical marijuana commerce, engaging it its own IND program that mails 300 joints a month to four federal medical marijuana patients yet squelching all attempts to study medical value of marijuana, then have a rational basis for shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries in California. Under the 14th Amendment, the feds can’t treat Californians differently than Coloradoans and differently than four US citizens who get legal federal medical marijuana.
Finally, while acknowledging that Raich v. Gonzales 545 US 1 (2005) set the precedent that the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause does allow the feds to prosecute California’s medical marijuana, the NORML attorneys argue:
…it is still difficult to imagine that marijuana grown only in California, pursuant to California State law, and distributed only within California, only to California residents holding state-issued cards, and only for medical purposes, can be subject to federal regulation pursuant to the Commerce Clause. For that reason, Plaintiffs preserve the issue for further Supreme Court review, if necessary and deemed appropriate.
We will keep you posted on all updates related to this groundbreaking lawsuit. Archive of our interview with the lead attorneys in this case is available in our “Audio/Video” section on The NORML Network.
Click here to join NORML today and help us in the fight to legalize marijuana.
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Tomorrow, November 5th, 2011, marks the fifteenth anniversary of California’s passage of Prop 215, The Compassionate Use Act. The Act passed with 55.58% of the vote and remains the greatest achievement in marijuana law reform in the “War on Drugs” era.
The successes of Prop 215 are well documented. Two years following its passage, the rest of the West Coast and Alaska passed their own medical marijuana initiatives, with close to equal (OR 55%) or greater (WA 59% & AK 58%) support than California voters gave Prop 215.
The next decade saw twelve more states and the District of Columbia passing medical marijuana laws, with seven of those states doing so through the legislature. Five of the citizen initiatives topped 60% support. As states passed medical marijuana, some added more conditions for qualification, some legislated dispensary operations, and the most recent have instituted protections for the rights of patients to drive, work, have a home, get an organ transplant, and raise their kids. In some ways, medical marijuana has improved in fifteen years.
But a closer examination reveals a reform strategy that has stalled out and may even be in decline. The last election saw Oregon fail to pass a dispensary measure for the second time with about the same support after six years. South Dakota defeated medical marijuana with only 36% support, a drop of 12 points since they tried in 2006. Arizona only barely passed medical marijuana with 50.13% support, when they had previously seen 65% in 1996 and 64% in a 1998 referendum (both 1990’s Arizona Acts were invalidated.)
Indeed, the national polls show a stalling on the medical marijuana issue as well. When Gallup asked about support for medical marijuana and legalized marijuana in 1999, support was 73% and 29%, respectively. We assume that someone who supports legalization for healthy people probably supports legalization for sick people, too, so that means 44% of those polled only support medical marijuana, not legalization. But in the latest 2011 poll, legalization support has hit 50% while in the 2010 poll, medical support had dropped to 70%, down 8 points since 2005. How has the support for legalization doubled (25% to 50%) since Prop 215 while support for making a medical exception to criminal marijuana has flatlined?
We’ve seen how courts, legislatures, and law enforcement have supported medical exceptions – by trying to make those exceptions as narrow and costly as possible. No state followed California’s lead in making marijuana available by doctor’s recommendation for “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief”, instead crafting strict condition lists and patient registries. The West Coast standard of a dozen or more home-grown plants became 3-6 plants or no home growing at all. The precedent of a half-pound or more of usable medicine became 1 or 2 ounces, tracked to the gram and filmed at all times. Courts all across the Ninth Circuit have ruled that medical marijuana use does not protect patients from job discrimination and patients still experience housing, child custody, and medical procedure discrimination on a daily basis.
Oregon legislators proclaimed the medical marijuana program rife with abuse on the sole evidence that 50,000 patients had signed on, so they doubled the mandatory registry fee (up to ten times greater if you’re poor and previously got a discounted fee) to reduce the medical marijuana registry numbers. Oregon sheriffs are in agreement with the ATF that patients have no Second Amendment rights. Colorado legislators passed a series of medical marijuana business regulations making it more difficult and expensive to operate a dispensary than a liquor store and impossible to be a personal caregiver who just supplies marijuana to a patient. Montana outright repealed medical marijuana, saved only by a governor’s veto, only to enact new strict regulations to decimate (literally) the medical marijuana program. California localities continue to restrict dispensary operations. Washington’s governor vetoed a dispensary measure. Arizona’s governor is stonewalling implementation of dispensaries. Alaska, Maine, Nevada, and Vermont still have fewer than 1,000 protected patients. New Jersey and District of Columbia leaders are dragging their feet and haven’t implemented their programs yet.
The basis of medical marijuana restrictions and discrimination depends on a federal Schedule I designation that defines the use of cannabis by healthy people a criminal act. These restrictions, dropping poll numbers, and failing medical marijuana initiatives indicate a substantial portion of Americans that believe “compassionate use” is a ruse (I wonder what gave them that idea?).
I believe that there are three basic stands on medical marijuana among the voters not personally invested in the issue:
- The people who believe pot smoking is evil and will never support anyone using it for any reason (“prohibitionists”).
- The people who believe pot smoking is evil, but letting cancer and AIDS patients suffer is more evil (“medicalizers”).
- The people who don’t believe pot smoking is evil and would allow any adult to use it (“legalizers”).
The prohibitionists will never support medical marijuana and the legalizers have always supported medical marijuana. So the fate of any medical marijuana proposal rests on whether a coalition of legalizers and medicalizers can form a majority. Over the past fifteen years, forming that majority has required more restrictive definitions of medical marijuana to assuage the medicalizers who increasingly think evil pot smokers are getting through the loopholes. Worse, forming that coalition requires legalizers to tacitly agree that healthy pot smoking is evil.
When medical marijuana began in the Nineties, the rallying cry was “If there’s going to be a ‘War on Drugs’, let’s get the sick and dying off the battlefield.” If that’s the case, why do we continue to see a rise in “casualties” on the battlefield? Even in medical marijuana states, annual arrests of cannabis consumers continue to rise. All medical marijuana has done for marijuana convicts is improve their population’s average level of health in sixteen states.
Medical marijuana started a revitalization of marijuana activism. But I believe it has reached a point where any future medical marijuana laws will have to be increasingly restrictive. And the near future holds DEA rescheduling of plant THC for use by Big Pharma in devices that will provide all the medical relief without the “high”, which will cleave some of the medicalizers away from further reforms. We’ve gotten to a point in time where half as many people only support “medical legalization” over a decade and support of legalization for all adults now outnumbers opposition for the first time.
This is not to argue that we give up on medical marijuana campaigns. It is to argue that the campaigns need to be re-framed away from “Oh, no, this isn’t legalization at all!” to “Yes, we’re going to legalize for sick people first”. Until marijuana is supported as a good thing for all and not an evil thing we allow medical exceptions for, medical marijuana patients will remain in second-class citizenship and healthy marijuana smokers will remain behind bars.
View full post on NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform
“In the words of John Adams, ‘facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.’”
So began the ironically titled op/ed, “Facts on medical marijuana are stubborn things, too,” by Joseph Summerill — general counsel for the Major County Sheriffs’ Association — which appeared in print in the Washington Examiner newspaper on Sunday.
Yet as far as ‘facts’ were concerned, Summerill’s propaganda piece was altogether devoid of them.
Re: “Facts on medical marijuana are stubborn things, too,” Oct. 24
Author Joseph Summerill is correct to assert that “facts … are stubborn things.” So stubborn, in fact, that he chooses to ignore them completely.
Summerill alleges, “The undisputable facts, however, are that there are no sound scientific data supporting the medical value of marijuana.” The website PubMed Central, the U.S. government repository for peer-reviewed scientific research, disagrees. In fact, a simple word search on PubMed using the keyword “marijuana” reveals more than 2,100 published papers in peer-reviewed journals just this year alone.
Of course, not every one of these papers pertain to the substance’s therapeutic potential. But many do.
For example, the results of a series of randomized, placebo-controlled Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trials performed by regional branches of the University of California demonstrated that inhaled cannabis holds therapeutic value that is comparable to or better than conventional medications, particularly in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and neuropathic pain. These findings were publicly presented to the California legislature, and also appear online here: http://www.cmcr.ucsd.edu/images/pdfs/CMCR_REPORT_FEB17.pdf. Further, the UC findings paralleled those previously reported by no less than the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health, which declared, “Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”
Those are the facts, Mr. Summerill. It’s time to stop denying them.
View full post on NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform
The Obama White House has released its official response to the “We the People” online petition for marijuana legalization submitted by NORML. The petition, which garnered 74,169 signatures, was by far the most popular petition submitted. The government response (released late on a Friday to avoid news cycles, we’ll note) repeats the same tired lies and classic misdirections. Most of all, it fails to answer NORML’s actual petition, which asked:
Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol.
We the people want to know when we can have our “perfectly legitimate” discussion on marijuana legalization. Marijuana prohibition has resulted in the arrest of over 20 million Americans since 1965, countless lives ruined and hundreds of billions of tax dollars squandered and yet this policy has still failed to achieve its stated goals of lowering use rates, limiting the drug’s access, and creating safer communities.
Isn’t it time to legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol? If not, please explain why you feel that the continued criminalization of cannabis will achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?
Following is the full official White House response, with NORML’s comments interspersed…
What We Have to Say About Legalizing Marijuana
By: Gil Kerlikowske
When the President took office, he directed all of his policymakers to develop policies based on science and research, not ideology or politics. So our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug’s effects.
Oh, good. Then we’ll look forward to implementation the 1972 Shafer Commission Report or any of the other government and scientific studies that recommend the decriminalization of cannabis.
According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health- the world’s largest source of drug abuse research – marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment.
“Addiction” links to a NIDA page noting the lifetime dependence rate of cannabis to be 9% – that is, 9 in 100 people who try cannabis will develop a dependence. Kerlikowske does not mention that caffeine has the same 9% rate, alcohol is a 15% rate, and tobacco is a 32% rate. NIDA scientists also rated the addictive qualities of those substances and rated cannabis about equal to caffeine in risk. The withdrawal from this rare dependence is characterized by the Institute of Medicine as “mild and short lived” and “includes restlessness, irritability, mild agitation, insomnia, sleep disturbance, nausea, and cramping.” (Speaking of withdrawal, Mr. Drug Czar, you do know withdrawal from alcohol can kill a person and it’s legal, right?)
“Respiratory disease” links to a 2008 Science Daily article on a study entitled “Bullous Lung Disease due to Marijuana” which looked at the cases of ten people who came in already complaining of lung problems, who admitted they smoked pot over a year. The subject was featured in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine as it found “insufficient evidence for a causative link“. Matthew Naughton, author of the 2008 study, co-authored a 2011 study which noted “unfortunately, it is difficult to separate marijuana use from tobacco smoking which does confound these reports“. (Speaking of tobacco, Mr. Drug Czar, you do know tobacco is much worse for the lungs and it’s legal, right?)
“Cognitive impairment” links to a 1996 NIDA fact sheet on studies of cognitive impairment involving card sorting. Since then…
- A 2001 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found chronic users who quit for a week “showed no significant differences from control subjects”.
- A 2002 clinical trial published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal determined, “Marijuana does not have a long-term negative impact on global intelligence.”
- A 2003 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society also “failed to reveal a substantial, systematic effect of long-term, regular cannabis consumption on the neurocognitive functioning of users who were not acutely intoxicated.”
- A 2004 study of twins published in the journal Psychological Medicine reported “an absence of marked long-term residual effects of marijuana use on cognitive abilities.”
- A 2005 study published in the American Journal of Addictions used magnetic resonance imaging and found “no significant differences” between heavy cannabis smokers compared to controls.
- A 2006 study published in the German journal Psychopharmacology found no “long-term deficits in working memory and selective attention in frequent cannabis users after 1 week of abstinence”.
- A 2009 study published in Human Psychopharmacology found “little indication of differences in executive functioning” for mild to moderate cannabis users.
- And a 2010 study published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior found regular cannabis users’ performance accuracy on episodic memory and working memory tasks “was not significantly altered by marijuana.”
Forgive the overkill, but as an organization that is honored to have regular cannabis consumer Carl Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan, as an Advisory Board Member, we’re particularly offended when the government claims science says that regular cannabis consumers are stupid. (Speaking of cognitive impairment, Mr. Drug Czar, are you aware that frequent alcohol use is shown to have incredibly deleterious effects on cognition and it’s legal?)
But our petition wasn’t about whether or not cannabis is harmful, it was whether we should consider regulating cannabis like the far more harmful substances, alcohol and tobacco.
We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms.
“Voluntary drug treatment admissions” links to 2007 TEDS data tables showing that 37% of the people admitted to treatment for marijuana hadn’t used it in the past thirty days. These tables are based on admissions data that show 57% of marijuana treatment admissions were coerced by law enforcement (drug courts) and only 15% of such admissions are actually “voluntary drug treatment admissions”. (This is much easier to debunk when the Drug Czar links to the government tables that make our point. Thanks, Gil!)
“Visits to emergency rooms” links to 2009 DAWN data which contains this interesting bit of fine print, “Within DAWN, the drug misuse or abuse category is a group of [emergency room] visits defined broadly to include all visits associated with illicit drugs.” That is, if you mention pot, have pot on you, or your urine or blood tests positive for pot, that’s a drug-related emergency room visit. If you smoked a bowl last night, broke your leg skiing today, went to the ER, and they found metabolites of THC in your pee, that’s going into the DAWN stats as a pot-related ER visit. Meanwhile, a 2011 study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found “marijuana dependence was associated with the lowest rates” of emergency room admittance compared to other drugs.
So we have illegal marijuana which lets government arrest people and make them choose jail or rehab, then those rising rehab numbers are an indication that we need to keep arresting people. And we have emergency room data that tells us that some sick and injured people, like some Americans generally, smoke pot. Can you tell us why we shouldn’t end those charades and consider regulating cannabis like alcohol and tobacco?
Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health – especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20’s. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.
“Marijuana potency has tripled” links to a paper (“Potancy [sic] Paper 2010″) at Ole Miss’s US Pot Farm showing potency tables from 1993 to 2008 (15 years, 20 years, whatever). These figures include hashish and hash oil (concentrated preparations of cannabis), which is like throwing three Rhodes scholars into an eighth grade social studies class and then grading on a curve. Figures for all samples (including the hash) show a rise from 3.4% to 8.8% THC (2.5x, not even “almost triple”), but what they call “marijuana” goes from 3.4% to 5.8% THC (1.7x, not even double) and “sinsemilla” goes from 5.8% to 11.5% THC (2x, double).
So today’s average marijuana is as good as yesteryear’s sinsemilla and today’s average sinsemilla is twice as good as yesteryear’s sensimilla. Anybody recall any deaths, riots, or serious social disorder due to the sensimilla of 1993? As we’ve said before, potency is irrelevant as cannabis smoking is a self-titrating behavior. You smoke to get high. If you have ditchweed, you smoke a lot to get high. If you have kind bud you smoke a little to get high. Less smoke in your lungs is a good thing and by that measure, smoking more potent marijuana may be a harm reduction strategy. Besides, it’s hard to take seriously any concerns about non-toxic 11.5% THC sinsemilla when the government approves of 100% synthetic THC Marinol and marijuana of any potency has never killed anybody.
But nobody here said cannabis was a benign drug, only that it is far safer than the two current choices of legal substances, alcohol and tobacco, and we’re wondering why we couldn’t just regulate cannabis like them?
Like many, we are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses. That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.
That “ardent support” consists of six ongoing FDA-approved clinical trials (two of which have already been completed) worldwide involving subjects’ use of actual cannabis and fourteen researchers allowed to study inhaled cannabis on human subjects. It does not include a recent FDA-approved study of medical marijuana use to treat post-traumatic stress in our returning combat veterans. That study was ardently opposed by NIDA, which wouldn’t sell any Ole Miss US Pot Farm marijuana for the researchers to study. Furthermore, a NIDA spokesperson admitted to the New York Times in 2010, “As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use. We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”
The FDA and Institute of Medicine links take you to papers from 2006 and 1999, respectively. The American Medical Association in 2009 issued a position paper stating, “smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”
It’s too bad our petition wasn’t about carving exceptions in federal law to allow medical use of marijuana, as 70% of Americans support. It was whether we should regulate marijuana like we do alcohol and tobacco, like 50% of Americans support.
As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem.
If you recognize that, why were there virtually the same number of arrests this year for marijuana as last year, a number that still eclipses any arrest total under Presidents Bush and Clinton? It seems you’re going to ignore our petition to end the strategy of arresting our way out of the problem by regulating marijuana like we do alcohol and tobacco.
We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.
Right, legalizing marijuana won’t address drug use. It will address marijuana use by regulating it like we do alcohol and tobacco. Legal marijuana would be an answer to many Americans’ health challenges. Legal marijuana would raise tax revenues to benefit society and community. Legal marijuana would help replace the “reefer madness”-style youth education proven not to work with honest, factual information. Legal marijuana removes the cost of arresting, prosecution, and monitoring on parole and probation and, by definition, eliminates crime.
That is why the President’s National Drug Control Strategy is balanced and comprehensive, emphasizing prevention and treatment while at the same time supporting innovative law enforcement efforts that protect public safety and disrupt the supply of drugs entering our communities.
The president’s budget is only slightly different than the drug control budgets of his predecessor; still a two-to-one tilt toward “Supply Reduction” (interdiction and domestic and international law enforcement) versus “Demand Reduction” (treatment and prevention). Which takes us to the second part of our petition asking how the continued criminalization of cannabis will achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?
Preventing drug use is the most cost-effective way to reduce drug use and its consequences in America. And, as we’ve seen in our work through community coalitions across the country, this approach works in making communities healthier and safer. We’re also focused on expanding access to drug treatment for addicts. Treatment works. In fact, millions of Americans are in successful recovery for drug and alcoholism today. And through our work with innovative drug courts across the Nation, we are improving our criminal justice system to divert non-violent offenders into treatment.
See our rebuttal above to TEDS treatment admission statistics and forcing cannabis consumers into rehab via drug courts. Bless the millions of Americans in successful recovery for drug (?) and alcoholism who didn’t miss out on an open bed because it was taken up by a coerced cannabis consumer who hadn’t smoked weed in a month. Those drug courts only work thanks to arrests of cannabis consumers and we were wondering how the continued criminalization of cannabis will achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?
Our commitment to a balanced approach to drug control is real. This last fiscal year alone, the Federal Government spent over $10 billion on drug education and treatment programs compared to just over $9 billion on drug related law enforcement in the U.S.
Which is fuzzy math and see our rebuttal to President’s National Drug Control Strategy, which, as we mentioned, differs little from President Bush’s before him. So how is the continued criminalization of cannabis going to achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?
Thank you for making your voice heard. I encourage you to take a moment to read about the President’s approach to drug control to learn more.
Thank you for wasting America’s time ignoring her wishes. I encourage you to take a moment to actually read and answer the questions on these petitions. Every answer you gave to “whether we should consider regulating cannabis like the far more harmful substances, alcohol and tobacco” was an excuse to make alcohol and tobacco prohibited like marijuana. Every answer you gave to “how will the continued criminalization of cannabis achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?” illustrated that you’re continuing the same failed strategies as your predecessors. We the People were hoping for some change.
(Updated for minor grammar corrections and additional hyperlinks –RB)
View full post on NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform
As 50% of Americans now support marijuana legalization, the prohibitionists are coming out in full force with hysterical propaganda to once again terrorize voters about cannabis. We intended to scour multiple sources to compile the five most common scare tactics they use, but Joseph Summerill, director of the Summerill Group LLC, a Washington, D.C.- based law enforcement think tank and general counsel for the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, made our job easy by using all five in one op-ed piece published today in the Washington Examiner entitled, “Facts on medical marijuana are stubborn things, too“.
Lie #1) Marijuana’s not really medical. The government says so!
[M]arijuana is a Schedule I drug… a high potential for abuse or dependency… no accepted medical value… unsafe to use, even under medical supervision. [M]arijuana has not passed the rigid scrutiny of medicine proposed by the FDA.
- National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA) puts the lifetime dependence rate on cannabis at 9%, same as caffeine. Alcohol has a 15% rate of abuse and Tobacco’s is 32%.
- One third of federal jurisdictions (16 states and DC) accept the medical value of cannabis.
- The federal government is supplying four Americans with this “unsafe” medicine with no medical supervision.
- Cannabis has been used medically for 5,000 years without a single human death – a far greater safety standard than an FDA that approved phen-fen and Vioxx.
Lie #2) Doctors and scientists don’t approve of smoked medicine; they do approve of Marinol.
Institute of Medicine and the American Medical Association acknowledged the lack of data to support the use of smoked marijuana for medicinal purposes.
What is scientifically approved by the FDA and accepted by the medical community is a medicine called Marinol, a legal, widely prescribed drug currently in pill form containing synthetic THC, a main constituent in marijuana.
- The American Medical Association said, “smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”
- Marinol is 100% synthetic THC (the psychoactive component) suspended in a sesame oil capsule. Cannabis flowers are around 5%-30% natural THC combined with CBD (a component that moderates psychoactivity) and other beneficial compounds.
- Inhaling cannabis is a superior delivery mechanism for it allows the patient to self-titrate (adjust dose) and get immediate relief. It’s especially helpful to inhale cannabis rather than swallow a Marinol pill when one is vomiting. We recognize many inhaled medications (think: steroid inhalers for asthma patients) and when vaporized, any harms from smoking cannabis are eliminated.
Lie #3) Marijuana smoke is much worse than cigarette smoke!
[S]moked marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, many of which are identical to the most harmful chemicals and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. The fact is that a marijuana cigarette contains four times as much tar as a tobacco cigarette.
- My pencil contains five components, two of which are identical to the graphite found in golf clubs and the wood found in golf tees. This does not make my pencil a golf club or a tee. Water contains hydrogen and oxygen. This does not make water flammable or breathable. Many recipes call for the same ingredients; it’s how you put them together that matters. Joints aren’t cigarettes, they’re far safer than that.
- Dr. Donald Tashkin went looking for that “marijuana causes cancer” connection and found quite the opposite, that cannabis smokers had lower incidence of head, neck, and lung cancer. We even have compelling evidence that cannabinoids may be instrumental in unlocking the cure for cancer.
- Very few tokers smoke 20 to 40 joints a day, but even if they did, where are these marijuana smokers with the tar-ravaged lungs filling up our hospitals? Again, we have zero recorded deaths from cannabis smoking and over 400,000 annual deaths from tobacco use. Joints aren’t cigarettes.
Lie #4) Marijuana is the gateway drug to cocaine, meth, and heroin!
[L]egalizing marijuana leads to the use of more dangerous and harmful drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine…. [T]eens who smoke marijuana were found to be 85 times more likely to use cocaine than those teens who do not smoke marijuana.
- Teens who ride bicycles were found to be 85 times more likely to join an outlaw biker gang than teens who don’t ride bicycles*. So we should outlaw bicycles? Sure, most cocaine users may have started first with pot, but they also probably started with alcohol before that and milk before that.
- That same Institute of Medicine report Mr. Summerill referenced in Lie #2 said, “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”
- According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 100 million American adults have tried cannabis. There are currently about 1.5 million monthly cocaine users, 430 thousand monthly meth users, and 192 thousand monthly heroin users. So for every 46 people who’ve ever tried pot, only one went on to become a monthly hard drug user. A gateway that only affects 2.1% of the people isn’t much of a gateway.
* OK, that one we just made up.
Lie #5) Marijuana legalization leads to carnage on the highways!
[M]arijuana use, including its use for medicinal purposes, is directly related to motor vehicle accidents and reckless driving, as cannabis affects psychomotor functioning.
In a study of fatally injured drivers in Washington state, a state with legalized medical marijuana, about one every eight tested positive for marijuana.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said of marijuana testing of drivers, “It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone, and currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH concentrations” because “[d]etection time is well past the window of intoxication and impairment.” Finding pot in some drivers’ systems following a crash just tells you some people smoke pot.
- From 2008-2009, fatal crashes in the states that had medical marijuana declined overall 9.34%. Only one medical marijuana state, Rhode Island, had an increase greater than 3%, which resulted in 18 more deaths. Four other states had 1%-3% increases, leading to 9 additional deaths. Of the remaining eight states that saw declines, half saw double-digit declines, including the laxest medical marijuana state, California, which had 353 fewer traffic fatalities.
- Legalizing marijuana does not legalize DUI. People who smoke pot and drive now are busted in all fifty states and legalization doesn’t change that.
When it comes to medical information and the safety record of cannabis, we’ll trust real doctors and 5,000 years of historical use. Not the ramblings of a law enforcement think tank director desperately trying to save asset forfeiture proceeds, federal grant money, and overtime hours for state and local cops and job security for prison guards.
View full post on NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform
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