Cannabis DNA Initiative

Puerto Rico: Governor Signs Executive Order To Allow For Medicinal Use of Marijuana

NORML Blog - Mon, 05/04/2015 - 22:03

Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro J. García Padilla signed an executive order on Sunday to allow for the therapeutic use of cannabis and cannabinoids in the US territory.

Although the executive order takes immediate effect, the Health Department Secretary has up to three months to issue a report in regard to precisely how the new law will be implemented.

Stated the Governor in a press release: “We’re taking a significant step in the area of health that is fundamental to our development and quality of life. I am sure that many patients will receive appropriate treatment that will offer them new hope.”

The Governor acknowledged that several US states have already legalized the plant for therapeutic purposes and that Puerto Rican patients would similarly benefit from a change in law.

Categories: Cannabis News

Drug Warrior Christie Still Pushing Gateway Myth

NORML Blog - Mon, 05/04/2015 - 13:28

The “gateway” theory is still hanging around after all these years.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in one of his many ill-informed public statements, recently proclaimed that were he elected president in 2016, he would “crack down and not permit” states to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, calling tax revenue from marijuana “blood money”. Christie added “Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law. And the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it.” Fortunately I do not anticipate we will have to endure a Christie presidency, but it was fascinating to see he had resurrected an old anti-marijuana myth that most of us had thought was dead.

In taking this anti-pot position, Christie gave as his justification the so-called “gateway” theory. “Every bit of objective data tells us that it’s a gateway drug to other drugs. And it is not an excuse in our society to say alcohol is legal so why not make marijuana legal. …Well … why not make heroin legal? Why not make cocaine legal. You know, their argument is a slippery slope.”

This man is not burdened by facts, nor by intellectual rigor. He has clearly looked around for some justification for him to oppose legalization, to appeal to the far right wing of the Republican party, and the best he could find was the old, previously discarded “gateway” theory. In addition, Governor Christie makes no distinction between the dangers of smoking pot, versus using heroin and cocaine. They are all illegal, so they must be bad; while alcohol and tobacco, both of which kill hundreds of thousands of people each year, are legal, so they must be okay. A simple formula for a simple man.

Younger readers may not know that for several decades, it was this “gateway” belief – specifically that those who begin by smoking marijuana would end up as heroin addicts – that supporters of the prohibition of marijuana used to justify the enormous social costs of maintaining that policy. They believed, or at least they argued, that there was something about the marijuana high that caused smokers to lose their self-control and develop a compulsion to use other stronger and more dangerous drugs, ending up as a heroin addict. The theory implies some biological mechanism that has no basis in science.

There was never any real data to support such a theory, and in fact, the vast majority of marijuana smokers have never used heroin.

Government surveys indicate approximately 115 million Americans have smoked marijuana (44 percent of those 12 years old and older), and 34 million Americans (13 percent of those 12 years old and older) are current users; while less than 4.6 million Americans (1.8 percent of those 12 years old and older) have ever tried heroin, and approximately 669,000 (0.25 percent) are current users. If marijuana smoking actually led to heroin use, we would have a lot more heroin users.

Those who initially raised the “gateway” theory were anti-drug warriors who would ask admitted heroin addicts if they had smoked marijuana before they used heroin. Not surprisingly, most of them had. But, of course, most of them had also used tobacco, alcohol, and prescription pain killers (and sometimes other drugs) before they used heroin, yet no one is claiming that alcohol or tobacco “leads to heroin”, although both of these drugs were nearly always used by these heroin addicts even before they had smoked marijuana.

The ultimate error in the conclusion reached by those who buy into the “gateway” theory is they confuse correlation with causation. The mere fact that one may have used one or more drugs prior to initiating heroin use may be explained by cultural or socio-economic factors, such as poverty and poor social environment, association with others who use dangerous drugs, and mental illnesses.

For decades, the addiction industry – addiction researchers and addiction treatment professionals – have continued to push the myth of the “gateway” theory, as it is the basis for much of their government and pharmaceutical funding. If the theory were acknowledged to be a myth, they would lose much of their funding, and their credibility.

And the law enforcement community, which largely sees marijuana prohibition as a jobs program for themselves, are only too happy to confirm, from their “boots on the ground” perspective, that the “gateway” theory is real. It justifies their insistence on treating marijuana use as a crime, which allows them to continue to violate people’s (largely motorists’) 4th Amendment rights, by the ruse of claiming they smelled marijuana. Marijuana itself may not be so bad, they now say, but it is this danger that marijuana smokers may progress to heroin use that warrants a criminal response and the wholesale violation of personal freedom.

But that old canard simply does not sell any longer. People are far too sophisticated, and many of them have personal experiences with marijuana that contradict the marijuana-leads-to-heroin myth. It is time for even our political opponents to move on to more reasonable and credible arguments. There may be legitimate concerns about possible unintended consequences of marijuana legalization, but marijuana smokers moving on to heroin is not one of them. That’s a silly, simplistic allegation without scientific or factual basis.

Risky Political Strategy for Christie

In addition, raising the “gateway” myth as an excuse to oppose marijuana legalization by the states is a risky political tactic for Governor Christie and others currently running for president. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 59 percent of the public (54 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of Democrats, and 64 percent of independents) say the federal government should stand aside and allow the states to experiment with different versions of legalization. And nearly 40 percent of those voters who continue to support marijuana prohibition, nonetheless oppose the federal government stepping in to impose its will on states that wish to legalize. A recent CBS News poll came to that same conclusion, finding that 65 percent of Republicans believe individual states should be allowed to decide their own marijuana policy, free from federal interference.

But that is not likely to change the position of Christie and others who choose to hang-on to their core belief that marijuana is the “devils weed.” It is a myth that they have used as the basis of their drug war rhetoric for decades, and it has always worked before. They presume, against all odds, that it will continue to assure their popularity and re-election against those who are “soft on drugs.” What it really does is demonstrate how out-of-date their ideas are, and assure them a permanent place on the wrong side of history.

http://news.marijuana.com/news/2015/05/drug-warrior-christie-still-pushing-gateway-myth/

Categories: Cannabis News

Congress: House Members Re-Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Prevent Federal Prosecutions Of State-Compliant Marijuana Consumers, Businesses

NORML Blog - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 23:10

California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, along with five other Republicans and six Democrats, has reintroduced legislation to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to marijuana.

HR 1094 states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.”

Representative Rohrabacher sponsored a budgetary amendment last year to limit federal interference in states with marijuana regulation schemes. (That provision expires this fall.) However, the Department of Justice has recently claimed that the law does not prevent the government sanctioning individuals or businesses in states where marijuana is legal.

“The American people … have made it clear that federal enforcers should stay out of their personal lives,” Rohrabacher said in a statement upon the bill’s reintroduction late last week. “It’s time for restraint of the federal government’s over-aggressive weed warriors.”

According to national survey data released today by Fox News, 51 percent of registered voters say that they favor “legalizing marijuana.” The figure is an increase of five percentage points since Fox pollsters asked the question in 2013. It is the first time that a majority of respondents have favored legalization in a Fox News sponsored poll. The poll is the latest in a series of national surveys showing majority support for legalizing and regulating marijuana

To learn more about HR 1940, or to contact your elected officials in support of this or other pending legislation, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

Categories: Cannabis News

Support for Legalization Remains Strong

NORML Blog - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 14:08

There have been a number of national surveys released over the last few months measuring the public’s support for marijuana legalization, confirming a majority of Americans continue to favor ending prohibition by legalizing and regulating marijuana.

While one of those polls (Gallup) did register an unexpected decline in support for legalization between 2013 and 2014 (a decline within the survey’s statistical margin of error, meaning it may not reflect an actual drop in support), the poll still found 51 percent support; and several other polls continue to find an increasing majority of the public nationwide support full legalization. And because of the demographics of this issue, that support should only continue to grow over the coming years.

General Social Survey

The most important of these latest surveys may be the General Social Survey, a national survey conducted every two years, that some consider the most reliable of the many national surveys. The survey involved interviews with 1,687 respondents between March and October of 2014, and found 52 percent support full legalization, with 42 percent opposed, and 7 percent undecided. This is the first time they have found majority support for full legalization, and the level of support represents a 9 point gain since they last asked the question in 2012.

GSS has been tracking support for legalization since 1974, when support stood at only 19 percent, before falling during the Reagan years to a low of 16 percent by 1990. Support has gradually climbed since 1990, although it was only at 32 percent as recently as 2006, rising 20 points in the last decade.

Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center’s ongoing marijuana polling found 53 percent support nationwide for marijuana legalization in March of 2015, with 44 percent opposed. This includes 59 percent support among Democrats and 58 percent among self-described conservatives; but only 39 percent support among Republicans. Pew has recorded an astounding 11-point jump in support between the years of 2010 and 2013.

Sixty-nine percent of those polled believe alcohol is more harmful to the user than marijuana. And while 62 percent oppose public marijuana smoking, 82 percent have no problem if people smoke marijuana in their homes, and 57 percent say they would not be bothered if a marijuana store opened in their neighborhood.

Also, nearly half of all adults in the country (49 percent) say they have tried marijuana, with 12 percent using marijuana during the preceding year.

CBS News Poll

In a new poll released just before April 20, CBS News continued their periodic evaluation of the public support for legalizing marijuana, finding 53 percent of the public nationwide now favor ending prohibition, the highest level of support they have ever found. When CBS first surveyed the public in 1979, they found only 27 percent support. Revisiting the issue again starting in 2009, support levels had risen to 41 percent, finally reaching a slight majority (51 percent) by 2014. This latest finding is consistent with several other national polls.

Gallup Poll

Gallup first polled the American public about their support for legalizing marijuana in 1969, the year before NORML was founded, and determined the support level at only 12 percent. This number rose to 28 percent by 1977, before beginning a decline, falling to 23 percent by 1985. Support then again began to rise gradually over the next 25 years, until finally reaching 50 percent in 2011. Gallup found support peaking at 58 percent in 2013, before showing a decline to 51 percent in 2014. (Those numbers are within the 4 percent margin of error for their telephone survey of just over 1,000 respondents; and it is the only poll that has found a decline in support since 2013.)

Beyond the Beltway

Another recent survey of 1,032 interviews (with a margin of error of 3.05 percent), released in by Beyond the Beltway, a collaboration between the Benson Strategy Group and SKD Knickerbocker, found that 61 percent of the public currently support full legalization, with regulated sales as in Colorado and Washington, while 39 percent disagree. This is the highest national support level yet reported. Even 48 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of self-identified conservatives, said they support legalization. The support nationwide for eliminating the possibility of arrest and jail, and substituting a small fine, enjoyed the support of 72 percent.

Third Way

A poll released in December of 2014 by a Washington, DC think tank called Third Way found support for full legalization at 50 percent, while 47 percent remained opposed. Interestingly, the poll also found 67 percent of those surveyed support Congress enacting a bill providing states the right to legalize marijuana without federal interference (the de facto Obama policy), establishing what they called a “safe haven” for those states wishing to move forward with legalization.

While 64 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of self-identified conservatives favored legalization, only 32 percent of Republicans agreed. The survey also confirmed a gender gap remains, with 52 percent of men supporting legalization, but only 45 percent of women.

Quinnipiac University Colorado Poll

A survey of 1,049 Colorado voters taken in February of 2015 shows that two years after Colorado voted to legalize marijuana, a solid majority of the public continue to support the new law. The survey found that 58 percent of Colorado voters support keeping pot legal, while 38 percent are opposed to the new law. There is no evidence of “buyers’ remorse” among the voters in Colorado.

The gender gap continues, with 63 percent of men in support, but only 53 percent (but still a majority) of women. The poll also found the usual generational gap, with 82 percent of voters ages 18-34 favoring it, while only 46 percent support among those 55 and above.

Survey USA Colorado Poll

After a year of legalized marijuana in Colorado, in a survey conducted for the Denver Post by Survey USA and released in late December 2014, 90 percent of those who had initially voted for legalization in 2012 would still do so today; and 95 percent of those who opposes the initiative would still oppose it today. Amendment 54 passed with 55 percent support.

Interestingly 12 percent of those interviewed said friends or family visiting from out of state had asked to visit a recreational marijuana shop. Twenty-two percent of respondents reported they currently use marijuana, with 70 percent of those saying their level of use had remained the same since the new law took effect. Seventy-eight percent of respondents ranked smoking marijuana as their favorite method of use; while 15 percent favored “vaping”, and 5 percent favored edibles.

Forty-five percent of current users say they get their marijuana from a recreational dispensary; 24 percent from a medical dispensary; 18 percent from a friend; 7 percent grow their own; and 6 percent continue to rely on a black-market dealer.

Because of the small numbers of voters asked their views on marijuana (175), the poll has a 6-7 percent margin of error.

Quinnipiac University Poll in Three Swing States

According to a March 2015 poll by Quinnipiac University, marijuana legalization is likely to become a crucial issue in three swing states in the 2016 presidential elections. Fifty-one percent of Pennsylvanians, 52 percent of Ohioan and 55 percent of Floridians report they favor legalization, a level of support higher than that registered for any of the current presidential candidate, including Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Mario Rubio and Ted Cruz.

As any legitimate pollster will tell you, this data is accurate within a statistical range, depending on the number of people polled and the method of polling. So it is not perfectly precise data by any means, and is at best a snapshot of support at a particular moment. But it is nonetheless valuable as a gauge over time as to which direction the country is headed on a particular issue, and with marijuana legalization, support remains strong and the direction appears headed even higher.

http://news.marijuana.com/news/2015/04/support-for-legalization-remains-strong/

Categories: Cannabis News

Confirmed: DEA Head Michele Leonhart Stepping Down

NORML Blog - Wed, 04/22/2015 - 20:36

Drug Enforcement Administration head Michele Leonhart is stepping down, US Attorney General Eric Holder has confirmed.

Members of the US House Oversight Committee gave Leonhart a vote of “no confidence” last week after an Office of the Inspector General report revealed that senior DEA officials had participated in sex parties arranged by Colombian drug cartels and had also received weapons and cash from cartel members. None of the agents involved were fired by director Leonhart.

Michele Leonhart began serving as the agency’s acting director in November 2007 before being confirmed as DEA administrator in 2010.

Leonhart had consistently taken a hardline stance against any change in marijuana policy. Early in her tenure she oversaw dozens of federal raids on medical marijuana providers and producers in states that had legalized the plant. She set aside a verdict from the agency’s own administrative law judge that sought to expand and facilitate clinical research into marijuana as a medicine and she rejected an administrative petition calling for marijuana rescheduling hearings. She openly criticized remarks made by the President acknowledging cannabis’ relative safety compared to alcohol, and criticized the administration’s efforts to allow states to implement limited regulatory schemes for the retail production and sale of cannabis to adults. In public testimony, Leonhart refused to acknowledge whether she believed that crack cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin posed greater risks to health than marijuana — instead opining, “All illegal drugs are bad.”

Ms. Leonhart also actively opposed hemp law reform during her time as DEA director. She criticized a decision to fly a hempen flag over the Capitol, saying it was “her lowest point in 33 years in the DEA.” Last year, her agency unlawfully seized 250 pounds of legal hemp seeds destined for Kentucky’s state Agricultural Department.

Always a true believer in the drug war no matter what the costs, in 2009 she described increased southern border violence as a sign of the “success” of her agency’s anti-drug strategies.

Michele Leonhart is expected to leave the agency in mid-May.

Categories: Cannabis News

CBS News Poll: Majority Of Americans Back Legalizing Marijuana

NORML Blog - Wed, 04/22/2015 - 18:06

The majority of Americans say that marijuana is safer than alcohol and believe that its use should be legal, according to nationwide polling data compiled by CBS News.

Fifty-three percent of respondents answered ‘yes’ to the question, “Should marijuana use be legal?” That is the highest level of support ever recorded by CBS pollsters since they began posing the question in 1979. Forty-three percent of respondents opposed legalization.

Males, younger voters, and Democrats were most likely to support marijuana’s legalization. Seventy-four percent of those who acknowledged having tried marijuana said that the plant ought to be legalized, compared to just 35 percent who have never used it.

The majority of respondents (51 percent) agreed that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol. Only 12 percent of respondents said they believed that marijuana was more harmful than booze, while 28 percent said that both substances were equally harmful.

Forty-three percent of respondents acknowledged having consumed marijuana, an increase of nine percent since 1997. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that it would not matter to them if a Presidential candidate admitted having tried it.

On the question of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, 84 percent of respondents supported allowing physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to their patients.

The CBS News poll is the latest in a series of national surveys showing majority support for legalizing and regulating marijuana.

Categories: Cannabis News

Study: Oral Cannabis Extracts Associated With Seizure Control In Children With Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy

NORML Blog - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 18:32

The administration of oral cannabis extracts is associated with the mitigation of seizures in adolescents with epilepsy, according to clinical data published this month in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior.

Researchers from the Colorado Children’s Hospital in Denver performed a retrospective chart review of 75 children provided cannabis extracts. Authors reported that 57 percent of subjects showed some level of improvement in seizure control while 33 percent reported a greater than 50 percent reduction in seizure frequency.

Researchers also reported “improved behavior/alertness” in one-third of subjects and improved motor skills in ten percent of treated patients. Adverse events were reported in 44 percent of subjects, 13 percent of which reported increased seizure activity. Overall, however, authors concluded that the extracts were “well tolerated by children.”

Separate clinical trial results publicized last week at the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology reported that the administration of a proprietary form of CBD (cannabidiol) extracts decreased seizure frequency by 54 percent over a 12-week period in children with treatment-resistant epilepsy.

Survey data compiled by Stanford University in 2013 reported that the administration of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis decreased seizures in 16 of 19 patients with pediatric epilepsy.

Last February, the Epilepsy Foundation of America enacted a resolution in support of the “rights of patients and families living with seizures and epilepsy to access physician directed care, including medical marijuana.”

An abstract of the study, “Parental reporting of response to oral cannabis extracts for treatment of refractory epilepsy,” appears online here.

Categories: Cannabis News

#FreePotPrisoners

NORML Blog - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 18:10

#FreePotPrisoners

Our friends at High Times have launched a new campaign to call national attention to the next logical step in the country’s progression towards marijuana legalization: Freeing America’s Pot Prisoners

While the federal government has relaxed its stance on marijuana, allowing states to implement their own laws and no longer prosecuting businesses running in accordance with these laws, the status of those persecuted under old laws remains ignored. High Times’ petition calls for a rectification between the United States’ past marijuana laws and the current situation.

“President Obama recently commuted 20-odd prisoners serving life for a first time drug offense,” says CEO of Trans High Corporation and volunteer lawyer for “Lifers for Pot” Michael Kennedy. “Nineteen of them were convicted of coke and meth crimes… clearly much more serious misdeeds than pot dealing, but the big O only commuted one marijuana lifer. While we at High Times totally support these commutations, we have to press the President to look more closely at our Lifers For Pot and free them forthwith!”

The petition urges Attorney General Holder, as well as the Attorney General Designate, to recommend for the immediate release of all non-violent marijuana offenders and to provide new sentencing guidelines to give law enforcement other options besides imprisoning non-violent offenders. In 2013, 693,482 people were arrested for a marijuana law violation and of those, 609,423 (88 percent) were charged only with possession.

Even in California, where marijuana prisoners are beginning to be released, 482 non-violent marijuana offenders remain in prison, which is not only a high human cost but a huge cost to taxpayers. For this reason, High Times is soliciting Attorney General Kamala Harris to act as an example for the other 49 states by immediately releasing these prisoners and recommending alternatives to incarceration for the use, sale, and cultivation of marijuana.

Some non-violent marijuana prisoners, such as Antonio Bascaró and Jeff Mizanskey, have been imprisoned for non-violent offenses for much of their lives. Both fear perishing in prison without seeing a country swept with marijuana reform. High Times hopes this petition can change the fates of these two men and the others still imprisoned for non-violent marijuana crimes.

Recreational marijuana is now legal in four states and the District of Columbia, medical use is legal in 24 others and 58 percent of Americans are in favor of legalized, regulated marijuana. This change in American perspective on marijuana, High Times argues, is the exact reason why non-violent offenders should be released.

High Times’ petition is found at http://bit.ly/420Freedom.

Signers are asked to spread word of the petition using #FreePotPrisoners across social media.

Categories: Cannabis News

It’s 420 Again! Let’s Proudly Celebrate!

NORML Blog - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 18:24

As Joe Cocker famously pleaded in 1969 at Woodstock, "Let’s go get stoned."

Happy 4/20 to marijuana smokers throughout the land. Today is our annual holiday, an occasion to celebrate all things related to marijuana and marijuana smoking.

I am delighted to be spending my day at the High Times Denver Cannabis Cup, the largest of all the cannabis celebrations each April 20th, where NORML has a booth each year, and where we have the opportunity to meet and greet thousands of other marijuana aficionados. If you are in Denver, please do stop by our booth today and introduce yourself.

Legalizing marijuana is serious business, and it requires the cumulative, ongoing effort of thousands of hard-working, committed citizen-activists to end prohibition and change state and federal policies that have been in place for more than 75 years. More than 700,000 Americans continue to be arrested each year on marijuana charges, needlessly damaging the lives and careers of these otherwise law-abiding citizens who prefer to smoke marijuana when they relax in the evening, just as millions of other Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine when they relax. And certainly the need to stop arresting responsible marijuana smokers must remain our top priority.

Continue reading at marijuana.com »

Categories: Cannabis News

NORML’s Annual 420 Promo: 2015

NORML Blog - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 07:00

Today marks the 20th anniversary of NORML publicly celebrating the now international ‘cannabis consumers day of celebration‘ known as ‘420.’

With a remarkable degree of cultural and media penetration April 20 is now a well recognized day in America for celebration and/or protest regarding cannabis laws; in states where cannabis has been legalized (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State) this day marks an opportunity to celebrate hard fought victories. In the other forty-six states that unfortunately have not yet shifted from cannabis prohibition to tax-and-regulate, NORML members and supporters will be protesting or engaging in community service activities to bring attention to the need for marijuana law reform.

NORML Advisory Board member Bill Maher had some fun with Monday’s festivities by calling for April 20 to become a national holiday via a change.org petition online, as well as to poke some good fun at fellow Advisory board members Willie Nelson and Woody Harrelson.

NORML’s chapter network serves as national hub for 420-related activities across the country. Also, this Monday, NORML and our chapters will be converting our respective webpages to reflect the #GoGreen2015 social media campaign.

Also, one of the more significant fundraising projects for NORML occurs today when the organization makes available a collector’s item t-shirt reflecting this unique celebration, on this unique day, at this specific time at the end of cannabis prohibition (i.e., this year’s design highlights the four states that have thus far legalized cannabis). This year’s shirt design is also available in a hemp and cotton blend too.

With as many as half a dozen or more states expected to pass legalization initiatives in 2016, and survey after survey showing an increasing majority of Americans favoring legalization, this is by any measure the most exciting time ever in cannabis law reform!

When NORML was founded in 1970 about 10% of the population supported cannabis legalization, today most polls indicate 55% plus.

It is not a matter of if cannabis will be legalized nation-wide, it is just a matter of when.

Please make a charitable donation to NORML on this April 20th to help the organization keep the momentum rushing forward towards legalization, and away from nearly eighty years of a failed cannabis prohibition policy–and receive a one-of-a-kind NORML ‘420’ t-shirt for 2015.

Thanks for supporting NORML’s longstanding public advocacy for cannabis law reform, have a safe and fun 4/20!!

Four down, forty-six more to go…

Cannabem liberemus,

-Allen St. Pierre
Executive Director
NORML
Washington, D.C.

Categories: Cannabis News

Federal Judge Upholds Schedule I Classification Of Cannabis

NORML Blog - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 21:06

A federal judge today denied a motion challenging the constitutionality of cannabis’ classification as a Schedule I prohibited substance without any accepted medical utility.

Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the Federal District Court in Sacramento, California issued her oral ruling during a 15-minute court hearing today. Judge Mueller heard closing arguments in the case in early February but had postponed her decision on several occasions. Her written opinion is not yet available but is expected to be posted publicly by week’s end.

“At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” Judge Mueller said from the bench. “But this is not the court and not the time.”

Defense counsel intends to appeal the ruling.

In October, defense counsel and experts presented evidence over a five-day period arguing that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization. Lawyers for the federal government countered that it is rational for the government to maintain the plant’s prohibitive status as long as there remains any dispute among experts in regard to its safety and efficacy. Defense counsel — attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke of the NORML Legal Committee — further contended that the federal law prohibiting Justice Department officials from interfering with the facilitation of the regulated distribution of cannabis in over 20 US states can not be reconciled with the government’s continued insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.

Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director who served as the principal investigator for defense counsel in this case said: “We applaud Judge Mueller for having the courage to hear this issue and provide it the careful consideration it deserves. While we are disappointed with this ruling, it changes little. We always felt this had to ultimately be decided by the Ninth Circuit and we have an unprecedented record for the court to consider.

“In the interim, it is our hope that lawmakers move expeditiously to change public policy. Presently, bipartisan legislation is before the House and Senate to recognize cannabis’ therapeutic utility and to reschedule it accordingly and we encourage members of Congress to move forward expeditiously to enact this measure.”

In a brief filed with the court by the federal government, it contended: “Congress’ decision to treat marijuana as a controlled substance was and remains well within the broad range of permissible legislative choices. Defendants appear to argue that Congress was wrong or incorrectly weighed the evidence. Although they failed to prove even that much, it would be insufficient. Rational basis review does not permit the Court’s to ‘second guess’ Congress’ conclusions, but only to enjoin decisions that are totally irrational or without an ‘imaginable’ basis.”

They added: “Congress is not required to be ‘right,’ nor does it matter if the basis on which Congress made its decision turns out to be ‘wrong.’ All that is required is that Congress could rationally have believed that its action — banning the production and distribution of marijuana — would advance its indisputably legitimate interests in promoting public health and welfare. Because qualified experts disagree, it is not for the Courts to decide the issue and the statute must be upheld.”

Said Armentano, “The continued Schedule I classification of cannabis, in 2015, in self-evidently ridiculous. But unfortunately, the law may be ridiculous and still pass constitutional muster.”

He added, “The judge in this case missed a golden opportunity to demand that federal law comport with available science, public opinion, and common sense.”


Legal briefs in the case, United States v. Schweder, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM, are available online here.

Categories: Cannabis News

2015 Pew Poll: “Support for Legalization Is Rapidly Outpacing Opposition”

NORML Blog - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 18:25

Fifty-three percent of Americans say that the “use of marijuana should be legal,” according to nationwide survey data published today by the Pew Research Center.

“Support for marijuana legalization is rapidly outpacing opposition,” pollsters opined, acknowledging that Americans’ support for legalizing marijuana has risen some 10 percentage points over the past five years. Forty-four percent of respondents oppose legalization in the 2015 poll and three percent are undecided.

The poll is the latest in a series of national surveys showing majority support for legalizing and regulating marijuana.

Millennials (68 percent) are most likely to support legalization while most of those age 70 or older do not (29 percent). Most Republicans (39 percent) and Hispanics (40 percent) also remain opposed to legalizing marijuana.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62 percent) oppose the use of marijuana in public. By contrast, most respondents (57 percent) said that they would not be bothered if a “business selling marijuana” opened in their neighborhood.

Categories: Cannabis News

Responsible Marijuana Smoking: Moderation in All Things

NORML Blog - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 14:40

While we now enjoy the support of a majority of the American public to end marijuana prohibition, 64 percent of those same people nonetheless still have an overall negative impression of marijuana smokers. All to often they see us as slackers who fail to live up to our full potential, and whose primary interest in life is getting stoned.

While much of that disconnect is likely the result of decades of “reefer madness” propaganda, some of it also results from careless conduct on the part of some marijuana smokers that reinforces those negative stereotypes. We can’t change the past, but we do have the ability to demonstrate by our conduct that marijuana smokers also have full, rich lives filled with family and friends, and influenced by our intellectual and professional pursuits. We are about more than just getting high.

In fact, those of us who smoke marijuana are otherwise indistinguishable from other Americans. We come in all shapes and sizes, with a full range of political beliefs and lifestyles and professional goals. For the vast majority of smokers, our use of marijuana does not define our lives; it is but one factor, including family, work, education, sports, literature, music and faith, that taken together, define who we are as individuals.

Of course, those of us who smoke enjoy the benefits of marijuana, from it’s relaxing qualities to it’s ability to allow one to become more creative, and expansive, in our thinking. I do believe that marijuana smoking plays a very positive role in my life and in my work, and I am sure many other smokers feel the same.

Everyone needs some private time, and getting “high” — like sex — is not a dirty word. There are times when we can lay aside our responsibility for a time, and enjoy the freedom of just getting high with friends. But that does not suggest that marijuana smoking should become the center of one’s life, or that one should be stoned all waking hours. Most jobs and educational pursuits require a clear mind and a steady focus that are not possible if one is experiencing the short-term memory loss that is an integral part of the marijuana “high.”

And a healthy family life requires shared experiences and interactions that depend on a degree of personal communication that is frequently interrupted if one of the parties is stoned. And, frankly, like most other activities in life, getting “high” is more pleasurable when experienced in moderation.

Principles of Responsible Marijuana Use

Here are a few common sense suggestions for enjoying marijuana in a responsible manner, which will, over time, help persuade the non-smokers that those of us who do smoke are nonetheless good, productive citizens. Many of these are based on The Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use, adopted by the NORML board of directors back in 1996, and found on the NORML website.

1. Be sensitive to the set and setting before lighting-up. A responsible marijuana consumer should be vigilant to the conditions – time, place, mood, etc. – and should not hesitate to say “no” when those conditions are not conductive to a safe, pleasant and/or productive experience. And we must always respect the rights of others.

The responsible marijuana smoker does not violate the rights of others, observes accepted standards of courtesy and public propriety, and respects the preferences of those who wish to avoid marijuana entirely. Regardless of the legal status of marijuana, responsible users should adhere to emerging tobacco smoking protocols in public and private places. It is important politically that non-smokers do not feel as if those of us who smoke are forcing our personal preferences on them.

2. No driving while impaired with marijuana. A responsible marijuana consumer should not operate a motor vehicle or use other dangerous machinery while impaired by marijuana or other substances (including alcohol and some prescription medications).

Public safety requires that impaired drivers be kept off the roads, and that objective measures of impairment be developed to detect marijuana impairment; not simply testing for the presence of THC.

3. Resist abuse. Most marijuana use is essentially harmless; some is not. The use of marijuana, to the extent it impairs health, personal development or achievement, is abuse and should be resisted.

For example, the concept of “wake and bake” needs to disappear from our lexicon. It is a variation on the “stupid stoner” stereotype of a smoker who sits home on his couch all day and stays stoned from morning until night. That image feeds the prejudice that exists among non-smokers towards those of us who smoke.

“Wake and bake” might work on an occasional camping trip, or a day spent walking in the woods, but it should not be a regular part of one’s life.

4. Be careful with edibles and concentrates. When consumed as an edible, the THC in marijuana requires up to 90-minutes, or even longer, to take effect, and it is therefore difficult to titrate the dosage. 10 milligrams is generally considered a single dose for an experienced user, and perhaps 5 milligrams for a novice user.

One who consumers too much of an edible will likely have a frightening, unpleasant experience, similar to a bad acid trip, which sometimes ends up in an emergency room. Those incidents are not life threatening or fatal, but they do reinforce negative views of marijuana smoking by non-smokers, and complicate our task of moving legalizing forward.

And the same warning applies to concentrates. Novice users especially need to go slowly when using concentrates, to avoid an unpleasant overdose; and even experienced smokers frequently are surprised by the strength of concentrates. Just as alcohol drinkers learn to use far less if they are drinking hard liquor than if they are drinking beer, those who use edibles and concentrates must acknowledge the distinction from regular marijuana and adjust their intake.

5. Moderation in all things. Just as alcohol drinkers learn that moderation is necessary to insure a pleasant experience, and to avoid an unpleasant one, so to with marijuana smoking. Getting as high as possible should not be the goal. The purpose of marijuana smoking should be to reach a nice, comfortable, pleasant high that permits enjoyable social interaction with others, and enhances the experience of activities such as eating, listening to music, walking in the woods, having sex, etc.

In fact, sometimes marijuana smokers prefer a mild level of intoxication, which has resulted in the arrival of many low-THC strains and edibles in states in which it is legal.

If those of us who smoke marijuana can generally follow these basic guidelines, we will begin to overcome the negative impression of recreational marijuana smokers that persist among nearly two out of three non-smokers, which in turn will permit us to make the remaining cultural and legal changes required to end unfair discrimination against responsible marijuana smokers.

 

 

http://news.marijuana.com/news/2015/04/responsible-marijuana-smoking-moderation-in-all-things/

Categories: Cannabis News

Coming Out Green Ad Campaign

NORML Blog - Fri, 04/10/2015 - 18:56

A new and well done public service announcement in favor of ending cannabis prohibition was just released by Green Flower Media. Producers hope that this advertisement is the first in a series.


Categories: Cannabis News

Kansas: Wichita Voters Approve Municipal Initiative Reducing Marijuana Possession Penalties

NORML Blog - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 20:06

Voters in Wichita Kansas approved a municipal measure yesterday that seeks to reduce first-time marijuana possession penalties within the city.

Fifty four percent of local voters approved the initiative, which reduces penalties for first-time marijuana possession offenses (up to one ounce) to a civil infraction punishable by a $50.00 fine. Under state law, marijuana possession is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Despite majority support for the measure, state Attorney General Derek Schmidt has called the language unlawful and has threatened to sue the city if the provision goes into effect. The city is seeking a declaratory judgment from the courts in regard to whether they can move forward with enacting the new, voter-approved law.

Categories: Cannabis News

Feds Seek To Increase Marijuana Production Quotas

NORML Blog - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 23:24

For the second year in a row, federal officials are seeking to increase the supply of cannabis the government makes available for research protocols.

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart filed paperwork today announcing that the agency is seeking to increase its marijuana production quota for the year 2015 by nearly three-fold.

Federal regulations permit a farm at the University of Mississippi to cultivate set quantities of cannabis for use in federally approved clinical trials. Regulators at the DEA, the US Food and Drug Administration, PHS (Public Health Service), and the US National Institute on Drug Abuse must approve any clinical protocol seeking to study the plant’s effects in human subjects.

The agency says that the increased production is necessary because “research and product development involving cannabdidiol is increasing beyond that previously anticipated.” The agency further acknowledges having received increased requests from NIDA “to provide for ongoing and anticipated research efforts involving marijuana.”

Categories: Cannabis News

Study: Vaporized Cannabis Mitigates Treatment-Resistant Diabetic Neuropathy

NORML Blog - Tue, 04/07/2015 - 20:13

Vaporized cannabis mitigates pain intensity in diabetic subjects in a dose-dependent manner, according to clinical trial data published online ahead of print in The Journal of Pain.

Investigators at the University of California, San Diego assessed the efficacy of inhaled cannabis versus placebo in 16 patients with painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN).

Authors reported: “This small, short-term, placebo-controlled trial of inhaled cannabis demonstrated a dose-dependent reduction in diabetic peripheral neuropathy pain in patients with treatment-refractory pain. … Overall, our finding of an analgesic effect of cannabis is consistent with other trials of cannabis in diverse neuropathic pain syndromes.”

A series of clinical trials conducted by investigators affiliated with the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego previously reported that the inhalation of whole-plant cannabis is efficacious in the treatment of various types of treatment-resistant neuropathic pain, including HIV-associated neuropathy and spinal cord injury. According to the findings of a 2014 clinical trial published in the Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, “At least 10 randomized controlled trials, lasting for more than 1000 patients, have demonstrated efficacy of different types of cannabinoids for diverse forms of neuropathic pain.”

An abstract of the study, “Efficacy of inhaled cannabis on painful diabetic neuropathy,” appears online here.

Categories: Cannabis News

The Challenge for the New Generation of Legalizers

NORML Blog - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 19:27

I was recently asked, following a lecture I had given, what the next generation of legalization advocates could do to move legalization forward, and to leave their mark on the legalization movement.

The question was intriguing, and caused me to revisit in my mind the areas of public policy in which marijuana smokers continue to be treated unfairly, even in states that have legalized marijuana, and to consider why these problems remain so difficult for us to correct.

I have discussed in previous columns the continuing problems we face as smokers dealing with employment discrimination, child custody and related issues, and charges of driving under the influence of marijuana. Simply put, marijuana smokers continue to be treated as people who, because of their marijuana smoking, can be fired from their job without the slightest indication they have ever gone to work in an impaired condition; continue to be presumed by the state child welfare agencies to be unfit parents, without any evidence to suggest that conclusion; and continue to face DUID charges without any showing of driving while impaired.

Most Americans are decent, fair-minded people who would generally want to treat their fellow citizens in a fair manner, just as they would want to be treated. But because of the impact of decades of “reefer madness” propaganda and widespread misinformation about marijuana and marijuana smokers, once the factor of marijuana smoking enters the equation, these same Americans are largely willing to allow – or even encourage – policies that needlessly and unfairly harm the families, careers and lives of people who are good, hard-working individuals who happen to enjoy marijuana smoking when they relax in the evening, just as tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans enjoy a beer or a glass of wine when they relax in the evening.

Two out of Three Americans Have an Unfavorable Impression of Marijuana Smokers

This is true despite the fact that a majority of the American public now support full legalization. They have concluded that prohibition is a failed public policy that causes far more harm than the use of marijuana itself; but they are certainly not pro-marijuana. This is an important distinction. These citizens were dubbed the “marijuana middle” by the Third Way, a Washington, DC think tank that recently released polling data showing, somewhat shockingly, that while a majority of the country now favor full legalization, 64 percent of those same people have a negative impression of recreational marijuana smokers!

They believe that those of us who smoke marijuana are doing something wrong, and harmful, regardless of the legal status of marijuana. Thus in every policy area that arises, including especially employment, child custody and driving, they continue to presume the worst-case scenario, and, in their minds, to “err on the side of caution” to protect the non-smoking public from the perceived dangers of marijuana smoking and marijuana smokers.

This is largely the result of the “stupid stoner” stereotypes that too many Americans continue to embrace for recreational users. While many of us who smoke have learned to laugh at those stereotypes when they appear in the popular culture, apparently too many of our fellow citizens fail to see the humor, and take them seriously. They see us as slackers who fail to live-up to our potential, and whose primary interest in life is getting stoned. And until we correct this misimpression, it will be impossible to put in place policies that treat responsible marijuana smokers fairly.

And that brings me back to the question I was asked regarding what the new generation of legalization advocates could do to leave their mark on the legalization movement. My answer is that the latest generation of advocates must come out of the closet in far greater numbers – to stand-up tall and proudly announce that you are a responsible marijuana smoker, as well as a good, productive citizen.

It is only by demonstrating that marijuana smokers are hard-working, middle class individuals who raise families, pay taxes and contribute in a positive manner to our communities, that we can finally overcome those negative stereotypes that persist. And until we overcome those stereotypes, we cannot achieve full equality with our fellow citizens. We will continue to be treated unfairly both legally and culturally.

In earlier decades, it took real courage to acknowledge your use of marijuana, as one might find yourself shunted by friends or colleagues, or even worse, targeted by law enforcement. And even today, the Third Way polling results clearly demonstrate there remains a stigma to marijuana smoking, and we must overcome that stigma if we are to avoid these unfair policies, even after legalization.

It is the younger generation of smokers who must face this final challenge. We have, after decades of effort, begun the long process of redefining the responsible use of marijuana as a legal activity. Over the next several years, we should succeed in ending the practice of arresting marijuana smokers all throughout the country.

But we will continue to be treated unfairly until we overcome this persistent cultural bias. So long as 65% of the public have an unfavorable view of those of us who smoke, we simply cannot achieve full equality. To do that we must convince the majority of the non-smokers that marijuana smokers are just average Americans – good people –who just happen to enjoy smoking marijuana. We need to move the “marijuana middle” to a place where they are emotionally more comfortable with those of us who smoke. This is a necessary cultural shift.

That is the challenge for our younger colleagues in the legalization movement.

Categories: Cannabis News

Poll: Majority of Swing State Voters Support Legalization

NORML Blog - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 17:03

The majority of voters in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania support permitting adults to possess marijuana legally, and super-majorities in all three states endorse allowing doctors to recommend cannabis therapy, according to survey data published today by Quinnipiac University.

Fifty-five percent of Florida voters say that they support allowing adults “to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” (Forty-two percent oppose the idea.) In Ohio, voters back legalization by a margin of 52 percent to 44 percent. In Pennsylvania, 51 percent of voters favor legalizing marijuana versus 45 percent who oppose doing so.

Voters sentiment in favor of legalizing the plant’s availability for therapeutic purposes is even stronger. Pollsters reported that voters in all three states back medical marijuana legalization by margins of five to one: 84 percent to 14 percent in Florida, 84 percent to 15 percent in Ohio, and 88 percent to 10 percent in Pennsylvania.

Legislation seeking to regulate the plant’s use and retail sale is pending in both Florida and Pennsylvania, though to date, lawmakers have yet to hold hearings on either bill. Legislation to permit regulatory access to medical cannabis is also pending in both states.

Categories: Cannabis News

Study: CBD Administration Enhances Skeletal Healing

NORML Blog - Fri, 04/03/2015 - 17:45

The administration of the non-psychotropic cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) leads to improvement in bone fracture healing, according to preclinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Investigators at the Hebrew University Bone Laboratory in Israel assessed the ability of CBD administration to promote healing in rats with mid-femoral fractures. Researchers reported, “CBD markedly enhanced the biomechanical properties of the healing femora after 8 weeks.”

Authors also evaluated the administration of THC and CBD together, but reported that this combined preparation was “not advantageous” over CBD alone — indicating that the plant’s potential bone-stimulating properties are primarily specific to cannabidiol.

They concluded: “CBD alone is sufficiently effective in enhancing fracture healing. … Multiple experimental and clinical trials have portrayed CBD as a safe agent suggesting further studies in humans to assess its usefulness for improving fracture healing.”

Researchers have previously acknowledged that endogenous cannabinoids stimulate bone formation and inhibit bone loss, potentially paving the way for the future use of cannabinoid drugs for combating osteoporosis.

Categories: Cannabis News