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Yet Another Study Finds That Cannabis Use Is Not Independently Linked With IQ Decline

NORML - Thu, 03/08/2017 - 16:23

Cannabis use by teens is not independently linked with adverse changes in intelligence quotient or executive functioning, according to longitudinal data published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.

A team of investigators from the United States and the United Kingdom evaluated whether marijuana use is directly associated with changes over time in neuropsychological performance in a nationally representative cohort of adolescent twins. Authors reported that “family background factors,” but not the use of cannabis negatively impacted adolescents’ cognitive performance.

They wrote: “[W]e found that youth who used cannabis … had lower IQ at age 18, but there was little evidence that cannabis use was associated with IQ decline from age 12 to 18. Moreover, although cannabis use was associated with lower IQ and poorer executive functions at age 18, these associations were generally not apparent within pairs of twins from the same family, suggesting that family background factors explain why adolescents who use cannabis perform worse on IQ and executive function tests.”

Investigators concluded, “Short-term cannabis use in adolescence does not appear to cause IQ decline or impair executive functions, even when cannabis use reaches the level of dependence.”

Their findings are consistent with those of several other studies – including those here, here, here, and here – finding that cannabis use alone during adolescence does not appear to have a significant, direct adverse effect on intelligence quotient.

widely publicized and still often cited New Zealand study published in 2012 in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that the persistent use of cannabis from adolescence to adulthood was associated with slightly lower IQ by age 38. However, a follow up review of the data published later in the same journal suggested that the observed changes were likely due to socioeconomic differences, not the subjects’ use of cannabis. A later study by the initial paper’s lead investigator further reported that the effects of persistent adolescent cannabis use on academic performance are “non-significant after controlling for persistent alcohol and tobacco use.”

Opioid Commission To Trump: Declare Emergency, Ignore Science

NORML - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 20:11

Per The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s commission on the opioid crisis asked him Monday to declare a national emergency to deal with the epidemic.

The members of the bipartisan panel called the request their “first and most urgent recommendation.”

Mr. Trump created the commission in March, appointing Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to lead it. The panel held its first public meeting last month and was supposed to issue an interim report shortly afterward but delayed doing so until now. A final report is due in October.

The initial recommendations are completely silent to the fact that medical marijuana access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, and opioid-related overdose deaths.

Chris Christie, sitting Governor of New Jersey until Jan. 17, 2018

Over the last two months, over 8,000 voters contacted the Office of National Drug Control Policy commission, chaired by marijuana prohibitionist Chris Christie, with their personal stories and the relevant science to encourage the group to support medical marijuana as part of the approach to reduce the tragic effects of the opioid crisis. This effort was undertaken both by NORML and Marijuana Majority.

“Governor Christie has zero percent credibility on drug policy, or any other policy, for that matter,” Erik Altieri, Executive Director of NORML said to Forbes of Christie at the time of his appointment to head the commission.

Nonetheless, this administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has continued to express skepticism with regard to the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana. Now, we now know that the President’s opioid commission is not interested in real solutions, but rather more empty rhetoric.

We have until October until the final report is to be issued.

Click here to send a message to the ONDCP commission to yet again tell them the facts and if you have one, please share your personal on how marijuana is a safer alternative to opioids. 

 

80 Years Ago Today: President Signs First Federal Anti-Marijuana Law

NORML - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 08:24

Eighty years ago today, on August 2, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt signed House Bill 6385: the Marihuana Tax Act into law. The Act for the first time imposed federal criminal penalties on activities specific to the possession, production, and sale of cannabis.

Congress’ decision followed the actions of 29 states, beginning with Massachusetts in 1914, that had previously passed laws criminalizing the plant over the prior decades. It also followed years of ‘Reefer Madness,’ during which time politicians, bureaucrats (led primarily by Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger), reporters, and science editors continually proclaimed that marijuana use irreparably damaged the brain. A 1933 editorial in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology largely summarized the sentiment of the time, “If continued, the inevitable result is insanity, which those familiar with it describe as absolutely incurable, and, without exception ending in death.”

On April 14, 1937, Rep. Robert L. Doughton of North Carolina introduced HR 6385, which sought to stamp out the recreational use of marijuana by imposing a prohibitive federal tax on all cannabis-related activities. Members of Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of the bill, which largely relied on the sensational testimony of Anslinger — who opined, ”This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.” Over objections from the American Medical Association, whose representatives opposed the proposed federal ban, members of the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure by voice votes.

President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed the legislation into law and on October 1, 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act officially took effect — thus setting in motion the federal prohibition that continues to this day.

Tell Congress to end 80 years of failure. Click here to urge federal leadership to support The Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 in the US Senate and click here to support The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 in the US House of Representatives.

The Marijuana Justice Act Introduced In Senate

NORML - Tue, 01/08/2017 - 10:09

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) has introduced comprehensive marijuana reform legislation, the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017.

The bill would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

Click here to watch the video of Senator Booker discussing the bill.

“Not only is it imperative we end our failed experiment of marijuana prohibition, we must also ensure justice for those who suffered most under these draconian policies,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “We applaud Senator Booker for introducing this robust legislation that would not only remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, but provide a path forward for the individuals and communities that were most disproportionately targeted by our nation’s failed war on marijuana consumers.”

Thirty states, Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis, while an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes. According to a 2017 Quinnipiac University poll, 59 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy.

To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safetycrime ratestraffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abusehospitalizations, and mortality.

Click here to send a message to your Senators to urge them to support the Marijuana Justice Act of 2017

 

Missouri: Marijuana Medicalization Effort Reaches Signature Milestone

NORML - Mon, 31/07/2017 - 16:16

Proponents of a Missouri voter initiative effort to legalize and regulate the therapeutic use and distribution of cannabis statewide have gathered over 50,000 signatures over the past several weeks. Advocates must collect a total of 160,000 signatures by May 6, 2018 in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 electoral ballot.

The initiative permits patients, at the discretion of a physician, to cultivate limited quantities of marijuana or to obtain cannabis and cannabis-infused products from licensed facilities.

The group behind the effort, New Approach Missouri, includes members of both national NORML as well as its state and local affiliates. To date, the signature gathering effort has largely consisted of volunteers.

Proponents sought to place a similar effort on the 2016 ballot. That effort failed after the courts upheld the decision of St. Louis-area election authorities to reject some 2,000 signatures in the state’s second Congressional district.

Marijuana law reform advocates are also presently gathering signatures for voter-initiated efforts in Michigan and Utah. A statewide initiative legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Oklahoma has already qualified for the 2018 electoral ballot.

A Victory Over Some Illegal “Drug Courier Profile” Traffic Stops in Illinois

NORML - Mon, 31/07/2017 - 11:22

The Supreme Court of Illinois recently handed down a decision which found that some of the drug courier profile traffic stops in their state were illegal, and agreed with the lower courts that the drugs confiscated in five cases that had been combined for the court’s consideration, should be suppressed. The case was People v. Ringland, et al.

The criminal defense attorney bringing this legal challenge was NORML Legal Committee (NLC) Life Member Stephen M. Komie from Chicago.

The somewhat unique fact in all five of these cases, which arose in 2012 and 2013, was that the drivers were all stopped and searched by a “special investigator” of the La Salle County prosecutor’s office; not by state or local police. After carefully considering the statute that establishes and defines the powers of state prosecutors, the high court found that the prosecutor did not have the legal authority to hire their own people to drive up and down the highways, making traffic stops and searching vehicles for drugs.

Congratulations to attorney Stephen Komie for ending these illegal traffic stops in Illinois with a creative legal challenge.

 

Pennsylavania Cities Continue to Embrace Decriminalization of Marijuana

NORML - Thu, 27/07/2017 - 13:20

With the recent passage of a marijuana decriminalization ordinance, the City of York joins Philadelphia, State College, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg in no longer criminalizing the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Following several meetings to discuss the proposal, members of city council heard from Chris Goldstein, former executive director of Philadelphia NORML and Les Stark, executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. Both spoke in support of the proposal and even provided encouraging data showing a decline in marijuana arrests in other municipalities that adopted similar measures.

“Towns across Pennsylvania are moving away from handcuffs and towards issuing fines instead, that’s good news in a state where we have more than 18,000 consumers arrested every year,” said Chris Goldstein.

Similar to other decriminalization measures that have been adopted by municipalities in the Commonwealth, the ordinance approved by the York City Council replaces criminal prosecution and potential jail time with a simple fine or community service for those possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana. The ordinance also decriminalized the public consumption of marijuana.

While local governments across Pennsylvania continue to adopt measures to reduce the penalty for personal possession of marijuana from jail time to a simple fine, state lawmakers have been more apprehensive on the issue. But advocates are hopeful things will change as the conversation advances on the local level. “This really puts the pressure on legislators in Harrisburg to vote on statewide bills and start having the bigger conversation about full legalization,” added Goldstein.

Read more here: http://www.ydr.com/story/news/2017/07/19/york-city-council-passes-bill-decriminalize-possession-small-amounts-marijuana/480013001/

For future updates on marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania, follow Philly NORML by visiting their website and Facebook page!

Senate Committee Passes Amendment To Protect Medical Marijuana

NORML - Thu, 27/07/2017 - 08:57

Senator Patrick Leahy

Today, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) successfully offered and passed the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee to protect lawful medical marijuana programs from the Department of Justice.

Initially enacted by Congress in 2014, the amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Last August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the language bars the federal government from taking legal action against any individual involved in medical marijuana-related activity absent evidence that the defendant is in clear violation of state law.

The decision to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment language by the Senate committee illustrates both compassion and common sense when it comes to marijuana policy. Now, the majority of states and over 90 percent of the public approves of the use of marijuana as a medicine and Congress should not stand in the way of these reforms.

Whether or not the House of Representatives will take a vote on the amendment is unclear. They did not include its language in the version of the 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill that passed the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month. Last year, the amendment passed on the floor of the House by a vote of 242-186.

Although the amendment was reauthorized by Congress in May as part of a short term spending package, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been aggressively lobbying leadership to ignore the provisions. President Trump also issued a signing statement objecting to the Rohrbacher-Blumenauer provision.

You can send a message to your Representative to support this language in the House by clicking HERE. 

 

Vote Expected Tomorrow On Medical Marijuana

NORML - Wed, 26/07/2017 - 10:58

Tomorrow, the Senate Appropriations Committee will have to decide: Will they protect our nation’s 2 million lawful medical marijuana patients or subject them to the wrath of Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

The amendment they will be debating, known as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, simply prevents the United States Department of Justice from spending any of our tax dollars enforcing federal marijuana prohibition against the 30 states which have now, or are in the process of, implementing a medical cannabis system.

Tell your Senators to protect patients by supporting the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment

There is NO moral reason to punish qualified patients and veterans from accessing marijuana for its therapeutic effects. Recently released data has revealed that the enactment of medical cannabis access is associated with lower rates of opioid abuse and mortality, and does not negatively impact workplace safety, teen use rates, or motor vehicle safety.

Yet, in a letter to members of Congress on May 1, Sessions demanded the end of Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, citing: “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

This is the delusional leadership we have coming out of the Justice Department. A man who equates those suffering from PTSD, cancer, AIDS, and other dire medical conditions to members of violent drug cartels.

We cannot allow Jeff Sessions to be the only one communicating with Congress. SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR SENATORS NOW.

House Committee Blocks Veterans Equal Access Amendments

NORML - Wed, 26/07/2017 - 09:50

Two weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the Veterans Equal Access amendment, introduced by Senator Daines (R-MT) as part of the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which would expand much needed medical marijuana access to our nation’s veterans.

Yet House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) decided that he did not want the full House to be able to vote on this critical amendment.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the amendments lead sponsor, testified before the committee that it was “a critical area of literally life and death.”

Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups — AMVETS and the American Legion —  have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.

Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 MilCon-VA bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.

It is time that lawmakers stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass and enact this amendment. There is still the possibility of the Senate’s amendment making it through the conference committee so make your voice heard.

You can send a message to your elected officials in support of veterans having access to medical marijuana by clicking HERE.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again!

NORML - Tue, 25/07/2017 - 10:45

As an attorney, I am always disappointed that the courts in this country – both at the state and federal level – have refused to get involved in the efforts to end marijuana prohibition and end the practice of treating responsible marijuana smokers as criminals. But that is the reality.

While the courts in this country have played a leading role in ending racial discrimination, in guaranteeing women the right to obtain a legal abortion, in protecting the rights of the LGBT community, and in many other areas involving the protection of personal freedom, they have consistently rejected attempts to declare state and federal anti-marijuana laws as unconstitutional.

But that does not mean that we should give up the fight in the courts, and rely only on voter initiatives and elected officials to fix this problem. As long as there are new legal arguments to be made, and fresh and hopefully more convincing facts to be argued, we must continue to engage the courts in this struggle for personal freedom.

Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al

One such legal challenge, Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, was recently filed in US District Court in the Southern District of New York by lead attorney Michael Hiller, with NORML Legal Committee (NLC) attorneys David Holland and Joseph Bondy serving as co-counsel. The full complaint can be found here.

Individual plaintiffs in the suit were two young children, an American military veteran, and a retired professional football player, all of whom are medical marijuana patients; and a membership organization alleging their minority members have been discriminated against by the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Seeking to overturn the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich, plaintiffs request a declaration that the CSA, as it pertains to the classification of Cannabis as a Schedule I drug, is unconstitutional, because it violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, an assortment of protections guaranteed by the First Amendment, and the fundamental Right to Travel. Further, plaintiffs seek a declaration that Congress, in enacting the CSA as it pertains to marijuana, violated the Commerce Clause, extending the breadth of legislative power well beyond the scope contemplated by Article I of the Constitution.

Named as defendants in the case are Attorney General Jeff Beauregard Sessions, Acting Administrator of the DEA Chuck Rosenberg, the Justice Department, the DEA and the Federal Government.

In their Complaint, plaintiffs allege that the federal government does not, and could not possibly, believe that Cannabis meets the definition of a Schedule I drug, which is reserved for the most dangerous of substances, such as heroin, LSD, and mescaline; and that classifying Cannabis as a “Schedule I drug,” is so irrational that it violates the U.S. Constitution.

 Among the other claims in the lawsuit are that the CSA: (i) was enacted and implemented in order to discriminate against African Americans and to suppress people’s First Amendment rights; and (ii) violates plaintiffs’ constitutional Right to Travel.

Joseph Bondy, a federal criminal defense attorney and legalization advocate, explained he felt it was important to “question the agenda of those who continue to push for enforcement of the CSA, given its unlawful and discriminatory impact and that so few in America support such an effort.” Co-counsel David Holland, a litigator and Executive Director of Empire State NORML, noted that “the efforts to criminalize Cannabis are relatively recent and were largely underwritten by racial and ethnic animus,” referring to recent findings that African Americans and other persons of color are four times as likely to be arrested under the CSA than white Americans, even though marijuana is used equally by people of color and Caucasians.

Perhaps the federal courts will surprise us at long last and finally take a critical look at marijuana prohibition, and find the courage to declare the CSA to be unconstitutional. That would be an enormous step forward in ending marijuana prohibition altogether. But regardless of the outcome of this particular suit, it is encouraging to see the criminal defense bar continue to push the legal envelope, and to advance the best and latest legal and factual arguments. At some point, the courts will have no choice but to strike down prohibition as a violation of our personal freedom.

 

 

Marijuana is NORML: 45% of Americans Have Tried Cannabis

NORML - Fri, 21/07/2017 - 13:25

According to recently released polling data from Gallup, nearly half of all Americans have tried marijuana at one point in their lives, an all time high since they began asking the question in 1969 when only 4% of Americans admitted to having tried the substance.

Additionally, 12% of survey respondents said they currently consume marijuana.

Gallup concludes:

“With 29 U.S. states allowing medical marijuana use, and eight allowing recreational use, legal cannabis is taking hold in American society.

There may be obstacles to marijuana becoming fully “accepted” in the United States. Attorney General Sessions appears to be cracking down on marijuana use, and driving under the influence of pot continues to be a concern for many.

Despite legal hurdles, however, a record-high percentage of Americans say they have tried marijuana.
Smoking pot is still not as prevalent as cigarette smoking in the U.S., at 17%, but current marijuana usage is about as high as it has been.

If more states legalize the drug, regular usage — or at least experimenting with marijuana — could rise. Legality may confer a certain societal acceptance of the drug. Sessions’ hopes to prosecute state-level marijuana crimes may prove to be a hindrance, but it is unlikely this multibillion-dollar industry will be stopped anytime soon.”

Read the full survey results here.

Colorado: Tax Revenue From The Legal Cannabis Industry Surpasses Half-Billion Dollars

NORML - Thu, 20/07/2017 - 12:39

Revenues from Colorado’s legal cannabis industry have surpassed over a half-billion dollars since retail sales began on January 1, 2014.

According to an analysis by VS Strategies, cannabis-related taxes and fees have yielded $506,143,635 in new state revenue over the past three and one-half years. (Local tax revenue was excluded from the analysis.) Much of the revenue raised has gone to fund school construction projects, school-drop out and substance abuse prevention programs, and grant funding.

The half-billion dollar total far exceeds initial projections. Tax revenue from legal cannabis sales in Oregon and Washington have also exceeded regulators’ initial expectations. In Nevada, where retail sales to adult became legal on July 1, retailers reported over 40,000 transactions in just the first weekend.

WATCH: Marijuana in the Halls of Congress

NORML - Wed, 19/07/2017 - 09:57

Yesterday, NORML moderated a Facebook Congressional Conversation on marijuana law reform with Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Tom Garrett, Beto O’Rourke, and Justin Amash.

We discussed a wide range of issues including the needless burden of the federal driver’s license suspension mandate, access to medical marijuana, racial injustice, and pending bipartisan legislation to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

WATCH NOW:

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The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color. Only when lawmakers speak honestly about the effects of prohibition and the senseless burdens it imposes on our communities will we be able to win substantial reform.

“At a time when 29 states and the District of Columbia have made the decision to regulate the sale and use of marijuana, we should rethink how the federal government approaches this drug. Our current approach to marijuana prevents legitimate medical use, fills our prisons with nonviolent offenders and continues to fuel drug violence,” said Representative Beto O’Rourke in a statement promoting the event.

In our continued effort to educate the lawmakers and the public, events like this will be able to open the eyes of those who have willfully ignored the issue.

NORML chapters throughout the country are working to advance legalization in state legislatures and, with your support, National NORML will continue to up the pressure in Washington, DC.

Click here to share the video through your networks and support efforts like this in the future. 

 

Uruguay: Retail Cannabis Sales Begin Today

NORML - Wed, 19/07/2017 - 06:04

Select pharmacies in Uruguay are now dispensing marijuana to adults, under regulations that went into effect today.

Sixteen pharmacies are presently licensed to engage in cannabis sales, and some 5,000 adults so far have registered with the state to purchase marijuana products — which are capped at a price of $1.30 per gram.

Sales to foreign tourists are not permitted under the law.

Federal officials initially approved legislation in 2013 lifting Uruguay’s criminal prohibition of the plant. Under the policy change, citizens may cultivate up to six plants per household, and engage in collective cultivation as part of membership clubs. Rules and regulations governing the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes are overseen by the Ministry of Public Health.

New Hampshire: Marijuana Decriminalization Measure Signed Into Law

NORML - Tue, 18/07/2017 - 16:52

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed legislation today decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.

House Bill 640, which takes effect in 60 days, eliminates criminal penalties for the possession of up to 3/4 of an ounce of cannabis and/or up to five grams of hashish for those age 18 or older. Under the new law, first time offenders will receive a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine.

Presently, first-time marijuana possession is punishable by up to one year in prison, a potential $2,000 fine, and a criminal record.

“New Hampshire will soon join the chorus of states that recognize the baseline level of dignity for it’s citizens and tourists who choose to consume marijuana,” said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. “Soon, throughout New England, individuals will be able to freely travel without the threat of jail time for possession of marijuana.”

New Hampshire is the only New England state that presently treats minor possession offenses as a criminal offense.

Tell AAA To Stop Lying About Legalization

NORML - Tue, 18/07/2017 - 15:07

Over the first six months of 2017, the American Automobile Association (aka AAA) has been spreading misinformation and propaganda in a lobbying effort to defeat marijuana legalization legislative efforts in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and other states.

As reported by Leafly.com, AAA representatives have recently preyed upon unsubstantiated fears regarding the alleged “increased plague of drugged driving” and the claim that “more babies will be born high” on marijuana in their lobbying efforts against adult use regulatory reforms. The distortions do nothing to advance the public debate surrounding legalization, but they do tarnish the organization’s reputation.

Send a message to AAA telling them to put the brakes on lobbying against legalization efforts

According to federal data, auto accident fatalities have fallen significantly over the past two decades – during the same time that a majority of US states have legalized marijuana for either medical or social use. In 1996 when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were an estimated 37,500 fatal car crashes on US roadways. This total fell to under 30,000 by 2014.

Further, a recently published study in the American Journal of Public Health reports that fatal traffic accident rates in legal marijuana states are no different than those in states where cannabis remains illegal. A separate study published last year in the same journal previously reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities compared to other states, particularly among younger drivers.

One would hope that AAA would be nonpartisan in this debate; that they would be the group to separate the facts from the myths so that politicians and law enforcement would be more likely to pursue evidence-based policies with regard to regulating marijuana in a manner that strengthens public safety. Instead they’re largely fear-mongering and further politicizing the issue — calling for the continued criminalization and arrest of millions of Americans who choose to use marijuana privately and responsibly. By doing so, they are arguing in favor of the failed criminal justice policies of the past and they are alienating the 60 percent of Americans who endorse the outright legalization of recreational cannabis by adults (Gallup, 2016).

Tell AAA to stop distorting the truth, send their public affairs department a message right now

There are areas of public policy where AAA is absolutely in agreement with reform advocates, including NORML. For instance, we both agree that driving under the influence of cannabis should be discouraged and legally prohibited, and that the detection of either THC or its metabolites in blood or urine is not indicative of psychomotor impairment and, therefore, should not be used a legal standard of criminal liability.

Our hope is that some day groups like NORML and AAA can work together to advocate for rational policies that work to keep our roadways safe from the threat of impaired drivers. Specifically, we recognize — as does AAA — that there is a need for greater tools and methods  to more accurately determine whether or not someone is under the influence of cannabis, such as via the use and promotion of handheld performance technology.

Tell AAA that the days of ‘reefer madness’ are over. It’s time for a rational and evidence-based discussion regarding how best to regulate the use of marijuana by adults and how to keep our roads safe.

Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Patients’ Afforded Workplace Protections, High Court Rules

NORML - Mon, 17/07/2017 - 16:30

State-registered medical cannabis patients may sue a private employer for discrimination if they are fired for their off-the-job marijuana use, according to a first in the nation ruling issued today by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Opining for the court, Chief Justice Ralph Gants determined that it is “not facially unreasonable” for employers to make exceptions to their substance abuse policies in instances where employees are using cannabis at home to treat a debilitating condition. “The fact that the employee’s possession of medical marijuana is in violation of federal law does not make it per se unreasonable as an accommodation,” he wrote.

The defendant in the case was fired on her first day on the job for testing positive for carboxy-THC on a company drug test. The former employee possessed a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis to treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Qualified patients may legally obtain cannabis in Massachusetts under a 2012 voter-initiated law.

The unanimous verdict reverses a lower court decision and is contrary to rulings in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. In each of those states, the supreme courts ruled that employees had no legal protections if they were fired without cause for their state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.

“Patients should never have to choose between their heath and their job and for the first time, a court has acknowledged that they shouldn’t have to do so,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions begin to apply this same rationale to patients as well as to all adults who are using cannabis responsibly off-the-job in compliance with the laws of their states.”

The case is Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing LLC.

Analysis: Criminal Justice Referrals Driving Youth Marijuana Treatment Admissions

NORML - Mon, 17/07/2017 - 11:28

Over half of all young people entered into drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system and this percentage is increasing, according to data published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.

A team of researchers from Binghamton University in New York and the University of Iowa reviewed youth marijuana treatment admission data (TEDS-A) during the years 1995 to 2012.

Investigators reported that youth admissions for cannabis rose 65 percent during the study period – from 52,894 annual admissions in 1995 to 87,528 in 2012. Admissions rose most precipitously among Latinos (an increase of 256 percent since 1995) and African American youth (an increase of 86 percent). Criminal justice system referrals rose 70 percent during this same period, and now account for 54 percent of all substance abuse admissions by young people.

Among those in treatment, half exhibited little if any evidence of suffering from marijuana dependence. Specifically, 30 percent of all young people admitted into marijuana treatment since 2008 had no record of having consumed cannabis in the 30 days prior to their admittance. Another 20 percent of those entered into treatment had use cannabis three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission. Prior evaluations of TEDS data among adults have yielded similar results.

“Our findings indicate that the severity of drug use involved in those admissions has decreased,” authors concluded. “This study highlights the importance of identifying youth in actual need of treatment services.”

Since the late 1990s, both youth use of marijuana and the prevalence of so-called ‘cannabis use disorder’ by young people have declined significantly.

An abstract of the study, “Trends in youth marijuana treatment admissions: Increasing admissions contrasted with decreasing drug involvement,” is online here. My commentary about the data, “Blowing the lid off the marijuana treatment racket,” appears on Alternet.org here.

Senate Committee Overwhelmingly Passes Veterans Equal Access Amendment

NORML - Thu, 13/07/2017 - 11:09

Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 24-7 to include the Veterans Equal Access amendment as part of the 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which would expand much needed medical marijuana access to our nation’s veterans.

Presently, V.A. doctors in states where cannabis therapy is permitted are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a medical cannabis recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician.

Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups — AMVETS and the American Legion —  have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.

The amendment was introduced by Senator Daines, R-Montana for the second year in a row. Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.

The 24-7 roll call was an increase over last years 20-10 appropriations passage. The changes came from Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) all voting “aye” after having voted against the effort last year and both new members of the committee, Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) voting in favor.

Identical language is expected to receive a vote in the House later this year. Keep an eye on NORML’s Act page for that and other changes.

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