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Working to reform marijuana laws
Updated: 18 min 54 sec ago
NORML has been fighting to legalize marijuana for more than forty years, and as we saw from this week’s midterm election results, our hard work is starting to pay off. Though we are a divided nation in many ways, voters across the political spectrum were largely united on Election Day in their near overwhelming support for marijuana law reform. NORML’s ability to educate and unite people behind this cause has largely been made possible by donations and contributions from people like you. Thanks to NORML’s outreach efforts, Americans are now aware that it makes no sense from any objective measure to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco. But we still need your support to keep up the momentum, and to continue bringing our winning message of legalization to the American people.
Two More States – and Washington DC – Legalize Marijuana:
The two most significant victories of the night no doubt occurred in Oregon and Alaska – where both states passed measures legalizing and regulating the cannabis plant’s retail production and sale, as well as permitting adults to grow the plant for their own personal use. In Oregon, 56 percent of voters approved the measure – the highest percentage ever to endorse a statewide campaign to regulate adult marijuana sales. Alaska and Oregon are the third and fourth states to enact regulations regarding the retail production and sale of cannabis goods, joining Colorado and Washington.
Voters in the nation’s capitol provided arguably the most resounding victory on Election Day. An overwhelming 69 percent of District voters – yes, I said 69 percent – said ‘yes’ to Initiative 71, which removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to three mature plants. Indeed, marijuana law reform has come to Washington, DC and there is no way for our federal officials to ignore it.
NORML Needs You Now More Than Ever!
There remains much work to be done – and this is why we still need your continued financial support. NORML’s outreach and media efforts in the coming months will be more important than ever, as we fight to maintain our historic gains and push forward for new ones. We can’t expect our prohibitionist opponents to take these victories lying down, and we still need the resources to move legalization across the country. Please donate $50 or whatever you can afford today and help ensure our victories become the foundation for progressive marijuana policy nationwide.
All seven of NORML PAC’s publicly endorsed candidates for the US House of Representatives won decisively in yesterday’s midterm election.
Rep. Alan Grayson for Congress (FL-09)
Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman for Congress (NJ-12)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer for Congress (OR-03)
Rep. Steve Cohen for Congress (TN-9)
Rep. Beto O’Rourke for Congress (TX-16)
Rep. Denny Heck for Congress (WA-10)
Rep. Jared Polis for Congress (CO-02)
These candidates all endorsed the full legalization of marijuana and are dedicated to championing reform at the federal level in the 114th Congress. We fully expect these individuals to be instrumental in introducing and advancing important legislation when they begin their new session in January.
“What is really worth noting,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Is that all of our endorsements for the US House of Representatives happened to be Democrats and all won by large margins in a year where others in their party were getting handily defeated nationwide. Perhaps this, coupled with solid wins for legalization in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, will send a message to Democratic Party members across the country that it is not only good policy to support marijuana legalization, but good politics.”
Also winning their elections were NORML PAC endorsed New Jersey Senate candidate Cory Booker and Maine State Representative Diane Russell.
Want to help us continue to elect pro-reform candidates across the country? DONATE to NORML PAC today!
The election results were overwhelmingly positive for marijuana smokers last night, with full-legalization proposals being approved in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia. And even the one losing initiative, the medical-use proposal in Florida, won the approval of a significant majority of the voters.
Measure 91 in Oregon
In a convincing victory, Oregon voters approved Measure 91, which legalizes the use and cultivation of marijuana by those 21 and older and establishes a system of licensing, taxing and regulating marijuana sales under the auspices of the Oregon Liquor Control Board, with an impressive 55 percent of the vote.
More specifically, under Measure 91, adults will be permitted to possess up to eight ounces of “dried” marijuana and cultivate up to four plants. And they will be allowed to give up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana products in solid form or 72 ounces of marijuana products in liquid form, to other individuals 21 and older; they can not be compensated or reimbursed for these transactions. Adults will be allowed to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana products in solid form or 72 ounces of marijuana products in liquid form from properly registered businesses. These limits are more permissive than those previously approved in Washington and Colorado, and may provide a model for other states to emulate.
Oregon and Alaska legalized and regulated the commercial production and sale of marijuana for adults, while voters residing in the nation’s capitol and in numerous other cities nationwide similarly decided this Election Day to eliminate marijuana possession penalties.
Voters in two states decided in favor of a pair of statewide measures to regulate the commercial production, retail sale, and personal use of marijuana by adults. Alaska and Oregon are the third and fourth states to enact regulations on the licensed production and sale of cannabis, joining Colorado and Washington. All four states have enacted their marijuana legalization laws via voter initiative.
Commenting on the new laws’ passage, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The majority of voters in these states, like a majority of voters nationwide, agree that a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults best reduces the risks associated with the plant’s use or potential abuse. Elected officials in Alaska, Oregon, and elsewhere should welcome the opportunity to bring these common sense and long overdue regulatory controls to the commercial cannabis market.”
Under the new Oregon proposal (Measure 91), adults who engage in the non-commercial cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis for personal use (up to four marijuana plants and eight ounces of usable marijuana at a given time) will not be subject to taxation or commercial regulations. Imposition of the new law will not “amend or affect in any way the function, duties, and powers of the Oregon Health Authority under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.” The legalization measure takes effect on July 1, 2015.
Under the Alaska measure (Ballot Measure 2), the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants for personal consumption will be legal and untaxed. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis will be subject to licensing and taxation. Since 1975, Alaskans have enjoyed personal privacy protections allowing for the possession and cultivation of small quantities of cannabis. However, state law has never before permitted a legal market for marijuana production and sales. The initiative becomes law 90 days after the election is certified, which is expected to be in late November.
In California, nearly 60 percent of voters backed Proposition 47, which defelonizes simple drug possession crimes, such as the possession of hashish. Under the measure, Californians with felony records for certain marijuana possession offenses will also be eligible to have their records expunged. Those serving time for felony drug offenses will also be able to petition for resentencing.
In the US territory Guam , 56 percent of voters decided in favor of Proposal 14A, the Compassionate Cannabis Use Act. The new law directs “the Department of Public Health and Social Services to regulate the use of marijuana as treatment for medical conditions.” The Department has up to nine months to provide rules for the territory’s medical marijuana program.
By contrast, a proposed Florida amendment (Amendment 2) fell shy of the 60 percent support threshold necessary in that state to amend the state’s constitution. Fifty-eight percent of Florida voters endorsed the measure, including supermajorities in most every age group except for those voters age 65 and older. Said NORML’s Deputy Director: “This vote wasn’t a rejection of medical marijuana in Florida, but rather an affirmation that most Floridians want patient access to cannabis therapy. NORML hopes that the Florida lawmakers will hear this message loud and clear and take action in 2015 on behalf of the will of the majority of the electorate.”
Municipal voters overwhelmingly decided in favor of depenalizing cannabis on Election Day. In Washington, DC, some 70 percent of District voters approved Initiative 71, which removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants. Adults who engage in not-for-profit transactions of small quantities of cannabis or who possess marijuana-related paraphernalia are also no longer be subject to penalty under this act.
Unlike legalization measures in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, I-71 does not establish a regulatory framework for the regulation of a commercial cannabis market. However, members of the DC City Council are currently considering separate legislation to regulate the commercial production and sale of marijuana to adults. (Because Washington, DC does not possess statehood, all District laws are subject to Congressional approval prior to their implementation.)
Voters in several Michigan cities, including Saginaw (population 51,000), Port Huron (30,000), and Berkley (15,000) also decided in favor of local ballot measures depenalizing offenses involving the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Michigan lawmakers are anticipated to debate a statewide decriminalization proposal in 2015.
Likewise, voters in South Portland, Maine approved a municipal ordinance eliminating local penalties in regard to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. Voters in Lewiston, Maine rejected a similar measure.
In New Mexico, voters in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties decided in favor of advisory questions in support of the decriminalization of one ounce or less of marijuana at a city, county and state level. Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties represent a third of the state’s population.
Finally, in Massachusetts, voters in several state representative districts voted in favor of various nonbinding public policy questions calling on state officials to legalize and regulate cannabis-related commerce.
Alaska voters approved Measure 2, to legalize and regulate marijuana, with 52% voting in favor (94% of the total vote counted as of writing). The state now joins Oregon and the District of Columbia in legalizing marijuana this election.
“This victory in Alaska is the coda to a perfect evening for marijuana legalization supporters,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “In a year where Republicans swept many state and local races, marijuana reform brought voters of both parties together in their support for ending marijuana prohibition. Lawmakers in Congress should recognize that a majority of Americans are ready to see marijuana legalized and regulated and should move to make substantial changes to federal law to reflect that reality.”
We will be posting a more in-depth look at what tonight’s results mean throughout the day tomorrow. Stay tuned.
At time of writing, 54.5% of the vote in Oregon has been counted and analysts and media outlets are calling it a victory for Oregon’s Measure 91 to legalize and regulate marijuana. With that amount counted, the totals are 55.1% YES to 44.9% NO.
“Oregon voters have delivered another crippling blow to the war on marijuana consumers,” NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri commented, “By a strong margin, Oregonians rejected the failed policy of prohibition and chose to pursue a new approach to marijuana, one that has so far been successful in Colorado and Washington and will prove successful in Washington, DC and now Oregon.”
We will be publishing much more detailed information about what this means for the state and what implementation will look like in the coming days. Stay posted.
With about 30% of the vote counted, analysts are calling it a win for Initiative 71 in Washington, DC to legalize marijuana possession. The current results are 68.6% YES and 31.4% NO.
“Voters in the nation’s capital have taken a strong stance against marijuana prohibition,” NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri said about the initiative’s approval, “This victory sends a resounding message to Congress that Americans are ready to legalize marijuana for adult use and, with it right in their backyard, it will be a message that is hard to ignore.”
We will update with final vote totals tomorrow. For now, let’s enjoy the wonderful symbolism of adult marijuana possession and limited home cultivation is legal in our capital.
The measure will now have to be transmitted to Congress and undergo a 30 day review period before implementation.
With 95% of the vote counted, analysts are projecting the amendment will end up with just a hair over 58% of the vote. While not enough to make it a part of Florida’s constitution, it was still a strong showing of support for medical marijuana in a campaign that faced unfriendly voter demographics and a very well funded opposition campaign.
“By no means is this a rejection of medical marijuana in Florida, as the results show that a strong majority of Floridians support it,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “We hope state lawmakers will honor voters wishes in 2015 and act to pass medical marijuana legislation. This was a hostile climate for us and an ideal one for them, that they only got 43% of voters to agree to maintain prohibition of medical marijuana is more a defeat for them than us.”
Get the latest updates from the 2014 elections in our live blog below! Blog auto-updates, so please don’t spam refresh, our servers thank you. – NORML Team
You can read the details of the measure here. When implemented, it would allow patients in Guam to obtain a recommendation for medical marijuana from their physician and purchase marijuana from approved dispensary locations.
Stay tuned to NORML Blog for the latest on the 2014 Marijuana Midterm. Live coverage will begin this evening.
Tomorrow is Election Day and voters across the country will be faced with measures regarding marijuana law reform and some difficult legislative races. To help keep you on top of all the upcoming votes, we are issuing this helpful primer on what races to watch as the results begin to roll in. Don’t forget, we will be running live election coverage right here on blog.norml.org all night, so check back in tomorrow evening to stay on top of all the breaking exit polls, news stories, and official results. Don’t forget to get out and cast your ballot, click here if you need help finding your polling place and other voting information.
On the Ballot:
Voters in three states and in numerous municipalities, including Washington, DC, will decide this Election Day on ballot measures seeking to significantly amend marijuana laws.
Voters in Alaska will decide on Ballot Measure 2, which seeks to legalize the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants for personal consumption. The measure would also allow for the establishment of licensed, commercial cannabis production and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products to those over the age of 21. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis would be subject to taxation, but no taxes would be imposed upon those who choose to engage in non-commercial activities (e.g., growing small quantities of marijuana for personal use and/or engaging in not-for-profit transfers of limited quantities of cannabis.) Public consumption of cannabis would be subject to a civil fine.
Voters in California will decide on Proposition 47, which seeks to reduce penalties for various drug possession crimes, including offenses involving the possession of hashish or other concentrated forms of cannabis.
Voters in Florida will decide on a constitutional amendment (Amendment 2) that would permit physicians the discretion to authorize cannabis therapy to their patients. The measure would also direct the state Department of Health to establish regulations for the establishment of licensed medical cannabis cultivators and dispensaries. Under the proposal, authorized patients would not be permitted to cultivate their own marijuana. Because the proposal seeks to amend the Florida state constitution, it requires the support of more than 60 percent of voters in order for passage.
Voters in Oregon will decide on Measure 91, which seeks to regulate the commercial production, retail sale, and personal use of marijuana by adults. Adults who engage in the non-commercial cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis for personal use (up to four marijuana plants and eight ounces of usable marijuana at a given time) will not be subject to taxation or commercial regulations. Passage of the initiative would not “amend or affect in any way the function, duties, and powers of the Oregon Health Authority under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.”
Citizens residing in the US territory Guam will decide on Proposal 14A, the Compassionate Cannabis Use Act. If approved by voters, the measure would “direct the Department of Public Health and Social Services to regulate the use of marijuana as treatment for medical conditions.” The Department would have up to nine months following the law’s passage to provide rules for the territory’s medical marijuana program.
In the District of Columbia, voters will decide on Initiative 71, which would remove criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants. Adults who engage in not-for-profit transactions of small quantities of cannabis or who possess marijuana-related paraphernalia would also no longer be subject to penalty under this act. The measure would not establish a regulatory framework for the regulation of a commercial cannabis market. Because Washington, DC does not possess statehood, all District laws are subject to Congressional approval prior to their implementation.
In Maine, voters in the cities of Lewiston and South Portland will decide on municipal measures eliminating local penalties in regard to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis.
In Massachusetts, voters in eight select districts in the state will decide on non-binding public policy questions asking, “Shall the State Representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow the state to regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol?” There will also be several other ballot questions regarding the legalization of marijuana in other locations, you can read about these in-depth here and here.
In Michigan, voters in eleven cities – Berkley, Clare, Frankfort, Harrison, Huntington Woods, Lapeer, Mt. Pleasant, Onaway, Pleasant Ridge, Port Huron, and Saginaw – will decide on local ballot measures seeking to depenalize minor marijuana possession offenses by adults.
In New Mexico, voters in Bernalillo will decide on a non-binding countywide ballot measure asking citizens whether to reduce minor marijuana possession offenses from a criminal misdemeanor to a fine-only, civil offense.
Voters in several additional cities in California and Colorado will also decide on Election Day on various measures specific to marijuana cultivation, taxation, and dispensing. Washington state voters will also decide on an advisory measure (Advisory Vote No. 8) in regard to agricultural tax preferences for the marijuana industry.
NORML PAC Candidates:
The NORML Political Action Committee has made endorsements of candidates in a variety of states. View the below list to see if a NORML PAC endorsed candidate will be on the ballot in your state:US House of Representatives
- Representative Alan Grayson for Congress (FL-9)
- Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman for Congress (NJ-12)
- Rep. Earl Blumenauer for Congress (OR-03)
- Rep. Steve Cohen for Congress (TN-9)
- Rep. Beto O’Rourke for Congress (TX-16)
- Rep. Denny Heck for Congress (WA-10)
- Rep. Diane Russell for Maine State Representative (LD 39)
- Paul Zukerberg for Attorney General (DC)
- Mark Cohen for Pennsylvania State House (District 202)
Be sure to stay tuned to blog.norml.org for coverage all Election Day, including a live blog in the evening as the results begin pouring in. Most importantly, don’t forget to get to your local polling place and SMOKE THE VOTE!
This column is being written a couple of days prior to the November 4th election, and will be published on Monday, Nov. 3, election eve. So it only seems appropriate to offer my prognosis on the four statewide marijuana-related voter initiatives, as well as a number of municipal voter initiatives in Michigan and Maine.
Our Opponents Claim the Sky Is Falling
Before setting out on this dangerous endeavor of projecting election results, I should acknowledge the emergence of a seemingly re-energized gang of drug warriors, still willing to exploit fear and misinformation to justify the continued criminal prohibition of marijuana, and to protect their jobs. Our opponents were clearly caught somewhat off-guard by the legalization victories in 2012 in Colorado and Washington, despite their opposition. These smug law-enforcement and drug counseling industry reps had grown accustomed to their ability to shape the public debate over marijuana policy, and to paint anyone who favored the option of legalizing and regulating marijuana as being out of the political mainstream.
But their sleight-of-hand had finally been detected by a majority of Americans, who concluded that marijuana prohibition is a failed and destructive public policy, causing far more harm than the use of marijuana itself. Fear mongering can sometimes work when the audience is ill-informed; but falls flat when people are well-informed.
United States District Judge Kimberly Mueller heard testimony over the course of the past five days in regard to the constitutionality of the federal statute designating marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. At issue in this evidentiary hearing is whether the scientific literature provides a rational basis for the federal classification of the plant as a substance with “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use,” and a “lack of accepted safety” for use under medical supervision.
The federal government’s position was articulated in testimony provided by Dr. Bertha Madras, Professor of Psychobiology at Harvard Medical School and the former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush.
Expert witnesses for the defense who testified at the hearing were Dr. Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University in New York City, retired physician Phillip Denny, Dr. Greg Carter, Medical Director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington, and marijuana cultivation expert and archivist Chris Conrad.
Defense counsel for the litigants were NORML Legal Committee members Zenia Gilg of San Francisco and Heather Burke of Nevada City, CA. I assisted attorneys Gilg and Burke as a consultant in the case prior to the hearing and as their principle investigator during the hearing — a point that the federal government’s attorneys insisted on making public on Wednesday by insisting the judge recognize that: “Defense counsels’ investigator is the Deputy Director of NORML; he’s not some ordinary investigator.”
Representatives from California NORML as well as writer Jeremy Daw of TheLeafOnline were in attendance during the hearing and provide day-by-day coverage of events on their respective websites and at the links below. Dr. Madras was cross-examined both Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.
A ruling by Judge Mueller is not anticipated until after the first of the year.
NORML PAC is endorsing Representative Alan Grayson in his campaign to be re-elected to the US Congress representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District.
“Representative Grayson is a proven leader with a track record of tenaciously advocating for causes he believes in and building the necessary coalitions required to see them approved,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “In 2015, Rep. Grayson wants to be a champion for marijuana law reform at the national level and we’d strongly encourage voters in his district to vote him in for another term.”
This year, Rep. Grayson joined many of his colleagues in the House in voting in favor of amendments that would have prevented the Department of Justice and DEA from expending funds interfering with state medical marijuana programs and help clear the way for marijuana businesses to have access to banking and credit card services.
“There are few lawmakers, at either the state or federal level, that have exhibited the same level of passion and commitment to the responsible regulation and legalization of marijuana for adults as Rep. Diane Russell,” state NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Voters in her district should elect her to another term so she can continue to fight for an end to the state’s prohibition of marijuana, a battle she is uniquely equipped for as one of the country’s strongest champions of reform.”
Rep. Russell has been the lead sponsor of measures that would legalize and regulate marijuana in Maine every year since 2011, and she intends to reintroduce a similar measure in 2015. She was also a key proponent of Portland’s 2013 vote to legalize adult marijuana possession in the city.
Commenting on the endorsement, Rep. Russell said, “NORML has been so supportive of our work here in Maine to responsibly legalize marijuana, and it’s an honor to have their endorsement this year.”
You can learn more about Rep. Diane Russell’s campaign by following her on Facebook here.
NORML PAC is endorsing Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman in her campaign to be elected to the United States Congress representing the 12th Congressional District in New Jersey.
“Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has been a proponent of reforming New Jersey’s marijuana laws during her time in Trenton. She voted in support of legalizing medical marijuana in New Jersey, co-sponsored legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana in the garden state, and supports a move to the legalization and regulation of marijuana,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “Voters in New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District should vote to send her to Congress where she will be a great asset in pursuing reform at the national level.”
Bonnie Watson Coleman was named by MSNBC as one of the 30 women candidates to watch in 2014 and was named one of the top five female pro-marijuana candidates in Freedom Leaf Magazine.
The marijuana voter initiative that is almost guaranteed to pass on November 4th is DC Initiative 71, the “Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014.” However, as we will discuss, it is far from certain when the provisions of this proposal will take effect.
Readers should first understand that the District of Columbia is not a state; rather it is a special district created in 1790 by Congress from land along the Potomac River, formerly part of the states of Maryland and Virginia, as the seat of our national government. In 1973 the Congress gave the District a limited form of local control, called the Home Rule Charter, which provides for an elected mayor and City Council, which have the authority to enact and enforce local laws. However, any legislation passed by the City Council is reviewable by the Congress, which has 60 legislative days (when Congress is actually in session) to review and amend or reject the proposed legislation. Those same limitations apply to voter initiatives enacted in the District. In addition, under the Home Rule Charter, voter initiatives may not mandate the expenditure of city funds.
That background is necessary to understand the limited nature of the legalization proposal currently on the ballot for DC voters.
What Initiative 71 Would Do
Initiative 71, sponsored by the DC Cannabis Campaign, would eliminate all criminal and civil penalties for adults, making it legal to:
possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use;
grow no more than six cannabis plants (with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants) within the person’s principal residence;
transfer without payment (but not sell) up to one ounce of marijuana to another person 21 years of age or older; and
use or sell drug paraphernalia for the use, growing or processing of marijuana or cannabis.
Initiative 71 does not attempt to establish legal marijuana dispensaries, as that would run afoul of the home rule prohibition on voter initiatives mandating the expenditure of city funds. And it does not protect marijuana smokers against job discrimination, nor alter the child custody issues pertaining to the use of marijuana or the DUID laws in the District.
Moderate cannabis consumption by young people is not positively associated with changes in intelligence quotient (IQ), according to data presented this week at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual congress in Berlin, Germany.
Investigators at the University College of London analyzed data from 2,612 subjects who had their IQ tested at the age of eight and again at age 15. They reported no relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ at age 15 when confounding factors such as subjects’ history of alcohol use and cigarette use were taken into account.
“In particular alcohol use was found to be strongly associated with IQ decline,” the authors wrote in a press release cited by The Washington Post. “No other factors were found to be predictive of IQ change.”
Quoted in the Independent Business Times, the study’s lead author said: “Our findings suggest cannabis may not have a detrimental effect on cognition, once we account for other related factors particularly cigarette and alcohol use. This may suggest that previous research findings showing poorer cognitive performance in cannabis users may have resulted from the lifestyle, behavior and personal history typically associated with cannabis use, rather than cannabis use itself.”
The investigators acknowledged that more chronic marijuana use, defined in the study as a subject’s admission of having consumed cannabis 50 times or more by age 15, was correlated with slightly poorer exam results at the age of 16 — even after controlling for other variables. However, investigators admitted: “It’s hard to know what causes what. Do kids do badly at school because they are smoking weed, or do they smoke weed because they’re doing badly?”
Commenting on the newly presented data, the meeting’s Chair, Guy Goodwin, from the University of Oxford, told BBC News: “This is a potentially important study because it suggests that the current focus on the alleged harms of cannabis may be obscuring the fact that its use is often correlated with that of other even more freely available drugs and possibly lifestyle factors.”
In a recent review published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the NIDA Director Nora Volkow alleged that cannabis use, particularly by adolescents, is associated with brain alterations and lower IQ. However, the IQ study cited by Ms. Volkow as the basis of her claim was later questioned in a separate analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That paper suggested that socioeconomics, not subjects’ cannabis use, was responsible for differences in IQ and that the plant’s “true effect [on intelligence quotient] could be zero.”
A previous assessment of cannabis use and its potential impact on intelligence quotient in a cohort of young people tracked since birth reported, “[M]arijuana does not have a long-term negative impact on global intelligence.”
Federal District Court Judge Asks: Should Federal Law Classify Cannabis As One Of The Nation’s Most Dangerous Drugs?
Testimony regarding the constitutionality of the federal statute designating marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance will be taken on Monday, October 27 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in the case of United States v. Pickard, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM.
Members of Congress initially categorized cannabis as a Schedule I substance, the most restrictive classification available, in 1970. Under this categorization, the plant is defined as possessing “a high potential for abuse, … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, … [and lacking] accepted safety for … use … under medical supervision.”
Expert witnesses for the defense – including Drs. Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University in New York City, retired physician Phillip Denny, and Greg Carter, Medical Director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington – will testify that the accepted science is inconsistent with the notion that cannabis meets these Schedule I criteria.
“[I]t is my considered opinion that including marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is counter to all the scientific evidence in a society that uses and values empirical evidence,” Dr. Hart declared. “After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”
The government intends to call Bertha Madras, Ph.D., Professor of Psychobiology at Harvard Medical School and the former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush.
Additional evidence has been presented by way of declarations by Marine Sgt. Ryan Begin, a veteran of the Iraq War; Jennie Stormes, the mother of a child suffering from Dravet Syndrome – a pediatric form of epilepsy that has been shown in preliminary trials to respond to specific compounds in the cannabis plant; James Nolan, Ph.D. an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at West Virginia University and a former crime analyst for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Christopher Conrad, noted cannabis author, archivist, and cultivation expert.
This is the first time in recent memory that a federal judge has granted an evidentiary hearing on a motion challenging the statute which classifies cannabis to be one of the most dangerous illicit substances in the nation. Attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke, both members of the NORML Legal Committee, contend that the federal government’s present policies facilitating the regulated distribution of cannabis in states such as Colorado and Washington can not be reconciled with the insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.
They write: “In effect, the action taken by the Department of Justice is either irrational, or more likely proves the assertions made in Part I (B) of this Brief: marijuana does not fit the criteria of a Schedule I Controlled Substance.”
Speaking recently in a taped interview with journalist Katie Couric, United States Attorney General Eric Holder expressed the need to revisit cannabis’ Schedule I placement under federal law. Holder said, “[T]he question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that I think we need to ask ourselves, and use science as the basis for making that determination.”
The testimonial part of the evidentiary hearing in United States v. Pickard, et. al., is expected to last three days.
On November 4, Florida voters will have the opportunity to vote on an amendment to their state constitution, Amendment 2, to establish a medical marijuana program in that state. This vote is especially important as it would be the first southern state to legalize medical use, and would likely encourage other states in the region to take a serious look at the use of marijuana as a medicine for seriously ill patients.
Why A Constitutional Amendment?
Fearful that the conservative Republican state legislature would have passed legislation overriding such a change, if it were simply a state law changed by voter initiative, People United for Medical Marijuana, the sponsor of this proposal, elected to try to include the policy changes as an amendment to the state constitution. Amendment 2, the Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions initiative, must therefore receive 60 percent of votes cast to be enacted as a constitutional amendment, a high goal and a real challenge for any proposal to meet. That decision is one that may be instructive for future voter initiatives, with most polls currently showing we will win a majority of votes, but likely less than 60 percent.