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Working to reform marijuana laws
Updated: 4 min 25 sec ago
Nearly nine out of ten Florida voters support legalizing the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and a majority of Floridians support allowing adults to possess the plant for any purpose, according to the results of a statewide Quinnipiac University poll released today.
Fifty-five percent of voters support “allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Only 41 percent of respondents opposed the idea.
Voters between the age of 18 and 29 (72 percent), Democrats (64 percent), and men (61 percent) were most likely to endorse legalization, while and Republicans (41 percent) and respondents over the age of 65 (36 percent) were least likely to do so.
When asked whether patients ought to be able to access cannabis for medicinal purposes, public support rose to 88 percent, including super-majority support from respondents of all age groups and political affiliations. Seventy-one percent of respondents also expressed support for the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries in their neighborhoods.
This November, Florida voters will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment (Amendment 2) that seeks to legalize and regulate the dispensing of cannabis to authorized patients. Because the measure seeks to amend the state constitution, 60 percent of voters must decide in favor of it before it may be enacted.
The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.
In the early years of the marijuana legalization movement, pro-pot events in the same vein of the Civil Rights Movement’s lunch counter “sit-ins” occurred. These cannabis community events were called “smoke-ins,” a reference to the crowd of individuals willing to risk arrest and jail by protesting marijuana prohibition. The smoke-ins were intended as an exercise of one’s First Amendment right to publicly protest unjust policies.
While public smoking was never a regular NORML tactic, I did occasionally attend an event organized by others, including the 1977 July 4th Coalition in Washington, D.C., where I spoke in Lafayette Park across from the White House on more than one occasion. Surprisingly, even in D.C. in the 70s, most of us discovered we were safe smoking in the middle of a big crowd without being hassled by the police. Law enforcement lingered on the fringes of the event, observing the smoke-in and making sure nothing got out of hand; but there were few arrests, and those mostly involved attendees who had the bad fortune of smoking too close to the edge of the crowd, where they could be singled-out. I suppose we should have been paranoid about lighting up in public, but our idealism overruled our good sense. And all of us felt empowered by this act of civil-disobedience.
Tomorrow’s Sunday New York Times’ editorial calling for an end to cannabis prohibition in America, affirms in my mind, after nearly twenty four years publicly advocating for cannabis law reforms at NORML, the end of cannabis prohibition in our nation is nearly upon the rest of the country (beyond Colorado and Washington State, where cannabis is taxed and regulated like alcohol products for responsible adult use). This is the same editorial board and opinions page that would with great frequency in the 1980s/90s publish some of the most stridently pro-cannabis prohibition editorials and columns found anywhere in the world, let alone from the urbane and ‘liberal’ New York Times, led by ardent cannabis foe, former editor and columnist A.M. Rosenthal.
Also included, informative editorial writing and excellent up-to-date map of all of the variations on cannabis law reform that have happened at the state level, putting evermore upward political pressure on the federal government to both end cannabis prohibition and severely down schedule the herbal drug.
Lastly, the dramatic change in Americans’ public attitude in favor of ending cannabis prohibition is well documented here.
A great sign of the times…the multidimensional pro-reform editorial ends with this nod to cannabis culture: On Monday at 4:20 p.m. Eastern Time, Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, will be taking questions about marijuana legalization at facebook.com/nytimes.
Andrew Rosenthal…the son of A.M. Rosenthal.
Times in America regarding cannabis have changed, and, accordingly, so too has the New York Times.
Oregon voters will decide this November in favor of a statewide initiative to regulate the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana.
The proposed ballot initiative (Initiative Petition 53) seeks to regulate the personal possession, commercial cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Taxes on the commercial sale of cannabis under the plan are estimated to raise some $88 million in revenue in the first two years following the law’s implementation. 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.”
A statewide Survey USA poll released in June reported that 51 percent of Oregon adults support legalizing the personal use of marijuana. Forty-one percent of respondents, primarily Republicans and older voters, oppose the idea. The poll did not survey respondents as to whether they specifically supported the proposed 2014 initiative.
Alaska voters will decide on a similar legalization initiative in November. Florida voters will also decide in November on a constitutional amendment to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis therapy.
Now that America has some form of legalization in 23 states and the District of Columbia, activists must reevaluate those state’s laws to refine the details of their legalization systems. There are three distinct areas in which cannabis laws need clarification and evolution: employment issues, child custody issues, and DUID charges. This week, I will discuss the important area of employment discrimination.
First, let’s be clear: no one should go to work in an impaired condition, regardless of what drug is involved. It’s not fair to the employer or to one’s fellow employees, and may well constitute a safety risk. Also, some jobs are so sensitive that it may well be good public policy to require a zero tolerance policy towards all drug use. Certain jobs in the nuclear energy field, for example, or jobs in which an employee is working around nuclear weapons or flammable material fall into this category. Some risks are simply too great to allow even occasional drug use of any kind, whether it’s cannabis or alcohol.
But most jobs are not. They require a sober individual who can responsibly and safely perform their job. Whether they smoked a joint over the weekend, or even the night before, has no impact on the workers’ ability to perform their jobs in a safe and responsible manner.
A new District ordinance reducing marijuana possession penalties to a $25.00 fine-only violation goes into effect at midnight tonight.
Washington, DC City Council members overwhelmingly approved the legislation, entitled “The Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act,” this past spring. The measure amends District law involving the possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a civil violation (punishable by a $25.00 fine, no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record).
Offenses involving the public consumption of cannabis remain classified as a criminal misdemeanor under DC law, punishable by up to six-months in jail and a $500 fine. The possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia will be re-classified as a violation, not a criminal offense.
An analysis published by the American Civil Liberties Union reported that the District possesses the highest percentage of marijuana possession arrests per capita in the nation.
The District’s $25.00 fine-only measure is similar to existing ‘decriminalization’ laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.
Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.
Three states — Alaska, Colorado, and Washington — impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.
This afternoon, the House of Representatives voted 231 to 192 in favor of the Heck-Perlmutter-Lee-Rohrabacher Amendment, which will restrict Treasury Department and SEC funds from being spent to penalize financial institutions for providing services to marijuana related business that operate according to state law. This proposal amends H.R. 5016, a spending bill for fiscal year 2015 that funds the Internal Revenue Service, Treasury Department, and Securities and Exchange Commission.
The amendment reads:
“None of the funds made available in this Act may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, or Wisconsin or the District of Columbia, to prohibit, penalize, or otherwise discourage a financial institution from providing financial services to an entity solely because the entity is a manufacturer, producer, or person that participates in any business or organized activity that involves handling marijuana or marijuana products and engages in such activity pursuant to a law established by a State or a unit of local government.”
This vote comes on the heels of another recent historic vote in the House of Representatives, that restricted Department of Justice and DEA funds from being used to interfere in state approved medical marijuana programs. That measure is still awaiting action in the US Senate. This measure, HR 5106, will now be sent to the Senate as well.
“The recent votes in the House of Representatives demonstrate bi-partisan support at the federal level to allow states to experiment with new marijuana policies, free from federal interference,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “If implemented, this amendment will help alter the current untenable status quo that forces otherwise law abiding businesses to operate on a cash only basis, making them a target for criminal actions and unduly burdening their operations.”
More than six out of ten Americans – including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – support the regulation and retail sale of marijuana in Colorado, according to the findings of a nationwide HuffPost.com/YouGov poll released today.
Colorado voters in 2012 approved a statewide initiative legalizing the personal consumption and cultivation of the plant. The measure also allows for the state-licensed commercial production and retail sales of cannabis to those over the age of 21. Commercial cannabis sales began on January 1st of this year. To date, these sales have generated nearly $11 million in tax revenue.
Sixty-one percent of Americans – including 68 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Independents, and 52 percent of Republicans – say they “support” Colorado’s efforts to regulate the commercial cannabis market. Only 27 percent of respondents oppose the Colorado law.
Respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 (65 percent) as well as those age 65 and older (64 percent) were most likely to support Colorado’s efforts, while those between the ages of 45 to 65 (55 percent) were less likely to do so.
The results of a separate poll of Colorado voters commissioned by Quinnipiac University in April similarly reported that most Coloradoans support the state’s efforts to regulate marijuana sales and consumption.
Similarly licensed commercial retail sales of cannabis began last week in Washington state.
In response to a separate HuffPost/YouGov poll question, 54 percent of those surveyed said that the US government should not enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states that have legalized and regulated the plant. Only 29 percent of respondents endorsed the notion of enforcing federal prohibition in states that are pursuing alternative regulatory schemes.
“Every day in America, hundreds of thousands of people engage in transactions involving the recreational use of marijuana, but only in two states – Colorado and Washington – do these transactions take place in a safe, above-ground, state-licensed facility where consumers must show proof of age, the product sold is of known quality, and the sales are taxed in a manner to help fund necessary state and local services,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Not surprisingly, most Americans prefer to have cannabis regulated in this sort of legal setting as opposed to an environment where the plant’s production and sale is entirely unregulated and those who consume it are stigmatized and classified as criminals.”
Complete poll results are available online here.
In a Statement of Administration Policy, released today, President Obama’s administration took a firm stance against recent efforts by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) to restrict the District of Columbia from using any of its funds towards reducing the penalties for, or legalizing, marijuana for recreational use.
The memo states that “the Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally- passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States rights and of District home rule. Furthermore, the language poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department’s enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District.”
“It is encouraging to see the White House stand up for DC’s right to pursue the reformation of their marijuana laws,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Prohibition is a failed policy and we are pleased to see President Barack Obama beginning to act in accordance with the view of an overwhelming majority of Americans that states and localities should be free to pursue new approaches to marijuana, free from federal incursion.”
You can read the full text of the memo here.
You can click here to quickly and easily contact your elected officials and encourage them to oppose this amendment.
NORML has been fighting for nearly half a century to replace our nation’s overreaching, under-serving and (by any objective measure) disastrous marijuana laws with a sensible, regulated retail system – and in 2014, real change is finally upon us. The effective launch of Colorado and Washington State’s new cannabis market is a clear indication that the days of prohibition are numbered. Marijuana is now a true commercial commodity, and with that comes a new set of standards – the likes of which the industry, and the movement have never seen before.
As a result of the commercialization of this new industry, NORML is pleased to announce the launch of the NORML Business Network, a new initiative seeking to bridge consumer advocacy with the cannabis industry. The Network will be collaborating with marijuana companies and ancillary businesses that are committed to using their enterprise as a positive example of corporate social responsibility, and a platform for ending marijuana prohibition nationwide. The NORML Business Network has already partnered with Weedmaps, Marijuana.com and High Times Magazine to further promote this initiative, and to highlight other members of the NORML Business Network through their various mediums.
The NORML Business Network is a selective, industry focused, membership-based program that advocates for high industry standards, and using business as a force for change. The Network’s mission is to empower the market early on to become invested in creating a culture of self-regulation, and to encourage entities to adopt a socially conscious corporate model that integrates the interests of their customers and communities into the fabric of their business’ DNA. Similar to that of the Better Business Bureau, stores or products that carry the NORML Business Partner seal confirms that they are operating a “values-driven” enterprise, and are active supporters of marijuana law reform nationwide. NORML Business Partners will be required to meet certain criteria, including various market and industry qualifiers such as testing, labeling, environmental sustainability, fair wages, decent pricing and special discounts for certain populations such as seniors and veterans.
The cannabis industry is under more scrutiny than any other developing market has ever been, and it is critical for all stakeholders to remain cognizant of this enduring challenge. The public as well as lawmakers will be watching closely at how these new policies in Colorado and Washington affect the communities and environments of those states, and beyond their borders. How retail marijuana unfolds in these early years will determine the future course of legalization nationwide.
As a consumer advocacy nonprofit, NORML is dedicated to identifying and protecting all new and evolving stakeholder interests – while also continuing on the path to legalization nationwide. The organization recognizes that the implementation of Colorado and Washington State’s commercial retail cannabis market have permanently changed the scope of the consumer advocacy debate, and the NORML Business Network is a natural evolution for the forty-five year old organization. The evolution of this burgeoning industry is creating entirely new legal and logistical challenges, which call for new standards and industry accountability – and NORML will continue to advocate for consumer’s interests under a legal regime.
“We want to recognize the positive impact these marijuana businesses are having on their communities by highlighting those who go above and beyond the letter of the law in an effort to align their economic benefits alongside the interests of their customers and communities,” said Sabrina Fendrick, NORML’s Director of Strategic Partnerships.
The NORML Business Network will promote these good corporate citizens to a national audience, media, elected official and the public safety community, amplifying their work as positive examples of the marijuana industry. This in turn will help solidify the integrity of legalization as public policy, and ensure the sustainability of the industry as reform takes root nationwide. For more information visit www.norml.org/business.
I’m sometimes asked how a midwestern farm-boy ended up starting a marijuana smokers’ lobby. I had been raised in the 1950s in southern Illinois by southern Baptist parents, and there was nothing in that environment that would cause one to challenge authority or attempt to change the prevailing cultural values.
But then came the Vietnam War. Like many young men of my generation who came of age during that war, I had been radicalized by the war, or more specifically, by the threat of being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam, a war few of us understood and even fewer wanted to die for (58,000 Americans eventually died in Vietnam). My primary focus at the time was avoiding the war in any way possible – a “draft dodger” was the derogatory term used for those of us who did not wish to serve.
Back then, before the draft lottery had even been established, all young men, by the time they were 18 years of age, were required to register for the draft, and unless they were a full-time student, were promptly inducted. So many of us stayed in school for as long as possible, but we remained subject to the draft until we turned 27 years of age. So when I graduated law school in 1968 at 25, I immediately received my draft notice, passed my physical, and was only two weeks away from my report date, when, with the help of some dedicated lawyers working with the National Lawyers’ Guild, I managed to get what was called a critical-skills deferment, that allowed me to spend my two years working at a presidential commission in Washington, DC, instead of getting shot in Vietnam.
Washington, DC: Marijuana Initiative Backers Turn In 57,000 Signatures For Proposed 2014 District Ballot Measure
Proponents of a District initiative to permit the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana by those age 21 or older have turned in 57,000 signatures to the DC Board of Elections. The total is more the twice the number of signatures from registered voters necessary to place the measure on the 2014 electoral ballot.
District of Columbia election officials will meet in mid-August to certify the measure for the ballot.
The proposed ballot initiative (Initiative Measure 71) seeks to remove all criminal and civil penalties in regard to the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants (no more than three mature).
Nearly two out of three District residents favor legalizing the possession and use of marijuana by adults, according to a January 2014 Washington Post poll.
Even if approved by District voters this fall, members of the DC City Council still possess the authority to amend the measure. Members of Congress could also potentially halt the law’s implementation. Federal lawmakers possess oversight regarding the implementation of all District laws.
This spring, DC city council members approved legislation reducing minor marijuana possession offenses to a $25 civil fine. That ordinance is scheduled to take effect later this month. However, federal legislation seeking to undermine this measure is presently pending in the US House of Representatives.
Washington’s first state-licensed retail cannabis operators opened for business this morning.
The state’s Liquor Control Board issued 24 marijuana retailer licenses late last week. (Under state regulations, the Board may issue up to 334 licenses to retail facilities.) Of those, six opened for business today – the first day legal sales were permissible – according to the Associated Press.
Retail sale prices for a gram of cannabis ranged from $10 to $20 per gram on opening day, according to news reports. Prices are expected to fall once additional retailers open and once existing retailers obtain additional supplies of the product.
Similar state-licensed stores have been operating in Colorado since January 1.
Voters in both states in 2012 approved ballot measures regulating the commercial production, retail sale, and adult use of cannabis.
Said NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri: “Every day in America, hundreds of thousands of people engage in transactions involving the recreational use of marijuana, but only in two states – Colorado and Washington – do these transactions take place in a safe, above-ground, state-licensed facility where consumers must show proof of age, the product sold is of known quality, and the sales are taxed in a manner to help fund necessary state and local services.”
The temptation is to celebrate the enormous progress we have made over the last few years by legalizing marijuana for medical use in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Even more importantly, we’ve legalized marijuana for all adults in Colorado and Washington.
Thus, it’s easy to presume we’re getting near the finish line in this decades long struggle to legalize marijuana.
But that would be both presumptuous and premature.
The reality is that marijuana smokers remain the target of aggressive and misguided law enforcement activities in most states today. They read about the newly-won freedoms in a handful of states, and dream of the day when their state laws will become more tolerant; but they are still being busted in large numbers and have to worry that that next knock on the door may be the police with a search warrant, about to destroy their homes and wreck their lives, looking for a little weed.
Proponents of a statewide initiative to regulate the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana have turned in 145,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. The total is almost twice the number of signatures from registered voters necessary to place the measure on the 2014 electoral ballot.
State officials have until August 2 to verify the signatures.
The proposed ballot initiative (Initiative Petition 53) seeks to regulate the personal possession (up to eight ounces), commercial cultivation, and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Taxes on the commercial sale of cannabis under the plan are estimated to raise some $88 million in revenue in the first two years following the law’s implementation. Adults who engage in the non-commercial cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis (up to four plants) for personal use will not be subject to taxation.
A statewide Survey USA poll released last month reported that 51 percent of Oregon adults support legalizing the personal use of marijuana. Forty-one percent of respondents, primarily Republicans and older voters, oppose the idea. The poll did not survey respondents as to whether they specifically supported the proposed 2014 initiative.
Alaska voters will decide on a similar legalization initiative in November. Polling data shows that 55 percent of registered voters back the plan, while 39 percent oppose it. Florida voters will also decide in November on a constitutional amendment to allow for the physician-authorized use of cannabis therapy. A May 2014 Quinnipiac University poll reported that Floridians support permitting physicians to authorize medical marijuana to patients by a margin of 88 percent to 10 percent.
Washington’s first wave of state-licensed cannabis retail stores are anticipated to open for business next week. Initiative 502, approved by a majority of voters in November 2012, authorizes the establishment of state-licensed cannabis producers and retail sellers.
The state’s Liquor Control Board is expected to begin issuing licenses on Monday, July 7. An estimated 20 retail stores are anticipated to open their doors later in the week. Similar state-sanction stores have been operating in Colorado since January 1.
With only a small number of stores likely to be operational at first, regulators anticipate that consumers’ demand for legal cannabis may initially outpace supply. In Colorado, retailers struggled initially to meet consumer demand, resulting in temporarily inflated retail prices for cannabis. Prices have steadily fallen in Colorado as additional retailers have opened for business.
Since the passage of Initiative 502, police filings for low-level marijuana offenses have fallen from over 5,000 annual arrests to just over one hundred.
[UPDATE: Here is a list (c/o of the Seattle Post Intelligencer) of the first 24 state-licensed stores:
WHIDBEY ISLAND CANNABIS COMPANY — 5826 S KRAMER RD STE, Langley
WESTSIDE420 RECREATIONAL — 4503 OCEAN BEACH HWY, Longview
VERDE VALLEY — 4007 MAIN ST, Union Gap
TOP SHELF CANNABIS – 3857 HANNEGAN RD, Bellingham
THE HAPPY CROP SHOPPE — 50 ROCK ISLAND RD, East Wenatchee
SPOKANE GREEN LEAF — 9107 N COUNTRY HOMES BLVD, Spokane
SPACE – 3111 S PINE ST, Tacoma
SATORI/INSTANT KARMA — 9301 N DIVISION ST, Spokane
NEW VANSTERDAM — 6515 E. MILL PLAIN BLVD, Vancouver
MARGIE’S POT SHOP — 405 E STUEBEN, Bingen
MAIN STREET MARIJUNA — 2314 MAIN ST, Vancouver
HIGH TIME STATION — 1448 BASIN ST NW, Ephrata
GREEN THEORY — 10697 MAIN ST STE B, Bellevue
GREEN STAR CANNABIS — 1403 N DIVISION ST, Spokane
FREEDOM MARKET — 820A WESTSIDE HWY, Kelso
CREATIVE RETAIL MANAGEMENT — 7046 PACIFIC AVE,Tacoma
CASCADE KROPZ — 19129 SMOKEY POINT BLVD, Arlington
CANNABIS CITY — 2733 4TH AVE S, Seattle
BUD HUT — 1123 E STATE ROUTE 532, Camano Island
AUSTIN LOTT — 29 HORIZON FLATS RD, Winthrop
ALTITUDE – 260 MERLOT DR, Prosser
4US RETAIL — 23251 HWY 20, Okanogan
420 CARPENTER — 422 CARPENTER RD, Lacey
2020 SOLUTIONS – 2018 IRON ST, Bellingham]
July 1st 2014 marked the 6 month anniversary of the launch of Colorado’s great social experiment – the legalization and regulation of marijuana for all adults age 21 and over. News coverage of the state’s highly scrutinized, yet burgeoning retail cannabis industry has been lukewarm, but a review of the last six months shows that (although inconclusive in its early stages) this policy has not only failed to cause the reefer madness social breakdown predicted by prohibitionists, it appears that this new industry is starting to positively impact the state and its communities.
Colorado is projected to save tens of millions of dollars in law enforcement expenses this year. Job opportunities continue to open up and revenue is expected grow at an unprecedented rate – a significant portion of which has already been allocated to public schools and education programs.Below are five positive social and economic developments that can be attributed to Colorado’s 6-month old retail cannabis market: - $69,527,760 in retail marijuana pot sales. -10,000 people working in the marijuana industry(1,000-2,000 gaining employment in last few months) - 5.2% decrease in violent crime in the city of Denver. - No Colorado stores found selling to minors. - $10.8 million in tax revenue (not including licensing fees)
All in all, these first few months have shown in practice that the benefits of legalization significantly outweigh those of prohibition, both morally and economically. One can’t deny that there will be bumps in the road. As this new market continues to evolve we should be prepared for the emergence of new, unanticipated issues. However, one can be comforted in the fact that any rising concerns are being addressed and rectified in a responsible and expeditious manner – both on the part of lawmakers and industry leaders. As Colorado moves forward, and more states begin to implement similar policies, the politicians and the population will see that this is the right policy for our children, our economy and our society.
“I have always loved marijuana. It has been a source of joy and comfort to me for many years. And I still think of it as a basic staple of life, along with beer and ice and grapefruits – and millions of Americans agree with me.” –Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
I had founded NORML 18 months earlier in late 1970, but few people were yet aware of our work, so we jumped in my 1961 Volkswagon camper, a common set of wheels for a would-be hippie back then, and headed to Miami to join the anti-Vietnam war activists along with proponents for all sorts of social change, from environmentalism to gay rights to workers’ rights, and everything in-between.
At the time, we didn’t have any party connections and we didn’t really have any idea of what was going to happen in Miami; but we made plans to go anyway because the prior Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 had been a watershed moment for American political dissent. In what must be a high point in political street theater, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the Youth International Party (the Yippies) nominated a pig for president, and captured national media attention in the process.
When I met Hunter he was smoking a joint under the bleachers at the opening night of the convention. I was sitting in the stands listening to the speeches when, quite suddenly — and without any question in my mind — I smelled marijuana, and quickly realized it was coming from down below. I looked below the bleachers and what I saw was a fairly big guy smoking a fairly fat joint. He was trying to be discreet, but it wasn’t working very well. I could see him hunkering in the shadows — tall and lanky, flailing his arms and oddly familiar. Jesus Christ, I suddenly realized, that’s Hunter S. Thompson!
Like every other young stoner in America I had read “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas” as it was serialized a few months earlier in Rolling Stone. Hunter would soon gather great fame for himself, the kind of fame from which one can never look back upon. But on the night I met Hunter, his star was still ascending.
Screw the speeches, I thought to myself.
I quickly found my way under the bleachers and approached as politely as possible.
“Hu-uh – What the fuck?!! Who’re you?!”
“Hey, Hunter. Keith Stroup from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. We’re a new smoker’s lobby.” Easy enough.
“Oh. Oh, yeah! Yeah! Here,” Hunter held out his herb, “You want some?”
In a memo obtained by NORML, released in late May, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) clarified their drug policy in light of the growing number of states legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use.
In response to inquiries regarding the department’s policy for employees in states that approved recreational or medical use of marijuana, the USDA strongly reaffirmed that their drug testing policies concerning marijuana are still very much in effect, regardless of state law changes.
The memo states that, “use of Marijuana for ‘recreational’ purposes is not authorized under Federal law nor the Department’s Drug Free Workplace Program policies.” It then elaborates that, “accordingly, USDA testing procedures remain in full force and effect.”
This policy is largely still being enforced due to marijuana’s current status as a Schedule I drug at the federal level. The USDA described their current ongoing policy by stating that “USDA agencies test for the following class of drugs and their metabolites: (a) Marijuana, Opiate (Codeine/Morphine, Morphine, 6-Acetylmorphine) and PCP; and (b) Cocaine, Amphetamines (AMP/MAMP, Methamphetamine, MDMA). These drugs are listed in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)…as Schedule I and Schedule II drugs, respectively. Schedule I drugs are substances, or chemicals defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. They are considered the most dangerous of all the drug schedules and invite potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
Citing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Medical Review Officer Manual for Federal Agency Workplace Testing Programs, the USDA also made clear this policy applies equally whether marijuana is being used for recreational use or medical purposes:
“State initiatives and laws, which make available to an individual a variety of illicit drugs by a physician’s prescription or recommendation, do not make the use of these illicit drugs permissible under the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program. These State initiatives and laws are inconsistent with Federal law and put the safety, health, and security of Federal works and the American public at risk. The use of any substance included in Schedule I of the CSA, whether for non-medical or ostensible medical purposes, is considered a violation of Federal law and the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program.”
“The USDA’s stance on testing employees for marijuana use, regardless of the laws of the state in which they live, is unfortunate,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Patients will be denied effective medicine and individuals will be denied civil liberties being given to their fellow state citizens. This situation highlights the fact that the existing, inherent conflict between state laws seeking to legalize and regulate cannabis for recreational or medical purposes and federal policy, which classifies the substance as illicit, are ultimately untenable. To resolve this conflict there must be a change in marijuana’s federal classification. Without such a change, we will consistently have a lack of clarity and ongoing conflict between public sentiment, state law, and federal policy.”
You can read the full USDA memo here.
Subjects who regularly inhale cannabis smoke possess no greater risk of contracting lung cancer than do those who consume it occasionally or not at all, according to data published online ahead of print in the International Journal of Cancer.
An international team of investigators from Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States analyzed data from six case-control studies involving over 5,000 subjects (2,159 cases and 2,985 controls) from around the world.
Authors concluded, “Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers.”
Investigators had previously presented their data at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Academy for Cancer Research.
Their findings are similar to those of a 2013 review published in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society, which concluded: “[H]abitual use of marijuana alone does not appear to lead to significant abnormalities in lung function. … Overall, the risks of pulmonary complications of regular use of marijuana appear to be relatively small and far lower than those of tobacco smoking.”
An accompanying commentary in the same journal affirmed, “[C]annabis smoking does not seem to increase risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or airway cancers. In fact, there is even a suggestion that at low doses cannabis may be protective for both conditions.”
Preclinical studies have documented that cannabinoids possess potent anti-cancer properties, including the inhibition of lung cancer cell growth. To date, however, scientists have yet to conduct controlled clinical trials replicating these results in human subjects.
The abstract of the study, “Cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk: Pooled analysis in the International Lung Cancer Consortium,” appears online here.