While it may not be apparent to casual observers of the current drive to legalize marijuana in America, we are truly the beneficiaries of political reforms adopted during what is generally referred to as the Progressive Era.
This period of social activism and political reform in America is generally defined as beginning in 1890 and running through 1920.
The principal objective of the Progressive movement was eliminating corruption in government, and to accomplish that goal, proponents sought ways to take down the powerful and corrupt political bosses and to provide access to ordinary Americans in the political system – a concept called direct democracy, as contrasted to representative democracy.
On the national level, progressivism gained a strong voice in the White House with the election of Teddy Roosevelt as president in 1901. Other national proponents included Robert La Follette and Charles Evans Hughes on the Republican side, and William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson and Al Smith on the Democratic side.
It was during this period that the concept of direct primaries to nominate candidates for public office, direct election of US senators, and universal suffrage for women gained traction; and most important to our work, the procedures know as referendum and initiatives began to be adopted in several states.
To read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.com.
The percentage in favor of legalization is the highest level of support ever recorded in the statewide poll.
African Americans (69 percent), Whites (64 percent), Democrats (63 percent), and Independents (57 percent) were most likely to express support for legalizing the plant’s use while Republicans (44 percent), Latinos (42 percent), and Asians (39 percent) were most likely to oppose the policy change.
Among those respondents who acknowledges having tried cannabis, 74 percent supported legalization. Among respondents who had never tried cannabis, 63 percent favored keeping it illegal.
The poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percent.
California is one of several states in 2016 where the issue of regulating marijuana is expected to be decided by ballot measure. The issue is also anticipated to be before voters next November in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and Nevada.
In 2010, California voters rejected a ballot initiative that sought to permit the personal cultivation and commercial sale of cannabis by a vote of 46.5 percent to 53.5 percent.
Washington, DC and New York City are only 225 miles apart, a four-hour drive up I-95, or a 3½ hour train ride on Amtrak. And both jurisdictions have taken positive steps over the last couple of years to stop arresting marijuana smokers. But in other ways, they are in parallel universes.
In one city the police chief is embracing marijuana legalization, and touting it as a helpful step in building community relations. And in the other, the police commissioner is saying marijuana has caused an increase in homicides and shootings, even worse than the cocaine and heroin epidemics of the 1980s and ’90s. It would be difficult to find a more stark contrast in policing strategies.
To read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.com.
Marijuana law reform legislation is presently pending in over 30 states. Is your state one of them? Visit NORML’s online ‘Take Action Center’ here to find out.
By clicking this link, you will have access to up-to-date bill status information. You can also quickly contact your elected officials and urge their support for these reforms with just one click.
Right now, nearly 20 states — including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont — are debating measures to legalize the adult use and sale of the plant.
Click HERE to view NORML’s full list of pending state and federal legislation.
Get active; get NORML.
Nevada voters will decide next November on ballot language that seeks to regulate the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Lawmakers had until late last week to act on the initiative petition, filed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), but failed to do so – thus placing the measure on the 2016 electoral ballot.
The ballot language permits adults to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce and/or six plants) for non-commercial purposes. The measure also regulates and taxes the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis.
It states, “The People of the State of Nevada find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older, and its cultivation and sale should be regulated similar to other businesses.”
Similar ballot measures are likely to be decided in 2016 in several other states, including Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Missouri.
For more information on this campaign, please visit: http://www.regulatemarijuanainnevada.org/.
Please join NORML on May 20/21 in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress for passage of cannabis law reform legislation pending before it.
You’ve probably seen by now the historically important bill to reform medical cannabis laws introduced in the U.S. Senate. There has never been a more exciting and receptive time to be a cannabis law reform activist in America with this political backdrop:
- 35 states have passed medical cannabis-related legislation (in 23 of these states patients have functional access to the medicine and legal protections)
- 17 states have decriminalized the possession of cannabis for adults
- 4 states have legalized the cultivation and sale of cannabis (Washington, D.C. has de-penalized the possession and use of cannabis for adults; allows limited home cultivation; no sales)
- Every national poll, including the oldest social survey data set, now indicate a majority of Americans no longer favor cannabis prohibition.
It’s indisputable. Cannabis law reform in America is happening in our lifetimes.
By the time the NORML Legislative Fly-In convenes in late May, as many as 20 reform bills will have been introduced for us to rally around in our lobbying efforts–and with the new Senate bill, for the first time since the late 1970s, there is good reason to lobby the Senate as hard as the House.
Also, and of great importance in placing upward political pressure on elected members of Congress and their staff, are the nearly 75 state legislative bills around the country that are now debating cannabis law reform measures–ranging from medical access to industrial hemp to decriminalization to legalization.
This year upwards of half the states’ legislatures are looking at dozens of reform bills and this clearly positively impacts Congress to see these needed socio-legal reforms bubbling up from their home states and regions.
For many in Congress, they know the political writing is on the wall for the federal prohibition on cannabis commerce to survive much longer.
Let’s help make their jobs easier by showing them the necessary public support to hasten cannabis law reforms at the federal level.
Lastly, there is a strong possibility that we’re going to add another event to the program, in conjunction with High Times…and featuring a famous TV and movie personality who has expressed strong interest in getting involved with the public discussion about cannabis law reform. TBA.
NORML members and supporters get first shot at the low early bird pricing of $50/person.
Also, there are sponsorship opportunities as well for cannabis-related businesses, services and organizations.
Below is a brief breakdown of lodging options for the Conference.
Thanks in advance and hope to see you at the height of Spring in the nation’s capital, being an active participant in an historic public advocacy effort to once and for all end cannabis prohibition.
-Allen St. Pierre
NORML / NORML Foundation
The basic problem we are dealing with is the need to raise significant amounts of money to gather the required number of signatures to qualify a legalization proposal for the ballot, and then to run a professional campaign. At one time, those states that provide voters the opportunity to bypass the state legislature and enact new laws by a vote of the people, intended this to be something ordinary citizens could accomplish with a dedicated team of volunteers. It was an outgrowth of the progressive movement. But those days are gone forever.
State legislators, who understandably dislike the voter initiative process and prefer to maintain their control over the process of adopting new laws, have raised the bar for qualifying an initiative for the ballot, requiring more and more signatures; and sometimes requiring that a minimum percentage of those signatures be gathered from voters in every county in the state, making it impossible to qualify by simply focusing on the major population centers.
The result is that voter initiatives have become unrealistic as a vehicle to change public policy unless the sponsoring group has the ability to raise substantial sums of money. Political commitment and hard work are no longer sufficient.
We have had a handful of big donors supporting legalization initiatives going back to the successful Prop. 215 campaign in CA in 1996, and continuing through the two successful legalization initiatives approved in 2014. But those funders were motivated by their desire to end marijuana prohibition, and were not attempting to directly profit from those changes. Their motivation was high-minded.
And the need to earn the support of this group of philanthropic funders tended to assure that the language contained in those initiatives was similarly high-minded, seeking to establish legalization systems that were open to all entrepreneurs, both big and small. Until now, none of the successful initiatives attempted to establish “cash cows” to benefit the funders.
We have seen some ill-advised regulations adopted by the implementing state agencies in a few states that clearly favored those with big bucks, such as the medical marijuana regs in Massachusetts that required those seeking to apply for a license to commercially cultivate marijuana to put $500,000 in escrow before their application would be considered.
And in Florida, the medical marijuana bill that was passed by the legislature last year, permitting only low-THC, high-CBD marijuana, established only five licenses to cultivate for the entire state, and only applicants who could post a $5 million performance bond and pay a $100,000 application fee, and who had been in the nursery business in Florida continuously for a minimum of 30-years, could apply. A cynic might suspect the legislative leadership must be receiving some sizable contributions from the nursery industry.
New Investor Driven Voter Initiatives
But we are now dealing with a different, and potentially more significant, problem in which those who put up the funding to qualify a legalization initiative for the ballot seek to include specific language in the proposal put before the voters that assures them of a favored position in the soon-to-be legal market, and that essentially assures them of a huge “return on their investment.” For these individuals, who have not previously been involved in the legalization movement, this exercise is only incidentally about ending prohibition and stopping the arrest of smokers; it is really about getting rich in a newly legal industry.
On a purely political level, we should welcome these new developments, as these moneyed interests obviously have valuable political connections that could be helpful in ending prohibition more quickly than we could accomplish, at least in some states, without their help. And ending prohibition means stopping the barbaric practice of arresting responsible marijuana smokers, which must remain our highest priority. We have paid far too high a price for prohibition, in wrecked lives and careers.
But the arrival of these new potentially powerful interest groups, primarily motivated by greed instead of policy goals, causes most of us some concern, and some discomfort. Or as Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann recently told a journalist, when asked about this latest phenomenon, “This thing sticks in my craw.”
But whether we like it or not — and most of us do not — as a movement, we will shortly have to decide whether we can embrace proposals to end prohibition and implement legalization in states in which it appears likely those changes will directly enrich a small group of investors, and may erect market barriers for the small and mid-size entrepreneur.
The Loss of Innocence
As a movement, we have lost our innocence. For most of us, legalizing marijuana has been only incidentally about marijuana; it has really been about personal freedom. We are entering a new phase of the legalization movement in which some of the most powerful interests will be profit driven.
Last week, a group called Responsible Ohio announced it had raised $36 million to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to legalize marijuana in the state. They reportedly required investors to pony-up a minimum of $4 million each, for which these investors would be assured one of a handful of commercial cultivation licenses, authorized to grow medical marijuana in the state. The initiative language would establish an oligopoly who would largely control and profit from legal marijuana.
According to an article published in the Columbus Dispatch, one of their principal investors was recently recorded at an investment seminar as saying the business opportunities presented by their proposal are “beyond your imagination. … Let’s hop on this tsunami of money and ride the top of that wave to some enrichment for us.”
Talk about unabashed greed! These are not high-minded individuals. It turns out one of the investors reportedly made his fortune dealing with off-shore asset protection, and another likely investor is a federal felon who was convicted of 19 counts of insider trading in 2005. Legalizing marijuana is simply another get-rich-quick scheme for these scammers.
And rumors continue that a group of venture capitalists has formed in Michigan with the intent of qualifying an initiative for their ballot that sounds awfully similar to the Ohio approach. Investors put-up the money to pass an initiative, and they directly profit from that investment by being assured of licenses under the new system.
Different people will come to different conclusions. I continue to feel we should keep our eye on the prize of legalization, and not get sidetracked fighting over who will profit from legalization. After all, we live in a free enterprise system and we should not expect legal marijuana will be different.
But we may have our limits tested in the months ahead. Are we willing to be complicit in the establishment of oligopolies, which would likely lead to fewer choices and higher prices for consumers; or should we insist on the opportunity for small and mid-sized entrepreneurs to participate in this newly legal market?
The bottom line for me is to stop arresting marijuana smokers as soon as possible, in every state. And each year we defer ending prohibition, for whatever reason, we permit thousands of marijuana smokers to continue to be arrested; nearly 20,000 marijuana arrests annually in Ohio and in Michigan. That’s an enormous price to pay if we have the ability to end prohibition now, even if we do not like all the terms of the system to be established.
Big money has entered the picture, and we will have to deal with that. I prefer to keep the focus on personal freedom and stopping the arrests, but in some states we may have to swallow hard and accept legalization that is profit driven.
This column was originally posted to Marijuana.com.
More than six out of ten Connecticut voters favor legalizing marijuana use by adults, according to statewide polling conducted by Quinnipiac University.
Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they favored permitting adults to legally possess personal use quantities of cannabis. Only 34 percent of voters opposed this idea.
Legislation, House Bill 6703, is presently pending in the state, “to allow marijuana use for persons twenty-one years of age and older, and to regulate the sale, possession, use and growth of marijuana.” Connecticut residents can contact their lawmakers in support of this measure here.
State voters, by an overwhelming 82 percent to 15 percent margin, also support eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for offenses involving the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs, and allowing judges to decide sentences on a case by case basis.
The Quinnipiac University poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points.
At a press conference this afternoon, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rand Paul (R-KY) announced plans to introduce a measure, The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, in the US Senate to strengthen statewide medical marijuana protections and impose various changes to federal law.
Passage of the measure permits qualified patients, doctors, and businesses to engage in state-sanctioned behavior involving the production, sale, or use of medical cannabis without fear of federal prosecution. The proposal reschedules marijuana at the federal level and removes the compound cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act. Additional provisions would allow opportunities for financial institutions to legally provide services to medical marijuana businesses, permit VA doctors to authorize medical cannabis, and would remove existing federal barriers to clinical trial research.
“It is emblematic of how far the movement to reform our country’s failed marijuana policies has come when a Republican presidential hopeful partners with two high profile Democrats to undo the damage done by the war on cannabis consumers,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “We’d encourage all members of Congress to rally behind this effort to end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana, something that over 80% of the country supports. Ultimately, marijuana needs to be descheduled out of the Controlled Substances Act entirely, but this bill provides an excellent start to that broader discussion.”TAKE ACTION: CLICK HERE TO CONTACT YOUR US SENATORS IN SUPPORT OF THIS MEASURE!
Dear NORML Members and Supporters,
In the past 24 years I’ve penned hundreds of fundraising requests in the employ of NORML ranging from basic operating expenses to legal defense funds to advertising to match-the-donor grants to computer purchases to initiatives. Unfailingly, NORML’s members and supporters always come through with the needed funding to this venerable non-profit organization.
On this day I bring your attention to a NORML fundraiser self-conceived and implemented from a welcomed–but unlikely source.
I don’t think he’d mind me commenting that when one thinks of a long-distance runner, High Times’ Cultivation Editor Danny Danko does not immediately (or, at all!) come to mind.
So when Dan recently contacted NORML indicating that he’d decided to run in the 2015 New York City Half Marathon, and wanted to do so to raise money and awareness for NORML’s marijuana law reform work, it reminded me of the many types of personal self-sacrifice supporters of marijuana law reform work have been willing to make in support of the organization since its founding in 1970.
Dan has created a CrowdRise webpage for donations to be directed to the NORML Foundation that he is asking us to widely promote, as his employer, High Times Magazine, is willing to match dollar-for-dollar all of the money he raises through his long-distance running effort on Sunday, March 15.
A number of individuals, non-profit organizations and cannabis-related businesses have already pledged to support Dan’s fundraising efforts for NORML and marijuana legalization. Please take a moment and join them in recognizing Dan’s commitment to legalization, and to a non-profit organization near and dear to him and his family.
Dan has already raised nearly 40% of his stated $5,000 goal!
Thanks to Danny Danko, High Times Magazine and NORML’s supporters for putting the ‘grass’ into the organization’s longstanding grassroots efforts to end cannabis prohibition and stop the arrest of marijuana smokers.
Kind regards from a newly liberated Washington, D.C. (where cannabis became legal on February 26),
Allen St. Pierre
NORML / NORML Foundation
The majority of Americans say that “the use of marijuana should be made legal,” according to nationwide polling data provided by the General Social Survey. The GSS is a bi-annual scientific survey that collects data on social trends within the United States.
Fifty-two percent of respondents endorsed legalizing marijuana – an increase of nine percentage points since GSS pollsters asked the question in 2012. Forty-two percent of respondents said that they opposed the idea.
GSS pollsters have been tracking Americans’ views regarding marijuana legalization since the early 1970s. In 1990, only 16 percent of respondents backed legalizing the plant. The just-reported 2014 survey data marks the first time that the General Social Survey has ever reported majority support for legalizing cannabis.
Members of Jamaica’s Parliament have given final approval to a long-standing plan to amend the nation’s marijuana policies.
The newly passed measure amends the island’s Dangerous Drugs Act so that the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis by an adult is reclassified as a non-criminal offense. Violators of the new law will receive a ticket and be mandated to pay a fine, but will not face criminal penalties. Public use of the substance will remain prohibited.
Separate provisions of the measure seek to establish regulations allowing for the licensed production of cannabis for therapeutic purposes as well as for industrial purposes. Additional provisions of the bill provide broader legal protections for those who use the plant for sacramental purposes.
Although various Jamaican commissions had previously recommended similar changes in policy for well over a decade, lawmakers had until now consistently failed to move forward with any legislation seeking to depenalize the plant’s possession or production.
The new marijuana laws recently approved by the voters of the District of Columbia (Initiative 71) by nearly 70 percent took effect last week, following a 30-day period in which the US Congress had the opportunity to override the provision, but our opponents did not have the votes.
So it is now perfectly legal in the District of Columbia to possess up to two ounces of marijuana; to cultivate up to six plants in the home, not more than three of which may be flowering; and to give away, but not sell, up to one ounce of marijuana to someone at least 21 years of age. It is one of the better decriminalization laws in the country, a welcome half-way step that is now law in 17 states as well as the District.
I say it is a half-way step, because while it legalizes the possession and use of marijuana by adults, it does not establish a legal, regulated market, such as those currently operating in Colorado and Washington, and soon to be up and running in Oregon and Alaska. (Voter initiatives in DC may not require the expenditure of city funds, so that was not an option). In DC, marijuana smokers will either have to cultivate their own marijuana in their home, or continue to buy their marijuana on the black market, with no quality controls to protect them from contaminants such as molds or pesticides, and no way to evaluate the strength of the product.
Decriminalization is obviously a giant step forward for any jurisdiction, as it ends the practice of treating marijuana smokers as criminals. Although in DC the elected City Council has already reduced the penalty for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a civil offense, punishable by a fine of $25, so the latest change will not be dramatic, and the changes will largely go unnoticed by the general public. Nonetheless, it is good to get rid of the fine altogether and finally make marijuana possession and cultivation legal.
Perhaps most significant, now that possession of two ounces of marijuana is legal in the District, the smell of marijuana, traditionally used by the police as legal justification to search the passenger compartment of a car without the need to obtain a search warrant, no longer provides probable cause for a search. It is impossible for the police to tell whether the marijuana they are smelling is more or less than the two ounce limit, so this much-abused police practice now must stop.
Similarly, the smell of marijuana when the police come to someone’s home has traditionally been used by the police as probable cause to obtain a search warrant for someone’s home; that common, abusive practice must now also end. So the new laws in the District will have the positive result of protecting our right to privacy and reinforcing our 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Interestingly, Mayor Muriel Bowser and a majority of the DC City Council members were poised to develop and approve a set of regulations to license growers and dispensaries in the District, until the drug warriors in Congress used the budget bill approved at the end of the last Congress to preclude the District from spending any of its money to legalize marijuana. Some on the council have long supported more progressive marijuana laws, while others resent the interference of Congress in the local affairs in the District, which enjoys a limited form of “home rule.”
The anti-pot zealots in Congress, led by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), had thought their budget amendment would also stop the provisions of Initiative 71 from being implemented, but the mayor and City Council Chair Phil Mendelson and the new DC Attorney General all took the position that the initiative was “self-enacting” and required no expenditure of funds by the District, and they are treating the Congressional budget amendment as having no effect on the initiative, although they acknowledge it would block the Council from going further to regulate the market.
When the anti-marijuana ideologues in Congress saw that the elected leadership in the District were going to enforce the language of the new initiative, they publicly threatened to have the mayor and other city officials arrested! To the everlasting credit of Mayor Bowser, Council Chair Phil Mendelson and Police Chief Cathy Lanier, they held a joint press conference explaining what is and is not allowed by the new laws (no public smoking; no selling; no outdoor cultivation; and no possession on federal lands, which comprise roughly 29 percent of the District’s total land area), and announcing the new laws would take effect at 12:01am on Thursday, Feb. 26th.
It was wonderful to see a united defense of the right of the voters in the District of Columbia to determine their own marijuana policy, free from Congressional interference.
This situation may yet end up being resolved by the courts, but for the moment, the good guys are winning. As an aside, the mayor has now called for the City Council to adopt new legislation making it clear that Amsterdam-style “cannabis clubs” will not be tolerated in DC; a sop, I suppose, to the other side. We will try to stop the ban from being enacted. Smoking marijuana is a social activity, and there is no reason to limit marijuana smoking only to a private home. Hopefully we can find some middle ground that will permit smokers to exercise their new right in other private areas. This issue too may end up in the courts.
New Alaska Penalties Also Took Effect
The new legalization law recently approved by the voters in Alaska (Measure 2) calls for the establishment of licensed growers and sellers by the end of the year, but there too the parts of the new law eliminating all penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, and for cultivating up to six plants in the home, took effect last week. Once again, little will change initially for smokers in Alaska, since they have enjoyed protection from arrest or prosecution for possessing personal use amounts of marijuana in the home since 1978, because of a state Supreme Court decision, Ravin v State, finding such conduct protected by the right to privacy provisions in the state constitution.
But again, as in DC, the police will no longer be able to use the mere smell of marijuana as probable cause to search a vehicle, so the legal significance of the new law is enormous.
Oregon Law to Take Effect in Mid-Year
The new penalties approved by the voters in Oregon (Measure 91) will take effect on July 1, although the state has until Jan. 1, 2016 to implement the provisions regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana. As of July 1, Oregonians will be legally permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana in public and up to eight ounces of marijuana in the home (and one pound of solid edibiles, 72-ounces of infused liquid, and one ounce of extracts), along with the right to grow up to four plants per household.
Until that time, possession of an ounce or less remains a non-criminal violation, carrying a fine-only, with no possibility of jail.
This column was originally published on Marijuana.com.
The new law is set to take effect Thursday, February 26, at 12:01am. In a press release issued Tuesday, District officials — including Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Cathy Lanier — reaffirmed their intent to recognize the will of District voters, 70 percent of whom voted in favor of the municipal measure (I-71).
“In November, residents of the District of Columbia voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana by adults for personal, in-home use in the District,” said Mayor Bowser. “We will uphold the letter and the spirit of the initiative that was passed last year, and we will establish the Initiative 71 Task Force to coordinate our enforcement, awareness and engagement efforts and address policy questions as they arise.”
Initiative 71 permits adults to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and to cultivate up to six marijuana plants (no more than three mature at any one time) in one’s primary residence without facing any criminal or civil penalty. Not-for-profit transactions involving small amounts of the substance are also permitted; however, for-profit sales are prohibited as is the retail production or distribution of the plant.
The consumption of cannabis in public or on federal property also remains prohibited.
District officials contend that they possess the legal authority to depenalize minor marijuana offenses despite the passage of a federal spending provision in December prohibiting the District from spending any tax dollars to implement the new law. They argue that the municipal measure took effect upon passage in November and that Congress failed to take any explicit action to overturn the law during its requisite 30-day review period. (This Congressional review period is mandated law before any new District legislation may be imposed.)
District officials’ stance is not without some vocal critics. Earlier this week, two Republican members of Congress sent a letter to DC’s Mayor warning that Congress may take action if I-71 is enforced.
“If you decide to move forward … with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law,” reads the letter signed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chairman of the subcommittee that handles DC affairs.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Rep. Chaffetz threatened Mayor Bowser and city officials, stating, “[If District officials are] under any illusion that this would be legal, they are wrong. And there are very severe consequences for violating this provision. You can go to prison for this. We’re not playing a little game here.”
To date, neither spokespersons for the Mayor’s office and/or the DC City Council have responded directly to the Congressmen nor have they indicated that they intend to reconsider their decision to implement I-71 as voters intended.
Nearly six out of ten Coloradans say that they support keeping retail marijuana production and sales legal, according to statewide polling data released by Quinnipiac University.
The figure is a five percent increase in support since voters approved the law in November 2012. A September 2014 statewide NBC News/Marist College poll previously reported that 55 percent of Coloradoans favored the law.
Men and younger voters were most likely to support legalization. Voters ages 18 to 34 overwhelmingly favored state law (86 percent to 16 percent) while 50 percent of those ages 55 and older opposed it.
Male voters supported the legalization by a margin of 63 percent to 33 percent, while women only favored the law by a margin of 53 percent to 44 percent.
The gender and age differences in support are not surprising. A just-published study in the February issue of the journal Drug Abuse and Alcohol Dependence reports that women are twice as likely as men to perceive significant risks associated with the use of cannabis. The study reported that those least likely to perceive significant harms associated with cannabis are those between the ages of 18 to 25, those who have completed high-school and/or college, and those with annual household incomes exceeding $75,000.
According to newly released figures by the Colorado Department of Revenue, retail sales of marijuana totaled just under $700 million in Colorado in 2014 – the first full year during which sales of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes were allowed.
On Monday, I published a rebuttal of these claims in a commentary published on the website Alternet.org — an excerpt of which appears below.
Debunking the Latest Pathetic Fear Smear Campaign Against Marijuana
[excerpt] [N]umerous (though far less publicized) studies have come to light downplaying the likelihood that cannabis use is a direct cause of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. Specifically, a 2009 paper in the journal Schizophrenia Research compared trends in marijuana use and incidences of schizophrenia in the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2005. Authors reported that “incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining” during this period, even though pot use among the general population was rising. They concluded: “This study does not therefore support the specific causal link between cannabis use and incidence of psychotic disorders. … This concurs with other reports indicating that increases in population cannabis use have not been followed by increases in psychotic incidence.”
Similarly, a 2010 review paper published by a pair of British scientists in the journal Addiction reported that clinical evidence indicating that use of he herb may be casually linked to incidences of schizophrenia or other psychological harms is not persuasive. Authors wrote: “We continue to take the view that the evidence that cannabis use causes schizophrenia is neither very new, nor by normal criteria, particularly compelling. … For example, our recent modeling suggests that we would need to prevent between 3000 and 5000 cases of heavy cannabis use among young men and women to prevent one case of schizophrenia, and that four or five times more young people would need to avoid light cannabis use to prevent a single schizophrenia case. … We conclude that the strongest evidence of a possible causal relation between cannabis use and schizophrenia emerged more than 20 years ago and that the strength of more recent evidence may have been overstated.”
More recently, researchers at Harvard University released a study further rebutting this allegation. Writing in 2013 in Schizophrenia Research, investigators compared the family histories of 108 schizophrenia patients and 171 individuals without schizophrenia to assess whether youth cannabis consumption was an independent factor in developing the disorder. Researchers reported that a family history of schizophrenia increased the risk of developing the disease, regardless of whether or not subjects consumed weed as adolescents. They concluded: “The results of the current study, both when analyzed using morbid risk and family frequency calculations, suggest that having an increased familial risk for schizophrenia is the underlying basis for schizophrenia in these samples and not the cannabis use. While cannabis may have an effect on the age of onset of schizophrenia it is unlikely to be the cause of illness.”
In fact, some researchers speculate that specific cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), may even be efficacious in treating symptoms of psychosis. According to a review published in the January 2014 issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology: “CBD has some potential as an antipsychotic treatment. … Given the high tolerability and superior cost-effectiveness, CBD may prove to be an attractive alternative to current antipsychotic treatment.” Specifically, a 2012 double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial assessing the administration of CBD versus the prescription anti-psychotic drug amisulpride in 42 subjects with schizophrenia and acute paranoia concluded that two substances provided similar levels of improvement, but that cannabidiol did so with far fewer adverse side effects.
Case reports in the scientific literature also indicate that some patients turn to cannabis for subjective benefits, though other studies indicate that pot use may exacerbate certain symptoms in patients with psychiatric disorders. Nonetheless, even a recent paper summarizing the “adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use” acknowledges, “It is difficult to decide whether cannabis use has had any effects on psychosis incidence, because even if a relationship were to be causal, cannabis use would produce a very modest increase in incidence.”
You can read my full commentary here.
You can also watch my discussion with Thom Hartmann of The Big Picture (air date: February 23) here.
Fifty-three percent of Alaska voters approved Ballot Measure 2 on Election Day, permitting those over the age of 21 to lawfully possess up to one ounce of marijuana and/or to grow up to six marijuana plants (no more than three mature) for non-commercial purposes. Sharing or gifting personal use quantities of marijuana is also permitted under the new law; however the consumption of cannabis in public remains an offense.
Lawmakers will now begin the process of establishing licensing requirements for those who wish to commercially produce cannabis and/or engage in the plant’s retail sale. State regulators have up to nine months to enact rules to govern these commercial entities and are expected to begin granting operator permits by February 2016.
Since 1975, Alaskans have enjoyed personal privacy protections based on a state Supreme Court decision allowing for the possession and cultivation of personal use amounts of cannabis in one’s home. However, state lawmakers had never before codified these protections into law or permitted a legal market for marijuana production and sales.
Alaska is the third state – following Colorado and Washington – to legalize the personal possession of marijuana by adults and to license the plant’s retail production and sales. Oregon voters in November approved similar legislation (Measure 91), which is scheduled to go into effect later this year.
Congressional Legislation Introduced to Get the Federal Government Out of the Marijuana Enforcement Business
House Resolution 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, removes cannabis from the United States Controlled Substances Act. It also removes enforcement power from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in matters concerning marijuana possession, production, and sales — thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.
Said the bill’s primary sponsor, Democrat Jared Polis of Colorado: “Over the past year, Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana like alcohol takes money away from criminals and cartels, grows our economy, and keeps marijuana out of the hands of children. While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters in states like Colorado and 22 other jurisdictions to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration – or this one—could reverse course and turn them into criminals. It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”
Separate legislation, House Resolution 1014: the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, introduced by Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, seeks to impose a federal excise tax on the retail sale of marijuana for non-medical purposes as well as apply an occupational tax for state-licensed marijuana businesses. Such commercial taxes would only be applicable if and when Congress has moved to defederalize marijuana prohibition.
“It’s time for the federal government to chart a new path forward for marijuana.” said Rep. Blumenauer. “Together these bills create a federal framework to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, much like we treat alcohol and tobacco. The federal prohibition of marijuana has been a failure, wasting tax dollars and ruining countless lives. As more states move to legalize marijuana as Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska have done, it’s imperative the federal government become a full partner in building a workable and safe framework.”
Similar versions of these measures were introduced in the previous Congress but failed to gain federal hearings.
To contact your US House member and urge him/her to support House Resolution 1013, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act and/or other pending federal marijuana law reform legislation, please visit NORML’s Take Action page here.
One indisputable fact is that big-money interests have now surfaced in a number of states, seeking to influence the type of legalization adopted in specific states, and to profit from the legal marijuana market. We should not be surprised that the economic appeal of legalizing marijuana would attract the attention of people with resources.
Understandably, some activists who have worked long and hard to help bring us to this point, are concerned about the entry of big money into the political equation. They fear the legalization movement has been hijacked by those seeking to profit from legal marijuana.
Of course, big money has been a major factor in the legalization movement as far back as 1996, when the California medical marijuana initiative was bailed-out with money provided by a handful of rich philanthropists, led by George Soros and the late Peter Lewis, who have been major funders supporting many of the statewide initiatives passed since, including both the Colorado and Washington state full legalization initiatives, and more recently the Oregon legalization initiative.
To Read the Balance of this Column, Please Go To Marijuana.com.
At post time, there are 31 states that currently have pending marijuana law reform legislation. These measures deal with a wide array of topics including decriminalization, record expungement, medical access, and full legalization. 2015 is shaping up to be one of the most active legislative sessions on record for the marijuana legalization movement, but these bills won’t pass themselves. It is absolutely crucial that you, the stakeholders and voters, get engaged in the process and apply pressure to your state lawmakers to urge them to support these measures.
Reaching out to your state officials is as simple as a few clicks of the mouse using NORML’s Take Action Center. Simply consult the landing page to see if your state has pending legislation, click on that legislation, enter your zip code, and a pre-written email will be sent on your behalf. Once you have taken this initial step, we strongly encourage you to follow up by contacting your lawmakers directly and speaking to them on the phone. If politicians don’t hear from their constituents on these pieces of legislation, they remain unlikely to support them when they are called for a vote. Click HERE to see the full list of pending legislation. Recent additions include:
- Vermont: Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced in Senate
- Tennessee: Measures Introduced To Depenalize Minor Marijuana Offenses
- Maryland: Lawmakers to Consider Measure to Vacate Past Marijuana Convictions
- New Mexico: Senate Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill
- Hawaii: Provide Safe Access to Medical Marijuana
- New Hampshire: Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Marijuana Decriminalization Bill
Don’t forget to check out the full listing here and check back frequently as new alerts are added and old ones are updated with the most recent information.
Together, we can make the country a little more NORML. Together, we WILL legalize marijuana nationwide.