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Updated: 7 weeks 8 hours ago

It’s Time to Enact Appropriate Job Protections for Those Who Legally Use Pot

Mon, 06/15/2015 - 22:01

Many observers were shocked and saddened when Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who is authorized to use medical marijuana under Colorado state law, was fired from his job with Dish Network in 2010 after a positive drug test. Dish failed to make an exception for Coats, who used marijuana while off duty to control his seizures, and the company insisted on his being fired, leaving Coats no choice but to challenge this issue in court.

Specifically, Coats claimed that his conduct should have been permitted under the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which makes it an unfair and discriminatory labor practice to discharge an employee based on the employee’s “lawful,” away-from-work activities. But the trial court, followed by the Court of Appeals and now the Colorado Supreme Court, have all ruled that the statute only protects conduct that is legal under both state and federal law — and therefore offers no job protection to Coats.

“Therefore, employees who engage in an activity, such as medical marijuana use, that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute,” Justice Allison H. Eid wrote in the opinion.

This case highlights one of the most pressing issues that needs to be addressed in the states that have legalized medical cannabis use — and the states that have adopted full legalization for all adults, as well. Although employees are protected from arrest and prosecution under state law by these various laws, they remain vulnerable to employment discrimination in almost all states.

Simply put, if an employer wants to insist on what they frequently call a “drug-free workplace,” they are legally permitted to do that — regardless of the unfairness this policy may cause, because we must note that they do not apply those same standards to off-job alcohol consumption or the use of prescription drugs.

Most Americans would strongly support the right of an employer to fire anyone who comes to work in an impaired condition. But smoking marijuana leaves one mildly impaired only for about an hour and a half; certainly smoking marijuana in the evening, or on the weekend, would have no impact on the employee who comes to work the following day.

Effort renewed to add PTSD to Colorado medical marijuana list
(Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file)
What we really need is for employers in these legalized states to become responsible corporate citizens and to do the right thing: Stop penalizing employees, absent a showing of impairment on the job. But absent that voluntary shift in policy, the obligation is now on those of us who favor marijuana legalization to go back to the state legislatures in states that have legalized cannabis, either for medical use or for all adults, and enact appropriate job protections for those who use marijuana legally under state law.

Before being allowed to fire an employee who tests positive for THC, the employer must be required to demonstrate on-the-job impairment. Just as we do not permit someone to be fired for reason of their gender, religion or race, neither should we permit an employee to be fired simply because they elect to use marijuana legally under state law, without a showing of actual on-job impairment.

Otherwise we are requiring many medical-use patients to choose between relieving their pain and suffering and keeping their employment. And we are allowing employers to fire good, hard-working, loyal employees for off-the-job activities that are totally unrelated to their job performance.

And that is simply unfair, and it cannot be allowed to stand. So let’s get to work and fix this problem.

Keith Stroup is an attorney, author of “It’s NORML to Smoke Pot: The 40-year Fight for Marijuana Smokers’ Rights” and founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, where he serves as legal counsel.

 

http://www.thecannabist.co/2015/06/15/norml-coats-v-dish-marijuana-employment/36140/

Colorado: Supreme Court Affirms Employees Can Be Fired For Off-The-Job Marijuana Use

Mon, 06/15/2015 - 18:18

Members of the Colorado Supreme Court have unanimously affirmed lower courts’ rulings that employers possess the authority to fire employees for their off-the-job use of marijuana. The Court found that the plant’s legal status under state law does not make the act of consuming cannabis “lawful” under the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute.

The Justices opined, “The supreme court holds that under the plain language of section 24-34-402.5, C.R.S. (2014), Colorado’s ‘lawful activities statute,’ the term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law. Therefore, employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute.”

The ruling upholds the decision by Dish Network in 2010 to fire employee Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who used cannabis to treat muscle spasticity. Coats failed a random urine screen. Such tests identify the presence of the inert metabolite (byproduct) carboxy-THC, which may be present in urine for weeks or even months after one has ceased using the substance. Consequently, the Justice Department acknowledges, “A positive test result, even when confirmed, only indicates that a particular substance is present in the test subject’s body tissue. It does not indicate abuse or addiction; recency, frequency, or amount of use; or impairment.”

The Colorado decision mirrors those of courts in California, Oregon, and Washington — each of which similarly determined that state laws exempting marijuana consumers from criminal liability do not extend to civil protections in the workplace.

According to a study published last year in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, employees who test positive for carboxy-THC do not possess an elevated risk of workplace accident compared to employees who test negative.

Full text of the decision, Coats v. Dish Network, is here.

New Challenges as Legalization Advances; Nice Problems to Have

Mon, 06/15/2015 - 15:22

Two recent developments illustrate the progress we have made towards ending marijuana prohibition, and the new challenges we face as we push forward into this Brave New World of legalized weed.

In a handful of states, instead of worrying about whether those who grow marijuana will be arrested and jailed, we have the luxury of worrying about such things as whether the marijuana was sprayed with unhealthy pesticides during the cultivation process, and how to minimize the impact the odor from marijuana cultivation sites may have on the neighbors.

Let’s start with the pesticide issue.

One of the principal public health advantages that legalization brings is the ability to require that marijuana be tested by a certified lab before it is sold, assuring the consumer that it is free from potentially harmful insecticides and pesticides. At NORML, as a consumer lobby, this is something we have always supported, but so long as marijuana remained illegal, those protections were impossible to implement. In fact, in states where marijuana prohibition remains intact, any laboratory that tested the product would be risking criminal prosecution for possession and conspiring to sell marijuana. And any elected official, when confronted with this suggestion, would have laughed us out of their office. There is simply no mechanism for assuring the safety or purity of illegal substances, so legalization is a necessary precursor.

But now that marijuana is fully legal in four states; fully decriminalized in Washington, DC; and legalized for some version of medical use in 37 states, this common-sense step to assure the product is safe is feasible.

Breaking with their traditional position that so long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, they would not provide guidance as to which pesticides and insecticides were safe for marijuana, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced they are offering a process under which certain pesticides could be approved for use on marijuana, in those states that now permit legal marijuana use for medical purposes, or for all adults.

This has already surfaced as an issue in Colorado, where the state has reportedly quarantined tens of thousands of marijuana plants because of concerns the crop was doused in harmful chemicals. Without some guidance from the EPA, the licensed growers are caught between their need to protect against infestations such as spider mites, powdery mildew and root rot, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost inventory; and the demands of state regulators and the public for a safe product. Concerned consumers have begun picketing certain retail outlets in CO, claiming they are putting their customers at risk because of their use of pesticides, and advocating for the use of organic pest controls.

This new process announced by the EPA appears to offer a relatively quick process for legal growers to learn which pesticides are safe for use on marijuana, and which are not. The director of the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry has called this regulatory shift “a huge step forward for the EPA, the industry and us. It allows us to move forward in a very normal manner on pesticides for marijuana, just like any other crop.” An important step towards NORMLization of marijuana.

Next, let’s consider the problem with marijuana odor potentially effecting the quality of life of the neighbors.

Some contentiousness between marijuana growers and their neighbors has been simmering for some time, even under prohibition, but with the advance of full legalization, those problems are gaining more attention. And different jurisdictions are dealing with this problem differently.

In Oregon, a state with a “right to farm” statute, farmers are protected from nuisance complaints that might arise because of “customary noises, smells, dust or other nuisances associated with farming.” But that has not kept some neighbors from complaining, and some are asking that growers be required to have a set-back from the adjacent property where marijuana cannot legally be grown, to protect neighbors from the strong odor of marijuana in the late growing cycle and the harvesting period, which some neighbors claim keeps them inside during those times.

And in Colorado, the small town of Basalt in Pitkin County, only a few miles outside of Aspen, is the site of High Valley Farms, a 25,000 square foot indoor cultivation center that supplies one of the 6 retail outlets (the Silverpeak Apothecary) in Aspen. Because of public complaints about the odor of marijuana, the Pitkin County Commissioners have issued a stern warning to High Valley Farms to eradicate the marijuana odor that has infuriated nearby neighbors, or face the termination of their agricultural license when it comes up for renewal in September. The license was granted with the condition that the farm would not emit any smells to the detriment of the lifestyle of nearby residents.

In addition to the complains about the impact on the quality of life, a number of Basalt property owners have also complained that their property values have declined and “what smells like money” to the cultivation center “smells like property devaluation” to the home owners. The CEO of High Valley Farms has acknowledged some technical problems with their smell-mitigation technology, but has promised the problem will be resolved within a few weeks. They obviously have a strong financial incentive to resolve the problem, and quickly.

The Need for Responsible Corporate Citizenship

So while these two new issues are real, there are solutions available and they must be quickly implemented by those in the industry. The pioneers who hold the licenses in this new industry must not be allowed to put the health of consumers at risk, or diminish the quality of life of their neighbors, in their rush to get rich. They must demonstrate they are responsible corporate citizens, or be replaced by others who will.

Senate Appropriations Committee Votes To Protect State Medical Marijuana Laws

Thu, 06/11/2015 - 19:00

Members of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee voted by a margin of 2 to 1 today in favor of language limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed operations that are acting in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states. The provision was offered as an amendment by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) in the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.

The Senate amendment mirrors language approved by the House last week in their version of the CJS bill.

Passage of the provision reauthorizes protections signed into law last year, but which are set to expire this September.

A vote by the full Senate and reconciliation with the House is necessary before the 2016 spending bill is transmitted to the President.

Reefer Madness Redux: Who Let the Clowns Out?

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 17:48

The anti-marijuana zealots in this country have always been entertaining, but I have lately noticed the appearance of some new defenders of prohibition, making Reefer Madness claims reminiscent of the earliest years of prohibition.

Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, was the principal architect of the Reefer Madness strategy aimed at demonizing marijuana and marijuana smokers.

In the American Magazine in 1937, in an article entitled “Marijuana: Assassin of Youth,” he wrote:

“An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home, they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an axe he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister. He seemed to be in a daze… He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crimes. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed. They sought the reason. The boy said that he had been in the habit of smoking something which youthful friends called ‘muggles’ a childish name for marijuana.”

While today we all laugh when we read those words, at the time the average citizen knew almost nothing about marijuana, nor did members of Congress, and it was with that absurd and uninformed mindset that Congress passed marijuana prohibition with little debate in 1937.

Today no rational person would treat those claims as serious or credible. Millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens smoke marijuana responsibly with no harm to themselves or anyone else, and the average citizen is far more familiar with marijuana and understand it is a mild intoxicant that is far less dangerous than alcohol, and should be similarly legalized and regulated.

Yet the clowns keep coming out of the circus car, one after another.

In one recent example, media curmudgeon Ben Stein published a column on the right-wing website The American Spectator, entitled “Marijuana Is A Cancer.” From that incredible start (ironic in light of research suggesting THC is helpful in treating several types of cancer), Stein describes a 27-year-old unnamed family friend whom he says has destroyed his life because of his marijuana smoking.

“Marijuana ate this young man’s soul. It was very much like that movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where space aliens invade the bodies of humans. I have never known any chronic user of the chronic whose ambitions and good sense have not been either demolished or very substantially lessened by the use of the weed. It is eating up the soul of the nation altogether.”

And in case anyone did not yet understand his views on marijuana, Stein added: “The most bitter enemies of the United States could not have imagined a more wicked attack on a society based on individual initiative than the mass use of marijuana. To think we have a President in favor of its legalization, a Mayor of Gotham who is a huge proponent of the poison, a rap culture that celebrates this vile poison, is heart breaking.”

How’s that for trying to out-do Anslinger!

But Stein is not the only alarmist resurrecting the Anslinger rhetoric.

In March of this year drug advisor and televangelist Pat Robertson opined on marijuana on his CBN program “The 700 Club,” saying marijuana smoking is “slavery to vegetables.” According to Robertson “Cocaine is the product of a vegetable, alcohol is the product of a vegetable, marijuana is a vegetable. … And yet, people are enslaved to vegetables,” adding God could set you free from this vegetable slavery.

Thank God we have the guidance of Robertson to help us fight this new scourge of vegetable addiction!

Apparently it is circus season, and we can only look forward to more of these clowns surprising us with their insightfulness on marijuana and marijuana policy. It almost makes me long for Kevin Sabet and his warnings about “big marijuana” taking over after legalization. At least Sabet recognizes his tired, exaggerated claims about the dangers of marijuana smoking are no longer effective, and he has decided to challenge the free market system.

Good luck with that, Kevin.

Survey: Nearly One Out Of Six MS Patients Use Cannabis Therapeutically

Tue, 06/09/2015 - 20:27

One-quarter of patients with multiple sclerosis report having used cannabis therapeutically and nearly one out of six (16 percent) currently use it to treat symptoms of the disease, according to survey data commissioned by the North American Research Committee on MS.

Over 5,600 MS patients participated in the survey, the results of which were presented last week at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Center 2015 Annual Meeting.

Most subjects who had tried marijuana said it mitigated disease symptoms, such as spasticity or pain. Only five percent of patients surveyed said that cannabis said it did not provide some level of relief.

Those with more advanced symptoms of MS were more likely to report using cannabis therapeutically.

Of those surveyed, 82 percent said that they would consider cannabis therapy if it were a legal option in their state.

Clinical trials have previously reported that cannabis inhalation is superior to placebo in reducing pain and spasticity in patients with treatment-resistant MS. Other studies indicate that long-term use of cannabinoid therapy may potentially modify MS progression.

Previously survey data published in the journal Neurology reported that 14 percent of MS patients used cannabis for symptom management.

Survey: 56 Percent Of Likely California Voters Favor Marijuana Legalization

Mon, 06/08/2015 - 21:26

Fifty-four percent of Californians support legalizing marijuana for adults, according to polling data commissioned by the Public Policy Institute of California and released today.

The percentage of respondents agreeing that “the use of marijuana should be legal” increased three percent since 2014. Fifty-four percent is the highest level of support for legalizing cannabis ever reported in a PPIC poll.

Among likely voters, 56 percent favor legalization (versus 41 percent opposed).

Democrats (65 percent), Californians age 18 to 34 (62 percent), Independent voters (61 percent), and whites (60 percent) were most likely to favor legalization. Sixty percent of Latinos and 57 percent of Republicans opposed legalization.

The complete PPIC poll is online here.

California is one of several states where voters are anticipated to decide whether or not to legalize and regulate the use, production, and retail sale of the plant in 2016.

Poll: Majority Of Arizonans Favor Legalizing Marijuana

Mon, 06/08/2015 - 19:30

Most Arizonans support permitting adults to legally possess marijuana for personal consumption, according to statewide polling data commissioned by the Behavioral Research Center.

Fifty-three percent of respondents favor legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. That is an increase of two percent compared to when pollsters asked a similar question last year.

Only 39 percent of respondents disapproved of the notion of legalizing cannabis.

Legalization supporters were more likely to be under the age of 35 (71 percent) and to vote Democrat (64 percent). Respondents age 55 or older (45 percent) and Republicans (33 percent) were least likely to support legalizing the plant for adult use.

Arizona is one of several states where voters will likely decide whether or not to legalize and regulate the use, production, and retail sale of the plant in 2016.

New NORML Political Director

Thu, 06/04/2015 - 00:48

When my answer to the questions, “So what do you want to do?” changed from “I don’t know” to “I want to advocate for marijuana law reform” I got surprised faces, sometimes gasps, many smiles and A LOT of what I like to call, hushed support. Hushed support is the kind of support where someone congratulates you and tells you how much they agree with you, but also lowers their voice in hopes that no one else was paying attention. As a born and raised Floridian, I understood the hesitancy to speak at a regular volume when talking about the need for cannabis law reform. What I didn’t understand, however, was how one could be content hiding how they really felt. How much support does ‘hushed support’ really offer? It was these reactions that solidified my desire to advocate for marijuana policy reform for a living.

As NORML’s newly appointed Political Director I couldn’t be more excited to join a team of groundbreakers and thought leaders. I feel honored to continue the legacy NORML has in place and a necessity to serve it well. I am eager to have the chance to represent NORML in the political sphere and to provide an even louder voice to the tens of millions of cannabis consumers from around the country.

While I have found a more permanent role in the marijuana policy debate, I challenge you to find yours. I challenge you to no longer offer ‘hushed support’ and instead proudly take action and responsibility to help reform the laws in your state. (If you aren’t sure what they look like, check it out here!)

I’m excited to open this new door and advocate for something I truly believe in: legalizing the responsible use of cannabis by adults around the country. So I invite you to join me as I embark on this new journey with NORML and hopefully I can encourage you to help me along the way and bring a voice to your own communities.

With enthusiasm and gratitude, I thank you for welcoming me into the NORML family.

House Members Reauthorize Measure Protecting State Sanctioned Medical Marijuana Programs

Wed, 06/03/2015 - 19:39

A majority of the US House of Representatives voted today to reauthorize legislation limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states.

House members voted 242 to 186 in favor of the amendment, offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Joe Heck (R-NV), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Don Young (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Dina Titus (D-NV) as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. Sixty-seven Republicans joined 175 Democrats in favor of the provision; 176 Republicans and ten Democrats voted against it.

A similar amendment was signed into law last December. Because that language was included as an amendment to an annual spending bill, it must be reauthorized by Congress or else it will expire in September.

Representative Rohrabacher recently introduced similar stand-alone legislation, H.R. 1940: Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015, after Justice Department officials questioned the extent to which their actions may be curtailed by budgetary amendments.

House members narrowly failed to pass a separate, broader amendment, offered by Reps. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Young (R-AK), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that sought to halt the Justice Department from interfering in states that have legalized the plant’s production and retail sale for adults. That measure failed by a vote of 206 to 222. (See how your US Representative voted here.)

House members also voted in favor of provisions to protect state sponsored hemp research programs and to restrict DEA funding for cannabis eradication efforts.

The Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill will now go before members of the US Senate for further debate.

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

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 23:10

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support for Legalization Remains Strong

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 14:08

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

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

General Social Survey

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

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

Pew Research Center

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

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

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

CBS News Poll

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

Gallup Poll

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

Third Way

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

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

Quinnipiac University Colorado Poll

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

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

Survey USA Colorado Poll

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

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

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

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

Quinnipiac University Poll in Three Swing States

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

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

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

Confirmed: DEA Head Michele Leonhart Stepping Down

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 20:36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBS News Poll: Majority Of Americans Back Legalizing Marijuana

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 18:06

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 18:32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#FreePotPrisoners

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 18:10

#FreePotPrisoners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 18:24

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

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

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

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

Continue reading at marijuana.com »

NORML’s Annual 420 Promo: 2015

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 07:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four down, forty-six more to go…

Cannabem liberemus,

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

Federal Judge Upholds Schedule I Classification Of Cannabis

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 21:06

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

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

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

Defense counsel intends to appeal the ruling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 18:25

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

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

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

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

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