Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Is anyone studying how marijuana reforms are impacting criminal justice systems in non-reform jurisdictions?
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this local article from Virginia headlined "Enforcement up in smoke? Marijuana arrests down sharply across state, region." Here are is how the article gets started:
Marijuana arrests are down significantly in Virginia over the past few years — leading some to speculate that the decline could reflect a loosening attitude in the Old Dominion about the drug.
The number of people arrested or charged with marijuana offenses has fallen by 14 percent statewide over a two-year stretch — from 25,981 in 2013 to 22,428 in 2015, according to Virginia State Police figures compiled from local law enforcement agencies.
That's the largest two-year drop in at least 15 years, with cannabis charges on pace to fall once again in 2016. "And it ain't because less people are smoking marijuana," said Ron Smith, a veteran criminal defense attorney in Hampton. "Virginia changes the law very gradually, and you can feel it happening. Even if they don't say, 'Hey, it's legal,' you can see that slow pull, that slow walk toward legalization." Within a few years, he said, marijuana possession laws could go the way of adultery laws: Still on the books, but not enforced.
Newport News has seen a far steeper decline than most localities, helping to drive the statewide reduction. In 2011, 1,461 people were arrested or charged on marijuana offenses in the city. But that dropped to 578 people in 2015 — a 60 percent decrease. Smith, for one, said he thinks police are being less aggressive these days on a variety of crimes, including marijuana offenses. "They're picking the apples that they can reach, but they're not standing on ladders," he said. "I'm not saying they're turning their heads, but they're not doing anything to look past what's right there in front of them."...
In one sign of the times, the top prosecutors in Hampton and Newport News decided in 2012 and 2013 to no longer prosecute adult misdemeanor pot possession cases, saying their resources were running thin for felony prosecutions. "We were wasting resources when we've got bigger fish to fry," said Hampton Commonwealth's Attorney Anton Bell, who said he wanted to increase focus on homicides and gun crimes.
Newport News' drop-off in marijuana arrests, in particular, appears to coincide with Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn's decision not to handle those cases. That left the prosecuting task to police officers — just as they handle their own traffic cases — before the cities filled the breach with alternatives. "Certainly locally here in Newport News, the absence of a prosecuting attorney to help the officers with marijuana charges has had a significant and adverse impact on the officers' ability to make those cases," Newport News Police Chief Richard Myers said. "And we know with certainty that that has contributed significantly with each passing year to the decrease in our marijuana cases."
When police officers find someone with marijuana on the street, Myers said, the extra burden of prosecuting the case "of course is going to factor into their decision-making" about whether to file pot charges or seek an alternative.... Myers, however, said his officers are not being told to "look the other way" on marijuana arrests. "We haven't done any stand-down kind of thing at all," he said. "Some folks on the street probably think we have because the arrests have dropped. And I have heard officers say that because of it, some folks are getting a little more brazen about it." But while the department places a priority on relationship building and "de-escalation," he said, "nowhere does that say that we're not making arrests, not writing tickets, that we're not being proactive."
After about a year of discussion with Gwynn's office, the city of Newport News about a month ago agreed to pay for two new prosecutors to handle marijuana cases, at a cost of about $60,000 per attorney annually, City Manager Jim Bourey said. Police officers began referring new pot cases to the prosecutor's office under the new system just last week. "We really think it's going to give the officers one more tool to kind of reel in any of that activity," Myers said. Perhaps in part because Hampton moved more quickly on this issue — hiring a lawyer with the city attorney's office to take over marijuana prosecutions in early 2015 — the decline of pot arrests in Hampton has been more modest. Hampton Police Chief Terry Sult said there's been no move to back off on enforcing marijuana laws.
"Absolutely not," Sult said. "As a matter of fact, our mission statement is prevention and then it's enforcement. And when we fail to prevent a crime, then we enforce the law, and I expect them to be professionally aggressive to enforce the law. ... I do believe in the broken windows theory, and in my view, marijuana is a gateway drug to harder problems. A lot of our violent crime is associated with marijuana and marijuana distribution, and I do think it's important that we enforce those laws — and we communicate that to our troops."
Monday, December 5, 2016
Bring it, Jeff: why I seriously doubt future AG Sessions will start a foolish new weed war federal offensive
The title of this post is my (foolish?) reaction to this notable new Politico magazine article headlined "Jeff Sessions’ Coming War on Legal Marijuana: There’s little to stop the attorney general nominee from ignoring the will of millions of pro-pot voters." Here are excerpts from the start of the article which I follow with a (too brief) explanation for my blunt "bring it" bravado:
By nominating Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for attorney general, President-elect Donald J. Trump is about to put into the nation’s top law enforcement job a man with a long and antagonistic attitude toward marijuana. As a U.S. Attorney in Alabama in the 1980s, Sessions said he thought the KKK "were OK until I found out they smoked pot.” In April, he said, “Good people don't smoke marijuana,” and that it was a "very real danger" that is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” Sessions, who turns 70 on Christmas Eve, has called marijuana reform a "tragic mistake" and criticized FBI Director James Comey and Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch for not vigorously enforcing a the federal prohibition that President Obama has called “untenable over the long term.” In a floor speech earlier this year, Senator Sessions said: "You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink… It is different….It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”
Sessions has not shared his plans on marijuana enforcement, but if he chooses, he will be able to act decisively and quickly — more so perhaps than with any other of his top agenda items such as re-doubling efforts to combat illegal immigration and relaxing oversight of local police forces and federal civil rights laws. With little more than the stroke of his own pen, the new attorney general will be able to arrest growers, retailers and users, defying the will of more than half the nation’s voters, including those in his own state who approved the use of CBD. Aggressive enforcement could cause chaos in a $6.7 billion industry that is already attracting major investment from Wall Street hedge funds and expected to hit $21.8 billion by 2020.
And so far, Congress has shown no interest in trying to stop the Sessions nomination, at least on this issue. Even members who are in favor of protecting states from federal interference on the marijuana issue have said they support Sessions’ confirmation as attorney general: “I strongly support Jeff Sessions as Attorney General,” said Representative Tom McClintock, Republican from California. “He is a strict constitutionalist who believes in the rule of law. I would expect that he will respect the prerogative of individual states to determine their own laws involving strictly intra-state commerce.”
There are dozens of reasons I think it would be quite foolish as a matter of constitutional law and sound federal policing priorities for future Attorney General Jeff Sessions to start his tenure by using broad federal police powers to criminally prosecute tens of thousands of players in a growing recreational marijuana industry. This industry is already well-established and producing thousands of jobs and tens of millions in tax revenues in Colorado, Oregon and Washington; it is now gearing up for growth in Alaska, California, Massachusetts and Nevada and maybe Maine.
In the most simple of terms, it would be foolish for the Trump/Sessions Administration to try to "Make America Great Again" via tough federal pot prohibition enforcement because it would show to all who care to pay attention that the GOP's purported affinity for personal freedoms, free markets, limited government and states' rights is a huge bunch of hooey. But I genuinely believe that most younger GOP Senators — e.g., folks like Ted Cruz, my wish pick for AG, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott— have always voiced a genuine commitment to personal freedoms, free markets, limited government and states' rights. Consequently, I do not think these important GOP voices are going to be quick to bless any efforts by future AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to bring back an era of national federal Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat.
Moreover, and completely missing from the facile analysis in this superficial Politico article, even if future AG Jeff Sessions were eager to bring back an era of national federal Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat for the emerging recreational marijuana industry, there will still be the bigger and stronger and much more consequential medical marijuana industry chugging along — especially in so many swing/red states that were critical to the election of Donald J. Trump circa 2016. I am thinking here specifically of now-red states like Arizona and Florida and Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania. Those now-red states alone add up to nearly 100 electoral votes that a whole bunch of Dems would love to win back in 2018 and 2020; and they are all states that, I think, could easily go back into the Dem column if/when establishment Dems finally figure out that medical marijuana reform in a winning issue worth promoting forcefully. (I have blogged here an explanation for my claim in a post at my other blog that Voter math suggests a possible Hillary landslide IF she had championed marijuana reform.)
Importantly, in this post I have only outlined some obvious political/policy reasons for why I think it would be foolish (and ultimately unlikely) for future AG Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to bring back an era of national federal pot Prohibition enforcement by executive fiat. In a future post, assuming readers are interested, I can explain all the reasons I think the other two branches of the federal government — Congress and the federal judiciary — can and would and should find an array of means to "stop the attorney general nominee from ignoring the will of millions of pro-pot voters." Given that Congress and federal judges over the last eight years have done a whole lot to preclude the Obama Administration from doing too much by executive fiat, everyone concerned about criminal justice and marijuana policy in the Trumpian future much keep in mind that the Framers gave us a wonderful federal system of check-and-balances that has been pretty effective at keeping the big bad federal government from doing too many stupid things that are obviously against the considered will of the people.
Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy, and Reform
December 5, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, December 4, 2016
When I think of MJ and the NBA, my thoughts generally run to Michael Jordan. But the head coach of the Golden State Warriors is now doing his best to ensure I think of marijuana reform when MJ and the NBA comes up. This local article, headlined "Warriors coach Steve Kerr strengthens stance advocating medical marijuana over painkillers," highlights some reasons why:
On Friday, Steve Kerr did what he does every day. He scrolled his phone, surfed the web and searched for NBA headlines. He saw some of the usual stuff, but, also, one plastered everywhere that caught his eye: Kerr uses pot. “I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Kerr said. “But I do find it ironic that if I said I used OxyContin for relief for my back pain, it would not have been a headline.
Kerr went on a CSN Bay Area podcast earlier in the day and had an extended discussion about the dangers of pain-killers. In it, he revealed that he tried marijuana a couple times over the past 18 months to try to relieve his back pain. It didn’t work. But within his research, he found medicinal marijuana to be far less dangerous than the pain pills prescribed to athletes.
He said he had no interest in making it into a major story. But he now doesn’t seem to mind that it has taken off in that direction because it has given him a chance to speak out against an issue he feels quite passionate. In his Saturday night pregame media session, Kerr talked for five-plus minutes on the subject.
“You get handed prescriptions for Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet,” Kerr said. “NFL players, that’s what they’re given. That stuff is awful. That stuff is dangerous. The addiction possibility, what it could lead to, the long-term health risks. So the issue that is really important is: How do we do what’s best for the players? But I understand it’s a perception issue around the country. NFL, NBA, it’s a business. So you don’t want your customers thinking these guys are a bunch of potheads. That’s what it is. But to me it’s only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues. Because the education will overwhelm the perception. If you do any research at all, the stuff they’re prescribing is really bad for you. The stuff that they’re banning is fine. Again, it’s perception. But I do think it’s a matter of time. You can see it with our country. Our country is starting to wisen up on the medicinal marijuana side. But I hope we can wisen up on the prescription drug side. That’s scary stuff and it’s really not talked about very often.”
Kerr said the “conversation is important” and continued. “I’m always struck every time I’m at home on the couch watching a sporting event, some drug commercial comes on and they show these happy people jumping in a lake, rowing a boat,” he said. “And you just wait for the qualifier: ‘Side effects include suicidal thoughts and possible death.’ And you’re just like this is insane. It’s insane. It really is. And yet the stigma is not on those drugs being prescribed day and night to anybody. The stigma is on something that’s relatively harmless.”
Kerr was then asked whether he feels the NBA should deal with the issue in the upcoming CBA, which will reportedly be finalized in the next few weeks. “I think the league should look into the use of medicinal marijuana for pain relief,” Kerr said. “As far as recreational, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about pain relief, what’s best for our players health. That’s what should be in the CBA. And that’s what our owners and our league and our player’s union should be the most concerned with. And maybe part of that is educating the public about how bad some of the stuff our players are given for pain relief actually is. So the education is important and I think as the public gets more educated and people get more educated, there will ultimately be a policy that includes medicinal CBD, oils, whatever is best suited for pain. Hopefully that’s something that comes in the next CBA, but I have no idea. That’s not my responsibility.”
Earlier in the day, Warriors forward Draymond Green was asked about the subject. He said he’d never used marijuana, but agreed with Kerr’s comments about why it’s far safer than pain-killers. “It makes a lot of sense,” Green said. “You look at something that comes from the Earth — any vegetable that comes from the Earth, they encourage you to eat it, you know? So I guess it does make a little sense, as opposed to giving someone a manufactured pill. Like, if something takes your pain away the way some of these pills do, it can’t be all good for you. So I guess it makes a lot of sense, when you look at, he talked about Vicodin and Toradol — like, you can be completely hurting and then take a Toradol shot and go through a game and feel nothing. Is that really good for you over the course of time? I doubt it.”...
Kerr may no longer be using medical marijuana. But he’s planted himself at the forefront of the discussion surrounding it. “I just urge people to do your research before you start taking the stuff we’re all encouraged to take,” he said. “And I always feel bad for the NFL guys. Playing in the NBA, I had lots of injuries, plenty of pain. I never took anything like the opioids we’re talking about. But NFL guys, those guys are basically in a car wreck every week. Sometimes twice in five days which is another issue. But when they’re prescribed that, it’s really scary. Especially when they’re prescribed by team doctors when you do research on the possible repercussions.”
Some prior related posts on sports leagues and marijuana reform:
Friday, December 2, 2016
I have a hard time keeping track of marijuana reform developments around the world, but these recent headlines highlight that these developments are worth trying to follow:
Thursday, December 1, 2016
"The Case for Pot in the Age of Opioids: Legalizing medical marijuana could save lives that may otherwise be lost to opioid addiction."
The title of this post is the headline of this U.S. News & World Report commentary on a topic that I hope continues to get more and more attention. Here is how the piece gets started (with links from the original):
Medical marijuana legalization won big this Election Day. Thanks to ballot initiatives in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota, 26 states and Washington, D.C. now have medical marijuana laws. Four states also legalized recreational marijuana, adding to the national trend.
As states embrace pot, the federal government should follow suit and move toward legalizing medical marijuana nationwide to help save lives. In states where medical marijuana is legal, fewer lives are lost to opioid overdoses. Save lives by legally smoking weed? Yes.
Those in favor of marijuana legalization for medical use have strong evidence to support that marijuana is a useful treatment for many diseases. These include the treatment ofseizures, chronic pain and supportive care for those enduring cancer treatment.
Just as important, opioid overdose deaths dropped by approximately 25 percent in states that passed medical marijuana laws, compared to states that have not, according to Johns Hopkins' Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research. That's something we can't overlook.
Yet pharmaceutical companies want us to ignore this data. In states where medical marijuana is legal, fewer opioid prescriptions are written compared to states where marijuana is illegal. This means that fewer people are buying the opioid drugs that are so profitable to the pharmaceutical companies.The number of people dying from opioid abuse in the United States has been steadily rising. We can estimate now that approximately 43,000 people will die in the United States from accidental overdoses this year, a number that has grown in the past decade.
Legalizing medical marijuana probably will save lives that would otherwise be lost to opioid abuse and addiction. And as more states move to legalize recreational marijuana, providing even greater access to the drug, one could argue opioid use may drop more.The states clearly understand that marijuana has medical benefits. Now, we need to look beyond the states to change laws on a national level. Failing to do so will end lives that we likely could save. Most notably, marijuana needs to be removed from Schedule 1, so that it can be prescribed and researched more thoroughly.
"California backers of legalized marijuana fear possible battle with attorney general pick Jeff Sessions"
Today, The Los Angeles Times reports on how marijuana legalization advocates are preparing for potential political and legal battles with the presumptive next attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). The Times's Patrick McGreevy writes:
Marijuana industry leaders in [California] and around the U.S. have launched an opposition campaign to the Senate confirmation of the Republican senator from Alabama and are appealing to the Trump camp to make sure the president-elect’s policies are consistent with his campaign comments that he favors allowing states to decide how to enforce marijuana laws...
Sessions said at a legislative hearing in April that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” a drug that he said is “dangerous.” He went on to say, “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.”...
Marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law, and industry leaders and some elected officials fear Sessions might repeal a policy directive from the Department of Justice that has prevented enforcement in the states, or take California to court and argue that federal law preempts state legalization measures.
If that happens, there will be a fight, supporters say.
"California voters supported legalization by a historic and overwhelming margin, and their elected leaders are not going to stand aside and allow the senator from Alabama to turn back California’s clock,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a leading proponent of Proposition 64...
Opponents of Proposition 64 are encouraging Sessions to reverse the federal policy that has allowed states to legalize and regulate recreational use without federal enforcement.
“The issue is really as simple as stating that federal law is, in fact, the law of the land and will be enforced across the entire nation,” said Kevin Sabet, president of the opposition group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
Sabet’s group has urged Sessions to send a letter to the governors of states that have legalized pot use and notify them that issuing licenses for marijuana sales is a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Sabet suggested the states be given six months to roll back their regulations before enforcement begins...
However, supporters of Proposition 64 said they believe the state would be obliged to defend the measure if it is challenged in court.
“We would expect a very, very strong pushback from the state, because the reality is it’s a public safety issue,” said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Assn. “They have decriminalized a product, so if you don’t allow any sort of regulation in place for people to access that product, the underground market is only going to grow.”
Bob Hoban, an attorney and marijuana industry consultant, said Trump’s selection of Sessions is “alarming,” but he is hopeful that Trump will keep the federal government’s hands off the states.
A series of court challenges to Colorado’s law have been dismissed, and the Supreme Court in March declined to hear a lawsuit by neighboring states Oklahoma and Nebraska, Hoban said. The two states argued that Colorado’s legalization regulations are unconstitutional and have a negative impact on them because marijuana is flowing across state lines.
Hoban also said it is “a very positive sign” that Trump’s transition team includes PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, whose investment firm has a $75-million stake in the marijuana industry.
Even so, Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), a leading legislative proponent of decriminalization, said California officials are “preparing to dig in” to defend the state’s values if there is a federal challenge.
Among its options, the state could mount a defense of its marijuana laws in court if the federal government challenges Propositions 64 and 215, the 1996 medical marijuana initiative, experts say.
California can also wield political clout given that the state has the largest delegation in Congress. That power was exercised when Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and Sam Farr (D-Carmel) coauthored a rider to the federal budget that has for the last two years prohibited federal funds from being used to prosecute medical marijuana businesses that are in compliance with state laws...
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Prez Obama in "exit interview" with Rolling Stone hints he might work on marijuana reform as private citizen
Rolling Stone magazine has this big new interview with Prez Obama about his legacy on an array of issues, and it includes this notable Q&A on marijuana law and policy:
You can now buy marijuana legally on the entire West Coast. So why are we still waging the War on Drugs? It is a colossal failure. Why are we still dancing around the subject and making marijuana equivalent to a Schedule I drug?
Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse. And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it. Typically how these classifications are changed are not done by presidential edict but are done either legislatively or through the DEA. As you might imagine, the DEA, whose job it is historically to enforce drug laws, is not always going to be on the cutting edge about these issues.
[Laughs] What about you? Are you gonna get on the cutting edge?
Look, I am now very much in lame-duck status. And I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go. But in light of these referenda passing, including in California, I've already said, and as I think I mentioned on Bill Maher's show, where he asked me about the same issue, that it is untenable over the long term for the Justice Department or the DEA to be enforcing a patchwork of laws, where something that's legal in one state could get you a 20-year prison sentence in another. So this is a debate that is now ripe, much in the same way that we ended up making progress on same-sex marriage. There's something to this whole states-being-laboratories-of-democracy and an evolutionary approach. You now have about a fifth of the country where this is legal.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Trump's selection of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as the next attorney general has drug policy reform advocates worried. Sessions proudly supports the drug war, which includes hostility to marijuana and the people who use it. Earlier this year he said that "good people don't smoke marijuana." In this recent editorial, The O.C. Register makes the case that Sen. Sessions needs to get with it, writing in part:
Recent public opinion polls have shown a majority of Americans support legalization, including polls conducted by Gallup and Pew Research finding 60 percent and 57 percent in support, respectively. An additional Gallup poll reported 13 percent of American adults identify as current marijuana users — bad people, according to Sessions — and 43 percent of adults have tried marijuana in their lifetimes.
While concerns over the abuse of marijuana, or any substance for that matter, are perfectly valid, it is clear that growing numbers of Americans are no longer convinced that prohibition and criminalization are justifiable approaches to the issue.
In fact, we now live in a nation where 29 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, and eight states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, despite marijuana officially being illegal under federal law...
Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice has effectively taken a hands-off approach, allowing states to try their own approaches to marijuana policy. But marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, illegal under federal law for medicinal or recreational use and distribution.
Going on his record and past statements, the prospects of a hands-off approach to marijuana under a Sessions-led DOJ seem dim. “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington saying marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” said Sessions at a hearing in April.
If there’s any room for optimism, it comes from statements made by Donald Trump throughout his campaign. “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” he said to The Washington Post last year. He later told Bill O’Reilly that he is “a hundred percent” in support of medical marijuana.
We completely agree with these stances from Trump. Allowing states greater freedom to experiment with differing approaches to complex problems is often desirable, and this is certainly the case with respect to marijuana.
Ideally, Congress should consider removing marijuana from the federal drug scheduling system entirely to remove any ambiguity about the legal status of marijuana. Short of that, a continuation of the current hands-off policy from the DOJ makes more sense than going against the wishes of the vast majority of Americans.
Regular readers of this blog know that one of the most encouraging pieces of modern marijuana research comes from the growing evidence suggesting that deaths from opioid overdoses are lower in states that have functional medical marijuana programs. (See prior discussions here and here and here.) For that reason, when I see this new article from my local paper, headlined "Ohio leads nation in overdose deaths," I immediately think it is time for all Ohio officials to try to shift the state's new medical marijuana law into high gear. Here is the ugly deadly data (which actually is based only on 2014 fatalities):
In a grim statistic that surprises no one close to the problem, Ohio leads the nation in opioid overdose deaths, a new report shows. Along with the overall category, Ohio also had the country's most deaths related to heroin: One in 9 heroin deaths across the U.S. happened in Ohio. The Buckeye State also recorded the most deaths from synthetic opioids: About 1 in 14 U.S. deaths.
In all the categories, Ohio easily surpassed states with larger populations. According to state-by-state statistics compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2,106 opioid overdoses were reported in Ohio in 2014, which was 7.4 percent of the 28,647 deaths reported nationwide that year. California ranked second with 2,024 deaths and New York was third with 1,739.
The statistics are troubling but probably aren’t news to many law enforcement officials, treatment providers and families of addicts in Ohio who have seen the number of overdose deaths shoot up every year lately. Ohio’s status as the nation’s OD capital may continue. The state’s overdose deaths rocketed to 3,050 last year and are expected to burst past that number in 2016.
The Kaiser analysis, compiled from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information, showed Ohio had the highest number of deaths from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, with 590 deaths out of 5,544 nationally, or 7.4 percent. Finally, Ohio also had the dubious distinction of having the most heroin deaths in 2014, 1,208 of 10,574 nationally, or 11.4 percent, the Kaiser statistics showed.
Tellingly, the MUCH bigger states of California and New York both have medical marijuana programs (though New York's is still in its infancy), and I suspect that marijuana access is generally greater in a number of other larger prohibition states (e.g., Texas and Florida) relative to Ohio. Critically, I am not asserting that marijuana reform alone is a magic solution to opioid overdose problems or even that Ohio's new medical marijuana program will make a major difference in this arena. But I am asserting that, at a time of a deadly opioid crisis that has only gotten worse and worse each year, state officials ought to be embracing any and every public policy response that research suggests might be of help. Marijuana reform would seem to be on any serious list of public policy responses that research suggests might be of help in this time of crisis.
Some prior related posts:
Monday, November 28, 2016
Regular readers know I find fascinating the intersection of MJ reform and NFL realities. Two recent pieces, as linked and excerpted below, highlight these realities:
Seantrel Henderson, a third-year offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills, is facing his second suspension of the season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse rules. But Henderson’s case is unusual because it raises fresh questions about the approach to pain management and changing attitudes about the legalization of marijuana.
What makes Henderson’s situation unique is that he uses marijuana, which is legal in many states but prohibited under the collective bargaining agreement in the NFL, to combat the pain from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that just this year has caused him to have two surgeries. In January, 2 1/2 feet of his colon were removed and in April he underwent surgery to reattach his intestines. In the interim, he wore an ileostomy bag and lost 50 pounds. He chose not to appeal the four-game suspension he received in September, his first of the season.
But Henderson is expected to appeal what would be a 10-game suspension for this second offense for using a banned substance. The NFL is expected to decide his punishment this week and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that Henderson may take the matter to court.
For the typical American going to work every day, the demands of your job probably don't include your daily dose of pain medications which are administered by your employer. Imagine being an employee at General Motors or Chase Bank and being forced to see your "company doctor" for all ailments and being prescribed addictive pain medications. Now what if that same job resulted in daily injuries, most of which would be considered debilitating for the general population? Well this was the reality for me and countless other NFL players....
With so many states now legalizing some form of legal marijuana use, the NFL and its conservative owners must face the inevitable. The players' association is beginning to push the league to reevaluate their logic. "Certainly given some of the medical research out there, marijuana is going to be one of the substances we talk a look at," says Players' Union Executive George Atallah.
The league's response to the topic included a statement that it would be open to reconsidering its policy, but the league's medical experts haven't recommended any changes. Let's remember that these same medical experts denied that football caused concussions.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
The title of this post comes from this BBC.com article, which states in part:
The current domestic black market for marijuana is CA$5bn ($3.7bn; £3bn).
Chris Horlacher is president of Jade Maple, a consulting agency in the cannabis industry and one of the founding members of the Cannabis Growers of Canada (CGC). They represent small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs trying to establish
Canada's "craft cannabis" industry.
He says there is frustration and fear that the federal government will simply allow already established legal medical marijuana suppliers to take over the recreational marketplace.
"The government has created this brand new camp that is trying to gain its share of the market and they don't necessarily understand the product, the culture," Mr Horlacher says.
"We have all these people who are actually newcomers who don't have any experience with the product and now they're saying: 'We're the legitimate ones and you're the evil profiteers.'"
Medical marijuana is legal in Canada but, since 2014, registered patients can only get their cannabis shipped from licensed large-scale suppliers. They have also recently been allowed to grow their own.
There are currently 36 licensed growers in Canada. Many are openly positioning for the eventual legal recreational market.
Canadians, especially its youth, are among the world's biggest pot users.
Ottawa says legal pot under a new "strict regulation" regime will make it easier to keep it away from young people, to pull profits from organised crime, to reduce the burden on police and the justice system, and to improve public health.
A federal legalisation task force is wrapping up its work and is expected to send its recommendations to the government soon.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
As long-time readers know, my modern professional interests in marijuana law policy and reform emerged directly from my professional interests in criminal justice reform general and sentencing reform in particular. For that reason, I will be watching especially closely the application and impact of the criminal justice/sentence provisions that were part of California's marijuana legalization proposition, Prop 64. This new article from the San Francisco Chronicle, headlined "Green wave: Legalized marijuana setting scores of defendants free," provides an early report:
Chris Phillips, a marijuana entrepreneur and Livermore father of four, faced five felony counts and possible prison time after he was accused of illegally growing pot at his home, which police raided in June. But when California voters legalized cannabis for recreational use Nov. 8, they retroactively erased several small-time pot crimes and reduced the penalties for bigger ones like growing, selling and transporting.
So at 9 a.m. the next day, Phillips sat in a courtroom in Pleasanton. He was first on the docket, and it wasn’t long before his attorney Bill Panzer and Alameda County prosecutors hammered out a deal for the 36-year-old to plead guilty to just one misdemeanor possession charge. “It was literally a sigh of relief,” said Phillips, who runs several pot farms, a medical dispensary in Long Beach and an extract brand — and had been out of jail on a half-million-dollar bond....
California judges are now setting free scores of people whose pending cases are no longer cases at all. Thousands more in jail or prison, or on probation or parole, are beginning to petition to reduce their sentences. And potentially tens of thousands of citizens with a rap sheet for pot can clear their names.
California does not keep detailed records on pot crimes, but the attorney general’s office said police made 8,866 felony pot arrests in 2015, involving 7,987 adults and 879 juveniles — mainly for possession for sale, cultivation and transportation. Roughly 2,000 jail and prison inmates are affected by Prop. 64, according to estimates from the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group that helped sponsor the initiative.
The California Legislative Analyst’s Office said Prop. 64 could result in net court savings of tens of millions of dollars per year. Counties that took the hardest line on pot in the past are seeing the biggest shares of sentence reductions and dismissals, lawyers say. “We’re getting calls many times throughout the day,” said Joe Rogoway, an attorney who practices in San Francisco and the North Bay and specializes in cannabis law. “It’s cathartic. I’m elated to be able to go into court and help people.”
The changes are profound. For example, illegally growing a single marijuana plant used to be a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. Today, it’s no longer a crime. About a dozen other crimes were either deleted or downgraded. Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick, an office spokeswoman, said local judges were sending felony pot cases to misdemeanor court, though she didn’t have the exact number of cases. “We’re absolutely following the law,” she said.
Sacramento County prosecutors say they have about 75 affected cases. San Mateo officials report approximately 100 pending cases, mostly felonies for alleged cultivation, while San Francisco prosecutors report about 200 affected cases, mostly involving small-time sales. San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said defendants being held in county jails because they could not post bail are being released if they’ve already served more time than they would if convicted of what’s now a misdemeanor. “That will be common,” he said. “There’ll be plenty of those.”
Wagstaffe, who is also president of the California District Attorneys Association, expects Prop. 64 to cause police officers to arrest and cite fewer people for remaining pot crimes that are now misdemeanors, because the effort is “not worth” the paperwork and police time....
Because young, low-income people of color have felt the brunt of drug enforcement, they stand to gain the most from the law’s changes, said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “That’s certainly what we’re hoping,” he said. Now, citizens who potentially faced years in jail are sometimes facing days. Omar Figueroa, a Sebastopol attorney specializing in cannabis, said one of his clients was looking at up to nearly five years in prison for felony transporting of pot and possession for sale, as well as a related probation violation. After Prop. 64, Figueroa said Sonoma County prosecutors agreed to an infraction charge, with no jail and no probation.
In Los Angeles, attorney Allison Margolin spoke of a client with a 3-year-old warrant alleging hash possession. The defendant never surrendered, and now he doesn’t have to. “Possession of hash is no longer a crime at all,” she said. “We can take away his warrant.”
Beyond those in jail, or awaiting trial on pending cases, an estimated tens of thousands of Californians on probation or parole have begun petitioning to reduce or end supervision, which would give them full rights to travel, refuse a search and use marijuana medically. Many crimes that once yielded three, five or seven years of probation now have a maximum term of one year under Prop. 64.
Margolin noted that Prop. 64 builds on Proposition 47, which reduced drug possession and low-level theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors when California voters approved it in 2014. While Prop. 47 diverted most drug users out of the felony court system, she said, Prop. 64 diverts pot growers, sellers, transporters and all juveniles, as well. “It’s really awesome for a lot of people, of course,” Margolin said. “A young person who sold weed in college and gets caught and then has it affect their whole life — there’s probably more than 100,000 people in those situations.”
The biggest group touched by Prop. 64 — those who have already been punished for past pot convictions — may number in the hundreds of thousands. Many are now eligible to clean up their records, which could improve their job prospects or give them the right to possess a gun. “I cannot overstate the significance of this,” said Rogoway. “It really is a paradigm shift.”
The California Judicial Council posted forms online last week for any pot convict or defendant — adult or juvenile — to petition for a resentencing, for reduced charges, or to expunge and seal their record. Those who are awaiting trial or are behind bars don’t need a form. They can petition for a Prop. 64 sentence reduction orally at their next court date.
Margolin plans to hold a Prop. 64 legal clinic Dec. 3 while offering to help people address past convictions for $1,000. She said such expungements may not totally clear people’s records in all databases, but they will no longer have to check employment application boxes saying they were convicted of a felony.
For those aiming to make a living in the marijuana business, Prop. 64 may be even more pivotal. Felons who felt locked out of the industry “now have a reason to strive forward,” said Phillips, the Livermore entrepreneur, who announced with pride that he had become Puerto Rico’s first medical marijuana licensee. “You can make your new life happen.”
Ironically, Phillips had spent a year opposing Prop. 64, believing the law would lead to a corporate takeover of cannabis that would undermine medical patients. But just two weeks before the election, Phillips said he sat down with his lawyer, read the 62-page initiative and realized it would set him free. “How stupid I was for a whole year talking about this,” he said.
The question in the title of this post was the headline of this recent New York Times article, which included these excerpts:
For businesses and insurers, a string of ballot victories this month for marijuana advocates are adding to an intensifying conundrum about the drug and issues such as insurance coverage, employee drug testing and workplace safety.... “We are entering this conflict between a social policy decision and a workplace that is highly regulated,” said Alex Swedlow, the chief executive of the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, a research organization.
A major part of the predicament centers on unclear science about the benefits of marijuana or the dozens of compounds, known as cannabinoids, that are found in the plant. For its part, the Food and Drug Administration has approved only a synthetic version of a cannabinoid and a similar drug for narrow uses, such as to treat nausea in chemotherapy patients or to stimulate the appetites of patients with AIDS. Typically, health insurers will pay for marijuana-related drugs only for F.D.A.-approved uses.
But state medical marijuana laws usually give doctors permission to recommend marijuana to a patient with a “debilitating” condition, a phrase that can encompass problems including glaucoma, cancer and chronic pain. Usually, patients pay for the drug themselves and several states have explicitly exempted workplace compensation insurers for covering such costs.
But as a result of recent state court rulings in New Mexico, workplace insurers there are required to pay for marijuana-based treatments if they are recommended by a doctor. And lower courts in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan have issued rulings directing workplace insurers to do so. The number of patients receiving such coverage is small. And because marijuana is illegal under federal law, insurers paying for the drug must use a financial workaround to avoid violations. One strategy is to reimburse patients for their costs rather than make a direct payment to a marijuana dispensary....
Despite the push toward legalization, few employers have dropped marijuana from the list of drugs for which employees are tested, compounds that typically include opioids, amphetamines and cocaine... As marijuana legalization expands, there are also concerns about its effect on workplace safety. Some studies suggest that marijuana use can impair a person’s judgment, though little data exists to compare the effect with that of other drugs like opioids.
In states where recreational use is allowed, the problem for employers becomes one of determining when an employee used marijuana, because detectable levels of it remain in the body for days afterward. As a result, employers must use more subjective observations to judge whether an employee has become impaired from using marijuana while at work, said Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that supports legalization.
As for Mr. Vialpando, the disabled worker in Santa Fe, he and his wife say they have all the evidence they need that medical marijuana works. Mr. Vialpando said that during the decade he used opioids, he withdrew from his family and friends, preferring to spend time by himself, watching television. He lost interest in food and developed sleep apnea — his wife used to wake up terrified at night because it appeared that he was dying.
These days, he smokes about four marijuana cigarettes daily. He said he had gained weight, enjoyed talking again and had resumed working on hobbies at home. His wife, Margaret, said that she hoped President-elect Donald J. Trump, when he takes office, will make marijuana a legal drug by changing how it is regulated. “I feel like I’ve gotten my husband back,” she said. “His personality has come back to the person that he used to be.”
November 26, 2016 in Employment and labor law issues, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Forbes.com reports on the milestone of sorts at the New York Stock Exchange:
The race to be the first cannabis company to list on one of the major stock exchanges is over.
The New York Stock Exchange has approved the initial public offering of Innovative Industrial Properties, a real estate investment trust that plans to invest in medical marijuana properties. Since marijuana is still federally illegal, the New York Stock Exchange could be breaking its own requirement not to list companies that aren’t in compliance with the law.
This is why most marijuana companies are publicly traded at the Over-The-Counter market, where there is little concern over a company’s business as long as it files the proper paperwork. That’s not the case at the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange, both of which conduct strenuous reviews of potential clients. Neither would comment on this story.
Year-to-date, IPOs are down 42% from last year. This decline in business has affected both exchanges. Could the exchanges be willing to ease their rules in order to bring in new business?
Innovative Industrial Properties filed to go public on Oct. 17 and chose the New York Stock Exchange as its home. At the time of the filing, the NYSE would only share its filing review process and would not comment on the filing request. The review process states that “companies must be in compliance with the law.” On Nov. 17, the REIT confirmed it had been approved, although the NYSE still won’t discuss the listing.
NYSE may have found comfort in the company’s top management. Executive Chairman Alan Gold co-founded two NYSE-listed REITs, BioMed Realty and Alexandria Real Estate. An affiliate of The Blackstone Group purchased BioMed for $8 billion earlier this year and Alexandria is currently listed at the NYSE under the symbol ARE. So, they have worked with Gold before and maybe that is why they were willing to take the risk.
Cannabis social media company MassRoots also doesn’t “touch the plant,” but they were rejected for an uplisting by Nasdaq. Chief Executive Officer Issac Dietrich said, “We went to Maryland to meet with the Nasdaq listing people and their main focus was on the risk factors.” Dietrich said the company was very transparent that some business people could accuse them of aiding and abetting criminal activity.
“They were a little uncomfortable with that risk factor. They spent six weeks reviewing the application and then told us they were not willing to move forward,” said Dietrich. “They didn’t want to be a trailblazer.” He is hoping that since the NYSE has accepted IIPR, it will give them more comfort...
The question in the title of this post is prompted by the recent release of this report by several U.K. lawmakers titled The Tide Effect: How the world is changing its mind on cannabis legalisation. The executive summary states:
The people of California have just voted to legalise cannabis – a decision which will have immense repercussions both in America and around the world, while efforts are already underway in Canada to legally regulate the cannabis market. The Tide Effect argues strongly that the UK should follow suit, and that the legalisation of cannabis here is both overdue and imperative.
The eight main points outlined in The Tide Effect are:
- The government strategy is based around three main pillars: reducing demand, restricting supply and building recovery. All three are failing.
- Regulation is substantially more desirable than simple decriminalisation or unregulated legalisation, because only regulation addresses all four key issues: ensuring that the product meets acceptable standards of quality and purity; removing criminal gangs from the equation as far as possible; raising revenue for the Treasury through point-of-sale taxation; and best protecting public health.
- The entire language used to address cannabis-related issues needs to change. Language poses a barrier every bit as formidable as legislation does. The opponents of legalisation have long been able to reinforce their position by using the words of public fear – ‘illegal,’ ‘criminal’, ‘dangerous’, and so on. Only by using the language of public health, consumer rights and harm reduction, the same language used about alcohol and tobacco, can we move towards regulation.
- The scale of a legalised industry will be huge. The US market is estimated to be worth $25bn by the time of the next election in 2020. A similarly regulated UK market could be worth around £7bn per annum.
- Legally regulating cannabis will allow long-term studies of its health effects not currently possible. The effects of both tobacco and alcohol are well understood because of the amount of scientific scrutiny brought to bear on them.
- Many shifts in public policy are prompted, or at least prodded, by an emotional response on the part of the public. Greater efforts must be made to show that the cannabis issue also has a human aspect to which many people respond.
- Any campaign to legalise cannabis must be multifaceted, involving public support, media analysis and political engagement.
- Responsibility for cannabis policy should be moved primarily to the department for Health, while the role of the Home Office should change from enforcement of prohibition to enforcement of regulation and licensing.
The Brookings Institution's John Hudak discussed with The New York Times:
• How worried should California’s emerging marijuana industry be about Mr. Sessions?
As attorney general, Sessions would have the ability to rescind two Justice Department directives — known as the Cole and Ogden memos — that called for stepping back from marijuana prosecutions. He could also use federal law enforcement power against operators and sue state regulators to block state systems. The only person who can stop the attorney general is the president, and it is unclear whether Trump will direct or delegate drug policy — the latter option being what should worry California the most.
• What’s your read on Mr. Trump’s posture toward states with legal marijuana?
Trump has made statements that seem supportive of states’ rights around marijuana and made others that are unclear. It is also unclear whether this is a policy he will direct from the White House or just let his attorney general steer this ship. It all means, pot policy in the U.S. is up in the air.
• What might a marijuana crackdown in California look like?
First, the Justice Department would likely sue the state to prevent the enforcing of Prop 64. They could use other law enforcement entities — outside of the Drug Enforcement Administration — to begin physical crackdowns on existing operators. The law enforcement efforts would be expensive. The litigation approach might be cheaper and easier — if less effective.
• What does all this mean for the individual consumer?
It would be nearly impossible for federal officials to arrest every marijuana consumer in California (or elsewhere), but if the Trump administration strikes at the heart of the industry — shutting down the supply chain — it would drive producers underground and consumers back to the black market.
Friday, November 18, 2016
And Sessions really dislikes pot smokers. According to WaPo:
In 1986, a Senate committee denied Sessions, then a 39-year-old U.S. attorney in Alabama, a federal judgeship. His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were "okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana."
His selection is not an encouraging sign for those hoping for (among other things) a continuation of the Obama administration's more temperate stance on marijuana policy.
NORML has graded Sessions an "F" on its congressional scorecard.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Shouldn't a new "grassroots" Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders get started by focusing on grass and roots?
In the video below from the Late Show, Bernie Sanders tells Stephen Colbert that the Democrats have to become a "grassroots" party. Because of the frustrating tendency in recent years the the Clinton wing of the Democratic party to promote and give power to older, less diverse and more "insider" officials and candidates than the Republican party, I have largely given up on the party and I am fairly apathetic about whether the party gets its act together sooner or later. But I am sure about one thing: if the Democratic party wants to become relevant very quickly and build as a true "grassroots" party, it ought to begin by focusing a lot on marijuana law and policy reform. Specifically, as the title of this post seeks to suggests, I think smart progressive politicians and community organizers ought to be laser focused, at least for the next six months if not longer, on (1) protecting the constitutional rights of citizens in states who are in strict and clear compliance with state marijuana laws (that is the "grass"), and (2) seeking to expand the reach and breadth of existing state marijuana reform laws, with a particular concern for allowing citizens a legal means for at least limited "home grow" (that is the roots).
I make this "pitch" largely driven by the fact that the only significant progressive policy issue that has gone to voters in the last two major election cycles and pretty consistently done much better with most voters (especially white male voters) than the leading Democratic candidate IN RED STATES has been marijuana reform. Specifically, in the 2014 election, in Alaska and Florida, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more than 50% of the vote even though, I believe, no democratic state-wide candidate in those two stated got more than 50% of the vote. Similarly, in the 2016 election, in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more support than the leading Democratic candidate. (The outlier here is Arizona, but notably exit polls show 43% of white men supported supported full legalization in the state, whereas only 36% of them supported Hillary Clinton; similarly 45% of whites without a college degree in Arizona supported full legalization, whereas only 35% of them supported Hillary Clinton.)
I could go on and on and on about why the "smart" approach for any political party circa Fall 2016 would be to focus on the bipartisan and wildly popular issue of medical marijuana reform. I will just close by noting that major medical or recreational marijuana reform is now the law of the land in just about big blue and red state except Texas. Specifically, recreational marijuana reform is now the law in "big states" like California (55 EV), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), Colorado (9) Oregon (7), Nevada (6), while medical marijuana reform is the law of the land in Florida (29), New York (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), Arizona (11), Connecticut (7), Arkansas (6). Notably, I have left out three "small" full legalization jurisdictions from this list (e.g., Alaska, Maine and Washing DC), but my list of bigger states now with major marijuana reform laws on their books after the 2016 election now just happens to add up to 271 electoral votes.
This electoral math and the marijuana map are among the reasons I remain quite bullish about the future of marijuana reform in the United States, and it is why I have been saying to any and everyone who would listen that the truly smart political candidates in BOTH major political parties are likely to be supportive of state-led marijuana reforms. But, given that the election last week highlighted that leading Democrats are not very good at getting to 270, I am not really all that optimistic that the Democratic party will wake up and smell the marijuana reform future rather than keep being focused on the prohibitionist past.
November 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Via email, I received news of this new accounting (with some typos) of reform states and their populations recently produced by folks at Carnevale Associates LLC. In addition, the same folks previously produced a three-page Policy Brief headlined "Policy Debate Must Adjust to Changes in State Law and Public Opinion" which I promoted in this prior post titled "Highlighting the 'knowledge gap' as marijuana reform moves forward at a speedy pace"
Though I will not crunch the numbers here, the accounting of states and populations reveals that before last week, there were roughly 20 million Americans living in states which had passed full marijuana legalization by initiative. Now, thanks to big states like California and Massachusetts and with a little help from Nevada and Maine, the number of Americans living in states that have passed full marijuana legalization has tripled to over 65 million.
November 15, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, November 14, 2016
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Wall Street Journal article. Here are excerpts:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s husband and sons ordered her a new Benelli 12-gauge shotgun as a gift, but when the Alaska Republican — and enthusiastic duck hunter — went to pick it up, she was puzzled by a question on the federal background form she had to fill out. The form asked if she used marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, both of which are legal in Alaska. If she answered yes, she would be unable to get the gun, because federal law prohibits anyone who uses illegal drugs from buying a firearm.
The senator doesn’t use pot, but she was taken aback by the notion that an activity that is legal in her state could block gun ownership. “I don’t like marijuana — I voted against legalization — but we passed it,” Ms. Murkowski said in an interview. “Now, you’ve got this conflict.”
The scope of that conflict just grew, as voters in eight states last week approved marijuana-related ballot initiatives. Now, 28 states and Washington D.C., allow marijuana use in some form, including eight that allow recreational use. Yet federal law still holds that anyone who uses marijuana, even medicinally, is doing so illegally and can’t buy a gun.
That is upsetting advocates for both gun owners and pot smokers, groups that don’t always find themselves on the same side of the cultural divide. “This idea that you somehow waive your Second Amendment rights if you smoke marijuana” is wrong, said Keith Stroup, founder of NORML, which advocates marijuana legalization. “In particular, if you are using marijuana as a medicine, the idea that you have to choose between your health and the Second Amendment is offensive.