Friday, December 6, 2013
Today's New York Times has this very interesting new article headlined "Families See Colorado as New Frontier on Medical Marijuana." Here are excerpts:
As their children cooed from wheelchairs and rocked softly in their arms, the marijuana migrants of Colorado clasped hands, bowed their heads and said a prayer of cautious thanks.
They thanked God for the dinner of roast turkey and mashed potatoes, for their children and for the marijuana-based serum that has drawn 100 families to Colorado on a desperate pilgrimage to quell the squalls of seizures inside their children’s heads. They have come from Florida and Virginia, South Carolina and New York, lining up to treat their children with a promising but largely untested oil that is considered legal medicine in this cannabis-friendly state.
“Thank you for bringing us together,” said Aaron Lightle, whose wife and 9-year-old daughter, Madeleine, moved here after the girl’s neurologists suggested removing part of her brain to stop her relentless seizures. “In crazy ways, maybe. But hey, we’re here.” Amen, they said.
Their migration is one of myriad ways that a once-illicit drug is reshaping life here in Colorado, which now stands at the forefront of the national debate over legalizing drugs. While these families are seeking treatment through a medical marijuana system that has existed for years, they are arriving at a time when the drug is becoming a mainstream part of public life, made legal for recreational use in a historic vote last year....
The new arrivals call themselves marijuana refugees. Many have left jobs and family members behind in states where marijuana remains outlawed, or cannot be used to treat children. While some have moved their entire families, others are splintered, paying rent and raising children in two states. During the holidays, they join family gatherings through video chats and swap iPhone pictures of Christmas trees.
But as more arrive to register their children as medical-marijuana patients, they have knitted together a random family here, across the suburbs and foothills of Colorado’s Front Range. They are Muslims and conservative Christians, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. Now, they cook dinners and babysit for one another. They meet to compare progress and seizure diaries. They discuss the best ways to feed the oil to their children. They wait, and hope for results that mirror the astonishing successes they have seen in television reports and online videos....
The families have hung their hopes on a marijuana oil called Charlotte’s Web, which is made by a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado Springs. The business, called Indispensary, also sells a variety of highly potent marijuana and edibles. Buyers of the medical marijuana must present certifications from two practicing Colorado doctors.
Charlotte’s Web is a rich amber and as thick as cold honey. It smells like marijuana and tastes like raw plants. Joel Stanley, one of five brothers who run the dispensary, says the oil is low in THC, which gets users high, but contains a wealth of a cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical that provides no buzz, but that marijuana advocates and medical researchers say has a variety of medical uses.
A month’s supply of the oil can cost $150 to $250, and some families say they receive financial help from a nonprofit group related to the dispensary called the Realm of Caring Foundation. In a YouTube video produced by Realm of Caring, two mothers describe how their children were transformed after taking the oil for a few months. In one section, Paige Figi recalls how seizures had jolted her daughter Charlotte every 15 minutes, leaving the girl unable to walk or talk. In the next shot, the girl dances in a pink leotard and shouts, “Ballerina!”
The other mother featured in the video, Heather Jackson, was so convinced by the potential of CBD that she is now the executive director of the Realm of Caring Foundation. Ms. Jackson said her son, Zaki, who once had 200 seizures a day, still faces a host of developmental disabilities, and will probably need help for the rest of his life. But she said he had gone 14 months without a seizure. A pretreatment recording of electrical activity in his brain showed a heaving chaos of huge spikes and deep troughs. A readout taken several months in showed smoother rises and falls. “It’s really incredible,” Ms. Jackson said in an interview. “For whatever reason, this has put his syndrome into remission.”
There is only scattered medical research to substantiate the claims, in large part because marijuana’s outlaw status has kept it off limits for many scientists in the United States. Studies as far back as 1975 have suggested that cannabidiol can prevent spasms in lab animals, and a few researchers in the United States have conducted limited studies on people.
Dr. Margaret Gedde, a Colorado physician who has recommended medical marijuana to dozens of families with severely epileptic children, recently conducted a small survey that offered promising results. Of 11 families who treated their children with high-CBD oil, eight reported that their children’s seizures had fallen by 98 to 100 percent. The other families reported smaller but noticeable declines. Dr. Gedde and her co-researcher, Dr. Edward H. Maa, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, will present their research to the American Epilepsy Society at a meeting next week.
But the clinical trials matter little to parents who have watched their children sustain cracked skulls and broken arms during seizures, who have spent holidays in the emergency room, whose toddlers are taking barbiturates. After years of watching their children slowly vanish behind a firestorm of seizures, or the debilitating side effects of powerful prescription drugs, they said marijuana seemed worth a try.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Folks eager for reform of modern marijuana prohibition have a whole lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and Moms for Marijuana has posted the image reprinted here which has me wondering how many persons now use medical marijuana in order to feel better and have a serious appetite in order to be able to enjoy a traditional holiday meal with family and friends.
As the title of this post hints, I was thinking about my all-time-favorite Thanksgiving leftover meal earlier today when a (lame?) holiday joke came to me. Though turkey pot pie now is the name for a terrific dish to dresss up what is left of the holiday bird, the meaning could become a lot different with a few commas. Specifically, with marijuana reform and legalization efforts continuing to gain momentum, I wonder if in the near future we will hear the term turkey, pot, pie and think this describes the consumption agenda for many Thanksgiving celebrants.
Of course, for those already eager to have Thanksgiving traditions include marijuana, this post at the Weed Blog should satisfy all your holiday needs. The post is headlined "Thanksgiving Marijuana Recipes," and it has a long list of instructions for those interested in "going big and doing a huge feast, with everything containing cannabis."
Monday, November 25, 2013
New report (by reform advocacy group) praises state regulation of medical marijuana in wake of DOJ enforcement memo
As reported in this press release,"[m]edical marijuana advocates Americans for Safe Access (ASA) issued a report today that analyzes the Obama Administration's latest enforcement guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that regulate medical marijuana distribution." Here are basics concerning the 88-page report (which is available in full here):
The report, "Third Time the Charm? State Laws on Medical Cannabis Distribution and Department of Justice Guidance on Enforcement," shows that states have already enacted regulations that meet federal concerns, and some would have stronger regulations if it were not for federal threats that disrupted the legislative process. The report concludes with recommendations for how federal and state legislators can protect patients and harmonize state and federal policies.
Medical marijuana patients greeted the Department of Justice (DOJ) memo issued August 31st by U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole with cautious optimism. The memo is the third from the Obama Administration that attempts to rein in federal prosecutors in states that allow for regulated distribution of marijuana. The first memo, issued in October 2009 by Cole's predecessor, then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, did not stop various federal prosecutors from attempting to thwart the implementation of several state medical marijuana laws. A report issued by ASA earlier this year put the cost of federal interference with state medical marijuana programs at more than $300 million.
“We hope the latest federal policy on marijuana will compel the Obama Administration to make good on its promises to stop wasting taxpayer money on undermining duly enacted state laws,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “With almost 40 percent of Americans living in states that permit medical marijuana, it's time for the federal government to resolve the conflict between its outdated policies and the growing number of compassionate state laws.”...
The ASA report recommends that state legislators use the 2013 Cole memo as a guide when developing production and distribution regulations, while avoiding unnecessarily restrictive policies that fail to meet the needs of patients. The report also urges lawmakers to recognize that all three DOJ directives maintain that cultivation by individual patients is not a federal enforcement concern, giving the green light for state legislators to preserve or adopt patient cultivation rules.
The report also recommends that Congress make short and long-term policy changes to ensure respect for state laws and protection for patients and their providers. The report urges federal legislators to restrict how DOJ funds are spent on enforcement in medical marijuana states until the DOJ can determine what "metrics" to use in evaluating compliance with their enforcement priorities. As a long-term solution, the report asks Congress to adopt HR 689, which would reclassify marijuana for medical use.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
The title of this post is the headline of this new commentary by Jacob Sollum. Here are excerpts:
Possessing up to an ounce of marijuana in California is an “infraction” punishable by a $100 fine. In other words, state law treats pot smoking as a transgression akin to jaywalking or fishing without a license. Yet growing and selling marijuana are felonies that can send you to prison for years.
If consuming marijuana is not a crime, how can it be a crime merely to help someone consume marijuana? That is a question voters will confront next fall if the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative qualifies for the ballot.
The initiative, which would eliminate all state and local penalties for producing, possessing, and distributing marijuana, instructs the legislature to regulate cannabis “in a manner analogous to, and no more onerous than, California’s beer and wine model.” That is similar to the policies approved last fall by voters in Colorado, where the legalization initiative was known as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, and Washington, where the state liquor control board will license pot shops that are scheduled to open next year.
The Colorado and Washington initiatives both received about 55 percent of the vote, and recent polling in California indicates a similar level of support. All three states have had medical marijuana dispensaries for years, and that experience on the whole appears to have been reassuring.
The main criticism of the dispensaries — that they cater largely to recreational consumers who fake or exaggerate symptoms to get the requisite doctor’s notes — actually counts in favor of broader legalization. If medical marijuana is a charade that amounts to de facto legalization, what is there to fear from making it official?
States that allow medical use do not seem to have suffered as a result. In fact, Montana State University economist D. Mark Anderson and University of Colorado economist Daniel Rees find that enacting medical marijuana laws is associated with a 13 percent drop in traffic fatalities, possibly because more cannabis consumption means less alcohol consumption, which has a much more dramatic effect on driving ability.
Anderson and Rees also consider the impact of legalization on pot smoking by teenagers. Looking at data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 1993 through 2011, they see “little evidence of a relationship between legalizing medical marijuana and the use of marijuana among high school students.” Narrowing the focus to California after medical marijuana dispensaries began proliferating, they find “little evidence that marijuana use among Los Angeles high school students increased in the mid-2000s.”
Thursday, November 14, 2013
The title of this post is the headline of this notable story via UPI. Here are excerpts:
Some medical marijuana enthusiasts in Colorado are taking the "holistic approach" by giving their pets pot to deal with pain.
As animals age, it’s harder for them to do things like fetch, run and play, prompting some owners to prescribe marijuana to help fix the problem. "Arthritis is the really big thing for our pets as they get older, for being able to move about and get their exercise,” pet owner Barbara Novey told local Fox affiliate KXRM.
"So medication of any type that will help someone that is natural will help their pet as well, and I think that maybe our pets can help us purge this reefer madness mentality and realize that it's not the dangerous drug that you think it is."
Novey thinks pot is therapeutic for her pooch, but NorthWest Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. John Sudduth asserts that giving a dog medical marijuana can be deadly. "There just hasn't been enough research that has been presented to the medical community that would inform us to how to safely use medication such as marijuana. You're really playing with fire. You don't really know what you're giving and what kind of side effects it could have. It could result in serious illness and it could result in death in some cases."
"Pets are not necessarily people in fur coats," Sudduth added. "And how they metabolize medications and utilize medications those are all separate issues that have to be determined."
It is still illegal for veterinarians to prescribe medical marijuana pills. "We need to know about the indications, the usage, the side effects the toxicities and all of those things would have to be worked out before any of these medications, like marijuana might be used," Sudduth said.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
What public health lessons for marijuana policies can and should be drawn from tobacco's legal history?
The question in the title of this post is the student-selected topic for discussion this week in my Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform seminar. Excitingly, my students have arranged for the ideal guest-speaker on this topic: Professor Micah Berman, who recently joined to The Ohio State University community as an Assistant Professor of Public Health and Law. (Micah and I are not related even though we share a last name and dashing good looks.)
On this general topic, the students have suggested reviewing one of Micah Berman's law review articles: Smoking Out the Impact of Tobacco-Related Decisions on Public Health Law, 75 Brooklyn Law Review (2010) (available at this link). As the students have explained, this article "provides a ton of insight to the tobacco industry and its history" as it reviews "the history of tobacco in the US and how big tobacco has defended itself from liability for the last fifty years."
Monday, November 11, 2013
In America, the relationship between doctors and the hegemonic pharmaceutical industry is fraught with painful, mind-numbing contradiction. There’s no better example of this than in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among US veterans and others around the country. Drugs like Risperdal, an antipsychotic, are said to be no more effective in the treatment of PTSD than a placebo. These drugs are widely distributed to treat the symptoms of PTSD, despite allegations that they’re ineffectual in treatment of the condition.
PTSD is a disorder, characterized by extreme emotional or mental anxiety, often the result of a physical or psychological injury. When confronted with a potentially deadly situation, it’s natural for humans to feel afraid — we’ve developed pretty sophisticated fight-or-flight responses to deal with real or perceived danger. PTSD arises when that response is damaged, and the patient feels stressed or frightened even when he or she is no longer in danger. The disease disproportionately affects soldiers deployed in war zones. Very often they are in situations so dangerous that they develop the condition, and return home as shell-shocked emotional cripples. Veteran’s Affairs claims that today, almost 300,000 veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, although the number is likely much higher due to lack of diagnosis.
According to Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, marijuana could be the answer. Mechoulam is a respected Israeli neuroscientist who studies the use of medical cannabis and its role in “memory extinction.” Memory extinction happens slowly to everyone, but it’s clear that in regular pot smokers, the process may be exacerbated, to say the least. According to Mechoulam, increased memory extinction could be helpful for sufferers of PTSD, reducing the mind’s associative link between external stimuli and traumatic events. Instead of connecting a loud noise with a bomb going off, cannabis can help destroy that link completely.
Despite this research, many states still do not count PTSD as a disorder that warrants a medical marijuana card. Because of this, veterans are seeking other legal and non-legal ways to procure weed. I recently spoke with two young ex-marines who self-medicate their PTSD with copious amounts of marijuana. Jeremiah Civil and Christian Slater are veterans of the Iraq War. These men saw things that would make the average citizen cringe in horror, and they left the war with deep emotional scars. Both Jeremiah and Christian were diagnosed with PTSD shortly before returning home, thrown into the wild world of a society that doesn’t understand their condition.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
On this blog I regularly try to selectively pick and choose only the most noteworthy and/or informative of newspaper stories from among the wide array of notable mainstream reporting about marijuana reform that is now becoming common. But often I find myelf drawn to too many stories that seem worthy of extra attention; this weekend I will fall back on providing just headlines and links those pieces that seemed especially blog-worthy:
From the Colorado Springs Gazette here, "Battles already looming over Colorado marijuana revenues"
From CNBC here, "New investors lighting up legal marijuana industry"
From the Huffington Post here, "Bipartisan Marijuana Bill Appears To Have One More Big Supporter In Its Corner: The NAACP"
From the Orlando Sentinel here, "John Morgan: My dying dad's pain inspired push for medical marijuana"
From the Salt Lake Tribune here, "Families migrate to Colorado for marijuana miracle"
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
The title of this post is the student-selected topic for discussion this week in my Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform seminar. Here is the outline of issues and resources the students prepared to foster and facilitate discussion:
My Experience Working at a Marijuana Dispensary – One girl's first-hand account of her experience working at a dispensary in California for one year
14 Kinds of Jobs Sustained by Marijuana – According to Indeed.com, which tracks job listings, in 2011 there was over a 3,000 percent increase in the medical marijuana industry since 2005. This is a list of 14 types of jobs available in medical cannabis.
Your Genius Idea for a 420-Friendly Lazer Tag Arena Could Soon Become Reality in Colorado – Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is accepting applications for business proposals, but only existing medical marijuana shop owners are allowed to apply for the recreational marijuana licenses for the first nine months. Investors have committed “well over $1 million” to Colorado marijuana companies.
High-Paying Jobs Available in New Medical Marijuana Industry? – Dixie Elixirs, Denver-based company that manufactures medicated edibles, employed directly in excess of 10,000 employees, including high-salary executive jobs, scientists, and attorneys.
Cannabis Career Institute Hits Chicago to Help Residents Cash in on ‘The New Gold Rush’– CCI is continuing its educational tour in Chicago, teaching students the ins and outs of owing a dispensary or grow operation through their “pot college.”
Marijuana Entrepreneurs, Seminars, and Finance
These are all resources that pertain to creating your own marijuana business. They are comprised of seminar services, RSS feeds regarding important marijuana entrepreneur news, and derivative sources of some economics that marijuana creates.
Comparison to Casino and Alcohol
Links with state-by state jobs numbers for the wine and spirits industry (not including the beer industry). No need to read through all of them, just click on a few links to get a sense of the alcohol industry's job impacts. http://www.wswa.org/search_results.php?search=repeal%20prohibition&type=news
A PDF fact sheet of the total number of jobs the alcohol industry supports: http://www.discus.org/assets/1/7/ContributionFactSheet.pdf
A brief survey of casino jobs across America: http://www.americangaming.org/industry-resources/research/fact-sheets/casino-employment
An employment study from "The Journal of Gambling Business and Economics." Apparently that's a thing. It's a technical read, so they should read the descriptive parts and skip the technical parts. http://www.walkerd.people.cofc.edu/360/AcademicArticles/Cotti2008.pdf
Another employment study, done by the St. Louis Federal Reserve. The gaming has had a positive impact on employment in localities across the country. http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/review/04/01/garrett.pdf
1) In addition to the educational aspects of the store, weGrow provides anywhere between 15 and 20 full- and part-time jobs. But Mann says it’s the ancillary jobs created that make a difference, including hiring a doctor on site for medical marijuana evaluations; professors to teach classes, including technicians and experienced growers; design and construction positions; security positions, and distributors. About 75 indirect jobs are created with the opening of each weGrow store. http://aznow.biz/small-biz/wegrow-phoenix-opens-cultivates-opportunities-arizona%29
2) By recognizing the potential for medical marijuana business advertisements, the Sacramento News and Review is expanding its distribution and hiring more staff. http://www.today.com/id/43641235/ns/business-us_business/#.Um8iJiRieiY
3) Interesting stats — apparently only a quarter of people think legalized pot would lead to more jobs in their community, while 57% believe there would be no effect. Makes you wonder if this is a (mis)perception that should be hit harder by legalization reformers. If the benefits can be demonstrated to those in the 57% camp maybe you pull in some new supporters. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/20/legalizing-pot-will-not-b_n_544526.html?
4) Mr. McPherson said the city stood to reap more of what he called the “secondary benefits.” “You’ve got accountants that are working for them, you’ve got all the security companies that are working for them, you have labs that are working for them, you have bakeries that are baking all the edibles, you have union employees that are getting great benefits, you have delivery services, hydroponic stores, doctors get some benefit,” he said. “It’s the secondary market that gains from this, and all of those pay business taxes to us.” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/cities-turn-to-a-crop-for-cash-medical-marijuana.html?_r=2&
Monday, October 28, 2013
I receive a lot (read: too much) e-mail that promotes infographics on some hot topic in an effort, it would seem, to drive my blog readers to some legal source or website or marketplace. I tend not to be inclined to post these infographics, but one just sent to me dealing with marijuana law, policy and reform today fed my addition for some new visual content. Ergo, thanks to the folks promoting "this new infographic giving a timeline of marijuana usage in the U.S." and related information, here is a visual presentation of (not-quite) all you need to know about the state of marijuana law, policy and reform:
Source: Up in Smoke: A Timeline of Marijuana Use in the U.S.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Minnesota sheriff asserts "approximately 54 percent of males arrested for violent crime test positive for marijuana in Hennepin County." Really?
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it does not intend to challenge policies in Colorado and Washington state that legalized the sale and recreational use of marijuana to adults — despite the fact that these state laws are in opposition to federal law.
As president of the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, I have joined a broad coalition of law enforcement officers from across the country to express our extreme disappointment with this unprecedented decision.
As law enforcement officials with decades of experience, we know that keeping neighborhoods safe will become more difficult for our men and women on the front lines because of the DOJ’s decision.....
Marijuana is an addictive gateway drug that harms Minnesota’s children and public safety in every community in our state. As sheriff of Hennepin County, I am concerned that legalization of marijuana in other states and reduced federal prosecution will increase the availability of marijuana in Minnesota.
I have seen firsthand in Hennepin County that there is a direct connection between marijuana and violent crime. Drug task forces here have linked marijuana to assaults and homicides. In the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center, marijuana is the most commonly detected drug among the 36,000 inmates who are booked into the facility each year. According to our most recent data, approximately 54 percent of males arrested for violent crime test positive for marijuana in Hennepin County.
The student who sent me the link to this claim by Hennepin County sheriff Rich Stanek remarked that this number seems very high. I share this reaction, in part because I think advocates against modern marijuana reforms would be frequently stressing a link between marijuana and violent crime if it was common to find in more than a few justidictions that over half of all males arrested for violent crimes tested positive for marijuana. (Of course, we all know that correlation does not prove causation and that prohibition rather than legalization might be the reason marijuana users turn to crime, but such a statistic still struck me as potentially quite valuable for the anti-reform forces in the broader debate.)
Intrigued by the data claim made here by Sheriff Stanek, I have now written via e-mail directly to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office seeking more information about the basis for these claims linking marijuana use and violent crime. (I quickly got this automated response to the e-inquiry: "Emails are answered when staff is available to view them and respond. It may take several days before your email is viewed. Thank you for your patience.")
While patiently waiting for more information concerning these violent crime data claims from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, I did a little digging about drug testing of arrestees and found that the Office of National Drug Control Policy released this 2012 Annual Report on arrestee drug abuse. With a focus on five major US cities (none in Minnesota), this report found that in 2012, "the proportion of [big city] arrestees testing positive for marijuana ranged from 37 percent in Atlanta to 58 percent in Chicago," but it also reported that only "17 percent (Atlanta) to 27 percent (Chicago) of [these] arrestees in 2012 had a violent crime as one of the charges recorded for the current arrest."
In other words, though there appears to be extant (and seemingly rigorous) data from the ONDCP report to support a claim that a majority of total arrestees in some urban areas may test positive for marijuana, there is still reason to suspect that nonviolent drug arrestee (particularly those arrested for marijuana offenses) will be disproportionately among those testing positive for marijuana, as opposed to those who are arrested for violent crimes. (And there are other interaction and intersectionality concerns with the data here too, as a significant percentage of arrestees in the ONDCP groups tested positive for multiple drugs in their system and reported alcohol and prescription drug abuse, too.)
Interestingly, two of the five cities that are the focus of the ONDCP report are in medicial marijuana states (Denver and Sacremento), while the three others are in prohibition states (Atlanta, Chicago and New York). It might be interesting (though surely challenging) for a sophisticated empiricist to use the ONDCP data to explore whether big-city arrestee drug use data is potentially impacted by marijuana laws in a particular state.
September 19, 2013 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (3)
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
“Children are growing up with a total lack of respect for the Constitution and for the law," Pauline Sabin, the first woman to sit on the Republican National Committee, said in regard to prohibition in 1932. "The young see the law broken at home and upon the street," she added. "Can we expect them to be lawful?”
Sabin was the founder of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform that helped legalize the sale of alcohol. She graced the cover of Time magazine in 1932 for inspiring the movement to overturn the disastrous eighteenth amendment that helped finance Depression-era lawlessness.
Republicans could take a page from her playbook on the issue of marijuana prohibition today. With non-violent arrests occurring every 36 seconds, overcrowding our prisons, and depleting billions of dollars from our federal and state coffers every year, we — all Americans — should consider prohibition repeal as critical to the state of our nation as debt reduction and healthcare reform.
Doubt me? If I can change my mind, so can you. In 2009, I helped manage a Republican primary campaign in my congressional district to oust Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), my congressman. One newsletter that I signed as campaign director called weed a “troubling substance” and any measure to normalize it a “blatant disregard” for our district’s values.
My position was pretty standard. Bush speechwriter David Frum, notable for styling himself right-of-center on issues like gun violence, recently echoed the same rhetoric in an op-ed for CNN, warning of the rise of “Big Marijuana” and calling any medicinal use a “laughable fiction.”
Here's the thing: Sabin was right, Frum is wrong, and I was once as wrong as my pro-temperance great-grandmother. We need Big Marijuana. Republicans owe it to their party as much as our Constitution and nation to help decriminalize, legalize, tax, and regulate it as soon as possible.
The benefits far outweigh fears about gateway addiction and moral decline as dated as those of the Temperance Movement.
Here are the bolded headings that follow thiscommentary's introduction and provide a summary of the substantive points that follow:
1. Pot would create jobs and help prevent Detroit-style bankruptcies
2. We could unplug overcrowded prisons and save tax dollars
3. Legalization could help starve violent cartels at home and abroad
4. We could ease suffering for those who live with chronic illnesses
Sunday, September 15, 2013
As detailed at this link, the renowned CBS news program 60 Minutes is planning to broadcast this evening a feature on the medical marijuana industry in Colorado. I am pretty sure this is just a re-broadcast of a piece that 60 Minutes ran last year before the state's recreational marijuana voter initiative passed, but I expect that the piece will be updated to reflect all the significant legal developments in Colorado and elsewhere throughout 2013. Here is how the this 60 Minutes webite sets up what we can expect to see:
Preview: Rocky Mountain High
Of all the states that have legalized the growing and selling of medical marijuana, none has more at stake than Colorado where a thriving industry has created jobs and revenue but, as Steve Kroft reports, it's still against federal law. Watch Kroft's report Sunday, Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT.
In addition, one can already see via think link some of the additional materials produced in conjunction with this segment in a "60 Minutes Overtime" video with this set up:
Marijuana like you've never seen it before
What's next for medical marijuana? Hint: it doesn't involve a match, pipe or rolling papers. Some of it doesn't even get you high.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
The website ProCon.org has via this web portal with lots and lots of helpful information and links on the topic of medical marijuana, and the site lives up to its claim of presenting "facts, studies, and pro and con statements on questions related to whether or not marijuana should be a medical option." But notably absent from this site (or really any others I could find) was any serious and balanced "on the ground" research concerning the practical realities of "medical" marijuana use and abuse in any particular jurisdiction or across the United States.
This ProCon.org webpage, titled "How Many People in the United States Use Medical Marijuana?," has a very interesting state-by-state accounting of "the actual number of patients holding identification cards in the states (and District of Columbia) with mandatory registration" which reports that there are over 1 million registered medical marijuana patients. But this data, of course, does not tell us anything about who are these registered patients and for what purposes and how often they use marijuana as medicine.Similarly, a lot of pro-reform organizations like Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) have lots of information about medical marijuana laws and lots of resources and arguments for would-be advocates. But hard data on medical marijuana patients and their practices do not leap off the page at these locales.
As noted in this prior post, a prominent opponent of modern marijuana reforms called medical marijuana "a laughable fiction" noting that in California, a the typical user is a 32-year-old white man with no life-threatening illness but a long record of substance abuse; in Colorado, 94% of medical marijuana patients just pain as the justification for their pot prescription; and in Oregon, only 10 practitioners write the majority of all marijuana prescriptions in the state. And yet, many prominent doctors have come to acknowledge, as stated by the reknown Dr. Sanjay Gupta in this pro-pot CNN piece, that there are many "legitimate patients who depend on marijuana as a medicine, oftentimes as their only good option."
Because the medical and scientific communities are still vigorously debating the potential health benefits and harms of marijuana and its chemical compounds, and especially because all marijuana distribution and use remains illegal under federal law, I suppose I should not be too surprised that it is hard to find much "on the ground" research concerning the practical realities of "medical" marijuana use and abuse in any particular jurisdiction or across the United States. But I find this reality disappointing, and I know that I would sure like to know a whole lot more about medical marijuana patients and their practices. (And, in class today in my "Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform" seminar, I hope to steer our discussion of medical marijuana to the question of what students think the average likely voter would want to know about the practical realities of "medical" marijuana before supporting any reform to the legal status quo.)
This week, CNN has run two notable commentary pieces about marijuana reform. This first one was penned by David Frum and appears under the headline "Be afraid of Big Marijuana." It starts this way:
"We're on the brink of creating Big Marijuana." That warning comes from my friend Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser on drug control policy under President Barack Obama. Sabet now heads Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group on whose board I sit.
At the end of August, the administration that Sabet served announced a retreat on marijuana policy. It will allow the states of Washington and Colorado to proceed with the legal retailing of marijuana. And it will get out of the way of the approximately 20 states that allow so-called medical marijuana.
With a referendum on marijuana scheduled in 2014 in Alaska and action likely in coming years in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and Oregon, half the states in the union may soon allow the sale of marijuana to almost anybody determined to buy it.To understand where the marijuana debate is going, it's important to appreciate that "medical marijuana" is a laughable fiction. In California, the typical user of so-called medical marijuana is a 32-year-old white man with no life-threatening illness but a long record of substance abuse.
Under Colorado's now-superseded medical marijuana regime, only 2% of those prescribed marijuana suffered from cancer, and only 1% from HIV/AIDS. Some 94% cited unspecified "pain" as the justification for their pot prescription. False patients find unscrupulous doctors: in Oregon, only 10 practitioners write the majority of all marijuana prescriptions in the state. When a TV crew visited a marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles last year, they met for five minutes with a man who turned out to be licensed as an acupuncturist and were then handed a prescription signed by a doctor they never met.
In response comes this piece penned by David Nathan appearing under the headline "Fighting marijuana ... or reality?." It starts this way:
David Frum's recent op-ed on CNN.com exemplifies why Americans are becoming deaf to the critics of pot legalization. Their hyperbolic claims about the dangers of pot -- along with the realistic ones -- are being dismissed by a justifiably cynical public. Anti-marijuana propaganda isn't stopping the march toward national legalization, but the opposition is losing its voice as it screams about the falling sky.
A majority of Americans favor full legalization, and they understand that recreational cannabis is not now and will never be legal for minors. They know better than to believe Frum's prediction that "half the states may soon allow the sale of marijuana to almost anybody determined to buy it" -- an assertion so broad as to imply that even children would be permitted to buy pot legally. This is simply not so.
Americans are also informed enough to realize that medical marijuana is not a "laughable fiction." This week, I saw a longstanding patient with a rare, ultimately fatal neurological disorder that causes chronic, painful muscle spasms. For years, this patient has smoked marijuana to counteract this terrible symptom, and it works.With medicinal marijuana now legal in New Jersey, this patient is not convinced that she will be safe from federal prosecution if she goes through the state's one operational dispensary, so she continues to purchase illegal, untaxed and potentially adulterated cannabis. While she is technically a criminal, she is neither laughable nor fictional.
Those opposed to marijuana do raise important concerns that are often neglected in the movement toward legalization.
Cannabis is indeed associated with low motivation and poor performance in minors. It may have subtle but long-term negative effects on young users and worsen the condition of some individuals vulnerable to psychosis. Smoking marijuana may be harmful to users' lungs, although vaporizers have long been available as a safer alternative.
Cannabis is habit forming in a small percentage of users. Marijuana intoxication impairs driving, though the risk is similar to that of drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.05%, which is well below the federally mandated legal limit of 0.08%.
So why can't the opposition discuss these problems realistically?
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
As noted in a posts here and here, there have been varied general reactions the recent announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder concerning federal marijuana policy (basics here; official statement here). What I think will prove to be most important, and what is already quite interesting, is how local- and state-level (official and unofficial) actors read and respond to this new policy. With this in mind, I found especially notable these recent stories from local papers in couple of notable states:
From Arizona here, "Prosecutors vow to push fight against marijuana"
From California here, "Federal announcement may impact local medical marijuana dispensaries"
More from California here, "Melinda Haag: New marijuana guidelines won’t affect local cases"
From Washington here, "Federal memo no pot panacea: The federal government’s shift in marijuana policy might lead to profound reforms around the country, but here in Washington state the news was more nuanced, allowing some breathing room for a legal-pot industry to develop, but leaving some obstacles unchanged."
Thursday, August 22, 2013
What are the best statistics and strongest research/arguments to support marijuana prohibition and strict criminal enforcement? (Now updated with some...)
I posed the question in the title of this post toward the end of my first class session of the exciting new seminar I am teaching this Fall 2013 semester at OSU's Moritz College of Law. Indeed, I challenged the terrific (and seemingly very insightful and knowledgeable) students taking the seminar to spend the next week looking for (and sending to me for posting here) the very best statistics and the strongest research and arguments they could find to support marijuana prohibition.
Helpfully, and to provide a running start on a question that I hope will generate some dialogue in the comments, there are more than a few anti-drug advocacy groups which have already marshalled materials in support of prohibition. A research assistant helped me assemble links to these notable advocacy groups:
I am hoping that seminar students and other readers might help me cull through the materials on these sites and elsewhere to help provide a sophisticated and detailed answer to the question in the title of this post.
UPDATE: So far, three students from my seminar have sent me a bunch of materials and links concerning what they perceive to be the "best" ideas and arguments to support marijuana prohibition. Here are a few highlights from these efforts:
The DEA in 2010 produced this impressive 81-page booket, titled Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization, which says it is "designed to cut through the current fog of misinformation with hard facts [by] present[ing] an accurate picture of America’s experience with drug use, the nature of the drug problem, and the potential for damage if the United States adopts a more permissive policy on drug abuse." Here are a few (of dozens) of the bullet points from this document discussing the health risks posed by marijuana:
- Harvard University researchers report that the risk of heart attack is five times higher than usual in the hour after smoking marijuana.
- The National Institute of Health found that a person who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as much tar and cancer-causing chemicals into their lungs as someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes every day.
- Smoking marijuana weakens the immune system, and raises the risk of lung infections. Other studies indicate that smoked marijuana causes cancer, respiratory problems, increased heart rate, loss of motor skills, and damage to the immune system.
- According to several recent studies, marijuana use has been linked with depression and suicidal thoughts, in addition to schizophrenia. These studies report that weekly marijuana use among teens doubles the risk of developing depression and triples the incidence of suicidal thoughts.
I have not sought to check or question the references cited for these statements, but I am inclined to take the claims at face value. In addition, building largely on these sorts of medical claims while making a few other arguments, here are links to a couple notable and prominent commentaries making the case in favor of marijuana prohibition:
- Bob Enyart, "Why Marijuana Should be Illegal" appearing in the Huffington Post (dated 3/19/2012)
- Kevin A. Sabet, "The Price of Legalizing Pot is Too High" appearing in the Los Angeles Times (dated 6/7/2009)
Last but certainly not least, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, R. Gil Kerlikowske, gave this notable public statement to California Police Chiefs Association Conference in March 2010 titled "Why Marijuana Legalization Would Compromise Public Health and Public Safety." Here is how he summed up his main arguments against marijuana legalization at the start and tail end of this speech:
The concern with marijuana is not born out of any culture-war mentality, but out of what the science tells us about the drug’s effects. And the science, though still evolving, is clear: marijuana use is harmful. It is associated with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects....
Legalizing marijuana would also saddle government with the dual burden of regulating a new legal market while continuing to pay for the negative side effects associated with an underground market whose providers have little economic incentive to disappear....
Legalization means the price comes down, the number of users goes up, the underground market adapts, and the revenue gained through a regulated market will never keep pace with the financial and social cost of making this drug more accessible.