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NORML Blog

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel September 3, 2015

    The embarrassing episode this week in Denver, when the sponsors of a city-wide initiative to legalize marijuana smoking in some bars and lounges withdrew their initiative, even after qualifying for the ballot, reminds us of the need to thoroughly vet these types of projects – especially those with the potential to set-back the legalization movement if they fail – before moving forward. This was an impulsive act that should never have seen the light of day – at least not in 2015.

    While I am not privy to the actual discussions that led to the launch of this ill-fated campaign in Denver, one can imagine a couple of friends sitting around one night, smoking some good weed, and convincing themselves that now is the time to expand on the legalization plan in effect statewide in Colorado, by allowing for smoking in bars in Denver. It is a natural next-step for Colorado and the other legalization states.

    Most smokers favor the option of bars or lounges where marijuana smokers can gather to socialize outside the home, so the intent of the initiative was admirable. We should not be limited only to smoking in our homes. There is no valid reason for such a limitation, and it really reflects the remaining stigma many non-smoking Americans still associate with the use of marijuana – that it may be tolerated in the home, but is somehow an offense to society to permit smoking in a public venue.

    But these public policy changes are always challenging, and generally before going public with their proposal, proponents fully consider both the electoral timing of the effort and the level of public support for the proposal. Did no one realize that 2015 is an off-year election, when all voter turnout is low, and especially the youth vote, where support for legalization is the strongest? Did no one undertake advance polling to determine whether a majority of the public would support such a proposal? Or was this initiative a reflection of the arrogance that sometimes comes with a big victory, such as A-64, that leave those sponsors believing they can do no wrong?

    The Spin

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    The official announcement from the Campaign for Limited Cannabis Social Use, a spin-off of the two groups, Sensible Colorado and SAFER, that were behind the successful Amendment 64 campaign approved by the Colorado voters in 2012, was one of the more creative attempts to try to turn an embarrassing defeat into a victory, but hardly convincing.

    Claiming their decision to withdraw was based on a desire to work cooperatively with elected city officials to accomplish their goals “without a contentious ballot initiative fight,” the sponsors said they are now willing “to give the collaborative process a shot.”

    “We are optimistic about these discussions, but also know that we can return to the ballot in November 2016 – when the electorate will be far more favorable to our case,” the group said.

    In other words, they realized what other observers had seen from the start – this was the wrong time to be mounting this voter initiative. Truly amazing that this conclusion was only reached after squandering tens of thousands of dollars and enormous political credibility.

    Their conclusion: “Today is not the end of a campaign; it is a transition from a ballot initiative process to a lobbying effort.”

    Perhaps a lobbying effort in 2015 would have made sense all along, as some have been doing, and only if that effort were unsuccessful, and advance polling indicated a voter initiative would enjoy the support of a majority of the public in 2016, should the discussion have shifted to an initiative. The sponsors clearly had the cart before the horse, and we are now paying the price.

    I appreciate the need to minimize the damage from withdrawing the initiative, and to attempt to salvage their political credibility, but somehow I doubt those who contributed either money or time to qualify the proposed initiative for the ballot will consider this a victory. And if one were forced by the reality of the situation to pull the plug, even at this late date, it would have been refreshing to at least see the sponsors acknowledge the obvious – that this decision was based on low polling results indicating their proposal could not win at the polls in November.

    Let’s hope this was a lesson well-learned, and we can now move forward in a more reasoned manner.

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    This column was originally posed on Marijuana.com.

    http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2015/09/the-fiasco-in-denver-putting-the-cart-before-the-horse/

     

     

  • by NORML

    Canary App

    The mainstream media is abuzz about My Canary — the first-ever NORML-endorsed mobile app that quickly and accurately measures one’s personal performance to determine whether or not he/she may be under the influence of marijuana.

    National and international media outlets have profiled the app in recent weeks, including Fast Company, CNN Money, The International Business Times, The Daily Mail, GQ Magazine (French edition), Philly.com, The Denver Channel and Business Insider, among others.

    My Canary features four distinct mental and physical performance tests, designed to evaluate baseline performance, and then to compare subjects’ behavior against this established baseline. Potential deviation in baseline performance as a result of the use of cannabis, alcohol, prescription drugs, or even exhaustion, is readily identified by the app. Here is a video of Oregonian reporter Molly Harbarger engaging in a live demonstration of the My Canary application.

    Since its launch in mid-July, over 10,000 people have downloaded the application. As we approach Labor Day weekend, the makers of My Canary are offering the app for download for the discounted price of 99 cents. This promotion will be in effect from Thursday, September 3 through Monday, September 7.

    Canary is compatible with iOS 7.1 and iPhone versions 4S and newer.

    For more information visit: http://www.mycanaryapp.com.

    For more information regarding cannabis and psychomotor performance, please see: http://norml.org/library/driving-and-marijuana.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director September 2, 2015

    News reports out of Vermont indicate that a major political shift has just occurred that well positions the state legislature to become the first in the nation to end cannabis prohibition and replace with tax-n-regulate policies.

    The four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) that have chucked cannabis prohibition have done so by popular vote on binding ballot initiatives passed by citizens, not legislators. Historically, circa 1996, most all substantive cannabis law reforms at the state level have happened because of ballot initiatives, not legislation.Vote marijuana

    With national surveys and the vote totals in favor of legalizing cannabis in the four vanguard states equaling similar levels of support–54%–some elected officials have finally ‘got it’ about the need to end cannabis prohibition, if only because it is no longer politically popular.

    A state legislature voting in the majority for cannabis legalization, with a supportive governor awaiting passed legislation to sign, has yet to happen in America. Arguably, once a state legislature passes cannabis legalization legislation, this action more so than voter initiatives placed on the ballot by stakeholders in reform (be them civil justice groups or business interests) will likely spark a ‘reefer revolution’ among states that want the revenue and public policy controls that the long-failed federal prohibition does not provide them.

    With a largely supportive and anti-prohibtion legislature and governor (in Democrat Peter Shumlin) already in place in the Green Mountain state, the only political impediment was the Speaker of the House Shap Smith, who, in his run up to try to become the state’s next governor, has reversed his public stance on cannabis legalization from undecided to publicly endorsing Vermont legalizing cannabis:

    “It’s clear to me in my discussions with Vermonters that in general, the people in this state probably favor legalization. And I certainly believe that we can legalize marijuana if we do it right.” – House Speaker Shap Smith

    Will the Vermont legislature be the first one to officially legalize cannabis?

    Yesterday’s policy reversal from Speaker Smith almost certainly places Vermont in the lead to do so.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    NORML is pleased to present the latest expanded/updated edition of the publication Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis & Cannabinoids — a comprehensive review of the latest peer-reviewed science specific to the safety and therapeutic efficacy of whole-plant cannabis and/or its components.

    The 2015 updated edition includes two additional disease profiles (Parkinson’s disease and PTS) and includes summaries of an additional 50+ relevant clinical and/or preclinical trials specific to cannabinoids’ therapeutic utility. Several existing sections, such as Chronic Pain, Diabetes, and Epilepsy, have been significantly expanded since the last edition (January 2013). Also updated is the Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System (authored by Dustin Sulak, DO) and Why I Recommend Medical Cannabis (authored by Estelle Goldstein, MD).

    With summaries and citations of well over 250 recent peer-reviewed studies, this updated publication is one of the most thorough and up-to-date source-books available specific to documenting the established therapeutic qualities of cannabis. The updated publication is available online here.

    Individual sections of this publication may be accessed at the links below:

    Author’s Introduction
    Foreword
    Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System
    Why I Recommend Medical Cannabis
    Alzheimer’s Disease
    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
    Chronic Pain
    Diabetes Mellitus
    Dystonia
    Epilepsy
    Fibromyalgia
    Gastrointestinal Disorders
    Gliomas/Cancer
    Hepatitis C
    Human Immunodeficiency Virus
    Huntington’s Disease
    Hypertension
    Incontinence
    Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA)
    Multiple Sclerosis
    Osteoporosis
    Parkinson’s Disease
    Post-Traumatic Stress
    Pruritus
    Rheumatoid Arthritis
    Sleep Apnea
    Tourette’s Syndrome

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 1, 2015

    Strains of cannabis sativa and cannabis indica possess relatively few significant genetic differences and are often mislabeled by breeders, according to an evaluation of marijuana taxonomy published online last week in the journal PLOS ONE.

    Investigators from the University of Manitoba, the University of British Columbia, and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia evaluated the genetic structure of a diverse range of commonly cultivated marijuana and industrial hemp samples.

    Researchers reported, “We find a moderate correlation between the genetic structure of marijuana strains and their reported C. sativa and C. indica ancestry and show that marijuana strain names often do not reflect a meaningful genetic identity.” They added, “This observation suggests that C. sativa and C. indica may represent distinguishable pools of genetic diversity, but that breeding has resulted in considerable admixture between the two. … Our results suggest that the reported ancestry of some of the most common marijuana strains only partially captures their true ancestry.”

    By contrast, authors determined, “[M]arijuana and hemp are significantly differentiated at a genome-wide level, demonstrating that the distinction between these populations is not limited to genes underlying THC production. … [This] difference between marijuana and hemp plants has considerable legal implications in many countries.”

    In the United States, federal law makes no legal distinction between hemp and cannabis.

    Authors concluded: “Achieving a practical, accurate and reliable classification system for cannabis, including a variety registration system for marijuana-type plants, will require significant scientific investment and a legal framework that accepts both licit and illicit forms of this plant. Such a system is essential in order to realize the enormous potential of Cannabis as a multi-use crop (hemp) and as a medicinal plant (marijuana).”

    Full text of the study, “The genetic structure of marijuana and hemp,” appears online here.

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