Marijuana smoke exposure is not positively associated with the development of cancers of the head or neck, according to the results of a systematic literature review published online ahead of print in the journal Archives of Oral Biology.
Investigators from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil reviewed nine case-control studies to assess whether marijuana smoking favored the development of head and neck cancer. Authors reported that subjects who used cannabis were no more likely to develop the disease than were subjects with no history of use, after researchers controlled for potential confounding such as age, gender, race, and the use of tobacco and alcohol.
“The result of this study indicated no association between lifetime marijuana use and the risk for development of head and neck cancer,” authors concluded.
A separate analysis of six case-control studies published last year in the International Journal of Cancer similarly identified no positive association between cannabis smoke exposure and lung cancer, while a 2009 case-control trial published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research reported that the moderate levels of marijuana use were associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancer.
My continuing travels to some of the more interesting marijuana legalization events around the country (and one coming up in Jamaica) brought me this past weekend to Las Vegas to attend the 2nd Annual Las Vegas Hempfest on Saturday.
The Las Vegas Hempfest, which licensed the name from the original Seattle Hempfest, was held outside the city’s convention center with two stages, lots of good music, and scores of industry exhibitors. Tommy Chong was the star of the show, and received a lifetime achievement award from the Hempfest organizers.
Our friends at Freedom Leaf, who were co-sponsors of the event this year, were in charge of lining up speakers for the day-long series of policy panels that were held a short walk away, inside the convention center. Most attendees, of course, are there to party and enjoy the music, but some are also interested in learning more about the issue of legalizing marijuana, and how that change in policy will impact the culture.
The topics this year included medical/nutritional issues, a nursing panel, cultivation techniques, an industry/finance panel, a media panel and an activism panel. I was pleased to be on a legal penal with Freedom Leaf co-founder Richard Cowan (also a NORML board member and a former NORML national director); and San Diego attorney Ken Sobel.
The event showcased all things marijuana, and provided those in the soon-to-be-legal marijuana market in Nevada (medical use is already legal, and the first few dispensaries have recently opened) an opportunity to introduce their newest products and services, and to begin to build, or extend the reach of their brand to yet another state in a growing list of pot-friendly venues.
Las Vegas, the destination with the nickname of “Sin City” and the slogan of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” suggesting that tourists can enjoy more personal freedom here than in their home town, including gambling and other sometimes naughty options, seems like a natural environment for marijuana legalization. And with a good voter turnout in November of 2016, the state will finally live-up to its reputation.
Tithing To Benefiting NORML
And I would be remiss not to thank the event’s sponsors for generously donating to NORML a dollar from each ticket sold to this event. It was their way of thanking NORML for the decades of hard work that made it possible to finally achieve these recent political successes, an example of tithing that one would hope will be adopted by many more players in the new Green Rush over the coming months and years.
It requires resources to end prohibition, and to enact new laws, either by voter initiative (in those states that offer that option) or legislatively, and these new businesses that are profiting from legalization have a moral obligation to invest a little of those profits back into the movement, and the groups, that have made these changes possible.
So as we head into 2016, the year that should be the breakout year for legalization, let’s continue the strategy that has brought us to where we are today – a state-based strategy that with each new legalization state brings additional support in Congress – and that will, within a few years, permit us to repeal federal prohibition as well, leaving the states free to enact whatever marijuana policy they want, without federal interference.
Full Legalization On the Nevada Ballot in 2016
The sponsors of the Nevada legalization initiative, the Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Nevada, have already gathered the required number of signatures and have been assured of a place on the 2016 November ballot.
Under the proposal, effective January 1, 2017, it would be legal for an adult to possess one ounce of marijuana and, if they live further than 25 miles from a licensed retail outlet, to cultivate up to six plants in the home. And starting in 2018, there would be retail outlets where consumers could legally purchase their marijuana and marijuana products.
Unnecessary Restrictions on Home Cultivation
This unfortunate 25-miles requirement before one is allowed to grow their own marijuana shows the influence the newly legal marijuana industry is beginning to have in the legalization movement. Of course retail sellers would prefer that all marijuana users purchase their marijuana from one of the licensed stores, but unless polling shows the inclusion of home-cultivation would cause the proposal to fail, personal cultivation is a right that adult consumers should have. Most will not elect to spend the time and resources required to grow their own pot, but having that option will keep the industry responsive to the legitimate needs of consumers for a product that is high quality, safe and affordable.
Commercial Licensing Starting in 2018
Other provisions of the initiative would, beginning in 2018, license commercial growers, kitchens, testing facilities, distributors and retailers. Those currently holding medical marijuana retail licensees would for 18 months be the only parties eligible to apply for a retail recreational license; and, in a new twist not seen before, those holding a current alcohol distribution license would have a similar 18-month period during which only they would be eligible for a marijuana distribution license!
The initiative would impose a 15 percent excise tax, on top of the existing 6.5 percent sales tax (and the possibility of up to an 1.25 local tax), and local governments would retain their right to impose zoning restrictions on marijuana businesses.
So obviously this is another example of the growing influence of the newly legal marijuana industry. It is fair to say the pending legalization proposal in Nevada is slanted more to please the industry, than it is to please the consumer.
Not Perfect, But A Big Step Forward
But as NORML has done with previous legalization initiatives, all of which include some disappointing provisions, so long as the initiative ends marijuana prohibition and stops the practice of arresting marijuana smokers, and establishes a legal market where consumers can buy their marijuana, we will almost certainly support the Nevada proposal, warts and all.
And we will be back, once it has passed, to try to make further improvements to assure that marijuana consumers are treated fairly in all areas of their lives, including ending job discrimination, resolving child custody issues and requiring a showing of impairment for a DUID conviction. Policy change occurs incrementally, and it requires commitment and persistence.
If we should hold-out for the perfect law (and we would differ on what a perfect law would look like), the criminal prohibition of marijuana would continue for many more years, along with the continued arrests of hundreds of thousands of marijuana smokers each year.
This column originally was posted on Marijuana.com.
Excitement filled the air at this year’s Boston Freedom Rally as Massachusetts voters consider two initiatives aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and Bay State Repeal are both working to collect the signatures needed to qualify for next November’s ballot.
California NORML’s partnership with ReformCA will guarantee responsible marijuana consumers an opportunity to have their voices heard as stakeholders continue to weigh in on the various initiatives currently being proposed.
With legalization on this November’s ballot, Ohioans will have a chance to not just end the arrest of thousands of marijuana consumers, they’ll be able to bring relief to people seeking the medicinal benefits of marijuana to treat their ailments.
Since July, Florida NORML has seen a lot of success with marijuana decriminalization efforts. From Miami-Dade County, to municipalities such as Hallandale Beach and Miami Beach, local governments have embraced this current trend. Several other cities are looking to take action in the months ahead.
Dan Viets, executive director of Missouri NORML and member of NORML’s National Board of Directors, fought hard to bring justice to Jeff Mizanskey and his family. Mr. Mizanskey is scheduled to speak at Springfield NORML’s next meeting on Wednesday, October 7, 2015. Click here for more details!
Activists with Northwest Ohio NORML earned the support of each of Toledo’s 24 wards to pass an ordinance aimed at eliminating penalties for possessing up to 200 grams of marijuana. Lawmakers are currently meeting to discuss the implementation of the new law.
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, took a minute to share his thoughts on the peculiar progression of America’s marijuana laws. From the early acceptance of medical marijuana in the west and the legalization of recreational marijuana in four states, to a pending ballot initiative in Ohio, it’s obvious American’s are ready to end the the government’s senseless war against marijuana consumers.
In a recent interview, Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, commended the State of Oregon for their rollout of their new recreational marijuana program. He attributes the success to state regulators paying close attention to the implementation of similar laws in other states.
New Chapter Spotlight
Denver NORML recently held their first public meeting to discuss the need for consumer advocacy in a post-legalization environment. Close to twenty-five marijuana consumers packed the room to show their support and share a few concerns about pesticides, social use and high taxes.
Marijuana law reform is a growing topic of discussion at the state and federal level. Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — a new post we’ll be sharing regularly where we spotlight pending marijuana law reform legislation from around the country.
To support the measures below, please use our #TakeAction Center to contact your state and federal elected officials! A full list and summary of pending legislation is available here. Summaries of the dozens of marijuana law reform bills approved this year is also available here.
New Federal Bills Introduced:
Congressmen Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) have introduced HR 3518, to eliminate the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. The DEA program distributes funds to state and local law enforcement agencies for the purpose of locating and destroying marijuana cultivation sites. In 2014, the federal government spent an estimated $18 million on the program to destroy 4.3 million plants, mostly in California.
Congresswoman Diana Degette (D-CO) has reintroduced legislation, H.R. 3629, the Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2015, to amend the Controlled Substances Act in a manner that allows marijuana-related businesses and consumers in states that have legalized marijuana to be safe from federal interference. Fifty-nine percent of Americans agree that the government “should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that allow [its] use,” yet the federal government continues to prosecute businesses and individuals in states that regulate marijuana for medical and personal use.
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced the Fair Access to Education Act of 2015 to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to restore federal financial aid eligibility to minor marijuana offenders. This measure would “exclude marijuana-related offenses from the drug-related offenses that result in students being barred from receiving Federal educational loans, grants, and work assistance, and for other purposes.”
State Legislative Developments:
South Carolina: Members of the Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee have unanimously passed SB 672, the Medical Marijuana Program Act. Senators Tom Davis (R-46) and Brad Hutto (D-40) introduced SB 672, the Medical Marijuana Program Act, earlier this year after lawmakers tabled previous medical marijuana legislation. The Medical Marijuana Program Act allows the use of medical marijuana for an extensive list of conditions and “any other medical condition…that the department determines, upon the written request of a provider who furnishes a medical recommendation to the department, is severely debilitating or terminal.” SB 672 will be considered by the full Senate Medical Affairs committee early next year.
Florida: House Bill 4021 was introduced by Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda. This bill removes cannabis from the Florida state schedule of controlled substances and removes all state criminal and civil penalties associated with the substance. Such a change is supported by Florida voters, 55 percent of whom support allowing adults “to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use,” according to 2015 survey data published by Quinnipiac University. And in recent months, numerous cities and counties, like Miami-Dade County, have amended their local laws to stop arresting minor marijuana offenders.
Additional information for all of these measures and more can be found at our #TakeAction Center!
** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!
Regulations permitting state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries to also engage in retail sales to those ages 21 or older take effect on Thursday, October 1. An estimated 200 facilities are anticipated to begin providing cannabis to adults.
Customers will be permitted to purchase up to a quarter ounce of herbal cannabis daily, as well as up to four non-flowering plants, but they will not be allowed to obtain cannabis-infused products until early next year.
Legislation approved by voters in November and enacted on July 1 allows those over the age of 21 to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis and/or to engage in the non-commercial cultivation of up to four marijuana plants (yielding up to eight ounces of marijuana). Separate provisions in the law license, regulate, and tax retail sales of cannabis beginning next year. However, separate legislation (Senate Bill 460) signed into law in August permits licensed medical dispensaries the option to engage in provisional, tax-free retail sales of cannabis until January 4, 2016.
Colorado and Washington presently permit retail sales of cannabis, while similar regulations are forthcoming in Alaska. (A voter-initiated law in the District of Columbia permits adults to possess and grow marijuana legally, but does not provide for a regulated commercial cannabis market.)