2015: The Year In Review – NORML’s Top 10 Events That Shaped Marijuana Policy

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 29, 2015

    2015: The Year In Review - NORML's Top 10 Events That Shaped Marijuana Policy

    NORML reviews the top news stories of 2015.

    #1 Congress Reauthorizes Medical Marijuana Protections
    Members of Congress approved language in the fiscal year 2016 omnibus spending bill that continues to limit the federal government from taking punitive action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states. The provisions reauthorize Section 538 of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, which states, "None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."

    #2 Federal Judge Upholds Marijuana’s Schedule I Status
    A federal judge in April rejected a motion challenging the constitutionality of cannabis’ classification as a Schedule I prohibited substance. "At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional," Judge Kimberly Mueller said from the bench. "But this is not the court and not the time." Judge Meuller had presided over five days of hearings in October 2014 in a challenge brought by members of the NORML Legal Committee.

    #3 Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Less Opioid Abuse
    States that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, according to a study published in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan think-tank. The findings mirror those published in 2014 in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluding, "States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws."

    #4 DC Depenalizes Marijuana; Arrests Plummet
    Despite threats from members of Congress, District officials implemented voter-approved legislation earlier this year eliminating penalties associated with the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults. Following the law’s implementation, marijuana-related arrests in the nation’s capital fell 99 percent.

    #5 Marijuana Law Changes Don’t Change Youth Use, Attitudes
    Rates of youth marijuana use are unaffected by changing laws, according to data published in July in The American Journal of drug and Alcohol Abuse. Investigators evaluated trends in young people’s attitudes toward cannabis and their use of the substance during the years 2002 to 2013 – a time period where 14 states enacted laws legalizing the medical use of the plant, and two states approved its recreational use by adults. "Our results may suggest that recent changes in public policy, including the decriminalization, medicalization, and legalization of marijuana in cities and states across the country, have not resulted in more use or greater approval of marijuana use among younger adolescents," researchers reported.

    #6 Gallup Poll: More Americans Than Ever Say Marijuana Should Be Legal
    Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe that "the use of marijuana should be made legal," according to nationwide survey data released in October by Gallup pollsters. The percentage ties the highest level of support ever reported by Gallup, which has been measuring Americans’ attitudes toward cannabis since the late 1960s. The percentage is more than twice the level of support reported in the mid-1990s.

    #7 Study: Marijuana Use Not Associated With Changes In Brain Morphology
    Marijuana use is not associated with structural changes in the brain, according to imaging data published in January in The Journal of Neuroscience. Investigators assessed brain morphology in both daily adult and adolescent cannabis users compared to non-users. They found "no statistically significant differences … between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest" after researchers controlled for participants’ use of alcohol. "[T]he results indicate that, when carefully controlling for alcohol use, gender, age, and other variables, there is no association between marijuana use and standard volumetric or shape measurements of subcortical structures," researchers reported.

    #8 Marijuana Consumers Less Likely To Be Obese, Suffer Diabetes Risk
    Those who consume cannabis are 50 percent less likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome as compared to those who do not, according to findings published in November in The American Journal of Medicine. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat, which are linked to increased risk of heart disease and adult onset diabetes, among other serious health consequences. The findings are similar to those of previous studies reporting that those who use cannabis are less likely to be obese or suffer from diabetes.

    #9 NHTSA: THC-Positive Drivers Don’t Possesses Elevated Crash Risk
    Drivers who test positive for the presence of THC in their blood are no more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes than are drug-free drivers, according to a case-control study released in February by the United States National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration. Authors reported that drivers who tested positive for the presence of THC possessed an unadjusted, elevated risk of accident of 25 percent (Odds Ratio=1.25) compared to controls (drivers who tested negative for any drug or alcohol). However, this elevated risk became insignificant (OR=1.05) after investigators adjusted for demographic variables, such as the drivers’ age and gender. The study is the largest of its kind ever conducted in the United States.

    #10 Legal Marijuana States Collect Over $200 Million In New Tax Revenue
    Taxes on the legal production and sale of cannabis in the states of Colorado and Washington have yielded over $200 million in new revenue since going into effect in 2014, according to calculations reported by The Huffington Post in September. Colorado collected more than $117 million dollars from marijuana sales while Washington collected over $83 million. Cannabis sales commenced in Oregon in on October 1, 2015 and have yet to begin in Alaska.

    21 Responses to “2015: The Year In Review – NORML’s Top 10 Events That Shaped Marijuana Policy”

    1. Todd says:

      Sorry, Judge Mueller, but our Constitution applies to all courts and all times. “At some point in time, a court may decide this status to be unconstitutional,” Judge Kimberly Mueller said from the bench. “But this is not the court and not the time.”

    2. Galileo Galilei says:

      #7 Study: Marijuana Use Not Associated With Changes In Brain Morphology

      #8 Marijuana Consumers Less Likely To Be Obese, Suffer Diabetes Risk

      #9 NHTSA: THC-Positive Drivers Don’t Possesses Elevated Crash Risk

      #3 Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Less Opioid Abuse

      These are wonderful results for ‘our side’ NORML fans. I’ve seen a number of folks in their 60s, testifying at this site about how well they are doing for their age. I’m 66 and cherish the health and vigor I have for my age. I’m now a ‘modern musician’. I write, perform, and record my own songs and love doing it. These extra years are precious indeed, fellow NORML enthusiasts.

      You never hear about it, but a big part of the new health care law involves people taking responsibility for their health. Marijuana seems to be a significant part of that for me. I do exercise and try to eat wisely, but I am by no means fanatical about it. I was taking medication for cholesterol and high blood pressure. I also had Addison’s disease. All these are gone! I am taking no medications at all.

      #2 Federal Judge Upholds Marijuana’s Schedule I Status

      This crap where science is utterly ignored in government is a recipe for needlessly/ineffectively spending limited government resources.

      • mexweed says:

        @Galileo, maybe you know what I read somewhere, that Kennedy had Addison’s disease and suffered intense back pains so he wanted to die. Some biographer mentioned that they sent him the screenplay for that scary 1962 movie, The Man Shooterin’ Kennedydead, and he approved it, “Great! Make the movie!” The assassin was played by a Hamletoid guy named Lawrence Harvey… the rest is Etymology.

        • Galileo Galilei says:


          Yes JFK had Addison’s. I think his back problems were unrelated to the disease, though. In JFK’s time a diagnosis of Addison’s meant about two years to live. Judging from the way I felt, they were not productive years either. He was given a cutting edge experimental treatment at the time–he simply took oral hydrocortisone to replace what his body no longer made on it’s own. In my day this treatment was standard. It saved my life.

          Thirty years ago we did not know Addison’s was an autoimmune disease. It should not have reversed itself according to the doctors of the time, although those today seem to blow it off when I mention my recovery.

          I wonder if the marijuana had anything to do with my body’s recovery.

          Lot’s of famous people have this disease. I googled it once, but I can’t remember any of the names.

          • mexweed says:

            1. @Galileo, thanks for your valuable personal research contribution, here’s a PS about my Theory #2: the (w)hack(o)pols (paid by Philip Morris) were concerned about rising cannabis popularity and wanted to run a candidate in 1960 who had a name sounding like “Joint Of Cannabis”, let him experiment with Maryjane and Monroe in the White House, then kill him off horribly to scare the electorate against cannabis for another half century. Maybe JFK sorta semi-volunteered for all that…

            2. Little did I know someday I’d wind up needling @Keith about HBOMP hot burning overdose monoxide paper Joints (in the adjoining gruesomely illustrated New Year essay he used the words “$moking”, “$mokers”, “Non-$mokers” obsessively as if VAPE PENS and flexdrawtubes still didn’t exist yet). Keith needs to recharge his Founding talent and lead us into a new org, WORKVIU, Worldwide Organization for the Reform of Kannabis Vapor Inhalation Utensils!

            • Galileo Galilei says:

              I dunno about your first conjecture, but I primarily use a vaporizer or drop a tiny bit of ear-wax or sheet shatter onto a heated metal bowl for a one hit wonder experience that let’s me play guitar for 3 hours or so.

    3. Rod is on the Gas says:

      To me the real biggie is #4.

      Voters are in power, congress is following and the volume of arrests is down 99%. It appears a miracle has happened, particularly when we comprehend that no new taxes nor agencies were created. We simply stopped waging war against cannabis consumers and cultivators.

      I think Washington DC has set an example of success which will be difficult for elected officials across America to ignore.

    4. James says:

      Don’t forget Ohio.Were trying again in 2016.collecting singiture’s now.

    5. Matthew says:

      3 Cheers, for Canada… . . .

    6. gweedo says:

      2015 has seen both good and bad events for the marijuana reform movement, but we move forward every day. I am optimistic that 2016 will hold nothing but good news for us all, and I wish everyone at NORML a happy new year.

    7. Julian says:

      Well the DOJ caint use funds
      To stop The state-self-medicate
      So I just kep on tokin, Lord
      Even though Texas is late

      But I gotta hand it to that judge
      Who said, “not at this time.”
      Admissible Evidence holds a grudge
      And Congress smoked up their last dime

      And my marijuana problem left today
      The liars and the thieves all had their say
      And it looks like prohibition
      Is leavin here to stay
      So my marijuana problem left today

      The boss man says he’ll test me
      To see what my piss caint hide
      So I just started smokin, Lord
      To see if he’d decide

      And I think that job tested me
      In the nick of time
      Cuz pissin so submissively
      Is a self-employment crime

      Cuz my Marijuana Problem left today
      It packed up all its lobbyists and went away
      It looks like off the water bong
      Is where I’m gonna stay
      Cuz my marijuana problem left today

      When she said I had a problem
      Boy was she ever right
      To cure my pain and trauma
      I took opiates all night

      But now doc’s recommendin’
      A whole new kinda plant
      Now the smoke signals Im sendin’
      Make me smile until I slant

      Cuz my marijuana problem left today
      It left with NIDA, and the DEA
      But Im gonna keep on tokin
      votin for weed anyway
      Though my tokin problem left today…

    8. Julian says:

      Now I aint just a rebel
      Who smokes weed against the law
      But there’s outlaws on the level
      Then there’s Congress with a flaw

      Most of us want it legal
      We aint brain damaged, and we aint scared
      If they can get high in their DC office
      Then we can damn sure be impaired!

      Cuz our marijuana problem left today
      Prohibition packed its bags and it went away
      So it looks like off the 3 ft bong
      Is where we’re gonna stay
      Cuz our tokin problem left today!

    9. Jack says:

      All District of Columbia law is federal law, it being the only area of the US where the federal government has original and complete control. Therefore, Marijuana is a federal medicine.

    10. Don M says:

      Has anyone read this book: Cannabis: The Facts, Human Rights and the Law: The Report Paperback – October 27, 2014, by Kenn d’Oudney (Author)

      I found it on Amazon.com and by reading about it and perusing a few pages provided, it looks like it could be used to advocate for our cause; the end of prohibition!

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