Today a Blue Ribbon Commission led by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom released a report providing a total of 58 recommendations for advocates to consider as they move forward to place a legalization initiative on the statewide ballot in November 2016.
California will be joined by a number of other states hoping to legalize marijuana in 2016.
This report seeks to provide regulatory guidance for the state’s forthcoming legalization effort. The commission prefaced its report by stating: “Legalization of marijuana would not be an event that happens in one election. Rather, it would be a process that unfolds over many years requiring sustained attention to implementation.”
The 93-page report addresses policy options on a myriad of subjects, ranging from commercial production to taxation and everything in between. Authors advocate that the four core goals of legalizing cannabis are: promoting the public interest, reducing the size of the illicit market, offering legal protection to responsible actors, and capturing and investing tax revenue. Another predominant theme throughout the report is youth safety. The Commissions states, “A Tax and Regulate policy legalizing marijuana use by adults has the potential to reserve sufficient revenue to provide universal access to programs such as Student Assistance Programs (SAPs) that emphasize learning skills, remediation of academic performance, improved school climate, school retention, peer group interventions, family engagement and more effective drug education, prevention and counseling programs. ”
Notably, the report acknowledges that if California voters were to legalize in 2016, “state officials should engage the federal government, both to ensure compliance with these federal enforcement priorities and to help change other federal rules that may be obstacles to safe legalization at the state level,” signaling that lawmakers intend to bring immense pressure to federal authorities to accommodate state legalization efforts. Specific changes the report wishes to see on the federal level are amendments to banking regulations and IRS rules.
While the report itself avoids explicitly endorsing or opposing marijuana legalization, Lieutenant Governor Newsom has been an outspoken critic of prohibition and is currently the highest office holder in California calling for the plant’s legalization.
Six separate initiatives have been filed in California so far in hopes of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Voters rejected legalization previously in 2010 but a recent poll performed by the Public Policy Institute of California puts support among likely voters at 56%.
For over 45 years NORML has been at the center of national efforts to legalize responsible use of marijuana by adults. But missing from these efforts was an accurate way to measure impairment. Today we’re happy to announce such a way exists and it’s called Canary.
“Canary is the first app to give consumers the scientific information they need to honestly and accurately evaluate their personal performance, privately, anytime, and anywhere,” says Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML.
Available for iPhone® and iPad®, Canary combines decades of research and experience, specialized mental and physical performance tests, and sophisticated analysis to accurately measure impairment due to alcohol, medication, fatigue and even the subtle impact of marijuana.
Download and Canary yourself: https://appsto.re/us/QYxB7.i
As a special offer for NORML members, the first 500 downloads of Canary are free. Afterwards the app will be available for $4.99 and a percentage of each sale will go to support responsible consumption initiatives at NORML.
Please try Canary and send us your feedback.
The NORML Team
P.S. For more information about responsible marijuana use visit:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Allen St. Pierre: email@example.com, (202) 483-5500
Organization: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
Web Site: www.norml.org
iTunes App Store: https://appsto.re/us/QYxB7.i
Additional Contact: Marc Silverman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Canary App Permits Marijuana Consumers To Gauge Their Personal Performance
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 15, 2015. Representatives of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) today endorsed Canary, the first-ever mobile app that quickly and accurately measures one’s personal performance to determine whether or not a subject may be under the influence of marijuana. Available for iPhone® and iPad®, Canary combines decades of research and experience, specialized mental and physical performance tests, and advanced modeling and analysis to accurately measure behavioral or cognitive impairment. Interested parties may view a full demonstration of the Canary app:
“NORML’s purpose is to influence public opinion to legalize the responsible use of marijuana,” said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML. “Canary is the first app to provide consumers with the scientific information they need to accurately evaluate their personal performance, privately, anytime, and anywhere.”
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.
To form this overall picture, Canary uses state-of-the-art metrics and advanced features of the iPhone 4s and later, to measure and record:
- Reaction Time and Divided Attention
- Time Perception
The Canary tests can be completed in two minutes and the results are immediately analyzed to determine the individual user’s performance level. Average performance data from a large group of unintoxicated individuals is used to assess impairment. For greater accuracy, users can set a unique personal baseline; then future tests are measured against this personal baseline.
“Canary is the culmination of 60 years of combined technical and legal experience and thousands of peer-reviewed studies, including NASA, NHTSA, and DOD research, as well as upon thousands of studies specific to cannabis’ acute impact on cognitive and psychomotor functioning,” said Marc Silverman, Canary’s developer. “Canary measures key performance indicators that may be impacted by potentially impairing substances, including marijuana, while respecting users’ privacy. Canary doesn’t share users personal data with anyone.”
“The identification of THC in blood is poorly associated with users’ impairment of performance,” said Leonard Frieling, a published author on the impact of marijuana on functioning and an a ttorney of 39 years. He is also a member of the NORML Legal Committee , Colorado NORML, and (while speaking for himself only) the first Chair of the Colorado Bar Association Marijuana Law Committee. “Canary is the first app to use performance science to help marijuana users consume more responsibly, ” he said. He added: “Of great importance is that Canary is not limited to marijuana’s impact, alcohol’s impact, or any specific cause of behavioral impairment. What we all need to know, on the spot, is ‘are we functioning up to our personal ‘normal’ standards?'”
According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly half of Americans are concerned about how the implementation of statewide marijuana legalization laws may impact traffic safety.
Such concerns pose a potential impediment to the enactment of additional marijuana law reforms. The Canary app seeks to respond to these concerns in a way that utilizes the best available science to assure personal responsibility and safety.
For more information visit: www.mycanaryapp.com
Canary is compatible with iOS 7.1 and iPhone versions 4S and newer.
For more information regarding cannabis and psychomotor performance, please see: http://norml.org/library/driving-and-marijuana.
NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by responsible adults. NORML’s Principle of Responsible Use state, “The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other dangerous machinery while impaired by cannabis.” To read NORML’s full Principles, visit: http://norml.org/principles/item/principles-of-responsible-cannabis-use-3.
Over the years, marijuana legalization advocates became effective at gradually building public support for our issue, even as we continued to lose votes when our elected officials focused on marijuana policy. We learned to lose creatively.
We became accustomed to years when it was difficult to identify any real political progress. For example, we won not a single statewide marijuana law reform proposal between 1978, when Nebraska became the last of 11 states to adopt a modified version of marijuana decriminalization, following the release of the first report of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (which recommended the country decriminalize minor possession and personal use offenses), and 1996, when California approved Proposition 215, legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Eighteen years without a single significant victory is, by any definition, a long political winter.
But over those years, and continuing still today, we learned to hone the skill of making small gains, at least in public attitudes, even as we lost the immediate political vote, whether at the local level or at the state legislatures. At a minimum we learned to present a public image of marijuana smokers that was more professional and mainstream than our opponents were accustomed to confronting, which over time helped us turn around the exaggerated anti-marijuana biases common in the media, resulting in a more balanced public debate over marijuana policy. That, in turn, began causing many non-smokers to reassess their views on marijuana policy.
And even as we continued to lose reform proposals, we were also identifying more and more elected officials who has the political courage to stand-up to the “war-on-drugs,” who would sponsor our reform legislation in the coming years. Out of necessity, our political misfortunes had forced us to learn how to lose creatively; to come out of a losing effort with more support than when we started.
What To Do With Majority Support
But then something incredible occurred. Beginning in 2010, for the first time we demonstrated sufficient public support to approve full legalization initiatives in two states, a step that only a few years ago had seemed unrealistic and out-of-reach. And beginning in 2012, a handful of national polls began to reflect the new reality that for the first time, a majority of Americans nationwide now oppose marijuana prohibition and favor legalization.
That growing public support made it possible for us to win legalization proposals in additional states, as we did in 2014 and expect to do again in 2016. So long as we are willing to make some concessions to satisfy the concerns of non-smokers, who comprise the vast majority of voters (86 percent), we can continue to win these precedent-setting laws to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana, and to stop the arrest of marijuana smokers, in more and more states.
It is important as we continue to move forward that we recognize the value of slow, steady change, and that we learn to accept and enjoy our victories as they occur, even though they will seldom be as complete as we might wish, and will require additional work in coming years to fix problems that remain. It is far easier to fine-tune these laws to make them work in a more equitable manner, once marijuana smoking has been legitimized and marijuana smokers are no longer considered criminals.
Learning To Accept Victory, and Build On It
I have been reminded of that fact recently when I observed colleagues who are allies in the legalization movement, but who were upset with political compromises that occurred as part of the implementation of legalization in Oregon, and were making allegations that all was lost, that some advocates had sold their souls, and that legalization in Oregon is not “real” legalization, since there are limits and regulations that apply. In fact, the version of legalization adopted in Oregon is the best to date, from the perspective of marijuana smokers.
Incidentally, there were a handful of voices, loud but not large, in both Colorado and Washington, who made those same claims when those states were passing and implementing legalization, and who continue today to file suits seeking to have the state legalization initiatives declared invalid and unconstitutional, leaving prohibition still in effect in those states, and in other ways seeking to undermine the new legalization systems currently in effect.
To some degree we should recognize that social movements attract “true believers,” many of whom are purists who oppose compromise and insist on demands that would never be acceptable to a majority of the voters in the state. We should welcome their involvement and support when they join us in opposing prohibition, but separate ourselves from them politically when they insist that we should not adopt marijuana legalization because the version they are voting on is less than perfect.
Standing tall for a principle is a good thing, but knowing which principles are important, and which are self-defeating, is an essential skill for any advocate. Accepting reasonable compromises that assure a majority of the voters in a state will support an end to prohibition, and agree to a system of regulating the legal sale of marijuana to adults, is basic to winning this fight.
Most Americans are not marijuana smokers (only 14 percent are), nor are they “pro pot.” In fact, one recent national survey found that while a majority of the public nationwide now support an end to marijuana prohibition, 54 percent of those same individuals had a negative impression of recreational marijuana smokers! They support ending prohibition because they now recognize prohibition causes far more problems than the use of the drug we were trying to prohibit; but they are not “pro pot” and they remain concerned that legalization may result in some unintended consequences that will harm society. Just this past week we learned from a new Gallup Poll, taken at the end of June 2015, that 47 percent of the public believe, for example, that legalization will make driving in those states less safe (30 percent believe it will make driving “a lot less safe”; 17 percent say “a little less safe”)
Fortunately, the data from the first few states to legalize marijuana have not shown an increase in DUID cases or accidents blamed on pot intoxication, but we still must deal with that concern, and take reasonable steps to reassure those non-smokers that we too oppose impaired driving and support reasonable efforts to get them off the road. (Note: I am not talking about drivers with some THC in their system, but drivers who are actually impaired. There is an important distinction between those two categories.)
Those of us who work for legalization must occasionally stand back a step and take a realistic assessment of the enormous progress we have made over the last few years, especially the legalization victories we have achieved in four states and the District of Columbia. Of course, none of these first few state laws are perfect from the standpoint of those of us who smoke. Looking forward, we must find ways to treat responsible marijuana smokers fairly regarding employment issues, child custody issues, and in the definition of impaired driving.
But those are reasons for rededicating ourselves to continuing the political and education efforts necessary to come back and improve these laws, and to try to assure that each new law that is approved by the voters brings us a little closer to a model law. But most importantly, minor imperfections in these initial laws do not justify opposing or undermining their implementation.
We are ending a corrupt system that resulted in the unnecessary and unfair arrest of tens of millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans, and the resulting damage caused to those individuals and their families. We are achieving what most Americans, only a few years ago, would have thought impossible. Let’s enjoy and celebrate these victories, and stop focusing on what we have not yet accomplished.
These new legalization victories are changing the way the world looks at marijuana and marijuana smokers. It’s a great time to be alive if you are a marijuana smoker. Let’s enjoy it.
Oregon has now joined the growing list of states that have fully legalized marijuana.
In November of 2014 the voters of Oregon approved Measure 91, with 56 percent of the vote, ending marijuana prohibition and legalizing recreational use. Under the terms of that initiative, marijuana officially became legal in Oregon last week, on July 1, 2015, allowing adults to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana in the home and up to one ounce outside the home; and to cultivate up to four plants per household, out of public view.
The state has until Jan. 1, 2016 to issue regulations regarding the issuance of licenses to commercially cultivate and sell recreational marijuana, and retail outlets are expected to be open by late 2016. In an attempt to provide a legal supply of recreational marijuana more quickly, the legislature just approved a proposal that will permit the existing legal medical marijuana dispensaries to begin selling marijuana to recreational users on as Oct. 1, 2015. It is great to see the state legislature make a special effort to implement the will of the voters in a timely manner.
The Smell of Freedom
On the eve of the end of marijuana prohibition in Oregon, Portland NORML organized a midnight celebration (and seed give-away, now legal in Oregon) on Burnside Bridge, under the iconic Portland, Oregon sign, where thousands of celebrants exercised their First Amendment rights, and lit-up en masse, as the clock struck midnight. The Portland police were present but allowed those gathered to enjoy this moment in history and made no arrests for public smoking, despite the huge cloud of marijuana smoke rising from the bridge. It seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate the end of prohibition in Oregon.
Portland NORML Executive Director Russ Belville issued a statement thanking the police for exercising discretion and not hassling the celebrants, and making it clear the job of legalizers is not yet complete in Oregon. “We have achieved legalization. Now we seek equalization. We will not stop until we have the same rights as beer drinkers and cigar smokers,” Belville said, noting marijuana consumers still need protection from job discrimination, so they don’t lose their jobs for marijuana smoking, unless they come to work in an impaired condition; protection for parental rights, so marijuana smokers are no longer presumed to be unfit parents, without evidence of abuse or neglect; and protection of Second Amendment rights, so smokers do not lose their right to own guns.
Oregon now joins Colorado, Washington, Alaska and the District of Columbia as states in which marijuana is fully legal. It is no longer contraband, nor can the smell of marijuana any longer be used as probable cause to search a vehicle, or to obtain a search warrant to search a person’s home. Legalizing marijuana accomplishes more than simply making it legal for us to smoke; it returns basic Constitutional protections to those of us who smoke marijuana responsibly.
And the Oregon model is, for the moment, the most progressive of the first few legalization laws, in terms of the quantity of marijuana products permitted. In addition to the eight ounces and four plants permitted in the home, it covers all forms of marijuana, including edibles and tinctures, allowing an individual to legally possess up to one pound of solid edibles, 72 ounces of infused liquids, and one ounce of concentrates or extracts. That should satisfy even the most enthusiastic users.
It is especially heartening to see the state legislature now building on the voter-approved legalization by enacting legislation to undo some of the damage previously inflicted by marijuana prohibition. On July 2nd Governor Kate Brown signed HB 3400 into law, reducing most marijuana offenses that remain on the books from a felony to a misdemeanor, and providing for many prior marijuana convictions to be set aside, sentences reduced, and records sealed. An estimated 78,000 marijuana convictions may be eligible for reduced sentencing or to be set-aside altogether under this latest legislation.
By taking care to provide relief to those citizens previously convicted of marijuana offenses no longer considered criminal, Oregon has shown the way for adopting legalization in a fair manner. And it will hopefully encourage legislators in the remaining legal states to adopt similar provisions. One should not be burdened with a criminal conviction for an offense that has since been legalized, and we have an ethical obligation to do what we can to minimize the damage done to so many of our fellow-smokers during prohibition. As Belville said in his release, our work is far from done with the adoption of basic legalization; now we seek to be treated in a fair manner in all aspects of our lives, and to end all discrimination based on our use of marijuana.
Many observers were shocked and saddened when Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who is authorized to use medical marijuana under Colorado state law, was fired from his job with Dish Network in 2010 after a positive drug test. Dish failed to make an exception for Coats, who used marijuana while off duty to control his seizures, and the company insisted on his being fired, leaving Coats no choice but to challenge this issue in court.
Specifically, Coats claimed that his conduct should have been permitted under the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which makes it an unfair and discriminatory labor practice to discharge an employee based on the employee’s “lawful,” away-from-work activities. But the trial court, followed by the Court of Appeals and now the Colorado Supreme Court, have all ruled that the statute only protects conduct that is legal under both state and federal law — and therefore offers no job protection to Coats.
“Therefore, employees who engage in an activity, such as medical marijuana use, that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute,” Justice Allison H. Eid wrote in the opinion.
This case highlights one of the most pressing issues that needs to be addressed in the states that have legalized medical cannabis use — and the states that have adopted full legalization for all adults, as well. Although employees are protected from arrest and prosecution under state law by these various laws, they remain vulnerable to employment discrimination in almost all states.
Simply put, if an employer wants to insist on what they frequently call a “drug-free workplace,” they are legally permitted to do that — regardless of the unfairness this policy may cause, because we must note that they do not apply those same standards to off-job alcohol consumption or the use of prescription drugs.
Most Americans would strongly support the right of an employer to fire anyone who comes to work in an impaired condition. But smoking marijuana leaves one mildly impaired only for about an hour and a half; certainly smoking marijuana in the evening, or on the weekend, would have no impact on the employee who comes to work the following day.
Effort renewed to add PTSD to Colorado medical marijuana list
(Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file)
What we really need is for employers in these legalized states to become responsible corporate citizens and to do the right thing: Stop penalizing employees, absent a showing of impairment on the job. But absent that voluntary shift in policy, the obligation is now on those of us who favor marijuana legalization to go back to the state legislatures in states that have legalized cannabis, either for medical use or for all adults, and enact appropriate job protections for those who use marijuana legally under state law.
Before being allowed to fire an employee who tests positive for THC, the employer must be required to demonstrate on-the-job impairment. Just as we do not permit someone to be fired for reason of their gender, religion or race, neither should we permit an employee to be fired simply because they elect to use marijuana legally under state law, without a showing of actual on-job impairment.
Otherwise we are requiring many medical-use patients to choose between relieving their pain and suffering and keeping their employment. And we are allowing employers to fire good, hard-working, loyal employees for off-the-job activities that are totally unrelated to their job performance.
And that is simply unfair, and it cannot be allowed to stand. So let’s get to work and fix this problem.
Keith Stroup is an attorney, author of “It’s NORML to Smoke Pot: The 40-year Fight for Marijuana Smokers’ Rights” and founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, where he serves as legal counsel.