While America’s public support for domestic prohibition of marijuana appears increasingly waning, quantifying the types of marijuana law reforms internationally could constitute a full time job for the eager.
This day’s news alone from overseas about cannabis law reforms strongly suggests that the contagion to end pot prohibition is hardly an America-only phenomena:
Israel – The country’s deputy health minister announced today that medical cannabis will be made available for retail access via commercial pharmacies.
Italy – Cannabis law reform group in Italy claims 250 out of 945 members of Italian Parliament support ending pot prohibition, which is a little more than twenty-five percent of the country’s elected policymakers. Drafted by the Intergrupo Parlamentare Cannabis Legale, the legislation would allow anyone over the age of 18 to cultivate as many as five plants at home. Italians could also team up to form a “cannabis social club,” with each having a maximum of 50 people growing as many as 250 plants.
Surveys in Italy indicate that nearly eighty percent of citizens support the country adopting marijuana laws similar to American states Colorado and Washington.
United Kingdom – A twenty-five year old economics student in the United Kingdom has forced the hand of parliament to debate the issue of marijuana legalization by submitting a petition with over one hundred thousand signatures.
Australia’s Queensland – Joining New South Wales, the Australian state of Queensland took steps to formalize a system by which qualified medical patients can access cannabis products via a series of research trials.
Portugal – California’s Press Enterprise’s editorial board reminds all that the week marks the fourteenth anniversary of the first nation, Portugal, to entirely decriminalize drug use and possession, which is serving as a ‘harm reduction’ model for numerous countries.
If anyone would have suggested a year ago that Ohio might be on the verge of legalizing marijuana in 2015, I would have laughed at the idea.
First, Ohio is a conservative Midwestern state that is seldom, if ever, on the cutting edge on social issues. And second, 2015 is an off-year election, with no statewide or federal elections, meaning the voter turn-out would be lower and the likely voters would be older and less supportive than would be the case if the proposal were on the ballot in 2016, a presidential election year when younger voters turn out in far higher numbers.
But it turns out that Ohio voters may well be voting on marijuana legalization this November. And the circumstances surrounding this development raise new issues that legalization activists are struggling to deal with. The proposed constitutional amendment, called the Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, sponsored by a group calling itself Responsible Ohio, would legalize both the medical and the recreational use of marijuana.
We have a scarcity of polling data that would indicate whether the voters in Ohio currently support marijuana legalization. A Quinnipiac University poll taken in 2014 found strong support for medical marijuana, and an almost even split (51 percent support) over full legalization. One can presume the sponsors of this initiative must have done their own private polling, but if so, they have not shared the results.
Investor Driven Voter Initiatives
But what is unique about this effort is that it is being funded by a few rich private investors who, under the terms of the proposed initiative, would then own the 10 specific cultivation centers around the state authorized to cultivate marijuana commercially. In other words, those investors who provide the funding to gather the required number of signatures, and to run a professional statewide campaign, would be richly rewarded for their investment, assuming the initiative is approved by a majority of the voters.
Individuals would be permitted to cultivate up to four marijuana plants privately, and retail dispensary licenses would be open for all to apply for licenses, but the commercial cultivation would be limited to what the Rand Corporation has described as a “structured oligopoly.”
As might be expected, this proposal, which would enshrine this special privilege for these investors in the state constitution, has met with some cries of outrage from some in the Buckeye state, both legalization activists and the state legislature.
Some activists have raised objections to the proposal because it would not permit average Ohioans to compete for the commercial cultivation licenses, although ordinary citizens would be entitled to apply for licenses for the more than 1,000 retail dispensaries that would be authorized, claiming it is undemocratic. Some opponents have even argued it would be worse than the current prohibition — despite the fact that roughly 17,000 marijuana arrests occur each year in Ohio, and those arrests would largely be eliminated if this initiative were to pass.
The Legislature Inserts Itself In The Fight
But the situation in Ohio has become even more confusing because of the action of the Ohio legislature, in response to the filing of the Responsible Ohio initiative. The legislature has elected to use an option available to them (they are permitted this option by their state constitution, without the need to collect signatures) of adding a second voter initiative to the ballot this November that, if approved by the voters, they believe would render the Responsible Ohio proposal invalid. The proposal would ban the adoption by voter initiative of attempts to benefit select economic interest groups.
The sponsor of this initiative, Democratic House member Mike Curtin, said he sponsored what he called his “anti-monoply” measue, not because he opposes the legalization of marijuana, but because he opposed the way Responsible Ohio is using the ballot measure to enrich themselves.
What If Both Initiatives Are Approved
Should the Responsible Ohio initiative be approved for the ballot, which is not yet certain (they recently turned in 695,273 signatures, more than double the 305,591 signatures required; but the Secretary of State’s office determined that only 42 percent of those were valid signatures, an unheard of failure rate, leaving them 29,509 signatures short, and 10 days to make-up the deficit), then the confusion really kicks-in.
Ohio law appears to say if the two initiatives both pass, then the one with the highest number of votes would become effective. But Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican who opposed legalization, has announced his opinion that should the legislative proposal pass, it would take effect 30 days earlier than the citizen initiative, and would thus block the other proposal from taking effect. The only certainty is that should both initiatives pass, and the citizen initiative receive the higher total of votes, this is an issue that will eventually be decided in the Ohio courts.
So the question becomes whether groups such as NORML should get involved in the fight over who gets rich off the legalization of marijuana, or whether we should continue to focus on ending the practice of treating marijuana smokers like criminals, and the establishment of a legally controlled market where consumers can buy their marijuana in a safe and secure environment, and leave these economic fights to others. At the national level, this seems like an easy decision.
Some people get rich off of marijuana legalization, wherever it is adopted. There are scores of successful entrepreneurs who have surfaced in Colorado and Washington, and who are beginning to surface in Oregon and Alaska, creating new businesses and new jobs, and sometimes getting rich in the process. The phenomenon is know as the “Green Rush.” So we should not act shocked to learn that someone is going to get rich off marijuana legalization in Ohio, should it occur.
Nor should opponents act so offended by the fact that average citizens in Ohio do not have the resources to be part of those investors who would control the commercial cultivation licenses. In many of the states that have legalized marijuana for medical use, for example, the licenses to cultivate or dispense the marijuana have been quite limited, and enormously expensive.
In Massachusetts, for example, those seeking a license to commercially cultivate marijuana were required to put $500,000 in escrow before their application would even be reviewed. And in Florida, where a medical marijuana bill was approved permitting only low-THC, high CBD marijuana, applicants for one of only five licenses for a cultivation center were required to post a $5 million performance bond and pay a $100,000 non-refundable application fee, and demonstrate they have been in the nursery business in Florida for a minimum of 30 years. Few average citizens in either state would have the ability to participate in the profitable legal marijuana market, yet we did not hear a lot of protest from citizens in either state.
Further, most states that have legalized marijuana for either medical use or for everyone have established caps on the number of licenses for producers and distributors. These caps vary widely from state to state and market to market, with some states limiting the number of producers to no more than two (Minnesota) or three (Delaware).
So there is really nothing unique about the Ohio proposal, other than it is being funded by the very people who will benefit from its passage, instead of by billionaire philanthropists. But the bottom line is that someone gets rich off legalization, regardless of how it is funded, or structured.
At NORML, we recognize there are many inequities in the free market system, with an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the rest of us. But NORML is not an organization established to deal with income inequality; we are a lobby for responsible marijuana smokers. So we will leave other issues, including income inequality, to other organizations who focus on those issues, and we will continue to focus on legalizing marijuana.
And if the investor driven legalization initiative in Ohio qualifies for the ballot, national NORML will almost certainly support it. And we hope, so will a majority of the voters in Ohio.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, (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: email@example.com
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.