A recently released white paper published by the National District Attorneys Association is calling for the federal government to strictly enforce anti-cannabis laws in states that have regulated its production and distribution for either medical or recreational purposes.
The working group, which consists of D.A.s and prosecutors from more than a dozen states (including representatives from adult use states like California and Colorado), hopes to influence the Trump administration to set aside the 2013 Cole memorandum. That memorandum, authored by former US Deputy Attorney General James Cole, directs state prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.
“To maintain respect for the rule of law, it is essential that federal drug enforcement policy regarding the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of marijuana be applied consistently across the nation,” the NDAA paper concludes.
Predictably, authors repeat numerous falsehoods about marijuana and marijuana policy in an effort to bolster their call for a federal crackdown. Specifically, authors allege that cannabis damages the brain to a far greater extent than alcohol and that statewide regulations have increased young people’s access to the plant. Both claims are demonstrably false.
The NDAA opines, “[Marijuana] is not like alcohol … because alcohol use does not cause the same type of permanent changes to teens’ ability to concentrate and learn.” Yet, well controlled studies dismiss the contention that cannabis exposure causes permanent structural damage to the brain.
Specifically, a 2015 study assessed brain morphology in both daily adult and adolescent cannabis users compared to non-users, with a particular focus on whether any differences were identifiable in the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus, and the cerebellum. Investigators reported “no statistically significant differences … between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest” after researchers controlled for potentially confounding variables. In contrast to marijuana, researchers acknowledged that alcohol “has been unequivocally associated with deleterious effects on brain morphology and cognition in both adults and adolescents.”
The NDAA further claims, “Legalization of marijuana for medical use and recreational use clearly sends a message to youth that marijuana is not dangerous and increases youth access to marijuana.”
But data from the US Centers for Disease control reports that young people’s access to marijuana has fallen by 13 percent since 2002. The agency further reports, “Since 2002, the prevalence of marijuana use and initiation among U.S. youth has declined” – a finding that is consistent with numerous prior studies.
Moreover, state-specific post-legalization data published in March by the Colorado Department of Public Health concludes: “[M]arijuana use, both among adults and among youth, does not appear to be increasing to date. No change was observed in past 30-day marijuana use among adults between 2014 (13.6 percent) and 2015 (13.4 percent). Similarly, there was no statistically significant change in 30-day or lifetime marijuana use among high school students between 2013 (lifetime: 36.9 percent, 30-day: 19.7 percent) and 2015 (lifetime: 38.0 percent, 30-day: 21.2 percent).” 2016 data compiled by Washington State Department of Social and Health Services similarly finds that “rates of teen marijuana use have remained steady” post legalization.
The National District Attorneys Association is the largest and oldest prosecutor organization in the country. Their mission is to be “the voice of America’s prosecutors and strives to support their efforts to protect the rights and safety of the people in their communities.”
The full text of the their paper, entitled “Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors’ Perspective,” is available online here.
Patients use fewer prescription drugs in states where access to medical cannabis is legally regulated, according to data published in the journal Health Affairs.
Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the association between medical cannabis regulations and the average number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries between the years 2007 and 2014.
Researchers reported, “[T]he use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied.” They added, “If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion.”
The findings are similar to those previously published by the team which reported that medical cannabis access was associated with significantly reduced spending by patients on Medicare Part D approved prescription drugs.
Separate studies have reported that patients with legal access to medical marijuana reduce their intake of opioids, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, migraine-related medications, and sleep aids, among other substances.
An abstract of the study, “Medical marijuana laws may be associated with a decline in the number of prescriptions for medicaid enrollees,” appears here.
An Arizona appellate court has ruled that a 2012 state law prohibiting the use of medical cannabis on college campuses is unconstitutional. Lifetime NORML Legal Committee member Tom Dean represented the patient-defendant in the case pro bono.
Arizona voters in 2010 narrowly approved a statewide initiative, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), permitting qualified patients to possess and use medicinal cannabis. The Court determined that the legislature’s decision to later amend the law in order to restrict medical marijuana use on college campuses does not “further the purpose” of the 2010 law and therefore must be struck down.
“By enacting A.R.S. § 15-108(A), the Legislature modified the AMMA to re-criminalize cardholders’ marijuana possession on college and university campuses,” the Court opined. “The statute does not further the purposes of the AMMA; to the contrary, it eliminates some of its protections.”
The Court argued that campuses and university possess the authority to enact their own individual policies restricting medical cannabis use, but that lawmakers can not do so.
The decision overturned a medical-marijuana card holder’s 2015 felony conviction for the possession of a small quantity of cannabis while attending Arizona State University.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has not yet publicly stated whether they intend to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today said that the Trump administration may engage in “greater” efforts to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in jurisdictions that have legalized and regulated its adult use.
In response to a question regarding how the administration intends to address statewide marijuana legalization laws, Spicer indicated that the administration views the regulation of marijuana for medical purposes as distinct from laws governing its adult use.
He said: “I’ve said before that the President understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing, especially, terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them.” He then added, But “there’s a big difference between that and recreational marijuana. I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.”
On the latter topic, he concluded, “I do believe you will see greater enforcement” of anti-marijuana laws from the Department of Justice.
While campaigning, President Trump voiced support for the authority of individual states to impose regulatory policies specific to the use and dispensing of medical cannabis, but was somewhat less clear with regard to whether he believed that state lawmakers ought to be able to regulate the adult use of cannabis absent federal interference. For instance, he stated that changes in the law in Colorado — one of eight states to legalize the adult use of marijuana — had led to “some big problems.”
Senator Jeff Sessions, now US Attorney General, has been historically critical of marijuana policy reforms, stating: “[M]arijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized. … [I]t’s in fact a very real danger.” He also opined, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and previously endorsed legislation to execute marijuana traffickers.
During his testimony before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, Sessions indicated that as US Attorney General he may take a more aggressive approach than did the Obama administration with regard to states that have enacted recreational use laws.
Commenting on Spicer’s comments, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The press secretary’s comments are hardly surprising and they are similar to comments made by the new US Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his vetting process when he made clear that any use of marijuana remains against federal law and that ‘it is not the Attorney General’s job to decide what laws to enforce.’
“Ultimately, those who reside in jurisdictions that have legalized and regulated cannabis under state law will only truly be safe from the threat of federal prosecution when and if members of Congress elect to amend federal marijuana laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status. Certainly, Congressional passage of HR 975, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and/or re-authorization of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment would be steps in the right direction to protect patients and others in legal states from undue federal interference.
“If federal politicians were truly listening to the will of the electorate, they would move forward to enact these federal changes, which are strongly in line with voters’ sentiments. According to national polling data released today, 71 percent of voters — including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans — say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.” In short, undermining voters’ wishes and state laws in this regard not only defies common sense, it is also bad politics — particularly for an administration that is defining itself as populist in nature.”
Click here to email your member of Congress and urge them to support The Respect States’ Marijuana Laws Act.
Click here to email your member of Congress to insist that they join the newly formed Cannabis Caucus.
Record numbers of voters support regulating the marijuana market and oppose federal efforts to interfere or undermine state laws permitting the plant’s use or sale, according to nationwide polling data released today by Quinnipiac University.
Ninety-three percent of voters — including 96 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans — support “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes,” the highest total ever reported in a national poll. Among those respondents older than 65 years of age, 92 percent endorsed legalizing medical marijuana.
Fifty-nine percent of voters similarly support making the adult use of marijuana legal in the United States. That total is in line with recent polling data compiled by Gallup in 2016 which reported that 60 percent of US adults support legalization — a historic high. Respondents who identified as Democrats (72 percent) were most likely to support legalization. Fifty-eight percent of Independents also expressed support, but only 35 percent of Republicans did so. Among the various age groups polled, only those over the age of 65 failed to express majority support for legalization.
Finally, 71 percent of respondents say that they “oppose the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.” This percentage is the highest level of support ever reported with regard to limiting the federal government from interfering in states’ marijuana policies.
The rising support may provide a boost for pending federal legislation, HR 975: The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, which prevents the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana. You can urge your members of Congress to support this act by clicking here.
The Quinnipiac University poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.