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SOCIETY

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 19, 2016

    vote_keyboardArizona voters will decide this November on a statewide ballot measure to legalize and regulate the adult use and retail sale of cannabis.

    The Secretary of State’s office has confirmed that initiative proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, submitted a sufficient number of signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot. A Maricopa County judge has also dismissed a lawsuit that sought to prohibit the measure from going before voters, although initiative opponents may seek to further litigate the matter before the state Supreme Court.

    Proposition 205 permits adults to legally possess (up to one ounce of marijuana flowers and/or five grams of marijuana concentrates) and cultivate marijuana (up to six plants) for their own personal use, and establishes licensing for its commercial production and retail sale. Commercial, for-profit sales of cannabis will be subject to taxation, while non-commercial exchanges of marijuana will not be taxed.

    Similar adult use measures will appear on the ballot this November in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota will also decide on medical use measures this fall. A Missouri statewide initiative seeking to regulate the plant’s medicinal use is in litigation.

    A summary of 2016 statewide ballot measures and their status is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 18, 2016

    Legalize marijuanaApproximately two in three California voters support the establishment of a state-regulated retail market for the sale of marijuana to adults, according to polling data compiled by the Institute of Government Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Sixty-four percent of respondents agree, “Marijuana should be legal for adults to purchase and use recreationally, with government regulations similar to the regulation of alcohol.”

    Support is strongest among those between the ages 18 to 24 (75 percent), Democrats (74 percent), African Americans (72 percent), those between the ages of 25 to 34 (71 percent), and Latino voters (69 percent). Among voters over 65 years of age, 58 percent back legalization.

    The polling data bodes well for the passage of California’s Proposition 64 this November. The statewide initiative permit adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possess and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes. The initiative language specifies that it is not intended to “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.” Proposition 64 is endorsed by the ACLU of California, the California Democratic Party, the California Medical Association, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California NAACP, the Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and NORML.

    Voters in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will similarly decide on adult use measures in November. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Montana, and North Dakota are expected to also decide on medical use measures this fall.

    A summary of 2016 statewide ballot measures and their status is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 10, 2016

    imgresThe United States Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a pair of administrative petitions that sought to initiate rulemaking proceedings to reschedule marijuana under federal law.

    Although the DEA’s ruling continues to classify marijuana in the same category as heroin, the agency also announced in a separate decision that it is adopting policy changes designed to expand the production of research-grade cannabis for FDA-approved clinical studies.

    Presently, any clinical trial involving cannabis must access source material cultivated at the University of Mississippi — a prohibition that is not in place for other controlled substances. Today, the agency announced for the first time that it will be seeking applications from multiple parties, including potentially from private entities, to produce marijuana for FDA-approved research protocols as well as for “commercial product development.” This change was initially recommended by the DEA’s own administrative law judge in 2007, but her decision was ultimately rejected by the agency in 2011.

    Below is a statement from NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano regarding the DEA’s decisions:

    For far too long, federal regulations have made clinical investigations involving cannabis needlessly onerous and have placed unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions on marijuana that do not exist for other controlled substances, including some other schedule I controlled substances.

    While this announcement is a significant step toward better facilitating and expanding clinical investigations into cannabis’ therapeutic efficacy, ample scientific evidence already exists to remove cannabis from its schedule I classification and to acknowledge its relative safety compared to other scheduled substances, like opioids, and unscheduled substances, such as alcohol. Ultimately, the federal government ought to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act altogether in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco, thus providing states the power to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal intrusion.

    Since the DEA has failed to take such action, then it is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend cannabis’ criminal status in a way that comports with both public and scientific opinion. Failure to do so continues the federal government’s ‘Flat Earth’ position; it willfully ignores the well-established therapeutic properties associated with the plant and it ignores the laws in 26 states recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic efficacy.

    Under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the cannabis plant and its organic cannabinoids are classified as Schedule I prohibited substances — the most restrictive category available under the law. By definition, substances in this category must meet three specific inclusion criteria:

    The substance must possess “a high potential for abuse”; it must have “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States; and, the substance must lack “accepted safety for use … under medical supervision.”

    Substances that do not meet these criteria must, by law, be categorized in less restrictive federal schedules (Schedules II through V) and are legally regulated accordingly. Alcohol and tobacco, two substances widely acknowledged to possess far greater dangers to health than does cannabis, are not classified under the Controlled Substances Act.

    A recent review of FDA-approved clinical studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of herbal cannabis concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that Information on safety is lacking.”

    Added Armentano: “The DEA’s decision is strictly a political one. There is nothing scientific about willful ignorance.”

    The DEA has previously rejected several other rescheduling petitions, including a 2002 petition filed by a coalition of marijuana law reform and health advocacy organizations, and a 1972 petition filed by NORML. The petitions that triggered this latest DEA action were filed in 2009 by a nurse practitioner and in 2011 by then-Govs. Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 9, 2016

    pain_reliefMarijuana consumers do not access health care services at rates that are higher than non-users, according to data published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Internal Medicine.

    Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin assessed the relationship between marijuana use and health care utilization in a nationally representative sample of 174,159,864 US adults aged 18 to 59 years old.

    Authors reported “no significant increase in outpatient health care visits and overnight hospital admissions in marijuana users compared to non-users.” They also reported that those who consumed cannabis multiple times per day were no more likely to seek health care patient services as compared to those who used the substance less frequently.

    They concluded, “[C]ontrary to popular belief, … marijuana use is not associated with increased healthcare utilization, [and] there [is] also no association between health care utilization and frequency of marijuana use.”

    A previous assessment, published in 2014 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, similarly reported that the use of marijuana within the past three months was not associated with adverse effects on health, comorbidity, ER visits, or hospitalization.

    An abstract of the study, “Marijuana users do not have increased healthcare utilization: A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study,” appears here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 25, 2016

    oil_bottlesMore than two in three military veterans say that medical cannabis should be legal, and 75 percent believe that VA physicians should be able to recommend marijuana therapy to eligible patients, according to the results of the 7th annual membership survey of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American (IAVA).

    Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they “support the legalization of medical marijuana in their state.” Only 20 percent oppose legalizing medical cannabis access.

    Seventy-five percent of veterans “believe the VA should allow medical marijuana as a treatment option where warranted.” Fourteen percent of respondents disagreed.

    Founded in 2004, the IAVA states that it is “the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America.”

    In May, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include language in the 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to permit VA doctors to recommend cannabis therapy. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee decided in June to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.

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