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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 13, 2017

    Legalize marijuanaRetail cannabis distribution in Colorado is associated with a reduction in opioid-related mortality, according to data published online ahead of print in The American Journal of Public Health.

    A team of investigators from the University of North Texas School of Public Health, the University of Florida, and Emory University compared changed in the prevalence of monthly opioid-related deaths before and after Colorado retailers began selling cannabis to adults.

    They reported: “Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.”

    Authors concluded, “Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths.”

    Their data is consistent with prior studies finding that cannabis access is associated with reductions in prescription drug spending, opioid-related hospitalizations, and opioid-related fatalities.

    An abstract of the study, “Recreational cannabis legalization and opioid-related deaths in Colorado, 2000-2015,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 5, 2017

    cbd_trichomesVoters in Fairbanks and on the Kenai Peninsula (south or Anchorage) have decided against a number local ballot measures that sought to prohibit the operation of cannabis retailers and providers. Each proposal lost by wide margins.

    Under a 2014 voter-initiated state law, local governments may opt out of regulations licensing the production and retail sale of cannabis to adults.

    If the ballot measures had been approved, local retailers would have to had to close within 90 days. A significant portion of the state’s cultivators and retailers are located in Fairbanks and on the Kenia Peninsula.

    Proponents of the ban cannot put a similar issue before voters until 2019.

  • by NORML October 2, 2017

    MarijuanaArrestsTimelineEighty years ago, on October 2, 1937, House Bill 6385: The Marihuana Tax Act was enacted as law. The Act for the first time imposed federal criminal penalties on activities specific to the possession, production, and sale of cannabis – thus ushering in the modern era of federal prohibition.

    “The ongoing enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts young people and communities of color,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco.”

    Congress held only two hearings to debate the merits of the Marihuana Tax Act, which largely consisted of sensational testimony by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger. He asserted before the House Ways and Means Committee, “This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured.” His ideological testimony was countered by the American Medical Association, whose legislative counsel Dr. William C. Woodward argued that hard evidence in support of Anslinger’s hyperbolic claims was non-existent.

    Woodward testified: “We are told that the use of marijuana causes crime. But yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marijuana habit. … You have been told that school children are great users of marijuana cigarettes.  No one has been summoned from the Children’s Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children. Inquiry of the Children’s Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and know nothing particularly of it.” He further contended that passage of the Act would severely hamper physicians’ ability to prescribe cannabis as a medicine.

    Absent further debate, members of Congress readily approved the bill, which President Franklin Roosevelt promptly signed into law on August 2, 1937. The ramifications of the law became apparent over the ensuing decades. Physicians ceased prescribing cannabis as a therapeutic remedy and the substance was ultimately removed from the US pharmacopeia in 1942. United States hemp cultivation also ended (although the industry was provided a short-lived reprieve during World War II). Policy makers continued to exaggerate the supposed ill effects of cannabis, which Congress went on to classify alongside heroin in 1970 with the passage of the US Controlled Substances Act. Law enforcement then began routinely arresting marijuana consumers and sellers, fueling the racially disparate, mass incarceration epidemic we still face today.

    Despite continued progress when it comes to legalizing or decriminalizing the adult use of marijuana, data from the recently released Uniform Crime Report from the FBI revealed that over 600,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana offenses in 2016.

    After 80 years of failure, NORML contends that it is time for a common sense, evidence-based approach to cannabis policy in America.

    “Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, the demand for marijuana is here to stay. America’s laws should reflect this reality and govern the cannabis market accordingly,” stated NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, “Policymakers ought to look to the future rather than to the past, and take appropriate actions to comport federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”

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  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate September 27, 2017

    Pass-the-Joint_NCF16_Credit-DUKEofHEMP-of-Sospact(dotcom)-(225)-WMIt’s time to exercise your civic duty and ensure that you are registered to vote!

    2018 is a critical midterm election year, and NORML is partnering with the National Cannabis Festival and HeadCount for the #WeCannaVote Voter Registration Drive. The goal is to register thousands of new voters before the 2018 National Cannabis Festival on April 21 & to educate those in and beyond the cannabis community about their right to vote. Click here to register.

    2016 was a great year for cannabis reform, with 8 states (out of 9 total) across the US passing ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana, 4 medical and 4 adult-use. Here’s a quick breakdown of the 2016 results:

    PASSED:

    Arkansas Issue No. 6: Medical Marijuana
    53% YES, 46.9% NO

    California Proposition 64: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    56% YES, 43.9% NO

    Florida Amendment No. 2: Medical Marijuana
    71.2% YES, 28.7% NO

    Massachusetts Question 4: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    53.5% YES, 46.4% NO

    Maine Question 1: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    50.1% YES, 49.8% NO

    Montana Initiative No. 182: Medical Marijuana
    57.6% YES, 42.3% NO

    North Dakota Initiated Statutory Measure No. 5: Medical Marijuana
    53.7% YES, 36.2% NO

    Nevada State Question No. 2: Legal Adult-Use Marijuana
    54.4% YES, 45.5% NO

    FAILED:

    Arizona Proposition 205: Recreational Marijuana
    51.9% NO, 48% YES

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    As you can see in Arizona, we lost by an incredibly close margin. If only a few more thousand voters turned out, we know we would have won. This just proves how important it is to get out and VOTE! Make sure that you are registered NOW.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 25, 2017

    Cannabis PenaltiesTabulations calculating the percentage of annual marijuana arrests nationwide are absent from the 2017 edition of the FBI Uniform Crime Report, which the agency released today.

    The table,’Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations: Percent Distribution by Region,’ had for decades appeared in the section of the FBI report entitled ‘Persons Arrested.’ It was one of over 50 tables eliminated from this year’s edition of the Crime report. NORML had relied on the table in order to extrapolate and publicize annual marijuana arrest data, which it has tracked since 1965.

    According to the latest FBI report, police made 1,572,579 arrests for illicit drug offenses in 2016. This total represents nearly a six percent increase in arrests since 2015.

    Although data with regard to what percentage of these drug arrests were marijuana-related was absent from this year’s report, the FBI did provide percentages by request to Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell, who summarized the data in a column for Forbes.com.

    The unpublished data estimates that police made 653,249 arrests for cannabis-related violations in 2016. Of these, 587,516 arrests (90 percent of all marijuana arrests) were for possession-related offenses.
    U.S. Annual Marijuana Arrests 1965-2016

    The arrest total is an increase from 2015 figures and marks the first year-to-year uptick in nationwide marijuana arrests in nearly a decade. The uptick comes at a time when eight states have enacted laws to regulate the adult use of cannabis and when public support for legalizing the plant is at a record high.

    “The recent uptick in the number of marijuana arrests is unprecedented in recent years, especially given the rate of state-level reform we have seen. This combined with the FBI’s disturbing change of protocol and lack of transparency in the publishing of arrest records only further demonstrates the need for state lawmakers to respect the will of the majority of their constituents and end the practice of marijuana prohibition once and for all,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.

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