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SOCIETY

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 5, 2014

    Nearly nine out of ten Floridians support legalizing the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and a majority support allowing adults to possess the plant for any purpose, according to the results of a statewide Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters.

    Fifty-three percent of voters support “allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Forty-two percent of respondents opposed the idea.

    When Florida voters were polled in 2013, only 48 percent of respondents backed legalizing the plant.

    Independents (61 percent), Democrats (59 percent), and men (58 percent) were most likely to endorse legalization, while women (48 percent) and Republicans (33 percent) were least supportive.

    When asked whether patients ought to be able to access cannabis for medicinal purposes, public support rose to 88 percent. This November, Florida voters will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to legalize and regulate the dispensing of cannabis to authorized patients. Because the measure seeks to amend the state constitution, 60 percent of voters must decide in favor of it before it may be enacted.

    According to the poll, 45 percent of Florida voters — including 62 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64 — acknowledge having tried cannabis.

    The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 28, 2014

    Colorado voters do not have buyers’ remorse.

    The majority of Colorado voters believe that legalizing cannabis has been “good” for the state and 54 percent say they support the new laws regulating the plant’s retail production and sale, according to the results of a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

    Fifty-five percent
    of voters approved Amendment 64 in November 2012, which allows for the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis by those age 21 and older. Separate provisions in the measure also allow for the state-licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products. Retail cannabis sales began on January 1 of this year.

    Other results released by the Quinnipiac University poll include:

    49 percent of voters admit they’ve tried marijuana, but only 15 percent admit using it since it became legal January 1;

    Driving has not become more dangerous because of legalized marijuana, voters say 54 – 39 percent;

    Legalized marijuana will save the state and taxpayers a significant amount of money, voters say 53 – 41 percent;

    Legalized marijuana will have a positive impact on the state’s criminal justice system, voters say 50 – 40 percent;

    Legalized marijuana “increases personal freedoms in a positive way,” voters say 53 – 44 percent;

    Legalized marijuana has not “eroded the moral fiber” of people in Colorado, voters say 67 – 30 percent.

    A strong majority of Democrats (69 percent) and Independents (56 percent), but not Republicans (28 percent) said that the passage of marijuana legalization has been good for the state.

    The Quinnipiac poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 23, 2014

    The Arizona Supreme Court this week rejected a 1990 state law that classified the presence of inert THC metabolites in blood or urine as a per se traffic safety violation.

    Carboxy-THC, the primary metabolite (breakdown product) of THC is not psychoactive. Because it is lipid soluble, the metabolite may remain detectable in blood or urine for periods of time that extend well beyond any suspected period of impairment. As a result, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledges, “It is … currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH concentrations.”

    Nonetheless, under Arizona law, the mere presence of carboxy THC — absent any evidence of behavioral impairment — was considered to be a criminal violation of the state’s traffic safety laws. (Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah impose similar statutes.) On Wednesday, the Court struck down the provision.

    Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Brutinel opined: “The State’s interpretation that ‘its metabolite’ includes any byproduct of a drug listed in § 13-3401 found in a driver’s system leads to absurd results. … Most notably, this interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver’s system or whether it has any impairing effect. For example, at oral argument the State acknowledged that, under its reading of the statute, if a metabolite could be detected five years after ingesting a proscribed drug, a driver who tested positive for trace elements of a non-impairing substance could be prosecuted.”

    He added: “Additionally, this interpretation would criminalize otherwise legal conduct. In 2010, Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”), legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Despite the legality of such use, and because § 28-1381(A)(3) does not require the State to prove that the marijuana was illegally ingested, prosecutors can charge legal users under the (A)(3) provision. Because carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as many as twenty-eight to thirty days after ingestion, the State’s position suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving any time nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana.”

    The Court concluded: “Because the legislature intended to prevent impaired driving, we hold that the ‘metabolite’ reference in § 28-1381(A)(3) is limited to any of a proscribed substance’s metabolites that are capable of causing impairment. Accordingly, … drivers cannot be convicted of the (A)(3) offense based merely on the presence of a non-impairing metabolite that may reflect the prior usage of marijuana.”

    The Court did not address provisions in the state’s per se DUI law outlawing the operation of a motor vehicle with any presence of THC in one’s blood even though, according to NHTSA, “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 22, 2014

    The enactment of state laws legalizing the physician-recommended use of cannabis therapy is not associated with increased levels of marijuana use by young people, according to data published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

    Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University assessed the impact of medical cannabis laws by examining trends in reported drug use by high-schoolers in a cohort of states before and after legalization. Researchers compared these trends to geographically matched states that had not adopted medical marijuana laws.

    Authors reported overall “no statistically significant differences in marijuana use before and after policy change for any state pairing,” and acknowledged that some states that had adopted medical cannabis laws experienced a decrease in adolescent’s self-reported use of the plant. “In the regression analysis, we did not find an overall increased probability of marijuana use related to the policy change,” they stated.

    Investigators concluded, “This study did not find increases in adolescent marijuana use related to legalization of medical marijuana. … This suggests that concerns about ‘sending the wrong message’ may have been overblown. … Our study … may provide some reassurance to policy makers who wish to balance compassion for individuals who have been unable to find relief from conventional medical therapies with the safety and well-being of youth.”

    A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health similarly concluded that the passage of medical marijuana laws in various states has had no “statistically significant … effect on the prevalence of either lifetime or 30-day marijuana use” by adolescents residing in those states.

    A 2012 study by researchers at McGill University in Montreal reported: “[P]assing MMLs (medical marijuana laws) decreased past-month use among adolescents … and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use. … [These] estimates suggest that reported adolescent marijuana use may actually decrease following the passing of medical marijuana laws.”

    Read the abstract of this latest study, “The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Legislation on Adolescent Marijuana Use,” online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

    Alaska voters will decide this November on a proposed initiative to regulate the production and retail sale of cannabis to adults.

    Although the measure was initially scheduled to go before voters during the state’s primary election in August, state officials this week decided to push back the vote to the November general election. The postponement was required because lawmakers failed to adjourn this year’s legislative session within 90 days, the standard time allotted under state rules. Under Alaska law, ballot initiatives must go to voters no less than 120 days after the end of that year’s legislative session.

    If enacted by voters this November, the ballot measure would legalize the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants (three flowering) for personal consumption. It would also allow for the establishment of licensed, commercial cannabis production and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products to those over the age of 21. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis would be subject to taxation, but no taxes would be imposed upon those who choose to engage in non-commercial activities (e.g., growing small quantities of marijuana for personal use and/or engaging in not-for-profit transfers of limited quantities of cannabis.) Public consumption of cannabis would be subject to a civil fine.

    The measure neither amends the state’s existing medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 1998, nor does it diminish any privacy rights established by the state’s Supreme Court in its 1975 ruling Ravin v State.

    Under present state law, the possession of marijuana not in one’s residence is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 90-days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

    According to the results of a statewide Public Policy Polling survey, released in February, 55 percent of registered voters “think (that) marijuana should be legally allowed for recreational use, that stores should be allowed to sell it, and that its sales should be taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol.” Only 39 percent of respondents oppose the idea. The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.

    If enacted, Alaska will be the third US state to regulate the legal retail production and sale of cannabis to adults.

    Also this November, voters in Florida will decide on a constitutional amendment to allow for the physician-approved use and retail distribution of cannabis for medical purposes.

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