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SOCIETY

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 30, 2018

    Legalize marijuanaEighty-five percent of Americans believe that marijuana “should be legalized for medical use,” and 57 percent of respondents endorse regulating it for anyone over the age of 21, according to national survey data compiled Harris Insight & Analytics.

    Among younger respondents (those ages 18 to 44), 68 percent agree that cannabis should be legal. Most respondents (57 percent) say that legalizing the plant would “help alleviate the opioid crisis.”

    Data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs reports that chronic pain subjects frequently reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

    “Voters believe that ending America’s failed marijuana prohibition laws is a common-sense issue, not a partisan one,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano told HealthDay, which commissioned the poll. “It’s time for their elected officials to take a similar posture, and to move expeditiously to amend federal law in a manner that comports with public and scientific consensus, as well as with marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural and legal status.”

    Reasons provided by those who opposed legalization included fear of diversion and concerns that legalization could negatively impact traffic safety.

    The Harris polling data is largely consistent with those of prior surveys finding that a majority of Americans back adult use legalization and that a super-majority of voters support medicinal cannabis access.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director July 26, 2018

    During a press conference in Boston earlier today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his hostility to marijuana reform and doubled down yet again on his tired, fear-mongering talking point regarding it being sold at every street corner.

    “Personally my view is that the American republic will not be better if there are marijuana sales on every street corner,” said Sessions.

    He seems to tiptoe the line in a response to a reporter’s question, saying, “but states have a right to set their own laws and will do so,” but concluded his comments by stating “but we’ll follow the federal law,” – meaning complete prohibition and criminalization.

    Send a message to your member of Congress and tell them to stop Jeff Sessions. 

    Earlier this year, Sessions had rescinded an Obama-era guidance policy, known as The Cole Memo, which directed the Department of Justice’s hands-off policy towards state-legal cannabis regulatory programs, licensed businesses, and their consumers.

    During a Q and A with reporters in Richmond, VA in March of 2017, Jeff Sessions said, “The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,”

    Additionally in 2017, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo. “Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

    Currently, medical marijuana protections are still in effect, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. This amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    At a time when the majority of states now are regulating marijuana use in some form, and when over two-thirds of voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or moral perspective for Attorney General Sessions to take this step. It is time that members of Congress take action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and to end the needless criminalization of marijuana — a policy failure that encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

    Send a message to your member of Congress and tell them to stop Jeff Sessions. 

    If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels, while forcing consumers to go back to the black market.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 11, 2018

    The enactment of medical cannabis access laws is associated with significant reductions in prescription opioid use among Medicaid enrollees, according to just-published data in the journal Addiction.

    Investigators with the University of California at San Diego assessed the relationship between medical cannabis legalization and opioid use among Medicaid enrollees over a period of 21 years (1993 to 2014).

    Authors reported, “For Schedule III opioid prescriptions, medical cannabis legalization was associated with a 29.6 percent reduction in number of prescriptions, 29.9 percent reduction in dosage, and 28.8 percent reduction in related Medicaid spending.” This correlation remained after authors controlled for potential confounders, such as the establishment of prescription drug monitoring programs and variations in patients’ income.

    By contrast, authors did not report similar changes in enrollees’ use of Schedule II opioid drugs, like Oxycodone. Authors speculated that this result may be because physicians are more reticent to recommend medical cannabis options to these patients.

    They concluded: “In this study, we found that statewide medical cannabis legalization implemented in 1993-2014 in the US was associated with close to 30 percent reductions in Schedule III opioids received by Medicaid enrollees.. … It was estimated that, if all the states had legalized medical cannabis by 2014, Medicaid annual spending on opioid prescriptions would be reduced by 17.8 million dollars.”

    Their findings are similar to those of numerous other observational studies – such as those here, here, and here – finding that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in overall opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

    The abstract of the new study, “Medical cannabis legalization and opioid prescriptions: Evidence of US Medicaid enrollees during 1993-2014,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 9, 2018

    Legalize marijuanaProponents of a statewide ballot initiative to legalize the adult use of marijuana in North Dakota turned in nearly 19,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office today in an effort to place the measure before voters this November. State officials must certify 13,452 signatures in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 electoral ballot.

    The voter-initiated measure, organized by the grass-roots group Legalize North Dakota, legalizes the possession, use, and sale of cannabis, as well as the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, by those over the age of 21 and also expunges past marijuana convictions.

    In 2016, nearly two-thirds of state voters approved a ballot measure regulating medical cannabis access. However, state officials have yet to make the program operational — with regulators now aiming to have licensed dispensaries up and running by June 2019. Regulators’ failure to swiftly implement the 2016 measure was the impetus for the 2018 campaign, activists have acknowledged.

    State officials are anticipated to take an estimated 35 days to verify proponents’ signatures. According to internal polling data commissioned by the Legalize North Dakota campaign, a plurality of voters back the measure.

    Voters in Michigan will also be deciding this November on whether to legalize the adult use of marijuana, while voters in Utah and Missouri will be deciding on medical access measures.

  • by NORML June 29, 2018

    Vermont Legalizes MarijuanaAdults in Vermont will be able to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis legally under state law, beginning this Sunday, July 1.

    Vermont joins Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington in legalizing the adult possession and use of marijuana. It is the first state to enact legalization via an act of the legislature rather than by the passage of a voter initiative.

    “The majority of Vermonters, like the majority of the American public, desire to live in a community where responsible adults who choose to consume cannabis are no longer criminalized or stigmatized,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Vermont lawmakers and Gov. Scott are to be recognized for responding to the will of the voters, rather than choosing to ignore them.”

    He added: “Vermont is leading by example. Lawmakers in other states would be wise to follow.”

    The new law, which Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed in January, legalizes activities by adults specific to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, and with regard to the private cultivation of six marijuana plants (two mature and up to four immature). Those who cultivate marijuana for their own personal use may possess at home the total quantity of their harvest. The measure also imposes new civil penalties for consuming cannabis while driving, and imposes additional penalties for those who operate a motor vehicle impaired with a minor in the vehicle. (Read a summary of the new law here.)

    “This is a libertarian approach,” Gov. Scott said prior to signing the bill into law. “I know there are diverse opinions … as to whether we should move forward, but I still firmly believe that what you do in your own home should be your business, as long as it doesn’t affect someone else.”

    Over 20 percent of the US population now resides in jurisdictions where adult marijuana use is legal under state law. To date, the enactment of these policies has not been associated with any significant upticks in either crime, adolescent marijuana use, or motor vehicle accidents. Earlier this month, Canada’s Parliament passed legislation legalizing the use, cultivation, and retail sale of marijuana by those age 18 and older. That new law takes effect on October 17, 2018.

    According to nationwide polling data published last week, 68 percent of US voters – including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – support legalizing and regulating the use of marijuana by adults. That percentage is the highest level of support ever reported in a nationwide scientific poll.

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