In the first study, published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, researchers at Columbia University in New York surveyed the marijuana use habits of a national sampling of 1,310 adolescents between the years 2013 and 2015. Investigators assessed whether respondents from states with liberalized cannabis policies were more likely to acknowledge having consumed cannabis compared to those residing in jurisdictions where the substance remains criminally prohibited.
Authors reported that the study’s findings “failed to show a relationship between adolescents’ use of marijuana and state laws regarding marijuana use.” … [They] suggest that eased sanctions on adult marijuana use are not associated with higher prevalence rates of marijuana use among adolescents.”
In the second study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a team of investigators from Columbia University, the University of California at Davis, and Boston University examined the relationship between medical cannabis laws and the prevalence of marijuana availability and use by both adolescents and by those age 26 or older. Authors reported no changes over a nine-year period (2004 to 2013) with regard to the past-month prevalence of marijuana use by those ages 12 to 17 or by those between the ages of 18 and 25. Those age 25 and younger also experienced no change in their perception of marijuana’s availability. By contrast, self-reported marijuana use and availability increased among adults age 26 or older over this same time period.
The conclusions are similar to those of numerous separate studies reporting that changes in marijuana’s legal status are not associated with any uptick in teens’ use of the substance, such as those here, here, here, and here.
Abstracts of the two studies, “Is the Legalization of Marijuana Associated With Its Use by Adolescents?” and “State-level medical marijuana laws, marijuana use and perceived availability of marijuana among the general U.S. population,” appear online here and here.
I am writing today about a somewhat mysterious man who has spent tens of millions of dollars to try to prop up marijuana prohibition.
In fact, he has become the big fish in the anti-marijuana funding world. His name is Sheldon Adelson, and he is an 82-year-old Las Vegas casino owner (The Sands, The Venetian, and The Palazzo). He is reportedly worth $29 billion, making him the 12th-richest person in America.
Adelson once made the late website Gawker’s “Billionaire Shit List,” which called him “evil” for “spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to get extreme right-wingers in office.” And he should be on our “sh*t list” as well for spending funds on prohibition, which as a policy has resulted in the needless arrest of more than 26 million Americans over the last 40 years.
Adelson was also the principal financial backer of Freedom Watch, a now-defunct political advocacy group founded to counter the influence of George Soros, the largest pro-legalization funder in the country, and liberal groups such as MoveOn.org. Freedom Watch spent $30 million of Adelson’s money in 2008 before fading into oblivion.
In 2014, Adelson gave $5.5 million to the Drug Free Florida campaign to help defeat the medical use initiative and has given another $1.5 million to fight the pending medical use initiative this year, with more likely to follow. He also just donated $1 million to the group opposing the legalization initiative on the ballot in Massachusetts.
In his home state of Nevada, where a full legalization initiative is on the ballot for this upcoming election, Adelson has donated $2 million to oppose the initiative. He recently purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal for $140 million, since then the paper withdrew its prior endorsement of marijuana legalization for the state.
One cannot help but wonder what would motivate an individual to want to continue a failed public policy that results in the needless arrest of so many of our fellow citizens. In Adelson’s case, it was apparently a personal family tragedy. His 48-year-old son, Mitchell, died in 2005 of a drug overdose involving cocaine and heroin. Another son, Gary, has also struggled with drug addiction and is allegedly estranged from his father altogether. Adelson has said he sees marijuana as a “gateway drug” that led to his sons’ problems.
Of course, the so-called “gateway theory” has long since been refuted by serious scientists, including the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (“There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other drugs.”) and the Rand Corporation (“While the gateway theory has enjoyed popular acceptance, scientists have always had their doubts. Our study shows that these doubts are justified.”)
And the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction recently reached this same conclusion: “As for a possible switch from cannabis to hard drugs, it is clear that the pharmacological properties of cannabis are irrelevant in this respect. There is no physically determined tendency towards switching from marijuana to harder substances. Social factors, however, do appear to play a role. The more users become integrated in an environment (“subculture”) where, apart from cannabis, hard drugs can also be obtained, the greater the chance that they may switch to hard drugs. Separation of the drug markets is therefore essential.”
In addition, those drug users who do end up using heroin or other far more dangerous drugs seldom start with marijuana. Rather recent research shows it is alcohol that is the first drug used in string of drugs leading to eventual addition, not marijuana.
One can surely sympathize with the sense of loss for any parent who experiences the death of a child, regardless of the cause. But these and other scientific findings suggest that If more jurisdictions legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol — thereby allowing its sale to be governed by licensed, state-authorized distributors rather than by criminal entrepreneurs and pushers of various other, hard drugs — even fewer marijuana users will progress to other illicit drugs.
In some ways it reminds one of former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the youngest son of longtime Sen. Ted Kennedy ( D-Mass.). Patrick Kennedy became addicted to pharmaceutical opioids, alcohol, and other illegal drugs before finally embarrassing himself and the Congress when he was arrested in 2006 after crashing his car into a barricade on Capitol Hill. At the time, he was high on OxyContin and drunk from alcohol. In Patrick Kennedy’s own words, “OxyContin was what I used for years, but I’m an addict, so it doesn’t matter what it is. I used benzodiazepines, alcohol, stimulants, Adderall, cocaine, you name it.”
In 2009 Kennedy again checked himself into a drug rehabilitation program.
Kennedy then co-founded Project SAM, the principal anti-marijuana organization working in the country to maintain marijuana prohibition. While that strategy may be therapeutically useful for the (hopefully) recovering addict, it places the burden for his problems unfairly on the rest of us.
In fact, recent studies have shown that in states in which medical marijuana have been legalized, the use of opioids has significantly declined.
It is a sad reflection on these two individuals that they use their wealth and fame to punish the rest of us, by working to slow the inevitable end of marijuana prohibition.
About 60 percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization, despite the efforts of Adelson and Patrick Kennedy to try to defend prohibition. Nonetheless, there is naturally some concern that this influx of big money might sway a sufficient number of voters to defeat some of the pending legalization initiatives. The defeat of the medical use initiative in Florida in 2014 (it had the support of 58 percent of those voting, but fell short of the 60 percent required for a constitutional amendment) is attributed by many observers to the out-of-state funding from Adelson.
In the end, our nation’s marijuana policy must be based on science and common sense, not on the tragic examples of those who were unable to control their addictions. I’m confident the pro-legalization forces, with our positive message of the benefits to society from legalization, will carry the day and that we will both out-raise funds and outspend our opponents in these upcoming voter initiative campaigns, not just this year, but for as long as it takes to finally end marijuana prohibition.
This column was originally published on ATTN.com.
With Election Day less than three weeks away we’re excited to share with you the latest polling information from states with pending marijuana related ballot initiatives, as well as breaking news from another state that may be setting the stage for full legalization next year. A summary of this year’s crop of marijuana-centric ballot initiatives is available online here.
NORML is also pleased to announce that next week we will be releasing our first ever, Governors Report Card. Inspired by our Congressional Scorecard, this report will provide a letter grade for the Governors of all 50 states. Which Governors have been supportive of reforms and which ones have stood in the way of progress? We’ll give your Governor a grade so you know exactly where your Governor stands. If you aren’t yet subscribed to our Newsletter, sign up today so you can be the first to receive the Governors Scorecard in your inbox!
Now, keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform!
Arizona: Half of Arizona voters intend to vote ‘yes’ in favor of Proposition 205: The Arizona Legalization and Regulation of Marijuana Act, according to an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll. Forty percent of voters oppose the initiative. The Act allows adults age 21 and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana (up to one ounce of marijuana flower, up to five grams of marijuana concentrate, and/or the harvest from up to six plants) and provides regulations for a retail cannabis marketplace.
Delaware: A September poll by the University of Delaware shows that 61 percent of residents surveyed support marijuana legalization. The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on Sept. 16-28, consisted of 900 phone interviews. Last year Delaware decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, reclassifying the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by those age 21 and over from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a criminal record, to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record.
Last week, the state’s Senate majority whip said that she would propose a bill in January to legalize marijuana for adult use in the state. We’ll have an #ActionAlert out soon so you can #TakeAction in support of this legislation.
Florida: According to an October poll by the University of North Florida, 77 percent of respondents said they’ll vote for Amendment 2, which would expand medical marijuana access in the state. Passage of the amendment would permit qualified patients to possess and obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities. Under Florida law, 60 percent of voters must approve a constitutional amendment in order for it to become law. In November 2014, Floridians narrowly rejected a similar amendment, which received 58 percent of the vote.
Massachusetts: According to a WBUR poll released this week, support for marijuana legalization is rising. Fifty-five percent of likely voters now say they favor allowing adults to use recreational marijuana, an increase of five percentage points from a similar poll performed last month. Question 4 permits adults to possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis and to grow up to six plants for non-commercial purposes. The measure also establishes regulations overseeing the commercial production and sale of the plant.
The Florida’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has filed a civil lawsuit against the Broward County Commissioner of Elections, after media and news reports revealed that mail in ballots have been sent to voters omitting the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.
The claim was just filed by NORML’s national vice chairman, Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent, and his law partner, Russell Cormican, on behalf of Florida NORML and Karen Goldstein, NORML Florida’s chair, a West Park, Broward County voter.
The plaintiff’s are seeking a judicial declaration enjoining the Defendant’s from distributing any further ballots, and implementing an emergency plan to issue new ones which insure the inclusion of the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.
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Tax revenue collection from retail marijuana sales in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington is exceeding initial projections, according to a new report published by the Drug Policy Alliance.
Marijuana-related tax revenue in Colorado totaled $129 million over the 12-month period ending May 31, 2016 – well exceeding initial estimates of $70 million per year, the report found. In Washington, tax revenue totaled $220 million for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2016. Regulators had initially projected that retail sales would bring in $162 million in new annual tax revenue. In Oregon, marijuana-related tax revenues are yielding about $4 million per month – about twice what regulators initially predicted. (Alaska has yet to begin collecting tax revenue from cannabis businesses.)
The report also finds that adult use marijuana legalization has not been associated with any increases in youth use of the substance, nor has it had an adverse impact on traffic safety. “In Colorado and Washington the post-legalization traffic fatality rate has remained statistically consistent with pre-legalization levels, is lower in each state than it was a decade prior, and is lower than the national rate,” it determined. A separate report published by the CATO Institute recently provided similar findings.
In addition, the new reports finds that marijuana-related arrest totals have fallen significantly in jurisdictions post-legalization. According to the DPA’s report, the total number for all annual marijuana-related arrests decreased by 59 percent in Alaska, by 46 percent in Colorado, by 85 percent in the District of Columbia, and by 50 percent in Oregon. In Washington, the number of low-level marijuana court filings fell by 98 percent.
To read the full report, please click here.