• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 14, 2015

    Study: Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Reduced Opioid AbuseStates that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan think-tank.

    Researchers from the RAND Corporation and the University of California, Irvine assessed the impact of medical marijuana laws on problematic opioid use, as measured by treatment admissions for opioid pain reliever addiction (compiled from the years 1992 to 2012) and by state-level opioid overdose deaths (compiled from the years 1999 to 2013).

    “[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not,” authors reported. They found that women over the age of 40 showed the most significant decrease in problematic opioid use.

    Data published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates. “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws,” investigators reported.

    Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have increased dramatically over the past decade. While fewer than 4,100 opiate-induced fatalities were reported for the year 1999, by 2010 this figure rose to over 16,600 according to an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control.

    An abstract of the study, “Do Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Addictions and Deaths Related to Pain Killers?”, is available online here.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel June 22, 2015

    6_8_NORMLK.StroupPortrait_zShona Banda suffers from Crohn’s disease, and has found, as have many Crohn’s sufferers, that medical marijuana provides her with effective relief and allows her to manage her illness and live a somewhat normal life. Specifically, Banda uses cannabis oil.

    The problem is she lives in, Garden City, Kansas, a state that does not yet recognize the medical uses of marijuana. And when her 11-year old son spoke up in his drug education class to challenge some of the anti-marijuana allegations being taught to the children – and shared the fact that his mother uses cannabis to manage her Crohn’s disease – Banda’s son was removed from her custody by the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

    Her home was subsequently raided, and Banda is now facing three drug felonies (possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000-feet of a school; endangering a child; and unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance) for the cannabis oil found in her home, and she faces a possible jail term in excess of 30-years. Banda first used cannabis oil to manage her disease when she lived in Colorado for a period of time, before returning to her home in Kansas.

    Banda is being represented by attorney Sarah Swain, who publicly has promised an aggressive defense that will challenge every facet of the prosecution’s case, including the questioning of the 11-year-old son without either of his parents present; the search warrant issued for their home based on that questioning; and the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance with no medical usefulness.

    This case is just the latest from states around the country that illustrate the incredibly harsh and unjustified consequences of marijuana prohibition, the unsustainable differences in the manner in which we treat our most vulnerable citizens from one state to another, and the absolute moral impairative that we stop treating seriously ill patients as criminals, regardless of where they may call home.

    Surely this immediate situation could have been handled by reasonable people in a manner based on compassion and concern for the welfare of this serious ill mother, striving to find a way to lead a full life and raise her young son. The school could have exercised some discretion and common sense and accepted the comments made by her young son as reflecting the reality of his and his mother’s life, and this would not have become a matter of public concern. And the Garden City police should not have questioned the young child without his parent’s consent, and did not have to seek a questionable search warrant, based on the child’s statements, to invade Banda’s home and violate her privacy. And finally, the local prosecutor, Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier, with even a wit of compassion and understanding, could have exercised her discretion and refused to file criminal charges, bringing this embarrassing episode to a close, and allowing this seriously ill woman a chance to live a normal life.

    But at each level, the civic institutions in Kansas failed their responsibility to serve the best interests of the citizens of Kansas, ignoring the obviously compelling factual situation, and blindly pursuing the war on drugs, despite the horrendous repercussions of that choice.

    Rather they have reminded us of the enduring harm caused by marijuana prohibition, and the damage it has done not just to the victims of this misguided war, but also to those in civic positions of trust who have lost their moral compass in their blind support for prohibition.

    Shame on everyone who had anything to do with allowing this case to get to this point, and who failed to stand up and publicly question the appropriateness of this entire witch-hunt. These are people who are either incredibly ignorant of the important and sometimes life-altering benefits medical marijuana provides to tens of thousands of seriously ill patients across this country (37 states now permit at least limited medical use of marijuana), or they are truly mean-spirited people who simply do not care.

    Regardless, it reminds me of how much work we still have ahead of us, and why I would never wish to live in rural Kansas.



  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 25, 2015

    Nearly six out of ten Coloradans say that they support keeping retail marijuana production and sales legal, according to statewide polling data released by Quinnipiac University.

    The figure is a five percent increase in support since voters approved the law in November 2012. A September 2014 statewide NBC News/Marist College poll previously reported that 55 percent of Coloradoans favored the law.

    Men and younger voters were most likely to support legalization. Voters ages 18 to 34 overwhelmingly favored state law (86 percent to 16 percent) while 50 percent of those ages 55 and older opposed it.

    Male voters supported the legalization by a margin of 63 percent to 33 percent, while women only favored the law by a margin of 53 percent to 44 percent.

    The gender and age differences in support are not surprising. A just-published study in the February issue of the journal Drug Abuse and Alcohol Dependence reports that women are twice as likely as men to perceive significant risks associated with the use of cannabis. The study reported that those least likely to perceive significant harms associated with cannabis are those between the ages of 18 to 25, those who have completed high-school and/or college, and those with annual household incomes exceeding $75,000.

    According to newly released figures by the Colorado Department of Revenue, retail sales of marijuana totaled just under $700 million in Colorado in 2014 – the first full year during which sales of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes were allowed.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 9, 2014

    Six out of ten voters believe that states, not the federal government, should authorize and enforce marijuana policy, according to national polling data reported this week by the Washington, DC think-tank Third Way.

    When presented with the option, 60 percent of respondents said that state officials ought to possess the authority to “control and decide whether to legalize marijuana.” Only 34 percent of those polled said that the federal government ought to enforce marijuana laws.

    Similarly, a super-majority of voters (67 percent) agreed, “Congress should pass a bill giving states that have legalized marijuana a safe haven from federal marijuana laws, so long as they have a strong regulatory system.”

    Overall, 50 percent of voters said that they support legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes while 47 percent opposed the notion. However, among those opposed to legalization, 21 percent endorsed the idea of Congress providing a “safe haven” from federal prohibition in those states that have chosen to legalize the plant’s use and sale.

    “The fact that state legalization of marijuana violates federal law and creates an untenable policy situation was clear – and the voters we polled responded not with ideological proclamations but by supporting a middle-ground, pragmatic policy which would ease that conflict as the legal landscape continues to quickly shift,” representatives for the think-tank stated in a media release. “This means marijuana is not an issue of absolutes for many Americans – rather, it requires a nuanced balancing of values and interests.”

    Nationwide, voter support for cannabis legalization was highest among Democrats (64 percent), Millennials (61 percent), and non-white/Hispanic voters (61 percent). A majority of women voters and self-identified Republicans opposed legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. By contrast, majority support (78 percent) for the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes extended throughout all demographics.

    Among respondents, 54 percent expressed a favorable view of those who used cannabis therapeutically, while only 36 percent said that they possessed a favorable view of social consumers.

    When it came to the issue of how to most effectively influence voters’ opinions on marijuana law reform, authors reported that neither negative nor positive messaging “moved voters substantially in either direction.” Specifically, authors’ reported that many respondents failed to sympathize with the idea that the drug war was overly punitive or that the federal government might once again begin cracking down on state-compliant cannabis consumers and providers.

    Authors concluded, “As opponents lean heavily into values-based arguments regarding teenage marijuana use and highway safety, more research still needs to be done to identify a compelling value for legalizing recreational marijuana – the way that compassion underlies support for medical marijuana.”

    Researchers collected opinion data over the course of several months in two separate waves – first with a late summer focus group and then with an October poll of 856 registered voters, conducted online.

    Full text of the Third Way report is online at here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 26, 2014

    Marijuana use by newly married couples is predictive of less frequent incidences of intimate partner violence perpetration, according to longitudinal data published online ahead of print in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

    Investigators at Yale University, Rutgers, and the University of Buffalo assessed over 600 couples to determine whether husbands’ and wives’ cannabis use was predictive of domestic abuse at any time during the first nine years of marriage. Researchers reported: “In this community sample of newly married couples, more frequent marijuana use generally predicted less frequent IPV perpetration, for both men and women, over the first 9 years of marriage. Moderation analyses provided evidence that couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently were at the lowest risk for IPV perpetration, regardless of the perpetrator’s gender.”

    Stated the study’s lead author in a press release: “Although this study supports the perspective that marijuana does not increase, and may decrease, aggressive conflict, we would like to see research replicating these findings, and research examining day-to-day marijuana and alcohol use and the likelihood to IPV on the same day before drawing stronger conclusions.”

    According to a previous study, published in January in the journal Addictive Behaviors, alcohol consumption — but not cannabis use — is typically associated with increased odds of intimate partner violence. Authors reported: “On any alcohol use days, heavy alcohol use days (five or more standard drinks), and as the number of drinks increased on a given day, the odds of physical and sexual aggression perpetration increased. The odds of psychological aggression increased on heavy alcohol use days only.” By contrast, researchers concluded that “marijuana use days did not increase the odds of any type of aggression.”

    The abstract of the study, “Couples’ marijuana use is inversely related to their intimate partner violence over the first 9 years of marriage,” is online here.

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