Despite several attempts by the media and policy makers to associate the rising number of state regulated medical marijuana programs (and popular legalization efforts) with a rise in use and a drop in associated risk, the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey reports that there was no rise in daily or annual marijuana use among teens. According to the report, “annual marijuana use [among 8th, 10th and 12th graders] showed no further increase in any of the three grades surveyed in 2012… [And the] daily use of marijuana…remained essentially flat.” Also of note, despite the sharp decline in perceived risk of marijuana use across all three grades, there was a statistically significant decline of use among 8th graders. These numbers are consistent with other recent studies showing that states with regulated marijuana programs have not seen an increase in teen use. Some have even seen a decrease in pot use among their youth population.
“This study suggests that exposure among teens to the concept of marijuana regulation policies (one third of whom live in such states) does not cause an increase in use. It is also important to consider that a drop in perceived risk is likely associated with their rejection of the overzealous scare tactics used in most schools’ drug education programs” said Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women’s Outreach.
It is important to note, however, that marijuana use rates and availability nationwide remain at relatively high levels, while alcohol use rates remain historically low. This is most likely due to the fact that the former is illegal and thereby not subject to government controls, while the latter substance is legally restricted to adults only. The same goes for tobacco. We did not have to outlaw cigarettes to reduce the use among minors. A policy of education and regulation (not prohibition) has created an environment in which cigarette usage has fallen to an all time low. According to the principal investigator of the study, Lloyd Johnston, “[A] lowering teen smoking rates…likely…depend[s] on…changes such as raising cigarette taxes, further limiting where smoking is permitted, bringing back broad-based anti-smoking ad campaigns, and making quit-smoking programs more available.” It has been proven that age restrictions, coupled with the imposition of government regulation and education are the most effective at reducing youth access to adult-only recreational substances. According to the 2011 MFS report, the drop in alcohol use can be attributed to a strict regulation scheme that include educational campaigns focusing on responsible use and age restrictions which, in turn, lowers availability.
The report concluded; “In the 1980’s a number of states raised their minimum drinking age to twenty-one, which these researches were able to demonstrate reduced drinking.” It goes on to say “the proportion of 8th and 10th graders who say they could get alcohol ‘fairly easily’ or ‘very easily’ had been declining since 1996 and continued to drop in all three grades in 2011. Various other factors of likely importance include…higher beer taxes and restrictions on alcohol promotion to youth.” The 2012 survey reported that again, “there was no increase in perceived availability of alcohol.”
One can therefore conclude that the only sensible answer to restricting marijuana access to [as well as use among] minors is through state and local government regulation and a message of moderation.
Defense Attorney Lauren K. Johnson won a major court victory for parents who legally use marijuana for medical purposes last week in Los Angeles. In the case of Drake A. (case # B236769), Division Three of the Second Appellate District, California Court of Appeal ruled on December 5, 2012 that there was no evidence showing that the defendant, a father, is a substance abuser for simply being a legal medical marijuana patient. The court confirmed that while parents who abuse drugs can lose custody of their children, a parent who uses marijuana for medical reasons, with a doctor’s approval, isn’t necessarily a drug abuser.
The father, “Paul M.” was placed under DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) supervision after he testified in an October 2011 hearing that he used medical marijuana about four times a week for knee pain. During that same hearing, he also stated that he never medicates in front of his children, nor is he under the influence while they are in his care. DCFS supervision requires drug counseling, parenting classes and random drug testing. During subsequent drug screenings the father tested positive for marijuana, and negative for all other drugs. As a result, the Superior Court of Los Angeles ruled that the child was to become a “dependent of the court based on the trial court’s finding that [the] father’s usage of medical marijuana placed the child at substantial risk of serious physical harm or illness…”.
“Paul M.” appealed the former court’s ruling, which was challenged in the Second Appellate District of California. The Appellate court subsequently ruled in favor of reversing the Superior court’s judgment. The official ruling stated “[that the] DCFS failed to show that [the] father was unable to provide regular care for Drake [the minor child at issue] due to father’s substance abuse. Both DCFS and the trial court apparently confused the meanings of the terms ‘substance use’ and ‘substance abuse’.”
Johnson issued a press release noting that this is the first case to distinguish between marijuana use and abuse with regards to child protection laws. “In overturning a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling against the plaintiff, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the Appellate Court said the ‘mere usage of drugs,’ including marijuana, is not the same as substance abuse that can affect child custody, as alleged in this case by the lower court.” She went on to say, “The ruling illustrates a growing recognition of the legitimate use of medical marijuana in this state and other states. We want kids to be safe, but we also want parents to be able to use legally prescribed medications when children appear not to be at demonstrated risk of harm.”
This has been a pervasive issue in California, as well as other medical marijuana states. Legal patients have lost custody of their children and been forced to turn their children over to a juvenile protection agency. The NORML Women’s Alliance has been working hard to bring this issue to the forefront. NORML Women’s Alliance Director Sabrina Fendrick issued the following statement; “This ruling is a small victory in our fight for legal marijuana patients’ parental rights. We hope that future judicial hearings, as well as child protection agencies will utilize this judgment and adopt new policies that reflect the Appellate court’s ruling.”
Nearly six out of ten Americans support legalizing cannabis, according to a just released Public Policy Polling automated telephone survey of 1,325 voters, commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project.
58 percent of respondents said that marijuana ‘should be legal.’ Only 34 percent of respondents opposed the notion of legalizing cannabis. A solid plurality of voters (47 percent of respondents versus 33 percent) also said that the federal government should not interfere with newly passed marijuana legalization measures in Colorado and Washington.
Male respondents endorsed legalization by a greater margin than women. 62 percent of men backed legalization; 54 percent of female respondents endorsed legalizing marijuana.
A majority of self-identified Democrats and Independents backed legalization (68 percent and 59 percent respectively), while a majority of Republicans failed to do so (42 percent).
Respondents were nearly equally divided on the question of whether they believed cannabis to be safer than alcohol. Forty-five percent of respondents agreed with the premise, while 42 percent disagreed.
The survey results are similar to those reported last week by Angus Reid that found that 54 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana. Sixty-six percent of those polled by Angus Reid said that they anticipate that cannabis will be legalized within the next ten years.
An October 2012 poll by YouGov and the Huffington Post reported that 59 percent of Americans favor legalization. By contrast, separate polls in recent weeks by CBS News and The Washington Post/ABC News have indicated weaker support for legalization, particularly among older voters.
Nonetheless, the overall polling data indicates that a greater percentage of Americans today back legalizing marijuana than at any prior time in modern history.
Patricia Spottedcrow, an Oklahoma woman who was sentenced to 12 years for selling $31 worth of pot, with no prior convictions, was released from prison yesterday (Thursday, November 29th), after serving almost two years of her twelve-year sentence.
Her case received significant coverage after the story was featured in 2011 Tulsa World series on why Oklahoma ranks number one for sending more women to prison per capita, than any other state. Grassroots organizers then rallied together to bring attention to this egregious example of our overzealous sentencing for marijuana-related crimes. It worked, outrage spread far and wide.
After several targeted campaigns to local law enforcement and elected officials, as well as an especially strong grassroots effort spearheaded by outraged mothers and reformers, the lobbying paid off. Officials decided to reconsider her twelve-year sentence.
In July of this year, upon the unanimous recommendation of the Pardon and Parole Board, Gov. Fallin agreed to approve her parole, contingent upon her completion of the community service part of her sentence. Today, Spottedcrow is a free woman that has since been reunited with her family and her three small children.
After spending over two years in prison, Patricia Spottedcrow greets her children when they get home from school. from Tulsa World on Vimeo. (Try this too: http://vimeo.com/54579830#at=0)
The NORML Women’s Alliance was deeply involved with this effort, as well as providing personal support to Patricia Spottedcrow through a formal letter writing campaign. She received an outpouring of support and sent the Alliance a personal thank you letter.
“This is an inspirational reminder that justice still exists. It proves that with cooperation and determination, grassroots efforts truly can make a significant difference in people’s lives,” said Sabrina Fendrick, Founder and Director of the NORML Women’s Alliance.
Angus Reid Poll: Most Canadians, Americans Support Marijuana Legalization — Expect It To Be Legal Within Ten YearsNovember 29, 2012
A majority of adults in both Canada and the United States believe that cannabis ought to be legal, according to a two-country Angus Reid Public Opinion poll of 1,005 randomly selected Canadian adults and 1,002 randomly selected American adults.
In the online survey of representative national samples, a majority of Canadians (57 percent) and Americans (54 percent) support the legalization of marijuana. Sixty-six percent of those polled in both countries said that they anticipate that cannabis will be legalized within the next ten years.
Respondents strongly opposed the notion of legalizing any other illicit substances besides marijuana.
Respondents in the Northeastern region of the United States expressed the highest level of support for legalizing marijuana (61 percent), while those in the South voiced the least level of support (51 percent). Nationally, 65 percent those age 18 to 34 backed legalization; 49 percent of respondents age 35 and older did so.
In Canada, men (64 percent) were more likely than women (50 percent) to call for the legalization of cannabis. By contrast, Americans’ support for legalization was nearly equally among genders (55 percent male support versus 53 percent female support).
The Angus Reid results are similar to those of other national surveys — including those conducted by Gallup, Rasmussen, and YouGov — showing that more Americans now support legalizing the adult use of cannabis than support maintaining its prohibition.
[UPDATE! A separate nationwide poll released today by CBS News finds: “For the first time since CBS News began asking the question, as many Americans now think marijuana use should be legal as think it should not.
“Support for legalizing marijuana inched up slightly from 45 percent in September to 47 percent today. … Another 47 percent think it should remain prohibited. A year ago, a slight majority of Americans, 51 percent, opposed legalizing marijuana use. … While 51 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents support legalizing marijuana, 66 percent of Republicans oppose it.”
It adds: “Eighty-three percent of Americans favor allowing doctors to prescribe small amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses, the poll shows – up from 77 percent a year ago and 62 percent back in 1997. A majority of Americans of all ages – as well as most Republicans, Democrats, and independents – favor allowing this.”]