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NORML Blog

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel February 23, 2015

    One indisputable fact is that big-money interests have now surfaced in a number of states, seeking to influence the type of legalization adopted in specific states, and to profit from the legal marijuana market. We should not be surprised that the economic appeal of legalizing marijuana would attract the attention of people with resources.

    Understandably, some activists who have worked long and hard to help bring us to this point, are concerned about the entry of big money into the political equation. They fear the legalization movement has been hijacked by those seeking to profit from legal marijuana.

    Of course, big money has been a major factor in the legalization movement as far back as 1996, when the California medical marijuana initiative was bailed-out with money provided by a handful of rich philanthropists, led by George Soros and the late Peter Lewis, who have been major funders supporting many of the statewide initiatives passed since, including both the Colorado and Washington state full legalization initiatives, and more recently the Oregon legalization initiative.

    To Read the Balance of this Column, Please Go To Marijuana.comsheet-of-money-hemp.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director February 19, 2015

    rethinklogohd1At post time, there are 31 states that currently have pending marijuana law reform legislation. These measures deal with a wide array of topics including decriminalization, record expungement, medical access, and full legalization. 2015 is shaping up to be one of the most active legislative sessions on record for the marijuana legalization movement, but these bills won’t pass themselves. It is absolutely crucial that you, the stakeholders and voters, get engaged in the process and apply pressure to your state lawmakers to urge them to support these measures.

    Reaching out to your state officials is as simple as a few clicks of the mouse using NORML’s Take Action Center. Simply consult the landing page to see if your state has pending legislation, click on that legislation, enter your zip code, and a pre-written email will be sent on your behalf. Once you have taken this initial step, we strongly encourage you to follow up by contacting your lawmakers directly and speaking to them on the phone. If politicians don’t hear from their constituents on these pieces of legislation, they remain unlikely to support them when they are called for a vote. Click HERE to see the full list of pending legislation. Recent additions include:

    Don’t forget to check out the full listing here and check back frequently as new alerts are added and old ones are updated with the most recent information.

    Together, we can make the country a little more NORML. Together, we WILL legalize marijuana nationwide.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel February 16, 2015

    NORML Legislative Fly-InNORML will be holding its 2015 Legislative Fly-In in Washington, DC, on May 21 and 22, to lobby Congress on a number of pieces of pending legislation of interest to marijuana users. Please hold those dates and make plans now to join us this year. Registration for the Fly-In, along with the agenda for the two-days, is now available on the NORML website.

    An empowering experience

    For those who may not have previously taken the time to actually lobby your state or federal elected officials, I think you will find it an exhilarating and empowering experience.

    To finish this column, please go to Marijuana.com.

     

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 12, 2015

    Federal Judge Hears Closing Arguments In Constitutional Challenge To Cannabis’ Schedule I StatusYesterday in Sacramento a federal judge heard closing arguments in a motion challenging the constitutionality of cannabis’ Schedule I classification.

    At issue is whether a rational basis exists for the government’s contention that cannabis is properly designated as a schedule I substance — defined as possessing a “high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment,” and “a lack of accepted safety … under medical supervision.” A federal court has not heard evidence on the matter since the early 1970s.

    Lawyers for the federal government argue that it is rational for the government to maintain the plant’s prohibitive status as long as there remains any dispute among experts in regard to its safety and efficacy. Defense counsel — attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke of the NORML Legal Committee — contend that the federal law prohibiting Justice Department officials from interfering with the facilitation of the regulated distribution of cannabis in over 20 US states can not be reconciled with the government’s continued insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.

    In October, defense counsel and experts presented evidence over a five-day period arguing that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization. “Numerous clinical trials have been conducted using whole plant marijuana and have concluded the evidence strongly suggests therapeutic value,” defense counsel affirmed in a written brief filed with the court last month. “Physicians in 23 states and the District of Columbia have been recommending whole plant cannabis for treatment of a myriad of medical conditions. The United States, through SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of HHS), holds a patent [on the therapeutic utility of the plant.]”

    “… It is unimaginable to believe that if heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or even over-the-counter medications were being distributed in 23 states and the District of Columbia, Congress and the President would abdicate all regulatory authority to those jurisdictions, and then cut off all funds … to intervene in related distribution activities. … Even the most vivid imagination would be hard pressed to reconcile such action with a ‘rational belief’ that marijuana is one of the most dangerous drugs in the nation.”

    In a brief filed with the court by the federal government, it contends: “Congress’ decision to treat marijuana as a controlled substance was and remains well within the broad range of permissible legislative choices. Defendants appear to argue that Congress was wrong or incorrectly weighed the evidence. Although they failed to prove even that much, it would be insufficient. Rational basis review does not permit the Court’s to ‘second guess’ Congress’ conclusions, but only to enjoin decisions that are totally irrational or without an ‘imaginable’ basis.”

    They add: “Congress is not required to be ‘right,’ nor does it matter if the basis on which Congress made its decision turns out to be ‘wrong.’ All that is required is that Congress could rationally have believed that its action — banning the production and distribution of marijuana — would advance its indisputably legitimate interests in promoting public health and welfare. Because qualified experts disagree, it is not for the Courts to decide the issue and the statute must be upheld.”

    The Judge is anticipated to rule on defense’s motion within 30 days.

    Legal briefs in the case, United States v. Pickard, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM, are available online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 10, 2015

    Study: Marijuana Use Not Associated With Previously Reported Changes In Brain MorphologyIt was less than a year ago when the mainstream media was chock-full of headlines like this one: ‘Brain changes associated with casual marijuana use in young adults, study finds.’ The alarmist headlines were in response to a controversial paper published by researchers at Harvard University in Boston and Northwestern University in Chicago which alleged to have found differences in brain morphology in a cohort of 20 college-age marijuana users as compared to 20 non-users. The study’s investigators attributed the differences to subjects’ cannabis use.

    But a funny thing happened when a team of scientists from the University of Colorado and the University of Kentucky tried to replicate these results in a separate, larger sample (158 participants) of subjects after rigorously controlling for both groups’ use of alcohol.

    They couldn’t.

    Writing in the January 28 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, authors summarized:

    “[T]his retrospective study examined brain morphology in a sample of adult daily marijuana users (n = 29) versus nonusers (n = 29) and a sample of adolescent daily users (n = 50) versus nonusers (n = 50). Groups were matched on a critical confounding variable, alcohol use, to a far greater degree than in previously published studies.

    We acquired high-resolution MRI scans, and investigated group differences in gray matter using voxel-based morphometry, surface-based morphometry, and shape analysis in structures suggested to be associated with marijuana use, as follows: the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus, and cerebellum.

    No statistically significant differences were found between daily users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest. Effect sizes suggest that the failure to find differences was not due to a lack of statistical power, but rather was due to the lack of even a modest effect.”

    Why the contradictory results? Investigators speculated that previously reported imaging studies failed to adequately control for the impact of alcohol, a substance that “unlike marijuana, … has been unequivocally associated with deleterious effects on brain morphology and cognition in both adults and adolescents.” In other words, researchers theorized that previously reported differences in the brain images of marijuana consumers as compared to non-users were likely because of subjects consumption of booze, not cannabis.

    They concluded, “In sum, the results indicate that, when carefully controlling for alcohol use, gender, age, and other variables, there is no association between marijuana use and standard volumetric or shape measurements of subcortical structures. … [I]t seems unlikely that marijuana use has the same level of long-term deleterious effects on brain morphology as other drugs like alcohol. The press may not cite studies that do not find sensational effects, but these studies are still extremely important.”

    An abstract of the study, “Daily Marijuana Use Is Not Associated with Brain Morphometric Measures in Adolescents or Adults,” is online here.

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