[excerpt] A new study identifying minor differences in the brain imaging of habitual marijuana consumers compared to non-users may be ideal for stimulating sensational headlines (e.g., “Regular pot smokers have shrunken brains, study says,” Los Angeles Times, November 10), but tells us little in regard to whether pot poses actual health risks.
Specifically, an MRI scan revealed less gray matter in the orbital frontal cortex of pot-smoking subjects compared to those who had never used the drug. Researchers also identified increased connectivity between certain regions of the brain in regular marijuana users compared with non-users.
So precisely what do these findings tell us in regard to pot use and health? Not much. Since the study design is not longitudinal, investigators cannot determine whether these differences are caused by subject’s cannabis use, whether these differences existed prior to subjects’ ever trying cannabis, or whether these differences persist when users’ cannabis consumption ceases.
Most importantly, investigators in this study failed to determine whether any of these differences are positively associated with any measurable adverse performance outcomes, such as cognitive performance or quality of life. It may be that these cannabis users are functioning in their daily lives in a manner that is indistinguishable from controls, in which case the imaging differences may hold little if any real-world significance. (In fact, one of the paper’s authors acknowledged, “[C]hronic users appear to be doing fine.”)
Full text of NORML’s response, “Media Leaping to Extremely Faulty Conclusions from Study on the Effects of Marijuana on the Brain,” appears online here.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton publicly announced plans yesterday to halt the NYPD’s practice of arresting tens of thousands of minor marijuana offenders annually.
Under the new plan, set to take effect November 19, city police would issue first-time marijuana offenders a summons, payable by a fine, in lieu of making a criminal arrest.
Though the Mayor and the Police Commissioner have made pledges in the past to reduce the city’s marijuana arrest totals, which average nearly 30,000 per year, they have previously failed to do so. Of those arrested for minor marijuana offenses in New York City, a disproportionate percentage (86 percent) are either Black or Latino. Nearly three out of four arrested possessed no prior criminal record.
Although New York state law classifies minor marijuana possession offenses as a non-criminal offense, separate penal law (NY State Penal Law 221.10) defines marijuana possession in a manner that is ‘open to public view’ as an arrestable offense.
Mayor de Blasio called the City’s proposed depenalization policy “a smart policy that keeps New Yorkers safe, but it is also a more fair policy.”
NORML is pleased to announce 420 Food Safety as the newest member of the NORML Business Network. 420 Food Safety works to help businesses produce safe wholesome products from the farm to the customer. The marijuana industry is fraught with risk and regulations, especially when it comes to edibles and other food products. This company works to help reduce that risk and increase education by implementing science-based techniques from good agricultural practices to food safety plans. It’s a multi-layered program summed up by the company slogan “seed to sale safety.” Consumers need to know that growers and manufacturers understand how to preclude physical, chemical and microbiological hazards from their products, and this company is perfectly positioned to do just that. When it comes to food safety, self regulation is a crucial component to the success of this burgeoning new industry.
Dr. Michele Pfannenstiel serves as 420 Food Safety’s President and CEO. Dr. P first learned the food safety skills she now brings to cannabis producers and processors across the country when she was commissioned into the US Army Veterinary Corps. She is a certified HACCP auditor through ASQ. Her audits are accepted by such companies as Whole Foods and L.L. Bean. She serves as the President of the Maine chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and as the Director of Food Safety for the national Farmer Veteran Coalition. A sought after speaker, Dr. P has taught food safety workshops at the Stone Barns Center, Pigstock, the Wallace Center Food Hub Conference, the New England Meat Conference, and the Empowering Women Veterans in Business and Agriculture Conference.
The good news is that numbers are down slightly from 2012’s arrest figures. In 2012, there were about 749,825 marijuana arrests (compared to 757,969 in 2011).
The new report shows a modest decrease in arrests. In 2013, there was a total of 693,481 arrests made for marijuana charges, with the overwhelming majority of these being for simple possession. Law enforcement made about 609,423 arrests for possession alone, a decrease of 48,808 arrests compared to 2012. While we may be seeing slight decreases due to the growing number of states who have begun to reform their marijuana policies, the fact that over 600,000 individuals are still being arrested for a non-violent act shows how much work we have left to do in ending our disastrous prohibition of marijuana.
Using the ACLU low-level estimate of cost per arrest ($750), the minimum enforcement cost for the 609,423 individuals put in handcuffs for just marijuana possession in 2013 would be in excess of $457,067,250.
(NOTE: Numbers in this reporting were rounded to the nearest decimal point. You can read the full Uniform Crime Report here.)
NORML has been fighting to legalize marijuana for more than forty years, and as we saw from this week’s midterm election results, our hard work is starting to pay off. Though we are a divided nation in many ways, voters across the political spectrum were largely united on Election Day in their near overwhelming support for marijuana law reform. NORML’s ability to educate and unite people behind this cause has largely been made possible by donations and contributions from people like you. Thanks to NORML’s outreach efforts, Americans are now aware that it makes no sense from any objective measure to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco. But we still need your support to keep up the momentum, and to continue bringing our winning message of legalization to the American people.
Two More States – and Washington DC – Legalize Marijuana:
The two most significant victories of the night no doubt occurred in Oregon and Alaska – where both states passed measures legalizing and regulating the cannabis plant’s retail production and sale, as well as permitting adults to grow the plant for their own personal use. In Oregon, 56 percent of voters approved the measure – the highest percentage ever to endorse a statewide campaign to regulate adult marijuana sales. Alaska and Oregon are the third and fourth states to enact regulations regarding the retail production and sale of cannabis goods, joining Colorado and Washington.
Voters in the nation’s capitol provided arguably the most resounding victory on Election Day. An overwhelming 69 percent of District voters – yes, I said 69 percent – said ‘yes’ to Initiative 71, which removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to three mature plants. Indeed, marijuana law reform has come to Washington, DC and there is no way for our federal officials to ignore it.
NORML Needs You Now More Than Ever!
There remains much work to be done – and this is why we still need your continued financial support. NORML’s outreach and media efforts in the coming months will be more important than ever, as we fight to maintain our historic gains and push forward for new ones. We can’t expect our prohibitionist opponents to take these victories lying down, and we still need the resources to move legalization across the country. Please donate $50 or whatever you can afford today and help ensure our victories become the foundation for progressive marijuana policy nationwide.