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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 21, 2016

    legalization_pollA majority of registered Maryland voters believe that cannabis use should be legally regulated in a manner similar to alcohol, according to statewide polling data provided by Gonzalez Research & Marketing Strategies and commission by the Marijuana Policy Project.

    Fifty-three percent of respondents said that they favor a change in state law “to allow marijuana to be regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol, for legal use by adults 21 years of age and older.” Forty-three percent of those surveyed opposed legalization.

    Similar levels of support for regulating the adult use of cannabis have previously been reported in a number of other state and national surveys.

    In 2014, former Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation into law decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses involving ten grams or less. Earlier today, lawmakers overrode a 2015 veto to enact legislation decriminalizing the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator January 20, 2016

    US_capitolWith the Presidential election taking place this November, the majority of us are already being inundated with political propaganda from the political left and the right. In news cycle after news cycle, pundits can be heard offering their thoughts on the most recent poll numbers or political gaffes and rarely venture beyond hot button issues such as immigration or gun control. Some candidates have attempted to discuss drug policy reform, but most have avoided getting into any substantive discussions; ultimately offering a soundbite or two. In short, while most mainstream politicians acknowledge the problem, they by and large remain unwilling to address solutions. For those of us who have dedicated our lives to reforming America’s marijuana laws, this has been a bit frustrating to say the least.

    Even with all the hoopla surrounding the upcoming election, it seem almost impossible to find a politician who is willing to have a meaningful conversation about reforming America’s archaic marijuana laws. Although the issue consistently holds the support of more than half of our country, most candidates continue to treat it as an afterthought. As we close in on the 80th year of marijuana prohibition in America, we can no longer wait for Washington to take action. The days of playing political hot potato with an issue that the majority of Americans support are over. Our time is now.

    Change begins on the local level so be the catalyst for marijuana reform in your community. Start building relationships with city council members, county commissioners, judges and other elected officials. Explore opportunities to elevate the reform conversation through community forums and roundtable discussions. Even something as simple as writing a letter to your local paper will provide a chance to offer an enlightened perspective to a larger audience.

    As marijuana activists, we must work hard to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward as we focus our attention on winning the hearts and minds of politicians and community leaders alike. With efforts to reform local and state marijuana laws ramping up across the country, NORML Affiliates and Chapters are committed to providing our members and activists with all the tools they need to work towards meaningful reforms. From developing helpful talking points and strategic messaging to working with our local organizations to create legislative scorecards, NORML’s national office is prepared to dedicate the necessary time and resources needed to ensure that 2016 is a historic year for marijuana reform.

    If you haven’t already done so, please visit www.NORML.org to familiarize yourself with all of our available resources and other ways you can get involved. With over 160 Affiliates and Chapters worldwide, NORML will continue to be the leading voice for marijuana reform around the globe. For more information regarding NORML Affiliates and Chapters please email KevinM@NORML.org.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 19, 2016

    oil_bottlesThe administration of liquid cannabis extracts containing THC is associated with the mitigation of various symptoms of Alzheimer’s-related agitation and dementia, according to observational trial data published online ahead of print in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

    Israeli investigators assessed the use of cannabis oil as an adjunct pharmacotherapy treatment in ten Alzheimer’s disease patients over a period of several weeks. Researchers reported that drug administration was associated with a significant reduction in patients’ symptom severity scores. Specifically, cannabis oil ingestion corresponded with decreased levels of aggression, irritability, apathy, and delusions.

    Investigators concluded, “Adding medical cannabis oil to Alzheimer’s disease patients pharmacotherapy is safe and a promising treatment option.”

    The administration of dronabinol (oral synthetic THC in pill form) has previously been reported to reduce Alzheimer’s-induced agitation and improve weight gain, while preclinical studies have theorized that cannabinoids may be neuroprotective against the onset of the disease.

    An abstract of the study, “Safety and efficacy of medical cannabis oil for behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia: An open label, add-on, pilot study,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 18, 2016

    personal_cultivationThe cumulative use of cannabis by adolescents has no direct effect on intelligence decline, according to longitudinal data published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Minnesota evaluated whether marijuana use was associated with changes in intellectual performance in two longitudinal cohorts of adolescent twins. Participants were assessed for intelligence at ages 9 to 12, before marijuana involvement, and again at ages 17 to 20.

    Researchers reported no dose-response relationship between cannabis use and IQ decline. They also found no significant differences in performance among marijuana using subjects when compared to their non-using twins.

    Investigators concluded: “In the largest longitudinal examination of marijuana use and IQ change, … we find little evidence to suggest that adolescent marijuana use has a direct effect on intellectual decline. … [T]he lack of a dose–response relationship, and an absence of meaningful differences between discordant siblings lead us to conclude that the deficits observed in marijuana users are attributable to confounding factors that influence both substance initiation and IQ rather than a neurotoxic effect of marijuana.”

    The findings follow the publication of a separate longitudinal study in the Journal of Pharmacology which concluded that cumulative adolescent marijuana use is not associated with lower IQ or poorer educational performance once adjustments are made for potential confounders, specifically cigarette smoking.

    An abstract of the study, “Impact of adolescent marijuana use on intelligence: Results from two longitudinal twin studies,” is online here.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel
    The test should be, “Is it better than Prohibition.” Does the proposal stop the arrest of smokers and establish a legal market where consumers can obtain their marijuana?

    The test should be, “Is it better than Prohibition.” Does the proposal stop the arrest of smokers and establish a legal market where consumers can obtain their marijuana?

    As we look forward to what should be a fantastically successful year for marijuana legalization, it is important that those of us who support legalization join arms and move forward in a unified manner. All political progress requires some measure of compromise, and legalizing marijuana is no exception.

    Each state that legalizes marijuana, at least during this early stage of legalization, will still need to revisit the topic within a couple of years to fix things not covered in the original proposal (e.g., employment and child custody issues). We will need to expand and perfect these early models. But we must not permit the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

    Supposed “Legalizers” Sometimes Opponents in Early States

    In the first group of states to legalized marijuana, we witnessed some of our own friends and colleagues opposing the initiative in their state, sometimes serving as the primary opponents to the proposal, when they had the opportunity to end prohibition and stop the arrest of smokers. Their justification was always the same: the specific legalization proposal was not good enough.

    Sometime their opposition was based on the failure of the initiative to permit home cultivation; sometimes it was because they opposed the DUID provisions; and sometimes they opposed the limits on the amount of marijuana one could legally possess or cultivate.

    NORML has always insisted that consumers have the right to grow their own marijuana; we have led the efforts to require a showing of actual impairment before someone is convicted of a DUID; and, as consumers, we would be delighted if we were allowed to possess or grow larger quantities of marijuana, without the risk of arrest. But those are all political goals that we will continue to push for; not excuses for opposing legalization proposals that are less than perfect.

    Is It Better Than Prohibition?

    The test should be, “Is it better than Prohibition.” Does the proposal stop the arrest of smokers and establish a legal market where consumers can obtain their marijuana?

    While it is understandable that those who have invested their time and energy, and sometimes resources, to advance a specific legalization proposal would feel a vested interest in seeing that version be the one that advances to the ballot, what is most important is that one good legalization proposal qualify for the ballot, and that the legalization movement both in-state and nationwide come together to embrace and support that proposal.

    Although there have been competing versions of legalization advanced in most of the states where legalization is expected to appear on the ballot this November, there are encouraging signs that a consensus is forming in most of these states supporting one of the competing proposals, increasing the likelihood of ultimate success in November. There is still too much in-fighting in some of these states between different factions, but the trend looks positive.

    Maine

    In Maine, there were two competing initiatives (The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and Legalize Maine), and the one with the best funding has now merged efforts with the one comprised primarily of local activists, even accepting their language for the initiative,. The result is an apparent unified effort assuring that only one legalization proposal will appear on the ballot this fall, one that has an excellent chance of being approved by the voters.

    This clearly required compromise from both groups, who were willing to make some concessions in the belief that the goal of legalizing marijuana was more important than the relatively minor differences between the two proposals. All parties should be commended.

    Massachusetts

    In Massachusetts, where there were two competing versions of legalization being circulated as potential voter initiatives, the qualifying process seems to have largely resolved the matter. One proposal, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, continues to meet the steps required to qualify for the ballot, and is expected to officially qualify shortly; while the other proposal, Bay State Repeal, the one that had been endorsed by the NORML affiliate in Massachusetts, MassCann/NORML, has failed to qualify. While not everyone previously involved with Bay State Repeal have agreed to support the remaining proposal, most have, suggesting the opposition in November will primarily come from the prohibitionists; not from disgruntled supporters of Bay State Repeal.

    That willingness to accept a partial victory, in order to end prohibition, is the crucial element for success. Our friends in MA deserve our thanks for doing the right thing.

    California

    In California, the ultimate prize in the marijuana sweepstakes, and the state most of us presumed would be the first to fully legalize marijuana, the sheer size of the state has in the past resulted in several competing legalization proposals being advanced by different interest groups, and prohibition has continued in place, albeit a version tempered by the “anyone qualifies” medical marijuana system. The same potential was in play over the last year in CA, with as many as 8 different versions of legalization being filed with the Secretary of State, and no assurance that anyone would be willing to compromise.

    But in fact, calmer heads prevailed this year in CA, with crucial leadership provided by Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, and a consensus has now formed around a single proposal, the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Once the sponsors were willing to accept some revisions in the language, the other leading effort, Reform CA, which enjoyed the support of CA NORML, agreed to withdraw its initiative, and most of the principles of that effort have now endorsed the Newsom effort. And it now appears likely California voters will approve marijuana legalization in November of 2016.

    Again, kudos to those who saw the big picture and were willing to accept some compromises in order to end prohibition.

    Nevada

    In Nevada, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol appears to have had a relatively unobstructed path to qualify for the ballot, without organized competition from other legalization supporters pushing their own version of legalization. That is a rare situation in the world of marijuana legalization today.

    Arizona

    Arizona may be the exception to the rule this year. While efforts were made to forge a general agreement on the terms of the legalization initiative, with early battles over whether to allow personal cultivation, there appears to exist a great deal of enmity between supporters of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and those supporting a competing proposal being circulated by Arizonans for Mindful Regulations, seeking fewer limitations.

    The differences may not seem terribly important from a distance, but both sides are digging in, with little indication anyone is willing to compromise. There have been some steps taken to bridge the two camps by local activists, including efforts by Arizona NORML, but the two sides appear far apart.

    The sometimes heated rhetoric and tactics between the competing factions has the potential to undermine a successful legalization effort in Arizona. Because the vote in Arizona appears to be close, it is most important that those who support marijuana legalization set aside their differences and agree to get legalization approved in the state. There will be time down the road, once the arrests have stopped, to come back and improve and expand these initial legalization provisions.

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