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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 10, 2016

    VA NORML Adopt-a-Highway cropCannabis-influenced driving performance is significantly different from alcohol-induced driving behavior, according to driving simulator data published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology.

    Investigators with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Iowa evaluated simulated driving performance in subjects following their consumption of vaporized cannabis, alcohol, or placebo.

    Researchers reported that cannabis administration was associated compensatory driving behavior, such as decreased mean speed and increased mean following distance, whereas alcohol administration was associated with faster driving. Their findings are similar to those of other driving studies, like those here and here.

    Investigators also reported that cannabis dosing in combination with low quantities of alcohol “mitigated drivers’ tendency to drive faster with alcohol” – a finding that contrasts with prior data acknowledging that the two substances combined typically possess an additive adverse effect on psychomotor performance.

    “THC concentration-dependent associations with decreased speed, increased time below the speed limit and increased following distance suggest possible awareness by drivers of potential impairment and attempts to compensate,” authors concluded. “The compensatory behavior exhibited by cannabis-influenced drivers distinctly contrasts with an alcohol-induced higher risk behavior, evidenced by greater percent speed.”

    According to the findings of a recently published literature review of crash culpability studies, “[A]cute cannabis intoxication is related to a statistically significant risk increase of low to moderate magnitude [odds ratio between 1.2 and 1.4].” By contrast, a 2015 case-control study by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that driving with legal amounts of booze in one’s system is associated with a nearly four-fold increased crash risk (odds ratio = 3.93).

    An abstract of the study, “Cannabis effects on driving longitudinal control with and without alcohol,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 9, 2016

    no_marijuanaThe enactment of statewide laws permitting the physician-authorized use of cannabis therapy has not stimulated increases in marijuana use by young people, according to findings published in The International Journal on Drug Policy.

    A team of researchers from Columbia University in New York City reviewed federal data regarding rates of self-reported, monthly marijuana use among 12 to 17-year-olds between the years 2002 and 2011.

    While the study’s authors acknowledged that many medical marijuana states possess greater overall rates of youth cannabis use compared to non-medical states, they affirmed that these jurisdictions already possessed elevated use rates prior to changes in law, and that the laws’ enactment did not play a role in influencing youth use patterns.

    “While states with MML (medical marijuana laws) feature higher rates of adolescent marijuana use, to date, no major U.S. national data set, including the NSDUH (US National Survey on Drug Use in Households), supports that MML are a cause of these higher use levels,” investigators concluded. “[W]hen within-state changes are properly considered and pre-MML prevalence is properly controlled, there is no evidence of a differential increase in past-month marijuana use in youth that can be attributed to state medical marijuana laws.”

    Their findings are similar to those of a separate 2015 study assessing the relationship between state medical marijuana laws and rates of self-reported adolescent marijuana use over a 24-year period in a sampling of over one million adolescents in 48 states. Researchers in that study reported no increase in teens’ overall cannabis use that could be attributable to changes in law, and acknowledged a “robust” decrease in consumption among 8th graders. They concluded “[T]he results of this study showed no evidence for an increase in adolescent marijuana use after the passage of state laws permitting use of marijuana for medical purposes. … [C]oncerns that increased marijuana use is an unintended effect of state marijuana laws seem unfounded.”

    Other studies reaching similar conclusions are available here, here, here, here, and here.

    The abstract of the study, “Prevalence of marijuana use does not differentially increase among youth after states pass medical marijuana laws: Commentary on and reanalysis of US National Survey on Drug Use in Households data 2002-2011,” appears online here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director

    US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Corey Booker (D-NJ) give ATTN an interview on medical cannabis, calls for federal reforms and the need for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ‘to do their homework…meet with the parents of children who need access to medical marijuana’.

    The federal ban on medical marijuana research is outrageous.
    — Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand

    Posted by ATTN: on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

    US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Corey Booker (D-NJ)

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel March 7, 2016

    C1_8734_r_xAt NORML we were once again reminded this past week of the pervasive prejudice against marijuana, and marijuana smokers, that remains in the general American culture. Yes, a majority of Americans now oppose marijuana prohibition and favor the legalization and regulation of marijuana. But there remain numerous obstacles and penalties that continue to deny fair and equal treatment to marijuana smokers, and those who are associated with marijuana.

    I have previously written about the urgent need to protect responsible marijuana smokers from job discrimination (requiring a showing of impairment on the job before an employee can be terminated); from unfair child custody laws (requiring a showing of abuse or neglect before removing minor children from the custody of their marijuana smoking parents); and unfair DUID laws (requiring a showing of impairment before charging a marijuana smoker with driving under the influence of drugs). These are three areas of the law where we will continue to fight for fair and equal treatment for marijuana smokers.

    More Subtle Biases

    But today I want to discuss another, more subtle bias that can unfairly impact those of us who support full legalization. These involve the refusal of banks and credit card processing companies to offer their services to businesses and non-profits that are somehow connected to the newly emerging legal marijuana industry in several states.

    Initially I presumed these problems were unique to those who actually held licenses to commercially cultivate or sell marijuana. Most of us are familiar with the enormous challenges these banking and financial limitations cause for those who have invested their time and resources to start a new business legal under state law. Today, most are forced to operate on a cash-only basis; no bank accounts or credit cards allowed.

    The Obama administration has reassured the banking and related industries that they will not be penalized by the feds for providing necessary and usual business services to those businesses operating legally under state law. But the banking industry realizes this policy could be reversed under another, less marijuana-friendly president, and largely has refused to budge until particular provisions of federal law, which they feel put them in legal jeopardy, have been changed.

    Proposed Federal Reforms Pending

    There are serious efforts underway in Congress to fix these banking problems, and support is clearly growing among the members. HR 2076/S 1726, The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2015, sponsored by a bi-partisan group of legislators, would fully protect financial institutions providing services to legitimate marijuana business. Many observers, myself included, expect this area of federal reform will be the first to be approved by the Congress, among the several federal marijuana proposals pending. (You can register your support for these measures from the NORML website.

    NORML has been supportive of these reforms, believing they are necessary for the newly legal marijuana industry, and because it is in the best interest of consumers that the legitimate industry operate in a transparent manner, as other industries do.

    Suddenly, NORML Loses Credit Card Services

    But now we have a more personal reason to fight for this change. NORML has abruptly lost our ability to accept credit or debit card donations on our website. Without advance notice, NORML was notified by registered mail this past week that the company that processes our debit and credit card donations, TransFirst, had decided, apparently based on their review of our website, that we no longer qualify as a client, and they immediately ceased processing our credit card traffic. As with many non-profits, we depend to a large degree on donations from our website to fund our organization, so this (hopefully temporary) glitch presents a serious threat to the organization.

    NORML is a not-for-profit public-interest lobby that represents the interests of responsible marijuana smokers. We do not grow or sell marijuana, nor do we have any financial interests in the marijuana industry. Nonetheless, when I asked TransFirst what rule we had violated, they said we were part of the “marijuana industry.”

    Our advocacy is First Amendment-protected activity; marijuana legalization is our policy goal, and we work every day to nudge the country a little closer to that policy.

    But now, when someone with the TransFirst financial services corporation decided to visit our website, and discovered that we are a pro-legalization lobby, we are suddenly found to be unsuitable as a client. We are denied the same business services routinely provided to tens of thousands of other non-profits, many of whom also focus on controversial social issues, simply because we have a website that promotes the legalization of marijuana!

    We are working now to identify another company that will not be frightened by our political views, that will step in to provide these necessary services. And unlike most of those in the legal marijuana industry, at NORML we have never had problems finding banks willing to handle our accounts. For that, I suppose, we should be grateful.

    But that is not what I am feeling right now. I am angry that some mid-level executive at TransFirst was able and willing to disrupt our work at NORML based on the content of the advocacy on our website. That represents a totally unnecessary act (there is no theory under federal law that would penalize a company for providing financial services to NORML), and one that smacks of an anti-marijuana prejudice that is reminiscent of the days of “reefer madness.” We are being penalized for our political views.

    It is time for all of us to stand-up and say, loudly and clearly, “Get over it. There is nothing wrong with the responsible use of marijuana and it’s time we began treating people who smoke, and corporations that work in and around the marijuana industry, in a fair manner.”

    It is time we, as a society, overcome our anti-marijuana prejudices, once and for all.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 4, 2016

    personal_cultivationIs less marijuana entering the US from Mexico today than in years past? According to newly released data provided by the US Border Patrol, the answer may be ‘yes.’

    Federal statistics reveal that law enforcement seized an estimated 1.5 million pounds of marijuana at the US/Mexico border in 2015. That total is the lowest amount reported in a decade and continues a steady year-by-year decline in seizure volume that began in 2009, when nearly 4 million pounds of cannabis were confiscated.

    Overall, 99.8 percent of all marijuana seized by federal border patrol agents was seized at the southern border.

    It has been previously reported that increases in US marijuana production, particularly the rise of state-authorized commercial growing in jurisdictions like Colorado, has significantly undercut US demand for Mexican-grown cannabis, which is typically presumed to be of lesser quality.

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