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  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator June 8, 2011

    We get many comments on our stories about K2/Spice, the chemical “JWH-018” and others like it that the media have dubbed “fake pot” or “synthetic marijuana.” The reason there is even such a chemical is that the scientist who invented it, John W. Huffman, could not get access to natural cannabis to study cannabinoids. Now he’s telling ABC News what we’ve been saying for decades: prohibition creates more dangerous drugs!

    (ABC News) now that “Spice” and other forms of imitation pot are sending users to emergency rooms across America, the retired professor has an idea of how to stem the epidemic. If the federal government would legalize the real thing, says Huffman, maybe consumers wouldn’t turn to the far more dangerous fake stuff.

    Huffman, who developed more than 400 “cannabinoids” as an organic chemist at Clemson University, says that marijuana has the benefit of being a known quantity, and not a very harmful one. We know the biological effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, Huffman told ABC News, because they have been thoroughly studied. “The scientific evidence is that it’s not a particularly dangerous drug,” said Huffman.

    “I talked to a marijuana provider from California, a doctor, a physician,” explained Huffman, “and he said that in California, that these things are not near the problem they are in the rest of the country simply because they can get marijuana. And marijuana, even for recreational use is quite easy to get in California, and it’s essentially decriminalized. And marijuana is not nearly as dangerous as these compounds.”

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director May 17, 2010

    NORML has been invited to appear this afternoon (Monday, May 17) to participate in a debate, ‘Should Marijuana Be Legalized?’, on the digital channel ABC News Now, which is also broadcast online.

    [Editor’s note: Archived video of the debate is now available free online here.]

    The discussion will air live from 12:30PM-1PM (eastern) with portions possibly re-broadcast tonight on ABC’s Nightline.

    Check local cable programming re ABC’s digital channels or go online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 6, 2009

    Many years ago the former head of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Alan Leshner made this statement when forced to confront the fact that tens of thousands of patients were successfully using cannabis as a medicine:

    “The plural of anecdote is not evidence.”

    Someone ought to pass on Lesnher’s cop out to ABC News, whose recent feature, “Reefer Madness Redux: Is Pot Addictive?“, is little more than a series of anecdotes from folks claiming that it’s becoming harder and harder for some individuals to quit weed.

    Here’s a typical example:

    The biggest hurdle in treating these patients is that marijuana “still has a positive spin to it,” he said. “People don’t believe it’s a problem.”

    “Plenty believe that they can’t get addicted or hold on to the idea that it’s only psychologically addictive and ‘I can think my way out of it,'”said Massella. “But once you develop a dependency, there is always a dependency.”

    Naturally, John Massella, like many of the so-called experts quoted in the ABC story, has a financial incentive to promote the “marijuana is seriously addictive” claim. After all, he runs a drug rehabilitation center. Claiming that many of his clients are “pot addicts” is far more socially acceptable than admitting that most of his so-called ‘marijuana treatment admissions’ are really just young people who were busted for pot possession and ordered there by the court as a condition of probation.

    But putting the anecdotes aside, what does the science actually say about pot and dependence?

    Well, according to the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine — which published a multiyear, million-dollar federal study assessing marijuana and health in 1999 — “millions of Americans have tried marijuana, but most are not regular users [and] few marijuana users become dependent on it.” The agency added, “[A]though [some] marijuana users develop dependence, they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs.” (In fact, more recent research indicates that marijuana use may actually help some people kick their hard drug habits!)

    Just how less likely? According to the IOM’s 267-page report, fewer than 10 percent of those who try cannabis ever meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of “drug dependence” (based on DSM-III-R criteria). By contrast, the IOM reported that 32 percent of tobacco users, 23 percent of heroin users, 17 percent of cocaine users and 15 percent of alcohol users meet the criteria for “drug dependence.” In short, it’s the legal drugs that have Americans hooked — not pot. (more…)

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 25, 2008

    UPDATE!!! UPDATE!!!

    You can now watch Friday’s excellent 20/20 segment on Rachel Hoffman here. I also have an expanded essay on this tragic situation here.

    Rachel Hoffman is dead.

    Rachel Hoffman, like many young adults, occasionally smoked marijuana.

    But Rachel Hoffman is not dead as a result of smoking marijuana; she is dead as a result of marijuana prohibition.

    Under prohibition, Rachel faced up to five years in prison for possessing a small amount of marijuana.  

    Under prohibition, the police in Rachel’s community viewed her as nothing more than a common “criminal,” and threatened her with years in jail unless she cooperated with them as an untrained, unsupervised confidential informant.

    Under prohibition, the law enforcement officers responsible for placing Rachel in the very situation that resulted in her murder have failed to publicly express any remorse — because, after all, under prohibition Rachel Hoffman was no longer a human being deserving of such sympathies.

    On Friday, ABC’s 20/20 shed a national spotlight on the tragedy surrounding Rachel Hoffman’s untimely death — and the tragedy that is marijuana prohibition. 

    Are pot users criminals? The tragic case of Rachel Hoffman
    via ABC News

    After being caught twice with a “baggie” of marijuana, 23-year old Rachel Hoffman was reportedly told by police in Tallahassee, Florida that she would go to prison for four years unless she became an undercover informant.

    The young woman, a recent graduate of Florida State University, was murdered during a botched sting operation two months ago.

    … “The idea of waging a war on drugs is to protect people and here it seems like we’re putting people in harm’s way,” said Lance Block, a lawyer hired by Rachel’s parents.

    The Florida Attorney General’s office says it is reviewing the procedures and protocol of the Tallahassee police.Rachel’s case also has raised new questions about state and federal laws related to marijuana possession.

    I’m calling her a criminal,” Tallahassee police chief Dennis Jones told 20/20, who maintains that both drug dealers and drug users are considered criminals to his department.

    Under Florida law, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana is a felony.

    Rachel was also found in possession of two ecstasy pills, a felony under Florida law no matter the quantity because it “has a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

    The Tallahassee police chief says Rachel was suspected of selling drugs and she was rightly treated as a criminal.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director May 21, 2008

    Mainstream Media is Finally Catching On Regarding Law Enforcement Excesses and Human Tragedies Associated With Cannabis Prohibition

    I spoke extensively last week with Willamette Weekly’s James Pipkin and on Monday with ABC’s Marcus Baram about NORML’s monitoring and gathering case examples from around the country where medical patients, notably medical marijuana patients, are being denied organ transplants. Marcus’ and James’ articles continue to cast more needed antiseptic light on this disturbing public health practice of official discrimination against otherwise lawful medical cannabis patients.

    medical marijuana, NORML

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    Heads up: Additionally, the Willamette Weekly has exposed the tragedy that confronts medical patients in Oregon — that no hospital in the state will perform organ transplants on patients who test positive for cannabis, even if they are in compliance with the state’s medical marijuana laws and are in the state’s medical marijuana patient registry.

    Like the recent tragedy in Tallahassee regarding the tragic death of 23-year old Rachael Hoffman resulting from her being recruited as a ‘snitch’ for the local narcotic officers, the general public and maybe more importantly the general news beat media (AKA, mainstream media) have started to really bore down hard on the human tragedies that arise daily from cannabis prohibition–both in criminal enforcement of the laws, as well as how the prohibition trends upwards into important public institutions, such as in the delivery of medicine to sick, dying or sense-threatened medical patients.

    Via our voices, collective consciousness and continued effective uses of employing empowering communication mediums like the Internet (i.e., webpages, podcasts, blogs, online videos and active online social networking), we can advance the long held goal and belief that an informed general public is the best path forward to ending cannabis prohibition may now finally be upon us.

    I was heartened to see the Ventura Star editorialize against denying medical marijuana patients access to organ donor banks.

    As the saying goes: We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!

    Let’s keep the collective pressure on the media, opinion and policy-makers to replace prohibition laws with viable, and common sense-based public policy alternatives.

    Thanks to CA NORML’s Dale Gieringer, Ph.D and NLC member/2008 Aspen Legal Seminar faculty Doug Hiatt, Esq. for getting into the ABC news article! (more…)