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  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator October 29, 2011

    The Obama White House has released its official response to the “We the People” online petition for marijuana legalization submitted by NORML.  The petition, which garnered 74,169 signatures, was by far the most popular petition submitted.  The government response (released late on a Friday to avoid news cycles, we’ll note) repeats the same tired lies and classic misdirections.  Most of all, it fails to answer NORML’s actual petition, which asked:

    Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol.

    We the people want to know when we can have our “perfectly legitimate” discussion on marijuana legalization. Marijuana prohibition has resulted in the arrest of over 20 million Americans since 1965, countless lives ruined and hundreds of billions of tax dollars squandered and yet this policy has still failed to achieve its stated goals of lowering use rates, limiting the drug’s access, and creating safer communities.

    Isn’t it time to legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol? If not, please explain why you feel that the continued criminalization of cannabis will achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?

    Following is the full official White House response, with NORML’s comments interspersed…

    What We Have to Say About Legalizing Marijuana

    By: Gil Kerlikowske

    When the President took office, he directed all of his policymakers to develop policies based on science and research, not ideology or politics. So our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug’s effects.

    Oh, good.  Then we’ll look forward to implementation the 1972 Shafer Commission Report or any of the other government and scientific studies that recommend the decriminalization of cannabis. (more…)

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director September 16, 2011

    This Week in WeedNow streaming on NORMLtv is the latest episode of “This Week in Weed.”

    This Week: a congressman calls upon Drug Czar Kerlikowse to reschedule marijuana, per se THC limits for drugged driving stall out in Colorado, and the biggest marijuana rally on the east coast is about to commence.

    Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv each Thursday afternoon to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director September 13, 2011

    Tennessee Congressman Steven Cohen (D) is urging the Obama administration to rethink its support for the criminal prohibition of marijuana. Rep. Cohen is a longtime critic of marijuana prohibition (Watch him grill FBI Director Robert Mueller over the claim that cannabis is a ‘gateway drug’ here) and a primary co-sponsor of HR 2306: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011.

    This week, Rep. Cohen sent a letter to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske calling on the agency to support changing marijuana’s status as a schedule I prohibited drug and to respect the laws of states that have legalized it for its medical utility.

    “There is no evidence that marijuana has the same addictive qualities or damaging consequences as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine,” states Cohen, “and should not be treated as such.”

    He adds: “We should not deny the thousands of Americans who rely on the benefits that marijuana provides. I strongly recommend that this administration allow states that have chosen to legalize medical marijuana to enact strong regulations without fear of prosecution. [W]e should not interfere with the will of the people to enact these compassionate laws.”

    You can view the entirety of his letter below:

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 22, 2011

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    — Mahatma Gandhi

    What can I say? I’m flattered. David Mineta, deputy director for demand reduction in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has taken time to publicly respond to little ol’ me. I wonder if they pronounce ‘Armentano’ phonetically at the Drug Czar’s office?

    The back story: Last week NORML Board member Paul Kuhn and I published a guest commentary in Nashville’s largest daily newspaper, The Tennessean, opining in favor of H.R. 2306, the ‘Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011. Here’s an excerpt:

    Marijuana legalization bill offers safer alternative
    via The Tennessean

    We know tobacco is the leading cause of death in America, contributing to 400,000 deaths each year. So it’s hardly any wonder the FDA will require the placement of prominent warning labels. Alcohol is the third-leading cause of death in America. The World Health Organization reported earlier this year that “alcohol causes nearly 4 percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence.”

    … What about marijuana? With every other drug from Advil and alcohol to Zantac, a correct dose is effective, but too high a dose kills the patient. No dose of marijuana is capable of causing a fatal overdose.

    … And unlike alcohol and tobacco, adverse effects of even heavy cannabis use are minimal. There is no epidemiological evidence in any country, after scores of studies and centuries of use by tens of millions of people, that marijuana smokers have a shorter life expectancy than non-smokers.

    … They don’t become violent at sports events or beat their spouses and children. They don’t get heart disease, cancer, brain damage or any other deadly illness at a higher rate than those who abstain. In fact, a pair of studies conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that marijuana use, even long-term, was not associated with elevated levels of mortality or incidences of cancer, including types of cancers associated with tobacco smoking.

    … America is on a path to allow adults to choose a safer alternative to tobacco and alcohol. And create more tax revenue and more jobs in Tennessee. And more freedom.

    Apparently quite a few people read our editorial, including some folks at the Drug Czar’s office. And it must have gotten under their skin because today the White House responded with this.

    Movement for legalized marijuana ignores dangers
    via The Tennessean

    Proponents of marijuana legalization often argue it will do everything from fixing our economy to ending violent crime (“Marijuana legalization bill offers safer alternative,” Tennessee Voices, Aug. 15). Yet, the science is clear: Marijuana use is not a benign drug and it is harmful to public health and safety.

    … Would marijuana legalization make Tennessee healthier or safer? One needs to look no further than Tennessee’s current painful experience with prescription drug abuse. In Tennessee, prescription drugs are legal, regulated, and taxed — and yet rates of the abuse of pain relievers in the state exceed the national average by more than 10 percent.

    Nationally, someone dies from an unintentional drug overdose — driven in large part by prescription drug abuse — on average every 19 minutes. What would America look like if we had just as many people using marijuana as we currently have smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol, and abusing prescription drugs?

    The classic ‘bait-and-switch’ goes on and on, but you get the idea. But I’m not sure the Drug Czar’s office does. After all, if their logic above had even a hint of consistency then they would be arguing for the criminal prohibition of cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription drugs. And lots of other things.

    Yet when it comes to Americans’ use of substances like tobacco, booze, and prescription drugs — substances that pose far greater dangers to health than does cannabis — the White House recognizes that prohibition is not the answer: regulation and education are. So why does the Drug Czar’s office fail to apply this same common-sense principle to pot? Perhaps it has something to do with the federal requirement requiring the office to lie about legalization.

    Finally, as to the specific question: ‘What would America look like if we had just as many people using marijuana as are presently using tobacco, alcohol, and prescription medications?’ Well, what does America look like today? After all, the federal government imposed criminal prohibition over 70 years ago; yet today that very same federal government admits that over one out of ten Americans admit to having using cannabis in the past year. Among those age 18 to 25, almost half admit to consuming cannabis recently!

    The question isn’t ‘What if Americans consumed marijuana?’ The reality is that tens of millions of Americans have and do consume marijuana. Most do so privately and responsibly. Legalizing cannabis simply acknowledges this reality and seeks to regulate the behavior appropriately. In a free society, why would even consider doing differently?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 16, 2011

    [Update! A slightly edited version of this commentary, entitled ‘If Obama can’t articulate his position on marijuana, why won’t he reconsider it?’, is is now online at The Hill.com’s Congress blog here. Please review and leave your feedback for members of Congress and their staff here.]

    Regardless of one’s opinion of President Obama as a political figure, it is hard to deny his skill as an eloquent orator. So it is notable, even newsworthy, when the Commander-in-Chief is publicly at a loss for words.

    Such was the case yesterday at a Presidential Town hall in Cannon Falls, Minnesota when a flustered, tongue-tied Obama attempted in vain to explain why his administration continues to oppose efforts to allow for the legal use of cannabis as a doctor-recommended medicine.

    Confused? Perhaps this transcript will help to better articulate the President’s position:

    Audience member: “If you can’t legalize marijuana, why can’t we just legalize medical marijuana, to help the people that need it?”

    Obama: “Well, you know, a lot of states are making decisions about medical marijuana. As a controlled substance, the issue then is, you know, is it being prescribed by a doctor, as opposed to, you know — well — — I’ll — I’ll — I’ll — I’ll leave it at that.”

    And leave it at that he did.

    It is curious that President Obama — someone who is use to speaking extemporaneously in public — could not articulate one single legitimate reason (nor could his former Press Secretary) why his administration believes in continuing the federal ban on marijuana, including the use of medical marijuana for ill patients. Obama’s failure to communicate becomes even more surprising when one considers that within just the past few weeks, high-profile members of the Obama administration have publicly put forward several alleged ‘justifications’ for why the federal government ought to be in the business of denying medical marijuana to sick people.

    For instance, the White House’s 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, released in July, devoted an entire section to rebuffing the notion of cannabis’ use as a legitimate therapy, stating:

    Marijuana and other drugs are addictive and unsafe, especially for use by young people. Unfortunately, efforts to “medicalize” marijuana have widened the public acceptance and availability of the drug.

    There is no substitute for the scientific approval process employed by the FDA. For a drug to be made available to the public as medicine, the FDA requires rigorous research followed by tests for safety and efficacy. Only then can a substance be classified as medicine and prescribed by qualified health care professionals to patients.

    In the wake of state and local laws that permit distribution of “medical” marijuana, dozens of localities have been left to grapple with poorly written laws that bypass the FDA process and allow marijuana to be used as a so-called medicine. … Outside the context of federally approved research, the use and distribution of marijuana is prohibited in the United States.

    In addition, less than one-month ago, Obama’s hand-picked DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart formally denied a nine-year-old petition calling on the agency to initiate hearings to reassess the present classification of marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance without any ‘accepted medical use in treatment.’ Leonhart’s justification, as stated in in the July 8, 2011 edition of the Federal Register:

    [Cannabis possesses] a high potential for abuse; … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; … [and] lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision. … [T]here are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving its efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts. … At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.

    So if the Obama administration is willing to make such allegations in writing, then why is the President afraid to own up to and repeat these claims in public? Likely because he, like a majority of Americans, are aware that there isn’t a shred of scientific support for the administration’s ‘Flat Earth’ position.

    So if the President of the United States can’t publicly articulate why we continue to arrest over one-half million Americans each year for possessing marijuana, then why are we as a nation continuing to engage in this destructive and illogical policy?

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