A new report released this week by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project reveals that marijuana arrests have actually increased in New York City under the new leadership of Mayor De Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton.
In March 2014, the NYPD performed more marijuana possession arrests than in any month in the last six months under the Bloomberg administration. In fact, March 2014 saw more arrests than in 10 of the 12 months in 2013 under the previous administration. The total number of arrests for first quarter of 2014 are higher than both the third and fourth quarters of 2013.
These arrests also continue the disturbing trend of disproportionately falling on individuals of color. In Brooklyn, in predominately white Park Slope, police made just 7 marijuana possession arrests in the first three months of 2014. In Carroll Gardens and Red Hook they made 12 marijuana arrests in that same time frame. More affluent neighborhoods saw even fewer arrests. In Manhattan, Police only made two marijuana possession arrests in the Tribeca/Wall Street area, one arrest in the Upper East Side, and four arrests in the Upper West Side. The story is quite different in predominately black or latino neighborhoods, where the police made significantly more arrests. In Bedford-Stuyvesant 111 individuals were arrested, 130 in Crown Heights, and 438 in East New York from January to March of this year.
Despite similar use rates across racial groups, 86% of those arrested in the first quarter of 2014 were blacks and Latinos.
Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College, City University of New York, and co-director of Marijuana Arrest Research Project said:
“At 28,000 arrests a year, New York still makes more marijuana possession arrests than any city in the world. Yet the simple possession of marijuana has not been a crime in New York State since 1978. Isn’t it time for these unfair, biased, damaging, often illegal arrests to just stop, now?”
A new study on marijuana appeared in Journal of the American Heart Association. These are interesting data, but we have to interpret them very carefully.
Sure, we know cannabis can raise heart rate briefly, but most users develop tolerance to the effect. We’ve also seen (in a much larger sample) that it doesn’t increase mortality rates even among survivors of heart attacks.
But the new study made the news anyway. Investigators specifically searched a French database where physicians are legally bound to report any drug-related case that they view as “leading to temporary or permanent functional incapacity or disability, to inpatient hospitalization or prolongation of existing hospitalization, to congenital anomalies, or to an immediate vital risk or death.”
They then looked for cannabis users and found a shade less than 2,000 in the past 5 years. It’s impossible to know what that number means without knowing the number of people these physicians saw or how many patients used cannabis and did not end up reported to this database.
They then found a whopping 35 of these who had cardiac complications. It is impossible to know what to make of this number without knowing the number of cannabis users in France, which the authors report is 1.2 million. If you divide 35 by 1.2 million you get roughly .00003. I’m guessing that not all these cannabis users went to the doctor and not every person who used cannabis and had cardiac complications fessed up to the doctor, so let’s say that we’re off by two orders of magnitude. Let’s give the prohibitionists the benefit of the doubt and multiply by 100. That’d put the rate of problems up to .003.
If those are the chances of having cardiac complications as a French cannabis user, my first thought is that using cannabis protects people from cardiac problems. We need a comparison group of people who don’t use cannabis to know their rate of cardiac problems, but, as the authors point out, we simply don’t have those data. The closest estimates were 57 per 10,000 people, based on another study, which is .0057, or almost twice as bad as the rate among the cannabis users (after our generous overestimation). I’m not going to hold my breath for the the headline, “Cut your heart disease in half with cannabis.”
In short, this study tells us a lot about what kinds of cardiac complications appeared in people who were reported to the French government for cannabis-related problems, but tells us little about the link between cannabis use and cardiovascular disease.
For the first time since they began polling the question four decades ago, Pew Research Polling has released new survey data that reveals 52% of Americans want marijuana to be legalized. Only 45% were opposed.
This support is spread across demographics. The Baby Boomers (50%), Generation X (54%), and Millenials (65%) all have majority support for legalization. The only age demographic that remains opposed is the Silent Generation, those born before 1942, though support in this age group has also significantly increased. 32% of this age group now support legalization, up from 17% in 2002.
According to this polling data, most Americans have also tried marijuana personally. 48% of respondents answered affirmatively when asked if they consume marijuana, up from 38% about a decade ago.
Not only are Americans becoming more supportive of legalization, but there has been a dramatic change in how Americans view marijuana use. In 2006, Pew Research found that 50% of Americans believed smoking marijuana was “morally wrong” and only 35% did not think it was a moral issue. Today these numbers have completely flipped, 50% of Americans responded in this latest survey that using marijuana is not a moral issue and only 32% stated it was morally wrong.
60% of Americans across all political orientations also believe the federal government should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that legalize it. 57% of Republicans, 59% of Democrats, and 64% of Independents believe the federal government should leave states like Washington and Colorado alone.
You can view the full results of this survey here.
As I wrote last week in an op/ed for The Sacramento Bee, when it comes to the federal government’s policy on marijuana, not so much.
Viewpoints: Science supporting medicinal pot is clear
via The Sacramento Bee
A dozen years ago, California lawmakers did something extraordinary. They authorized investigators throughout California to conduct a series of FDA-approved, gold standard trials to assess whether cannabis is safe and effective as a medicine.
In all, researchers conducted more than a dozen clinical studies examining whether cannabis could meet objective standards of safety and therapeutic efficacy. For example, investigators at the University of California, San Francisco, assessed whether vaporizing cannabis could rapidly and consistently deliver the plant’s active ingredients to patients in a manner that is far safer than smoking. It could. At UC San Diego, clinicians examined whether inhaling cannabis posed potential harms to the immune system, particularly in subjects suffering from immune-compromised conditions like HIV. It didn’t. And at universities throughout the state, investigators studied whether marijuana provided statistically significant relief in a number of hard-to-treat conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and neuropathic (nerve) pain. Cannabis did so – consistently.
… Nonetheless, policymakers – particularly those in Washington – have responded to these most recent scientific findings with no more than a collective yawn. Despite pledging to let “science and the scientific process … inform and guide decisions of my administration,” neither President Barack Obama nor Congress have taken any steps to amend federal law or federal policy to reflect the scientific reality that marijuana possesses well-established therapeutic value. In fact, this administration has taken just the opposite approach.
In 2011, the Obama administration quashed out-of-hand an administrative petition that sought federal hearings regarding the present classification of cannabis as a substance with “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” In its rejection, the administration alleged, “The drug’s chemistry is not known and reproducible; there are no adequate safety studies; there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the scientific evidence is not widely available.”
Yet, the findings from California’s 12-year-old study program show that each of these claims is demonstrably false.
It is long past time to reject the notion that we as a society possess insufficient evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of cannabis. The truth is that we know plenty. Most of all we know that there remains no valid scientific reason to justify the continued targeting, prosecution and incarceration of those Americans who consume cannabis responsibly.
Read my entire commentary here.
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This week: A new study shows cannabis use decreases mortality rate in patients with schizophrenia and related ailments and Rhode Island’s Governor signs a bill allowing for “Compassion Centers.”
Also, check out this latest NORML PSA, featuring some great rhyming on the problems of prohibition, submitted to us from artist Will Brennan: