Archive for the ‘Cannabis and Culture’ category

Want to Lower Traffic Fatalities? Try Legalizing Medical Marijuana.

November 29th, 2011

That’s at least according to a paper published today by University of Colorado Denver Professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University Assistant Professor D. Mark Anderson. The study looked at traffic fatalities nationwide for the years 1990-2009 to see if there was any correlation between highway fatalities and liberalized medical marijuana laws. They found that, in states that legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, both traffic fatalities and alcohol consumption declined.

Study shows medical marijuana laws reduce traffic deaths
Leads to lower consumption of alcohol

DENVER (Nov. 29, 2011) – A groundbreaking new study shows that laws legalizing medical marijuana have resulted in a nearly nine percent drop in traffic deaths and a five percent reduction in beer sales.

“Our research suggests that the legalization of medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities through reducing alcohol consumption by young adults,” said Daniel Rees, professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver who co-authored the study with D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University.

The researchers collected data from a variety of sources including the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

The study is the first to examine the relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and traffic deaths.

“We were astounded by how little is known about the effects of legalizing medical marijuana,” Rees said. “We looked into traffic fatalities because there is good data, and the data allow us to test whether alcohol was a factor.”

Anderson noted that traffic deaths are significant from a policy standpoint.

“Traffic fatalities are an important outcome from a policy perspective because they represent the leading cause of death among Americans ages five to 34,” he said.

The economists analyzed traffic fatalities nationwide, including the 13 states that legalized medical marijuana between 1990 and 2009. In those states, they found evidence that alcohol consumption by 20- through 29-year-olds went down, resulting in fewer deaths on the road.

The economists noted that simulator studies conducted by previous researchers suggest that drivers under the influence of alcohol tend to underestimate how badly their skills are impaired. They drive faster and take more risks. In contrast, these studies show that drivers under the influence of marijuana tend to avoid risks. However, Rees and Anderson cautioned that legalization of medical marijuana may result in fewer traffic deaths because it’s typically used in private, while alcohol is often consumed at bars and restaurants.

“I think this is a very timely study given all the medical marijuana laws being passed or under consideration,” Anderson said. “These policies have not been research-based thus far and our research shows some of the social effects of these laws. Our results suggest a direct link between marijuana and alcohol consumption.”

The study also examined marijuana use in three states that legalized medical marijuana in the mid-2000s, Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Marijuana use by adults increased after legalization in Montana and Rhode Island, but not in Vermont. There was no evidence that marijuana use by minors increased.

“Although we make no policy recommendations, it certainly appears as though medical marijuana laws are making our highways safer,” Rees said.

Read the full press release here.

So, it seems those prohibitionist claims about high bus drivers crashing into buildings and stoned motorists wrecking havoc on our highways now slip even further into the realm of fantasy. Though perhaps that 5% reduction in alcohol consumption explains why the California Beer and Beverage Distributors Association found it necessary to contribute $10,000 last year to oppose Proposition 19.

Go “Green” on Cyber Monday

November 28th, 2011

The holiday shopping season kicked off in earnest on Friday and retailers are heavily promoting online sales today, which they have dubbed “Cyber Monday.”

Online doing some holiday shopping and looking for the perfect gift for the marijuana enthusiast in your family? Why not sign them up for a NORML membership? We also have a wide assortment of great gift possibilities in the NORMLshop, including shirts, DVDs, books, and more.

You can also support NORML by simply shopping online at over 900 major retailers. All you have to do is visit www.igive.com/norml and begin shopping. A portion of all your purchases is donated to NORML and will help us continue our work to legalize marijuana in the new year and beyond. There is no extra charge and you can get all your shopping done online while helping a good cause. Click here for more details.

Current TV: Marijuana Prohibition In America Examined Tonight

November 28th, 2011

The award-winning (and totally watchable) Vanguard series from Current TV examines Cannabis Prohibition in America tonight at 9PM (eastern) in ‘The War on Weed’ with not only an obligatory review* of western states’ medical cannabis laws (including California, Colorado and Washington), but, more notable for NORML, is the documentary’s critical review and juxtaposition to the western United States ongoing experiment with allowing medical access to cannabis–and the general cultural and political acceptance for cannabis in most of the western states–to that of the decidedly anti-cannabis attitudes and law enforcement practices for decades in supposedly ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ New York City, where 50,000 cannabis consumers a year are arrested, about ninety percent black and Latino.

*Obligatory, because starting at 10PM (eastern) on December 1st is the Discovery Channel’s Weed Wars, a new series that looks at the fine legal line between compassion and big commerce regarding California’s medical cannabis industry.

Contrastingly, Discovery Channel is also premiering that same week a new series called Moonshiners.

HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup Raided in Amsterdam

November 23rd, 2011

Early this morning, Dutch authorities raided the HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam.  UPDATE from HIGH TIMES Magazine:

According to representatives for HIGH TIMES magazine, sponsors of the 24th Annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, the event will continue tonight with a scheduled concert at the Melkweg concert hall (Lijnbaansgracht 234), followed by a full day of the expo (including voting) at the Borchland (Borchlandweg) on Thursday, the final day of the competition. An additional voting station will be set up starting at 2PM on Thursday at the Melkweg, which will remain open until the beginning of the official Cannabis Cup awards ceremony at 8PM. (read more)

Click here to view the embedded video.

According to the East Bay Express:

…police in Amsterdam are in the process of raiding the 24th annual High Times Cannabis Cup Expo. Possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in the Netherlands. But according to tweets on the scene, “everyone will have their buds confiscated, but no one will be charged or fined. This is the first time this has happened in 24 years.”

We broke the news on NORML SHOW LIVE this morning and spoke with Tim Martin of John Doe Radio, who has been in contact with numerous attendees in Amsterdam, including Scott from Rare Dankness Seeds, who called in live to the show (listen here).  According to Scott, much of the Dutch concern is over the concentrates – butane hash oil, for instance – that is considered a “hard drug” in Holland.

“They herded everybody toward one exit, like you’re getting on a ski lift at Vail… then one by one they had about 40 cops there for a little talk and search… People were dropping grams and grams of hash on the ground… baggies littering the floor… people were smoking it if you had it because you weren’t rolling out with it!”

According to Scott there has been one arrest of a vendor who was caught with a lot of “shake” (leaves and stems) which, according to Dutch law, are to be immediately disposed of.  Other reports indicate that there were checks of individuals to ensure they weren’t violating the 5-gram personal possession limit and checks of vendors for compliance with the 500-gram vendor possession limit.

It should be noted that none of this is precipitated by any change in Dutch law.  These limits on personal and vendor possession, disposal of trimmings, and prohibitions on cannabis concentrates have existed throughout the 24-year history of the Cannabis Cup.

What has changed is a new, more conservative government in the Netherlands that seeks to “send a message” about cannabis use.  They began with the closing of border coffee shops to all but Dutch, Belgian, and German passport holders, claiming that “foreign drug tourism” was leading to a host of social ills.

This Week in Weed: November 6th-12th

November 12th, 2011

This Week in WeedThe latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

This week, lawyers from the NORM Legal Committee bring lawsuits against the federal government and a new study looks at how medical marijuana laws affect youth drug use.

Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv every week 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.

Medical marijuana turns 15 years old – Has it reached its zenith?

November 4th, 2011

Tomorrow, November 5th, 2011, marks the fifteenth anniversary of California’s passage of Prop 215, The Compassionate Use Act. The Act passed with 55.58% of the vote and remains the greatest achievement in marijuana law reform in the “War on Drugs” era.

NORML's Chart of Legalization Polls - data compiled by Russ Belville from various organizations asking a form of the question "Should marijuana be legalized in America?" (click graphic for full-sized version)

The successes of Prop 215 are well documented.  Two years following its passage, the rest of the West Coast and Alaska passed their own medical marijuana initiatives, with close to equal (OR 55%) or greater (WA 59% & AK 58%) support than California voters gave Prop 215.

The next decade saw twelve more states and the District of Columbia passing medical marijuana laws, with seven of those states doing so through the legislature.  Five of the citizen initiatives topped 60% support.  As states passed medical marijuana, some added more conditions for qualification, some legislated dispensary operations, and the most recent have instituted protections for the rights of patients to drive, work, have a home, get an organ transplant, and raise their kids.  In some ways, medical marijuana has improved in fifteen years.

In the 21st Century, medical marijuana support has flatlined and support for legalization of marijuana has almost doubled.

But a closer examination reveals a reform strategy that has stalled out and may even be in decline.  The last election saw Oregon fail to pass a dispensary measure for the second time with about the same support after six years.  South Dakota defeated medical marijuana with only 36% support, a drop of 12 points since they tried in 2006.  Arizona only barely passed medical marijuana with 50.13% support, when they had previously seen 65% in 1996 and 64% in a 1998 referendum (both 1990’s Arizona Acts were invalidated.)

Indeed, the national polls show a stalling on the medical marijuana issue as well.  When Gallup asked about support for medical marijuana and legalized marijuana in 1999, support was 73% and 29%, respectively.  We assume that someone who supports legalization for healthy people probably supports legalization for sick people, too, so that means 44% of those polled only support medical marijuana, not legalization.  But in the latest 2011 poll, legalization support has hit 50% while in the 2010 poll, medical support had dropped to 70%, down 8 points since 2005.  How has the support for legalization doubled (25% to 50%) since Prop 215 while support for making a medical exception to criminal marijuana has flatlined?

Your Bill of Rights does not fully apply in the shaded states

We’ve seen how courts, legislatures, and law enforcement have supported medical exceptions – by trying to make those exceptions as narrow and costly as possible.  No state followed California’s lead in making marijuana available by doctor’s recommendation for any other illness for which marijuana provides relief”, instead crafting strict condition lists and patient registries.  The West Coast standard of a dozen or more home-grown plants became 3-6 plants or no home growing at all.  The precedent of a half-pound or more of usable medicine became 1 or 2 ounces, tracked to the gram and filmed at all times.  Courts all across the Ninth Circuit have ruled that medical marijuana use does not protect patients from job discrimination and patients still experience housing, child custody, and medical procedure discrimination on a daily basis.

Medical marijuana laws have become stricter since California's Prop 215

Oregon legislators proclaimed the medical marijuana program rife with abuse on the sole evidence that 50,000 patients had signed on, so they doubled the mandatory registry fee (up to ten times greater if you’re poor and previously got a discounted fee) to reduce the medical marijuana registry numbers.  Oregon sheriffs are in agreement with the ATF that patients have no Second Amendment rights.  Colorado legislators passed a series of medical marijuana business regulations making it more difficult and expensive to operate a dispensary than a liquor store and impossible to be a personal caregiver who just supplies marijuana to a patient.  Montana outright repealed medical marijuana, saved only by a governor’s veto, only to enact new strict regulations to decimate (literally) the medical marijuana program.  California localities continue to restrict dispensary operations.  Washington’s governor vetoed a dispensary measure.  Arizona’s governor is stonewalling implementation of dispensaries.  Alaska, Maine, Nevada, and Vermont still have fewer than 1,000 protected patients.  New Jersey and District of Columbia leaders are dragging their feet and haven’t implemented their programs yet.

What don't we have on site? Spell check.

The basis of medical marijuana restrictions and discrimination depends on a federal Schedule I designation that defines the use of cannabis by healthy people a criminal act.  These restrictions, dropping poll numbers, and failing medical marijuana initiatives indicate a substantial portion of Americans that believe “compassionate use” is a ruse (I wonder what gave them that idea?).

I believe that there are three basic stands on medical marijuana among the voters not personally invested in the issue:

  1. The people who believe pot smoking is evil and will never support anyone using it for any reason (“prohibitionists”).
  2. The people who believe pot smoking is evil, but letting cancer and AIDS patients suffer is more evil (“medicalizers”).
  3. The people who don’t believe pot smoking is evil and would allow any adult to use it (“legalizers”).

If there are 1.5 million pot smokers protected from arrest by medical marijuana laws, why have marijuana arrests continued to climb?

The prohibitionists will never support medical marijuana and the legalizers have always supported medical marijuana.  So the fate of any medical marijuana proposal rests on whether a coalition of legalizers and medicalizers can form a majority.  Over the past fifteen years, forming that majority has required more restrictive definitions of medical marijuana to assuage the medicalizers who increasingly think evil pot smokers are getting through the loopholes.  Worse, forming that coalition requires legalizers to tacitly agree that healthy pot smoking is evil.

When medical marijuana began in the Nineties, the rallying cry was “If there’s going to be a ‘War on Drugs’, let’s get the sick and dying off the battlefield.”  If that’s the case, why do we continue to see a rise in “casualties” on the battlefield?  Even in medical marijuana states, annual arrests of cannabis consumers continue to rise.  All medical marijuana has done for marijuana convicts is improve their population’s average level of health in sixteen states.

It's time to stand up for healthy marijuana users

Medical marijuana started a revitalization of marijuana activism.  But I believe it has reached a point where any future medical marijuana laws will have to be increasingly restrictive.  And the near future holds DEA rescheduling of plant THC for use by Big Pharma in devices that will provide all the medical relief without the “high”, which will cleave some of the medicalizers away from further reforms.  We’ve gotten to a point in time where half as many people only support “medical legalization” over a decade and support of legalization for all adults now outnumbers opposition for the first time.

This is not to argue that we give up on medical marijuana campaigns.  It is to argue that the campaigns need to be re-framed away from “Oh, no, this isn’t legalization at all!” to “Yes, we’re going to legalize for sick people first”.  Until marijuana is supported as a good thing for all and not an evil thing we allow medical exceptions for, medical marijuana patients will remain in second-class citizenship and healthy marijuana smokers will remain behind bars.

This Week in Weed: Oct. 30th – Nov. 5th

November 4th, 2011

This Week in WeedThe latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

This week, even more elected officials speak out against the federal government’s marijuana crackdown and call for rescheduling. We also look at the results from two of the latest cannabis-related studies.

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.

The annual scaremongering about marijuana-laced Halloween treats begins now

October 28th, 2011

This weekend is Halloween, which means it is time for law enforcement to start scaring the hell out of parents about the wicked evil potheads lurking in their neighborhoods, waiting to dose their kids with pot candies!

Somehow, THC makes people want to drug strangers' kids on Halloween.


(KABC-TV) Halloween time is not all fun and games. Authorities are warning parents about marijuana-laced candy that could end up in their trick-or-treaters’ bags.

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and narcotics officials displayed a variety of candy, soda, chocolate and other snack foods Friday containing concentrated amounts of marijuana that were recently seized from local marijuana dispensaries.

L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Glen Walsh said parents should definitely inspect the candy their children bring home after trick-or-treating.

Walsh said a pungent smell or an odd taste can serve as indicators on whether the food contains marijuana. As for the potency of the marijuana-laced prodcuts, Walsh said the level of THC, the chemical found in marijuana, can vary from zero to over 90 percent.

OK, so watch closely, parents.  You don’t want your kid getting a candy with 0% THC in it.  But if you find any of that 90% THC stuff, you can send it my way for proper disposal.

For some reason, pot-leaf shaped gummis are wrong for kids, but beer bottle cap candies are not.

How stupid is this?  First off, if there is a person out there who would intentionally hand THC-laden treats to children, they are a criminal.  They’d be just as likely to poison Halloween treats or put pins or razor blades in them.. which is an urban legend with no truth to it whatsoever.

Second, if you are a person who uses THC-laden treats for medical or recreational purposes, why are you handing out a $20 “Buddafinger” when you could pass out a 20-cent “Butterfinger”?  You want to be so sure some kid you don’t know and won’t see gets high that you’ll spend 100 times more on Halloween candy?

Sure, there's no psilocybin in these gummi mushrooms. There's something far more dangerous to your kids' health: high-fructose corn syrup.

Third, the stuff the cops displayed was seized from dispensaries where you have to show ID and recommendation and kids can’t get in.  They didn’t display stuff that was seized from the Halloween bags of trick-or-treaters last year, did they?

This weekend kids will be gorging on massive amounts of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.  Some of it is even shaped in the form of “Bottle Caps” and “Puckerooms” that resemble alcohol packaging and psilocybin mushrooms, respectively*.  (Interestingly, both made by Wonka… pure imagination, indeed!)  Parents need to worry about that much more than imaginary potheads who live for the thrill of overspending on Halloween so they can get kids high.

*Yeah, sure, there are normal edible mushrooms and soft drinks in bottles with caps.  But c’mon, how many kids crave mushrooms and how long has it been since they’ve bought a soft drink in a non-plastic bottle?

This Week in Weed: October 23rd – 29th

October 28th, 2011

This Week in WeedThe latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

This week: politicians in California speak out against the federal crackdown and a new study looks at impairment levels in casual and heavy cannabis consumers.

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.

Week in Weed: October 9th-22nd

October 25th, 2011

This Week in WeedThere was a slight delay due to the website relaunch, but the latest episode of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

After a decidedly negative installment last week, we bring you good news! Our stories this week include a new Gallup poll that shows over 50% of Americans support marijuana legalization for the first time ever and one of the largest physicians’ groups in the country calls to legalize and regulate cannabis.

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.