Archive for the ‘SOCIETY’ category

Maryland: Reduced Marijuana Possession Penalties Take Effect

September 30th, 2014

A new Maryland law depenalizing marijuana possession offenses takes effect this Wednesday.

Senate Bill 364, signed into law this past April, amends statewide penalties for marijuana possession offenses involving ten grams or less from a criminal misdemeanor (presently punishable by arrest, up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a criminal record) to a non-arrestable, non-criminal, fine-only offense ($100 fine for first-time offenders, $250 for second-time offenders).

The new law does not reclassify penalties involving the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, which remains a criminal offense.

A 2013 ACLU analysis of state-by-state marijuana arrests data reported that Maryland has the fourth highest rate of marijuana possession arrests in the nation.

Nearly 20 additional states, as well as the District of Columbia, now classify minor marijuana possession as a non-arrestable offense.

Poll: Younger Voters Say Marijuana Is Less Destructive Than Alcohol

September 19th, 2014

Younger voters overwhelmingly agree that marijuana is less damaging than alcohol, according to the findings of a Rare.us/Gravis Marketing poll released yesterday.

Among those voters age 18 to 40, 47 percent ranked alcohol as the most harmful substance to society, well ahead of both tobacco (27 percent) and cannabis (13 percent). (Thirteen percent of respondents were undecided.) Respondents among all age and ethnic groups were consistent in ranking marijuana as the least harmful of the three substances, as were self-identified Democrats and Independents. (Republicans rated tobacco to be the most harmful of the three products.)

“[These] numbers suggest younger Americans are upending societal conventions, which have long seen alcohol as an acceptable drug while condemning marijuana,” stated Rare.us in an accompanying press release.

The results are somewhat similar to those of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in March which reported that most Americans believe tobacco to be most harmful to health (49 percent), followed by alcohol (24 percent), sugar (15 percent), and marijuana (8 percent).

Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a schedule I controlled substance, meaning that its alleged harms are equal to those of heroin. Both tobacco and alcohol are unscheduled under federal law.

According to a study published in 2004 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the leading causes of death in the United States ware tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1 percent of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (365,000 deaths; 15.2 percent), and alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5 percent).

Survey: 58 Percent Of Americans Say Treat Cannabis Like Alcohol

September 3rd, 2014

Nearly 60 percent of Americans support regulating cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, according to an analysis of over 450,000 online responses collected by the online polling data company CivicScience over a nearly two-year period.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that they would support “a law in [their] state that would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana like alcohol?” Thirty-five percent of respondents said that they would oppose such a change in law.

An analysis of responses provided within the past three months found even stronger support for legalization, with 61 percent of those polled endorsing marijuana law reform.

Democrats, men, and those respondents between the ages of 25 to 34 were most likely to support regulating cannabis.

Though the CivicScience survey is not a scientific poll, its findings are similar to those previously reported by Gallup in 2013. In that poll, 58 percent of respondents similarly backed legalizing marijuana. More recently, in April, national polling data published by the Pew Research Center reported that 54 percent of Americans support legalizing the plant.

Poll: Sixty-Four Percent Of Florida Voters Back Constitutional Amendment To Legalize Medical Marijuana

September 2nd, 2014

More than 60 percent of Florida voters say that they support Amendment 2, a proposed constitutional amendment to permit cannabis therapy to qualified patients, according to a recently released Gravis Marketing poll.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said that they would vote in favor of the amendment, up from 50 percent in late June. Twenty-six percent of respondents said that they opposed the measure.

Because Amendment 2 seeks to amend the state constitution, 60 percent of voters must decide in favor of it before it can be enacted.

Although previous statewide polls have reported greater support among Floridians in regard to the concept of legalizing medical marijuana, the Gravis survey specifically polled voters on whether or not they endorse Amendment 2.

Among those polled, 90 percent said that they were either “very likely” or “likely” to vote in the 2014 general election.

The Gravis Marketing poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

High Times’ Cannabis Consumer Choice Polling

August 27th, 2014

majority_supportOur friends at High Times (and former NORML director Dr. Jon Gettman) are running an online poll asking for consumers’ choice regarding the preferred marijuana distribution that emerges post-prohibition.

Legal Marijuana: Which Market Do You Prefer?
As we approach the new inevitability of legalized cannabis, three models have been proposed for a national marijuana market.
By Jon Gettman

In the past, the goal of marijuana legalization was simple: to bring about the end of federal prohibition and allow adults to use the plant without threat of prosecution and imprisonment. But now that legalization is getting serious attention, it’s time to examine how a legal marijuana market should operate in the United States.

Below are descriptions of the three kinds of legal markets that have emerged from various discussions on the subject. We would like to know which one you prefer.

First, though, let’s touch on a few characteristics that all of these proposals share. In each one, the market has a minimum age for legal use, likely the same as the current age limits for alcohol and tobacco. In each of these legal markets, there will be penalties for driving while intoxicated, just as with alcohol use. You can also assume that there will be guaranteed legal access to marijuana for medical use by anyone, regardless of age, with a physician’s authorization. The last characteristic shared by all three mar- kets is that there will be no criminal penalties for the adult possession and use of marijuana.

Proposal #1:
Government-Run Monopoly
Under this approach, there would be no commercial marijuana market allowed. Marijuana would be grown and processed for sale under government contracts, supervised and/or managed by a large, government-chartered nonprofit organization. Marijuana would be sold in state-run retail outlets (similar to the state-run stores that have a monopoly on liquor sales in places like Mississippi, Montana and Vermont, among others), where the sales personnel will be trained to provide accurate information about cannabis and its effects. Products like edibles and marijuana-infused liquids with fruity flavors would be banned out of a concern that they can encourage minors to try the drug. There would be no advertising or marketing allowed, and no corporate or business prof- its. Instead, the revenue earned from sales would pay for production costs and the operation of the state control organization; the rest of the profits would go to government-run treatment, prevention, education and enforcement programs. Regulations would be enforced by criminal sanctions and traditional law enforcement (local, state and federal police). No personal marijuana cultivation would be allowed. The price of marijuana would remain at or near current levels in order to discourage underage use.

Proposal #2:
Limited Commercial Market
Under this approach, the cultivation, processing and retail sale of marijuana would be conducted by private companies operating under a limited number of licenses issued by the federal government. Advertising and marketing would be allowed, but they would be regulated similar to the provisions governing alcohol and tobacco promotion. Taxation would be used to keep prices at or near current levels in order to discourage underage use. Corporate profits would be allowed, and tax revenues would be used to fund treatment, prevention, education and enforcement programs. Regulations would be enforced by criminal sanctions and traditional law enforcement (local, state and federal police). No personal marijuana cultivation would be allowed.

Proposal #3:
Regulated Free Market
Under this approach, entrepreneurs would have open access to any part of the marijuana market. Cultivation, processing and retail operations could be legally undertaken by anyone willing to bear the risks of investment and competition. Advertising and marketing would be allowed, but they would be regulated similar to the provisions governing alcohol and tobacco promotion. Prices would be determined by supply and demand, with taxation set at modest levels similar to current taxes on alcohol, tobacco and gambling. (These vary widely from state to state, but assume that under this model, the price of marijuana would be substantially lower than it is in the current market.)

Also, home cultivation would be allowed. Licenses may be required for any sort of cultivation, but these would be for registration purposes only and subject to nominal fees based on the number of plants involved. Individuals and corporations would be allowed to make whatever profits they can through competition. Tax revenues would fund treatment, prevention, education and enforcement programs. Competition and market forces would structure the market rather than licenses or government edicts, and regulatory agencies rather than law enforcement would supervise market activity.

A Different Approach
There are two key issues when it comes to deciding among these proposals. First, should the price of marijuana be kept high through government intervention in order to discourage underage use as well as abuse? Second, does commercialization translate into corporate money being spent to convince teenagers to use marijuana? Many of the proposals for how a legal market should operate are based on assumptions about these two issues, which leads to recommendations that the government must, one way or another, direct and control the marijuana market.

Obviously, the first two proposals outlined above reflect those very concerns. The third takes a different approach, in which marijuana is treated like similar psychoactive commodities, and the public relies on education, prevention and age limits to discourage underage use as well as abuse.

We want to know what type of legal marijuana market you prefer. Please take part in our poll on the HIGH TIMES website.

Study: Marijuana Use Inversely Associated With Intimate Partner Violence

August 26th, 2014

Marijuana use by newly married couples is predictive of less frequent incidences of intimate partner violence perpetration, according to longitudinal data published online ahead of print in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Investigators at Yale University, Rutgers, and the University of Buffalo assessed over 600 couples to determine whether husbands’ and wives’ cannabis use was predictive of domestic abuse at any time during the first nine years of marriage. Researchers reported: “In this community sample of newly married couples, more frequent marijuana use generally predicted less frequent IPV perpetration, for both men and women, over the first 9 years of marriage. Moderation analyses provided evidence that couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently were at the lowest risk for IPV perpetration, regardless of the perpetrator’s gender.”

Stated the study’s lead author in a press release: “Although this study supports the perspective that marijuana does not increase, and may decrease, aggressive conflict, we would like to see research replicating these findings, and research examining day-to-day marijuana and alcohol use and the likelihood to IPV on the same day before drawing stronger conclusions.”

According to a previous study, published in January in the journal Addictive Behaviors, alcohol consumption — but not cannabis use — is typically associated with increased odds of intimate partner violence. Authors reported: “On any alcohol use days, heavy alcohol use days (five or more standard drinks), and as the number of drinks increased on a given day, the odds of physical and sexual aggression perpetration increased. The odds of psychological aggression increased on heavy alcohol use days only.” By contrast, researchers concluded that “marijuana use days did not increase the odds of any type of aggression.”

The abstract of the study, “Couples’ marijuana use is inversely related to their intimate partner violence over the first 9 years of marriage,” is online here.

JAMA: Medical Cannabis States Possess Lower Rates Of Opiate-Induced Fatalities

August 25th, 2014

The enactment of medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to data published online today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

A team of investigators from the University of Pennsylvania, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore conducted a time-series analysis of medical cannabis laws and state-level death certificate data in the United States from 1999 to 2010 — a period during which 13 states instituted laws allowing for cannabis therapy.

Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” Specifically, overdose deaths from opioids decreased by an average of 20 percent one year after the law’s implementation, 25 percent by two years, and up to 33 percent by years five and six.

They concluded, “In an analysis of death certificate data from 1999 to 2010, we found that states with medical cannabis laws had lower mean opioid analgesic overdose mortality rates compared with states without such laws. This finding persisted when excluding intentional overdose deaths (ie, suicide), suggesting that medical cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality among individuals using opioid analgesics for medical indications. Similarly, the association between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality rates persisted when including all deaths related to heroin, even if no opioid analgesic was present, indicating that lower rates of opioid analgesic overdose mortality were not offset by higher rates of heroin overdose mortality. Although the exact mechanism is unclear, our results suggest a link between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality.”

In a written statement to Reuters Health, lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber said: “Most of the discussion on medical marijuana has been about its effect on individuals in terms of reducing pain or other symptoms. The unique contribution of our study is the finding that medical marijuana laws and policies may have a broader impact on public health.”

Added co-author Colleen L. Barry in USA Today: “[The study's findings] suggest the potential for many lives to be saved. … We can speculate … that people are completely switching or perhaps supplementing, which allows them to lower the dosage of their prescription opioid.”

Nationwide, overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have increased dramatically over the past decade. While fewer than 4,100 opiate-induced fatalities were reported for the year 1999, by 2010 this figure rose to over 16,600 according to an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control.

An abstract of the JAMA study, “Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010,” appears online here.

History Of Marijuana…In Just 4:20!

August 25th, 2014

Think you know a lot about cannabis and it’s history? Could you relate the ‘history of hemp’, thousands of years worth of human experience, in just four minutes and twenty seconds?

Comedian and pot activist extraordinaire Steve Berke’s 4 Twenty Today production company’s first video ‘History of Marijuana in Four Minutes and Twenty Seconds’ achieves such in high fashion and invoking laughter all the way.

Two of Steve’s previous pro-cannabis law reform pot song parodies are found here, the Macklemore parody has been seen by almost 14 million viewers:

Eminem

Macklemore

The next production of 4 Twenty Today is set for release on September 8th (an absolutely hysterical parody of a classic American movie musical!), which is meant to correspond as being supportive for this fall’s big election in Florida on Amendment Two (which will legalize medical access for qualifying patients if 60% of the voters approve the initiative).

It’s a Carnival, but It’s Our Carnival: The 2014 Seattle Hempfest

August 25th, 2014

hempfestI just returned a few days ago from the annual Seattle Hempfest, the 24th version of this extravaganza, and I thought I might share some of my reflections on this extraordinary and unique event.

First and foremost, Hempfest is truly an enormous undertaking that requires several days of long hours to assemble the stages and hundreds of individual exhibitor and vendor booths; three days of long hours to manage, including a security team to guard the park overnight and provisions to feed the hundreds of volunteers each day; and then several days of equally long hours to disassemble everything, clean the grounds and replace any damaged turf.

And keep in mind this is an all-volunteer event sponsored by Seattle Events, a not-for-profit corporation, and is also free to the public. The event costs the Hempfest organization nearly $900,000 to put on, and that money is raised largely from vendors, exhibitors and sponsors. The volunteer effort is headed by Hempfest co-founder and Executive Director Vivian McPeak. McPeak leads a core group of volunteers who meet year around to plan for the next Hempfest, and who run a downtown store called Hempfest Central selling all sorts of hemp-based products.

There are three primary stages (the Share Parker Memorial Main Stage; the Peter McWilliams Memorial Stage; and the Ralph Seeley Memorial Stage, all named for beloved legalization activists who are no longer with us) spread along a narrow piece of parkland called the Myrtle Edwards Park. The park extends more than a mile along the downtown Seattle waterfront, from which an array of bands perform each day, with several speakers scheduled for brief 5-minute speeches between music sets (while the next band is setting-up). Some of the prominent speakers this year included Congressman Dana Rohrabacher from CA, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and public television travel guru and author (and NORML board member) Rick Steves.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON MARIJUANA.COM

Poll: Majority Of Pennsylvanians Support Reforming State’s Marijuana Laws

August 18th, 2014

Nearly seven out of ten Pennsylvania voters believe that marijuana should be legal for either medicinal or recreational use, according to the results of a statewide survey released by Keystone Analytics.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents said that cannabis should be made legal under state law, with 47 percent of voters endorsing its medicinal use and another 22 percent agreeing with the statement, “It should be legal for any adult to use for any reason.”

Twenty-seven percent of respondents believed that cannabis “is a harmful substance that should remain illegal to buy and use in Pennsylvania.”

The poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent.

House and Senate legislation (HB 1181/SB 1182) seeking to authorize cannabis therapy to qualified patients remains pending in the state. A Senate floor vote on the measure is expected when lawmakers return from their summer recess.

In coming months, the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association will be holding a series of educational seminars on the subject of cannabis and its potential therapeutic application. The Association is on record in support of “the establishment of efficient drug (cannabis) delivery, growing and dispensing systems as contained within SB 1182.”