To make it easier to study and develop marijuana-based treatments, the group recommends removing marijuana from the government’s most restrictive drug category, which includes heroin, LSD and other narcotics with no accepted medical use, and switching it to the category which includes methadone and oxycodone.
The recommended switch “could help make a big difference in promoting more research,” said Dr. Seth Ammerman, the policy’s lead author and a professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Stanford University.
Citing the lifelong negative effects of a criminal record on adolescents, the AAP strongly supported reducing penalties for marijuana possession and use to misdemeanors. This policy statement, The Impact of Marijuana Policies on Youth: Clinical, Research and Legal Update is a recent revision to its previous 2004 report about the drug.
“The illegality of marijuana has resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of adolescents, with overrepresentation of minority youth,” wrote Seth D. Ammerman, MD, FAAP, of the 2014-2015 AAP Committee on Substance Abuse, and colleagues. Effects of marijuana-related felony charges include “ineligibility for college loans, housing, financial aid, and certain kinds of jobs,” they said. The report also recommended pediatricians get involved and “advocate for laws that prevent harsh criminal penalties” for possession or use of marijuana.
The authors state in an accompanying technical report that studies have not shown decriminalization results in an overall increase in marijuana use by adolescents, which is a chief concern of those opposed to decriminalizing the drug. In fact, states with decriminalization laws experience similar rates of marijuana use as those with tougher penalties. However, the authors cite “significant savings in criminal justice cost and resources” in states with decriminalization laws.
The inhalation of one marijuana cigarette per day over a 20-year period is not associated with adverse changes in lung health, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society.
Investigators at Emory University in Atlanta assessed marijuana smoke exposure and lung health in a large representative sample of US adults age 18 to 59. Researchers reported that cannabis exposure was not associated with FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) decline or deleterious change in spirometric values of small airways disease.
Authors further reported that marijuana smoke exposure may even be associated with some protective lung effects among long-term smokers of tobacco. Investigators acknowledged, “[T]he pattern of marijuana’s effects seems to be distinctly different when compared to that of tobacco use.”
Earlier today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that local and state law enforcement would no longer be able to use federal asset forfeiture laws to seize and keep property without evidence of a crime.
Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.
Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.
The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.
While police can continue to make seizures under their own state laws, the federal program was easy to use and required most of the proceeds from the seizures to go to local and state police departments. Many states require seized proceeds to go into the general fund.
A Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the attorney general’s motivation, said Holder “also believes that the new policy will eliminate any possibility that the adoption process might unintentionally incentivize unnecessary stops and seizures.”
The old policy allowed law enforcement to take and keep people’s cash and property on the pretense of things like the scent of marijuana, even if none is found in their possession. Since the proceeds go directly to local police budgets, some argue that this was one of the primary reasons for law enforcement’s continued opposition to marijuana policy reform.
Back in December, the attorneys general for Nebraska and Oklahoma filed suit in federal court against the state of Colorado, claiming that the law making marijuana legal for adults there was causing problems for law enforcement in their states.
Now, a group of prominent Oklahoma Republicans is urging their attorney general to drop the suit, according to the Washington Post:
“[W]e share your concerns about the growing amounts of marijuana apparently coming into our state from Colorado,” the letter reads. “However, we believe this lawsuit against Colorado is the wrong way to deal with the issue, for a number of reasons.”
In the suit, Pruitt said Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana injured the ability of Oklahoma and other bordering states to enforce their marijuana laws and violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution giving federal law precedence over state ones.
But the group of Republicans think if the lawsuit was successful at the Supreme Court, it could “undermine all of those efforts to protect our own state’s right to govern itself.”
“We think the best move at this point would be to quietly drop the action against Colorado, and if necessary, defend the state’s right to set its own policies, as we would hope other states would defend our right to govern ourselves within constitutional confines,” the letter reads. “We also do not feel that attempting to undermine the sovereignty of a neighboring state using the federal courts, even if inadvertently, is a wise use of Oklahoma’s limited state resources.”
The letter was signed by Reps. Mike Ritze, Lewis Moore, John Bennett Mike Christian, Dan Fisher, and Sens. Ralph Shortey and Nathan Dahm.
With the Vermont General Assembly set to convene this week, a group of citizens, organizations, and businesses from around the state is officially launching a coalition to support legislation that would end marijuana prohibition in Vermont and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuanaheld a news conference Tuesday, a day before the start of a legislative session in which lawmakers are expected to consider whether Vermont should follow the lead of Colorado and Washington state in legalizing the drug. Supporters say that efforts to stamp out its use by making it illegal have failed and that the state could raise revenues by taxing the drug.
“Regulating marijuana will take sales out of the underground market and allow for it to be controlled like other products that are legal for adults,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, a coalition member. “Along with improving public safety, it will generate significant new tax revenue and create good jobs for our communities.”
Coalition member Joseph McSherry, a neurophysiologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, said that many young people report that it’s easier to acquire marijuana than alcohol. Changing marijuana from an illegal to a legal market could reduce its availability to teenagers, he argued.
“If you want to make marijuana harder to get for kids, especially the risk takers and sensation seekers, you need to legalize it and regulate it,” McSherry said. “The people who deal in illegal drugs aren’t selective” about their customers.