In an interview with Rolling Stone yesterday, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers voiced his support of medical marijuana use to treat pain in the NBA. Currently, the NBA has strict penalties for drug use, which typically lead to suspensions and fines. It was only in 2011 that the NBA stopped testing for marijuana use in the off-season, but now that marijuana is in the limelight, its place in the NBA, as a form of medical treatment for pain, has come into question.
Griffin was asked:
The NFL might let players use medical marijuana to treat pain. If you had a vote, would the NBA do the same?
It doesn’t really affect me, but so many guys would probably benefit from it and not take as many painkillers, which have worse long-term effects. So I would vote yes. I just think it makes sense.
Griffin joins the chorus of other outspoken athletes like Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks, who said earlier this year, “I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it.”
Like any professional sport, the need for painkillers is a part of the game, and, as Griffin pointed out, the harmful long-term effects of some painkillers makes medical marijuana use an alluring alternative. Even the World Anti-Doping Agency and the UFC have begun by changing their thresholds of permissible amounts of marijuana.
Yesterday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law both the medical marijuana bill and the decriminalization bill, making Maryland the 21st state with an effective medical marijuana program, and the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The medical marijuana bill expands a program that, while established last year, was unable to get off the ground. The previous law relied on the participation of teaching hospitals, which understandably did not want to be involved with a substance that is still federally illegal. The law signed today will allow registered cultivators to grow medical marijuana and up to 15 licensed cultivators to provide the medicine to patients and dispensaries. This new law will finally provide real access to seriously ill Marylanders.
The decriminalization law removes the criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, and replaces them with a civil fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program. The measurewill officially go into effect on October 1.
This is incredible progress, but our work is not done yet. A September 2013 poll found that 53% of Marylanders support legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and up, and taxing and regulating it like alcohol.
Florida Democrats are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would put medical marijuana on the state’s ballot this November. If the initiative passes, Florida would become the first southern state to legalize some form of marijuana usage. Recent Battleground polls have shown widespread support, especially among young voters.
In a previous MPP blog post, we discussed how about 70% of voters (nationwide) would be more likely to vote this fall if marijuana was on the ballot, and how midterm elections traditionally have lower voter turnout, especially with young voters and liberals. In the 2012 elections, Washington and Colorado both saw significant spikes in voter turnout, possibly due to marijuana being on the ballot. If Florida follows suit, it will be a testament to marijuana’s spillover effect.
Florida Democrats are hoping it “could have a marginal impact,” which doesn’t sound like much, but “a marginal impact in Florida could be the difference between winning and losing,” according to Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant who managed Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008.
A recent Republican victory in a special House election last month typified the Democrats’ turnout problem. The St. Petersburg-area district has 2.4 percent more registered Republicans than Democrats, but GOP voters outnumbered Democrats by eight percentage points, according to election results.
Today, Oklahomans for Health submitted an application for petition with Oklahoma Secretary of State, Chris Benge, which proposes to add a question to the November ballot asking whether or not Oklahomans should legalize medical marijuana for serious conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
The initiative would call for the reclassification of marijuana as an herbal drug, which would be regulated by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. It would also create licensing and regulatory rules for cultivation and distribution through dispensaries. Patients wanting to use medical marijuana would need to pay a $125 application fee for a medical marijuana card and have an Oklahoma board-certified physician provide a recommendation.
The proposed initiative comes at a time when support for medical marijuana is growing in the state with a recent poll showing 71% approval rate for decriminalizing medical marijuana. A rally was held at the State Capital in February, where parents of epileptic children came to talk to their representatives. Even Josh Stanley of Strains of Hope, featured on WEEDS by Sanjay Gupta, showed up to support Oklahomans in their plight.
Although Oklahoma has some of the harshest marijuana laws, Chip Paul, Chairman of Oklahomans for Health, believes the “language in this initiative…should be a very easy thing for the state of Oklahoma to manage.”
The 18-year-old question as to whether or not legalizing medical marijuana causes an increase in crime seems to be answered in a recent study by a team of researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas this week. The results did not indicate a “crime exacerbating effect” of medical marijuana on any of the Part I offenses, which (according to the FBI) include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft.
Alternatively, states with medical marijuana laws showed a reduction in homicide and assault rates. This is congruent to other studies by The National Academy of Sciences that found THC — the active ingredient in pot — actually causes a decrease in “aggressive and violent behavior” in chronic marijuana users.
“The findings on the relationship between violence and marijuana use are mixed and much of the evidence points toward reductions in violent behavior for those who smoke marijuana,” Robert Morris, the study’s lead author, said in a recent interview with the Huffington Post. “In fact, researchers have suggested that any increase in criminality resulting from marijuana use may be explained by its illegality, rather than from the substance itself.”
These findings run counter to arguments that suggest making marijuana legal for medical purposes poses a danger to public health, in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.