Prohibition

FBI Study Shows Marijuana Arrests Do Not Deter Use

October 30th, 2012 9 Comments Morgan Fox

Marijuana arrests continued at disturbing levels in 2011, the vast majority of which were for simple possession. According to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, 757,969 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana, more than 87% of which were for possession. This is a slight decrease from 2010.  Marijuana arrests accounted for slightly less than half of all drug arrests last year.

In 2011, one American was arrested for marijuana possession every 42 seconds.

Despite intensive law enforcement resources being used to arrest and punish marijuana users, rates of marijuana use continue to rise. The “National Survey on Drug Use and Health” — commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and released in late September — showed that marijuana use had slightly increased nationally between 2010 and 2011. According to the report, more than 29.7 million people aged 12 and older used marijuana at least once in the past year.

“It’s obvious that decades of law enforcement efforts have failed to reduce the availability or use of marijuana.  Arresting one American for marijuana possession every 42 seconds is an exercise in futility, especially when one considers that marijuana is safer than alcohol,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. “A business that continues to employ bad policies will eventually fail, but taxpayers are being forced to continually bail out the fiscally irresponsible and morally bankrupt institution of marijuana prohibition. A majority of Americans are tired of this nightmare.  It’s time for politicians to regulate marijuana like alcohol.”

A Rasmussen poll in May showed that 56% of voters supported removing criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and instead taxing and regulating the substance in a manner similar to alcohol. In November, voters in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon will have the opportunity to end marijuana prohibition in their states.

While the graph below may look like an improvement, it is important to remember several things:
1) Marijuana arrests account for 50% of all drug arrests.
2) 86% of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession.
3) This means that 43% of all drug arrests are for marijuana possession.
4) Arresting 655,416 people in one year for possession of a plant that is demonstrably safer than legal alcohol is indefensible.
We must also remember that this number can easily start to climb again if we do not continue to work for reform. Please do your part to help cut marijuana arrests dramatically next year and donate whatever you can to support Amendment 64 in Colorado. There is only one week left until the election, and every little bit helps convince voters who are still undecided. Together, we can help Colorado become the first place in the world to make marijuana legal!

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Medical Marijuana

World Series Highlights Importance of Medical Marijuana Reciprocity

October 24th, 2012 8 Comments Kate Zawidzki

When the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers face off in game one of the World Series tonight, it will be the first time two teams from different medical marijuana states meet in the Fall Classic (The Giants and Angels played an intrastate series in ’02). There may be a smattering of Tigers fans in attendance, but unless they’re transplants living in California, they probably won’t be medical marijuana patients. When the series shifts to Detroit for game three, however, patients in California will be able to follow their team to Detroit with their medicine. Why the difference? Reciprocity.

Reciprocity is what allows patients to travel from one medical marijuana state to another. States that have it recognize the legitimacy of those out-of-state patients’ ID cards, at least for a short period of time and under some limited exceptions. For example, some states only provide protections for visiting patients who would qualify under their own laws, so a patient from California who uses marijuana to treat insomnia would not be able to use marijuana in Arizona, where insomnia is not a qualifying condition.

Here’s what Michigan’s law says:

“Visiting qualifying patient” means a patient who is not a resident of this state or who has been a resident of this state for less than 30 days.

A registry identification card, or its equivalent, that is issued under the laws of another state … that allows the medical use of marijuana by a visiting qualifying patient … shall have the same force and effect as a registry identification card issued by the department.

There are 17 states that allow patients with doctors’ recommendations to use medical marijuana, but only five—Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Montana, and Rhode Island—include reciprocity. All of those states’ laws were drafted by MPP.

So how does a medical marijuana patient travel, you might ask? It would be very risky to drive from, say, California to Michigan, since that would involve passing through plenty of states that don’t recognize any form of medical marijuana. And while you might think the T.S.A. won’t take too kindly to flying with medical marijuana, they do have an unofficial policy of deferring to state and local authorities, and there are a few examples of patients boarding planes after their medication turned up at the security checkpoint. Obviously we don’t recommend Giants fans doing so without checking with the T.S.A. in Detroit first.

So there you have it. No word on whether two-time Cy Young winner, World Series champion, and noted marijuana user Tim Lincecum is aware of the policy.

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Medical Marijuana

Denver Medical Marijuana Industry to be Featured on “60 Minutes”

October 19th, 2012 8 Comments Morgan Fox

Denver’s flourishing and tightly regulated medical marijuana industry will be the subject of a “60 Minutes” report this Sunday.

With Colorado voting on whether to regulate and tax the rest of the state’s marijuana market on Nov. 6, this should be an interesting episode.

Viewers can see the segment on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7:00 p.m. PT on their local CBS affiliate. Those of you in the Denver area can see it at 6:00 p.m. MT on Channel 4.

UPDATE: The full segment can be viewed here.

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Prohibition

Brutality of NYPD “Stop and Frisk” Policy Revealed

October 19th, 2012 16 Comments Kate Zawidzki

A new audio recording reveals a disturbing example of current NYPD practices, specifically the “stop and frisk” policy of stopping and searching pedestrians without warrants or probable cause. A 17-year-old named Alvin, who made the recording, explains in the video below that he had been repeatedly stopped and searched by the police for no apparent reason and so had decided to record the next incident. Upon being asked why they are stopping him, the officers on the recording explain that his offense is “looking back at us like that” and “being a fucking mutt.” They then threaten to slap him in the face and break his arm.

The full audio recording is available at The Nation.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Research

How Will Mainstream Media Spin This Government Study?

October 19th, 2012 21 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The Rorschach Inkblot test asks people to make up stories about ambiguous pictures. Rorschach’s hope was that the tales people told about each blot would reveal something about personal predilections and an approach to the world. Well, our friends at the National Institute on Drug Abuse have just published a nice inkblot test for the media. The experiment, “Tolerance to Effects of High-Dose Oral D9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Plasma Cannabinoid Concentrations in Male Daily Cannabis Smokers,” is about (you guessed it!) developing tolerance to THC. We’ll see how media handle the implications of the results. It’s either a reassuring result for those concerned about safety on the roads or a chance for misguided alarms about purported dependence.

The experimenters drafted 13 guys who were experienced cannabis smokers to stay in the lab for several days. Each day, they had to swallow more and more Marinol. Marinol is pure THC in a pill, but without the cannabinoids and various compounds found in whole plant cannabis that mitigate the psychotropic effects of THC and perform other beneficial health functions. Many people have reported that Marinol left them far more impaired than plant cannabis, undoubtedly for this very reason. In fact, one guy dropped out “for personal reasons” and another “due to psychological reactions to THC.” These guys had smoked marijuana at least 1,000 times, so I’m guessing that they would have had a handle on “psychological reactions to THC” if they’d been allowed to (heaven forbid!) use their own stash. But the dosage was nothing to sneeze at — 120 mg of THC per day — or the equivalent amount of THC as three joints of decent medical cannabis in the U.S.

Why use Marinol instead of vaporized cannabis? As the authors proudly assert, “Many patients take oral cannabinoids daily for weeks or months with persisting beneficial clinical effects.” Yes. It is now okay for researchers at NIDA to say that oral cannabinoids are good. They mean Marinol, of course, but explaining why this wouldn’t apply to edibles is going to take quite the pretzel twist of logic. Stay tuned.

So what happened? As the title suggests, subjective reactions dropped dramatically in a few days. The guys were only about half as “high” by day five as they were on the first day of taking Marinol. But the amount of THC in their blood remained the same. That’s the definition of tolerance — a decreased effect with the same dosage. So the same guy with the same amount of THC in his blood felt fewer effects on one day than he did a couple days before.

What does this mean? Ah! That’s the real Rorschach Inkblot test for the media. What it really means is that tolerance to the subjective effects of THC is a lot like the tolerance we see for prescription drugs like Vicodin and other over-the-counter drugs like Benadryl. Folks who feel high at first don’t feel it after a few doses. It’s not much of a leap to assume that these effects correlate with motor skills. All the worry about medical users screwing up at work is probably misplaced; they’ll be tolerant after a few doses. And per se driving laws that suggest that a certain amount of THC in the blood means someone is definitely impaired are on thin ice. Different people with different levels of tolerance will react differently to the same dosage.

But Vicodin and Benadryl are not the center of fierce and emotional debates about driving. Antihistamines and prescription opiates alter subjective states. They can impair performance on the road, too, but their subjective effects decrease after a few doses. Notice that you don’t see widespread debate about how much of each of these drugs you’re allowed to have in your blood when you sit behind the steering wheel. Why should cannabis be any different?

As an aside, roadside sobriety tests that require actually doing something (standing on one foot, walking a straight line) are a good indicator of how well people can drive. They certainly beat the number of nanograms of metabolites of cannabis, Vicodin, or Benadryl per unit of blood. They’re also sensitive to conditions that have nothing to do with drugs, like fatigue or illness. But if the media mention any of these points, color me surprised.

What will the media do instead? I’m guessing here, and I hope I’m wrong. But I bet they’ll scream, “Tolerance! Oh no! That means THC leads to dependence.” This little logical leap is quite elegant. Alarmists might use these data to say that THC must be likely to cause dependence. Of course, one symptom does not make a dependence diagnosis. And we might actually have to think a minute about why tolerance is a symptom of dependence in the first place. With toxic drugs like alcohol and tobacco, the more you ingest, the more you hurt yourself. So tolerance to these drugs means people take more to get the same subjective effect, leading them to more and more damage. For alcohol and tobacco, this means greater risks of cancer, for example. But THC’s toxicity has been hard to find without elaborate equipment looking intensely at dinky portions of the brain after multiple years of use. And some of these studies end in big surprises. For example, two years of exposure has made rodents more likely to stay alive and less likely to get tumors, which is the exact opposite of toxicity.

So, we’ve discovered that the subjective effects of THC decrease after repeated doses. The finding’s unambiguous, but the stories people will tell about it could be as different as responses to an ink blot. Unfortunately, this ambiguity could end up having serious implications as states continue to experiment with alternatives to marijuana prohibition.

 

Dr. Mitch Earleywine is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where he teaches drugs and human behavior, substance abuse treatment and clinical research methods. He is the author of more than 100 publications on drug use and abuse, including “Understanding Marijuana” and “The Parents’ Guide to Marijuana.” He is the only person to publish with both Oxford University and High Times.

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Prohibition

Want to Help Make Marijuana Legal this November? It’s Your Call …

October 19th, 2012 7 Comments Morgan Fox

We are now 18 days away from the elections, and three states are poised to lead the way in ending marijuana prohibition! Passage of any of these initiatives will set the tone for marijuana reform nationwide, so it’s important to everyone who cares about this issue, no matter what state you live in.

As more and more people learn about the failure of marijuana prohibition and are presented with the facts, support for changing our laws grows. We can’t change the conversation, however, until we start it. Now, you have the opportunity to start a conversation about marijuana reform with the people in a position to make that reform reality: registered voters.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has set up a system that makes it easy for anyone to call registered voters in Colorado and ask them to vote “YES” on Amendment 64.

Just click here and you can help change history:

 

You can make the difference in this election. It’s your call.

 

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Medical Marijuana

“Code of the West” illustrates need for sensible regulation

October 17th, 2012 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki

Of the 17 states that have passed medical marijuana laws, only one — Montana — has experienced a serious legislative effort to repeal the law.

How could this have happened, and what can advocates in other states learn from Montana’s experiences?

Fortunately for those of us who work to pass — and improve — medical marijuana laws, an excellent new documentary film provides a unique and insightful view of Montana’s 2011 repeal effort. Code of the West, directed and produced by Rebecca Richman Cohen, recently made its debut and is now being screened at film festivals and other venues across the United States.

I had the honor of presenting Code of the West at its New Hampshire debut Friday evening at the New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth. As an MPP legislative analyst monitoring the ongoing action in Montana, I was familiar with the events depicted, but seeing these events unfold on the big screen — against the stunning backdrop of Montana’s rugged mountains — provides a more complete experience than any number of newspaper articles could possibly supply.

In a nutshell, the repeal advocates depicted in Code of the West are appalled by the proliferation of unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries in Montana and by the ease with which non-patients appear to be qualifying for medical marijuana cards. Instead of seeking regulations to curb these perceived abuses, they lead an organized effort to repeal the law.

Despite being a very well-made film, a few scenes in Code of the West are difficult to watch:

  • One repeal-supporting legislator foolishly compares medical marijuana to the deadly poison arsenic.
  • A grandmother suffering from advanced cancer loses access to medical marijuana and is left with no choice but to manage her pain with morphine.
  • A repeal supporter admits that some seriously ill patients benefit from medical marijuana but continues pushing — not for regulation and restrictions to prevent abuse, but for a full repeal.

The film’s main subjects are medical marijuana advocates led by Tom Daubert — a well-respected political professional whose life is turned upside-down by an unjust federal prosecution — and repeal advocates led by a group of concerned parents and Montana House Speaker Mike Milburn.

Although the attempt at full repeal does not succeed, the film does not have a happy ending for patients and their advocates, as legislators resist common sense efforts to regulate the medical marijuana industry. Instead, they opt to pass SB 423, an ultra-restrictive “repeal in disguise” that will dramatically limit patients’ access.

A year after the film’s action concludes, Montana’s struggle to achieve a sane medical marijuana policy continues, and many conflicts described in the film remain unresolved.

Despite his efforts to pass regulations and improve Montana’s medical marijuana law, federal prosecutors brought felony charges against Daubert for his involvement with a medical marijuana dispensary, giving him little choice but to plead guilty. In September, Judge Dana Christenson ignored prosecutors’ request for a lengthy prison term and instead sentenced Daubert to five years of probation.

Another of the film’s subjects, Daubert’s former business partner Chris Williams, was recently convicted on eight felony counts and, astonishingly, faces mandatory minimum sentences that could keep him incarcerated for life. Williams’ attorney is currently seeking a new trial. Sadly, yet another of Daubert’s former business partners, Richard Flor, was sentenced to a five-year prison term earlier this year and died in federal custody August 30 after being denied medical care that had been recommended by a judge.

Fortunately, Montana voters will have an opportunity to reject the legislature’s “repeal in disguise” when they go to the polls Nov. 6. Regardless of how Montana’s IR-124 fares at the ballot box, Montana’s legislature should learn from the experiences portrayed in Code of the West and pass sensible regulations for medical marijuana providers in 2013.

For more information on Code of the West, including how to schedule a screening in a town near you, click here. If you submit a request, you’ll receive more details, including information on screening fees and the option to preview the film.

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Medical Marijuana

Maine Police Support State Law, Return Patient’s Medicine

October 17th, 2012 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki

A medical marijuana grower in Ellsworth, Maine received a pleasant surprise on Saturday: a marijuana delivery from the police. Thomas Davis, a state-licensed medical marijuana caregiver and grower, lost 17 marijuana plants from his greenhouse in a burglary on Wednesday night. The thief, 32-year-old Aaron Pert, was arrested soon afterward and charged with offenses including marijuana possession, burglary, and theft. He confessed to breaking into the greenhouse and stealing the plants and led the police to the location where he had hidden the majority of the stash. However, the police delayed returning the marijuana to Davis for two days, concerned that they might be violating federal law, which makes all marijuana possession, cultivation, and distribution criminal offenses.

According to Ellsworth police lieutenant Harold Page, this was the first case in the state in which marijuana had been stolen from a licensed medical marijuana provider, so the police department consulted with the Maine DEA as well as the state’s attorney general as to whether they should return the plants. Ellsworth Police Chief John DeLeo stated on Monday that as far as he was concerned, returning the plants was legal.

The delay led to the majority of the marijuana being ruined by mold. Davis estimated that he lost about six months’ worth of the crop and could only salvage 15 percent of it, enough for one month. He mentioned other licensed marijuana providers who are considering giving him some of their own plants to make up for the loss, but said that otherwise, his patients might soon need to look elsewhere for their medicine.

Davis, however, sees an upside to the situation. He said thieves may have assumed that they could steal from legal medical marijuana growers with impunity, since theft of plants from illegal marijuana growing operations would certainly go unreported to the police. Hopefully, as Davis suggests, his case will serve as a precedent for both the police, who might not be so hesitant to return stolen marijuana in the future, and to potential thieves. “It’s not the Wild West out here,” he said. “I feel like most of what I’m salvaging is a chance to get this out to the public, to let people know they can’t target medical marijuana patients and growers. The police will protect us.”

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Uncategorized

Los Angeles City Council Reverses Course, Votes to Rescind Dispensary Ban

October 2nd, 2012 8 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The astute readers of the MPP blog no doubt recall the Los Angeles City Council’s terrible decision to ban medical marijuana dispensaries back in July. Unfortunately, the council didn’t stop there. They then made the decision to circumvent California law by asking the LAPD to work with the Drug Enforcement Agency to shut down dispensaries that were based in L.A. After the ban was passed – and while the council was busy making fast friends with the DEA – activists were busy gathering the necessary signatures to place a referendum on a ballot to repeal this ban. The activists succeeded, meaning the council had two options: repeal the ban themselves or put the referendum on a special election or the March mayoral ballot allowing the residents of Los Angeles to have the final say.

Today the council – joined once again by Councilmember Bill Rosendahl who returned to council duties after going through chemotherapy – held their vote on whether or not the previously enacted ban would stand. In a move that surprised me, the council preliminarily voted to repeal the ban by an 11 – 2 vote. The council will have to take a second vote on repealing the ban next week. If eight of the 11 “yes” votes hold steady, the ban will be repealed.

The council also took up a proposal to urge state lawmakers in Sacramento to pass sensible regulations that would allow medical marijuana patients to safely and immediately obtain their medicine while preventing diversion and unsavory business practices. This entirely reasonable request of Sacramento passed easily: 13 – 0.

MPP is incredibly grateful for all the good and hard work put in by local activists who gathered the necessary signatures to force the repeal vote. This would never have happened without their commitment to safe access.

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