Early this week, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner announced his support for descheduling marijuana at the federal level. At the same time, he revealed his plans to become advisor to a multi-state marijuana industry firm with dozens of locations. This is a stark departure from his previous stance on marijuana. While in Congress, Boehner voted in favor of legislation that prevented the District of Columbia from implementing its voter-approved medical marijuana program for more than a decade, and was a vocal opponent of legalization.
Marijuana Moment reports:
Boehner, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R), is joining the Board of Advisors of Acreage Holdings, which holds 35 licenses for cannabis businesses across the U.S.
“When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” Boehner said. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”
In a tweet, Boehner, who did not endorse marijuana law reform while serving as the House’s top official, said he now supports removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, a process known as descheduling.
In a 2011 letter to a constituent, the speaker wrote, “I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug. I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”
But now, Boehner says that he and Weld will advise Acreage on navigating confusing and conflicting federal and state marijuana laws.
While Boehner should be commended for seeing reason and adding his voice to those calling for sensible marijuana policy reform, many advocates are concerned that he is set to profit from policies he opposed and is not doing enough to counteract the impact of his words and actions while in office.
MPP's Morgan Fox told The New York Times that Boehner "should be actively working to reform federal marijuana laws to allow states to determine their own policies, rather than just consulting with a business to navigate the conflicts between state and federal law. His positions on the issue while in House leadership most likely slowed progress for marijuana reform legislation, and he owes it to anyone whose life has been negatively impacted by a marijuana arrest to use his considerable influence to make up for that.”
It appears as though the NFL is finally progressing towards changing its controversial drug policy. According to a NBC Sports story, the NFLPA plans to vote tonight on proposed changes to the NFL’s existing drug policy. The changes, if ratified, may include an increased threshold for which players are allowed to test positive for marijuana. However, the NFLPA first needs to get a proposal from the league itself. According to the NBC Sports posting, that has not happened yet.
“The players are prepared to vote on a proposal from NFL tonight but they will need something to review well in advance of that vote,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told PFT by phone. “As of right now, there’s nothing yet. Players have been informed of the status of the league’s proposal on an ongoing basis. [On Monday], [NFLPA president] Eric Winston and [NFLPA executive committee member] Brian Waters reiterated the importance of a fair due process for hGH testing, a line in the sand with respect to player discipline before a fair due process on DUIs, and also other issues that were important to them.”
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="266"] Josh Gordon[/caption]
The “other issues” include the manner in which players are processed through the substance abuse policy, amid much criticism and media attention regarding the use of marijuana and the Cleveland Browns wide receiver, Josh Gordon’s, suspension.
According to Nate Jackson, a New York Times op-ed contributor and former tight end that medicated with marijuana for most of his career, “Gordon has marijuana in his system. He broke the rules. I understand that. But this is a rule that absurdly equates marijuana with opiates, opioids, and PCP. The NFL’s threshold for disciplinary action for marijuana is 10 times higher than the one used by the International Olympic Committee.”
The NFL rethinking their approach to marijuana is long overdue. Their current policy reflects outdated stances onmarijuana and pain management, penalizes players who seek an alternative to painkillers, keeps them in a perpetual state of injury and injury management, and risks creating new addicts.
In the end, as stated by MPP’s Morgan Fox, “The NFL’s harsh marijuana penalties do nothing to promote the health and safety of the players.” [MPP emphasis added]
Washington, D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells (D – Ward 6) proposed a bill today that would decriminalize marijuana in the nation’s capital. Possession of up to an ounce would be punishable by a civil fine of $100 rather than by the current threat of jail time. The bill was also backed by Marion Barry (D – Ward 8).
Wells told reporters that decriminalization would save youths who are caught with small amounts of marijuana from becoming entangled in the criminal justice system and losing out on future employment opportunities.
The bill has arrived at an interesting time for marijuana reform advocates. Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report which found that D.C. leads the nation in marijuana possession arrests per capita. The study also found that arrests in the District were racially biased: African Americans were eight times more likely than whites to be arrested on marijuana charges. According to D.C. police statistics, there were roughly 4,300 marijuana possession arrests in 2011.
Surveys indicate that a majority of D.C. residents agree with Wells’ proposal. An April poll by Public Policy Polling found that 75% of D.C. residents support decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Additionally, 63% support taxing and regulating marijuana for adults.
MPP spokesman Morgan Fox was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, “It is time to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy in our nation’s capital, and that is what Councilman Wells has proposed.”
The Boston Herald reported today that lawmakers in New England have been emboldened by the 2012 victories in Colorado and Washington. Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts are addressing the prospect of taxation and regulation of marijuana. Vermont is considering decriminalization, and New Hampshire is pushing to legalize medical marijuana.
While the reform discussion isn’t entirely new in the northeast – Rep. Ellen Story (D-MA) has submitted multiple bills in the past – MPP is optimistic about present and future measures in the region and is lending its support. MPP’s communications manager, Morgan Fox, told the Herald, “We’ve just won the first two victories in what’ll be a long road. The wind’s at our back now.”
The Center for Disease Control just released their latest data on youth attitudes and behaviors, and it showed that more teens are using marijuana than cigarettes. While minors should not be using either substance, it is certainly indisputable that tobacco is far more dangerous than marijuana, with tobacco causing 443,000 deaths every year and marijuana causing … well, zero.
What is more important is that this study shows the need to regulate marijuana in order to keep it away from minors. Since instituting strict age controls for tobacco and ramping up education about the dangers of smoking, teen use has dropped dramatically. Imagine if we applied that same strategy to marijuana. Let adults use the product legally, and use the revenue saved on arrests to pay for education. Sounds simple, right?
A press release from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol sums it up:
DENVER – The High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey released yesterday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control highlights the need to regulate marijuana in order to reduce availability and use among teens.
Significantly more teens in the United States are using marijuana than cigarettes, according to the survey. Just more than 23 percent of high school students nationwide reported using marijuana within 30 days of taking the latest survey, up from 20.8 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, 18.1 percent reported past-30-day cigarette use, down from 19.5 percent in 2009.
"Marijuana prohibition has utterly failed to reduce teen access to marijuana, and it is time for a new approach," said Betty Aldworth, advocacy director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. "Strictly regulating tobacco and restricting sales to minors has lent to significant decreases in use and availability, and we would almost surely see the same results with marijuana."
Previous studies have shown that cigarette use and availability among teens, which had been sharply increasing in the early 1990s, began steadily declining shortly after the 1995 implementation of the "We Card" program, a renewed commitment to strictly restrict the sale of tobacco to young people.
"By putting marijuana behind the counter, requiring proof of age, and strictly controlling its sale, we can make it harder for teens to get their hands on it," Aldworth said.
Interestingly, the CDC report also found that Colorado has bucked the national trend of increasing teen marijuana use. Nationwide, past-30-day marijuana use among high school students climbed from 20.8 percent in 2009, to 23.1 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, in Colorado, it dropped from 24.8 percent to 22 percent. It is worth noting that from 2009 to 2011, Colorado enacted strict state and local regulations on the production and sale of marijuana for medical purposes, whereas no such regulations were implemented throughout the rest of the country.
"This report suggests that even the partial regulation of marijuana could decrease its availability to teens," Aldworth said. "Those who shrug off this mounting evidence are shrugging off the health and safety of our young people."
Interestingly enough, the Denver Post points out that the poll also showed Colorado high-schoolers have less sex, get in fewer fist-fights, and get more exercise than the national average. Connection? Maybe teens respond well to rationality and honesty from adults.
MPP is excited to be cosponsoring the 2011 Seattle Hempfest on Friday, August 19, through Sunday, August 21, and we're looking for volunteers to help us out!
We need people to help us staff our table, as well as people to sign Hempfest attendees up for our free e-mail alerts. Everyone who volunteers will receive a free MPP t-shirt and get to meet lots of great supporters, all while enjoying the world's largest marijuana-policy-related event. As an added bonus, the person who collects the most email sign-ups on each day will receive a special gift from MPP!
This is the 20th anniversary of Seattle Hempfest, and promises to be one of the most memorable to date. All across the country, people are reconsidering their marijuana laws, and the wind is finally at our backs. This year’s festival is a great opportunity to celebrate the progress we’ve made as a movement, and to build the relationships and tools necessary for continued victory.
Would you please volunteer a few hours of your time on Friday, August 19, through Sunday, August 21, to help us spread the word about the important work MPP is doing to reform marijuana laws across the country?
If you would like to help, please e-mail me here with the following information:
• Your name
• Your phone (home and/or cell)
• Days you're willing to volunteer (Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday)
• Time slots you are available (scheduling to follow based on availability)
For more information on Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org/.
Thank you for your interest, and we hope to see you there!