By Jack Grinspoon, Thursday at 6:51 pm
It’s no coincidence that marijuana legalization support has surged with the growth of social media. The voices of the Reefer Madness era are silenced daily as studies and testimonials continue pouring in about this often misunderstood plant. Ignorance still remains, however, and this fight won’t be won without continued education of the masses.
It takes one fact that hits home to sway someone’s opinion. Maybe one of the following will do that for you. Here are five things about marijuana you may not have known:
1. THC and CBD, marijuana’s primary cannabinoids, are both cancer killers.
No, I’m not talking about using marijuana to help manage cancer’s effects. It’s actually anti-cancer.
Recent research out of Spain suggests that THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, kills brain cancer cells. Study co-author Guillermo Velasco claims that when THC was applied to cancerous brain tissue, the cancer cells were killed while healthy cells were left alone.
CBD apparently does the same; a pair of scientists from California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco demonstrated the cannabinoid’s ability to stop metastasis in many kinds of aggressive cancer.
Imagine if this plant were discovered in a jungle two weeks ago. What would the news be saying? The CBD article goes as far as to say the breakthrough could "potentially alter the fatality of the disease forever." The lack of media coverage for this is astounding, but that doesn’t diminish the research.
2. Marijuana triggers neurogenesis. Layman’s terms: It leads to brain cell growth.
Wait….marijuana is supposed to kill brain cells, right?
The roots of the marijuana-kills-brain-cells myth are deep despite the lack of credible evidence. The original study supporting this notion is questionable at best and recent research suggests exactly the opposite.
In 2005, a study showed cannabinoids’ ability to promote neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus, the brain region responsible for many important brain functions including mood and memory. The authors also cited anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects that accompany the neurogenesis. This explains why people across California, Colorado, Washington and other marijuana-friendly states often turn to the herb for a mood-boost instead of pharmaceutical drugs. It also supports research that marijuana helps improve cognitive function in bipolar disorder patients. This brings us to our next fact….
3. Suicide rates are lower in areas where medical marijuana is available
A Denver state-level study analyzed the statistical trend of suicide after introduction of medical marijuana.
"Our results suggest that the passage of a medical marijuana law is associated with an almost 5% reduction in total suicide rate, an 11% reduction in the suicide rate of age 20-29 males, and a 9% reduction in the suicide rate of 30-39 males."
It’s interesting this hasn’t become mainstream data in a country so focused on suicide prevention. Not surprisingly, one of the main reasons cited by the study’s authors for the decrease was connected to the at-risk population (20 and 30-something males) replacing alcohol with marijuana. This data makes the strictness of Illinois’ new medical marijuana policy even more laughable.
"Don’t let usage get out of control! Less people might commit suicide!"
Speaking of marijuana’s effects on well-being, I highly recommend this very personal, heart-wrenching article.
But what about the physical effects?
4. There is zero evidence that marijuana causes significant lung damage.
While vaporization is always touted as the safest method of marijuana ingestion, the largest study of its kind suggested marijuana-only smoking is harmless as well:
"We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use. What we found instead was no association at all, and even some suggestion of a protective effect."
The above words come from UCLA Medical Doctor Donald Tashkin, author of the study and marijuana researcher of more than 30 years.
Considering the tar in marijuana smoke was found to contain as many harmful carcinogens as cigarette smoke, this study actually strengthens the notion that marijuana is anti-cancer. The plant itself seems to have an offsetting effect for the harmful properties of smoke.
5. There are two completely different types of marijuana, both with different effects on the user.
One of the biggest mistakes made by people who first try marijuana is immediately thinking that it’s "not for them." It certainly isn’t for everyone, but what if they just tried the wrong kind?
There are hundreds of different strains of marijuana, tagged with names like Blue Dream, OG Kush, Trainwreck or Pineapple. All of these are categorized as "Sativa" or "Indica." Here’s a simple-as-possible explanation on the difference:
are usually day-time strains, used to enhance the experience of social events, time in nature or listening to new music. Caregivers often recommend sativa strains for patients seeking relief from depression, PTSD, fatigue and some types of anxiety and pain. Some patients even report positive effects on ADHD while medicating with sativa strains. Although sativas produce an enjoyable effect, they usually are the culprit for an inexperienced user "tweaking out" during one of their first times smoking.
are often smoked at night due to their narcotic effect on the user. Indica strains are perfect for users suffering from any type of pain, nausea or anxiety. They’re also preferable for novice users as they acclimate themselves to the herb. This variety is popular for meditation or yoga due to its mind-calming qualities.
Here is a more extensive explanation on the two categories if you’re interested.
Marijuana isn’t for everyone. Nothing is for everyone.
But should we be throwing those it is for in cages?
I dare you to say yes.
Email me at Jack.Grinspoon@gmail.com if there’s anything in particular you’d like covered in this blog
Filed under: Uncategorized
Executive director, Marijuana Policy Project
Unless people have been hiding under a rock this past couple months, they know that more than 55 percent of voters in Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana on November 6. As a result, many people have grand expectations of how we’re going to get closer to ending marijuana prohibition in the U.S. this year.
Here is what I think we can reasonably accomplish by the end of 2013:
1. Decriminalize Marijuana in Vermont: Gov. Pete Shumlin (D), a strong supporter of decriminalizing marijuana, partially campaigned on the issue and easily won re-election on November 6 with 58% of the vote. The Vermont Llegislature is poised to pass the bill he wants, so this legislation could become law by this summer.
2. Legalize Medical Marijuana in New Hampshire: Incoming Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is a strong supporter of medical marijuana, so we expect her to sign a medical marijuana bill similar to those vetoed by former Gov. John Lynch (D) in 2009 and 2012.
3. Build Support for Legalization in the Rhode Island Legislature: We successfully legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized marijuana possession in Rhode Island in 2009 and 2012, respectively. There is now considerable momentum to tax and regulate (T&R) marijuana like alcohol, so we need to ensure that Rhode Island’s state legislature becomes the first to do so.
4. Increase Support for Legalization in California, Maine, and Oregon: There will be a sincere effort to pass T&R bills through the legislatures in these three states. Should they fall short, MPP and its allies will pursue statewide ballot initiatives in November 2016, at which time all three will be expected to pass.
5. Build Our Base of Support Online: People have said that the Internet is marijuana legalization’s best friend, and this could not have been more evident than it was last year. Campaigns mobilized their supporters, organizations raised funds, and the public was able to follow the progress in real time. Prohibitionists, who have depended on the government for its largess for years, are now at a disadvantage. Private citizens simply do not want to donate to them, and most information about marijuana is now reaching the public without being run through their filter.
6. Continue the Steady Drumbeat in the Media: National and local media outlets are covering the marijuana issue more than ever before. Communicating to voters through news coverage is the most cost-efficient way to increase public support for ending marijuana prohibition, so we need to keep the issue in the spotlight.
7. Build Support for Medical Marijuana in Congress: There are already approximately 185 members of the U.S. House who want to stop the U.S. Justice Department from spending taxpayer money on raiding medical marijuana businesses in the 18 states (and DC) where medical marijuana is legal. We want to reach 218 votes on this amendment, thereby ensuring the amendment’s transfer to the U.S. Senate for an up-or-down vote.
8. Build Support for Ending Marijuana Prohibition in Congress: Last year, the first-ever bill to end the federal government’s prohibition of marijuana attracted 21 sponsors. Our goal is to expand the number of sponsors to more than two-dozen during the 2013-2014 election season.
Looking outside our borders, we’re also seeing progress in Colombia, Uruguay, and Chile, which have all been steadily moving away from marijuana prohibition. Although this is good news, most members of the U.S. Congress do not care much about what South American countries think on marijuana policy, so we should temper the wonderful developments south of the U.S. border with limited expectations of what will happen in our nation’s capital.
Ultimately, the U.S. is the primary exporter of prohibition around the world. If we can solve the problem here, the rest of the world will have far more freedom to conduct their own experiments with regulating marijuana.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Barack Obama says he won’t go after pot users in Colorado and Washington, two states that just legalized the drug for recreational use. But advocates argue the president said the same thing about medical marijuana — and yet U.S. attorneys continue to force the closure of dispensaries across the U.S.
Welcome to the confusing and often conflicting policy on pot in the U.S., where medical marijuana is legal in many states, but it is increasingly difficult to grow, distribute or sell it. And at the federal level, at least officially, it is still an illegal drug everywhere.
Obama’s statement Friday provided little clarity in a world where marijuana is inching ever so carefully toward legitimacy.
That conflict is perhaps the greatest in California, where the state’s four U.S. Attorneys criminally prosecuted large growers and launched a coordinated crackdown on the state’s medical marijuana industry last year by threatening landlords with property forfeiture actions. Hundreds of pot shops went out of business.
Steve DeAngelo, executive director of an Oakland, Calif., dispensary that claims to be the nation’s largest, called for a federal policy that treats recreational and medical uses of the drug equally.
"If we’re going to recognize the rights of recreational users, then we should certainly protect the rights of medical cannabis patients who legally access the medicine their doctors have recommended," he said.
The government is planning to soon release policies for dealing with marijuana in Colorado and Washington, where federal law still prohibits pot, as elsewhere in the country.
"It would be nice to get something concrete to follow," said William Osterhoudt, a San Francisco criminal defense attorney representing government officials in Mendocino County who recently received a demand from federal investigators for detailed information about a local system for licensing growers of medical marijuana.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said he was frustrated by Obama’s comments because the federal government continues to shutter dispensaries in states with medical marijuana laws, including California.
"A good step here would be to stop raiding those legal dispensaries who are doing what they are allowed to do by law," said the San Francisco Democrat. "There’s a feeling that the federal government has gone rogue on hundreds of legal, transparent medical marijuana dispensaries, so there’s this feeling of them being in limbo. And it puts the patients, the businesses and the advocates in a very untenable place."
Obama, in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, said Friday that federal authorities have "bigger fish to fry" when it comes to targeting recreational pot smokers in Colorado and Washington.
Some advocates said the statement showed the president’s willingness to allow residents of states with marijuana laws to use the drug without fear of federal prosecution.
"It’s a tremendous step forward," said Joe Elford, general counsel for Americans for Safe Access. "It suggests the feds are taking seriously enough the idea that there should be a carve-out for states with marijuana laws."
Obama’s statements on recreational use mirror the federal policy toward states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes.
"We are not focusing on backyard grows with small amounts of marijuana for use by seriously ill people," said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in Sacramento. "We are targeting money-making commercial growers and distributors who use the trappings of state law as cover, but they are actually abusing state law."
Alison Holcomb, who led the legalization drive in Washington state, said she doesn’t expect Obama’s comment to prompt the federal government to treat recreational marijuana and medical marijuana differently.
"At this point, what the president is looking at is a response to marijuana in general. The federal government has never recognized the difference between medical and non-medical marijuana," she said. "I don’t think this is the time he’d carve out separate policies. I think he’s looking for a more comprehensive response."
Washington voters approved a medical marijuana law in 1998, and dispensaries have proliferated across the state in recent years.
Last year, Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed legislation that would have created a state system for licensing medical dispensaries over concern that it would require state workers to violate the federal Controlled Substances Act.
For the most part, dispensaries in western Washington have been left alone. But federal authorities did conduct raids earlier this year on dispensaries they said were acting outside the state law, such as selling marijuana to non-patients. Warning letters have been sent to dispensaries that operate too close to schools.
"What we’ve seen is enforcement of civil laws and warnings, with a handful of arrests of people who were operating outside state law," Holcomb said.
Eastern Washington has seen more raids because the U.S. attorney there is more active, Holcomb added.
Colorado’s marijuana measure requires lawmakers to allow commercial pot sales, and a state task force that will begin writing those regulations meets Monday.
State officials have reached out to the Justice Department seeking help on regulating a new legal marijuana industry but haven’t heard back.
DeAngelo said Friday that the Justice Department should freeze all pending enforcement actions against legal medical cannabis providers and review its policies to make sure they’re consistent with the president’s position. He estimated federal officials have shuttered 600 dispensaries in the state and 1,000 nationwide.
DeAngelo’s Harborside Health Center is facing eviction after the U.S. attorney in San Francisco pressured his landlord to stop harboring what the government considers an illegal business.
"While it’s nice to hear these sorts of positive words from the president, we are facing efforts by the Justice Department to shut us down, so it’s hard for me to take them seriously," DeAngelo said.
The dispensary has a hearing Thursday in federal court on the matter.
By Steve Goldstein
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing early next year on federal marijuana policy, the head of the committee said Thursday. Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy said he intends to hold a hearing in light of recently passed state laws legalizing personal marijuana use. Given the fiscal constraints of federal law enforcement, Leahy asked in a letter to Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske how the administration plans to use federal resources in light of new laws in Colorado and Washington State, as well as what recommendations the agency is making to the Department of Justice. He also asked the ONDCP director what assurances the administration can give to state officials to ensure they will face no criminal penalties for carrying out their duties under those state laws.
by David Borden, December 10, 2012, 02:54pm
- Colorado Amendment 64
- Executive Branch
- Federal Courts
- Marijuana Legalization
- Marijuana Policy
- Washington Initiative 502
A mostly great piece in Rolling Stone this weekend, "Obama’s Pot Problem," missed the mark on the federal preemption question — can the feds shut down Washington and Colorado’s legalized regulation systems? Tim Dickinson wrote the following on that subject:
[T]he administration appears to have an open-and-shut case: Federal law trumps state law when the two contradict. What’s more, the Supreme Court has spoken on marijuana law: In the 2005 case Gonzales v. Raich contesting medical marijuana in California, the court ruled that the federal government can regulate even tiny quantities of pot – including those grown and sold purely within state borders – because the drug is ultimately connected to interstate commerce. If the courts side with the administration, a judge could issue an immediate injunction blocking Washington and Colorado from regulating or taxing the growing and selling of pot – actions that would be considered trafficking under the Controlled Substances Act.
But a former Bush administration official quoted in the New York Times on Thursday, former DOJ civil division head Gregory Katsas, made the opposite prediction. Katsas was "skeptical" that a preemption lawsuit would succeed, according to the Times. Why? Perhaps because it’s not just that the feds can’t force states to criminalize drug possession, as Kevin Sabet selectively pointed out to Dickinson. It’s also the case that they probably can’t directly force the states to criminalize sales either. The Controlled Substances Act in fact leans against federal preemption of state drug policy, as pointed out in a law professors brief on preemption submitted in a California case this year.
Dickinson also pointed out that federal officials had used threats to prosecute state employees involved in implementing regulations for medical marijuana. In my opinion the US Attorney letters were deliberately vague — scary enough to influence state officials, but in most if not all cases stopping short of explicitly making that threat. A better piece of evidence, I think, is that in 16 years of state medical marijuana laws, no federal prosecutor has ever tried to actually invalidate such a law in court, not even after the Raich ruling. Why not? They must not think they have a slam dunk case. And if preemption is not a slam dunk for medical marijuana, then it’s not a slam dunk when it comes to legalization either, although there are additional arguments to throw against full legalization.
The reality is that no one knows how this will turn out if it goes to court. Raich established that federal police agencies can use their powers in medical marijuana states to continue to criminalize marijuana federally, justified by the Interstate Commerce Clause. But that is not the same as having the power to forbid states from granting exceptions to the states’ own anti-marijuana sales laws, which in legal terms is what the regulatory frameworks do, and plenty of smart lawyers are skeptical that they can do that. This is not a slam dunk either way.
CANNABIS IN THE COLONIES
Indeed, cannabis has been grown in America since soon after the British arrived. In 1619 the Crown ordered the colonists at Jamestown to grow hemp to satisfy England’s incessant demand for maritime ropes, Wayne State University professor Ernest Abel wrote in "Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years."
Hemp became more important to the colonies as New England’s own shipping industry developed, and homespun hemp helped clothe American soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Some colonies offered farmers "bounties" for growing it.
"We have manufactured within our families the most necessary articles of cloathing," Jefferson said in "Notes on the State of Virginia." "Those of wool, flax and hemp are very coarse, unsightly, and unpleasant."
Jefferson went on to invent a device for processing hemp in 1815.
TASTE THE HASHISH
Books such as "The Arabian Nights" and Alexandre Dumas’ "The Count of Monte Cristo," with its voluptuous descriptions of hashish highs in the exotic Orient, helped spark a cannabis fad among intellectuals in the mid-19th century.
"But what changes occur!" one of Dumas’ characters tells an uninitiated acquaintance. "When you return to this mundane sphere from your visionary world, you would seem to leave a Neapolitan spring for a Lapland winter – to quit paradise for earth – heaven for hell! Taste the hashish, guest of mine – taste the hashish."
After the Civil War, with hospitals often overprescribing opiates for pain, many soldiers returned home hooked on harder drugs. Those addictions eventually became a public health concern. In 1906, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, requiring labeling of ingredients, and states began regulating opiates and other medicines – including cannabis.
MEXICAN FOLKLORE AND JAZZ CLUBS
By the turn of the 20th century, cannabis smoking remained little known in the United States – but that was changing, thanks largely to The Associated Press, says Isaac Campos, a Latin American history professor at the University of Cincinnati.
In the 1890s, the first English-language newspaper opened in Mexico and, through the wire service, tales of marijuana-induced violence that were common in Mexican papers began to appear north of the border – helping to shape public perceptions that would later form the basis of pot prohibition, Campos says.
By 1910, when the Mexican Revolution pushed immigrants north, articles in the New York Sun, Boston Daily Globe and other papers decried the "evils of ganjah smoking" and suggested that some use it "to key themselves up to the point of killing."
Pot-smoking spread through the 1920s and became especially popular with jazz musicians. Louis Armstrong, a lifelong fan and defender of the drug he called "gage," was arrested in California in 1930 and given a six-month suspended sentence for pot possession.
"It relaxes you, makes you forget all the bad things that happen to a Negro," he once said. In the 1950s, he urged legalization in a letter to President Dwight Eisenhower.
REEFER MADNESS, HEMP FOR VICTORY
After the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1933, Harry Anslinger, who headed the federal Bureau of Narcotics, turned his attention to pot. He told of sensational crimes reportedly committed by marijuana addicts. "No one knows, when he places a marijuana cigarette to his lips, whether he will become a philosopher, a joyous reveler in a musical heaven, a mad insensate, a calm philosopher, or a murderer," he wrote in a 1937 magazine article called "Marijuana: Assassin of Youth."
The hysteria was captured in the propaganda films of the time – most famously, "Reefer Madness," which depicted young adults descending into violence and insanity after smoking marijuana. The movie found little audience upon its release in 1936 but was rediscovered by pot fans in the 1970s.
Congress banned marijuana with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Anslinger continued his campaign into the ’40s and ’50s, sometimes trying – without luck – to get jazz musicians to inform on each other. "Zoot suited hep cats, with their jive lingo and passion for swift, hot music, provide a fertile field for growth of the marijuana habit, narcotics agents have found here," began a 1943 Washington Post story about increasing pot use in the nation’s capital.
The Department of Agriculture promoted a different message. After Japanese troops cut off access to Asian fiber supplies during World War II, it released "Hemp For Victory," a propaganda film urging farmers to grow hemp and extolling its use in parachutes and rope for the war effort.
As the conformity of the postwar era took hold, getting high on marijuana and other drugs emerged as a symbol of the counterculture, with Jack Kerouac and the rest of the Beat Generation singing pot’s praises. It also continued to be popular with actors and musicians. When actor Robert Mitchum was arrested on a marijuana charge in 1948, People magazine recounted, "The press nationwide branded him a dope fiend. Preachers railed against him from pulpits. Mothers warned their daughters to shun his films."
Congress responded to increasing drug use – especially heroin – with stiffer penalties in the ’50s. Anslinger began to hype what we now call the "gateway drug" theory: that marijuana had to be controlled because it would eventually lead its users to heroin.
Then came Vietnam. The widespread, open use of marijuana by hippies and war protesters from San Francisco to Woodstock finally exposed the falsity of the claims so many had made about marijuana leading to violence, says University of Virginia professor Richard Bonnie, a scholar of pot’s cultural status.
In 1972, Bonnie was the associate director of a commission appointed by President Richard Nixon to study marijuana. The commission said marijuana should be decriminalized and regulated. Nixon rejected that, but a dozen states in the ’70s went on to eliminate jail time as a punishment for pot arrests.
"JUST SAY NO"
The push to liberalize drug laws hit a wall by the late 1970s. Parents groups became concerned about data showing that more children were using drugs, and at a younger age. The religious right was emerging as a force in national politics. And the first "Cheech and Chong" movie, in 1978, didn’t do much to burnish pot’s image.
When she became first lady, Nancy Reagan quickly promoted the anti-drug cause. During a visit with schoolchildren in Oakland, Calif., as Reagan later recalled, "A little girl raised her hand and said, ‘Mrs. Reagan, what do you do if somebody offers you drugs?’ And I said, ‘Well, you just say no.’ And there it was born."
By 1988, more than 12,000 "Just Say No" clubs and school programs had been formed, according to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library. Between 1978 and 1987, the percentage of high school seniors reporting daily use of marijuana fell from 10 percent to 3 percent.
And marijuana use was so politically toxic that when Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, he said he "didn’t inhale."
MEDS OF A DIFFERENT SORT
Marijuana has been used as medicine since ancient times, as described in Chinese, Indian and Roman texts, but U.S. drug laws in the latter part of the 20th century made no room for it. In the 1970s, many states passed symbolic laws calling for studies of marijuana’s efficacy as medicine, although virtually no studies ever took place because of the federal prohibition.
Nevertheless, doctors noted its ability to ease nausea and stimulate appetites of cancer and AIDS patients. And in 1996, California became the first state to allow the medical use of marijuana. Since then, 17 other states and the District of Columbia have followed.
In recent years, medical marijuana dispensaries – readily identifiable by the green crosses on their storefronts – have proliferated in many states, including Washington, Colorado and California. That’s prompted a backlash from some who suggest they are fronts for illicit drug dealing and that most of the people they serve aren’t really sick. The Justice Department has shut down some it deems the worst offenders.
LEGAL WEED AT LAST
On Nov. 6, Washington and Colorado pleased aging hippies everywhere – and shocked straights of all ages – by voting to become the first states to legalize the fun use of marijuana. Voters handily approved measures to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce by adults over 21. Colorado’s measure also permits home-growing of up to six plants.
Both states are working to set up a regulatory scheme with licensed growers, processors and retail stores. Eventually, activists say, grown-ups will be able to walk into a store, buy some marijuana, and walk out with ganja in hand – but not before paying the taxman. The states expect to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for schools and other government functions.
But it’s not so simple. The regulatory schemes conflict with the federal government’s longstanding pot prohibition, according to many legal scholars. The Justice Department could sue to block those schemes from taking effect – but hasn’t said whether it will do so.
The bizarre journey of cannabis in America continues.
Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle
Colorado’s newly-passed Amendment 64 contemplates a brave new world in which adults in the state will be able to lawfully smoke small amounts of marijuana purchased from licensed (and heavily taxed) local retailers. But that world isn’t even scheduled to begin until 2014, and only then if there are significant changes in the many assorted ways in which federal law criminalizes recreational marijuana possession and use. There is the legal component to the issue. There is the political component to it. And of all the paths forward there is one that is clearest and the most fair. What are the odds that it is the one Washington now chooses?
Since Colorado (and Washington state) legalized the use of recreational marijuana last week, the national conversation about what comes next has focused primarily on the obvious conflict between federal and state authority. On the one hand, we have the Controlled Substances Act, the venerable federal statute that for the past four decades has labelled marijuana as a "Schedule 1" substance on par with heroin. And on the other hand we have a clear policy choice made by voters in the election of 2012 that marijuana should be treated like alcohol. There’s been a rebellion out west, in other words, which the feds are destined to win.
But there is another conflict here that’s been splayed open by the ballot initiatives, one which is more fundamental to the future of lawful marijuana use than any argument the feds will now use to stop the state initiatives. It’s the ongoing conflict over the science of marijuana, over the quality of proof of its medicinal values, which is central to the coming court fights. Until the Drug Enforcement Administration changes its marijuana classification, until lawmakers recognize its therapeutic uses, reformers like those in Colorado and Washington will be crushed in court.
The federal policy choice on marijuana’s classification is the horse. The Justice Department’s coming use of that policy against the states is the cart. And that’s why the timing of the state initiatives is so compelling. Just last month, a few weeks before the election, a panel of three federal judges in Washington, D.C., heard oral arguments in a case on this very point called Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. The feds say that studies of the virtues of medical marijuana are not rigorous enough to warrant a change in DEA policy. The reformers say there is enough proof, and testimony, to justify the change.
So far, the case hasn’t gotten nearly as much coverage as it should have, and as it would have had the hearing been held this week (last Tuesday, Massachusetts also became the 18th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana). But here’s all you need to know about the institutional forces of the law which are working against the reformers. Referring to the DEA, Judge Merrick Garland asked a question a million judges before him have asked when evaluating whether to push a federal agency to do something it hasn’t before wanted to do: "Don’t we have to defer to their judgment?"
Their judgment. The Colorado and Washington initiatives are the most forceful and populist responses yet to the antiquated judgment of DEA policy makers. The state measures also are a repudiation of Congress’ discriminatory marijuana laws and the law-and-order lobby’s priorities. And even if the new state laws stand today on poor legal ground–let’s face it, they do–the success of the initiatives out West already has sent a strong political message to Washington on marijuana policy: You can’t go back. You can no longer stay still. The only choice left is to figure out the smartest way to go forward.
Something’s gotta give. Right now, a White House that prides itself on being on the right side of science when it comes to global warming is on the wrong side of science when it comes to medical marijuana. Right now, a Congress that praises states’ rights is hampering the ability of states to experiment with new sources of revenue. Right now, the federal government in all its forms is taking a position which may have made sense in the early 1970s but which is now directly at odds with the testimony of thousands of military veterans who say marijuana helps ease their pain.
The faces of the movement aren’t just the young voters out West who think it’s absurd that they can drink alcohol but can’t get high. They aren’t just the entrepreneurs in Colorado who are making the marijuana industry a burgeoning, tax-revenue-generating retail industry. They aren’t the conservative figures who want to stop paying the prison costs of incarceration for marijuana offenses. They are also American war veterans like Michael Krawitz. He’s a disabled plaintiff in the ongoing DEA lawsuit in Washington. Here’s how The Guardian explains why:
Krawitz had been receiving opiate-based pain relief from the VA until they discovered a prescription for medical marijuana he had received while abroad. They asked him to take a drug test and when he refused, they stopped his treatment. "It said right there in the contract that if they find illegal drugs in your system they they will not give you any pain treatment," he said. "I found that offensive. I’ve been getting this pain treatment for years."
The Colorado and Washington measures aren’t likely a tipping point for marijuana legalization. But they may be a tipping point toward a federal drug policy that recognizes that marijuana is different from heroin–and even that would be a long-overdue step in the right direction. The Justice Department soon will challenge the state initiatives in court and the feds almost certainly will win. No federal judge wants to be the one to declare marijuana "legal" before Congress or the DEA does. What the White House ought to do in the meantime, however, is demand a broad new review of the federal government’s marijuana policies.
At a minimum, such a review ought to embrace the following truths, which appear to millions of Americans, including millions of young people who came out to vote for President Obama, to be self-evident. The Controlled Substances Act didn’t come down from the mountaintop. Marijuana’s "Schedule 1" classification isn’t engraved in stone. And the DEA and its policy experts are hardly the Sanhedrin. Whatever else they mean, the Colorado and Washington laws mean the time has come for the feds to better justify a drug policy that has lost key pillars of its factual and political support.
If the administration undertakes this sort of review–"hopefully, the historic in in Colorado will help pressure the federal government to bring a more science-based approach to drug laws," coyly says Brian Vicente, one of the attorneys behind Amendment 64–it will help insulate the White House from progressive complaints about the coming federal litigation to block the two legalization measures. And it will hardly outrage conservatives, many of whom, like the Koch brothers, support legalization efforts. Such a review, you could say, is the very least the President could do for all those people who came out to vote for him these past two cycles.
That, anyway, is the larger view. For a closer look, I asked Professor Sam Kamin, who teaches at the University of Denver Law School, to share his thoughts on what’s likely to happen next in Colorado. Kamin has closely followed Colorado’s successful embrace of medical marijuana as well as its new dance with outright legalization. Here is a (slightly) edited transcript of our email interview:
COHEN: The voters have spoken. Colorado’s Constitution is changed. But isn’t the next step legislation and regulation within the state to determine how it is all going to work? I’m sure you’ve thought about happens now within the state government. As specifically as you can, please walk me through the next few weeks and months.
KAMIN: Everything now depends on what the federal government does next. We know that our governor has been in conversations with the Attorney General Holder about what the Justice Department will do next, but so far he has not been particularly forthcoming about what he has learned. If the federal government indicates a willingness to permit Washington and Colorado to proceed with legalization- and I very much doubt that it will–then the legislature and administrative agencies in these states will begin work on how the industry will be taxed and regulated. This should not be a particularly complicated task; Colorado has regulated and taxed medical marijuana since 2010. Little would need to change about this regulation except removing the requirement that those seeking to buy marijuana from a licensed retailer obtain a doctor’s recommendation first.
COHEN: The average citizen in Colorado who voted for this Amendment is wondering when she’ll be able to buy marijuana and smoke it legally without a medical certification. Is that completely dependent upon how the coming legal fight plays out? And is the expectation that the feds will challenge the initiative at the point of sale?
KAMIN: I think this is the crucial question. The federal government has always had the power to shut down state experimentation with marijuana legalization. Marijuana remains a controlled substance whose sale and manufacture are prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Thus, every sale of marijuana in every state–whether it has legalized marijuana for medical purposes or otherwise–remains a federal crime. The federal government could thus arrest every person who sells marijuana in these states or at least arrest enough of them to make the others reconsider their choices.
A less confrontational approach would be to file suit–as the federal government did in Arizona to enjoin the enforcement of SB 1070–to prevent the implementation of Amendment 64. Interestingly, there is little the federal government could do about Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana–the federal government lacks the power to force the states to criminalize any particular conduct. The states are under no obligation to mirror the CSA or to help the federal government enforce it. Thus, the states may presumably repeal their marijuana prohibitions without running afoul of federal law.
However, the second part of Amendment 64–requiring the state to set up procedures for the licensing of recreational marijuana dispensaries–is more problematic. The federal government could allege that such state-level sanctioning of marijuana businesses would constitute an impermissible obstacle to the enforcement of the CSA. Where state and federal law conflict, the federal law is supreme.
COHEN: The Justice Department has said since the election that Amendment 64 doesn’t change federal law and of course it doesn’t. Is there any way for the initiative to survive without a change to the federal classification of marijuana as a controlled substance on par with heroin? How can Colorado and Washington (state) move Washington to reevaluate that classification?
KAMIN: A little-understood aspect of the marijuana legalization movement is that the reclassification of marijuana would likely prove fatal to the legalization movement. Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic, a drug whose manufacture and sale are strictly prohibited. If it were re-classified to a less serious category it would then be available as medicine, likely subject to a doctor’s prescription. Of course, such a rule, which the federal government would likely enforce more strictly than it has the current prohibition, would forbid the licensing of recreational dispensaries in the states. Marijuana law reform has been proceeding along parallel tracks–in the courts, Congress and in the states–and those different tracks are beginning to create tensions.
COHEN: Look into your crystal ball. What’s the most likely outcome here? If there is to be a surprise, legally or politically, what do you figure it will be?
KAMIN: I imagine we will see something less than the dramatic federal response described above. I imagine the federal government will offer the states a return to the status quo prior to November 6. That is, I can imagine the Justice Department telling the states that it will continue to grudgingly permit the states to continue with medical marijuana but that full legalization is a bridge too far. This was essentially the message that Attorney General Holder sent to the California voters who ultimately rejected Proposition 19 in 2010. It was a difficult message for the Obama administration to send in a presidential election year in a swing state, however. With the election now passed, we may see a repeat of 2010. Like everyone else, though, I’m simply guessing.
by Johnny Archer
Posted on October 22, 2012 at 6:43 AM
Updated today at 1:28 PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — Supporters of medical marijuana are touring the country and their unique vehicle is creating a lot of buzz along the way.
Sunday the Canna-bus mad a stop in Louisville. It’s a school bus that has been transformed into a rolling billboard for the legalization of cannabis movement.
Stacey Theis from Arizona is the driver and she said it is all about getting the word out about the benefits of medical marijuana.
“I’m just out there to tell everybody I can about the truth because they deserve to know the truth. They deserve to know that there is something to better their lives to fight for,” Theis said.
Theis and other pro-cannabis supporters argue medical marijuana is beneficial for a variety of chronic conditions like post traumatic stress disorder, cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Erin Grossman from Louisville was diagnosed with a neuro-degenerative disease in 2001. She said she pays about $500 dollars a month for treatment out of pocket, while Medicare pays the rest. However, Grossman said her medical bills would be cut dramatically if Kentucky were to legalize marijuana.
“Marijuana would remove about 80 percent of the prescriptions I’m currently taking,” Grossman said.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the FDA has not approved marijuana as a medicine for several reasons.
First there have not been enough clinical trials that show ‘marijuana-benefits’ outweigh its risks. Also, marijuana doesn’t have well defined and measurable ingredients. It has adverse health effects, and when smoked it can cause respiratory symptoms. Marijuana may also cause short term memory and impair motor coordination.
Despite the FDA’s reasons, 17 states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.
Ron Moore with the Kentucky Veterans for Medical Marijuana is campaigning to legalize marijuana in Kentucky.
“The wave is cresting and I do believe if not this session, next session, we will at least get a hearing on it and that’s all we want,” Moore said.
For now, this bus will keep on “rolling green” to spread the message around the country.
The Canna-bus started its tour Wednesday in North Carolina and it will stop in several cities before completing its journey in Arizona.
Green Bus Tour for Marijuana Legalization
As we roll across America we may need the following things.
SPONSORS and Donations for fuel and food, we could not do this without you and you and you.
a warm place to sleep,
your support by sharing our posts,
Promoters to organize our upcoming arrivals
Bus Riders to promote
Testimonials from the public on video
your signature on the bus ceiling.
It’s your bus! Let’s make it legal!
All images are the property of the Green Bus Tour for Marijuana Legalization…
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 22, 2012
When: Monday October 22, 1:00pm
Where: City Hall Steps 801 Plum St. Cincinnati, Ohio
The CannaSense Campaign Tour to Legalize Marijuana Across the United States and End Prohibition 2, has begun with the Green Cannabus!
It’s Mission: The Green Cannabus is touring the United States this Election Year to spotlight Marijuana Legalization. Stacey Theis and friends started in North Carolina and will end up in Arizona after many city stops along the way.
Monday, the 22nd, the Cannabus is stopping in Cincinnati for a Meet and Greet and Press Conference to talk about why ending Cannabis Prohibition makes sense.
Speaking at the Press Conference will be CannaSense Campaign Director Stacey Theis, Jake Jones (Son of Deceased Drug War Victim, Gary Shepherd), Medical Cannabis Activist Tonya Davis with NORML Women’s Alliance, Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment and Sponsor of the Ohio Medical Compassion ACT (HB 214). They will be sharing their stories and vision of how President Obama can re-schedule Cannabis so Doctors and Patients can decide healthcare choices, not our Government. They believe he can win back the voters he’s losing by keeping his 2008 campaign promise to let Medical Cannabis be a States Right issue.
Also speaking will be Moms, Dads, Grandparents and Patients from all walks of life…all wanting to end Prohibition 2 and to stop wasting tax payer’s dollars on wrecking the lives of families by arresting, prosecuting, caging up and creating criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens.
No Victim, No Crime.
From 4-5pm, the Cannabus Folks will be guests on HempRock Radio which airs on WVQC-LP 95.7 FM, www.wvqc.org and with the WVQC Phone App at www.tunein.com. WVQC-LP broadcasts from Media Bridges studios in the Crosley Telecommunications Building on Central Parkway.
For more information, please contact Tonya Davis 937.479.0461 and go to
Respectfully, Tonya Davis