Laws elsewhere may doom medical marijuana in Indiana

Senator says Colorado, California have ‘made mockery’ of process

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Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2015 8:15 am

By MAUREEN HAYDEN

INDIANAPOLIS — State Sen. Karen Tallian posted details of her plan to allow medicinal use of marijuana on Facebook this week, drawing thousands of supportive comments.

The Democrat had given up a years-long push to decriminalize the drug, instead narrowing her focus to making pot a legal painkiller when prescribed by doctors for certain life-threatening or debilitating conditions.

“At least we can make the exception for compassionate use,” Tallian said of Indiana’s law forbidding marijuana use. “Anyone who has terminal cancer deserves all the help they can get.”

But as more states loosen their laws, it may be harder for the lawmaker from Ogden Dunes to make her case.

Some potential allies in the GOP-controlled Legislature say reports of problems and pot-related crime in states with liberalized marijuana laws may chill the conversation in Indiana.

“If you look at states that have medical marijuana or have legalized marijuana, they’ve made a mockery of it,” said state Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford. “They’ve actually tainted the well for states that want to take a more legitimate look at this issue.”

Steele, the influential conservative who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, stunned fellow Republicans two years ago when he came out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. At the time he likened Indiana’s pot laws — then some of the toughest in nation — to “smashing an ant with sledgehammer.”

He argued it was time to rethink the law, including the ban on medicinal use of marijuana.

He’s given up the argument, at least temporarily. Steele said he won’t co-author Tallian’s medical marijuana bill — which represents a blow to the Democratic lawmaker who needs some Republican support just to get a hearing.

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The marijuana industry is following the trail blazed by Big Tobacco

By Samuel T. Wilkinson December 5 at 8:09 PM

Samuel Wilkinson is a resident physician at the Yale School of Medicine.

Last month, people voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Oregon, Alaska and the District. As the movement toward marijuana legalization continues, lawmakers and policy experts are looking to the experiments in Colorado and Washington for guidance. We should not overlook, however, valuable lessons from our experience with another legal drug: tobacco.

In the late 19th century, the landscape of tobacco consumption was very different than it is today. Tobacco use was much less prevalent, and cigarettes accounted for a tiny portion of consumption. Yet by the mid-20th century almost half of U.S. adults smoked, with major consequences for public health. Despite important health policy achievements since, cigarette smoking remains a major contributor to the top causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular and lung diseases, as well as cancer.

This drastic rise in the prevalence of smoking can be attributed to a number of successful business strategies. Hand-rolling of cigarettes, a technique that limited production potential, was supplanted by machine manufacturing. Changes in the chemical composition and curing process of cigarettes made them more flavorful as well as more addictive. Aggressive marketing techniques sought to build a larger consumer base. Advertisements often featured doctors in an effort to quell public fear over smoking-related health concerns; other campaigns targeted children or adolescents, who represented potential lifetime customers. Finally, the industry created powerful lobbying groups to protect their profits from regulations aimed at curbing consumption.

Alarmingly, marijuana businesses are now mimicking many of Big Tobacco’s successful strategies. New methods of consuming marijuana (such as vaporization) are said to represent a healthier way to get high — though little research supports this claim — encouraging individuals to consume more marijuana in one sitting. The percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (the euphoria-inducing compound associated with many adverse health effects) in marijuana is much higher than it was a few decades ago. Just as tobacco companies featured doctors in advertisement campaigns, marijuana advocates have appealed to medical authority by successfully lobbying in many places for the approval of “medical marijuana” for a plethora of conditions, even when little or no scientific evidence supports its use. While it is laudable that Colorado has placed restrictions on marijuana advertising, it is also disturbing that the marijuana industry quickly mounted powerful legal efforts to challenge these restrictions in court.

The formula for success in profiting from a legal drug is simple and has been clearly outlined by Big Tobacco: Identify a product with addictive potential, aggressively market it to as large an audience as possible, develop technical innovations to allow for and promote increased consumption, and deny or minimize potential costs to human health. The marijuana industry is poised to copy this formula, with dire consequences.

Important lessons can also be drawn from the Netherlands , where marijuana has been decriminalized since 1976. Following decriminalization, the Dutch government strictly enforced guidelines prohibiting advertising and transactions above a certain quantity (to discourage mass production and distribution). For about a decade, marijuana consumption rates remained stable. However, in the mid-1980s, waning enforcement of these guidelines coincided with a drastic increase in both the commercialization of marijuana and rates of consumption. The overriding lesson from the Netherlands is that it was commercialization, not decriminalization itself, that led to sharp increases in use.

If we are intent on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, lessons from the tobacco industry and the Dutch marijuana experiment suggest that we do so in a way that does not pit corporate incentives against the interests of public health. Similar to efforts in Uruguay, production and distribution should be done solely by the government so as to ensure that there is no corporate incentive to entice more people to consume marijuana in larger quantities. Advertisements in all media venues should be banned, or as stringently regulated as allowed by law.

While the health effects of marijuana are generally not as severe as those of cigarette smoking, the consequences — including addiction, psychosis and impaired cognitive abilities — are nonetheless real. Notably, these effects are most pronounced in children and adolescents. Claims that marijuana legalization will make it easier to prevent use by minors are not backed by scientific or historical evidence. The most prevalent drugs consumed by teenagers are those that are legal: alcohol and tobacco. This should give us pause to consider the optimal way to legalize marijuana — and indeed whether other states should consider legalization at all.

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141 House Members Flunk Drug Policy Report Card But conservative Republicans are among the 49 who earned an A+.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., left, earned an A+ in a report on House drug policy votes. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., earned an F. The report looked at House votes on hemp, medical marijuana, DEA funding and banking rules.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., left, earned an A+ in a report on House drug policy votes. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., earned an F. The report looked at House votes on hemp, medical marijuana, DEA funding and banking rules.

By Steven Nelson Oct. 29, 2014 | 2:37 p.m. EDT

Each seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is up for grabs when Americans go to the polls Tuesday, and the Drug Policy Alliance wants voters who care about drug policy to check out a new report card for incumbent members.

The pro-reform organization’s advocacy arm, Drug Policy Action, issued the report card Wednesday, and scores don’t neatly match partisan affiliations.

Hard-line conservatives such as Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, are among the 49 House members who earned an A+, while Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., is among the 141 members who earned an F.

[READ: Va. Congressman Pushes ‘Conservative’ Plan for Pot at Pharmacies]

The grades are based on an analysis of seven House votes – one in 2013, six in 2014 – including three votes on hemp, two on banking rights for marijuana businesses, one that would have cut Drug Enforcement Administration funding and another to protect medical marijuana in states that allow it.

Members who voted consistently for more liberal policies received an A+. The 116 representatives who voted in favor of reform in six votes earned an A. Those who voted for reforms in either one or none of the votes earned an F.

In a press release, the Drug Policy Action noted 56 percent of House members – 179 Democrats and 64 Republicans – earned a C or better, meaning they voted for reform in at least three of the votes.

[WATCH: McCain Says ‘Maybe We Should Legalize’ Marijuana]

“Unprecedented support now exists on both sides of the aisle in Congress for ending the federal war on drugs and letting states set their own drug policies,” Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for Drug Policy Action, said in a statement. “Drug policy reform is a winning issue for elected officials.”

The highest-profile vote tabulated in the report was on an amendment offered by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., that would have blocked the Department of Justice –  including federal prosecutors and DEA agents – from spending funds to go after medical marijuana in states where it’s permitted.

Editorial cartoon on pot

See Photos

Editorial Cartoons on Pot Legalization

The Rohrabacher amendment sailed through the House in a 219-189 vote in May that blurred party lines, but the Senate didn’t consider a companion amendment from Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., and it wasn’t enacted into law.

The drug policy organization didn’t grade senators, citing a paucity of drug policy votes in the chamber.

Read the full report card:

TAGS:

drugs

politics

medical marijuana

CONTINUE READING…

LINK TO FULL REPORT IN PDF HERE…

141 House Members Flunk Drug Policy Report Card But conservative Republicans are among the 49 who earned an A+.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., left, earned an A+ in a report on House drug policy votes. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., earned an F. The report looked at House votes on hemp, medical marijuana, DEA funding and banking rules.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., left, earned an A+ in a report on House drug policy votes. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., earned an F. The report looked at House votes on hemp, medical marijuana, DEA funding and banking rules.

By Steven Nelson Oct. 29, 2014 | 2:37 p.m. EDT

Each seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is up for grabs when Americans go to the polls Tuesday, and the Drug Policy Alliance wants voters who care about drug policy to check out a new report card for incumbent members.

The pro-reform organization’s advocacy arm, Drug Policy Action, issued the report card Wednesday, and scores don’t neatly match partisan affiliations.

Hard-line conservatives such as Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, are among the 49 House members who earned an A+, while Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., is among the 141 members who earned an F.

[READ: Va. Congressman Pushes ‘Conservative’ Plan for Pot at Pharmacies]

The grades are based on an analysis of seven House votes – one in 2013, six in 2014 – including three votes on hemp, two on banking rights for marijuana businesses, one that would have cut Drug Enforcement Administration funding and another to protect medical marijuana in states that allow it.

Members who voted consistently for more liberal policies received an A+. The 116 representatives who voted in favor of reform in six votes earned an A. Those who voted for reforms in either one or none of the votes earned an F.

In a press release, the Drug Policy Action noted 56 percent of House members – 179 Democrats and 64 Republicans – earned a C or better, meaning they voted for reform in at least three of the votes.

[WATCH: McCain Says ‘Maybe We Should Legalize’ Marijuana]

"Unprecedented support now exists on both sides of the aisle in Congress for ending the federal war on drugs and letting states set their own drug policies,” Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for Drug Policy Action, said in a statement. “Drug policy reform is a winning issue for elected officials.”

The highest-profile vote tabulated in the report was on an amendment offered by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., that would have blocked the Department of Justice –  including federal prosecutors and DEA agents – from spending funds to go after medical marijuana in states where it’s permitted.

Editorial cartoon on pot

See Photos

Editorial Cartoons on Pot Legalization

The Rohrabacher amendment sailed through the House in a 219-189 vote in May that blurred party lines, but the Senate didn’t consider a companion amendment from Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., and it wasn’t enacted into law.

The drug policy organization didn’t grade senators, citing a paucity of drug policy votes in the chamber.

Read the full report card:

TAGS:
drugs
politics
medical marijuana

CONTINUE READING…

LINK TO FULL REPORT IN PDF HERE…

Drug Testing Robs Workforce of Talent and Creativity

By Ellen Komp, Cannabis Culture – Monday, February 11 2013

CANNABIS CULTURE – In Hillary Clinton’s farewell speech as Secretary of State last week, she said, "We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek."

Clinton was referring to dealing with the complexities of working with NATO, the United Nations, and world powers, and used for her example the Venice, California-based architect Frank Gehry. Gehry molded a unique style of laid-back architecture that used materials like chain-link fence in the context of the urban sprawl of LA, and is now the world-class architect of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles and the forthcoming Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial.

Someone who worked with Gehry in the 1980s reported him "coming out of rooms with clouds of [marijuana] smoke behind him." It wouldn’t be too surprising. Even Meghan McCain says pot smoking is everywhere in LA.

The well-entrenched drug testing industry is touting their services as the means of achieving a safe and productive workforce, even in the wake of marijuana smokers winning their rights back in Colorado and Washington.

I beg to differ.

First of all, drug testing has never been scientifically shown to be safe or effective at improving workplace safety or productivity, and studies indicate that the great majority of drug-positive workers are just as reliable as others. Medically, the consensus of expert opinion is that drug tests are an inherently unreliable indicator of drug impairment. Dr. George Lundberg of the American Medical Association has called them "Chemical McCarthyism."

Second, by pre-screening away marijuana smokers, we’re weeding out (so to speak) some of our most creative and, I would argue, productive employees. If you doubt that marijuana smokers have contributed to our society, see VeryImportantPotheads.com. In the case of someone using marijuana for medical purposes, it’s downright discrimination to deny them employment for using what a doctor has legally recommended under state law.

Silicon Valley, the brainchild of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (who both admittedly smoked pot in their youth), notoriously does not drug test its employees, knowing they’d lose much of their talent that way. Yet the region is responsible for much of California’s economic productivity, in one of the few non-military industries the US has. Pot-friendly Hollywood is another shining example of an industry that exports instead of imports to the US, like most of our consumables.

It’s not surprising that Clinton would mention a possible pot smoker, since quite likely she was one herself and the president she worked for certainly was. Would either have benefited from a world that imprisoned or discriminated against them for their youthful or weekend indulgences? I think not.

Henry Ford’s method of sending investigators into his workers’ homes to observe their drinking habits seems outrageous today, yet employers are basically doing the same thing by demanding its workers pee in a cup on Monday to find out what they did on Friday night. Is it really their business?

There is an alternative called impairment testing that has been shown to be more effective than drug testing at assuring workers’ safety. But chemical tests are entrenched, in our political process, and with businesses and insurance companies. The more forward-thinking ideas are, so far, crushed under the Greek architecture of the old days.

Of Gehry, Clinton said, "Some of his work at first might appear haphazard, but in fact, it’s highly intentional and sophisticated. Where once a few strong columns could hold up the weight of the world, today we need a dynamic mix of materials and structures." We also need a dynamic and varied work force, one that might even look haphazard from the outside, to meet the challenges of today’s world.

Carl Sagan, one of the many productive members of society who enjoyed marijuana, said, "The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world."

It won’t do us much good to end the injustice of marijuana prohibition if only the unemployed can exercise their right to use it. And those companies who exercise drug testing have only a piss-poor workforce.

Ellen Komp is Deputy Director of California NORML and a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture. She manages the website VeryImportantPotheads.com and blogs at Tokin Woman.

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Potential for heart attack, stroke risk seen with marijuana use

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By Melissa Healy

April 23, 2014, 4:35 p.m.

Over a five-year period, a government-mandated tracking system in France showed that physicians in that country treated 1,979 patients for serious health problems associated with the use of marijuana, and nearly 2% of those encounters were with patients suffering from cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke, and circulation problems in the arms and legs. In roughly a quarter of those cases, the study found, the patient died.

In the United States, when young and otherwise healthy patients show up in emergency departments with symptoms of heart attack, stroke, cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrhythmia, physicians have frequently noted in case reports that these unusual patients are regular marijuana users.

Such reporting is hardly the basis for declaring marijuana use an outright cause of cardiovascular disease. But on Wednesday, cardiologists writing in the Journal of the American Heart Assn. warned that “clinical evidence … suggests the potential for serious cardiovascular risks associated with marijuana use.” And with a growing movement to decriminalize marijuana use, they called for data-collection efforts capable of detecting and measuring marijuana’s cardiovascular impact among American users of cannibis setiva.

“There is now compelling evidence on the growing risk of marijuana-associated adverse cardiovascular effects, especially in young people,” said Emilie Jouanjus, lead author of the French study, which was also published in the Journal of the American Heart Assn. That evidence, Jouanjus added, should prompt cardiologists to consider marijuana use a potential cause of cardiovascular disease in patients they see.

In an editorial published Wednesday in the AHA journal, Drs. Sherief Rezkalla and Robert A. Kloner asked, “Do we really know enough about the cardiovascular effects of marijuana to feel comfortable about its use in patients with known cardiovascular disease or patients with cardiovascular risk factors,” including obesity, sedentary behavior, high blood pressure and worrisome cholesterol numbers. 

Rezkalla and Kloner combed the recent medical literature for animal experiments, observational studies and case reports linking marijuana use in close temporal proximity with cardiovascular events. They cited evidence that marijuana use probably increases clotting factors in the blood and that heavy marijuana use may lead to significant changes in the tiny vessels carrying blood to the heart and brain, such that even after clearance of a major blockage, blood flow remains impeded.

Aside from heart attacks and strokes, case studies linked recent marijuana use in patients seeking care for increased angina, ischemic ulcers and gangrene associated with blocked blood flow to extremities and transcient ischemic attacks, sometimes called “mini-strokes.” Notably these complaints often came from patients who were young and had no previous evidence of cardiovascular disease.

“We think the time has come to stop and think about what is the best way to protect our communities from the potential danger of widespread marijuana use in the absence of safety studies,” added Rezkalla, a cardiologist at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, and Kloner, a cardiologist at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “It is the responsibility of the medical community to determine the safety of the drug before it is widely legalized for recreational use.”

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