Decriminalization


December 3, 2009 – Marijuana is California’s largest agricultural commodity with $14 billion in sales yearly, distancing itself from the state’s second largest—milk and cream—which bring in $7.3 billion a year. But California’s coffers only receive a fraction of the marijuana sales, $200 million coming from the sale of medical marijuana. That could all change with Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s (D-San Francisco) Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act (AB 390).

Since February, when the bill was introduced, it has made little headway in the Legislature. But in October, a hearing on the bill was held by the Public Safety Committee; marking the first time a legislative committee held a hearing on marijuana legalization.

AB 390 would create a system that would regulate marijuana much like alcohol is regulated. Those over the age of 21 could purchase pot from vendors with licenses to do so. The state’s Legislative Analyst and the Board of Equalization have estimated that pot sales could bring up to $1.3 billion in revenue yearly. That number is based off a proposed $50-per-oz. levy placed on marijuana purchases and sales tax.

With a projected deficit of $20 billion facing the state next fiscal year, sources of guaranteed revenue are needed. But there are those that believe that the social issues legalizing pot could have far outweigh any economic benefits.

“Why add another addictive element to our society? I don’t think we should criminalize marijuana, but I don’t think having marijuana where you can buy it like cigarettes or alcohol is something we ought to be doing as a society. I believe we are moving in the wrong direction on that,” said Steve Francis, a former San Diego mayoral candidate and founder of the site KeepComingBack.com—a site that focuses on news and research of alcohol and drug addiction.

Francis says that legalizing marijuana would ultimately cost the state money. He cited a report issued by the Marin Institute that found the economic cost of alcohol use is $38 billion annually, with the state covering $8.3 billion for health-care treatment of alcohol-caused illnesses, plus crime costs, traffic incidents and reduced worker productivity. The taxes and fees collected from alcohol sales only cover 22 percent of total government costs. He says there is every reason to believe the same would happen with marijuana.

“Whatever taxes the author of the legislation thinks we are going to collect on the taxation of marijuana will be very little compared to the social costs on California,” he said.

But the economic impact legalizing marijuana could have goes beyond taxation. Nearly a fifth of California’s 170,000 inmates are locked up because of drug-related crimes. Although most are convicted on crimes more severe than possession, legalizing marijuana would save the state $1 billion in law enforcement and corrections costs.

Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray says the best solution is to repeal the prohibition of marijuana, allowing the substance to become regulated and less available to children.

“We couldn’t make this drug any more available if we tried,” he said in TIME. “Unfortunately, every society in the history of mankind has had some form of mind-altering, sometimes addictive substance to use, misuse, abuse or get addicted to. Get used to it. They’re here to stay. So let’s try to reduce those harms, and right now we couldn’t do worse if we tried.”

Even if California were to legalize marijuana, there are those that believe that the gray area between federal and state law would only widen. Since California’s Compassionate Use Act was passed in 1996, medicinal marijuana has become more accessible to those need it. But it has opened the gates of confusion, as federal laws still consider marijuana illegal. In fact, cannabis is described as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has no medical use and cannot be prescribed by a physician. Many California municipalities have been reluctant to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, even though they were legalized 13 years ago.

There has been some indication that the federal government is starting to ease its control of marijuana. A few days after Ammiano introduced AB 390, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that states should be allowed to determine their own rules for medical marijuana and that federal raids on dispensaries would stop in California. President Obama’s nomination of Gil Kerlikowske to be the so-called drug czar and head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy indicated that a softer federal stance on marijuana is being taken. Kerlikowske is the former police chief in Seattle, where he made it clear that going after marijuana possession was not a priority for his department.

A vote by the Public Safety Committee on AB 390 is expected in January. Ammiano said the bill could take between a year and two years before it is heard or voted on in the Legislature. Until then, the debate over decriminalizing marijuana will continue amidst one of California’s worst economic times. BY Landon Bright Source.

November 15, 2009 – Here’s an update on some of the more significant legislation moving (or not) on the Hill.
congress
Medical Marijuana

Late last month, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) reintroduced H.R. 3939, the Truth in Trials Act, which would allow defendants in federal medical marijuana prosecutions to use medical evidence in their defense — a right they do not have under current federal law. The bill currently has 28 cosponsors and has been endorsed by more than three dozen advocacy, health, and civil liberties organizations. It is before the House Judiciary Committee.

That isn’t the only medical marijuana bill pending. In June, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Medical Marijuana Protection Act, which would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug and eliminate federal authority to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal. The measure has 29 cosponsors and has been sitting in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce ever since. Frank introduced similar legislation in the last two Congresses, but the bills never got a committee vote or even a hearing. Advocates hoped that with a Democratically-controlled Congress and a president who has at least given lip service to medical marijuana, Congress this year would prove to be friendlier ground, but that hasn’t proven to be the case so far.

In July, the House passed the District of Columbia appropriations bill and in so doing removed an 11-year-old amendment barring the District from implementing the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1998. Known as the Barr amendment after then Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), the amendment has been attacked by both medical marijuana and DC home rule advocates for years as an unconscionable intrusion into District affairs. The Senate has yet to act. Among the proponents for removing the Barr amendment: Bob Barr.

Marijuana Decriminalization

In June, Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Personal Use of Marijuana By Responsible Adults Act, which would remove federal criminal penalties for the possession of less than 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) and for the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce. The bill would not change marijuana’s status as a Schedule I controlled substance, would not change federal laws banning the growing, sale, and import and export of marijuana, and would not undo state laws prohibiting marijuana. It currently has nine cosponsors and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

And just so you don’t get the mistaken idea that the era of drug war zealotry on the Hill is completely in the past, there is Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). In June, Kirk introduced the High Potency Marijuana Sentencing Enhancement Act, which would increase penalties for marijuana offenses if the THC level is above 15%. Taking a page from the British tabloids, Kirk complained that high-potency “Kush” was turning his suburban Chicago constituents into “zombies.” Nearly six months later, Kirk’s bill has exactly zero cosponsors and has been sent to die in the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Industrial Hemp

Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) again introduced an industrial hemp bill this year. HR 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009 would remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp. They were joined by a bipartisan group of nine cosponsors, a number which has since grown to 18. The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce and House Judiciary committees upon introduction. Six weeks later, Judiciary referred it to its Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, where it has languished ever since. Source.

October 16, 2009 – A nine-block section of downtown Oakland, Calif., has become a modern marijuana mecca—and a model for what a legalized-drug America could look like. Why the stars are aligning for Picture 22the pro-weed movement.

On the corner of Broadway and 17th Street in downtown Oakland, nudged between a Chinese restaurant and a hat shop, Oaksterdam University greets passersby with a life-sized cutout of Barack Obama and the sweet smell of fresh marijuana drifting from a back room. Inside, dutiful students flip through thick plastic binders of the day’s lessons, which, on a recent Saturday began with “Pot Politics 101,” taught by a ponytailed legal consultant who has authored a number of books on hemp. The class breaks for lunch around noon, and resumes an hour later, with classes on “budtending,” horticulture and cooking, which includes a recipe for “a beautiful pot pesto.” There are 50 students in this class, the majority of them Californians, but some have come all the way from Kansas. In between lectures, the university’s founder, Richard Lee, 47, rolls in and out on his wheelchair greeting students, looking the part of a pot school dean in Converse sneaker, aviator glasses, and a green “Oaksterdam” T-shirt.

Locals refer to the nine-block area surrounding the university as Oaksterdam—a hybrid of “Oakland” and the drug-friendly “Amsterdam,” where marijuana has been effectively legal since 1976. Nestled among what was once a rash of vacant storefronts, Lee has created a kind of urban pot utopia, where everything moves just a little bit more slowly than the outside world. Among the businesses he owns are the Blue Sky Coffeeshop, a coffee house and pot dispensary where getting an actual cup of Joe takes 20 minutes but picking up a sack of Purple Kush wrapped neatly in a brown lunch bag takes about five. There’s Lee’s Bulldog Café, a student lounge with a not-so-secret back room where the haze-induced sounds of “Dark Side of the Moon” seep through thick smoke, and a glass blowing shop where bongs are the art of choice. Around the corner is a taco stand (Lee doesn’t own this one) that has benefitted mightily from the university’s hungry students.

An education at Oaksterdam means learning how to grow, sell, market, and consume weed—all of which has been legal in California, for medicinal use only, since 1996. For the price of an ounce of pot and a couple of batches of brownies (about $250), pot lovers can enroll in a variety of weekend cannabis seminars all focused on medicinal use. But “medicinal” is something of an open joke in the state, where anyone over age 18 with a doctor’s note—easy to get for ailments like anxiety or cramps, if you’re willing to pay—can obtain an ID card allowing access to any of the state’s hundreds of dispensaries, or pot shops. (“You can basically get a doctor’s recommendation for anything,” said one dispensary worker.) Not all of those dispensaries are legally recognized, however: there’s a growing discrepancy over how California’s laws mesh (or don’t mesh) with local and federal regulations. But Oakland is unique in that it has four licensed and regulated dispensaries, each taxed directly by the city government. This past summer, Oakland voters became the first in the nation to enact a special cannabis excise tax—$18 for every $1,000 grossed—that the city believes will generate up to $1 million in the first year. Approved by 80 percent of voters, and unopposed by any organization, including law enforcement, the tax was pushed by the dispensary owners themselves, who hope the model will prove to the rest of California that a regulated marijuana industry can be both profitable and responsible. “The reality is we’re creating jobs, improving the city, filling empty store spaces, and when people come down here to Oakland they can see that,” says Lee, who smokes both recreationally and for his health, to ease muscle spasms caused by a spinal chord injury.

The arguments against this kind of operation are easy to tick off: that it glamourizes marijuana, promotes a gateway drug, leads to abuse. Compared to more serious drugs like heroine, cocaine or even alcohol, studies have shown the health effects of marijuana are fairly mild. But there are still risks to its consumption: heavy pot users are more likely to be in car accidents; there have been some reports of it causing problems in respiration and fetal development. And, as the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, put it recently, there are a number of medical professionals, and many parents, who worry that the drug’s increased potency over the years has heightened the risk of addiction. “It’s certainly true that this is not your grandfather’s pot,” says Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, like much of the country, Oakland is suffering economically. The city faced an $83 million budget deficit this year, and California, of course, is billions in the red. So from a public coffers perspective, if ever there were a time to rethink pot policy, that time is now. Already in Sacramento, there is a legalization measure before the state assembly that the author claims could generate $1.3 billion in tax revenue. And while analysts say it has little hope of passing (it faces strong opposition from law enforcement), the figures prompted even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger—who’s vetoed every marijuana-related bill to come across his desk—to proclaimed that “It’s time for a debate.” On a federal level, marijuana is still illegal—it was outlawed, over the objections of the American Medical Association, in 1937. But in February, Attorney General Eric Holder stunned critics when he announced that the feds would cease raiding medical marijuana dispensaries that are authorized under state law. “People are no longer outraged by the idea of legalization,” wrote former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown in a recent op-ed. “And truth be told, there is just too much money to be made both by the people who grow marijuana and the cities and counties that would be able to tax it.”

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron has estimated that the cost of cannabis prohibition is $13 billion annually, with an additional $7 billion lost in potential tax revenue. Even the students at Lee’s Oaksterdam cite the job market as a reason for showing up: one man, there with his 21-year-old son, told NEWSWEEK he’d lost his business in the housing bust; another was looking for a way to supplement his income as a contractor. “Alcohol prohibition, the result of a century-long anti-alcohol crusade, was fairly quickly repealed in part because of the onset of the Great Depression,” says Craig Reinarman, a sociologist at UC Santa Cruz and the coauthor of Crack in America. “I think we’re in a similar situation now, where states are so strapped for money that any source of new revenue is going to be welcomed.”

Oakland has become a kind of test lab for what legalized marijuana might look like. City Council member Rebecca Kaplan tells NEWSWEEK that the new tax revenue will help save libraries, parks, and other public services, and that the once-destitute area where Oaksterdam now thrives has seen a clear boost. Over the past six years, 160 new businesses have moved into downtown Oakland, and the area’s vacancy rate has dropped from 25 percent to less than 5, according to Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency. And while that can’t be attributed to Oaksterdam directly, some local business owners believe it’s played a key role—particularly as it relates to local tourism. Lee hosts 500 students at Oaksterdam University each month—about 20 percent of them from out of state—and has graduated nearly 4,000 since he opened the school in late 2007, inspired by a “cannabis college” he discovered on a trip to Amsterdam. The Blue Sky Coffeeshop serves about 1,000 visitors a day, half of them from out of town, and neighboring stores say the traffic has helped drive business their way. Regulation, say advocates, has also made consumption safer. They say it gets rid of hazardous strains of the drug, and eliminates the crime that can accompany underground dealing.

Presently, 13 states allow medical marijuana, with similar legalization campaigns underway in more than a dozen others. And a number of cities, such as Oakland and Seattle, have passed measures making prosecution of adult pot use the lowest law enforcement priority. Now Lee, along with an army of volunteers, has begun collecting signatures for a statewide legalization measure (for Californians 21 and over) that he plans to place on the November 2010 ballot. Backed by former state Senate president Don Perata, he’s already collected a fourth of the needed 434,000 signatures, and pledged to spend $1 million of his own funds to support the effort.

In California, where voters rule, getting an amendment on the ballot doesn’t take much more than a fat wallet, but the amount of attention Lee’s campaign has received has drawn attention to just how far American attitudes have changed over the past decade. In April, an ABC/Washington Post survey showed that 46 percent of Americans support legalization measures, up from 22 percent in 1997. And in California, a recent Field Poll showed that 56 percent are already on board to legalize and tax the drug. “This is a new world,” says Robert MacCoun, a professor of law and public policy at UC Berkeley and the coauthor of Drug War Heresies. “If you’d have asked me four years ago whether we’d be having this debate today, I can’t say I would have predicted it.”

The fact that we now are debating it—at least in some parts of the country—is the result of a number of forces that, as MacCoun puts it, have created the perfect pot storm: the failure of the War on Drugs; the growing death toll of murderous drug cartels; pop culture; the economy; and a generation of voters that have simply grown up around the stuff. Today there are pot television shows and frequent references to the drug in film, music, and books. And everyone from the president to the most successful athlete in modern history has talked about smoking it at one point or another. “Whether it’s the economy or Obama or Michael Phelps, I think all of these things have really worked to galvanize the public,” says Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the coauthor of a new book, Marijuana Is Safer; So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?”At the very least, it’s started a national conversation.”

That conversation, in some sense, has always existed. In 1972—a year after President Nixon declared his “War on Drugs”—the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse urged Congress to decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use. That never happened, in part because marijuana regulation has always been more about politics than actual science, say advocates. But these days, the masses, at least in California, seem to be heading toward greener, shall we say, pastures. “This is sort of the trendy thing to do right now, but I also think there’s an expectation that the time has come to simply acknowledge the reality,” says Armentano. “Hundreds of thousands of Californians use marijuana, and we should regulate this commodity like we do others.” It’s a fight that’s heating up. And the pro-pot crowd in Oakland is ready to light the way. By Jessica Bennett. Source.

October 11, 2009 – Campaigners in California say the state should ease its crippling financial crisis – by legalizing marijuana and collecting tax on its sale.Picture 4

Campaigners say business in California will prosper if cannabis is made legal.

California was the first state to allow people to smoke marijuana for medical purposes but under US federal law the drug remains illegal.

It means campaigners pushing to have a state-wide vote on legalization next year are on a collision course with the US government.

The city of Oakland, near San Francisco, this year became the first to collect tax on the sale of so-called ‘medical marijuana’.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was forced to put drastic cuts in place to deal with a multi-billion dollar budget deficit in a state which has a bigger economy than almost every nation on earth.

Richard Lee, who runs a “cannabis college” in the Oakland district which has become known as Oaksterdam, says the industry is worth an estimated $15bn in California so sales tax alone would bring in $1.5bn.

He told Sky News: “Just like alcohol makes a lot of money we learned with alcohol prohibition in the 1920s that when you make it illegal it doesn’t stop people doing it, it just means more crime and violence and a loss of respect for the law and law enforcement.”

Everyone says the big tobacco companies are hovering over and they are ready to pounce the second marijuana is legalized.

Eric Sligh, Grow magazine

Medical users in Oakland have to carry a card issued by their doctor which entitles them to buy marijuana at one of the city’s four licensed ‘coffee shop’ dispensaries. But police dispute the medical benefits of marijuana and insist the drug remains a ‘gateway’ to harder substances.

Special Agent Bob Cooke, the man in charge of California’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, told Sky News any amount of tax collected would not pay for the damage caused.

He said: “We’re not making enough money now to care for all the people in hospital with illnesses caused by smoking cigarettes for 30 years and quitting 20 years ago, so who is going to pay for all of this.”

Pro-legalisation campaigners believe the move is inevitable in California and that big business cannot wait.

Eric Sligh, who runs Grow magazine, said: “Everyone says the big tobacco companies are hovering over and they are ready to pounce the second marijuana is legalized.

“They think it is going to happen, they have binoculars and are just sitting and waiting for legalization and they’re going to cash in.” Source.

October 5, 2009 – An Objective, Brief, and Ethical Exploration of a Law Prohibiting Marijuana

Marijuana is illegal, but should it be? That is a question that remains unanswered. The road to the freezedirtbag2illegalization of marijuana began in 1937 when the Marihuana Tax Act was passed. While it didn’t make the drug illegal, it made it very dangerous to deal with the substance. It wasn’t until the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that marijuana became a schedule 1 narcotic, making it illegal. In order to be declared a schedule 1 narcotic, a substance must meet the following criteria:

(A) The drug or other substance has high potential for abuse.

(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

In this article we will explore the function of drug laws, how that function relates to marijuana, and whether or not a law prohibiting marijuana is ethical and fair. In addition to the guidelines offered by the CSA, we will include our own reasons for controlling a substance, which are:

(A) The drug induces severe psychological affects, which cause unpredictable behavior that may endanger the user and those around them.

(B) Use of the drug could lead to crime.

(C) Use of the drug can lead to severe health problems.

The opposition to marijuana (in the modern day) stems largely from fears in regards to the possible psychological and physical health effects of the drug. Some claim that marijuana causes permanent damage to brain, hindering a person’s cognitive skills over time. Others note personality changes such as loss of motivation, paranoia, and addiction.

Studies have shown the fears regarding personality to be justified. However, the general consensus is that the people most affected by marijuana in terms of addiction and personality changes, are people who began using the drug before the age of 18, a period in a child’s life that is important to their psychological and social development. In fact, 10-14% of marijuana users suffer from addiction problems and withdrawal that is comparable to nicotine withdrawal, says University of Vermont associate professor and director of its Treatment Research Center, Dr. Alan J. Budney (Carroll).

According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) marijuana can have lasting effects on a user’s daily life. The following is taken from NIDA’s information page of marijuana:

Research clearly demonstrates that marijuana has the potential to cause problems in daily life or make a person’s existing problems worse. In one study, heavy marijuana abusers reported that the drug impaired several important measures of life achievement including physical and mental health, cognitive abilities, social life, and career status. Several studies associate workers’ marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers’ compensation claims, and job turnover.

As for physiological health effects, the three main concerns are in regards to the brain, the heart, and the lungs. As mentioned earlier, many opponents to marijuana use claim that the drug causes permanent damage to the brain. Many studies dispute this notion, but we will cover that in more depth when we get to the pro-marijuana portion of this paper. Instead, we will focus on the areas in which scientific studies have been able to confirm potential health risks.

Research has shown that the risk for a heart-attack increases within the first hour of marijuana use. This happens because of an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. In addition to heart concerns, marijuana poses a threat to the respiratory system as it is carcinogenic and users tend to hold smoke in their lungs longer. While it was originally believed that marijuana smoke caused cancer new studies have proven otherwise, some even saying that the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, may be able to help prevent certain kinds of cancer (NIDA).

Nevertheless, the debate on medicinal marijuana has caused an increase in the amount of research regarding the drug, many of which have ended with surprising conclusions. In 15 different studies, varying from 3 months to 13+ years, scientists observed regular marijuana users and non-users to determine if there was any damage to the brain as a result of use. All of the studies conclusively proved that marijuana does not damage the brain permanently as previously believed. Other studies have produced similar results (WebMD).

Igor Grant, MD and lead researcher for the previously mentioned studies makes sure to mention that the participants were all adults and that the results would most likely be different if it was a 12 year old user, whose nervous system is still developing (WebMD).

In regards to addiction, ”Everything is relative,” said Dr. Donald Jasinksi, a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins medical school and director of the Center for Chemical Dependence at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. ”Does it destroy as many lives as alcohol? No. Does it kill as many people as cigarettes? No. Does it have as many deaths associated with it as aspirin overdose? No. (Carroll).”

While studies have shown a percentage of marijuana users to suffer from addiction to the drug, it is a small percentage of the population and an argument can be, and has been, made that anything can be addictive based on the emotional attachment a person has to an activity. The withdrawal period is far less severe than that of alcohol and other drugs. The NIDA has found that the average withdrawal begins after 1 day of abstinence, peaks at 2-3, and subsides after a week or two (NIDA).

As far as physical health effects, respiratory problems appear to be the only one that both sides agree on, but advocates of marijuana contend moderate use of the drug is less severe than cigarette use as cigarette users tend to smoke multiple cigarettes a day. Furthermore, alternative means of marijuana consumption such as eating it or using a vaporizer lower the amount of carcinogens that enter the lungs. Even more surprising, studies conducted in Italy and Britain have found that THC might be useful in fighting off bacteria (Fountain).

With the amount of studies that have been conducted on marijuana since the 1950s, and the nature of their findings, it is shocking as to why a collective conclusion has not yet been reached in regards to the legality issue of the substance. Based on the above information and the criteria established earlier for determining whether a substance should be controlled or not, we will systematically explore the ethical validity of a law prohibiting the use, growth, and sale of marijuana.

First, we must define the telos or function of a law. Certainly, most will agree that the function of a law is to protect the majority of the population from a dangerous element of society. If that is the function of a law then we must examine the societal effects of the illegalization of marijuana versus the potential dangers.

As a result of the prohibition of marijuana, millions of Americans have been arrested and entered into the justice system, with 872,721 people being arrested in 2007, 89% for simple possession (NORML). The number is a 5.2% increase from 2006, with the annual number of marijuana arrests rising steadily on a yearly basis (NORML).

The majority of people arrested for marijuana are non-violent offenders with no previous criminal record. This means they pose no threat to society. So what is the law protecting the population from? Themselves? This seems to be the case since the law has damaged more lives through legal troubles than it protected since most marijuana users do not use the substance and go on crime sprees.

If the law’s function is meant to protect people from the health risks associated with the population then we must once again return to the studies conducted on the issue. While marijuana, like anything, has negative effects, it appears that overall it is no more dangerous than many legal substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, aspirin, etc. In the WebMD article, which talks about Igor Grant’s research regarding the effects of marijuana on the brain, Lester Grinspoon, MD, a retired Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who studied medicinal marijuana use since the 1960s and wrote two books on the topic, says that while Grant’s finding provide more evidence on its safety, “it’s nothing that those of us who have been studying this haven’t known for a very long time.”

“Marijuana is a remarkably safe and non-toxic drug that can effectively treat about 30 different conditions,” he tells WebMD. “I predict it will become the aspirin of the 21st century, as more people recognize this. (WebMD)”

While many credible minds in the scientific community warn about the dangers of marijuana use on people under the age of 18, the consensus seems to be that it is relatively safe to use for adults, especially when used in moderation.

If it poses little danger to a person’s health, brings joy to those who use it, and its users are not prone to criminal behavior, what is the function of a law prohibiting marijuana? If, as a law, it is to protect the population from an assumed danger, is it serving that function? The answers to those questions are for the reader to determine based on the evidence and analysis presented within this paper, in addition to any evidence found independently. Source.

Works Cited

Carroll, Linda. “Marijuana’s Effects: More Than Munchies.” New York Times 22 Jan. 2008.

“872,721 marijuana arrests in 2007, up 5.2% from 2006.” NORML. 15 Sept. 2008. NORML. 22 Oct. 2008 .

Fountain, Henry. “Marijuana Ingredient May Fight Bacteria.” New York Times 5 Sept. 2008: F3.

“Info Facts – Marijuana.” National Institute of Drug Abuse. June 2008. National Institute of Drug Abuse. 22 Oct. 2008.

Kirchheimer, Sid. “Heavy Marijuana Use Doesn’t Damage Brain.” WebMD. 1 July 2003. WebMD. 22 Oct. 2008 .

October 3, 2009 – SAN FRANCISCO — A majority of Californians in recent polls say the state should legalize marijuana. What pot proponents can’t agree on is how soon voters will really be ready to approve schwarzenegger-highlegalization.

A schism has emerged among California’s pot-legalization advocates. On one side are those pushing to get a proposition to voters quickly, including activists such as Richard Lee, who last month began collecting signatures to put a pot-legalization measure on the state’s November 2010 ballot.

On the other side is a go-slow camp calling for a 2012 vote, including activists like Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, or Norml. “I do think it will take a few more years for us to develop a proposal that voters will be comfortable with,” said Mr. Gieringer.

In recent elections, Californians have been less liberal than their free-thinking image would suggest. That has led to sharp rifts over strategy among proponents of a number of liberal causes in the state. The pot schism mirrors a split in another cause — the effort to overturn Proposition 8, which in 2008 banned same-sex marriage — where advocates likewise disagree over whether to put a measure on the ballot next year or to wait until 2012.

It is clear to both the 2010 and 2012 supporters that pot legalization faces significant hurdles in California. While pot is already widely available under the state’s medical-marijuana laws, and an April Field Poll found that 56% of Californians would support legalizing and taxing marijuana sales to help with the state’s budget crisis, there is a significant anti-legalization lobby that is gearing up to fight any pot proposition.

“I don’t think it matters if it’s in 2010 or 2012,” said John Lovell, a lobbyist for California police groups, “once the public understands what we’re talking about.”

Mr. Lovell said a case in point was the 2008 defeat of Proposition 5, which would have reduced the criminal consequences of drug possession. Internal polling by a campaign to defeat the measure initially showed it passing with 68% approval, said Mr. Lovell, who was chairman of the campaign. But voters changed course and defeated it with 60% disapproval. Law-enforcement groups who campaigned against that proposition are ready to battle any new marijuana initiative, he said.

The 2010 ballot proponents say there is no time like the present, because California’s economic mess gives pot legalization an urgent fiscal appeal. Taxing pot could help reverse cuts in spending to education, health care and other services enacted this year, said Mr. Lee, who along with fellow activist Jeff Jones is gathering signatures for a 2010 measure. “We’re the answer for all of the things on the news,” Mr. Lee said.

Mr. Lee is the founder of Oaksterdam University, an Oakland, Calif., school that trains students for jobs in the medical-marijuana field. California’s marijuana industry, which was already growing, got a boost earlier this year when the Obama administration announced that it was backing off federal raids of dispensaries.

Mr. Lee’s measure would allow local governments to legalize and tax marijuana sales. He said he was providing most of the $1 million he thinks is needed to gather the 434,000 signatures to put the proposition on the ballot. Mr. Lee said he took a private poll of 800 likely voters, which found 54% for an initiative versus 42% against.

His effort got a boost in September when Don Perata, a former California Senate president and a leading candidate for Oakland’s 2010 mayoral race, endorsed the measure. “In this time of economic uncertainty, it’s time we thought outside the box and brought in revenue we need to restore the California dream,” Mr. Perata said last week.

A 2010 initiative would have a reasonable chance of passing, said Thad Kousser, a visiting professor at Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center. Generally, ballot measures that start with 55% or lower support in polls lose to well-funded opposition campaigns, Mr. Kousser said. But marijuana proponents could tip the scale in their favor if they can tie the initiative to the state’s budget woes. “Any social concerns that Californians have can be overridden by bringing in more money to the state,” he said.

Go-slow advocates say Mr. Lee’s camp doesn’t understand the California electorate and the subtle strategies of exploiting election cycles. “The demographics are clearly much better in 2012, and victory would therefore be much easier,” said Aaron Smith, California policy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national pot-advocacy group. “You have the younger, more progressive voters that get out in the presidential elections.”

As progressive as California voters may be, they will still scrutinize any pot bill for holes, said Norml’s Mr. Gieringer. For example, Mr. Lee’s 2010 proposal doesn’t address the questions of whether marijuana could be smoked in public or how it could be advertised. An initiative is worth pursuing only if it has a good chance of winning, he said, and Mr. Lee’s measure “wasn’t worth the expenditures.”

Mr. Lee said that if his 2010 measure lost, he would support a 2012 effort as well. Source.

October 1, 2009 – The prohibition on marijuana makes its use a more addictive habit, says a prominent author and psychiatrist.medicalmarijuanasupremecour

Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist at the New York University School of Medicine and author of Weekends at Bellevue, told Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today Show that the feelings of shame and suspicion associated with an illegal habit, as well as the adrenaline kick it fuels, all make marijuana use more habit-forming and harmful than it needs to be.

“The fact that [marijuana is] illegal is a very big deal,” Holland said. “People have to hide and they feel like criminals and there’s a lot of shame and guilt, and it ends up making … it decreases self-esteem a little bit and it makes [the habit] more adrenalized. The fact that you add adrenaline into it, and you have to hide and you have shame, can make it more addictive and more dangerous.”

Holland and Lauer were discussing a recent article in Marie Claire magazine that argues marijuana use is gaining social acceptability among female professionals, a trend that bucks the common perception of potheads as young and lacking in ambition.

That article cites a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in stating that eight million women in the United States have smoked pot in the past year. That figure, as Lauer pointed out, did not include teenagers experimenting with the drug.

Marie Claire editor-in-chief Joanna Coles disagreed with Holland’s view that there is a large social stigma attached to smoking marijuana.

“I have to say, that’s not what we are hearing from readers,” she said on the Today Show. “First of all, it’s decriminalized in 13 states, and I don’t think this is a generation of people who get excited about the fact that it’s illegal.”

The inspiration for the article, Coles said, was “hearing from readers that they were feeling stressed. Clearly, the economy is a great deal of stress for people and they wanted a way to unwind. And they found more and more of them were doing this [smoking marijuana] and they found it had less impact on them when they were going to work the next morning. So they didn’t want to drink. It’s cheap and they felt they could do it in the privacy of their own home, and it was a very effective way to calm down.”

Holland agreed that marijuana may be a less harmful drug than alcohol, saying that marijuana has “psycho-therapeutic” properties that booze lacks.

“It’s more of a mind drug,” she said. “Alcohol’s sort of a deadening, numbing… maybe more like a body drug.”

On pot, “people are unwinding and they’re relaxing, but they’re also able to think and maybe analyze or think clearly … I think cannabis is … more functional than alcohol, certainly in terms of anxiety. It can be a treatment or a medicine.”

Coles added that the Marie Claire article seems to have struck a nerve with readers.

“Feedback from our readers is really that they’re very pleased that they recognize themselves” in the article, Coles said.
By David Edwards and Daniel Tencer. Source.

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