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Tag: marijuana

Justice Thomas Says Federal Laws Against Marijuana No Longer Needed

Clarence Thomas, one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative judges, said the contradicting policies on marijuana in the United States make it difficult to understand federal laws against the cultivation and use of the drug. The judge believes the federal laws regarding the possession of marijuana, following the precedent of the 2005 Supreme Court’s ruling, are outdated with how the legal system approaches the drug today. Thomas wrote, “A prohibition on interstate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the federal government’s piecemeal approach.” Thom...

Can Marijuana Reform Win In A Deep Red State?

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Marijuana is on the ballot in South Dakota in November this year. This is a state that has the dubious distinction of being the only one to twice defeat a medical marijuana initiative. And it has another dubious distinction: It's the only state where people get prosecuted for having marijuana show up on a drug test.

That South Dakota has reactionary drug laws is not surprising; it is a pretty reactionary state. It voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016—he beat Hillary Clinton by nearly 30 points here—and Republican Governor Kristi Noem has (in)famously discussed engraving Trump's image on Mount Rushmore with him. The state's congressional delegation is all-GOP, including Senate Majority Whip John Thune, and Republicans control both houses of the legislature as well, holding a super-majority in both for nearly a quarter-century.

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Can Kamala Persuade Biden To Push For Legal Weed?

A vice president has to defer to the president's decisions on policy, but vice presidents can also help shape it. Dick Cheney pushed George W. Bush to invade Iraq, and Joe Biden gave Barack Obama a nudge to endorse same-sex marriage. Maybe Kamala Harris will convince Biden to push for legalizing marijuana.

There are reasons to think so. One was her laughing reply last year when an interviewer asked if she had ever smoked cannabis: "Half my family's from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?" Another is that as attorney general of California, she endorsed legalization of recreational weed, which the state's voters approved in 2016.

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Blowing The Lid Off Of The ‘Marijuana Treatment’ Racket

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

According to a comprehensive review by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, “few marijuana users become dependent” upon pot. By contrast, those who drink alcohol are nearly twice as likely to do so problematically. Nonetheless, over half of all young people admitted to drug treatment programs are there for their involvement with marijuana, and this percentage is steadily rising. So what’s going on?

A just-published analysis of federal drug treatment admissions data – knows as TEDS-A (Treatment Episode Data Set – Admissions) – by researchers at Binghamton University and the University of Iowa sheds some light on this issue, and it’s disturbing.

According to the study, which analyzed youth (ages 12 to 20) marijuana treatment admissions during the years 1995 to 2012, both the total number of drug treatment admissions and the number of admissions exclusively for marijuana increased over this 18-year period. Specifically, the number of youth admitted for weed rose from 52,894 in 1995 to 87,528 in 2012 – an increase of 65 percent. (Overall, just under 1.5 million teens were admitted to treatment for alleged cannabis dependence this period.)

Yet, well publicized data from the US Centers for Disease Control, Monitoring the Future, and others reports that daily, monthly, and yearly marijuana use by young people declined sharply during much of this same period. Perhaps even more importantly, studies further report that rates of problematic marijuana – so-called “cannabis use disorder” (CUD) – also fell significantly. For example, data published last week by investigators at the US National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) finds that the prevalence of past year CUD in young people fell 25 percent in the years between 2002 and 2014. Their findings mimicked those of a 2016 NIDA-funded study which similarly reported a 24 percent decline in problematic pot use by young people.

So, if fewer young people are using pot – and even fewer are doing so problematically – why are more teens than ever before winding up in substance abuse treatment programs? The answer lies with the criminal justice system.

Between 1995 and 2012, the percentage of young people referred to drug treatment as a result of a criminal arrest rose 70 percent, researchers reported. As a result, as of 2012, 53 percent of all youth drug treatment admissions came directly from criminal justice referrals. (Among adults, this percentage has historically been even higher.)

Predictably, as the percentage of criminal justice referrals has increased, so too has the percentage of minority youth being coerced into drug treatment programs. (Studies consistently find that African Americans and Hispanics are arrested for drug law violations, and marijuana possession specifically, at rates far greater than whites – even though their drug use rates are little different.) Since 1995, Black youth admitted to drug treatment for marijuana increased 86 percent. The percentage of Latino admissions grew by 256 percent. By contrast, white youth admissions increased only 11 percent during this same time period.

Perhaps most importantly, the authors of this new study acknowledge that many of the teens now being mandated to attend drug treatment don’t appear to belong there because they exhibit little evidence of having suffered from any deleterious mental or physical health problems specific to their cannabis use. In fact, since 2008, 30 percent of all young people in treatment for alleged marijuana dependence had no record of having even used pot in the 30 days prior to their admittance – much less exhibiting signs of being dependent upon the herb. Another 20 percent of the teens admitted had used pot fewer than three times in the past month. “Our findings indicate that the severity of drug use involved in those admissions has decreased,” authors concluded. “This study highlights the importance of identifying youth in actual need of treatment services.”

Indeed. At a time when our nation is in the grip of rising opioid abuse, America’s limited drug treatment services are primarily being used to warehouse those who occasionally use – or, more likely – have been arrested for pot.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and serves as a senior policy advisor for Freedom Leaf, Inc. He is the co-author of the book, Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chelsea Green, 2013).

11 Senators Call On Trump Team To Allow Sale Of Recreational Marijuana

IMAGE:  Cannabis buds are shown on first day of legal recreational marijuana sales beginning at midnight in Portland, Oregon in this October 1, 2015 file photo.  REUTERS/Steve Dipaola/Files

Ohio Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich on Wednesday signed a bill legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes under certain circumstances, his office said.

Over the last few years, state legislatures and voters in the United States have been much more receptive to making marijuana legal for medical purposes, and to a lesser extent, recreational use.

The Ohio legislature approved the measure in May.

Some 24 states and Washington D.C. currently allow some type of medical marijuana use, and just a handful of states allow its recreational use. It remains illegal on the federal level.

Kasich, who earlier this year dropped out of the U.S. presidential race, signed the bill but provided no statement on Wednesday.

The Ohio legislation only allows patients with specific medical conditions to use an oil, edible, tincture or vapor form of marijuana prescribed by a physician licensed in the state, starting in 2017.

Medical marijuana users would not be allowed to smoke or grow their own marijuana under the measure, which also would create a commission responsible for regulating and licensing of all operations of the drug.

The measure was fast-tracked to head off a possible less-restrictive medical marijuana ballot initiative in November. Ohioans for Medical Marijuana suspended their campaign for the ballot measure late last month, saying that while the lawmakers’ bill had its shortcomings, it was “a moderately good piece of legislation.”

Last November, Ohio voters soundly rejected a measure that would have made it the first U.S. Midwestern state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The proposal was criticized for allowing the main backers of the proposal cartel-like powers over the industry in the state for several years.

 

Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco and Kim Palmer in Destin, Fla.; Editing by Matthew Lewis

Photo: Marijuana plants are seen in an indoor cultivation in Montevideo December 6, 2013.  REUTERS/Andres Stapff

Ohio Voters Soundly Reject Marijuana Legalization Initiative

By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Ohio voters soundly rejected a marijuana initiative Tuesday that would have legalized recreational and medicinal use of the drug, and would have limited commercial growing to a small group of investors who drafted and promoted the measure.

The initiative was failing 65 percent to 35 percent, with more than three-quarters of precincts reporting.

“Issue 3 has been soundly defeated!” Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies crowed on Twitter. “No marijuana monopolies in this state!”

Four other states and the District of Columbia have already legalized the recreational sale of marijuana, which is still a federal crime. Ohio would have been the first state in the Midwest to do so.

But along with opposition from anti-drug groups and state elected officials, Ohio’s unorthodox initiative drew discomfort from some legalization supporters.

“This year’s initiative failed because a greed-driven monopoly plan is wrong for the state of Ohio,” one competing pro-legalization group, Legalize Ohio 2016, said in a statement. “Some activists were let down tonight because they put their faith in a bad plan, but their efforts have brought us a step closer to legalizing marijuana in 2016.”

Opponents alleged that Issue 3 would have effectively set up a monopoly by limiting commercial marijuana growth to 10 preselected plots of land owned by the entrepreneurs behind the measure.

A group of 24 investors backing the measure included former NBA star Oscar Robertson, descendants of President William Howard Taft and former boy-band celebrity Nick Lachey.

The “ResponsibleOhio” legalization campaign was driven by political consultant Ian James, who acknowledged he would profit from the measure.

“The honest and most easy response is: I am going to profit from this,” James told the Center for Public Integrity in June. “If people are upset about me making money, I don’t know what to say other than that that’s part of the American process. To win and make this kind of change for social justice, it does cost a lot of money.”

In a televised concession speech Tuesday night, James called the loss “a bump in the road” and accused state legislators of “refus(ing) to deal with the voters.”

State legislators seeking to derail Issue 3 had presented voters with an “anti-monopoly” initiative, Issue 2, designed to nullify the marijuana initiative and ban special-interest groups from creating constitutional amendments for financial gain.

Both measures appeared on the ballot Tuesday, presenting a potential legal conundrum if each one passed.

Generally, under Ohio law, whichever ballot measure receives more votes prevails.

But Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who opposed the legalization effort, said if both measures passed the legislators’ anti-monopoly initiative would have prevailed because it would go into effect immediately, while the voter-initiated marijuana measure would take 30 days.

In that case, experts expected the marijuana-initiative supporters to take the matter to court.

The vote for the anti-monopoly initiative was much closer. It was leading, 52 percent to 48 percent, with 76 percent of precincts reporting.

The defeat of the marijuana measure was the first such loss for a recreational legalization initiative since 2012, and the first loss for marijuana advocates more generally since Florida rejected medical marijuana last year, according to John Hudak, a fellow with the Brookings Institute.

“The forces of defeat had more to do with timing, referendum language, demographics, and other ballot initiatives than it did with public opinion on the issue,” Hudak wrote in an instant analysis of the measure’s defeat.

Hudak added that ResponsibleOhio was “never able to consolidate the marijuana reform community inside or outside Ohio, and the ballot measure’s fate was dramatically affected by it.”

In a statement after the vote, Tom Angell of the pro-legalization group the Marijuana Majority called Issue 3 a “flawed measure” that “didn’t represent what voters wanted.

“Tonight’s results — and the choices that inevitably led up to them — are especially sad for Ohioans who use marijuana and will continue to be treated like criminals for no good reason,” Angell wrote.

On Twitter, Angell also scolded the measure’s backers using the hashtag #HowNotToLegalizeMarijuana. In another tweet, he said, “You idiots.”

Issue 3 also aimed to establish a marijuana control commission to regulate growth, distribution and sales in the state.

The measure would have imposed a 15 percent tax on gross revenues of growing operations and a 5 percent tax on gross revenues of retail marijuana stores, plus annual licensing fees.

Fifty-five percent of the taxes would have been distributed to cities and townships and 30 percent to counties for infrastructure and public safety purposes. The remaining 15 percent would have gone to the marijuana commission.

Photo: Ohio would have been the first state in the midwest to legalize marijuana. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

How Evolving Public Attitudes On Marijuana Could Affect The 2016 Presidential Race

By Evan Halper and Kurtis Lee, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Pot is very much on the minds of voters, with millions poised to decide whether to legalize it. That raises a tantalizing question for presidential candidates: Is there political opportunity in the wind?

Some are beginning to believe there is.

The latest sign was the full-throated call last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders to end federal prohibition. With that one move, the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination plunged into uncharted territory — and, arguably, so did the presidential race.

Never before has a contender with so much to lose so unequivocally suggested that smoking a joint should be viewed the same as drinking a beer, at least in the eyes of the law.

The move was about more than Sanders’ signature straight talk. It could give the Vermont senator a much-needed boost in some primary states, especially in the West.

Some pollsters and strategists are surprised it has taken this long for a leading candidate to promote legalization this forcefully.

“Politicians are terrible at anything new,” said Celinda Lake, a Washington political strategist who has worked on pot initiatives. “They always miss the trends where voters are ahead of them.”

She says voter opinion is shifting on marijuana as rapidly as it did on same-sex marriage, another issue where lawmakers struggled to keep pace with evolving public attitudes.

A new Gallup poll found that 58 percent of voters say marijuana should be legalized, suggesting there is not a lot of risk in embracing it. More important, the pot vote draws a demographic highly coveted by campaign operatives: It’s young, diverse and up for grabs.

But there may be danger in doubling down on the dime bag.

“It can easily be turned against them,” said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group.

What happens, he asked, when a pro-pot candidate is confronted at a town hall by the parent of a child who had a “psychotic episode” after consuming a pot lollipop? “How do you defend against that?”

The candidates are grappling with legalization at the same time that drug abuse is a prominent issue in the primaries, with a heroin epidemic a key concern of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to hold contests.

Republican contender Carly Fiorina has spoken emotionally about losing her stepdaughter to addiction.

And there is disagreement among strategists about just how rapidly public opinion has shifted in the voting groups that count most in a closely contested election, such as Latinos and older women.

“There are too many battleground states where it is still controversial,” said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster.

Sanders framed his language carefully. “Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use,” he said at George Mason University in Virginia on Wednesday. “That’s wrong. That has got to change.”

He said he would take marijuana off the federal government’s list of illegal drugs, leaving states free to regulate it the way they do alcohol and tobacco.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican, has taken a similar plunge, but the stakes are higher for Sanders, who is far more popular with voters.

Other candidates are fumbling their way forward.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has told small audiences in the pot havens of Oregon and Colorado that marijuana businesses in states where it is legal need relief from federal restrictions that can make it impossible for them to operate.

Yet her campaign refused to accept a donation from the cannabis industry’s trade group, and in the first Democratic debate she took a “wait and see” position.

Some Republicans, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, aggressively oppose legalization. Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has taken the hardest line, vowing a crackdown. Other Republicans say they would let states continue experimenting.

“Politicians have been three steps behind the public on this,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., a leading legalization proponent in Congress. “The train is already leaving the station. There is huge opportunity. It is going to be on the ballot in swing states.”

The impact on political candidates was unclear when legalization came before voters last year. Alaskans voted to legalize recreational use while also electing a Republican senator, Dan Sullivan, who opposed the move.

Oregonians also voted to legalize, while at the same time re-electing an incumbent governor, Democrat John Kitzhaber, who did not support legalization.

In Florida, Democrats had hoped a popular medical marijuana measure would give them the edge in the 2014 governor’s race. It didn’t. Although 58 percent of voters supported medical marijuana, Republican Rick Scott won the gubernatorial election.

Those bullish on the boost that pot can provide say the landscape will be dramatically different in 2016, a presidential election year, when turnout is expected to be younger and more diverse — and candidates such as Sanders and Paul are not tiptoeing around the issue.

Legalization for recreational use is expected to be on the ballot in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.

The state being watched most now, though, is Ohio. Voters in that battleground state will decide on a legalization measure Tuesday. Candidates will closely monitor the outcome.

“This is the gay marriage issue of the day,” said John Morgan, an Orlando, Fla., trial lawyer, who spent more than $4 million of his own money on the Florida medical pot measure. It fell short of meeting the state’s unusually high threshold of 60 percent for an initiative to pass.

So Morgan is bankrolling another measure for next year.

In late spring, he hosted a fundraiser at his home for Clinton.

“Many of them are not leaders, they’re followers,” he said of politicians. “We saw that on gay marriage and other issues, and now we’ll probably see it on marijuana at some point. At some point they’ll say ‘whatever’ and go along with what’s right.”
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(Halper reported from Washington and Lee from Los Angeles.)

Photo: A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, November 27, 2012. REUTERS/Anthony Bolante