Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
Posted: 02/12/2013 11:04 am
I firmly believe that at some point during his second administration President Obama is going to address the issue of mass incarceration in America. What I fear is that he is going to wait so long, and ultimately do so with such caution, as to minimize his potential impact.
I'll be listening to his State of the Union tonight, hoping against hope that he says something, and says something bold. He's made clear he has other priorities -- the economy, immigration, climate change and now gun violence -- but what a difference it would make for him to speak to this issue when he addresses the nation.
There's no question he gets it. Barack Obama was a strong proponent of criminal justice reform as a state legislator. He spoke about it when he ran for president the first time. His administration worked hard during his first years in office to eliminate the racially disproportionate disparity in federal sanctions for crack and powder cocaine, winning a bipartisan compromise to at least reduce the disparity from 100:1 to 18:1. And he made clear in a Time magazine interview
just two months ago that he views over-incarceration for non-violent offenses as a real problem:
Well, I don't think it's any secret that we have one of the two or three highest incarceration rates in the world, per capita. I tend to be pretty conservative, pretty law and order, when it comes to violent crime. My attitude is, is that when you rape, murder, assault somebody, that you've made a choice; the society has every right to not only make sure you pay for that crime, but in some cases to disable you from continuing to engage in violent behavior.
But there's a big chunk of that prison population, a great huge chunk of our criminal justice system that is involved in nonviolent crimes. And it is having a disabling effect on communities. Obviously, inner city communities are most obvious, but when you go into rural communities, you see a similar impact. You have entire populations that are rendered incapable of getting a legitimate job because of a prison record. And it gobbles up a huge amount of resources. If you look at state budgets, part of the reason that tuition has been rising in public universities across the country is because more and more resources were going into paying for prisons, and that left less money to provide to colleges and universities.
But this is a complicated problem. One of the incredible transformations in this society that precedes me, but has continued through my presidency, even continued through the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, is this decline in violent crime. And that's something that we want to continue. And so I think we have to figure out what are we doing right to make sure that that downward trend in violence continues, but also are there millions of lives out there that are being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process.
Read that last line, that last clause, again: "but also are there millions of lives out there that are being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process." He didn't say a few; he didn't say thousands; he said millions. And the fact is that the president's not exaggerating -- not when this country has less than 5 percent of the world's population but almost 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population; not when our rate of incarceration is roughly five times that of most other nations; not when we rely on incarceration to an extent unparalleled in the history of democratic societies; not when almost six million Americans can't vote because they were convicted of a felony
; not when one of every 32 adult Americans are under the supervision of the criminal justice system, with all the indignities, discriminations and disadvantages that that entails; and not when the tens of billions of dollars spent each year incarcerating fellow citizens displaces expenditures on education, research and non-incarcerative infrastructure.
James Webb, who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate for the past six years, said it well: "There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice."
During President Obama's first term, I occasionally had opportunity to ask senior White House aides why the president was so silent on this issue. Some simply said he had to focus on other priorities. Others suggested that his being the first black president made him particularly wary of taking the issue on given the extraordinary extent to which over-incarceration in this country is about race and the mass incarceration of black men. But wasn't that precisely the reason, or at least a key reason, I asked, why President Obama needed to address the issue, and needed to provide the leadership that only he could provide. Maybe in a second term, they replied.
Well, that second term is now -- and what the president says tonight is going to frame his proactive agenda for the next four years. "Millions of lives," he said; millions of American lives "being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process." If ever there was a time and an issue for President Obama to assert his moral leadership, this is it.
Say it, Mr. President, please say it now.Follow Ethan Nadelmann on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EthanNadelmann
State, Federal Efforts Back Farmers in Calling for Excluding Crop From Drug Laws
By ARIAN CAMPO-FLORES
Like many farmers in Kentucky, Brian Furnish has for years struggled to find crops to replace tobacco.
He thinks he has one candidate: industrial hemp, the cousin of marijuana used to make everything from cosmetics to car parts. It grows well in small plots, and demand for some hemp-based products is on the rise. The problem is that federal law makes it virtually impossible to grow the crop in the U.S.
David Kasnic for The Wall Street JournalBrian Furnish, a farmer in Cynthiana, Ky., grows tobacco, corn, wheat and hay, and says he would further diversify into hemp if it were legalized.
"We grew it here for years until the '50s," when it was still permitted, said Mr. Furnish, 37 years old. "I don't see any reason why we couldn't again."
He can take heart from efforts gathering steam from a wide political spectrum in Congress to again authorize hemp production. U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R., Ky.) introduced a bill in the House on Wednesday that would exclude hemp from the federal drug law that now lumps it together with marijuana. U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) say they plan to file similar legislation in the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) last week said for the first time that he supported growing the crop.
Meanwhile, pro-hemp legislative measures have been introduced or carried over this year in seven states. Several states have already removed barriers to hemp production. "We've never had a better situation than we do right now," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a not-for-profit advocacy group.
Significant obstacles remain. Previous pro-hemp bills in Congress went nowhere. And the White House has taken a dim view of the crop. "Hemp and marijuana are part of the same species of cannabis plant," wrote Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, last year. He added that hemp contains tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.
Yet proponents point out the amount of THC in hemp is minimal—usually less than 1%, which is considered the threshold for potentially generating a high, according to researchers. By comparison, THC levels in marijuana average 10% and can reach 30% or more. Hemp legislation in the U.S., as well as in European countries where growing it is legal, usually sets the ceiling for THC content at 0.3%.
Farmers cultivated hemp legally throughout much of America's history. By the late 1950s, production ceased, partly as a result of high taxes imposed by the federal government.
The 1970 Controlled Substances Act made no distinction between varieties of cannabis. So while it isn't illegal to grow hemp, a farmer must register with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which Mr. Steenstra said means prohibitively expensive security requirements.
Still, it is legal to import hemp-based products—such as shirts and carpeting—and components of the plant, like hemp oil, used to make beauty products. Industry groups estimate that retail sales of hemp-based products in the U.S. exceed $300 million a year.
The size of that market has enticed advocates in Kentucky, which was a leading hemp producer in the 1800s. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is championing a bill that would set up a regulatory framework for hemp if the federal government eliminates barriers to production. It is similar to the laws in the eight states that have authorized hemp growing, though all these measures still face the prohibitions under federal law.
"We could be the Silicon Valley for industrial hemp manufacturing," he said. Several makers of hemp-based products have expressed interest in buying from Kentucky farmers, he said.
Among them is Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, an Escondido, Calif., company that imports about 20 tons of hemp oil a year from Canada. "We want to buy from American farmers," said President David Bronner.
The Kentucky effort has drawn support from both tea-party groups and liberals, the latter because the crop is considered sustainable. "People on the right like it because it's a liberty issue," said Mr. Comer, a Republican. And "people on the left like it because it's a green crop."
But some law-enforcement groups argue hemp looks similar to marijuana, which would make it a challenge to conduct aerial surveillance aimed at eradicating pot. "Hemp farming would greatly complicate drug law enforcement activities," the Kentucky Narcotic Officers' Association wrote last November.
Analysts say the measure has a decent chance of passage in the state Senate but faces a steeper climb in Kentucky's House, where Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, has expressed reservations.Write to
Arian Campo-Flores at email@example.com
~I love that William Lacy Clay signed a bill in 2008 "accidentally" but it ended up being a good thing for him politically! ss
By Chris Goo@c_goodFollow on Twitter
Feb 8, 2013 4:31pm
Image credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images
A new effort is under way in Congress to legalize marijuana.
After Colorado and Washington became the first two states to approve the sale and use of pot, marijuana advocates are turning their eye toward the federal government – something they don’t often do.
Members of Congress will introduce between eight and 10 bills to roll back federal marijuana restrictions and levy new taxes.
The first two were introduced this week by two liberal members of Congress. Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., on Monday rolled out a pair of bills that would legalize and tax marijuana at the federal level, while still allowing states to ban it.
Polis’s bill, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, would remove marijuana from the list of banned substances under the Controlled Substances Act and regulate pot under a renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms. Marijuana growers would have to buy permits to offset the costs of federal oversight.
Blumenauer’s bill, the Marijuana Tax Equity Act, would levy a 50-percent excise tax on the first sale of marijuana, typically from growers to processors or sellers, plus annual “occupation taxes” of $1,000 and $500 on marijuana growers and anyone else engaged in the business.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., meanwhile, plans to introduce another marijuana bill sometime soon. He’s the only Republican to formally support either Polis or Blumenauer as a cosponsor.
Blumenauer’s office confirmed that a slew of bills are on the way.
“We are in the process of a dramatic shift in the marijuana policy landscape,” Blumenauer said in a prepared statement on Monday.
He may be right. Marijuana legalizers enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, hitting on their two major legalization initiatives at the state level in Colorado and Washington. Since then, bills have been introduced to roll back marijuana restrictions in Hawaii, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
It’s unlikely Congress will legalize pot anytime soon, despite polls showing broader public acceptance of pot. In December, 64 percent of Gallup respondents
said they don’t want the federal government stepping in to prevent pot legalization in states that allow it. In November, another nationwide Gallup poll showed that 48 percent think marijuana should be legal, while 50 percent think it shouldn’t be.
But Polis’s bill only has 11 cosponsors and must make its way through the Republican-controlled House Agriculture Committee. Blumenauer’s has two and must make its way through the GOP-controlled House Ways and Means Committee.
What’s significant about the new push, however, is that it comes on the heels of actual state-level policy change. State and federal laws now thoroughly conflict on the topic of marijuana, and never before has Congress considered legalization in that context.
In fact, Congress rarely considers marijuana legalization at all. The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project considers a 2011 effort by then-Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, to have been the first serious effort to end marijuana “prohibition” at the federal level. That bill went nowhere. Before that, Frank pushed a bill in 2008 that mostly decriminalized marijuana federally. In a Democratic Congress, that bill died in committee. One of its seven cosponsors signed on by accident
The present effort appears more coordinated. Along with their bills, Polis and Blumenauer released a 20-page white paper on the history of marijuana’s illegality. It’s the first time pot legislation has been introduced in such a multi-bill wave.
For decades, marijuana advocates have pushed medical-pot laws and decriminalization measures through state ballot initiatives and state legislatures. The federal push, unlikely as it may be, represents a new prong in their strategy.
Published: January 31, 2013 Updated 4 hours ago
By Janet Patton — firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, has endorsed efforts in Kentucky to legalize industrial hemp.
In a statement release by his Washington office, McConnell said:
"After long discussions with Senator Rand Paul and Commissioner James Comer on the economic benefits of industrialized hemp, I am convinced that allowing its production will be a positive development for Kentucky's farm families and economy."
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer's office said he welcomed the support from McConnell, who is the Senate Minority Leader. It comes three days after Kentucky law enforcement officers released a statement opposing it, calling industrial hemp a step toward legal marijuana.
In his statement, McConnell addressed those concerns:
"Commissioner Comer has assured me that his office is committed to pursuing industrialized hemp production in a way that does not compromise Kentucky law enforcement's marijuana eradication efforts or in any way promote illegal drug use."
After conversations with Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, on the economic potential for industrial hemp, McConnell apparently came down on the side of jobs.
"The utilization of hemp to produce everything from clothing to paper is real, and if there is a capacity to center a new domestic industry in Kentucky that will create jobs in these difficult economic times, that sounds like a good thing to me," he said in the statement.
Comer said in a statement, "When the most powerful Republican in the country calls to discuss your issue, that's a good day on the job. Leader McConnell's support adds immeasurable strength to our efforts to bring good jobs to Kentucky."
I saw this idea of anti marijuana addiction re education at work about a year ago when I was attending court ordered Deferred Entry of Judgement classes in Redondo Beach. Every Wednesday night for 18 weeks I met with a health department leader and other unfortunate drug war casualties. I could see that they were setting up a whole new industry, probably backed by big insurance companies. The class would start off with roll call and paying your weekly fee. Then we would watch a video or the teacher would read some course work to us. Then he would give us some questions that we were required to answer. Most of them were things like "how does your addiction affect your daily life".... At first I quietly just didn't answer most of them or I just wrote in, "I'm not addicted. I use cannabis as a medicine. It helps me control my migraines." Then the teacher started calling me out thinking that I would buckle from public shame. You have to realize that the folks there were given a free pass from the court and they are afraid to blow it. A DEJ means that after you complete the program, you can say that you were never arrested. It's a way to run a LOT of drug related cases quickly through the judicial system. But I didn't buckle. I stood up for myself. And soon I had a lot of people in the class talk to me after and admit that it was a BS program but you do what you have to do. In the end, the instructor graduated me early to get rid of me and didn't even pee test me because he knew it would come up dirty and I had court documents stating that I could not only smoke cannabis but grow it. What they were doing was working on creating statistics that would support a HUGE money grab and create a story of crisis that doesn't really exist!~ss
*****************************************************************************************Meet SAM, the New Group Hell-Bent on Halting Marijuana Legalization
(SAM) has among its "leadership team" admitted addict Patrick Kennedy and conservative commentator David Frum.January 10, 2013
The passage of marijuana legalization measures by voters in Colorado and Washington in November has sparked interest in marijuana policy like never before, and now it has sparked the formation of a new group dedicated to fighting a rearguard action to stop legalization from spreading further.
The group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana
(SAM or Project SAM) has among its " leadership team
" liberal former Rhode Island Democratic congressman and self-admitted oxycodone and alcohol addict Patrick Kennedy
and conservative commentator David Frum. It also includes professional neo-prohibitionist Dr. Kevin Sabet and a handful of medical researchers. It describes itself as a project of the Policy Solutions Lab, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, a drug policy consulting firm headed by Sabet.
SAM emphasizes a public health approach to marijuana, but when it comes to marijuana and the law
, its prescriptions are a mix of the near-reasonable and the around-the-bend. Rational marijuana policy, SAM says, precludes relying "only on the criminal justice system to address people whose only crime is smoking or possessing a small amount of marijuana" and the group calls for small-time possession to be decriminalized, but "subject to a mandatory health screening an marijuana-education program." The SAM version of decrim also includes referrals to treatment "if needed" and probation for up to a year "to prevent further drug use."
But it also calls for an end to NYPD-style "stop and frisk" busts and the expungement of arrest records for marijuana possession. SAM calls for an end to mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana cultivation or distribution, but wants those offenses to remain "misdemeanors or felonies based on the amount possessed."For now, SAM advocates a zero-tolerance approach to marijuana and driving, saying "driving with any amount of marijuana in one's system should be at least a misdemeanor" and should result in a "mandatory health assessment, marijuana education program, and referral to treatment or social services." If a scientifically-based impairment level is established, SAM calls for driving at or above that level to be at least a misdemeanor.
Less controversially, SAM advocates for increased emphasis on education and prevention. It also calls for early screening for marijuana use and limited intervention "for those who not progressed to full marijuana addiction." ~Where is the proof that marijuana is addicting?? What about alcohol addiction or oxycodone addiction? ss
For a taste of SAM's kinder, gentler, neo-prohibitionist rhetoric, David Frum's Monday CNN column
is instructive. "We don't want to lock people up for casual marijuana use -- or even stigmatize them with an arrest record," he writes. "But what we do want to do is send a clear message: Marijuana use is a bad choice."
Marijuana use may be okay for some "less vulnerable" people, Frum writes, but we're not all as good at handling modern life as he is.
"But we need to recognize that modern life is becoming steadily more dangerous for people prone to make bad choices," he argues. "At a time when they need more help than ever to climb the ladder, marijuana legalization kicks them back down the ladder. The goal of public policy should not be to punish vulnerable kids for making life-wrecking mistakes. The goal of public policy should be to protect (to the extent we can) the vulnerable from making life-wrecking mistakes in the first place."
Marijuana legalization advocates are having none of it. And they level the charge of hypocrisy in particular at Kennedy, whose family made its fortune selling alcohol. The Marijuana Policy Project
(MPP) has called on Kennedy to explain why he wants to keep "an objectively less harmful alternative to alcohol illegal" and has created an online petition
calling on him to offer an explanation or resign as chairman of SAM."Former Congressman Kennedy's proposal is the definition of hypocrisy," said MPP communications director Mason Tvert. "He is living in part off of the fortune his family made by selling alcohol while leading a campaign that makes it seem like marijuana -- an objectively less harmful product -- is the greatest threat to public health. He personally should know better."
Nor did Tvert think much of SAM's insistence that marijuana users need treatment.
"The proposal is on par with forcing every alcohol user into treatment at their own cost or at a cost to the state. In fact, it would be less logical because the science is clear that marijuana is far less toxic, less addictive, and less likely to be associated with acts of violence," Tvert said."If this group truly cares about public health, it should be providing the public with facts regarding the relative harms of marijuana and discouraging the use of the more harmful product," Tvert said. "Why on earth would they want keep a less harmful alternative to alcohol illegal? Former Congressman Kennedy and his organization should answer this question before calling on our government to start forcing people into treatment programs and throwing them into marijuana re-education camps."
I was going to announce the DEA raids yesterday but you never know what the reason for the raid is until after it's over. How did Sheriff Baca not know about this? ~Susan
January 10, 2013 | 2:22 pm
The development director for the charity run by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has been caught up in an investigation by federal authorities over her connection to a marijuana dispensary, a spokesman said Thursday.
Dawn Zamudio’s employment at the nonprofit -- the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation -- ended Wednesday night, though a sheriff's spokesman would not say whether she was fired.
Spokesman Steve Whitmore called the discovery of the longtime employee's ties to the pot dispensary shocking given Baca's vocal criticism of such businesses.
"This is shocking to the sheriff and the entire department because she was such an outstanding employee.... This is something that was withheld from the department and the sheriff,” Whitmore said. “We are cooperating fully with this investigation.”
The Times began making inquiries about the Zamudios last month. Public records connect her husband to a marijuana dispensary in Marina del Rey. Court records also show that he had been arrested and charged with two felonies for transportation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, but the case was dismissed in 2009.
Dawn Zamudio had been working for the nonprofit organization, which raises money for youth programs across the county, for the last decade.
Whitmore described Dawn Zamudio as an assistant at the organization. But a 2011 filing listed her as the development director, making $103,700 that year and working 60 hours a week.
“She basically assisted a sergeant,” Whitmore said.
Sarah Pullen, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles, said search warrants were served in connection with the probe Wednesday, but that no arrests have been made.
She said agents would study what was seized at several locations to determine what charges, if any, should be filed. One of the dispensaries searched was Ironworks Collective, the Marina del Rey operation. Ramiro Zamudio’s name is listed on business records for that address. Federal records also describe him as running the operation.
Pullen said DEA agents seized guns at two other dispensaries, and ammunition and gun magazines at a San Gabriel residence. Federal authorities allege that the residence is connected to the Zamudios.
Pullen would not say whether the Zamudios are suspects in the probe. Federal documents name both but suggest Ramiro Zamudio is a main focus of the investigation.
The Times was not able to reach the Zamudios.
Baca has been a vocal critic of pot dispensaries, saying some have become hubs for crime and have been abused by customers who don’t have a medical need for the drug. Whitmore said Baca did not know until this week that Zamudio and her husband, Ramiro, were connected to the marijuana trade.
Baca said in 2010 that marijuana dispensaries had been hijacked by criminals who see them as an easy way to make money and get drugs.
-- Robert Faturechi and Martha Groves
By David L. Nathan
, Special to CNN
updated 9:41 AM EST, Wed January 9, 2013Editor's note: David L. Nathan, a clinical associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, was recently elected as a distinguished fellow in the American Psychiatric Association. He teaches and practices general adult psychiatry in Princeton, New Jersey.(CNN)
-- David Frum is one of today's best and most reasoned conservative political voices, so his recent CNN.com op-ed
on marijuana policy was just a little disappointing. Not because he advocates the drug's decriminalization -- he rightly thinks locking people up or arresting them for casual use is a bad idea -- but because he opposes its legalization for adults.
I agree with much of what he says about pot's potential harm, especially for the young and the psychiatrically ill. Like Frum, I am a father who worries about my kids getting sidetracked by cannabis before their brains have a chance to develop. But I am also a physician who understands that the negative legal consequences of marijuana use are far worse than the medical consequences.
Frum would reduce the punishment for marijuana use for adults but nominally maintain its illegality in order to send a message to young people that pot is a "bad choice," as if breaking the rules wasn't as much an incentive as a deterrent for adolescents. Kids are smart enough to recognize and dismiss a "because I said so" argument when they see one. By trying to hide marijuana from innately curious young people, we have elevated its status to that of a forbidden fruit. I believe a better approach is to bring pot into the open, make it legal for people over the age of 21, and educate children from a young age about the actual dangers of its recreational use.
Throughout my career as a clinical psychiatrist, I have seen lives ruined by drugs like cocaine, painkillers and alcohol. I have also borne witness to the devastation brought upon cannabis users -- almost never by abuse of the drug, but by a justice system that chooses a sledgehammer to kill a weed.
Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, caffeine and refined sugar are among the most commonly used, potentially habit-forming recreational substances. All are best left out of our daily diets. Only marijuana is illegal, though alcohol and tobacco are clearly more harmful. In several respects, even sugar poses more of a threat
to our nation's health than pot.
I agree with Frum that chronic use of cannabis correlates with mood changes
and low motivation, especially when started in adolescence. In individuals with psychosis, it may trigger or worsen their symptoms
. But these dangers are far surpassed by the perils of alcohol
, which is associated with
pancreatitis, gastritis, cirrhosis, permanent dementia, physiological dependence and fatal withdrawal. In healthy but reckless teens and young adults, it is frighteningly easy to consume a lethal dose of alcohol, but it is essentially impossible to do so with marijuana. Further, alcohol causes severe impairment of judgment, which results in violence, risky sexual behavior and more use of hard drugs.
Those who believe cannabis to be a gateway to opioids and other highly dangerous drugs fail to appreciate that the illegal purchase of marijuana exposes consumers to dealers who push the hard stuff. Given marijuana's popularity in this country, the consumption of more dangerous drugs could actually decrease if pot were purchased at a liquor store rather than on the street corner where heroin and crack are sold.
There is another more pressing reason to legalize and regulate marijuana, even for the sake of our children: the potential for adulteration of black-market cannabis and the substitution of even more dangerous copycat compounds
. Much like Prohibition-era fatalities from bad moonshine, harmful synthetic marijuana substitutes are proliferating, with street names like K2 and Spice. The Drug Enforcement Administration struggles to combat these compounds by outlawing them, but I see no decrease in their popularity among my patients. Natural marijuana poses much less danger than synthetic cannabinoids -- legal or otherwise.
So who had the bright idea of banning cannabis in the first place? Was it physicians? Social service organizations? No. The credit goes to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which in 1937 pushed through laws ending the growth, trade and consumption of all forms of cannabis, including the inert but commercially useful hemp plant. America's ban on the so-called "Weed of Madness" was based on bad science and fabricated stories of violence perpetrated under the influence. The madness of cannabis can be ascribed not so much to its users, but to those who sought to criminalize the drug so soon after the monumental failure of alcohol Prohibition.
That's not to say our marijuana laws have failed to change drug use in America. Cannabis is more widely used today than at any time before its prohibition, even though it was domesticated in antiquity and has been cultivated ever since. Pot prohibition has also greatly increased illegal activity and violence. Otherwise law-abiding private users became criminals, and criminals became rich through the untaxed, bloody and highly lucrative illicit drug trade.
But America can fix this mess through marijuana legalization. Federal, state and local governments can regulate the cannabis trade as they do with alcohol and tobacco -- monitoring the production process for safety and purity, controlling where it is sold, taxing all aspects of marijuana production and consumption, and redirecting resources from punishment to prevention.
Forget the antiquated dogma and judge pot prohibition on its own merits. If you still believe that cannabis should be illegal, then you must logically support the criminalization of alcohol and tobacco, with vigorous prosecution and even imprisonment of producers and consumers. Does that sound ridiculous? Then you must conclude that the only rational approach to cannabis is to legalize, regulate and tax it.Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.
I recently reread the AMA's 2009 report and I think it's important for all medical marijuana activists to stay fresh with this information. Here are some of the highlighted selections that I found interesting. The whole report is very informative, so I encourage you to read the whole thing. I've added the highlighted document at the end of this blog entry.
*Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis. However, the patchwork of state-based systems that have been established for “medical marijuana” is woefully inadequate in establishing even rudimentary safeguards that normally would be applied to the appropriate clinical use of psychoactive substances. The future of cannabinoid-based medicine lies in the rapidly evolving field of botanical drug substance development, as well as the design of molecules that target various aspects of the endocannabinoid system. To the extent that rescheduling marijuana out of Schedule I will benefit this effort, such a move can be supported.
* Several research/treatment studies were conducted by state departments of health during the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s under protocols approved by the FDA. These open label studies involved patients who had responded inadequately to other antiemetics. In such patients, smoked cannabis was reported to be comparable to or more effective than oral THC, and considerably more effective than prochlorperazine or other previous antiemetics in reducing nausea and emesis.
*In patients with HIV-associated neuropathic pain, cannabis cigarettes of varying concentration and number consumed over a 5-day period significantly reduced pain intensity. Approximately half of patients experienced more than a 30% reduction, which is a standard benchmark for efficacy.
*One independent health assessment of four of the remaining seven patients obtaining cannabis cigarettes through the federal government’s Compassionate Use Treatment IND (see Council report from 1997),1 showed no demonstrable adverse outcomes related to their chronic medicinal cannabis use. Some of cannabis’ adverse effects differ in experienced versus inexperienced users, and it is not clear to what extent the adverse effects reported in recreational users are applicable to those who use cannabis for the self-management of disease or symptoms. Most data on adverse effects has come from observational population-based cohort studies of recreational cannabis users, an unknown portion of whom may be using the substance for medicinal purposes. Adverse reactions observed in short-term randomized, placebo- controlled trials of smoked cannabis to date are mostly mild without substantial impairment. A systematic review of the safety studies on medical cannabinoids published over the last 40 years (not including studies on smoked cannabis) found that short term use was associated with a number of adverse events, but less than 4% were considered serious.
*Although some cannabis users develop dependence, they are considerably less likely to do so than users of alcohol and nicotine, and withdrawal symptoms are less severe.4,79,80 Like other drugs, dependence is more likely to occur in individuals with co-morbid psychiatric conditions. Whether or not cannabis is a “gateway” drug to other substance misuse is controversial and whether the medical availability of cannabis would increase drug abuse is not known. Analysis of trends in emergency room visits for marijuana do not support the view that state authorization for medical cannabis use leads to increased signals of substance misuse. The IOM concluded that marijuana use is not the cause or even the most serious predictor of serious substance use disorders.
*Like tobacco, chronic cannabis smoking is associated with markers of lung damage and increased symptoms of chronic bronchitis. However, results of a population-based case control study of cannabis smokers found no evidence of increased risk for lung cancer or other cancers affecting the oral cavity and airway. Another population-based case-control study of marijuana use and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) concluded that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of HNSCC. Furthermore, although smoking cannabis and tobacco may synergistically increase the risk of respiratory symptoms and COPD, smoking only cannabis is not associated with an increased risk of developing COPD.
*Results of these trials indicate smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.
*Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used by the nation’s youth and young adults. However, the fact that cannabis is prone to non-medical use does not obviate its potential for medical product development. Many legal pharmaceutical products that are used for pain relief, palliation, and sleep induction have more serious acute toxicities than marijuana, including death. Witness the evolving series of steps that the FDA has taken in recent months to address the inappropriate use and diversion of certain long-acting Schedule II opioid drugs. However, the patchwork of state- based systems that have been established for “medical marijuana” is woefully inadequate in establishing even rudimentary safeguards that normally would be applied to the appropriate clinical use of psychoactive substances.
Kerlikowske suggests that we have a process for deciding what's good to put in our bodies (the FDA). Do you think that's what the criminalization of cannabis is about? Really? So then you must believe that being incarcerated is better for your body. That's great logic. ~ Susan Soares
By: Chris Roberts
| 01/07/13 7:46 PMS.F. Examiner Staff Writer
Gil Kerlikowske, the nation’s top drug cop advocated a “different approach” to narcotics enforcement — and stressed that there is no “war on drugs” — but had stern words Monday for the San Francisco-bred medical marijuana movement.
Drug users need treatment and education rather than jail terms, according to Gil Kerlikowske, the former Seattle police chief who now heads President Barack Obama’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Speaking at a gathering of law enforcement officers at the University of San Francisco, Kerlikowske also said that calling cannabis medicine “sends a terrible message” to the nation’s teens. High school students are more likely to smoke marijuana than tobacco due to the growing “perception” that marijuana is less harmful, he said.
“We have to ask if we doing everything we can to empower them to make a healthy decision about their future,” he said.
Kerlikowske was in town to highlight the Obama Adminstration’s “21st-century” approach toward drug use. Also in attendance were Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr, and Berkeley chief of police Michael Meehan — who served under Kerlikowske as a narcotics captain on the Seattle police force.
San Francisco has more than 20 licensed and taxpaying medical marijuana dispensaries. Across California, there are more than 1,000 — all of which pay state sales tax — according to Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana users’ advocacy group.
Federal law enforcement officials have long been at odds with state and local policymakers on medical marijuana. Pressure from the federal Justice Department has shut down seven San Francisco medical marijuana dispensaries since Oct. 2011.
Before taking office, Obama said that marijuana would not be a law enforcement priority for his administration. Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated that statement, though U.S. prosecutors have since noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and a public health nuisance.
Kerlikowske noted that neither he nor his office have any sway over the Justice Department, and “I wouldn’t suppose that I should tell The City what to do differently.”
California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996. Today, eighteen states and the District of Columbia now allow the medical use of marijuana, and adults in two states — Colorado and Washington — can legally possess small amounts of marijuana.
Kerlikowske had stern words for legalization, which is often painted as a solution to the public health and budget woes caused by drug use. “The Obama Administration strongly believes it is a false choice,” he said, and not “ground in science.”
“Medicinal marijuana has never been through the FDA process,” he added. “We have the world’s most renowned process to decide what is medicine and what should go in peoples’ bodies. And marijuana has never been through that process.”
Researchers at the University of California San Francisco and elsewhere have found that cannabis may be effective in relieving “wasting symptoms” caused by cancer and HIV/AIDS, may aid sleep and stimulate appetite, and may be effective in treating chronic pain and other email@example.com