One of NORML’s primary missions is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults. One of the ways we successfully achieve this goal is by debunking marijuana myths and half-truths via the publication of timely op-eds in online and print media. Since the mainstream media seldom casts a critical eye toward many of the more over-the-top claims about cannabis, we take it upon ourselves to set the record straight.
The majority of NORML’s rebuttals are penned by Deputy Director Paul Armentano. In the past few weeks, he has published numerous op-eds rebuking a litany of popular, but altogether specious claims about the cannabis plant – including the contentions that cannabis consumption is linked to heart attacks, psychosis, violence, and a rise in emergency room visits and traffic fatalities, among other allegations.
Below are links to a sampling of his recent columns.:
For a broader sampling of NORML-centric columns and media hits, please visit NORML’s ‘In the Media’ archive here.
If you see the importance of NORML’s educational and media outreach efforts, please feel free to show your support by making a contribution here.
Although cannabis had been used for many centuries for treatment of seizure disorders, medical use became prohibited in the 20th century. However, with the loosening of laws regarding medical marijuana, research and clinical use of marijuana-derived substances are increasing. This has prompted the publishing of an in-depth assessment of the potential of cannabinoids for the effective treatment of epilepsy. Cannabinoids are components of the cannabis plant.
Republican Gov. Phil Scott today rejected legislation, Senate Bill 22, that sought to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for the adult use and possession of marijuana. The Governor said that he did not support the legislation as written, but remains open to working with lawmakers over the summer on ways to amend the state’s cannabis policies.
Representatives from the Vermont Association of Police Chiefs, the Vermont Medical Society, and the Vermont American Academy of Pediatrics were among those groups opposing S. 22.
“It is disappointing that Gov. Scott would not only defy the will of state legislators, but also the will of the majority of Vermont voters who support ending criminal penalties for those adults who consume cannabis responsibly,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “Minor marijuana possession offenders should not be saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it. Rather than looking to the future, Gov. Scott seems intent on repeating the failures of the past.”
Senate Bill 22 would have amended state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to two mature plants (and up to four immature plants) would have no longer been subject to penalty, beginning July 1, 2018. It also established a nine member commission to make recommendations to the legislature regarding how best to regulate the adult use marijuana market.
State lawmakers approved the measure earlier this month. It was the first time that a legislative body ever approved legislation eliminating criminal and civil penalties for adults who possess or grow marijuana for non-medical purposes.
House lawmakers in 2016 rejected similar legislation. That measure had been supported by former Gov. Peter Shumlin.
If the latest comments and memos coming out of Attorney General Sessions’ Department of Justice didn’t raise concerns about the Trump Administration’s potential plans to reignite our nation’s failed war on drugs, his recent call with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte should sound alarm bells.
A reminder: President Duterte has extrajudicially executed thousands of his own citizens on drug charges during his tenure leading the country.
The Washington Post received a transcript of the phone call and describes Trump’s comments on Duterte’s drug “policy” as follows:
…in their call [Trump] praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
“Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said, according to the transcript.
After Duterte replied that drugs are the “scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation,” Trump appeared to take a swipe at his predecessor, Barack Obama, who had canceled a bilateral meeting with Duterte after the Philippines leader insulted him.
“I understand that and fully understand that and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that,” Trump said.
Read the full story in The Washington Post here.
The Asbury Park Press and other Gannett newspaper affiliates, including USA Today, published a fairly extensive online debate on Sunday between myself and Project SAM co-founder Kevin Sabet under the header “Should We Make Marijuana Legal?”
I respond to numerous alarmist claims throughout the interview, including allegations that regulating the adult use of cannabis send s mixed message to youth, leads to increased use by young people, that cannabis is a gateway drug, and even the notion that marijuana prohibitionists are out-funded by reform advocates (as if)!
Here’s an excerpt:
Gov. Christie, who has consistently opposed legalization of marijuana, contends pot is a so-called gateway drug, that people who use pot will eventually graduate to harder, more dangerous substances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it hasn’t found a definitive answer on that question yet. What is your position and what are the most definitive studies you can cite to bolster it?
Armentano: It is time for politicians to put to rest the myth that cannabis is a gateway to the use of other controlled substances — a theory that is neither supported by modern science or empirical data.
More than 60 percent of American adults acknowledge having tried cannabis, but the overwhelming majority of these individuals never go on to try another illicit substance. And by the time these individuals reach age 30, most of them have significantly decreased their cannabis use or no longer indulge in the substance at all. Further, nothing in marijuana’s chemical composition alters the brain in a manner that makes users more susceptible to experimenting with other drugs. That’s why both the esteemed Institute of Medicine and the RAND Corporation’s Drug Policy Research Center conclude, “Marijuana has no causal influence over hard drug initiation.”
By contrast, a growing body of evidence now exists to support the counter notion that, for many people, cannabis serves as a path away from the use of more dangerous substances — including opioids, alcohol, prescription drugs, cocaine and tobacco.
You can read and comment on the entire online debate here.
If you are a New Jersey resident, you can also take action in support of marijuana law reform in the Garden State here.
With state lawmakers in Nevada quickly approaching their fast-tracked deadline of July 1st to implement the state’s new adult-use marijuana program, NORML is focused on ramping up our activism efforts in Las Vegas!
Over the past two months, we’ve been busy planning, attending legislative hearings, tabling at events, doing community outreach, volunteering at our local community garden, and more to get the word out about our new chapter, and post-legalization activism in Las Vegas.
So far during the 2017 legislative session, there have been several key pieces of legislation introduced. One of the most important bills that we’re currently pushing is Senator Tick Segerblom’s SB 329, which would safeguard many protections for marijuana patients and the legal marijuana industry. These protections include re-establishing patient grow rights, allowing medical marijuana research facilities, allowing marijuana establishments to be organized as a corporation, and adds PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.
Another important piece of legislation that we’re watching closely is SB 236; if adopted by lawmakers, this legislation would permit social use marijuana clubs across Nevada. With the issue of social marijuana consumption quickly becoming a main issue for marijuana advocates in post-legalization states, Las Vegas NORML believes this legislation would be the first step in providing marijuana consumers with a safe and legally defined space to responsibly consume their legally purchased marijuana.
To learn more, join us for our next meeting on Tuesday, May 23rd where we’ll discuss the various pieces of marijuana-related legislation in Nevada! Get involved and invite your friends!
Creating a Space for Marijuana Activism
We’re at a crucial time in the legislative session, so we need our members and supporters to speak-up for Nevada marijuana consumers by urging their representatives to support marijuana-related legislation. To help facilitate this, Las Vegas NORML has organized a postcard writing party! This will give everyone a chance to share their personal stories and reasons why they support marijuana legislation with their lawmakers.
We also have two guest speakers from Nevada’s marijuana industry that will be joining us: DB Labs and Sahara Wellness. DB Labs will be educating our members on marijuana testing in Nevada, and Sahara Wellness will be sharing their story of helping patients in the community. Plus we’ll have event sign-ups, membership packages, legislative updates, and even FREE SNACKS! Who can say no to that?
Be sure to RSVP using our Facebook Event Page, and invite all of your friends in Las Vegas!
One of the latest developments in the Montana Congressional special election is the news that Democratic candidate Rob Quist had previously consumed marijuana during the course of his life. Certain media outlets in the state have attempted to make a lot of hay out of this issue, hoping to shift a hotly contested election. I think Quist’s opponents may be surprised by the reaction this “revelation” will evoke from most Montana residents, and Americans across the spectrum. That reaction can largely be summed up as:
First, I’d like to clarify that NORML finds it an affront to personal privacy that these outlets are leaking the medical history of an individual without their consent. That in and of itself is unacceptable. However, there is no grand controversy in a story about an American smoking marijuana. Recent surveys have shown approximately half of all Americans have tried using marijuana at least once during their lives and 60% of Americans believe the adult use of marijuana should be legalized and regulated. Eight states have already legalized the possession and retail sale of marijuana with more expect to join them over the next few years. Thirty states have approved state medical marijuana laws, including Montana.
With legalization now policy in these states, all of the rhetoric and bluster from the “reefer madness” era has been proven false. All reliable science has demonstrated that marijuana is not a gateway to harder drug use, as youth use rates have either slightly declined or stayed the same after the implementation of legalization; highway traffic fatalities did not spike; and millions of dollars in tax revenue are now going to the state to support important social programs instead of into the pockets of illicit drug cartels.
Marijuana prohibition is a failed policy. It disproportionately impacts people of color and other marginalized communities, fills our courts and jails with nonviolent offenders, engenders disrespect for the law and law enforcement, and diverts limited resources that can be better spent combating violent crime. Rob Quist’s past marijuana use doesn’t make him a pariah, it makes him an average American. Members of the press, particularly the Washington Free Beacon, should not be in the business of criminalizing or stigmatizing responsible adults who chose to consume a product that is objectively safer than currently legal ones such as tobacco and alcohol.
Calling for an end to the disastrous policy that is our nation’s prohibition on marijuana and replacing it with the fiscally and socially responsible policy of legalization and regulation isn’t something that should or will scare voters away. Pursuing these sensible proposals is both good policy and good politics. I think that Quist’s opponents will soon realize the attempts to use one’s past marijuana consumption and support for legalization against them not only puts them out of step with the majority of Montana residents, but puts them firmly on the wrong side of history as well.
Inhaled cannabis is effective and well-tolerated in patients with Tourette’s Syndrome, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience.
A team of researchers at the University of Toronto retrospectively assessed the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis in 19 TS patients.
Researchers reported, “All study participants experienced clinically significant symptom relief,” including including reductions in obsessive-compulsive symptoms, impulsivity, anxiety, irritability, and rage outbursts. Eighteen of 19 patients experienced decreased tic severity. Cannabis was “generally well tolerated” by study subjects.
They concluded: “Overall, these study participants experienced substantial improvements in their symptoms. This is particularly striking given that almost all participants had failed at least one anti-tic medication trial. … In conclusion, cannabis seems to be a promising treatment option for tics and associated symptoms.”
Placebo controlled data has previously determined that oral THC dosing also improves tics and obsessive-compulsive behavior in TS patients. However, patients utilizing inhaled cannabis have generally shown greater overall improvement.
An abstract of the study, “Preliminary evidence on cannabis effectiveness and tolerability for adults with Tourette Syndrome,” is online here.
One in three high school students reports riding with a driver who has been drinking, while nearly one in five was in a car where the driver had consumed marijuana, according to a new study.
African Americans in Virginia are arrested for violating marijuana possession laws at more than three times the rates of whites and this disparity is rising, according to an analysis of statewide arrest data by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Capital News Service.
Researchers reviewed 160,000 state and local arrest records from the years 2010 through 2016. They found that blacks were 2.9 times as likely as whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana in 2010, but 3.2 times as likely to be arrested by 2016.
In some counties and towns, such as in Hanover County and in Arlington, Virginia, the black arrest rate was six to eight times that of whites.
The findings are similar to those of a 2015 report, which determined that the number of African Americans arrested in Virginia for marijuana possession offenses increased 106 percent between the years 2003 and 2014. That study concluded that blacks account for nearly half of all marijuana possession arrests, but comprise only 20 percent of the state population.
A separate analysis of Maryland arrest data determined that African Americans accounted for 58 percent of all marijuana possession arrested despite comprising only 30 percent of the state’s population.
A 016 analysis of California arrest figures concluded that police arrested blacks for marijuana offenses at three and half times the rate of whites. A prior statewide assessment reported that police in 25 of California’s major cities arrested blacks for marijuana possession violations at rates four to twelve times that of caucasians. Similar disparities have been repeatedly reported in other major cities, including New York and Chicago.
A 2013 American Civil Liberties Union study found that nationwide blacks are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though both ethnicities consume the substance at approximately similar rates.
Unexpected highs are a consequence of using new marijuana products and edibles, products that have flooded the marijuana market since legalization of recreational marijuana use.
According to Erik Altieri, Executive Director of the decades-old drug reform nonprofit NORML, Christie has spent much of time as governor (and, as it happens, much of the opioid epidemic) fighting the rising tide of calls for cannabis reform in his state. Last week, as part of opioid-themed comments, Christie even called the ever more crucial and commonplace drive to bring regulated adult and medical cannabis use to New Jersey “total stupidity” and “baloney,” and described any tax revenues from the industry as “blood money.”
“We are in the midst of the public health crisis on opiates,” Christie said. “But people are saying pot’s OK. This is nothing more than crazy liberals who want to say everything’s OK.”
In response, NORML released an open letter to the governor days later, explaining in simple terms how scientific and social research have repeatedly shown that cannabis offers rather the opposite of “baloney” in the face of opioid addiction. Citing years of evidence-based conclusions, the letter pointed out, “It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of those adults who choose to responsibly consume a substance that is safer than either alcohol or tobacco.” It continued:
“In truth, America’s real-world experiment with regulating marijuana has been a success. Thirty states, including New Jersey, now regulate the plant’s therapeutic use and eight states authorize its use and sale to all adults. These policy changes are not associated with increased marijuana use or access by adolescents or with adverse effects on traffic safety or in the workplace. Marijuana regulations are also associated with less opioid abuse and mortality . In jurisdictions where this retail market is taxed, revenue from marijuana sales has greatly exceeded initial expectations.”
Altieri explained by phone that the new tactic is one of many advocates have tried over the years in order to convince Christie and lawmakers like him to accept the science on cannabis, and to invest in further study rather than stalwart opposition. Rather than acknowledge evidence that cannabis is a cheap, relatively quite safe method of treating pain and other conditions, and even effective for helping addicts quit much harder drugs, however, Christie has stayed his anti-pot course throughout, according to Altieri.
“Governor Christie has 0% credibility on drug policy, or any other policy, for that matter,” Altieri said. “When it comes to cannabis’ relationship to opioids from real-world experience, not bluster and rhetoric, states that have medicinal and recreational cannabis laws on the books see lower rates of overdose, lower rates of use, and lower rates of opioids being prescribed to patients.”
“This cannot be disputed,” Altieri added. “This is happening on the ground in many states, and he should know this better than others, having seen data on his own state, despite his protestations and attempt to block it.”
But at this point, Altieri said, whether such outreach finally touches Christie’s heart and brain, unlikely as it may be, is no longer of import to the state of New Jersey.
“In consistent polling, 60% of New Jersey residents support legalizing, regulating, and taxing cannabis, in line with the national average, and that’s three times the number of residents that support Governor Christie in his current position,” he said. “He further weakens his position by displaying his ignorance to basic and readily available science. We know that marijuana has a very low harm profile, that you can’t overdose on it, and that the side effects tend to be minor and temporary. Unlike opioids.”
Altieri continued, “It’s important to point out that Christie will be gone by the end of this year, and that so far, every single Democratic candidate for governor and a number of Republican candidates have come out in support of legalization. So it’s really a question of not if but when in New Jersey. And there’s nothing Chris Christie can do about it.”