Setting the Record Straight

HumboldtOne 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.:

Blowing up the big marijuana IQ myth — The science points to zero effect on your smarts

Blowing the lid off the ‘marijuana treatment’ racket

The five biggest marijuana myths and how to debunk them

It took just one distorted study for the media to freak out over health risks marijuana

Cannabis mitigates opioid abuse — the science says so

Three new marijuana myth-busting studies that the mainstream media isn’t picking up on

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.

Study: History Of Marijuana Use Associated With Decreased In-Hospital Mortality In Trauma Patients

thumbs_upTrauma patients who test positive for marijuana upon their admission to the intensive care unit are less likely to die during hospitalization than are age-matched controls, according to data published online ahead of print in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.

A team of researchers from the University of Arizona analyzed the in-hospital mortality rates of adults admitted into the ICU over a five-year period, of which 2,678 were matched (1,339: marijuana positive, 1,339 marijuana negative).

Authors concluded: “Patients with a positive marijuana screen had a lower mortality rate (5.3 percent versus 8.9 percent) compared to patients with a negative marijuana screen. … Prospective studies with long-term follow up will be useful in answering many of the remaining questions surrounding the specific impact of marijuana on outcomes after trauma.”

Prior studies have similarly reported greater survival rates among marijuana-positive patients hospitalized for traumatic brain injuries and heart attacks as compared to matched controls.

An abstract of the study, “How does marijuana effect outcomes after trauma in ICU patients? A propensity matched analysis,” appears online here.

Poll: Americans’ Support For Marijuana Law Reform At All Time High

legalization_pollA record percentage of American voters support reforming the nation’s marijuana laws, according to polling data released by Quinnipiac University.

Sixty-one percent of voters believe that “the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States” — the highest percentage ever reported by the poll. Support for legalization is strongest among those between the ages of 35 to 49 (77 percent), those between the ages of 18 and 34 (71 percent), Democrats (70 percent), and Independents (67 percent). Support is weakest among those age 65 or older (42 percent) and Republicans (37 percent).

With regard to the use of medical cannabis, 94 percent of voters say that adults ought to be able to legally consume it therapeutically. Among those polled, no group expressed less than 90 percent support for the issue.

Finally, 75 percent of voters oppose “the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana.” Super-majorities of every group polled, except for Republicans (59 percent), hold this position.

The Quinnipiac poll possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.

Marijuana is NORML: 45% of Americans Have Tried Cannabis

According to recently released polling data from Gallup, nearly half of all Americans have tried marijuana at one point in their lives, an all time high since they began asking the question in 1969 when only 4% of Americans admitted to having tried the substance.

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Additionally, 12% of survey respondents said they currently consume marijuana.

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Gallup concludes:

“With 29 U.S. states allowing medical marijuana use, and eight allowing recreational use, legal cannabis is taking hold in American society.

There may be obstacles to marijuana becoming fully “accepted” in the United States. Attorney General Sessions appears to be cracking down on marijuana use, and driving under the influence of pot continues to be a concern for many.

Despite legal hurdles, however, a record-high percentage of Americans say they have tried marijuana.
Smoking pot is still not as prevalent as cigarette smoking in the U.S., at 17%, but current marijuana usage is about as high as it has been.

If more states legalize the drug, regular usage — or at least experimenting with marijuana — could rise. Legality may confer a certain societal acceptance of the drug. Sessions’ hopes to prosecute state-level marijuana crimes may prove to be a hindrance, but it is unlikely this multibillion-dollar industry will be stopped anytime soon.”

Read the full survey results here.

Uruguay: Retail Cannabis Sales Begin Today

Select pharmacies in Uruguay are now dispensing marijuana to adults, under regulations that went into effect today.

Sixteen pharmacies are presently licensed to engage in cannabis sales, and some 5,000 adults so far have registered with the state to purchase marijuana products — which are capped at a price of $1.30 per gram.

Sales to foreign tourists are not permitted under the law.

Federal officials initially approved legislation in 2013 lifting Uruguay’s criminal prohibition of the plant. Under the policy change, citizens may cultivate up to six plants per household, and engage in collective cultivation as part of membership clubs. Rules and regulations governing the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes are overseen by the Ministry of Public Health.

Massachusetts: Medical Marijuana Patients’ Afforded Workplace Protections, High Court Rules

marijuana_gavelState-registered medical cannabis patients may sue a private employer for discrimination if they are fired for their off-the-job marijuana use, according to a first in the nation ruling issued today by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Opining for the court, Chief Justice Ralph Gants determined that it is “not facially unreasonable” for employers to make exceptions to their substance abuse policies in instances where employees are using cannabis at home to treat a debilitating condition. “The fact that the employee’s possession of medical marijuana is in violation of federal law does not make it per se unreasonable as an accommodation,” he wrote.

The defendant in the case was fired on her first day on the job for testing positive for carboxy-THC on a company drug test. The former employee possessed a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis to treat symptoms of Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Qualified patients may legally obtain cannabis in Massachusetts under a 2012 voter-initiated law.

The unanimous verdict reverses a lower court decision and is contrary to rulings in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. In each of those states, the supreme courts ruled that employees had no legal protections if they were fired without cause for their state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.

“Patients should never have to choose between their heath and their job and for the first time, a court has acknowledged that they shouldn’t have to do so,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions begin to apply this same rationale to patients as well as to all adults who are using cannabis responsibly off-the-job in compliance with the laws of their states.”

The case is Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing LLC.

Analysis: Criminal Justice Referrals Driving Youth Marijuana Treatment Admissions

arrestedOver half of all young people entered into drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system and this percentage is increasing, according to data published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.

A team of researchers from Binghamton University in New York and the University of Iowa reviewed youth marijuana treatment admission data (TEDS-A) during the years 1995 to 2012.

Investigators reported that youth admissions for cannabis rose 65 percent during the study period – from 52,894 annual admissions in 1995 to 87,528 in 2012. Admissions rose most precipitously among Latinos (an increase of 256 percent since 1995) and African American youth (an increase of 86 percent). Criminal justice system referrals rose 70 percent during this same period, and now account for 54 percent of all substance abuse admissions by young people.

Among those in treatment, half exhibited little if any evidence of suffering from marijuana dependence. Specifically, 30 percent of all young people admitted into marijuana treatment since 2008 had no record of having consumed cannabis in the 30 days prior to their admittance. Another 20 percent of those entered into treatment had use cannabis three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission. Prior evaluations of TEDS data among adults have yielded similar results.

“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.”

Since the late 1990s, both youth use of marijuana and the prevalence of so-called ‘cannabis use disorder’ by young people have declined significantly.

An abstract of the study, “Trends in youth marijuana treatment admissions: Increasing admissions contrasted with decreasing drug involvement,” is online here. My commentary about the data, “Blowing the lid off the marijuana treatment racket,” appears on Alternet.org here.

Study: Alcohol Use, But Not Cannabis, Associated With Changes In Brain Structure

marijuana_seedlingAlcohol consumption is associated with negative changes in gray matter volume and in white matter integrity, while cannabis use is not, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.

Investigators from the University of Colorado, Boulder and the Oregon Health & Science University evaluated neuroimaging data among adults (ages 18 to 55) and adolescents (ages 14 to 18). Authors identified an association between alcohol use and negative changes in brain structure, but identified no such association with cannabis.

“Alcohol use severity is associated with widespread lower gray matter volume and white matter integrity in adults, and with lower gray matter volume in adolescents,” they concluded. By contrast, “No associations were observed between structural measures and past 30-day cannabis use in adults or adolescents.”

Researchers acknowledged that their findings were similar to those of prior studies “suggesting that regionally specific differences between cannabis users and non-users are often inconsistent across studies and that some of the observed associations may actually be related to comorbid alcohol use.”

A 2015 brain imaging study published in The Journal of Neuroscience similarly reported that cannabis use was not positively associated with adverse changes in the brain, but that alcohol “has been unequivocally associated with deleterious effects on brain morphology and cognition in both adults and adolescents.”

Longitudinal data published in June in the British Medical Journal reported, “Alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels, is associated with adverse brain outcomes including hippocampal atrophy.”

An abstract of the study, “Structural Neuroimaging Correlates of Alcohol and Cannabis Use in Adolescents and Adults,” appears online here.

Setting The Record Straight

ReThink the LeafOne 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.

Below are links to a sampling of his recent columns.:

“Cannabis mitigates opioid abuse — the science says so”
in Santa Fe New Mexican

“Is big alcohol taking a hit from legal weed?”
in Salon

“Can marijuana help mitigate America’s opioid crisis?”
in The Hill

“The Deputy Attorney General is ignorant to the science of medical marijuana”
in The Daily Caller

“The DEA says ‘marijuana is not medicine’ — reality says otherwise”
in The Hill

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.

Nevada: Licensed Adult Use Marijuana Sales Set To Begin Saturday

Nevada Legalized MarijuanaStarting on Saturday, July 1, specially licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in Nevada will have the opportunity to engage in the retail sale of marijuana to adults.

State tax regulators finalized temporary rules on Monday governing adult use sales. Regulators so far have issued over 80 licenses to business establishments seeking to engage in activities specific to the production, testing, or sale of cannabis to adults.

“Adults in Nevada will now be able to access cannabis in a safe, above ground, regulated environment,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “To their immense credit, lawmakers expeditiously to implement the will of their voters. Elected officials elsewhere would do well to follow Nevada’s example.”

Adult use sales are anticipated to be limited because of an ongoing legal dispute regarding who may legally transport cannabis to retail stores. Last week, a Carson City judge issued an injunction prohibiting any entity other than liquor distributors from engaging in retail marijuana transport. As a result, retailers will only be able to sell their existing inventory.

“While we applaud Nevada for moving to enact their voter approved legalization initiative in a timely fashion, interested parties must now move quickly and decisively to resolve the pending issues around distribution. If supply remains constrained in the state it will drive up prices and ultimately lead to most retail outlets being entirely out of sellable product for the recreational market.” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “This will only serve to continue to drive consumers to the black market, the very thing residents voted to demolish, and will deprive the state of needed tax revenue that will instead go to underground operators.”

A majority of voters decided in November in favor of the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act – a voter-initiated regulating the adult use marijuana market. In May, state regulated decided in favor of expediting the timeline for retail marijuana sales from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2017.

Seven additional states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington — no longer impose criminal penalties with regard to the adult possession or use of cannabis.

Businesses in the state still do not have protections from the Justice Department, led by militant prohibitionist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recently stated marijuana is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.

You can click here to easily send a message to your federal lawmakers in support of pending legislation, HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act by clicking HERE.

Vermont: House Blocks Marijuana Depenalization Bill From Further Consideration

marijuana_seedlingMembers of the Vermont House of Representatives decided late last night to block a marijuana depenalization measure, H. 511, from further consideration this legislative session.

The vote came after Senate members approved the bill, which eliminated civil and criminal penalties for the private possession and cultivation of small quantities of marijuana. Republican Gov. Phil Scott – who had vetoed an earlier version of the bill in May – had also recently expressed his support for the revised legislation.

Further action on the bill during this week’s special veto session required the votes of three-quarters of the House. But only a majority voted to take action on the bill, with almost all Republican House members voting ‘no.’

If enacted, the bill would have permitted adults to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis and to grow up two mature plants at home.

Rates of marijuana use, heavy use, and cannabis use disorder depend on where you live

Adult marijuana use rose significantly in states that passed loosely regulated medical marijuana laws (MMLs) according to a new study. The highest increases were reported among adults ages 26 and over. Little change was found in past-month marijuana use among adolescents or young adults between the ages 18 and 25.

Empire State NORML in Albany with the Start SMART Campaign

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Lobby Day
The Drug Policy Alliance, along with other campaign pillar groups Empire State NORML, VOCAL-NY, Cannabis Cultural Association, LatinoJustice and the Immigrant Defense Project, held a press conference and lobby day to announce the Start Sensible Marijuana Access through Regulated Trade (Start SMART) campaign to advocate for the substantially amended version of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) this past Monday, June 12th.

Dozens of activists from all around the state took buses, drove cars and rode trains to Albany to join the campaign in launching and lobbying for the legalization bill. After the excellent citizen lobby day training provided by the Drug Policy Alliance, the group split up to divide and conquer before the press conference hitting as many offices as they could as well as attending scheduled meetings.

In the afternoon the press conference was held in front of the Senate Chambers. Joining advocates at the press conference were the MRTA’s prime sponsors in both houses, Senator Liz Krueger (D-New York) and Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), as well as key MRTA sponsors including: Assemblymember Dick Gottfried (D-New York), Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), Senator Jesse Hamilton (IDC-Brooklyn), Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), Assemblymember Walter Mosley (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblymember Michael Blake (D-Bronx). We also heard from representatives of Start SMART pillar groups, Drug Policy Alliance (Kassandra Frederique), Empire State NORML (Doug Greene), LatinoJustice (Juan Cartagena), VOCAL-NY (Nick Malinowski), Immigrant Defense Project (Mizue Aizeki) and Cannabis Cultural Association (Nelson Guerrero and Jacob Plowden).

Afterwards the group of dedicated activists went back to work. Some went to the Senate and Assembly chambers to pull their members off the floor to seek their support of the new bill, while others continued dropping off materials at the offices of legislators who have voted for further decriminalization but haven’t supported taxation and regulation of marijuana.

The Start SMART campaign

The substantially amended MRTA would reestablish a legal market for marijuana in New York and create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol and the craft brewery industry, for adults over the age of 21. Over the past twenty years, nearly 800,000 people have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually for possession, the collateral consequences are felt most in these communities. Because of the racial injustice caused by prohibition, the bill is not only an end to prohibition in New York, but also a win in the ongoing fight for racial equality. Significant steps are taken to ensure that those most negatively affected by prohibition will benefit from its repeal.

The reworked Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) includes substantial racial justice and small business-friendly amendments, including:

  • Creating a micro-license structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, that allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
  • Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
  • Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses

Start SMART NY is a campaign to end marijuana prohibition and repair the harms to communities convened by the Drug Policy Alliance in partnership with groups dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition, including Empire State NORML.

NY resident? Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of the bill. 

Make sure to visit Empire State NORML’s website by clicking here and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Click here to see the press release from earlier in the week. and click here to go to the Start SMART NY website

Study: No Increase In Problematic Cannabis Use Following Passage Of Medical Marijuana Laws

no_marijuanaThe enactment of medical marijuana laws is not associated with increased rates of problematic cannabis use, according to data published online in the journal Addiction.

Columbia University investigators assessed cannabis use trends in states in the years following the passage of medicalization. They reported “no significant change in the prevalence of past-month marijuana use among adolescents or young adults (those ages 18 to 25)” following legalization. They also found no evidence of increased cannabis abuse or dependence by either young people or adults. States with largely unregulated medical programs were associated with increased self-reported use by adults age 26 and older, but states with stricter programs were not.

The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other papers reporting no uptick in youth marijuana use or abuse following medical marijuana regulation, including those here, here, here, here, here, and here. The findings contradict those of a recent, widely publicized paper in JAMA Psychiatry which speculated that medical marijuana laws may increase the prevalence of cannabis use disorder among adults.

An abstract of the study, “Loose regulation of medical marijuana programs associated with higher rates of adult marijuana use but not cannabis use disorder,” is online here.

Why pot-smoking declines, but doesn’t end, with parenthood

Adults who smoke marijuana often cut back after becoming parents — but they don’t necessarily quit. The influence of a significant other and positive attitudes toward the drug overall, in addition to the onset of parenthood, also are factors in whether someone uses marijuana.

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