New York, NY: CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is "doubling down" in his advocacy for patients to have legal access to cannabis as a therapeutic agent.
In commentary featured on the CNN website Wednesday, Gupta writes: "I am more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana. I am not backing down on medical marijuana; I am doubling down."
Last August, Gupta authored a commentary apologizing for his past opposition to medical cannabis, stating, "We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States (in regards to cannabis), and I apologize for my own role in that."
In his most recent editorial, Gupta acknowledges, "Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, defined as (among) the most dangerous drugs with no currently accepted medical use. Neither of those statements has ever been factual." He also criticizes President Obama for acknowledging that cannabis poses less harm than alcohol while failing "to remove marijuana from the list of the most tightly controlled substances in the country."
Polling data released today by Quinnipiac University revealed that a majority of Ohio voters support legalizing marijuana for recreational use and nearly 9 out of 10 support legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. When asked if they supported or opposed allowing adults in Ohio to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use, 51% said they would support this policy and only 44% were opposed.
Support was strongest amongst voters age 18-29 (72%), Independent voters (61%), and Democrats (54%) and weakest among Republicans (33%) and voters over the age of 65 (31%). Essentially all voters stated they supported legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. 87% said they supported allowing marijuana for medical use and just 11% were opposed.No demographic had less than 78% support.
Rob Ryan, Ohio NORML President, is not surprised by the favorable Quinnipiac poll response. In his experience speaking to various non marijuana groups, even the most conservative citizens in south west Ohio, where Mr. Ryan lives, readily agree that marijuana is not a deadly, addictive drug with no medical use as it is defined by to be in the same class as heroin by state and federal law. You can view the full results of the poll here.
Washington, DC: Consuming cannabis is less harmful to the individual than is drinking alcohol, President Barack Obama acknowledged this week in an interview with The New Yorker.
Responding to questions regarding the public's growing support in favor of legalizing the plant, the President stated: "As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice. ... I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
When asked whether he believes cannabis to be less of a threat to public health than booze, the President replied affirmatively, stating that the plant poses fewer harms "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer." However, he added: "It's not something I encourage. ... I think it's a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy."
According to a 2009 review published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal, the health-related costs per user are eight times higher for drinkers of alcoholic beverages than they are for those who use cannabis, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers.
The President also acknowledged that African Americans and Latinos comprise a disproportionate number of marijuana arrests compared to Caucasians despite engaging in similar rates of cannabis consumption. "Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," he said. "And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties."
According to a June 2013 ACLU study, African Americans nationwide are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Finally, the President acknowledged the significance of recently imposed changes in Colorado and Washington state laws allowing for the regulation of cannabis. Though he described the ongoing implementation of the new laws as a "challenge," he added: "[I]t's important for [these state reforms] to go forward because it's important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished. ... [W]e should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time."
In September, Deputy Attorney General James Cole testified to members of the United States Senate that the Obama administration "will not ... seek to preempt state ballot initiatives" regulating the plant's production and retail sale unless such activities specifically undermine eight explicit federal law enforcement priorities.
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano suggests this new position by the President is significant. He said: "While it is ultimately the responsibility of Congress to address America's longstanding and failed drug policies, the President can use the bully pulpit to set the tone and move the conversation in the proper direction. Until recently, he has largely failed to do so. But his recent public statements regarding the relative safety of cannabis compared to alcohol and his acknowledgement that criminalization disproportionately impacts minorities and the poor may indicate that the President and his Party are finally willing to utilize their public platform and political capital to fight for actual changes in law, rather than simply acknowledge changes in attitude."
Under federal law, marijuana is presently classified to be equally as dangerous as heroin.
In a profile published online over the weekend in New Yorker magazine, President Barack Obama continued his softening towards marijuana legalization. The president alluded to his own youthful marijuana consumption and clarified that while he doesn’t believe it to be a healthy pastime and has discouraged his daughter’s against its use, he also believes it is a less dangerous substance than alcohol and that current moves towards legalization are important experiments that can help end discriminatory arrest practices.
“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” President Obama stated when asked about the growing public support for ending marijuana prohibition.
“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do and African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.” he continued, “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”
“It’s important for it [marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington] to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
You can read the full article on the New Yorker’s website here.
Perhaps President Obama will continue to evolve and find himself on the right side of history when it comes to marijuana legalization. It would take just one simple Executive Order to deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and help institute some real lasting change in our nation’s failed war on cannabis.
#1 Public Support For Legalizing Marijuana Hits Historic Highs
An unprecedented 58 percent of Americans believe that marijuana ought to be “made legal” for adult consumption, according to survey data reported in October by Gallup. The percentage is the highest level of support ever recorded by Gallup, which has been inquiring on the issue since 1969, and marks a ten percent increase in voter approval since 2012. Regional polls conducted this year in several states, including California, Louisiana, and Texas, also reported majority support for legalization.
#2 Nation Of Uruguay Passes Legislation Regulating Cannabis Use
Lawmakers in the South American nation of Uruguay enacted legislation authorizing the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to all citizens age 18 and older. Residents will be able to legally purchase up to 40 grams of cannabis per month from state-licensed stores at a price of $1 per gram. Uruguay is the first country in modern history to officially legalize and regulate the licensed production and retail sale of cannabis.
#3 Feds Pledge Not To Interfere In State-Licensed Retail Sales Of Cannabis
Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a three-page memorandum in August affirming that the US Justice Department will allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with statewide efforts to license and regulate the adult marijuana market. Cole later reaffirmed the agency’s position in testimony before the US Senate, stating, “We will not … seek to preempt state ballot initiatives.”
#4 States Finalize Regulations Governing Adult Cannabis Sales
Regulators in Colorado and Washington this fall began accepting applications from businesses seeking to engage in the licensed cultivation, production, and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products. In Washington, several thousand applicants have applied to pot business licenses. In Colorado, regulators have begun approving licenses and several commercial establishments are expected to be open for business on January 1, 2014.
#5 Record Number Of Statewide Marijuana Reform Measures Enacted Into Law
Lawmakers in a dozen states approved some 20 pieces of marijuana law reform legislation in 2013. Specifically, lawmakers in Colorado and Vermont enacted legislation licensing commercial hemp production; Illinois and New Hampshire legalized the use and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes; Oregon and Nevada approved regulations allowing for the establishment of medical cannabis distribution facilities; and Oregon and Vermont significantly reduced marijuana possession penalties.
#6 Cannabis Dispensaries Open In Washington, DC
Medical cannabis facilities opened for business in Washington, DC in 2013. The establishments are licensed and regulated by the District of Columbia, which finally unveiled its long-awaited medical marijuana program earlier this year. State-authorized dispensaries also opened for the first time this year in New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Lawmakers in four states, Illinois, Oregon, Nevada and New Hampshire, enacted legislation in 2013 allowing for the establishment of medicinal cannabis facilities.
#7 Study: Blacks Arrested For Pot Offenses At Rates Four Times That Of Whites
African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offenses than are whites, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report released in June that analyzed arrest data from 945 counties nationwide. The report found that blacks were approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, even though both ethnicities consumed the substance at similar rates. Authors reported that the racial disparity in arrest rates had grown significantly over the past decade and that in some states African Americans were nearly eight times as likely as whites to be arrested for cannabis possession.
#8 FDA Approves Clinical Trials Of CBD In Cases Of Pediatric Epilepsy
The US Food and Drug Administration this fall granted approval for the importation of cannabidiol (CBD) extracts as an experimental treatment for a rare, intractable form of pediatric epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. Preliminary clinical trials assessing the safety and tolerability of the compound in children are scheduled to begin in early 2014. Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has been documented to possess a variety of therapeutic qualities, including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, and bone-stimulating properties.
#9 Study: No Association Between Cannabis Smoking And Lung Cancer
Subjects who regularly inhale cannabis smoke possess no greater risk of lung cancer than do those who consume it occasionally or not at all, according to data presented in May at the annual meeting of the American Academy for Cancer Research. UCLA investigators analyzed data from six case-control studies, conducted between 1999 and 2012, involving over 5,000 subjects (2,159 cases and 2,985 controls). They reported, “Our pooled results showed no significant association between the intensity, duration, or cumulative consumption of cannabis smoke and the risk of lung cancer overall or in never smokers.”
#10 Members Of Congress Introduce Legislation To End Federal Pot Prohibition
Members of Congress in February introduced historic legislation, HR 499: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, to remove cannabis from the control of the Drug Enforcement Administration and authorize the US Department of Treasury to license state-authorized retail marijuana producers and distributors. Although Congress refused to vote on the measure in 2013, it was the most-viewed legislation on the Congress.gov website.