Washington, DC: Language approved by the US House of Representatives on Tuesday restricts the Justice Department's ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states.
The amendment, which states "None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used ... to prevent ... states ... from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana" is included in a $1.1 trillion Congressional appropriations bill. Members of the Senate and the President are expected to sign off on the spending measure, which seeks to fund federal activities through the 2015 fiscal year, imminently.
Members of the House initially approved the provision in May by a vote of 219 to 189.
House lawmakers on Tuesday also gave final approval to a separate provision prohibiting the federal government from funding efforts to interfere with state-sanctioned industrial hemp programs, including those that allow for the plant's cultivation. In February, members of Congress approved language (Section 7606) in the omnibus farm bill authorizing states to sponsor hemp research absent federal reclassification of the plant.
Neither provision explicitly addresses state regulations governing the licensed production and sale of cannabis for recreational purposes, which is now permitted in Colorado and Washington. Voters in Alaska and Oregon approved similar legalization measures in November.
At this time, it remains uncertain what implications the soon-to-be passed federal spending bill will have upon the District of Columbia. Although some 70 percent of DC voters in November approved a municipal initiative (I-71) removing criminal penalties for adults who possess or grow small amounts of cannabis, language included in the federal spending act seeks to limit the law's implementation.
Specifically, a provision introduced by Maryland Republican Andy Harris states that no funds "may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act ... for recreational purposes." While the Congressional intent of the language is to "prohibit both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District," it remains unclear whether the Congressional rider has the authority to halt District officials from depenalizing minor marijuana offenses.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting member of Congress, said that there exists "genuine disagreement" among lawmakers in regard to the extent to which the language interferes with the implementation of Initiative 71.
Washington, DC: Available science fails to support the imposition of driving under the influence (DUI) impairment thresholds for cannabis in a manner that is analogous to the per se limits already in place for alcohol, according to the conclusions of a November 2014 publication published by the United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Per se traffic safety laws criminalize those who operate a vehicle with trace or specific levels of a controlled substance in their bodily fluids, even in the absence of any further evidence indicating that the subject was behaviorally impaired.
States the paper's authors, "Every state has enacted a law defining drivers who are at or above .08 grams per deciliter BAC as 'legally impaired,' but there are no similar, commonly accepted impairment levels for other drugs." Nonetheless, despite this lack of consensus, authors acknowledge that "some state laws have established levels for some drugs at which it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle" - a position which they concede is not evidence based.
"The alcohol laws are based on evidence concerning the decreased ability of drivers across the population to function safely at these BACs," they write. "Such evidence is not currently available for concentrations of other drugs."
Eleven states presently impose a zero tolerant per se DUI limit for THC and, in some cases, the presence of its inert metabolite carboxy THC. Five additional states impose per se limits for the presence of either THC or carboxy THC.
NHTSA's recent acknowledgement is far from the first time that the federal traffic safety agency has opined against the imposition of per se limits for THC. In an online factsheet, entitled Drug and Human Performance: Cannabis/Marijuana, the agency concludes: "It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person's THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. ... It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone, and currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH [carboxy THC metabolite] concentrations."
Full text of the NHTSA report, "Understanding the Limitations of Drug Test Information, Reporting, and Testing Practices in Fatal Crashes," appears online at:http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812072.pdf. Additional information on cannabis and psychomotor performance is available from the NORML library here:http://norml.org/library/driving-and-marijuana.
When it comes to Ohio’s marihuana policy, almost everyone left, right, or center agree on one drug war law reform that is long overdue in Ohio: driver's license suspension. Decades ago, Ohio accepted a 1992 federal mandate requiring a mandatory six-month license suspension for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana possession. This provision was authored by New Jersey’s liberal Senator Frank Lautenberg, trying to prove that he was just as tough on the War on Drugs as conservatives.
Lautenberg’s highway transportation funding cuts were to be tied to state compliance with the federal mandate. There was considerable disagreement concerning this law by numerous states’ representatives, particularly from western states. As a compromise, an "OPT OUT" clause was added, which permitted the states to maintain their federal highway funds. The clause required state legislators to pass a resolution of their opposition to the Federal mandate and the governor to send the resolution to the Secretary of Transportation. Most states did exactly that. Today the majority of states do not suspend driver's license for drug offenses like pot possession. But Ohio still follows that 90's federal mandate and has one of the toughest laws in the country. Someone convicted of a minor misdemeanor simple pot possession in Ohio results in a minimum 6 months suspension; but can potentially result in having their license suspended for up to 5 years.
Ohio political leaders have stepped up to correct this overdue and sensible marihuana law reform. Ohio House & Senate legislators have passed resolutions HCR55 & SCR27 to “OPT OUT” of the federal mandate.
Ohio NORML is not alone in supporting ending Ohio’s adherence to the federal mandate. The Judicial Conference of Ohio Judges does not support driver license suspensions for drug offenses. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators – the national trade group for Department of Motor Vehicles, of which Ohio is a member supports ending mandatory drivers’ license suspensions for pot possession. In an 80-page report, the AAMVA summarizes how the research shows conclusively that suspensions not related to driving waste government resources, harm traffic safety and undermine goals such as getting child support paid.
A driver's license is critical to getting or keeping a job. National studies have shown that 42% of people lose their jobs when their license is suspended. Sometimes a judge will make an exception and permit the offender to drive to work and back home. But that does not cover going to the hardware store or the mall. Currently according to Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles records there are over one hundred forty five thousand Ohioans with license suspensions due to drug offenses. Overall the federal mandated sanctions have an unintended and negative impact on Ohio’s economy and jobs.
A secondary problem comes up when some of these people drive anyway. They either have a good reason or worse do it out of disrespect for a law that had no connection to their driving. This creates an even larger problem of people driving with a suspended license. Our courts have become clogged with driving under suspension cases; and also make an even deeper legal hole for someone to climb out of.
Now the next step is for Governor Kasich to send it to the Secretary of Department of Transportation in Washington. Then our state legislature is free to revise state law, removing the suspension language without losing any Federal Highway funds. Finally some common sense is being shown in this endless War on Drugs which really should be called Prohibition 2.0
Washington, DC: Voters in Oregon and Alaska legalized and regulated the commercial production and sale of marijuana for adults, while voters residing in the nation's capitol and in numerous other cities nationwide similarly decided this Election Day to eliminate marijuana possession penalties.
Alaska and Oregon voters decided in favor of a pair of statewide measures to regulate the commercial production, retail sale, and personal use of marijuana by adults. Alaska and Oregon are the third and fourth states to enact regulations on the licensed production and sale of cannabis, joining Colorado and Washington. All four states have enacted their marijuana legalization laws via voter initiative.
Commenting on the new laws' passage, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "The majority of voters in these states, like a majority of voters nationwide, agree that a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to adults best reduces the risks associated with the plant's use or potential abuse. Elected officials in Alaska, Oregon, and elsewhere should welcome the opportunity to bring these common sense and long overdue regulatory controls to the commercial cannabis market."
Under the new Oregon proposal (Measure 91), adults who engage in the non-commercial cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis for personal use (up to four marijuana plants and eight ounces of usable marijuana at a given time) will not be subject to taxation or commercial regulations. Imposition of the new law will not "amend or affect in any way the function, duties, and powers of the Oregon Health Authority under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act."
Under the Alaska measure (Ballot Measure 2), the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants for personal consumption will be legal and untaxed. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis will be subject to licensing and taxation. Since 1975, Alaskans have enjoyed personal privacy protections allowing for the possession and cultivation of small quantities of cannabis. However, state law has never before permitted a legal market for marijuana production and sales.
In California, nearly 60 percent of voters backed Proposition 47, which defelonizes simple drug possession crimes, such as the possession of hashish. Under the measure, Californians with felony records for certain marijuana possession offenses will also be eligible to have their records expunged. Those serving time for felony drug offenses will also be able to petition for resentencing.
In the US territory Guam,56 percent of voters decided in favor of Proposal 14A, the Compassionate Cannabis Use Act. The new law directs "the Department of Public Health and Social Services to regulate the use of marijuana as treatment for medical conditions." The Department has up to nine months to provide rules for the territory's medical marijuana program.
By contrast, a proposed Florida amendment (Amendment 2) fell shy of the 60 percent support threshold necessary in that state to amend the state's constitution. Fifty-eight percent of Florida voters endorsed the measure, including supermajorities in most every age group except for those voters age 65 and older.
Said NORML's Deputy Director: "This vote wasn't a rejection of medical marijuana in Florida, but rather an affirmation that most Floridians want patient access to cannabis therapy. NORML hopes that the Florida lawmakers will hear this message loud and clear and take action in 2015 on behalf of the will of the majority of the electorate."
Municipal voters overwhelmingly decided in favor of depenalizing cannabis on Election Day. In Washington, DC, some 70 percent of District voters approved Initiative 71, which removes criminal and civil penalties regarding the adult possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and/or the cultivation of up to six plants. Adults who engage in not-for-profit transactions of small quantities of cannabis or who possess marijuana-related paraphernalia are also no longer be subject to penalty under this act.
Unlike legalization measures in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, I-71 does not establish a regulatory framework for the regulation of a commercial cannabis market. However, members of the DC City Council are currently considering separate legislation to regulate the commercial production and sale of marijuana to adults. (Because Washington, DC does not possess statehood, all District laws are subject to Congressional approval prior to their implementation.)
Voters in several Michigan cities, including Saginaw (population 51,000), Port Huron (30,000), and Berkley (15,000) also decided in favor of local ballot measures depenalizing offenses involving the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Michigan lawmakers are anticipated to debate a statewide decriminalization proposal in 2015.
Likewise, voters in South Portland, Maineapproved a municipal ordinance eliminating local penalties in regard to the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. Voters in Lewiston, Maine rejected a similar measure.
In New Mexico, voters in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties decided in favor of advisory questions in support of the decriminalization of one ounce or less of marijuana at a city, county and state level. Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties represent a third of the state's population.
Finally, in Massachusetts, voters in several state representative districts voted in favor of various nonbinding public policy questions calling on state officials to legalize and regulate cannabis-related commerce.
Moderate cannabis consumption by young people is not positively associated with changes in intelligence quotient (IQ), according to data presented this week at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual congress in Berlin, Germany.
Investigators at the University College of London analyzed data from 2,612 subjects who had their IQ tested at the age of eight and again at age 15. They reported no relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ at age 15 when confounding factors such as subjects’ history of alcohol use and cigarette use were taken into account.
“In particular alcohol use was found to be strongly associated with IQ decline,” the authors wrote in a press release cited by The Washington Post. “No other factors were found to be predictive of IQ change.”
Quoted in the Independent Business Times, the study’s lead author said: “Our findings suggest cannabis may not have a detrimental effect on cognition, once we account for other related factors particularly cigarette and alcohol use. This may suggest that previous research findings showing poorer cognitive performance in cannabis users may have resulted from the lifestyle, behavior and personal history typically associated with cannabis use, rather than cannabis use itself.”
The investigators acknowledged that more chronic marijuana use, defined in the study as a subject’s admission of having consumed cannabis 50 times or more by age 15, was correlated with slightly poorer exam results at the age of 16 — even after controlling for other variables. However, investigators admitted: “It’s hard to know what causes what. Do kids do badly at school because they are smoking weed, or do they smoke weed because they’re doing badly?”
Commenting on the newly presented data, the meeting’s Chair, Guy Goodwin, from the University of Oxford, told BBC News: “This is a potentially important study because it suggests that the current focus on the alleged harms of cannabis may be obscuring the fact that its use is often correlated with that of other even more freely available drugs and possibly lifestyle factors.”
In a recent review published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the NIDA Director Nora Volkow alleged that cannabis use, particularly by adolescents, is associated with brain alterations and lower IQ. However, the IQ study cited by Ms. Volkow as the basis of her claim was later questioned in a separate analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That paper suggested that socioeconomics, not subjects’ cannabis use, was responsible for differences in IQ and that the plant’s “true effect [on intelligence quotient] could be zero.”
A previous assessment of cannabis use and its potential impact on intelligence quotient in a cohort of young people tracked since birth reported, “[M]arijuana does not have a long-term negative impact on global intelligence.”