(NEW REPUBLIC) While lawmakers and politicians have been coming out in droves to endorse the legalization of medical and even recreational marijuana, the medical establishment hasn’t been as supportive. But the tide could be turning: The American Journal of Public Health has just published a study suggesting that states that legalize medical marijuana can expect a reduction in suicide rates.
A team of economists looked at state-by-state statistics on suicide rates over a 17-year period, from 1990 to 2007, comparing data from states that voted to legalize medical marijuana with those that kept it criminalized. According to their calculations, in the three years following legalization, the suicide rate dropped, on average, 10.8 percent among men in their 20s and 9.8 percent for men in their 30s.
“The negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young men is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana can be used to cope with stressful life events,” wrote the authors.
The link was less clear for women—but the authors say they weren’t surprised.
“Males and females respond differently to policies and substances,” said Daniel Rees, an economist at the University of Colorado, Denver, who co-authored the paper. “Young adult males are the ones who really seem to respond to legalization of medical marijuana. There’s evidence that they respond by drinking less. You see a decline in traffic fatalities, especially alcohol-related ones.”
(ALTERNET) In September, 2011, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms banned state law-abiding medical cannabis patients from owning firearms. A bureaucratic decider simply swiped away hundreds of thousands of Americans’ Second Amendment rights by way of an added item on a pre-sale questionnaire.
Using an ancient herb as recommended by your doctor, one that any law enforcer will tell you makes people less aggressive? Sorry. Whacked on Oxycontin? Fire away.
My friend Carl, a Vietnam veteran, concealed handgun permit holder, political conservative of the John Wayne school and New Mexico medical cannabis patient, is apoplectic about the policy. “I can’t believe I lose my rights because I’m receiving treatment. I defended this country’s freedoms.”
This is just one example of key ancillary details that need to be fixed as America’s Longest War limps to its federal demise. Another is arbitrary limits on or zero tolerance of bloodstream THC when driving, even by locally-Kosher cannabis fans: if you legally used cannabis three weeks ago at the Ziggy Marley concert in Washington, you can, absurdly, be found to be impaired today.
In addition to the mining of the harbor that such unacceptably policy represents among those sore losers, the retreating Drug Warriors, this again shows the risk that any cannabis enjoyer faces. These unscientific THC policies must be squashed in courts and state houses, and fast.
The risk list continues. On my January flight in Honolulu to testify in support of pending industrial and social cannabis legalization in the Aloha State, the grey haired 59-year-old local fellow sitting next to me, Jeb, a construction site manager, had a sadly common story for me when he found out where I was heading that day.
“Tell the folks at the statehouse that I just lost my job after 23 years because THC showed in my system,” Jeb told me. “I had smoked at home on a Saturday night two weeks earlier. I don’t drink. I’ve never come to work impaired. Never even had a sick day. My work record was so impeccable that my supervisor apologized to me. He said, ‘we work for a company that will fire its best employee for pot, first time.’ I might lose my house. I’m flying to Oahu to meet with my lawyer but he told me that if it’s the policy it’s the policy.”
Not in my America. The America that resides on what I deeply believe to be on the healthier, safer side of history. The America of the Bill of Rights.
The bottom line: responsible adult cannabis users should no longer have to hide any more than responsible alcohol users do. As if to hammer home this point, when our flight landed, Jeb had some parting words for me. “Tell (the legislative committee) how deeply cannabis is embedded in Hawaiian culture. Tell them this is the only law I break. I don’t even drive over the speed limit.”
I did. I told the state’s House Judiciary Committee about Jeb during my testimony. Social legalization, incidentally, had a lot of momentum in Hawaii last session. The speaker of the house, Joe Souki (D), told me he thinks it’ll happen next session. From Florida to Maui, everyone knows the Drug War is ending. There’s no reason America’s 100 million cannabis users should be dealing with the life-upending administrative nonsense.
And yet they are. Even without a drug testing company fraud scandal emerging in San Diego this week, even without the revelation that some of the former DEA chiefs who are lobbying so hard against the Drug Peace in fact profit from their roles in drug testing companies, the Sniff Your Pee era is simply misguided – it’s unnecessary, intrusive and downright un-American. Work is about performance. Cannabis isn’t keeping America from being competitive. In fact, it’s probably helping return us to competitiveness, in the creative fields of the Digital Age. But my research into the role of practical cannabis use in Silicon Valley is a whole other column.
(CANNABIS CULTURE) In a case with wide-ranging implications, an Ontario Superior Court judge struck down Canada’s laws prohibiting the possession and production of marijuana on Tuesday, giving the federal government 90 days to fix the country’s medical marijuana program before the ruling comes into effect and effectively legalizes cannabis.
In an April 12 ruling in the case of R. v. Mernagh, Justice Donald Taliano found that Canada’s Marihuana Medical Access Regulations(MMAR) and “the prohibitions against the possession and production of cannabis (marihuana) contained in sections 4 and 7 respectively of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act” are “constitutionally invalid and of no force and effect”.
The case centers around medical marijuana activist (and frequentCannabis Culture contributor) Matt Mernagh, who has long used medical marijuana to relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, scoliosis and seizures, but has not been able to find a doctor willing to sign the required paperwork that would allow him to become a legal marijuana user. Mernagh was raided and arrested for growing his own plants without a licence.
Judge Taliano wrote in his decision:
the road to marihuana approval is a virtual obstacle course which few patients can navigate. Rather than providing access to medicinal marihuana, the MMAR raise so many barriers to access that the defence is meaningless and illusory for most patients. […]
The deleterious effects of the MMAR on Mr. Mernagh and other similarly situated individuals are clear. Seriously ill persons who need marihuana to treat their symptoms are forced to choose between their health and their liberty. If they choose their health, they must go to significant lengths to obtain the marihuana they need, including lengthy trips to purchase the drug, resort to the black market, and living with the constant stress that at any time they could be subject to criminal prosecution. These already sick individuals must further cope with the added stress of the stigma and social rejection of friends, family and members of the public who see them as criminals. This is not to mention the real fear of losing one’s doctor simply by inquiring about the drug and damage to the patient-doctor relationship.”
Ultimately, the judge found that doctors’ “overwhelming refusal to participate in the medicinal marijuana program completely undermines the effectiveness of the program” and that “the requirement for a medical doctor’s declaration has rendered the MMAR unconstitutional”.
Because the government has not been able to provide an effective system granting patients access to medical marijuana – as required by the 2000 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling in the case of R. v. Parker (which forced the creation of the MMAR) – the judge struck down the prohibitions on possession and production, giving the government 90 days to come up with an alternative.
At the time of the Parker ruling in 2000, the court deemed simple possession laws unconstitutional but granted the government one year to establish the MMAR rules, which it did. The laws were again thrown out in 2003 when a court ruled the government had failed to change the laws adequately – and an appeal court upheld the decision. This eventually led to activist Marc Emery’s Summer of Legalization Tour, where he traveled the country testing pot laws by puffing joints in front of police stations, and had charges thrown out due to the Ontario decision.
Cannabis was eventually reclassified and possession laws were reinstated.
Years later in 2011, medical marijuana users are still fighting for access to medicine, but Tuesday’s court decision is another step in the right direction.
“It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet,” Mernagh told Cannabis Culture in a telephone interview just minutes after he read the judge’s decision. “I got everything I believed I could get. We put a lot into this case. [Lawyer] Paul Lewin and I worked literally from Labour Day ’till the day we went into court. I’m still really overwhelmed when I think about it. It’s groundbreaking.”
As part of the judge’s ruling, he granted Mernagh a personal exemption to possess and produce cannabis during the 90 day period of suspension.
Mernagh said he expects the government to appeal the decision, which would bring the case back in front of a court, but the activist said he is willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to fight for his rights.
“Our people have waited way too long for this,” he said. “This could very well be the final kick.”
The evidence in the case stood for itself, Mernagh said, and he is happy the judge actually made serious considerations.
“The judge really listened to us, and we brought a great body of evidence before him,” he said. “We spent six months doing prep work, we brought 20 witnesses from across Canada – there were people from Vancouver that testified on our behalf and there were people from P.E.I. that testified on our behalf. We didn’t just show him a little piece of the puzzle and fandangle him – we showed him the whole pie.”
Drug policy experts and activists have repeatedly criticized Health Canada’s flawed medical marijuana program, which has failed to provide proper access to adequate medicine, leading to the proliferation of technically illegal but tolerated medical marijuana dispensaries. Health Canada has also been responsible for long delays in issuing medical marijuana licences and renewals, leading to the harassment of patientsby law enforcement.
“Complaints about the doctor-as-gatekeeper role, from patients and physicians, have been a constant feature of this flawed system,” said Kirk Tousaw, a BC lawyer and Executive Director of the Beyond Prohibition Foundation. “This decision represents a huge step forward for critically and chronically ill Canadians that want to access this safe and effective medicine without being turned into criminals for doing so.”
Pro-pot Lawyer Alan Young told the Toronto Star the ruling was “significant” and a “step in the right direction”.
“If the government is not successful on appeal, they are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place because they don’t have an alternative program in mind,” he said. “They don’t have a plan B. They’re in trouble.”
Though there’s still a lot of work to be done, the ruling is undoubtedly a big win for members of Canada’s cannabis community – and some of them are celebrating already.
“It seriously feels like I just won the Stanley Cup,” Mernagh said. “And when star athletes win the Stanley Cup they always say, ‘I’m going to Disneyland’. So yeah, it feels like I just won the Stanley Cup, and I’m going to Vansterdam!”
Paul Armentano, Deputy Director
Investigators at the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University, Center for Mental Health Research assessed the impact of cannabis use on various measures of memory and intelligence in over 2,000 self-identified marijuana consumers and non-users over an eight-year period. Among cannabis consumers, subjects were grouped into the following categories: ‘heavy’ (once a week or more) users, ‘light’ users, ‘former heavy’ users, ‘former light’ users, and ‘always former’ — a category that consisted of respondents who had ceased using marijuana prior to their entry into the study.
Researchers reported: “Only with respect to the immediate recall measure was there evidence of an improved performance associated with sustained abstinence from cannabis, with outcomes similar to those who had never used cannabis at the end point. On the remaining cognitive measures, after controlling for education and other characteristics, there were no significant differences associated with cannabis consumption.”
They concluded, “Therefore, the adverse impacts of cannabis use on cognitive functions either appear to be related to pre-existing factors or are reversible in this community cohort even after potentially extended periods of use.”
Separate studies have previously reported that long-term marijuana use is not associated with residual deficits in neurocognitive function. Specifically, a 2001 study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry found that chronic cannabis consumers who abstained from the drug for one week “showed virtually no significant differences from control subjects (those who had smoked marijuana less than 50 times in their lives) on a battery of 10 neuropsychological tests. … Former heavy users, who had consumed little or no cannabis in the three months before testing, [also] showed no significant differences from control subjects on any of these tests on any of the testing days.”
Additionally, studies have also implied that cannabis may be neuroprotective against alcohol-induced cognitive deficits. A 2009 study by investigators at the University of California and San Diego reported that binge drinkers who also used cannabis experienced significantly less white matter damage to the brain as compared to subjects who consumed alcohol alone.
For more information regarding the impact of cannabis on brain function, see NORML’s factsheet ‘Cannabis and the Brain: A User’s Guide,’ here.
(CURRENT) The active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread, say researchers at Harvard University who tested the chemical in both lab and mouse studies.
They say this is the first set of experiments to show that the compound, Delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), inhibits EGF-induced growth and migration in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expressing non-small cell lung cancer cell lines. Lung cancers that over-express EGFR are usually highly aggressive and resistant to chemotherapy.
THC that targets cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 is similar in function to endocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids that are naturally produced in the body and activate these receptors. The researchers suggest that THC or other designer agents that activate these receptors might be used in a targeted fashion to treat lung cancer.
(Cannabis Therapy Institute) In a little-publicized memo, the US federal government has indicated that the gloves are off with regards to medical marijuana dispensaries, “regardless of state laws.”
Previous memos had indicated a loosening of federal prosecutions of medical marijuana, however the new memo states very clearly that the feds consider all dispensaries illegal under federal law and that their prosecution is a “core priority” of the feds.
Read the Department of Justice’s “Haag Memo” here:
The “Haag Memo” was written on Feb. 1, 2011 from United States Attorney Melinda Haag (Northern District of California) to John A. Russo, Esq., Oakland City Attorney, in response to an Oakland City Council request for guidance regarding medical marijuana and federal law. The memo was written with consultation and approval from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The “Haag Memo” clarifies the “Ogden Memo”, which was written by former Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden on Oct. 19, 2009 for the Department of Justice. The “Ogden Memo” seemed to indicate that the new Obama administration would restrict federal prosecution of medical marijuana providers in states that had medical marijuana laws. This was heralded by many as giving them the green light to pursue medical marijuana activities, as long as they were in compliance with state law.
The “Haag Memo” clears up that misconception with some very unambiguous statements. The memo says clearly that the feds will not look the other way on medical marijuana. The “Haag Memo” states very clearly that the feds will continue to investigate, arrest and prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries in every state “regardless of state laws.”
In addition, the memo calls prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries a
“core priority” for the feds.
According to the memo, medical marijuana commercial activity is still
considered by the Department of Justice to be “a violation of federal law
regardless of state laws permitting such activities.”
The memo may be the cause of the recent increase in federal raids at
medical marijuana dispensaries. Only 4 days after the memo was issued, the DEA raided 4 dispensaries in California Just this week, the DEA raided
more dispensaries in California and Montana. They arrested dozens of
people, and seized the assets and bank accounts of several dispensaries.
IMPLICATIONS FOR COLORADO
“Maybe this will wake people up who think that it can’t happen here,” says
Kathleen Chippi of the Colorado-based Patient and Caregiver Rights
Litigation Project (cannabislawsuits.com), who is trying to raise money to
file lawsuits to uphold Colorado’s Constitutional right to cannabis
medicine. Many legal observers agree that Colorado has the best chance of
fighting the feds in court because Colorado is one of the only states whose medical marijuana law is actually in the state Constitution.
However, last year the state of Colorado set up a regulatory scheme that
required caregivers to surrender their Constitutional rights. The state
created a new entity called a Medical Marijuana Center (MMC). However, in order to apply to become an MMC, the applicants had to surrender their Constitutional rights to be caregivers, leaving them with no Constitutional protection.
MMC applicants also had to sign their power of attorney over to the state
Department of Revenue for extensive investigations of every aspect of their lives, including family, spouses, children, and bank accounts. Over 700 people applied to become MMCs last July 1, 2010. The investigations on these applicants are in full swing, and no licenses to applicants have yet
MORE QUOTES FROM THE HAAG MEMO
“We will enforce the CSA vigorously against individuals and organizations
that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity
involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state
“Others who knowingly facilitate the actions of the licensees, includmg
property owners, landlords, and financiers should also know that their
conduct violates federal law.”
“As the Attorney General has repeatedly stated, the Department of Justice
remains fumly (sic) committed to enforcing the CSA in all states.”
READ THE DOJ MEMOS
“Haag Memo” (Feb. 1, 2011)
“Ogden Memo” (Oct. 19, 2009)
Protest Federal Intervention into State Medical Marijuana Laws
Call the White House at (202) 456-1414 between 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST and send an email right now:
SEND THE WHITEHOUSE AN EMAIL
(RAW STORY) A study released Thursday by the Rand Corporation claims that marijuana prices in a post-legalization California could drop by up to 80 percent, placing some of the most delicately cultivated buds in the world at less than $40 an ounce.
An initiative that would legalize California’s most valuable cash crop will be on the state’s Nov. 2010 ballot. Should it pass, individual counties and municipalities would be able to opt in or out of the legalized system; those which opt in would be given additional tax and enforcement options, and residents would be allowed to transport up to one ounce and grow plants in a five-foot-by-five-foot area.
Similarly, State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has been pushing forward with a bill that would legalize marijuana state-wide and place a $50-per-ounce tax on all sales. He estimated tax revenues on sales alone would come to $1.5 billion in the first year. Rand researchers estimated a tax boon ranging from $650 million to $1.49 billion.
“Past research provides solid evidence that marijuana consumption goes up when prices go down, but the magnitude of the consumption increase cannot be predicted because prices will fall to levels below those ever studied,” a summary noted, citing Rand researchers.
“We cannot rule out increases of 50% to 100% or perhaps higher, but we just don’t know,” the study added.
The study also found that as potential per-ounce taxes increase, the likelihood of customers switching to higher-potency alternatives becomes greater. It also said that a green-rush in California would spark price drops nation-wide and disrupt Mexican marijuana smuggling, which by most estimates accounts for the largest portion of the violent drug cartels’ profits.
“In only two countries have there been changes in the criminal status of supplying marijuana,” Rand researchers added. “The Netherlands allows for sale of small amounts of marijuana (5 grams) in licensed coffee shops and in Australia four jurisdictions have reduced the penalties for cultivation of a small number of marijuana plants to confiscation and a fine. Neither has legalized larger-scale commercial cultivation of the sort California is considering.”
The report called “Altered State?” is the most scholarly examination of the issue so far. It is likely to be scrutinized and cited by both sides in the debate.
“The uncertainty and the potential chaotic nature of what could happen here just totally derails this initiative,” said Roger Salazar, the spokesman for Public Safety First, one of four opposition committees that plan to fight the initiative. “Outside of the prices going down there is nothing else that is certain here and certainly not worth having the state of California become the first entity in the world to completely legalize production and sales of marijuana.”
Stephen Gutwillig, the California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said: “The current system is loaded with the certainty of mass arrest, racist enforcement and boondoggle law enforcement expenses to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.
A marijuana advocate contacted by the Times said that even if use of the drug skyrocketed 100 percent, it would simply be returning to rates of usage seen during the 1970s.
Rand researchers also said that it is impossible to determine whether legalization will lead to more drugged driving arrests. However, the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported in May that after a double-blind study of 85 drivers tested before and after smoking marijuana, “no differences [in motor control and response time] were found”.
The Rand Corporation, born out the U.S. Air Force following the Manhattan Project, is often cited by its critics as a thinktank that is cornerstone to America’s post-World War II economic hegemony and core to the marriage of intellectual, scientific communities and the military-industrial complex. The group bills itself as a non-partisan, non-profit policy analysis center.