Lawmaker predicts legislative hearings on state’s troubled medical marijuana program

The state legislator who sponsored the 2015 bill creating the state’s star-crossed medical marijuana program expects lawmakers will call public hearings when they convene next month if there’s no resolution to the escalating dispute between the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the LSU AgCenter over the suitability of LSU’s grow partner.

Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, says it’s frustrating that nearly four years after lawmakers legalized medical marijuana there’s still no product on the shelves of the 10 pharmacies licensed to provide relief to patients around the state suffering from chronic illness.

“There is going to have to be some public hearings to let the public know what the status of everything is,” Mills says. “I think the committee chairs are going to call everybody to the table to tell us what the heck is going on. If between now and April 8 they cannot get this worked out, we’re going to have to get much more involved.”

The Southern University Ag Center and the LSU AgCenter are the only two licensed growers in the state under the law, yet neither has been able to bring a product to market.

Southern’s delays stem from problems it has had with its private grow partner. That firm has since been bought out by a new group of investors and the program appears to be back on track.

LSU’s program, however, which had planned to have medical marijuana available by the beginning of the year, is now embroiled in controversy with LDAF over suitability issues with its grow partner, GB Sciences.

The university says LDAF is placing unfair regulatory burdens on GB Sciences, while LDAF says the company has refused to make available certain information necessary to determine its suitability.

LSU counters the firm was vetted during a public procurement process and has met all the state’s requirements.

Mills says he’s been trying to get to the bottom of what’s behind all the bad blood, which culminated earlier this month when LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain accused LSU and GB Sciences of breaking the law by moving plant material into a part of its Industriplex growth facility before signing a Memorandum of Understanding. LSU says it will not sign the MOU because it is beyond the scope of the law.

“I’ve told all sides they’ve got to sit in a big conference room with every lawyer available and iron this thing out,” Mills says. “It’s not that hard. We’re not the first state to market. This is not a pioneering piece of agriculture. Why is it taking us so long to reinvent the wheel?”

Gov. John Bel Edwards declines to get involved in the dispute at this point, saying through a spokesperson that the issue falls under the purview of the commissioner of agriculture.

Read the full article on Business Report


New Bill Would End Federal War on Marijuana

February 8th, 2017 by Tom Angell

A bipartisan group of seven Republicans and six Democrats filed new Congressional legislation that would protect people who are acting in compliance with state marijuana laws from federal prosecution and punishment.

Titled the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2017,” the bill adds a new provision to the Controlled Substances Act that reads:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.”

In a lengthy floor speech announcing the bill, chief sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) argued that the legislation falls in line with the principles of limited government and states’ rights that so many in his party profess to value:

“My bill would then make sure that Federal law is aligned with the States’ and the people in those States’ desires so that the residents and businesses wouldn’t have to worry about Federal prosecution. For those few States that have thus far maintained a policy of strict prohibition, my bill would change nothing. I think that this is a reasonable compromise that places the primary responsibility of police powers back in the States and the local communities that are most directly affected.”

“I happen to believe that the Federal Government shouldn’t be locking up anyone for making a decision of what he or she should privately consume, whether that person is rich or poor, and we should never be giving people the excuse, especially Federal authorities, that they have a right to stop people or intrude into their lives in order to prevent them and prevent others from smoking a weed, consuming something they personally want to consume.”

Rohrabacher, who ardently supported Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign and was reportedly considered as a possible secretary of state nominee, cited the new president’s pledges to respect state marijuana laws.

The California congressman then gave a bit of a history lesson, likening current federal policy impeding state laws to the British monarchy that U.S. founding fathers rebelled against, and comparing marijuana criminalization to the earlier failed prohibition of alcohol.

Turning one marijuana stereotype on its head, he decried the federal government’s “paranoia” regarding the truth about marijuana as evidenced by the DEA’s longstanding efforts to block research on its medical benefits.

And referencing the increasingly contentious debate about health care reform, Rohrabacher said:

“Remember, as we discuss people’s health care, Republicans over and over again say: You shouldn’t get in between a doctor and his patient. We believe in the doctor-patient relationship. That is true for medical marijuana as well. Do we believe in these principles?”

The new bill is the fourth piece of marijuana reform legislation to be introduced in the 115th Congress.

It is is identical to a bill Rohrabacher and others filed in the last Congress, which ended up garnering 20 co-sponsors but did not receive a hearing or a vote.

 
 Source:  MassRoots

Trump’s Cabinet on Cannabis

February 3rd, 2017 by Tom Angell

Most MassRoots readers probably already know that President Trump pledged on the campaign trail that he would respect state marijuana laws. You probably also know that Trump’s nominee to head the Justice Department has a long history of speaking out against legalization.

But where do other incoming top Trump administration officials stand on cannabis? We’ve compiled everything you need to know right here.

Just in case you haven’t followed all the latest news from Capitol Hill, let’s start with attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama: Last year Sessions said “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and repeatedly criticized the Obama administration’s approach of generally respecting the right of states to set their own cannabis policies. Since being nominated as attorney general, however, he has been much more guarded in response to questions about how the federal government should react to local policies.

During a confirmation hearing, Sessions called existing guidelines on how states can avoid interference “valuable,” but indicated that compliance probably isn’t being tracked as closely as it should be, saying he wouldn’t commit to never enforcing federal law. In answers to follow-up written questions, he said he would “review and evaluate those policies, including the original justifications for the memorandum, as well as any relevant data and how circumstances may have changed or how they may change in the future.”

About a week and a half before the inauguration, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that even if Sessions personally disagreed with the president on respecting state laws, “When you come into a Trump administration, it’s the Trump agenda that you are implementing, not your own. And I think that Senator Sessions is well aware of that.”

Vice President Mike Pence, while serving as a member of the U.S. House, voted six times against amendments to prevent the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana laws.

Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin said in response to a written question from a senator that banking and tax concerns facing marijuana businesses are “a very important issue,” committing to “work with Congress and the President to determine which provisions of the current tax code should be retained, revised or eliminated to ensure that all individuals and businesses compete on a level playing field.”

At his confirmation hearing, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly conceded that prohibition enforcement will never completely eliminate the consumption of drugs. However, he added that in his view there is no such thing as “nonviolent” drug use because proceeds go into supporting a criminal market where violence is often used to settle disputes. While serving in a past military role, Kelly regularly testified before Congress that legalization in U.S. states made it harder for him to get cooperation from other countries in the international drug war. But he has also expressed openness to medical cannabis.

David Shulkin, who Trump nominated to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, also seems somewhat open to increasing military veterans’ access to medical marijuana, writing in a letter last year that he “wholeheartedly agree[s] that VA should do all it can to foster open communication between Veterans and their VA providers, including discussion about participation in state marijuana programs.”

But Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, is certainly not a fan of medical cannabis or of letting states set their own laws on the issue. As Oklahoma attorney general, he’s currently involved in a lawsuit over a proposed medical marijuana ballot measure. In a filing last month he argued that state cannabis laws are preempted by federal prohibition. “[The Oklahoma initiative] requires State officials to conspire…to violate federal drug laws by issuing licenses that will break federal law if certain preconditions are met, and to arguably share in the profits for breaking federal law by taxing the sale of marijuana,” he wrote. Alarmingly, Pruitt called the Obama approach to state cannabis laws “tenuous,” adding, “the prior [Bush] presidential administration vigorously enforced the law…and the incoming presidential administration may take the same course.” Pruitt previously sued neighboring Colorado over its legalization law in a case that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during his confirmation hearing, took a verbal beating from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) for refusing to criticize the deadly drug war in the Philippines.

Energy secretary nominee Rick Perry, a former Texas governor and presidential candidate, personally opposes legalization but has repeatedly spoken out in favor of the right of states to set their own cannabis laws without federal interference.

Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), Trump’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, has voted in favor of several U.S. House amendments on marijuana, including ones to prevent the Justice Department from spending money to interfere with state medical cannabis or full legalization laws.

Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT), Trump’s pick to lead the Department of the Interior, voted for the state medical marijuana amendments but against the full legalization ones.

Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), the nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, voted against both the medical marijuana and full legalization protections for states.

Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate, has given mixed signals on marijuana, endorsing its medical benefits but also saying that recreational use can cause flashbacks.

Trump hasn’t officially nominated someone to lead the Food and Drug Administration yet, but two people floated in the press as possible picks are seen as favorable to cannabis law reform: Jim O’Neill was once a board member for a legalization organization, and Balaji Srinivasan tweeted about the racially disparate impact of marijuana law enforcement.

All told, the Trump team is very much a mixed bag when it comes to cannabis policy, and the views of some department and agency heads will be more important than others when it comes to determining the federal government’s approach to marijuana. But what matters most at the end of the day is whether the president sees it as politically important enough to follow through on his campaign pledge to respect state laws, or if he would allow the Justice Department to undermine those promises in line with the views of a less-friendly attorney general. Stay tuned.

 

Source:  MassRoots


First Look at New Marijuana Bills in Congress

 

Two new bills to reform federal marijuana laws were just introduced in Congress, and MassRoots has an exclusive first look at the proposals.

Both sponsored by Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA), H.R. 714 and H.R. 715 would reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The first bill, also known as the Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act (LUMA), would simply move cannabis from its status under Schedule I — the most restrictive drug category under federal law — to Schedule II. It would also ensure that provisions of the CSA would not “prohibit or otherwise restrict” state-authorized use, possession, transportation, production and distribution of medical marijuana.

The second bill, the Compassionate Access Act, is broader in scope, and is cosponsored by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). It also reschedules marijuana but doesn’t mandate a move to Schedule II specifically, leaving the door open for cannabis to be placed even lower in the CSA.

The bill also excludes cannabidiol (CBD) from the federal definition of marijuana, specifying that it is not to be treated as a controlled substance. Like LUMA, the legislation includes protections for state-authorized medical marijuana activities, but it adds further language covering parents or guardians of minors who are authorized patients and also has a provision covering marijuana testing labs.

Additionally, the legislation requires the Department of Justice to move authority for access to research-grade cannabis “to an agency of the Executive Branch that is not focused on researching the addictive properties of substances.” That’s a thinly-veiled dig at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which currently has such authority but has been repeatedly criticized for favoring studies on marijuana’s potential harms instead of its medical benefits.

The bill specifies that research done in accordance with state laws can be taken into account for future rescheduling decisions even if those studies did not use cannabis from federally-approved sources.

Both of Griffith’s new bills use the federally-loaded word “prescription” to qualify the type of state-legal medical marijuana activities that are protected, but define the term to mean “an instruction written by a medical physician in accordance with applicable State law,” indicating that current medical cannabis recommendations in accordance with state programs would likely qualify.

“There are countless reports of marijuana’s medicinal benefits in treating conditions including cancer, epilepsy and glaucoma,” Griffith said in a statement. “It is time to research this further, and, where legal, to allow real doctors and real pharmacists to prescribe or dispense marijuana for legitimate medical reasons for real patients.”

Blumenauer added, “For too long our federal marijuana policies have failed the American people. It’s past time for a change. The Compassionate Access Act will bring us closer to making sure federal law does not get in the way of doctors, researchers and business owners working to provide safer access to patients.”

Neither bill has yet been scheduled for a hearing or a vote.

These are the second and third pieces of marijuana legislation introduced so far in the new 115th Congress. The first was a proposal from Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), in partnership with Blumenauer and a handful of other members, to protect properties and assets from being seized by the federal government just because they are involved with state-legal medical cannabis activities.

Many more marijuana bills are expected to be introduced on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks, and we’ll be here to keep you informed as details emerge.

 Source:  MassRoots

Congress Creates Commission To Study Drug War Alternatives

BY TOM ANGELL ON DECEMBER 12TH, 2016 AT 8:42 AM | UPDATED: DECEMBER 12TH, 2016 AT 8:48 AM

Congress just ordered a “comprehensive review” of failed U.S. approaches to reduce drug abuse and supply through prohibition-based interdiction programs.

Early on Saturday morning the Senate passed a bill creating a new commission that will be tasked with studying the impact of the war on drugs, with a focus on U.S. policies toward Latin America and the Caribbean.

Among other topics, commissioners are directed to look at “alternative drug policy models in the Western Hemisphere,” which will likely include Uruguay’s legalization of marijuana and the enactment of drug decriminalization and harm reduction policies elsewhere.

The move to create the commission is part of broader House-passed legislation authorizing programs under the U.S. State Department. The bill is now on its way to President Obama’s desk.

The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission will be comprised of ten members appointed by Congressional leadership and the president, and is charged with submitting a report including findings and recommendations within 18 months.

The State Department bill’s language creating the commission closely mirrors standalone legislation long championed by Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY).

“Over the last few decades, we’ve spent billions and billions of taxpayer dollars on counternarcotics programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission will force us to take a fresh look at our drug policy and make sure we have the best strategy moving forward,” Engel said in a press release. “We need to have an honest assessment of what has worked and what has failed as we consider how to spend our counternarcotics dollars in the future. With heroin use on the rise here at home, our children deserve no less than a fair evaluation of our drug policy.”

More Marijuana Moves in Congress

In other Capitol Hill news, it was announced on Friday that legislators leading the charge for marijuana law reform will form a Cannabis Caucus when the 115th Congress convenes next month.

“There needs to be more strategy between us, those of us who are engaged in this. More of a long-term strategy,” Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a caucus cofounder, told DecodeDC . “We need to have a vehicle in which people on the outside will be able to work through and sort of have a team effort from the inside and the outside.”

Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) are also helping to organize the new caucus.

Also on Friday, Congress passed a short-term extension of legislation funding the federal government — and continuing a rider that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws — through April 28, 2017.

Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that confirmation hearings for the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), an ardent opponent of marijuana legalization who some reformers fear will crack down on state laws, will be held on January 10 and 11.

Source: Marijuana.com


Marijuana Wins Big on Election Night

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California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada Legalize Marijuana, As Florida, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota Approve Medical Marijuana Measures

TELECONFERENCE Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12:30pm (ET) / 9:30am (PT): What Do Election Results Mean for Marijuana Law Reform?

This Election Day was a watershed moment for the movement to end marijuana prohibition, with the results expected to accelerate efforts to legalize marijuana in states across the U.S., at the federal level, and internationally.  Overall, legalization initiatives prevailed in four out of five states, and medical marijuana initiatives prevailed in all four states this year.

Votes are still being counted for legalization initiatives in Maine and Arizona, as well as for a medical marijuana measure in Montana to improve the state’s existing medical marijuana law.  Maine and Montana look headed for victory and Arizona for defeat.  If those results hold, legalization initiatives will have prevailed in four out of five states, and medical marijuana initiatives will have prevailed in all four states this year.

“Marijuana reform won big across America on Election Day – indeed it’s safe to say that no other reform was approved by so many citizens on so many ballots this year,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “But the prospect of Donald Trump as our next president concerns me deeply.  His most likely appointees to senior law enforcement positions – Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie – are no friends of marijuana reform, nor is his vice president.”

“The momentum for ending marijuana prohibition took a great leap forward with the victories in California and elsewhere, but the federal government retains the power to hobble much of what we’ve accomplished.  The progress we’ve made, and the values that underlie our struggle – freedom, compassion, reason and justice – will be very much at risk when Donald Trump enters the White House.”

The most significant victory was California’s Proposition 64, which legalizes the adult use of marijuana and enacts across-the-board retroactive sentencing reform for marijuana offenses, while establishing a comprehensive, strictly-controlled system to tax and regulate businesses to produce and distribute marijuana in a legal market. Experts are calling Prop. 64 the new “gold standard” for marijuana policy because of its cutting edge provisions to undo the most egregious harms of marijuana prohibition on impacted communities of color and the environment as well as its sensible approaches to public health, youth protection, licensing and revenue allocation.

“With its carefully crafted provisions for helping to heal the damage caused by the war on marijuana to poor communities and people of color, Prop 64 represents the new gold standard for how to legalize marijuana responsibly,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “This not only protects youth from accessing marijuana products, it also protects them from being harmed by the criminal justice system. Young people can no longer be arrested for marijuana offenses, which data consistently show us is a primary gateway to the criminal justice system. And with hundreds of thousands of residents eligible to have their records cleared, Prop 64 is a major victory for Californians who care about justice.”

By shifting away from counterproductive marijuana arrests and focusing instead on public health, states that have legalized marijuana are diminishing many of the worst harms of the war on drugs, while managing to raise substantial new revenues. A recent Drug Policy Alliance report found that Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon have benefitted from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues, since the adult possession of marijuana became legal.  At the same time, these states did not experience increases in youth marijuana use or traffic fatalities.

Tuesday’s results also have monumental international ramifications, as momentum grows to end marijuana prohibition in Europe and the Americas.  Over the past two years, Jamaica has enacted wide-ranging marijuana decriminalization; Colombia and Puerto Rico issued executive orders legalizing medical marijuana; and medical marijuana initiatives have been debated in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Italy. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana on a national level, and Canada’s governing Liberal Party has promised to do the same.

Among the highlights of Tuesday’s results:

  • California voters approved Prop 64, which allows adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants at home. The initiative also legalizes the industrial cultivation of hemp. The Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation will be renamed the Bureau of Marijuana Control, and will oversee 19 different licenses for businesses and cultivation. The initiative does not allow large-scale cultivation for the first five years, so small farmers have an advantage. A 15% excise tax on marijuana sales and a cultivation tax will be used to pay for the regulatory structure. Additional revenue will go toward youth substance abuse prevention, medical marijuana research, environmental protection and remediation, and local governments. The initiative also allocates substantial resources toward economic development and job placement for neighborhoods most in need, and creates a system for sentences to be retroactively reduced and past marijuana convictions to be expunged.The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, played a key leadership role in the California campaign — co-drafting the initiative, coordinating the political mobilization, social media, public relations and more, and raising over $5 million to fund the effort.
  • Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and grow up to six plants in their home. The initiative establishes a Cannabis Control Commission to oversee the licensing of marijuana retail stores, as well as cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities. It enacts a 3.75% excise tax on marijuana sales used to pay for the regulatory structure. Additional revenue will be deposited into Massachusetts’ General Fund. While public consumption of marijuana would not be allowed, if a city or town permits it by vote, this law would allow for the consumption of marijuana on the premises where sold or on a limited basis at special events. The new law provides support for communities disproportionately harmed by the drug war, by requiring the new regulating agency to adopt procedures and policies to promote and encourage full participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and enforcement. It also requires the agency to develop policies to positively impact those communities, such as education, job training, and placement programs.  The law also states that a prior conviction solely for a marijuana-related offense will not disqualify an individual from being employed in the newly legal marijuana industry or from getting a license to operate a marijuana business, unless the offense involved distribution to a minor.The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported this initiative with assistance on the drafting, as well as financial support for the campaign.
  • Maine voters approved Question 1, which allows adults 21 and older to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana, and grow up to six flowering plants and 12 nonflowering plants. The initiative instructs the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to regulate and control the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of marijuana.  It also provides for the licensure of retail social clubs where marijuana may be sold for consumption on the premises to adults 21 and older. The initiative enacts a 10% excise tax on marijuana sales that will be deposited into Maine’s General Fund. The Drug Policy Alliance’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported Maine’s initiative with financial support for signature collection.
  • Nevada voters approved Question 2, allowing adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Those who do not live within 25 miles of a retail marijuana store may grow up to six plants in their home. The initiative instructs the Nevada Department of Taxation to oversee the licensing of marijuana retail stores, as well as cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities. It also establishes a 15% excise tax on marijuana sales used to fund schools, and the marijuana regulatory structure.  The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported Nevada’s initiative with assistance on the drafting, as well as financial support for the campaign.
  • A marijuana legalization initiative in Arizona was narrowly defeated. The Arizona opposition raised $1 million from Discount Tire Company and another $500,000 from a pharmaceutical firm that produces the powerful synthetic opioid, fentanyl. Their strategy by and large depended on deceptive messaging designed to stoke fears of change.
  • Florida voters approved Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana. The initiative instructs the Department of Health to register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes, and issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Individuals with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions as determined by a physician will be able to purchase and use medical marijuana. Florida requires 60% of the vote to pass – a similar initiative in 2014 was defeated despite winning 57.6% of the vote. The Drug Policy Alliance and its lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, supported this initiative with assistance on the drafting, as well as financial support for the campaign.
  • Arkansas voters approved the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6, will allow seriously ill patients who have a certification from their doctor to obtain medical marijuana from dispensaries. Patients are prohibited from ever cultivating at home. The program is overseen by a new medical marijuana commission and the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control.  Arkansas joins Florida as the first states in the South to approve medical marijuana. DPA’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, provided financial support for the campaign.
  • North Dakota voters approved Measure 5, which legalizes the medical use of marijuana for conditions such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, glaucoma, and epilepsy, and other debilitating medical conditions. Patients will be permitted to possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana. The initiative instructs the Department of Health to issue ID-cards for qualified patients and regulate non-profit compassion centers which will serve as dispensaries for patients. Individuals living more than 40 miles from a dispensaries will be permitted to grow up to eight plants in their home. DPA’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, provided financial support for the campaign.
  • A Montana medical marijuana measure was approved. In 2004 Montana passed a ballot initiative to allow for the production, possession and use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions. But the legislature subsequently restricted the medical marijuana law to make it practically unworkable. I-182 would restore Montana’s medical marijuana law to ensure that patients have meaningful access to their medicine. DPA’s lobbying arm, Drug Policy Action, provided financial support for the campaign.

A nationwide Gallup poll released last month found that a record 60 percent of respondents support legalizing marijuana. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to a federal law passed by Congress in 2014 that bars D.C. from pursuing taxation and regulation).  After today’s victories, there are now 28 states with medical marijuana laws, eight of which have also approved legal regulation of marijuana for adults 21 and over.

DPA will hold a teleconference tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12:30pm ET / 9:30am PT to discuss the national implications of today’s votes.

CONTACT:

Tommy McDonald, 510-338-8827, [email protected]
Tony Newman, 646-335-5384, [email protected]

Source:  Drug Policy Alliance



Support for Legal Marijuana Use Up to 60% in U.S.

by Art Swift

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Highest percentage of support recorded in 47-year trend
  • Favoring legalization is up among all age groups in the past decade
  • Large majorities of Democrats, independents favor legalization

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With voters in several states deciding this fall whether to legalize the use of marijuana, public support for making it legal has reached 60% — its highest level in Gallup’s 47-year trend.

Americans' Views on Legalizing Marijuana

Marijuana use is currently legal in four states and the District of Columbia, and legalization measures are on the ballot in five more — California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada — this November. As a result, the percentage of Americans living in states where pot use is legal could rise from the current 5% to as much as 25% if all of these ballot measures pass.

When Gallup first asked this question in 1969, 12% of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana use. In the late 1970s, support rose to 28% but began to retreat in the 1980s during the era of the “Just Say No” to drugs campaign. Support stayed in the 25% range through 1995, but increased to 31% in 2000 and has continued climbing since then.

In 2013, support for legalization reached a majority for the first time after Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Since then, a majority of Americans have continued to say they think the use of marijuana should be made legal.

Today’s 60% is statistically similar to the previous high of 58% reached in 2013 and 2015, so it is unclear whether support has stabilized or is continuing to inch higher.

Support Up From a Decade Ago Among All Age Groups

Support for legalizing marijuana use has increased among most subgroups in the past decade, but more so among certain groups than others. For example, support is up 33 percentage points to 77% among adults aged 18 to 34, while it is up 16 points among adults aged 55 and older to 45%.

Support for the Legalization of Marijuana, by Age Group
2003 and 2005 2016
% %
National adults 35 60
18-34 44 77
35-54 35 61
55+ 29 45
Note: Analysis combines data from 2003 and 2005 because each survey asked the question of a half-sample of respondents
GALLUP

Democrats and Independents Soar to Majorities Favoring Legalization

Additionally, support is up more among independents and Democrats than it is among Republicans, partly because of the older age skew of the last group. Seventy percent of independents and 67% of Democrats support legal pot use, a major increase since the combined survey of 2003 and 2005 when 46% of independents and 38% of Democrats supported the idea. While less than a majority of members in any political party backed legalizing marijuana in 2003 and 2005, Democrats and independents have fueled the recent nationwide surge in support.

Support for the Legalization of Marijuana, by Political Party
2003 and 2005 2016
% %
National adults 35 60
Republicans 20 42
Independents 46 70
Democrats 38 67
Note: Analysis combines data from 2003 and 2005 because each survey asked the question of a half-sample of respondents
GALLUP

Republicans’ support has doubled from more than a decade ago, yet only 42% of GOP members now support legal marijuana use.

Bottom Line

If recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California this year, many other states will likely follow, because the “Golden State” often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S. As more states legalize marijuana, the question of whether the drug should be legal may become when it will be legal. The transformation in public attitudes about marijuana over the past half-century has mirrored the liberalization of public attitudes about gay rights and the same-sex-marriage movement, the latter of which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed legal last year. It is possible that it might take a Supreme Court case to settle this matter, too.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 5-9, 2016, with a random sample of 1,017 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

 

Source: Gallup


So Far, So Good: What We Know About Marijuana Legalization in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to D.C. law).

The report’s key findings include:

  • Marijuana arrests have plummeted in the states that legalized marijuana, although disproportionate enforcement of marijuana crimes against black people continues.
  • Statewide surveys of youth in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon found that there were no significant increases in youth marijuana use post-legalization.
  • Tax revenues in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have all exceeded initial revenue estimates, totaling $552 million.
  • Legalization has not led to more dangerous road conditions, as traffic fatality rates have remained stable in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.

Read the report here.

 


These 5 industries are the reason why marijuana is still illegal

We’ve seen some big, public pushes for marijuana policy reform from certain legislators and pro-marijuana organizations in recent years. But we hear less from the other side —  the groups fighting to keep marijuana illegal. That’s probably because these anti-marijuana lobby groups are interested in preserving the War on Drugs for their own financial interests.

Here are the top 5 anti-marijuana lobby groups:

1. Pharmaceutical corporations

Pharmaceutical companies stand to lose a lot of market share if marijuana is legalized because cannabis would offer a cheap, safe alternative to their products, according to Republic Report.

Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”

Drug manufacturers gave nearly $21.8 million to various federal candidates and committees as well as the parties in the 2012 elections. And in 2013 alone PhRMA spent nearly $18 million on lobbying, according to OpenSecrets.

2. Police unions

Police unions donate heavily to anti-legalization efforts, probably because ending the War on Drugs would translate to decreased police funding.

Ending marijuana prohibition would not only disrupt federal awards to police departments ($2.4 billion in 2014), it would also cut into marijuana-related asset forfeitures, as reported by The Nation’s Lee Fang.

But this is how Jim Pasco, the executive director of The National Fraternal Order of Police, defends the pushback against marijuana legalization efforts, as reported byPolitico:

“The sentiment within the law enforcement community, which has to deal with the effects of addictive drugs, is that we’re not going to sit on our hands and watch these people misrepresent.”

“The country is going to hell in a handbasket. … People are worried about their Social Security and health care, and these people are worried about getting high.”

3. Private prison corporations

Private prisons are another industry that would obviously be disrupted by legalizing marijuana.

Fewer people being sentenced for marijuana crimes translates directly into fewer bodies private prison corporations can reap incarceration profits from.

OpenSecrets reports that the two largest private prison operators, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO, have been lobbying heavily against policies that would reduce incarceration. Corrections Corporation of America has spent at least $970,000 a year on lobbying since 2008, and GEO has spent anywhere from $250,000 to $660,000 a year on lobbying.

According to The Intercept, private prison companies aren’t just funding conservative politicians’ campaigns, they’re also contributing to campaigns for perceived progressive politicians, like 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

4. Prison guard unions

States that legalize marijuana are more likely to see declines in prison populations, which will reduce the need for the government to utilize private prison companies and correctional officers, according to OpenSecrets.

For example, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association gave $1 million to the campaign that successfully defeated Proposition 5 in 2008, which would have reduced parole sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders as well as emphasizing drug treatment and rehabilitation programs as an alternative to incarceration.

Another politically active labor union representing many prison guards and donating to the campaign against drug reform is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

More from OpenSecrets:

In the 2012 campaign cycle AFSCME gave more than $13 million to candidates, parties and committees at the federal level. In 2013, AFSCME spent almost $2.7 million on lobbying efforts.

5. Alcohol and beer companies

Alcohol interests are lobbying to keep marijuana illegal because they just don’t want the competition for Americans’ leisure spending, according to Republic Report.

For example, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed $10,000 in campaign contributions to a committee working to prevent Proposition 19, which would have legalized and taxed marijuana, from passing back in 2010, as reported by LA Weekly. Needless to say, Proposition 19 failed to pass.

 

Source:  Extract


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