Decreased prevalence of diabetes in marijuana users: cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III

Marijuana fights diabetes, cancer, dementia and more. Once again we see evidence that marijuana helps to improve and protect human health. Both THC and CBD have direct effects on the cellular degeneration that leads to diabetes by combating inflammation and harmful oxidation. How much longer will the public tolerate the inhumane policy of marijuana prohibition which harms us all? Check out this data:

Decreased prevalence of diabetes in marijuana users: cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III

Tripathi B Rajavashisth,1,2 Magda Shaheen, corresponding author3 Keith C Norris,3 Deyu Pan,3 Satyesh K Sinha,1 Juan Ortega,1 and Theodore C Friedman1

Objective

To determine the association between diabetes mellitus (DM) and marijuana use.

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III, 1988–1994) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Participants

The study included participants of the NHANES III, a nationally representative sample of the US population. The total analytic sample was 10 896 adults. The study included four groups (n=10 896): non-marijuana users (61.0%), past marijuana users (30.7%), light (one to four times/month) (5.0%) and heavy (more than five times/month) current marijuana users (3.3%). DM was defined based on self-report or abnormal glycaemic parameters. We analyzed data related to demographics, body mass index, smoking status, alcohol use, total serum cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, triglyceride, serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D, plasma hemoglobin A1c, fasting plasma glucose level and the serum levels of C reactive protein and four additional inflammatory markers as related to marijuana use.

Main outcome measures

OR for DM associated with marijuana use adjusted for potential confounding variables (ie, odds of DM in marijuana users compared with non-marijuana users).

Results

Marijuana users had a lower age-adjusted prevalence of DM compared to non-marijuana users (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.33 to 0.55; p<0.0001). The prevalence of elevated C reactive protein (>0.5 mg/dl) was significantly higher (p<0.0001) among non-marijuana users (18.9%) than among past (12.7%) or current light (15.8%) or heavy (9.2%) users. In a robust multivariate model controlling for socio-demographic factors, laboratory values and comorbidity, the lower odds of DM among marijuana users was significant (adjusted OR 0.36, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.55; p<0.0001).

Conclusions

Marijuana use was independently associated with a lower prevalence of DM. Further studies are needed to show a direct effect of marijuana on DM.

via Decreased prevalence of diabetes in marijuana users: cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III.

VIA Clint” Werner

 

 

The Long Slog to Legalizing Marijuana in the U.S. Is Just Beginning

Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic –

Popular support may be rising, but a ruling from a federal appeals court shows that Washington regulators still hold the power.

A federal appeals court Tuesday told us all what we already knew about the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 illegal drug on a par with heroin: Any change in national policy, any federal easing of restrictions upon the use of medical marijuana, must come from within the executive branch, and specifically from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which so far has been resolute in its rejection of the idea that science and medicine have conclusively established that marijuana helps treat some of the painful illnesses which afflict millions of us.

In Americans for Safe Access v. DEA, a 45-page mash note to the Administrative Procedures Act, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals offered up a ruling which is both illuminating and infuriating. It is illuminating because it reminds us of how much deference Congress requires federal judges to give to administrative agencies when those agencies reach conclusions about issues within their areas of expertise. It is infuriating because it reminds us of how hard it is to change from below, from the people, the momentum of the vast federal bureaucracy.

At its heart, though, the ruling cements into place the image of the federal government's position on pot as something akin to a large boulder in the middle of a raging stream. It has been 40 years since the DEA concluded that that marijuana "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." Since then, 18 states and the District of Columbia -- one third of all such jurisdictions -- have legalized the use of medical marijuana while two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

And how have the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services reacted to all this? Unmoved and unmoving. Not yet convinced of what they are seeing with their own eyes, federal regulators insist that marijuana still can't be re-classified so that more Americans can more lawfully use it to ward off their pain or their nausea or whatever other effects of serious illness they contend it helps with. Here's the short version of how these regulators justify their continued inaction. First, from Tuesday's ruling, the background:

A drug is placed in Schedule I if (1) it "has a high potential for abuse," (2) it has "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," and (3) "[t]here is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug . . . under medical supervision." (emphasis added). A criterion for Schedule III, IV, and V drugs is the existence of "a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

To assess whether there is a "currently accepted medical use," the DEA looks for five necessary elements: "(1) The drug's chemistry must be known and reproducible; (2) There must be adequate safety studies; (3) There must be adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy; (4) The drug must be accepted by qualified experts; and (5) The scientific evidence must be widely available." Unlike Schedule I drugs, federal law permits individuals to obtain Schedule II, III, IV, or V drugs for personal medical use with a valid prescription (citations omitted by me).

The plaintiffs in this case asked the DEA to reclassify marijuana in 2002. The DEA then submitted the request to the DHHS. It took four years for the DHHS to conclude that such a re-classification was unjustified. And then it took the DEA five more years to formally deny the plaintiffs' request for a re-classification of the drug. To offer some perspective on the slow march in play here, during the nine-year span from 2002 to 2011 during which this issue was live before the DEA nine states and the District of Columbia passed medical marijuana laws.

The D.C. circuit now again picks up the trail. Why specifically did the DHHS reject the request to re-classify marijuana? From the ruling:

In its scientific and medical evaluation, DHHS concluded that marijuana lacks a currently accepted medical use in the United States. In reaching this conclusion, DHHS applied the DEA's established five-prong test, which requires a known and reproducible drug chemistry, adequate safety studies, adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating efficacy, acceptance of the drug by qualified experts, and widely available scientific evidence. DHHS stated that there are approximately known components of the cannabis plant. The components include 66 compounds called cannabinoids, and marijuana is the only plant in which these compounds are known to exist.

DHHS stated, however, that marijuana's chemistry was not "known and reproducible" as there had not been "a complete scientific analysis" of its components. In addition, although there was ongoing research, there were no studies of sufficient quality to assess "the efficacy and full safety profile of marijuana for any medical condition." Further, there was "a material conflict of opinion among experts" as to medical safety and efficacy, thereby precluding a finding that qualified experts accepted marijuana as a medicine. Additionally, the raw research data typically were not available in a format that would allow "adequate scientific scrutiny of whether the data demonstrate safety or efficacy" (citations omitted by me).

Why did the DEA "adhere" to the DHHS's recommendation? Again, the federal appeals court shared with the public the agency's rationale:

To establish accepted medical use, the effectiveness of a drug must be established in well-controlled, well designed, well-conducted, and well-documented scientific studies, including studies performed in a large number of patients. To date, such studies have not been performed. The small clinical trial studies with limited patients and short duration are not sufficient to establish medical utility. Studies of longer duration are needed to fully characterize the drug's efficacy and safety profile. Scientific reliability must be established in multiple clinical studies. Furthermore, anecdotal reports and isolated case reports are not adequate evidence to support an accepted medical use of marijuana. The evidence from clinical research and reviews of earlier clinical research does not meet this standard (citations omitted by me).

The D.C. circuit then tried again to explain the difference between how the regulators view "scientific studies" and how the plaintiffs in the case would like them to view "scientific studies":

[A] limited number of Phase I investigations have been conducted as approved by the FDA. Clinical trials, however, generally proceed in three phases. Phase I trials encompass initial testing in human subjects, generally involving 20 to 80 patients. They are designed primarily to assess initial safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and preliminary studies of potential therapeutic benefit. Phase II and Phase III studies involve successively larger groups of patients: usually no more than several hundred subjects in Phase II and usually from several hundred to several thousand in Phase III.

These studies are designed primarily to explore (Phase II) and to demonstrate or confirm (Phase III) therapeutic efficacy and benefit in patients. No Phase II or Phase III studies of marijuana have been conducted. Even in 2001, DHHS acknowledged that there is "suggestive evidence that marijuana may have beneficial therapeutic effects in relieving spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, as an analgesic, as an antiemetic, as an appetite stimulant and as a bronchodilator." But there is still no data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials that meets the requisite standard to warrant rescheduling.

I suppose there are two ways in which proponents of medical marijuana are likely to react to this ruling -- and to the scientific justification for the federal government's refusal to re-classify the drug. They are likely to try to put political pressure on the DEA and the DHHS from above, that is to say politically. And they are likely to ramp up their efforts on the ground to conduct and conclude the sorts of "scientific studies" which the regulators say they need to see before they'll give medical marijuana clearance to get beyond "Schedule 1."

The first option isn't encouraging. Even though recent polls show huge public support for legalized medical marijuana, Congress has ignored the issue and the Obama Administration has been outright hostile to medical marijuana operations, especially in California. The second option is going to take more time and, really, who is to say that the same regulators who today want more than mere "peer reviews" won't tomorrow be asking for something more than "well-controlled, well designed, well-conducted, and well-documented" studies?

In the meantime, a million or so Americans will continue to use medical marijuana to blunt their pain -- and will continue to do so under the relative safety of more and more state laws. Nowhere is the divide between Washington and America more evident than in this one court ruling on this one topic. The law may not permit the use of this drug to ease pain. Our government's tribunes may not yet trust the science that supports it. But the people have long since rendered their own judgment. For them, peer review begins at home.

Dreaming of the HEMP Industry in America

The United States is the world's leading consumer of hemp products—derived from the fibers of low-THC cannabis plants unsuitable for getting high—but while intoxicating marijuana is illegal almost everywhere, we're very unusual in not allowing any kind of hemp agriculture. Consequently, our hemp is overwhelmingly imported from Canada. But the United States has a lot of great agricultural land and a very productive agricultural sector, so now that many states are reforming their marijuana policies, proponents are hoping to bring hemp agriculture back to the United States.

To be clear, with total 2011 sales of $43 million, the hemp products market is not very large in the scheme of things. The total trade deficit for the United States in November was about $47 billion, so it's not as if restoring hemp production is some kind of economic game changer. But at the same time, it seems like a total no-brainer as a policy reform.
By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post

In the cannabis plant family, hemp is the good seed. Marijuana, the evil weed. Michael Bowman, a gregarious Colorado farmer who grows corn and wheat, has been working his contacts in Congress in an attempt to persuade lawmakers that hemp has been framed, unfairly lumped with the stuff people smoke to get high.

Somehow over time, as Bowman’s pitch goes, hemp, which is used to make paper, oils and a variety of useful products, was mistaken for its twin, marijuana — a.k.a pot, chronic, blunt and weed — a medicinal drug loaded with tetrahydrocannabinol that buzzes the mind. Hemp got caught up in the legendary crusade against pot popularized by the movie “Reefer Madness.” All varieties of cannabis ended up on the most-wanted list, outlawed by Congress as well as lawmakers in other nations, inspiring people to kill it on sight.

Bowman’s message is simple: Be sensible. “Can we just stop being stupid? Can we just talk about how things need to change?”

While the United States ranks as the world’s leading consumer of hemp products — with total sales of food and body-care products exceeding $43 million in 2011 — it is the only major industrialized country that bans growing it, even though 11 states have passed measures removing barriers to hemp production and research. Ninety percent of the U.S. supply comes from Canada.

Since Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana by ballot initiatives last fall, a group of farmers and activists have been pushing to revive a crop they say offers a solution to vexing environmental, health and economic challenges.

Proponents value hemp both for how it grows — quickly and in a wide geographic range, without requiring much in terms of water, pesticides and fertilizers — and what it can produce. Its seeds and oil are fodder for health and beauty products, while the strength of its natural fiber makes it a good candidate to be used as a building composite. Combine hemp with water and lime and you get “hempcrete,” which can help construct a house; process it differently and it can make up a BMW’s interior door panel.

But Bowman’s project to plant 100 acres of hemp on his 3,000-acre farm on April 30 — to coincide with the 80th birthday of his friend singer Willie Nelson, known for his support for hemp and marijuana legalization — could run afoul of the Agriculture Department’s farm program, which helps subsidize his corn and wheat. He also grows edible beans, alfalfa and, occasionally, sunflowers.

In a statement, Agriculture Department spokesman Justin DeJong said that since hemp is considered “a Schedule I controlled substance” under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, it “cannot be grown on farmland” receiving federal commodity subsidies. If convicted of a violation, a farmer cannot get subsidies for five years.

Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne said in a statement that the controlled-substance law refers “to all cannabis plants, regardless of their THC content,” and that only marijuana growers with a DEA permit can grow it.

It didn’t used to be this way. In the colonial era, Benjamin Franklin published an article touting hemp’s virtues, and Virginia farmers were allowed to pay their taxes in hemp. A USDA botanist grew a half-dozen varieties of hemp on federal property in the 1920s. The U.S. government urged farmers to grow “Hemp for Victory” during World War II to provide the raw material for ropes, sailors’ uniforms and other supplies.

But a couple of factors — the high taxes the federal government imposed on growing hemp in the late 1930s and again in the early ’50s, and then the DEA’s interpretation of the 1970 law — made producing hemp nearly impossible.

But starting in 1999, states began to pass legislation making it easier to either grow industrial hemp or conduct research on it. These measures, however, have had little practical effect. Since the DEA only grants permits in rare instances and demands costly, elaborate security precautions, large-scale hemp growing in the United States is not viable.

The Canadian government, meanwhile, recently announced it would invest nearly $100,000 in marketing hemp and researching which varieties would thrive in different regions of the country.

Canadian Embassy spokesman Chris Plunkett described industrial hemp as “an important crop” for Canada because it grows well in the northern prairie “where other crops, due to climate, cannot grow,” and can be rotated in to break disease cycles.

In the United States, its advocates describe hemp in glowing terms. It can be grown organically with relative ease, and its stalks not only store carbon but could potentially produce biomass energy. The oil is rich in protein and Omega-3 fats and can be eaten as well as be used in products such as Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. Hemp seeds are sold as snacks, and it can be made into paper as well as a building composite to replace fiberglass and in some instances concrete.

Lynda Parker, a Denver-based citizen advocate, learned about hemp while tracking legislation for a political science class she took in 1996. Five years ago, after retiring, she decided to lobby full time for legalization.

“If we’re serious about climate change and the environment, there is no single thing we can do that is more impactful,” she said.

Parker and Bowman, introduced to each other by a Colorado Department of Agriculture official, pushed several efforts in the legislature aimed at reintroducing hemp.

They worked hard to distinguish hemp — which can actually make marijuana less potent when the two plants cross-fertilize — from pot, trying to overcome what they called “the giggle factor.”

“People would ask, ‘Does this mean I can smoke my drapes?’ It’s always the drapes,” Parker recalled.

Victory came Nov. 6, when Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which not only legalized pot but required “the general assembly to enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp.”

Those working on the federal law describe it as a simple matter of economics. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) who introduced legislation last Congress with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to decouple hemp from marijuana as a controlled substance and plans to push for the bill again this year, noticed the seeds sold as a snack under the name “hemp hearts” last summer at his local Costco in Tigard, Ore.

“Why would you say you can sell it at your local Costco, but farmers around the world get to make most of the money?” Wyden asked.

Even potential Canadian competitors are trying to assist the hemp vanguard here. As Parker and Bowman worked on their state’s ballot initiative, the Canadian consulate in Denver served as unofficial advisers. They flew Canadian Mounties and an expert in composites to discuss the logistics of enforcement and processing hemp once it’s legal and funded Parker’s trip to Winnipeg to attend an industry meeting.

“If and when it becomes legal to grow hemp in the United States, that’s just going to add credence and credibility to what we’re doing,” said Hemp Oil Canada President Shaun Crew, who has already registered the name “Hemp Oil USA” for when he opens up shop south of the border.

Still, that day may be a while off. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson, whose group supports legalization, failed to help North Dakotan farmers overcome federal opposition to hemp cultivation while serving as the state’s agriculture commissioner.

“I don’t want to throw cold water on this,” Johnson said, with hesitation in his voice. “We were in this fight for 10 years straight and got absolutely nowhere.”

But Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra argued “there’s a lot of additional momentum” for legalization right now, noting that even conservative-leaning Kentucky is eyeing industrial hemp. The state’s agricultural commissioner, James Comer, is campaigning hard for legalization and on Friday, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce voted to back a Senate bill that would sanction hemp farming.

Crew is in favor of the campaign, though he warned his American allies not to exaggerate hemp’s potential and become convinced “there’s a big pot of gold at the end of the hemp rainbow.”

“This isn’t the be-all and end-all,” Crew said, noting that 15 years after legalization, hemp occupies only 50,000 acres of land in Canada. “We’re just a blip on the radar screen of agriculture in our two countries.”

Next Seven States To Legalize Cannabis

 

By fully legalizing marijuana through direct democracy, Colorado and Washington have fundamentally changed the national conversation about cannabis. As many as 58 percent of Americans now believe marijuana should be legal. And our political establishment is catching on. Former president Jimmy Carter came out this month and endorsed taxed-and-regulated weed. “I’m in favor of it,” Carter said. “I think it’s OK.” In a December 5th letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) suggested it might be possible “to amend the Federal Controlled Substances Act to allow possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, at least in jurisdictions where it is legal under state law.” Even President Obama hinted at a more flexible approach to prohibition, telling 20/20′s Barbara Walters that the federal government was unlikely to crack down on recreational users in states where pot is legal, adding, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Encouraged by the example of Colorado and Oregon, states across the country are debating the merits of treating marijuana less like crystal meth and more like Jim Beam. Here are the next seven states most likely to legalize it:

1) Oregon

Oregon could have produced a trifecta for pot legalization on election day. Like Washington and Colorado, the state had a marijuana legalization bid on the ballot in 2012, but it failed 54-46. The pro-cannabis cause was dogged by poor organization: Advocates barely qualified the initiative for the ballot, and could not attract billionaire backers like George Soros and Peter Lewis, who helped bankroll the legalization bit in Washington.

But given that Oregon’s biggest city, Portland, will be just across the Columbia River from prevalent, legal marijuana, the state legislature will be under pressure to create a framework for the drug’s legal use in Oregon – in particular if the revenue provisions of Washington’s law are permitted to kick in and lawmakers begin to watch Washington profit from the “sin taxes” on Oregon potheads. If lawmakers stall, state voters will likely have the last word soon enough. Consider that even cannabis-crazy Colorado failed in its first legalization bid back in 2006.

“We have decades of evidence that says prohibition does not work and it’s counterproductive,” said Peter Buckley, co-chair of the Oregon state legislature’s budget committee. For Buckley, it’s a matter of dollars and common sense: “There’s a source of revenue that’s reasonable that is rational that is the right policy choice for our state,” he said. “We are going to get there on legalization.”

2) California

California is unaccustomed to being a follower on marijuana liberalization. Its landmark medical marijuana initiative in 1996 sparked a revolution that has reached 18 states and the District of Columbia. And the artful ambiguity of that statute has guaranteed easy access to the drug — even among Californians with minor aches and pains.

In 2010, the state appeared to be on track to fully legalize and tax pot with Proposition 19. The Obama administration warned of a crackdown, and the state legislature beat voters to the punch with a sweeping decriminalization of pot that treats possession not as a misdemeanor but an infraction, like a parking ticket, with just a id=”mce_marker”00 fine. In a stunningly progressive move, that law also applies to underage smokers. And removing normal teenage behavior from the criminal justice system has contributed to a staggering decline in youth “crime” in California of nearly 20 percent in 2011.

The grandaddy of less-prohibited pot is again a top candidate to fully legalize cannabis. Prop 19 failed 53-47, and pot advocates are determined not to run another initiative in an “off-year” election, likely putting ballot-box legalization off for four years. “2016 is a presidential election year, which brings out more of the youth vote we need,” said Amanda Reiman, who heads up the Drug Policy Alliance’s marijuana reform in California.

Economics could also force the issue sooner. Eager for new tax revenue, the state legislature could seek to normalize the marijuana trade. There’s no Republican impediment: Democrats now have a supermajority in Sacramento, and Governor Brown has forcefully defended the right of states to legalize without the interference of federal “gendarmes.”

3) Nevada

Whether it’s gambling or prostitution, Nevada is famous for regulating that which other states prohibit. When it comes to pot, the state has already taken one swing at legalization in 2006, with an initiative that failed 56-44. “They got closer than we did in Colorado that year,” says Mason Tvert, who co-chaired Colorado’s initiative this year and whose first statewide effort garnered just 41 percent of the vote.

For prominent state politicians, the full legalization, taxation and regulation of weed feels all but inevitable. “Thinking we’re not going to have it is unrealistic,” assemblyman Tick Segerblom of Las Vegas said in November. “It’s just a question of how and when.”

4) Rhode Island

Pot watchers believe little Rhode Island may be the first state to legalize through the state legislature instead of a popular referendum. ”I’m hoping this goes nowhere,” one prominent opponent in the state House told the Boston Globe. ”But I think we’re getting closer and closer to doing this.”

Back in June 2012, lawmakers in Providence jumped on the decriminalization bandwagon, replacing misdemeanor charges for adult recreational use with a civil fine of id=”mce_marker”50. (Youth pay the same fine but also have to attend a drug education class and perform community service.)

In the wake of Colorado and Washington’s new state laws, Rhode Island has joined a slate of New England states that are vowing to vote on tax-and-regulate bills. A regulated marijuana market in Rhode Island could reap the state nearly $30 million in new tax revenue and reduced law enforcement costs. ”Our prohibition has failed,” said Rep. Edith Ajello of Providence, who is sponsoring the bill. ”Legalizing and taxing it, just as we did to alcohol, is the way to do it.”

5) Maine

Maine’s legislature has recently expanded decriminalization and is moving on a legalization-and-regulation bill that could bring the state $8 million a year in new revenue. ”The people are far ahead of the politicians on this,” said Rep. Diane Russell of Portland. ”Just in the past few weeks we’ve seen the culture shift dramatically.”

State legislators in Maine, as in other direct-democracy states, are actually wary of the ballot initiative process and may work to preempt the voters. A legalization scheme devised by lawmakers, after all, is likely to produce tighter regulation and more revenue than a bill dreamed up by pot consumers themselves.

6) Alaska

Alaska is already a pothead’s paradise, and the state could move quickly to bring order to its ambiguous marijuana law. Cannabis has been effectively legal in Alaska since 1975, when the state supreme court, drawing on the unique privacy protections of the Alaska constitution, declared that authorities can’t prohibit modest amounts of marijuana in the home of state residents.

That gave Alaskans the right to have up to four ounces – and 24 plants – in their homes. Following a failed bid to fully legalize pot at the ballot box in 2004 (the measure fell 56-44), the state legislature attempted to enforce prohibition, outlawing all weed in 2006. But citing the 1975 precedent, a judge later ruled the home exemption must be respected, though she sought to limit legal possession to a single ounce.

If taxation and regulation take root in nearby Washington, and perhaps more important in neighboring British Columbia (where legalization is also being considered), a ballot initiative in Alaska could win in an avalanche.

7) Vermont

Last year, Vermont finally normalized its medical marijuana law, establishing a system of government-sanctioned dispensaries. In November, the state’s Democratic governor, Peter Shumlin, just cruised to re-election while strongly backing marijuana decriminalization. The city of Burlington, meanwhile, passed a nonbinding resolution in November calling for an end to prohibition – with 70 percent support. The Green Mountain State has already embraced single-payer universal health care. Legal pot cannot be far behind.

Gov. Cuomo Calls for Reform: Marijuana Arrests That ‘Stigmatize and Criminalize… Must End Now’

Huffington Post – 

In his State of the State address on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a passionate call to reform New York's marijuana possession laws in order to reduce the enormous number of unlawful, biased, and costly arrests. The governor noted the discrepancy in the law between public and private possession of marijuana, and proposed standardizing the penalties for possession of small amounts. After citing the harmful outcomes of these arrests -- like racial disparities, stigma from criminalization, and fiscal waste -- the governor made a forceful call for immediate reform: "It's not fair, it's not right. It must end, and it must end now."

Possession of marijuana is the leading arrest in New York City today -- but it's not supposed to be this way. In 1977, New York State removed criminal penalties for private possession of marijuana, and made possession in public view a misdemeanor. The 1977 Legislature made its intent clear:

The legislature finds that arrests, criminal prosecutions, and criminal penalties are inappropriate for people who possess small quantities of marihuana (sic) for personal use. Every year, this process needlessly scars thousands of lives and wastes millions of dollars in law enforcement resources, while detracting from the prosecution of serious crime.

Despite -- or in spite of -- the legislative intent, more than 600,000 people have been arrested for marijuana possession during the last 15 years in New York. Most of these arrest occur in the Big Apple: more than 50,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2011 alone. Most of these arrests are unconstitutional -- people possessing marijuana in their pocket or bag are instead charged and arrested for possession in public view. Nearly 85 percent of those arrested are black and Latino, mostly young men, even though government data shows that young whites use marijuana at higher rates. This creates, essentially, a two-tier legal system where the law is applied differently to different groups of people depending on their race. As if the human costs weren't already bad enough, this practice costs taxpayers at least $75 million a year. It's a classic case of drug war insanity.

In calling for reform, the governor enjoys broad support from community groups, faith and civil rights organizations, parents, young people, drug policy reformers -- and law enforcement, including NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, all five New York City district attorneys, Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard, and others.

But winning reform in Albany won't be easy. Last year, when Cuomo introduced similar reforms, Senate leadership, in an act of drug war extremism, opposed the measure. "I hope Senator Skelos and the entire legislature heard Governor Cuomo loud and clear when he said it's time to end marijuana arrests that 'stigmatize and criminalize' young people of color, one of the leading consequences of stop and frisk," said Alfredo Carrasquillo, VOCAL-NY's Civil Rights Organizer. "Governor Cuomo is right: these arrests mean more than a just a night in jail. They can have lasting effects on a person's access to jobs, housing and a better future."

After 40 years of a failed war on drugs, states across the country are finally beginning to propose and, in some places, enact more sensible drug laws. And while New York has led the way on many important drug policy reforms -- rolling back the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws and recently enacting a strong 911 Good Samaritan bill to prevent accidental overdose deaths -- the Empire State's marijuana policies have been long stuck in retrograde. While much more needs to be done, Cuomo's marijuana reform proposal is one important step in the right direction. His call to end the widely abused police practice of "stop and frisk" is another.

"With stop and frisk and marijuana arrests, too many of our young people are swept up in the criminal justice system," said Kyung Ji Kate Rhee, juvenile justice director at the Center for NuLeadership. "Governor Cuomo's reform proposal, once passed, is an important step to help us secure a brighter future for our youth. Instead of wasting money on unlawful marijuana arrests, we can invest in community development and provide resources that support our youth in reaching their best potential."

Marijuana Legalization Could Save U.S. $13.7 Billion Per Year, 300 Economists Say

Huffington Post

 

More than 300 economists, including three nobel laureates, have signed a petition calling attention to the findings of a paper by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, which suggests that if the government legalized marijuana it would save $7.7 billion annually by not having to enforce the current prohibition on the drug. The report added that legalization would save an additional $6 billion per year if the government taxed marijuana at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco.

That’s as much as $13.7 billion per year, but it’s still minimal when compared to the federal deficit, which hit $1.5 trillion last year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

While the economists don’t directly call for pot legalization, the petition asks advocates on both sides to engage in an “open and honest debate” about the benefits of pot prohibition.

“At a minimum, this debate will force advocates of current policy to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues, and numerous ancillary consequences that result from marijuana prohibition,” the petition states.

The economic benefits of pushing pot into mainstream commerce have long been cited as a reason to make the drug legal, and the economists’ petition comes as government officials at both the federal and local levels are looking for ways to raise funds. The majority of Americans say they prefer cutting programs to increasing taxes as a way to deal with the nation’s budget deficit — marijuana legalization would seemingly give the government money without doing either.

Officials in one state have already made the economic argument for pot legalization, but to no avail. California Democratic State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano proposed legislation in 2009 to legalize marijuana in California, arguing that it would yield billions of dollars in tax revenue for a state in dire need of funds. California voters ultimately knocked down a referendum to legalize marijuana in 2010.

Economist Stephen Easton wrote in Businessweek that the financial benefits of pot legalization may be even bigger than Miron’s findings estimate. Based on the amount of money he thinks it would take to produce and market legal marijuana, combined with an estimate of marijuana consumers, Eatson guesses that legalizing the drug could bring in $45 to $100 billion per year. Easton’s name doesn’t appear on the petition.

Some argue that the economic argument for pot legalization is already proven by the benefits states and cities have reaped from making medical marijuana legal. Advocates for Colorado‘s medical marijuana industry argue that legalization has helped to jumpstart a stalled economy in cities like Boulder and Denver, according to nj.com.

Legal Private Pot Dens popped up in 2013 allowing recreational pot use in Colorado

DENVER — With reggae music pumping in the background and flashing disco-style lights, members of the recreational pot club lit up in celebration of the new year — and a new place to smoke legally among friends.

Club 64, in an industrial area just north of downtown Denver, opened at 4:20 p.m. on Monday, with some 200 people signed up. The opening came less than 24 hours after organizers announced they would charge a $29.99 admission price for the bring-your-own pot club.

“Look at this!” Chloe Villano exclaimed as the club she created over the weekend opened. “We were so scared because we didn’t want it to be crazy. But this is crazy! People want this.”

The private pot dens popped up less than a month after Colorado’s governor signed into law a constitutional amendment allowing recreational pot use. Club 64 gets its name from the number of the amendment.

Two Colorado clubs were believed to be the first legal pot dens in the nation. The Denver Post reported that a similar pot club opened earlier Monday in the small southern Colorado town of Del Norte.

Colorado’s marijuana amendment prohibits public consumption, and smoke-free laws also appear to ban indoor smokeouts. But Club 64 attorney Robert Corry said private pot dens are permissible because marijuana isn’t sold, nor is it food or drink.

Villano, the club owner, said the pot club would meet monthly at different locations, with the $29.99 membership fee good for only one event. On Monday, the pot club was meeting in a hemp-based clothing store near downtown. Hooded sweatshirts and backpacks were shoved to a corner. In the main area, a few small tables sat next to a screen showing “The Big Lebowski.”

A bar decorated with blue Christmas lights handed out sodas and Club 64’s official snacks — Goldfish and Cheetos. The snacks were inspired by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who warned marijuana users the night of the marijuana vote, “don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

Corry said the pot clubs are intended for people who can’t use marijuana at home because of local ordinance or because their landlords threaten eviction.

“It’s just a place for adults to exercise their constitutional rights together,” Corry said. “We’re not selling pot here.”

Among the new Club 64 members planning to ring in the New Year was Joe Valenciano of Denver. He heard about Club 64 a day ago and signed up immediately.

“We need more clubs like this,” Valenciano said.