Releaf Magazine

Philadelphia Is Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession

City of Brotherly Love is decriminalizing marijuana possession and public consumption, ending a drug policy that has disproportionately targeted African Americans and Latinos in Philadelphia for decades.

After a long summer of negotiations between Mayor Michael Nutter and supporters of Councilman James Kenney's decriminalization bill, the mayor agreed to sign the legalization measure, which will take effect October 20. Support from Philly cops, African American community organizations, and black media outlets helped forge the decriminalization law that passed 13-3 through the city council — a margin that would have overridden a potential mayoral veto.

"We're the largest city in the US that will decriminalize successfully," said Kenney's policy director Chris Goy. "And in doing so, forged our own path against the state." Marijuana possession is still illegal in Pennsylvania, and lawbreakers are remain subject to arrest, fines, and jail time.

A separate medical marijuana bill is still under consideration in the state legislature, and according to a Quinnicpiac University poll conducted in March, 85 percent of Pennsylvania voters support ending the state's ban of medical pot. But, despite overwhelming support among voters, according to VICE News sources in Harrisburg, the state's capital, the bill will likely fail to become law.

Philly's decriminalization bill makes marijuana possession of less than 30 grams equivalent to a $25 jaywalking ticket. Smoking weed in public is a bit more serious: Anyone caught toking will have to fork over $100 or complete nine hours of community service.

Possession of weed previously carried a $200 fine, plus mandatory viewing of a three-hour video on the dangers of drug abuse. The video is widely considered a joke and ineffective, a symptom of the dysfunctional way the city, state, and country deal with the possession of tiny amounts of weed.

"After three years of closely monitoring Philly, we still remain concerned that racial disparity exists at every level, relating to the stop and frisk program," Paul Messing, an attorney who works closely with the American Civil Liberties Union in Philadelphia, told VICE News.

Though marijuana advocates and civil rights advocates consider Philadelphia's decriminalization ordinance a victory, concerns still remain, including a fear that the city's police force won't embrace the measure. Philly cops still use the controversial "stop and frisk" tactic, which ostensibly strives to reduce crime by eliminating vandalism and other petty crimes that proponents say are correlated with more violent and destructive acts.

"In particular, we have seen striking racial disparity in arrests for small amounts of marijuana," Messing said. "We're hoping new legislation reduces or eliminates that disparity."

Black and Latino suspects account for 83 percent of the 4,000 weed possession arrests every year in Philly, city council member James Kenney told the New York Times. Nationally, the racial disparities are a well documented concern that, according to an ACLU report, may have influenced President Obama and other policy makers to shift their stance on prohibition.

Marijuana enforcement laws are unquestionably a civil rights issue, according to attorney Harry Levine. "A classic civil rights issue is equal treatment under the law," Levine told VICE News. "If you have enforcement against some people but not other people; then you have a civil rights question."

But despite the overwhelming evidence in the wake of the ACLU's report, opponents of Philadelphia's decriminalization law remained unconvinced.

Historically, cops and their lobbying groups have opposed most attempts to decriminalize weed or make medical and recreational pot legal, according to Levine. In California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana, the state's Police Chiefs Association has long been an opponent of plans to enact a statewide regulatory framework for the drug.

To get the cops on board with Philly's decriminalization, Kenney and his allies partnered with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) — an organization of current and former law enforcement officials that aims to raise awareness about drug policy failures. After Philadelphia's cops heard firsthand from a 30-year narcotics veteran from Maryland, it became clear that the sky wouldn't fall if weed possession became the equivalent of a jaywalking citation, Goy said.

Police support is vital since pot remains illegal under Pennsylvania law, a fact that's not going to change in the immediate future. Because weed is still illegal at the state level, cops can, theoretically, arrest people in Philly on suspicion of breaking state law. Convictions for breaking the state law carry fines of up to $500, 30 days in jail, plus a criminal record.

"With the cooperation of our police department, we helped forge the agreement to pass the bill," Goy said. "The police commissioner said that they're going to do everything they can to implement the bill, and they even recognize there are a lot of questions about those of have gotten arrest records in the past."

The criminal record that comes with a state conviction is especially damaging to those who rely on federal government assistance programs such as subsidized housing and college loans, not to mention the difficulties of getting a job with a drug-related conviction, Goy said.

But the major bellwether in the Kenney's effort was bringing the city's African American community organizations on board with the legislation. "Councilman Kenney credits the real turning point to black radio and the black clergy for coming to support the bill," Goy said. "They were avid supporters."

Personal testimony also played a critical role in moving the debate, such as the story from a young mother who lost her job because she got busted with five dollars worth of weed in her pocket, Goy said. "The human element of what we're talking about is a lot more effective than polling numbers."

Photo via Flickr



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How Did I Miss That? Drugs vs. Domestic Violence in the NFL

by Steve Russell

Josh Gordon, wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, got suspended for a year for testing one nanogram over the marijuana limit. A year off for toking up in the same season when Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice only had to take two games off for punching the mother of his toddler daughter’s lights out? Well, it was Gordon’s second offense.

On September 8, a new surveillance video surfaced that actually showed fist to face and Janay Rice née Palmer falling unconscious. After having sponsored a press conference on March 23 where Rice’s faithful lady (who would marry him six days later) publicly apologized for assaulting his fist with her face, the Ravens canned him. Having already punished Rice, the NFL raised the two-game suspension to an indefinite suspension. Double jeopardy only applies to the government.

The NFL has since beefed up penalties for woman beating to a six game suspension on first offense and a “lifetime ban” on second offense (with possible reinstatement after one year). My cynical cousin Ray Sixkiller is taking bets on those petitions for reinstatement.

The Washington Post reported that the NFL is about to strike a deal with the players’ union that will move the threshold for a positive marijuana test upward. By even the current standards, Mr. Gordon barely failed with one urine sample and barely passed with the other half of the same sample. As NBC reported, if the A and B labels on those two cups had been reversed, the second half would never have been tested and Gordon would have passed. Cousin Ray thought a year off was a little heavy for a result based on chance but he really wanted to know if the marijuana rules would apply to the Broncos and the Seahawks?

The US Supreme Court decided in 2001 that the government needs a search warrant to use thermal imaging technology on your private property to reveal “grow lights” used for, among other things, marijuana cultivation. Citizens expected privacy because thermal imaging was not then in “general public use.” Since 2007, Wayne State University law professor Tony Dillof has been tracking the appearance of thermal imaging devices on EBay and watching the numbers double every year. Dillof claims to be preparing an analysis for the Journal of Armchair Empiricism and the Law. Cousin Ray speculated that High Times might have been a better venue for Prof. Dillof’s research, “and he should seriously consider Sports Illustrated.”

The NBA lost another owner to public racism, an issue that has yet to trouble the owner of the Washington team in the NFL. Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson opined, “the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base” and “the kiss cam is too black.” Levenson volunteered to sell the Hawks rather than make a circus like former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who admonished his girlfriend not to bring blacks to Clippers games, particularly retired superstar Magic Johnson. Cousin Ray wondered if NBA owners were hanging around with NFL players? “I heard that secondhand smoke can get you stoned.”

After $2 billion spent, Congress pulled the plug in 1993 on the Superconducting Super Collider being built by the Department of Energy in Waxahachie, Texas, in spite of the explanations by Nobel winner Leon Lederman in a popular science book, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?

The cancellation moved the cutting edge of physics research to Switzerland, where, in 2012, European researchers demonstrated the physical (as opposed to mathematical) existence of Higgs boson aka “the God particle.”

Who cares?

The Times of London reported that Professor Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time, has warned that at very high energy levels, the Higgs boson could become unstable. In Hawking’s words, “This could mean that the universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light. This could happen at any time and we wouldn’t see it coming.”

“Dang,” said Cousin Ray. “That sounds inconvenient.”

The on line echo chamber is going crazy over reports that a Brevard County, Florida police department is buying 8 Apache Attack helicopters. Professor Google returns five pages of links to “prove” it. The county bought some choppers back in 2011, to use for the normal things counties do—rescue, pest control. Not Apaches. Not armed. “The real question,” Cousin Ray said, “is whether the bozos spreading this will pay any price for being wrong again?”

Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia has been convicted of 11 counts of corruption. His attempt to blame his wife, a former cheerleader for the Washington football team, did not fly. Gov. McDonnell’s extraordinary public humiliation of his wife represented an audacious defense that would otherwise require the jury to believe that a stranger gave the first couple of Virginia over copy60,000 worth of stuff and the favors that followed were not out of the ordinary. The claim was that the “family values” husband was so crosswise with his out of control wife that they could not have conspired together. In pursuit of showing that estrangement, he put on a “defense” that completely trashed Maureen McDonnell.

Another family values hero, Pastor Mark Driscoll of the Mars Hill megachurch empire that branched out from Seattle to have 15 locations in five states, has described women in a tortured, extended and just weird metaphor as “homes” for penises. Driscoll was already facing allegations of plagiarism and misappropriation of church funds, but the people he called “penis homes” appear to have sunk attendance and contributions enough that three locations have already closed and more closures are contemplated.

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Will Alaska, Oregon, And DC All Legalize Marijuana In 2014?

By Phillip Smith

Labor Day has come and gone, and the 2014 election is now less than two months away. Marijuana legalization initiatives are on the ballot in two states — Alaska and Oregon — and the District of Columbia. For the marijuana reform movement, 2014 is a chance for a legalization trifecta on the way to an even bigger year in 2016, but there is also the risk that losing in one or more states this year could take the momentum out of a movement that has been on a seemingly unstoppable upward trend.

[Editor's Note: There are also local marijuana reform initiatives in several states, a Florida medical marijuana initiative, and a California sentencing reform initiative. The Chronicle will address those in later articles.]

The Initiatives

The Alaska and Oregon initiatives are quite similar. Both envision systems of taxation, regulation, and legal sales, and both allow individuals to grow small amounts of marijuana for their own use. The DC initiative, on the other hand, does not allow for taxation, regulation, and legal sales. That is because of peculiarities in DC law, which do not allow initiatives to enter the domain of taxation. But like the Alaska and Oregon measures, the DC initiative also allows individuals to grow their own.

Alaska Measure 2

The Measure 2 initiative allows adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce and up to six plants (three flowering). It also allows individual growers to possess the fruits of their harvest even in excess of one ounce, provided the marijuana stays on the premises where it was grown. The initiative also legalizes paraphernalia.

The initiative grants regulatory oversight to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, but gives the legislature the authority to create a new entity, the Marijuana Control Board. In either case, the regulatory authority will have nine months to create regulations, with applications for marijuana businesses to open one year after the initiative becomes effective.

A $50 an ounce excise tax on sales or transfers from growers to retailers or processors would be imposed.

The initiative does not alter either existing DUI laws or the ability of employers to penalize employees for testing positive for marijuana.

The initiative would not interfere with existing medical marijuana laws.

Oregon Measure 91

The Measure 91 initiative allows adults 21 and over to possess up to eight ounces and four plants per household. Individuals can also possess up to 16 ounces of marijuana products or 72 ounces of liquid marijuana products. And individuals can also transfer up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana products, or 72 ounces of liquid marijuana products to other adults for “non-commercial” purposes.

The initiative would designate the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to regulate marijuana commerce. The commission would license, audit, and inspect growers, suppliers, and retailers. The commission could set purchase amount limits, which are not specified in the initiative. The commission would have until January 4, 2016 to begin licensing growers, producers, and retailers.

Marijuana sales from producers to processors or retailers would be taxed at a rate of $35 per ounce, $10 per ounce of leaves, and $5 per immature plant. The commission can recommend to the legislature any changes in the tax structure, which would then have to act to enact them.

The initiative does not alter either existing DUI laws or the ability of employers to penalize employees for testing positive for marijuana.

The initiative would not interfere with existing medical marijuana laws.

DC Measure 71

The Measure 71 initiative would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and six plants, three of which can be mature. Households could grow up to 12 plants, six of which can be mature. Growers can possess the fruits of their harvests. Plants could only be grown indoors.

Adults could transfer up to an ounce to other adults without remuneration. There are no provisions for taxing and regulating marijuana sales because District law forbids initiatives from taking up tax and revenue matters. A bill is pending before the DC city council that would do precisely that.

The initiative also legalizes the sale and possession of pot paraphernalia. It does not change existing DUI law, nor does it “make unlawful” any conduct covered by the District’s medical marijuana law.

The Prospects

None of these measures are long-shots at the ballot box, although none appear to be shoe-ins, either. None of the campaigns have made internal polling available, but an Oregon poll this summer had 51% in favor of a generic legalization question, with 41% opposed. A DC poll in January had 63% in favor of legalization.

Alaska is looking a little dicier, at least according to the most recent Public Policy Polling survey, which had the initiative trailing by five points after leading by three points (but still under 50%) in May. But, as we shall see below, there are questions about the reliability of the survey data there.

There are a number of factors other than public opinion that could influence whether these initiatives pass or fail. They include voter turnout in an off-year election, financial support for the campaigns, and the degree of organized opposition.

The Chronicle checked in with a number of national marijuana reform professionals and people involved with the initiatives to get a sense of the prospects, the challenges, and the implications of electoral success or defeat. There is a sense of cautious optimism, tempered with concerns that won’t be allayed until the votes are counted.

“All three measures have a great chance of passing, and it’ll really be a matter of how well these campaigns get their message out,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “There’s also the question of what type of opposition there is, and how well it’s funded. I’m familiar with the opposition in Alaska, and it’s just more of the same old. They’re trying to make marijuana sound as scary as possible, and it’s up to those campaigns to make sure voters know it’s not so scary.”

It’s about getting out the message and getting out the vote, Tvert said.

“Typically, the more turnout, the more support for making marijuana legal,” said Tvert. “We would expect to see broader support during a presidential election year, but we’ll find out if support is strong enough to pass these in an off-year. All these measures can pass, but these campaigns have to get their message out.”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has endorsed all three initiatives, not having found anything too objectionable in any of them.

“When you’re in the marijuana legalization business, that’s what you do,” explained NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre. “All three entities involved requested our endorsement, and our board of directors voted unanimously to do so,” he explained.

“Oregon and Alaska are very similar, and while DC is the least impactful in what it seeks to achieve, but they all basically move the meter,” he said. “If one or all of them pass, they will be seen as a good thing; if we get a full sweep, that will only affirm that we are now in the legalization epoch.”

But can marijuana legalization pull off that trifecta this year?

“Alaska looks like it’s in the most trouble, but with the caveat that polling there is hard to nail down,” St. Pierre said. “That makes it all the more important for reformers to embrace the effort there, send resources, and encourage others to do the same. We’re raising money for all three states right now on our web site, and Alaska is getting the least amount of earmarked donations — and those are coming in from Alaskans. It’s the proverbial out of sight, out of mind state, but it’s one where you can actually impact an election at relatively low cost.”

Frank Berardi of the Alaska Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation had plenty to say about the polling.

“If you look at the polls, it’s close, but in that 44% poll, the way they worded the question doesn’t even reflect the language of the initiative, and since the question was inaccurate, a lot of people who would have been in support said no,” he said. “Also, the age distribution was off — it was mostly older people who were polled. And if you take the margin of error into consideration, it’s a toss-up. It makes me wonder what the results would have been if the poll had been valid.”

The coalition is working with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska to pass Measure 2, but there is something of a division of labor between the two groups, Berardi explained.

“We’re partnered with the campaign, but while they’re focused on passing this is November, we’re focusing on helping to implement the regulatory aspects of the bill,” he said. “We’ve been polling our members about what they want, and we hope to work with the legislature on ensuring the people get what they want.”

Still, the coalition isn’t just waiting for Measure 2 to pass.

“We’re helping out on the campaign, we go to events, we’ve share a booth with the campaign, we’re informing people about the measure and out goals,” he said.

People are equally hard at work down in Oregon.

“We are fighting for every vote, and we don’t take any vote for granted, but we feel like we have a really strong case and a growing majority of Oregonians support us,” said Peter Zuckerman, communications director for New Approach Oregon, the group behind Measure 91.

“The challenge is going to be turnout,” he said. “We really need our voters to register and vote. The polls have us ahead, but we need voters, volunteers, donors — all the help we can get.”

The campaign is getting significant help. It has raised millions in campaign funds and has a $2.3 million TV ad reservation. And it has a well-honed message.

“In Oregon, somebody gets arrested or cited for marijuana once every 39 minutes,” Zuckerman said. “Seven percent of all arrests are for marijuana. Treating it as a crime has failed. With a regulated market, police will not be distracted with small marijuana cases. Instead of people buying it on street corners, they can buy it in a regulated marketplace. It’s a much better system.”

The campaign is also picking up key endorsements. It’s won the support of the state’s largest and most influential newspaper, The Oregonian, the Democratic Party, and the well-heeled City Club of Portland. It’s even won the support of the Oregon State Council of Retired Citizens. (Click here for the complete list of endorsements.)

“Every endorsement helps,” said Zuckerman.

“Oregon is going to make it,” NORML’s St. Pierre predicted, citing polling so far, key endorsements like The Oregonian, and a changing political climate.

“Gov. Kitzhaber has made it clear that if he is reelected and the citizens task him with this, he will faithfully implement it,” he said. “Oregon is a state that is environmentally conscious, and he was concerned about energy use. He wanted alternatives to indoor cultivation. But you can set up greenhouses — safe, water-friendly, criminal-deterring greenhouses. And not only is Kitzhaber keen, Attorney General Ellen Rosenbaum is very supportive. She’s probably one of the most progressive attorneys general in the country.”

St. Pierre also argued that Oregon pot people are coming around to regulation.

“The industry itself, as in Colorado, seems to recognize that there is a better opportunity for both legitimacy and profits if they embrace legalization, as compared to some brethren in California and Washington who chose to oppose it,” he said. “This is the state where voters have been asked the legalization question the most, and I think finally Oregon is going to break out.”

A victory in Oregon would carry the most weight, the NORML head said.

“That would move the meter the most. It would be actual sales, taxation, and regulation, and it’s not as out of sight as Alaska. And it would cinch up the Pacific Northwest.”

And then there’s DC.

“DC is kind of symbolic, it’s not legalization in the purest sense of the word, but it goes as far as it can under DC law,” said St. Pierre. “But it’s building in the District, going from medical to decriminalization being almost universally supported, and now building to soft legalization. That will de-incentivize police, they won’t have any reason to ask what’s in your hand, what’s in your pocket.”

“I feel like we’re in the lead, but I’m very nervous about a well-funded opposition mounting,” said Adam Eidinger of theDC Cannabis Campaign, which is leading the charge in the nation’s capital. “We have no great war chest and we could be caught flat-footed. I don’t want to be overconfident; I would rather have a well-funded campaign to assure victory.”

Eidinger said the DC campaign had $50,000 in pending pledged contributions, but less than $2,000 in the bank right now. He said he’s had problems raising money not only from advocacy groups, but also from the industry, which also contributes to the advocacy groups.

“I don’t think we were on the advocacy groups’ schedule,” he said, adding that some had also expressed skepticism about whether the measure would ever be implemented even if it won because of possible city council or congressional interference.

“Nonprofits are getting a lot of money from the cannabis industry, but in our case, there is no clear business model for profiting from selling cannabis or having exclusive rights to growing it,” Eidinger pointed out. “Even some dispensaries have painted this as a threat to their near monopoly. We do not have aligning interests. Monopolies and price supports don’t benefit consumers or anyone except business entities and the government.”

The campaign is getting some financial backing from the Drug Policy Alliance, but it needs more help, he said.

“You need to talk to your family and friends and get them to support the campaign with donations, with voter registrations, and as election day volunteers,” Eidinger said. “We will be doing a postering blitz, we’re planning some mailers, but with less so little money in the bank right now, we need a major influx of cash. We blew everything we could leverage just getting on the ballot.”

Three initiatives, three chances to win marijuana legalization victories this year. But the stakes are high, and they go beyond 2014.

“This is the penultimate year, and if we have any losses, our opponents will immediately claim we’re losing momentum, that whatever has happened has peaked, and that would be really regrettable,” St. Pierre suggested.

“But 2016 is the ultimate year. If California moves forward — it will likely be joined by Maine or Massachusetts, but California is so important, if it legalizes, America will legalize, and North America will move in the same direction, and so will the European Union,” he said. “But if we lose this year, that makes the job in 2016 that much harder. If we lose in Alaska or Oregon, that will provide fodder for the opposition.”

MPP’s Tvert was a bit more sanguine.

“We’re in a position where we will continue to move forward, and it’s unlikely we will move backwards,” Tvert said. “In Colorado in 2006, people told us we were crazy to run an initiative because we would lose and the state would never legalize marijuana, but public opinion is moving toward ending prohibition, and we expect to see that continue. And even if one or more don’t pass this year, we will surely see several pass in the near future.”



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College students’ use of marijuana on the rise, some drugs declining

ANN ARBOR—More college students nationwide have added illicit drugs, such as marijuana and amphetamine, to their back-to-school supply lists.

Illicit drug use has been rising gradually among American college students since 2006, when 34 percent indicated that they used some illicit drug in the prior year; that rate was up to 39 percent by 2013. Most of this increase is attributable to a rising proportion using marijuana, according to the University of Michigan scientists who conduct the nationwide Monitoring the Future study.

Daily marijuana use is now at the highest rate among college students in more than three decades. Half (51 percent) of all full-time college students today have used an illicit drug at some time in their lives; roughly four in 10 (39 percent) have used one or more such drugs in just the 12 months preceding the survey.

The results are based on a nationally representative sample of some 1,100 students enrolled full time in a 2- or 4-year college in spring 2013. The survey is part of the long-term MTF study, which also tracks substance use among the nation's secondary students and older adults under research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Marijuana has remained the most widely used illicit drug over the 34 years that MTF has tracked substance use by college students, but the level of use has varied considerably over time. In 2006, 30 percent of the nation's college students said they used marijuana in the prior 12 months, whereas in 2013 nearly 36 percent indicated doing so.

Of perhaps greater importance, daily or near-daily use of marijuana—defined as 20 or more occasions of use in the prior 30 days—has been on the rise. The recent low was 3.5 percent in 2007, but the rate had risen to 5.1 percent by 2013.

"This is the highest rate of daily use observed among college students since 1981—a third of a century ago," said Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the MTF study. "In other words, one in every 20 college students was smoking pot on a daily or near-daily basis in 2013, including one in every 11 males and one in every 34 females. To put this into a longer-term perspective, from 1990 to 1994, fewer than one in 50 college students used marijuana that frequently."

Nonmedical use of the amphetamine Adderall, used by some students to stay awake and concentrate when preparing for tests or trying to finish homework, ranks second among the illicit drugs being used in college. Eleven percent of college students in 2013—or one in every nine—indicated some Adderall use without medical supervision in the prior 12 months.

The use of psychostimulants, including Adderall and Ritalin, has nearly doubled since the low point in 2008, though there was no further increase in this measure between 2012 and 2013.

The next most frequently used illicit drugs by college students are ecstasy, hallucinogens and narcotic drugs other than heroin, with each of these three having about 5 percent of college students reporting any use in the prior 12 months.

Ecstasy use, after declining considerably between 2002 and 2007, from 9.2 percent annual prevalence to 2.2 percent, has made somewhat of a comeback on campus. It rose to 5.8 percent using in the prior 12 months in 2012, and was at 5.3 percent in 2013. Hallucinogen use among college students has remained at about 5 percent since 2007, following an earlier period of decline.

The use of narcotic drugs other than heroin, like Vicodin and OxyContin, peaked in 2006, with 8.8 percent of college students indicating any past-year use without medical supervision. Past-year use of these dangerous drugs by college students has since declined to 5.4 percent in 2012, where it remained in 2013.

Use of synthetic marijuana, which used to be legally available and was sold over-the-counter in convenience stores and other shops, ranked fairly high in 2011 with past-year use at more than 7 percent of college students that year. Use has fallen sharply in the two years since, however, to just over 2 percent in 2013 (secondary school students have shown a similar recent drop in their use of synthetic marijuana, according to the Monitoring the Future annual surveys of middle and high school students).

The use of salvia, an herb in the mint family, has fallen sharply since 2009, when it was first added to the study, from 5.8 percent of college students reporting use in the prior 12 months to just 1 percent in 2013.

Other use of illicit drugs on the decline
The use of some other illicit drugs by college students also has declined in the past decade, including crack cocaine, powder cocaine, tranquilizers and hallucinogens other than LSD (which involves psilocybin, e.g., "magic mushrooms").

Another encouraging result is that a number of illicit drugs have been used in the prior 12 months by fewer than 1 percent of college students in 2013. These drugs include inhalants, crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, "bath salts," GHB and ketamine.

In general, female college students (who are now in the majority) are less likely to use these drugs than are their male counterparts. For example, 40 percent of college males used marijuana in the past year compared to 33 percent of college females. Also, 24 percent of males versus 16 percent of females used some illicit drug other than marijuana. Daily or near-daily use of marijuana was particularly concentrated among college males, with nearly 9 percent of them indicating marijuana use on 20 or more occasions in the prior 30 days, compared with only 3 percent of college females.

Mixed results found in alcohol use
There remains plenty of alcohol use on the nation's college campuses, with about three quarters (76 percent) of college students indicating drinking at least once in the past 12 months and more than half (58 percent) saying they had gotten drunk at least once in that period.

In fact, more than a third (35 percent) said they had consumed five or more drinks on at least one occasion during the two weeks just prior to the survey. Particularly worrisome are rates of what the investigators call "extreme binge drinking." Averaged across years 2005 to 2013, they find that one in eight (13 percent) college students had 10+ drinks and one in 20 (5 percent) had 15+ drinks in a row in the past two weeks.

Despite these high rates of involvement, alcohol use has declined some on campus in recent years. In 2008, 69 percent said they had at least one drink in the prior 30 days, whereas in 2013 that number had dropped to 63 percent. Similarly, the percent indicating that they got drunk during that period fell from a recent high of 48 percent in 2006 to 40 percent by 2011, where it then remained through 2013.

To some degree these declines may reflect the declines observed among high school seniors before they even went off to college, since MTF finds that drinking rates have been declining and are at historic lows among high school students.

The age peers of college students—that is, young adults who are also one to four years out of high school but are not full-time college students—have roughly equivalent proportions to college students in their past-year use of any illicit drug or any illicit drug other than marijuana.

They also have quite similar rates of several specific drugs, including past-year use of marijuana, ecstasy, hallucinogens other than LSD, and extreme binge drinking. However, they are twice as likely as college students to be daily marijuana users, and they have annual prevalence rates of use for several particularly dangerous drugs that are roughly two to three times as high as rates found among college students. These include crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, heroin and narcotic drugs other than heroin (including OxyContin and Vicodin, specifically). The noncollege segment also has a daily cigarette smoking rate roughly three times what it is among college students, but they have a somewhat lower rate of having been drunk in the prior 30 days (34 percent) than do college students (40 percent).

Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E. & Miech, R. A. (2014). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2013: Volume 2, College students and adults ages 19–55. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, 424 pp. Available at:

The Monitoring the Future study is now in its 40th year and has surveyed nationally representative samples of full-time college students one to four years beyond high school each year for 34 years, starting in 1980. The annual samples of college students have ranged between 1,100 and 1,500 per year.

MTF is an investigator-initiated research undertaking, conceived and conducted by a group of research professors at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (listed as authors below) and funded under a series of competitive research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the National Institutes of Health.

MTF also conducts a national survey of high school seniors each year, and a random subsample of those 12th graders is drawn for follow-up by mail in future years. Those who are found to be in college full-time one to four years past high school comprise the college student sample. They are not drawn from particular colleges or universities, which helps to make the samples more representative of the wide range of institutions offering a college degree.

The findings are drawn from chapters 8 and 9 in the newly published monograph "Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2013: Volume 2, College students and adults ages 19–55":



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Marijuana dispensaries need access to banking system

NEARLY TWO years after Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana, nine distribution centers are to open next year in places like Brookline, Lowell, Salem, and Quincy. The state licensing process for these dispensaries has been convoluted. And yet that path seems easy to navigate compared with the latest obstacle: the banking system. Because the drug remains illegal under federal law, marijuana-related businesses nationwide have struggled to find banks that will accept their deposits. This is creating a bizarre and dangerous cash management situation for businesses that Massachusetts and other states treat as legal. Federal lawmakers and regulators should acknowledge this and allow marijuana dispensaries to use the banking system safely.

Nationwide, legal marijuana sales are expected to reach about $2.6 billion this year. In February, the Obama administration announced new guidelines for banks to legally do business with state-regulated marijuana merchants. But the action doesn’t prevent federal authorities from prosecuting or otherwise penalizing those banks. Not surprisingly, banks are still leery of serving the on-the-books marijuana industry. Recently, it was reported that only 105 banks and credit unions — 1 percent of the total nationwide — provide banking services to marijuana dispensaries, according to a top federal official.

The issue is most acute in Washington and Colorado, the only states to allow sales of recreational marijuana. But three-quarters of Americans now live in states with marijuana laws more lenient than the federal government’s. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia allow some form of medical marijuana. In November, Alaska and Oregon voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana.

In light of a shift in public sentiment, it’s worrisome to hear of marijuana business operators having to hide tens of thousands of dollars in cash in offices and carry it around in paper bags because banks refuse to take their money.

The cash stockpiling has created unintended consequences: New security businesses have sprung up to protect the cash that marijuana merchants are forced to transport. A Seattle marijuana businessman told The New York Times: “We have to play this never-ending shell game of different cars, different routes, different dates, and different times.” Meanwhile, owners of marijuana stores have to pay tens of thousands of dollars in state taxes using cash. Even more puzzling: Legal marijuana businesses without bank accounts are charged a 10 percent penalty by the IRS for paying payroll taxes in cash.

Congress seems to be doing something about the problem. This summer, the US House approved a bipartisan amendment that allows banks to accept deposits from marijuana stores and dispensaries. The bill prevents the Treasury Department from penalizing financial institutions that provide services to marijuana businesses that are legal under state law. The Senate should quickly pass it so that marijuana businesses can at least begin to apply for the banking services they need.

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Dr. Oz: Marijuana is Hugely Beneficial


The issue of medical marijuana has managed to achieve a great deal of coverage and support through the credible voices of celebrity physicians like CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who has made it his mission to spread the good word about the healing benefits of marijuana. Now it appears as though Dr. Mehmet Oz has decided to hang out with the cool kids.

Earlier this week, Dr. Oz made an appearance on "Larry King Live," during which King asked him if he had changed his mind about marijuana. "I have," Oz replied, explaining to King that his beliefs surrounding marijuana have matured. "I grew up like most of my generation believing that marijuana was something Satan was throwing at Americans, a communist plot. But I think most of us have come around to the believe that marijuana is hugely beneficial when used correctly for medicinal purposes," said Oz.

Not only is Oz willing to stand in support of marijuana for medicinal purposes, he seems to encompass the moral mindset of most cannabis supporters, in which there is a sense of responsibility in establishing regulations that will keep weed out of the hands of children. Yet, it may take awhile before Oz is ready to get on board with the idea of full legalization. "We pervert its use at times," Oz continued. "I don't think it should be widely used, certainly not by kids, because that creates a dependence that is unhealthy in any setting. But it absolutely should be widely available in America [for medical use]."

There is a definite shift in the opinion of medical marijuana here in United States. Unfortunately, even though 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, Americans will not be able to relish in the full potential of cannabis medicine until the federal government decides to remove the herb from its Schedule I dangerous substance classification.



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Pumpkin Spice, and Everything Nice

by Yzabetta Sativa

Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the North America is available in October. It’s no wonder that everywhere you go you see pumpkins; be it stacked out front of grocery stores, in bins in the middle aisles at Walmart or decorating everyone’s front porch. Pumpkins are a must for Hallowe’en but also a very versatile fruit. You can make anything from food to doormats with the darn things.

You can make Jack ‘o’ Lanterns as well but that’s not really the traditional Hallowe’en decoration. Sure, nowadays it’s a carved pumpkin but originally it was any and all root vegetables found in the Scottish highlands and in Ireland. Over there people carve turnips and beets instead of the giant oranges orbs. Immigrants from Ireland and Scotland brought the tradition to North America. There, the pumpkin replaced the turnip as pumpkins were more readily available, bigger, and easier to carve.

October is also National Pumpkin months, for obvious reasons. What’s not obvious is that pumpkins are loaded with vitamin A and fiber, and low in calories. There is no cholesterol whatsoever in a cup of pumpkin puree. Not only that but pumpkins can help protect the eyes from cataracts and degeneration, and contain lots of potassium and zinc to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Heck, even the seeds are good for you because they are high in protein and plant based fatty acids, which help regulate cholesterol levels, protect against arthritis, promote healthy skin, and improve brain function.

With the evangelical conviction of Linus Van Pelt, I say to you that pumpkins are great!


Pumpkin Curry


1 pound of pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon of turmeric

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 a cup of marijuana infused coconut milk

1 1/2 cups o vegetable stock

6 cardamom pods

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 teaspoon of mustard seeds

3 tablespoons of Thai yellow curry paste

sea salt

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Heat the oil in a sauté pan. Gently fry the curry paste in the pan, along with the onions, turmeric, cumin, cardamom and mustard seed for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.

Stir the pumpkin into the pan and coat in the paste, and then pour in the stock and coconut milk.

Bring everything to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender to the fork. Bring the mixture back up to a boiling point, then pour this mixture over the pumpkin curry.

Season and serve. This recipe is enough to get 4 people baked.


Pumpkin Chocolate Bread Pudding


1 cup of pumpkin, pureed

1 and ½ a cups of marijuana infused cream or milk

1/2 of a cup of brown sugar

3 Large eggs

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg

6 cups of day-old bread, cubed

1 cup of chocolate chips

Pinch of salt

Brown Sugar about 2 tablespoons



Preheat the Oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9”x9” ovenproof casserole dish

Blend together the eggs, milk/cream, pumpkin, ½ of a cup of brown sugar and salt until smooth and creamy.

In a large bowl toss the chocolate chips and cubes of bread in the pumpkin mixture until every bread cube is well coated.

Let this sit for about 10 minutes so as to soak up all the liquids.

Pour the contents of the bowl into the lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle coarse sugar over the top and bake until the eggs set, the pudding firms and the top is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Serve warm. This is enough pudding to get 8 people baked.


Haricots Vert and Pumpkin Salad


1 pumpkin, peeled, cut into cubes and roasted and then cooled

1/2 of a cup of pepitas

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/3 of a cup marijuana infused olive oil 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 a teaspoon of grated lime zest

1/2 of a teaspoon of ground cumin

1/4 of a cup of red ion slices

1/2 of a teaspoon of salt

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 cups of green beans, lightly steamed and then cooled

2 small tomatoes halved, seeded, and cut lengthwise into strips



Toast the pepitas in a dry small heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until puffed but not browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Keep back about 1 tablespoon of the toasted pepitas, then purée remaining seeds in a blender with garlic, infused oil, water, lime juice, cumin, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro until smooth.

Arrange the al dente green beans on a platter then top with the roasted pumpkin cubes. Drizzle the beans and pumpkin with two thirds of the dressing. Top the salad with tomatoes and remaining dressing then sprinkle with remaining tablespoon cilantro, onion slices, lime zest and reserved pumpkin seeds.

Serve immediately with the extra dressing and lime wedges on the side. This salad should get 8 people baked.


Pumpkin Gnocchi with Butter Sauce



2 cups of roasted pumpkin purée

1/2 of a cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg

1 teaspoon of sea salt

1/4 of a teaspoon of garam masala

2 cups of all-purpose flour, thereabouts


1/3 of a cup of canabutter

1/4 of a cup of slivered almonds

20 fresh marjoram leaves




In large bowl, stir together the pumpkin purée, cheese, egg, salt and garam masala. Make sure everything is well combined.

Stir into the dough the flour, a bit at a time, to make a soft, sticky dough that pulls away from bowl but still sticks to spoon and fingers.

On well-floured surface and with floured hands, roll the dough into a log shape; divide the log into quarters. Gently roll and shape each quarter into 3/4-inch diameter strands.

With sharp knife, cut each strand diagonally into 3/4-inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi in 2 batches, stirring gently, until the gnocchi floats to the surface; this takes about 2 minutes or so.

Scoop the gnocchi out with a spider (wide shallow wire-mesh basket with a long handle) or a slotted spoon and place on a heated serving platter.

Butter Sauce:

While the gnocchi is cooking melt the cannabutter over medium heat in a large frying pan; cook the slivered almonds until they are lightly toasted; takes about 2 minutes.

Add the marjoram leaves to the frying pan; cook until you can smell the marjoram, which takes less than half a minute. Pour the sauce over gnocchi; making sure to scrape out all the leaves and nuts.

Serve immediately with parmesan cheese. This gnocchi dish should get 8 people baked.

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Pot-smoking Mountie Ron Francis begins trial on 3 charges

Cpl. Ron Francis, a 21-year veteran of the RCMP, is due to stand trial on three charges in Fredericton provincial court. (CBC)

A New Brunswick Mountie who made national headlines for smoking medical marijuana while in uniform last year is due to stand trial today on three charges.

Cpl. Ron Francis previously pleaded not guilty to two counts of assaulting fellow officers and one count of resisting arrest.

The charges stem from an alleged confrontation with fellow RCMP officers and Fredericton police officers who arrested him on Dec. 6 on a mental health warrant.

T.J. Burke, his defence lawyer, has previously questioned the RCMP's motives for seeking a psychiatric assessment of his client.

Burke questioned whether the RCMP were trying to stop Francis from taking his case to the media again, but RCMP said Francis was arrested because officers were concerned about his well-being.

Francis, a 21-year veteran of the RCMP, who served with the J Division in Fredericton, says he suffers from work-induced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has a prescription for medical-grade marijuana.

He has publicly argued he should be able to smoke the drug in uniform and has accused the RCMP of trying to force members with PTSD to quit.

Burke has said he plans to "call lots of witnesses and call lots of evidence and get right down to the bottom of why Mr. Francis is facing three charges."

Three days have been set aside for the trial in Fredericton provincial court.

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Jamaican government announces radical changes in drug law

According to the BBC, Mark Golding, the Justice Minister of the Jamaican government, said the cabinet was supporting a proposal to allow possession of up to two ounces (57 grams) of marijuana, known locally as "ganja."

Mr Golding also said marijuana would be decriminalized for religious, medicinal and scientific purposes.

The Jamaican parliament is expected to approve the changes by September.

The Jamaican government has been timid reforming "anti-ganja" laws but recent changes in drug laws in countries like Uruguay or in US states such as Colorado, a sense of the inevitability of future widespread legalization, and a sense that Jamaica may loose out economically if it does not change its laws have embolden the legalisation of marijuana.

Angela Brown Burke, Kingston's mayor, reportedly said recently: "The time has come to provide an opportunity for Jamaicans to benefit from the marijuana industry."

Many Jamaicans believe the decriminalisation of the marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes could bring important economic benefits to the island's economy which has been suffering from slow growth, high unemployment, and high debt.

The government plans are a major victory for Jamaica's Rastafarian movement, which considers ganja sacred.

Read more here.



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It’s a Carnival, but It’s Our Carnival: The 2014 Seattle Hempfest

From left to right: Dale Gieringer, head of CA NORML; Rick Steves; Kevin Oliver, head of WA NORML; Jil Staszewsi, NORML Office Manager; Keith Stroup, NORML Founder and Author


I just returned a few days ago from the annual Seattle Hempfest, the 24th version of this extravaganza, and I thought I might share some of my reflections on this extraordinary and unique event.

First and foremost, Hempfest is truly an enormous undertaking that requires several days of long hours to assemble the stages and hundreds of individual exhibitor and vendor booths; three days of long hours to manage, including a security team to guard the park overnight and provisions to feed the hundreds of volunteers each day; and then several days of equally long hours to disassemble everything, clean the grounds and replace any damaged turf.

And keep in mind this is an all-volunteer event sponsored by Seattle Events, a not-for-profit corporation, and is also free to the public. The event costs the Hempfest organization nearly $900,000 to put on, and that money is raised largely from vendors, exhibitors and sponsors. The volunteer effort is headed by Hempfest co-founder and Executive Director Vivian McPeak. McPeak leads a core group of volunteers who meet year around to plan for the next Hempfest, and who run a downtown store called Hempfest Central selling all sorts of hemp-based products.

There are three primary stages (the Share Parker Memorial Main Stage; the Peter McWilliams Memorial Stage; and the Ralph Seeley Memorial Stage, all named for beloved legalization activists who are no longer with us) spread along a narrow piece of parkland called the Myrtle Edwards Park. The park extends more than a mile along the downtown Seattle waterfront, from which an array of bands perform each day, with several speakers scheduled for brief 5-minute speeches between music sets (while the next band is setting-up). Some of the prominent speakers this year included Congressman Dana Rohrabacher from CA, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and public television travel guru and author (and NORML board member) Rick Steves.

There is also a separate tent called the Hemposium, where panels are scheduled each day focusing on the politics of legalization along with cultivation techniques, and edibles and concentrates. Most Hempfest attendees, however, seem to enjoy strolling the grounds lined with literally hundreds of organizational booths and food vendors (no alcohol is permitted), enjoying the colorful crowd and the live music. Attracting a crowd to the more serious panels is a challenge each year, as most of the estimated 90,000 people attending each day are there to relax and have fun, not to attend seminars.

The first thing one becomes aware of when entering the Hempfest is the rather long, narrow walkway from the entrance just to get to the event itself; and just when you think you have reached the center of things, you realize the park continues for more than a mile, with every inch lined with booths and vendors on both sides. If one is speaking at one of the distant stages, you have to allow as much as an hour or more to wade through the crowds on the narrow, crowded pathways to arrive at your destination. Most attendees seem to come for the day, making one big loop through the park to catch a glimpse of everything, before picking a comfortable place to spend time listening to music and speeches at one of the stages, before starting the trek out of the park and back to reality.

Also, anyone attending for the first time would be amazed at the colorful and creative look of many who attend. Although the majority are ordinary-looking folks who have come to enjoy a day in the park with other marijuana affectionados, a fair number clearly see the Hempfest as an opportunity to fly their freak-flags. People with bazar clothing and costumes, and sometimes face and body paint; a few were topless with marijuana leaves painted strategically on their bodies. It is, after all, a counter-cultural celebration of personal freedom.

After my first Hempfest, I told a friend that I had discovered the answer to the question of where all the hippies from Woodstock had gone: I saw them at the Hempfest!

And everyone is in a celebratory mood, enjoying the scene and soaking-in the good vibes. Since alcohol is not allowed anywhere in the park, there are no drunks, no fights and none of the problems one might find in a crowded beer garden. Instead those who want are high on some form of marijuana, and all are feeling mellow and celebrating the reality that marijuana has now been legalized in Washington state.

NORML, along with WA NORML, always has a booth near the main stage (the NORML Women of Washington have another booth nearby), next to the High Times booth, which allows us to hang out with our friends from the magazine, and back each other up if someone needs to leave to deliver a talk at some distant stage. With the two biggest brands in the legalization field being next to each other, that is always a popular area with lots of foot traffic. But by mid-afternoon on all three days, the park is jam-packed with people and it is a challenge to keep the crowd moving, regardless of where one is located in the park.

On the first evening, Hempfest throws a special party at the Hemposium tent for all speakers (and there are more than 100) along with their adult guests and those who have purchased VIP tickets. On the second evening there are no official events, but generally there are a couple of private, invitation-only parties. This year one party was sponsored by WA NORML,the Marijuana Business Association of Washington (MJBA) and O.penvape, a company that sells small pen vaporizers; and the second by DOPE Magazine and Dutch Master, a cultivation nutrient company. For most of us who have a booth at the event, we are exhausted by the end of the day, and can barely drag our ass to an evening party. But as you would imagine, these are terrific parties. Good food; great marijuana in all sorts of varieties, and an open bar. What’s not to like?

And because there are thousands of people in Seattle from the newly legal marijuana industry all across the country, there are generally a couple of late night private parties that one only learns about through word-of-mouth. Just the type of parties I would have enjoyed when I was a little younger, but generally pass-up today. I am an old guy, and my internal clock just does not accommodate a lot of late parties!

The Hempfest theme this year was “Time, Place and Manner,” focusing on the need under the new WA legalization law to limit one’s smoking to private situations. As their website states, the “Seattle Hempfest seeks to advance the cause of Cannabis policy reform through education, while advancing the public image of the Cannabis advocate or enthusiast through example.” They want to encourage responsible use, while celebrating all things marijuana-related.

This was further reflected in a new feature this year; 21 and older smoking tents (called Adult Lounges) at two locations within the park. Of course lots of attendees also smoked as they strolled the grounds, and there were no arrests, but it was nonetheless a thoughtful gesture by Hempfest (something they were urged to do by the Seattle police department) to include these fully-legal smoking areas this year, intended to avoid anyone having to worry about receiving a citation for public smoking and at reducing youth exposure to pot smoking during Hempfest.

By the end of the three-day event, I was exhausted and happy to head home to Washington, DC. But the make-believe world that is the Seattle Hempfest is an annual spectacle I look forward to attending each year. There really is nothing quite like it anywhere.



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