TX NORML open meeting notes, September 7th, 2011
During last month’s meeting we covered these stories:
– a flurry of news from the Feds, including a memo reaffirming their intent to continue going after medical marijuana in states where it is legal, a DEA denial of a marijuana rescheduling petition once again saying in part that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical treatment in the US,” and a White House report acknowledging that only 14 researches have been approved to study smoked marijuana on human subjects
– US researchers at the NIDA found that stimulation of a cannabinoid receptor could reduce the desire for, and consumption of, cocaine
– Spanish/Israeli researchers reported that CBD & THC hold promise as possible treatments for Huntington’s & Parkinson’s Diseases.
– Australian researchers find long-term marijuana use is not associated with deficits in cognitive performance.
– In Montana, a judge stopped the imposition of new restrictions on medical marijuana
– New Jersey’s new medical marijuana law is finally being implemented after months of squabbling
– City of Philadelphia saved an estimated $2million by halting prosecutions of minor marijuana possession
– NAACP passed a resolution at their annual convention calling for an end to the War on Drugs
Now for news from the past month:
Drug Czar’s Office Officially Responds To NORML Deputy Director, Paul Armentano’s Editorial, “Marijuana Legalization Bill Offers Safer Alternative”
The editorial in question was published in Nashville Tennessee’s largest newspaper, The Tennessean, in favor of HR 2306 the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011.
And the Drug Czar’s Office response was published one week after Paul’s in the same newspaper, making the irrational argument that marijuana legalization is a bad idea because there is a prescription drug abuse epidemic.
Yes, the Drug Czar’s office now argues that marijuana should remain illegal because people abuse prescription medications.
I suppose next they’ll argue against marijuana legalization because people abuse unhealthy foods?
DEA Issues ‘Final Order’ Rejecting Private Production Of Cannabis For FDA-Approved Research
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued its final order rejecting a 2007 rulingfrom the agency’s own Administrative Law Judge that it would be ‘in the public interest’ to grant the University of Massachusetts a license to grow marijuana for federally regulated research.
In 2007, after extensive hearings, DEA Judge Mary Ellen Bittner opined in favor of allowing a researcher at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst legal permission to cultivate marijuana for use in FDA-approved clinical trials. She determined: “[T]here is currently an inadequate supply of marijuana available for research purposes. … I therefore find that Respondent’s registration to cultivate marijuana would be in the public interest.”
The rejection preserves the monopoly held by US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on the supply of marijuana for Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-regulated research. In 2010, a spokesperson for the agency told the New York Times, “We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”
The agency’s ruling may be appealed in the First Circuit US Court of Appeals.
President Balks And Stammers When Responding To Medical Marijuana Question At Town Hall
During a Town Hall event on Monday the President was asked: “If you can’t legalize marijuana, why can’t we just legalize medical marijuana, to help the people that need it?”
Obama responded: “Well, you know, a lot of states are making decisions about medical marijuana. As a controlled substance, the issue then is, you know, is it being prescribed by a doctor, as opposed to, you know — well — I’ll — I’ll — I’ll — I’ll leave it at that.”
So, the President of the United States can’t even articulate a coherent sentence arguing against medical marijuana, yet he still chooses to continue the harassment of the medical marijuana industry in states where it’s legal.
This is absolutely disgusting, embarrassing, and maddening!
President Obama had offered similarly vague responses to questions regarding marijuana policy at other Town Hall forums. At a town meeting in 2009, Obama curtly rejected the proposition that legalizing and regulating cannabis could “boost the economy and reduce drug cartel related violence,” stating, “The answer is no, I don’t think that [is] a good strategy.”
When Obama’s former press secretary Robert Gibbs was later asked to elaborate on the President’s position, he responded: “Uh, he, he does not think that, uh, uh, that that is uh, uh, [pause] he opposes it, he doesn’t think that that’s the, the right plan for America.”
And keep in mind that this comes from a man who, before being elected President, had made statements in support of marijuana decriminalization.
Angus Reid Poll: 55 Percent Of Adults Support Legalizing Marijuana
Pollsters conducted an online survey of a representative national sample of 1,003 American adults. A solid majority, including 63 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Independents, said that they endorsed the legalization of marijuana.
Forty percent of those polled said that they opposed the idea and five percent were undecided. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.
More men (57 percent) than women (53 percent) voiced support for legalizing cannabis. Respondents between the ages of 35 to 54 were most likely to support legalization (57 percent); however, a majority of respondents from every age group polled — including those age 55 and over — said that they backed making marijuana legal.
The Angus Reid results are slightly higher than those published by other polling firms, such as Gallup, which use random digital dial sampling. Just a few months ago, Gallup found the highest support for marijuana legalization ever found by their firm, at 46%.
Arkansas: Lawmakers Enact Sentencing Reform Measures, Reduce Pot Possession Penalties
Criminal sentencing reform legislation passed by lawmakers earlier this year is now in effect. Senate Bill 750, the Public Safety Improvement Act, intends to reduce the number of non-violent offenders incarcerated statewide by mitigating the sentences for certain low-level drug offenses.
Specific to marijuana law enforcement, the measure amends cannabis penalties so that the possession of up to four ounces of pot is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one-year in jail and a $1,000 fine. For first-time offenders, the new law states, “[T]he court, without entering a judgment of guilt and with the consent of the defendant, may defer further proceedings and place the defendant on probation for a period of not less than one year.”
Under the previous law, the possession of any amount of cannabis above one ounce was a felony offense punishable by between four and ten years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.
The new law additionally reduces criminal penalties for the possession of small quantities of marijuana ‘with the intent to deliver’ from a felony offense to a misdemeanor. The law also reduces subsequent marijuana possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Previously, second and third pot possession offenses were categorized as felonies.
Defendants found guilty of violating the state’s marijuana laws will still be subject to the loss of their driver’s license for six-months.
20th Annual Seattle Hempfest was held this past month, drawing around 300,000 attendees over 3 days; the largest marijuana festival in the world
NASCAR Again Shows Bias Against Marijuana By Suspending Driver Who Legally Uses Medical Cannabis
NASCAR has suspended one of it’s drivers, Ronnie Hults, from driving because of his legal use of medical marijuana in Colorado, where he lives, even though there were no allegations that he was driving while under the influence of cannabis.
This comes on the heels of NASCAR rejecting a car sponsored by Cannabis Planet.
And this all from an organization like NASCAR….with its well established roots in the illegal trafficking of untaxed alcohol (i.e., Moonshine) during post-Prohibition in America’s southeastern states; also a major promoter of tobacco products for decades; and current major billboard for the pharmaceutical industry to promote their drugs.
Government Survey: Northeastern States Most Likely To Report Widespread Marijuana Consumption AND No Increases in Usage Among Teenagers Despite Increases In Medical Marijuana Availability
The northeastern part of the United States possesses the highest rates of self-reported marijuana consumption, according to a new federal government report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The state-by-state consumption data was compiled from the federal government’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which interviewed approximately 138,000 Americans age 12 and over in 2008-2009 on their use of licit and illicit substances.
As a region, New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) rank in the top percentile for marijuana use in virtually every category surveyed — including ‘marijuana use in the past year among youths age 12 to 17,’ ‘marijuana use in the past year among persons age 18 to 25,’ ‘marijuana use in the past year among persons aged 12 and older,’ and ‘marijuana use in the past month among persons age 26 or older.’
Other states that consistently ranked in the top percentile of marijuana use in the United States are Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon.
Nationally, the study reported “no increases in current illicit drug use occurred in any state” among those aged 12 to 17 between the years 2002-2003 and 2008-2009. The finding rebuffs claims recently made by the Drug Czar and other federal officials that the implementation of statewide medical marijuana laws – most of which were enacted between the years 1998 and 2004 — is encouraging increased use of cannabis and other illicit substances by young people.
A separate study published in June by the Marijuana Policy Project also reported, “[O]f the 13 states with available data, teen use rates have stayed the same or decreased since enacting medical marijuana laws.”
Student Drug Testing Fails To Reduce Teens’ Self-Reported Substance Use
Authors reported, “[C]onsistent with previous research, students in schools that conduct drug testing do not report less substance use.”
According to survey data published online in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, students subjected to student drug testing programs in school are no less likely to report consuming illicit drugs, tobacco, or alcohol than their peers.
An international team of researchers from the United States, Israel, and Australia assessed the impact of school drug testing programs on a nationally representative sample of 943 high school students.
Investigators reported that the imposition of such programs had no positive impact on males’ self-reported drug use. They were associated with minor reductions in females’ self-reported drug history, but only among those who attended schools with ‘positive’ environments. By contrast, investigators found that the enactment of drug testing programs in ‘negative’ school environments were most likely to be associated with “harmful effects on female youth.”
Previous studies assessing the impact of student drug screening programs, including a 2010 study by US Department of Education, have similarly failed to report that drug testing deterred student drug use.
Despite the data, more than one-fifth, 20%, of US high schools impose some form of student drug testing, according to data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control.
Israeli Government Officially Recognizes Therapeutic Value Of Cannabis — Codifies Regulations For Producing, Providing It To Patients
A prepared statement posted on the website of the office of the Israeli Prime Minister states: “The Cabinet today approved arrangements and supervision regarding the supply of cannabis for medical and research uses. This is in recognition that the medical use of cannabis is necessary in certain cases. The Health Ministry will — in coordination with the Israel Police and the Israel Anti-Drug Authority — oversee the foregoing and will also be responsible for supplies from imports and local cultivation.”
According to the Israeli online news site Haaretz, approximately 6,000 Israeli patients are supplied with locally grown cannabis as part of a limited government program. This week’s announcement indicates that government officials intend to expand the program to more patients and centralize the drug’s supply. “[T]here are predictions that doctor and patient satisfaction is so high that the number could reach 40,000 in 2016,” The Jerusalem Post reports.
The Israeli Ministry of Health is expected to oversee the production of marijuana in January 2012.
Similar government-sponsored medical marijuana programs are also active in Canada and the Netherlands.
Synthetic THC Reduces Motility In Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome
According to clinical trial data to be published in the journal Gastroenterology, investigators at the Clinical Enteric Neuroscience Translational and Epidemiological Research (CENTER) in Rochester, Minnesota assessed the impact of oral THC versus placebo in a randomized trial of 75 patients with IBS.
Researchers reported that active THC decreased motility of the large intestine during fasting compared to placebo in all of the study’s participants. Dronabinol administration yielded the most significant results in IBS patients with diarrhea and in subjects with alternating diarrhea and constipation.
Dronabinol is presently a schedule III controlled substance. It is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of severe nausea and cachexia (wasting syndrome).
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) refers to a disorder that involves abdominal pain and cramping, as well as changes in bowel movements. It is a different condition than inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Earlier this month, survey results published online in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology reported that patients with IBD commonly use cannabis therapeutically.
Latest Studies Imply That Cannabinoids Are Protective Against Alcohol-Induced Brain Damage
An international team of researchers from France and Spain assessed the anti-excitotoxic effects of the synthetic cannabinoid HU-211 in culture. Researchers demonstrated that cannabinoid administration protected neurons from cell death in an experimental model of alcohol withdrawal, and published the results in the journal of the Public Library of Science.
In humans, the abrupt cessation of alcohol in dependent subjects may be associated with tremor, delirium, brain damage, and death.
This same study found that blocking the endocannabinoid system greatly increased neuron cell death from withdrawal.
Separate pre-clinical studies have previously documented that administration of the non-psychotropic organic cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) in animals is neuroprotective against cerebral infarction and ethanol-induced neurotoxicity (alcohol poisoning).
In 2009 and 2010, a pair of studies conducted by investigators at the University of California at San Diego reported that the consumption of cannabis may offset certain alcohol-induced brain abnormalities, including the loss of white matter integrity and impaired memory, in human subjects with a history of both alcohol and marijuana use.
Frequency Of Marijuana Use Associated With Lower Prevalence Of Obesity, Study Says
“People using cannabis are less likely to be obese than people who do not use cannabis,” authors say
The prevalence of obesity in the general population is sharply lower among marijuana consumers than it is among nonusers, according to an analysis published online this week in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The study is the first large-scale trial to evaluate the association between cannabis use and weight in the general population.
Investigators at the Louis Moureir Hospital in Colombes, France analyzed cross-sectional data from two representative epidemiological studies of US adults age 18 and older: the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) and the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication. Combined, the surveys included over 50,000 eligible respondents. Authors controlled for respondents’ sociodemographic characteristics, including age, ethnicity, educational level, marital status, and tobacco use, but they did not factor into account subjects’ physical activity or diet.
They added, “The proportion of obese participants decreased with the frequency of cannabis use” — noting that respondents who reported using the substance ‘three days per week or more’ were least likely to be obese compared to those who reported ‘no cannabis use in the past 12 months.”
Now for a quick legislative update on the three Federal Marijuana-related House Bills:
HR 2306, the ‘Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011? has picked up one more sponsor since last meeting,
Rep. Raul Grijalva [D-AZ7]
The bill would prohibit the federal government from prosecuting adults who use or possess marijuana by removing the plant and its primary psychoactive constituent, THC, from the five schedules of the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
It was introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and now has a total of 13 co-sponsors:
Ron Paul [R-TX14],
Eleanor Norton [D-DC]
Steve Cohen [D-TN9]
John Conyers [D-MI14]
Michael Honda [D-CA15]
Barbara Lee [D-CA9]
Dana Rohrabacher [R-CA46]
Fortney Stark [D-CA13]
James McDermott [D-WA7]
Jared Polis [D-CO2]
Charles Rangel [D-NY15]
Jerrold Nadler [D-NY8]
NORML, along with representatives from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and theMarijuana Policy Project (MPP), worked closely with members of Congress in drafting the measure.
HR 2306 is assigned to two committees in the House of Reps:
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Rep. Frederick Upton [R-MI6], and more important to us in Central Texas, it is also in the House Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith [R-TX21], whose district includes portions of both the Austin and San Antonio metro areas.
Rep. Smith has already expressed his intent to block HR 2306 from having a fair hearing and vote in the Judiciary Committee, and we have been actively asking our supporters and friends to contact his offices to ask him to at least give this bill a fair hearing and vote.
Of course, we also need to try to get more co-sponsors for the bill, as well as looking towards all the members of those two committees for any possible support.
The other two Federally proposed bills are:
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011, has been re-introduced by Rep. Ron Paul and a coalition of 25 co-sponsors
HR 1831, would exclude low potency varieties of marijuana from federal prohibition. If approved, this measure will grant state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity.
HR 1983, The “States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act” has been re-introduced by Rep. Barney Frank and a coalition of eight of co-sponsors
HR 1983, would ensure that medical cannabis patients in states that have approved its use will no longer have to fear arrest or prosecution from federal law enforcement agencies. It states, “No provision of the Controlled Substances Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict in a State in which marijuana may be prescribed or recommended by a physician for medical use under applicable State law.”
It also calls for an expedited rescheduling review by the federal government that would reclassify cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the federal Controlled Substances Act, recognizing the plant’s accepted medical use and streamlining the federal approval process for medical marijuana research.
Ask A Lawyer With NORML Legal Committee Lifetime Member, Jamie Spencer
Jamie is a big huge supporter of NORML, being a Lifetime Member of the Legal Committee, as well as being a featured speaker at our last Activist Training Camp. And, he also provided the financial backing for Texas NORML’s newest outreach tool, the Austin TruthCar.
We’re picking 5 questions for Jamie to answer tonight, and we’ll have him back at the meetings on a regular basis to do this.
Upcoming Events & Announcements
This Sunday, September 11th, our friends at Billy Cannon’s Smoke & Ink Shop, will be hosting a Central Texas Wildfire Benefit show at the Dirty Dog Bar, just a few doors down from here. All proceeds and donated items from this show will be given towards helping those who have been affected by the tragic fires of the last week.
It’s a $5 donation at the door, and they’re accepting a long list of supplies, personal affects, and non-perishables to be donated to victims and firefighters.
Our next monthly meeting will be on Wednesday, October 5th, right here at 8pm.
Our 6th Annual 6th Street Smokeout will be on Saturday, October 15th, 7pm, at Momo’s Club on West 6th St.
Texas NORML members will get half off admission, $5, and the lineup for the show is:
Dan Cioper, The Rafiki Project, Fox & Crow, and Graveyard BBQ.
Due to contractual issues with C3 and Subrosa Union, we were forced to put Fox & Crow in their place, but Fox & Crow are comprised of members of Subrosa Union.
Texas NORML’s Women’s Alliance will have a team this year for the Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure” which will be held in downtown Austin on Sunday, November 13th.
We have a modest goal set for this race, but any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.
This event is an opportunity for Texas NORML to reach out to the broader community and put a positive face on the marijuana law reform movement.
Our “Fall Harvest” Members’ Mixer is scheduled for Friday, November 4th, at a central Austin location, and will be perhaps one of our best Members Mixer’s yet! We’ll have live music provided by Ghosts Along The Brazos, and delicious food provided by Ararat!
Cost for this Members Mixer is; for members $20, guests of members $30, and for a membership/ticket combo $35
And that price is all inclusive; food, music, and Texas NORML gift bags, and great company with your fellow activists!
You can get your entry to the Members Mixer tonight, if you so wish, or they’ll be available online within the next couple weeks.