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posted by takyon on Monday April 20 2015, @08:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the too-long-didn't-read-just-blaze-it dept.

April 20th (420) is a celebration of stoner/cannabis culture. In recent years, decriminalization and legalization of marijuana has accelerated as public opinion has shifted, so there are more reasons to celebrate...

In a #rare coincidence, April 19th, 1943 was the day that chemist Albert Hofmann accidentally discovered the hallucinogenic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Vice has an article about that day and the subsequent history of LSD. Claims of "DNA damage" and adverse mental health effects have been long since debunked, and research into the safety and potential benefits of psychedelics is gaining acceptance.

Vice also has an article today about the quest to create the most "powerful" strain of weed. The reliability of testing methods is questioned, but it is clear that legalization has allowed growers to share and experiment. New strains can now regularly achieve tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels above 20%, compared to an average of 1.37% in 1978 and 8.5% in 2008. RB-26's Gorilla Glue 4 regularly tests above 25%, and has been measured as much as a staggering 33.5% THC by weight. As fun as it might be to hit these milestones, Kayvan Khalatbari, the co-founder of Denver Relief asks "What really is the difference between 33 percent and 28 percent on the effect that its providing you with? That's like saying there's a big difference between 55 proof alcohol and 60 proof alcohol. With THC, once you get into the upper 20s, it's all the same thing."

Weed may be a fun way to induce euphoria, but it and its components are also used for legitimate medical treatments across the country. Sanjay Gupta's upcoming documentary WEED 3: The Marijuana Revolution identifies 10 diseases where marijuana could have an impact, according to early research. HIV/AIDS patients have taken it to improve sleep, mood, and appetite. THC may halt the development of amyloid plaque associated with Alzheimer's. It can help relieve arthritis pain and inflammation. Some studies have shown a reduction of asthma symptoms (others report a tightening in chests and throats — perhaps vaping should be considered rather than smoking). "Marijuana cures cancer" is a meme with some truth to it: extracts have been shown to kill certain cancer cells and THC can improve the impact of radiation therapy. It can also be used to control nausea following chemotherapy treatment. Cannabis-based medicines have been widely used to treat chronic pain as well as Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis. Trials have shown a reduction in epileptic seizure frequency. THC may help to slow the progression of glaucoma. All told, not bad for a drug on the Schedule I list with "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

Several state legislatures and localities have considered marijuana-related legislative measures in recent days. A Wisconsin state representative introduced a bill on the 13th that would legalize marijuana, but it is highly unlikely to pass. In a political move to drum up support for legalization in Vermont, two representatives introduced a bill that would reinstate alcohol prohibition. "The object was to basically embarrass leadership to say that we have [marijuana legalization bills] in front of us, and they're going absolutely nowhere," said Rep. Jean O'Sullivan. "We're certainly not going to ban alcohol, but when you say you'll let a drug like that be legalized and then you have a drug like marijuana that's far safer that's still banned, it's completely ironic." The Cook County State's Attorney in Chicago, Anita Alvarez, is planning to implement an "alternative prosecution program" that would divert repeat low-level drug offenders out of the criminal justice system. Newly-reelected Mayor Rahm Emanuel supports the ordinance.

2016 will see a spate of new ballot initiatives that may normalize marijuana in additional states. Massachusetts advocates Bay State Repeal have submitted draft language for a ballot question that would legalize marijuana but not establish a tax. Arizona voters could vote on the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act to permit recreational marijuana and growth in private residences, establish a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, and enact a 20.6% sales tax on recreational marijuana. In California, dispensary-locating startup WeedMaps.com has donated $2 million to Californians for Sensible Reform, which supports what the app developer feels is the strongest marijuana legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot. The Ballotpedia encyclopedia has a list of marijuana ballot measures slated for 2016 that you can bookmark.

New legalization efforts will build upon the successes and failures of the "experiments" in Colorado and Washington (as well as Oregon and Alaska). Medical Daily has a glowing evaluation of Colorado legalization. Governor John Hickenlooper, who had opposed legalization, has admitted that a teenage "a-pot-calypse" did not occur and that drugged driving hasn't increased in frequency. Although other states have seen increased traffic fatalities after medical marijuana legalization, Colorado's have dropped and legalization has had no effect between 2013 and 2014. Recreational weed sales have generated $53 million in tax revenue. That's short of the $70 million that was expected, but the state is also saving over $40 million in reduced law enforcement costs due to decriminalization. Crime has also declined. NYT columnist Maureen Dowd's edible "overdose" shocker and a rise in child hospital visits for accidental ingestion of edibles have prompted the industry to label serving sizes more clearly and implement child-resistant packaging. For April 20th, Colorado law enforcement are promoting a "safe pot use" message focused primarily on preventing DUIs.

In Washington state, a bill that will tighten medical marijuana regulations has been approved. The measure will phase out "collective marijuana gardens," create a voluntary database of medical marijuana patients, and set new standards for medical marijuana authorization. A companion bill would "restructure how marijuana is taxed, create a marijuana-research license and give cities financial incentive to not ban pot businesses." Seattle is also planning additional regulations to crack down on lightly regulated medical marijuana businesses. Marijuana businesses already face regulatory uncertainty. For example, the state's Liquor Control Board uses a lottery to approve new dispensaries.

National polling has shown that marijuana supporters are gradually "winning the battle for hearts and minds." A Pew Research Center survey indicates that 53% of Americans support marijuana legalization. More supporters than opponents indicated that they had changed their minds on the issue. Oddly, 16% of legalization opponents said that "marijuana should be illegal because it is illegal." A solid 59% of Democrats and 58% of independents now support legalization, but Republican support has risen from 21% in 2006 to 39% today. Although some 2016 Republican hopefuls say they want the states to make decisions about marijuana, Chris Christie has recently come out against legalization, saying that the federal government should enforce federal marijuana laws in states that allow use. Pew's survey found that just 43% of Republicans support that position. A Bloomberg poll has found that 58% of Americans believe that marijuana will be legal nationwide within 20 years.

At the federal level, progress on marijuana continues to be glacial. Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the United States District Court in Sacramento declined to remove marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Administration's Schedule I list. The conflict between state laws, federal laws, and treaty obligations remains unresolved. President Obama has come out in support of medical marijuana and scaling back the drug war. However, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has sent mixed signals on decriminalization. The DoJ has previously deferred its right to challenge legalization laws, but has recently flaunted a bipartisan amendment that prohibited the Dept. from spending money to undermine medical marijuana laws.

The marijuana issue remains divisive. The Washington Post reports that a cannabis oil activist was arrested after her 11-year-old son defended medical marijuana during a drug "education" presentation. Shona Banda faces a custody battle for her son today. In another article, former anti-marijuana campaigners reflect on the 70s and 80s movement against decriminalization. "Back in the 1980s, there were just as many African American parents involved in the movement as there were whites," said Joyce Nalepka. "Everyone thought we could turn things around if we had the time to organize and save these kids. Back then, we were able to educate parents and adults in the District and across the country. We had support from families and from leaders." She does not see that support in the statements by President Obama and Congress members who have spoken openly about their own marijuana use. Although some members of Congress have threatened city officials over Washington D.C.'s Initiative 71, the "incomplete reform" remains intact.

Employers are another major obstacle to full implementation of marijuana reform. Companies are choosing whether or not to drive away employees that test positive for marijuana, and some employees are suing (often unsuccessfully), saying that state laws allow them to use marijuana away from work. One-in-five Denver employers reported that they would "make their drug-testing policies more stringent" after Colorado's legalization.

You made it to the end.

 
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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Ethanol-fueled on Monday April 20 2015, @09:23PM

    by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Monday April 20 2015, @09:23PM (#173286) Homepage

    " I've never seen anyone high get into a fight. "

    You haven't hung around with that many Blacks and Mexicans, have you?

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  • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 20 2015, @09:27PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 20 2015, @09:27PM (#173287)

    You haven't hung around with that many Blacks and Mexicans, have you?

    We know you have not.