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MJ News for 08/05/2014

7greeneyes

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https://time.com/3079707/marijuana-legalization-teens-health/




Marijuana Should Be Legal, but …


We must treat drug use for what it is: a health, not a criminal, issue

Yes, it’s harmful, and yes, it should be legalized.

It’s not often that the White House responds directly to a newspaper op-ed, as it did last week when the New York Times editorial board published its opinion that the federal government should repeal the ban on the production, sale and use of marijuana. The Office of National Drug Control Policy swiftly responded, reiterating its stand that it “continues to oppose” legalization.

The editorial board listed sound arguments, including the social costs of prohibition. However, the board was remiss when it effectively brushed aside what it acknowledged are the “legitimate concerns” about marijuana’s impact on the development of adolescent brains. Even supporters of legalization, of which I’m one, must not underestimate those concerns. The ONDCP was right when it said, in its response to the Times, “policymakers shouldn’t ignore the basic scientific fact that marijuana is addictive and marijuana use has harmful consequences.”

Some proponents of legalization maintain that marijuana is harmless, but it isn’t — especially when it comes to kids. Indeed, I’ve spoken to many supporters of legalization. They don’t want their children using marijuana any more than those opposed to legalization do.

A body of research shows that marijuana causes structural and functional changes in the developing brains of adolescents. By stunting communication between brain regions, it impairs high-level thinking. There’s evidence that it impacts memory, too, and, for a small minority of kids, can trigger latent mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Also, marijuana users are more likely to suffer from clinical depression than others, though, as Ty S. Schepis, assistant professor of psychology at Texas State University, notes, “It’s unknown if pot causes depression; it may be that depressed people smoke pot.” What is known is that the often stated contention that no one gets addicted to pot is contradicted by the fact that an estimated 9% do. I once visited an adolescent treatment center where most patients between 14 and 20 were there because of an addiction exclusively to pot — anyone who says that marijuana isn’t addictive should talk to these kids. Indeed, in spite of a basketball net outside and other recreational facilities, it wasn’t summer camp; those kids had all suffered devastating consequences from their pot smoking, and most had tried to stop but couldn’t.

There are more reasons to worry that regular pot smoking could significantly impact a child’s life. The drug may cause something called amotivational syndrome, and adolescents who regularly smoke are less likely to have learned to deal with their emotions, to weather disappointments and to work through difficult times in relationships. In a number of studies, long-term marijuana users reported poorer outcomes on a variety of life satisfaction and achievement measures, including educational attainment, than nonusers.

If marijuana impedes kids’ biological and emotional development, why should it be made legal, especially when there’s evidence that legalization may increase the number of kids who try pot in the first place? First, the assumption of an uptick in use doesn’t take into account countermeasures that can and should be put into place. (Following the model of alcohol, the Times advocates a prohibition of sales to people under 21, but that ignores the research that shows that the period of adolescent brain development doesn’t end until the mid-20s.) Science-based regulations must be put in place and enforced. Next, education and other prevention strategies must accompany legalization, and they should be paid for by the savings and revenue that would come with legalization. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron calculated that if marijuana were legalized, the government would save $7.7 billion annually in law-enforcement costs, and it could bring in an additional $6.2 billion a year if pot were taxed at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco. That’s $13.9 billion per year that could, and should, be earmarked to prevention campaigns, as well as treatment for those who become addicted.

The fact is, the illegal status of marijuana hasn’t stopped millions of kids from smoking it every day, and it may stop many from seeking help. No one should be arrested for smoking pot. Children should be educated and, if problems develop, immediately treated so they don’t escalate. People who are arrested for drug use are likely to descend into more use. Think about it. Take a child who does what so many kids do these days: she’s with friends, someone hands her a joint, and she tries it. Now she’s broken the law. If her use escalates and she winds up in the criminal-justice system, she’s entered one of the highest-risk groups for addiction. Kids punished for using are under great stress, which increases their risk. If they’re expelled from school or lose a job, their prospects are fewer. This recipe creates not only more drug use, but more dangerous use.

Until we become more effective in our prevention efforts, many kids are going to try pot. Some will smoke a lot, and some will become addicted. We must have a new conversation with them, treating drug use for what it is: a health, not a criminal, issue. We must legalize marijuana and take the decision to use or not out of the realm of morality and judgment. We communicate the message that bad kids use drugs, good kids don’t. But as a pediatrician I know put it: these aren’t bad kids; they’re our kids. We mustn’t stigmatize. Instead, we must educate and nurture them, and build their resilience so they grow up safety and healthily.
 

7greeneyes

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/opinion/high-time-rules-for-the-marijuana-market.html




Rules for the Marijuana Market


As voters and lawmakers in more states decide to legalize marijuana, policy makers will have to answer a fresh and difficult question: How should governments regulate the production and sale of the drug?

Beyond keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors, a good regulatory system has to limit the increase in drug abuse that is likely to accompany lower prices and greater availability after legalization. It should protect consumers from both dangerous and counterfeit products, reducing the physical risk from a psychoactive substance. And a well-regulated system should undermine and eventually eliminate the black market for marijuana, which has done great damage to society.

The experiences of Colorado and Washington, where sales of recreational marijuana started this year, will prove instructive. While there are important differences in their approaches, both states have licensed businesses to grow, process and sell marijuana while imposing strict rules and high taxes on them. Other states that legalize will probably adopt a similar model, because it resembles how the federal and state governments regulate tobacco and alcohol.

A Better Way to Tax
Policy makers trying to regulate the drug will face challenges similar to the ones American lawmakers faced at the end of Prohibition in 1933. Like alcohol during Prohibition, marijuana is widely available across the United States today. But it will become much more accessible after legalization, when businesses engaged in its production and sale no longer operate in the black market nor engage in violence. The pretax price of the drug could fall by 90 percent after legalization, according to Robert MacCoun, a law professor at Stanford, and fellow researchers. Moreover, marijuana businesses will have a financial incentive to get a broad population to use the drug regularly. A recent report prepared for the Colorado Department of Revenue concluded that nearly 90 percent of the demand for marijuana in the state this year would come from only 30 percent of users, those who use the drug 21 to 31 days a month.

Regulators will have to design policies that allow licensed businesses to undercut the illegal market but keep prices high enough so dependence on the drug does not increase a lot. One important way to curb use is to tax marijuana heavily, following the post-Prohibition template of replacing criminalization with regulation and taxes. Colorado and Washington have imposed high tax rates that are based on price, much like existing sales taxes. But Mark Kleiman, a public policy professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, rightly warns that those taxes will lose their bite when prices inevitably decline as marijuana businesses become more efficient at production. A better approach would be to tax the drug based on its potency — which can be measured in various ways, including by the amount of the component THC in a batch — and increase the rate over time to keep up with inflation.

Lawmakers should not repeat the mistakes they made on alcohol in recent years, taxing it too lightly and allowing the industry to become highly concentrated. (Just two companies control about 75 percent of the American beer market today.) Federal excise taxes on alcohol are levied at fixed rates by volume; there are different rates for liquor, wine and beer. For example, the tax on a 31-gallon barrel of beer is $18, or 5 cents per 12-ounce can. But those tax rates were last increased in 1991, even though the Consumer Price Index has increased 75 percent since then. Most states have also kept their excise taxes steady in recent years, in part because of the heavy lobbying and big money of the beverage industry. The median state excise tax on beer is 20 cents per gallon, or about 2 cents per 12-ounce can.

Continue reading the main story
States with an existing medical marijuana market will also have to make sure that users are not abusing it to evade taxes. In Colorado, for example, there are more than 111,000 people with medical marijuana cards. Those users can buy the drug at much lower tax rates than people buying recreational marijuana; in Denver, cardholders pay combined city and state taxes of 7.62 percent, compared with the 21.12 percent in taxes paid by recreational users.

The problem is that almost anyone can get a card on a doctor’s recommendation. Regulators need to tighten access to cards and penalize doctors who churn out recommendations by the hundreds. Otherwise, tax rates on recreational marijuana will be easily subverted.

Don’t Market to Minors
One of the most important lessons from the country’s long battle with the tobacco industry is advertising’s outsize role in creating and sustaining an addiction to nicotine, particularly among teenagers and young adults. Though marijuana is far less addictive than tobacco, states that choose to legalize it must impose limits on the promotional activities of marijuana businesses. The controls should emulate the restrictions on targeting young people, banning outdoor advertising and product placements that the tobacco industry accepted as part of its settlement with state attorneys general in 1998.

States must require proper labeling and packaging of products that contain mind-altering substances. Beau Kilmer, a drug policy expert at the RAND Corporation, said regulators can restrict the sale of foods like candies, beverages and cookies made with marijuana or limit how much of the drug’s active ingredients are in each serving. The ingredients should also be distributed evenly throughout the product, and regulators must test samples for harmful levels of pesticides, mold and other impurities often found in illicit cannabis.

To discourage the use of marijuana with alcohol, states can require that they be sold in different places and ban the use of cannabis at bars and restaurants. Experts say using marijuana and alcohol together is much more dangerous than using them separately. One study on the effects of marijuana use on driving published in the American Journal on Addictions in 2009 found that combining the two drugs “results in impairment even at doses which would be insignificant were they of either drug alone.”

Seeing Green
Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, but cannabis is regulated differently in each state.

Growers Shouldn’t Be Sellers
States should keep the production and retail sales of marijuana separate to ensure that the industry does not evolve into a group of politically and financially powerful vertically integrated businesses. After Prohibition, American lawmakers adopted a three-tier system for the alcohol industry to make sure the country did not see the return of “tied houses,” or bars that were either owned or beholden to brewers through loans and other financial arrangements. Tied houses had encouraged excessive drinking by their customers, which helped to galvanize the temperance movement. Colorado initially required growers to also be retailers in the interest of getting the legal market going quickly but has since allowed them to specialize.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Over time, the state should consider dividing production and sales, as Washington has done. But states should not blindly copy-and-paste alcohol regulations onto marijuana, either. State beer distribution rules, for example, have unfairly prevented craft brewers from selling their products in many places, a situation that shouldn’t be replicated in the marijuana business.

For each level of the industry, licensing systems ought to discourage the concentration of market power in the hands of a few businesses. It’s important for regulators to recall the American experience with the tobacco industry, which is dominated by a handful of large corporations. For decades, those big cigarette companies undermined scientific research into the damage their products were causing and blocked sensible regulations. If states allow marijuana businesses to become too big, they could face corporate juggernauts that may be hard to regulate.

States should also monitor each level of the industry closely, including tracking how drugs move through the system. This should help to keep legal marijuana from being diverted to other states or countries that have not legalized the drug.

Whatever states decide to do, it is important that they stand ready to modify policies as legal marijuana markets evolve. Policy makers have little experience regulating a fully commercial market in this drug. It makes sense for states to proceed with caution and reserve the right to change course as they learn more.
 

7greeneyes

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/05/where-americans-smoke-marijuana-the-most/




Where Americans smoke marijuana the most


State-level statistics from the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (rather unfortunately acronymed NSDUH) show that just over 1 in 8 Rhode Island residents over age 12 smoke marijuana monthly. This is more than three times the rate in Kansas, where only 4 percent of residents regularly indulge.

Nationally about 7 percent of Americans over age 12 have used marijuana in the past month. Western states tend to have the highest rate of usage, at 9 percent, followed by the Northeast. The South has the lowest overall rate at 5.83 percent.

In what will surely not be a surprise to anyone who has ever been young, 18- to 25-year-olds use marijuana the most. Nearly 19 percent of that group has used marijuana in the past month, according to the NSDUH. But again, the state-to-state variation in those numbers are considerable. More than one third of Vermonters in that age bracket regularly use marijuana, compared to less than 10 percent of Utah's 18- to 25-year-olds.

But usage rates drop off considerably for people age 26 and older: Only 5 percent of Americans in that age group smoke marijuana regularly. Alaska's 26-and-over crowd is the most likely to regularly use marijuana, at 11.18 percent. To put it another way, Alaska's adults are more likely to use marijuana than Utah's college-age crowd.

Both Oregon and Alaska have marijuana legalization measures on their ballots this fall. Not coincidentally, these are the two states with the highest rates of 26-and-over marijuana use.

Marijuana use in the past month (%), by age group and state

State Total, 12+ 12 to 17 18 to 25 25+
Total U.S. 7.13 7.55 18.89 5.05
Alabama 5.07 5.62 14.34 3.38
Alaska 12.97 10.01 24.77 11.18
Arizona 7.22 8.37 17.20 5.33
Arkansas 5.30 6.01 14.71 3.61
California 9.08 8.83 21.74 6.74
Colorado 10.41 10.47 26.81 7.63
Connecticut 8.44 8.72 23.66 6.01
Delaware 7.49 9.58 20.95 4.95
District of Columbia 10.45 9.35 24.49 7.24
Florida 6.65 7.03 19.02 4.73
Georgia 5.96 7.20 16.65 3.88
Hawaii 7.57 9.69 18.15 5.69
Idaho 5.29 6.21 13.09 3.77
Illinois 7.03 6.94 20.27 4.79
Indiana 6.20 6.25 16.78 4.31
Iowa 6.10 6.65 16.84 4.13
Kansas 4.06 5.47 11.34 2.55
Kentucky 5.63 6.06 17.35 3.65
Louisiana 4.62 5.01 13.00 3.02
Maine 8.38 8.94 22.66 6.29
Maryland 5.81 7.54 17.53 3.66
Massachusetts 9.37 10.58 25.77 6.34
Michigan 8.89 8.89 22.13 6.61
Minnesota 6.30 7.27 17.58 4.33
Mississippi 5.80 6.32 15.86 3.88
Missouri 5.94 7.28 17.41 3.83
Montana 10.45 9.56 26.51 7.94
Nebraska 5.51 6.53 14.83 3.74
Nevada 8.36 8.77 20.01 6.44
New Hampshire 8.37 9.61 26.37 5.41
New Jersey 6.05 6.85 19.26 3.96
New Mexico 9.14 9.82 21.35 6.94
New York 8.24 7.86 21.35 5.98
North Carolina 6.49 7.69 19.28 4.24
North Dakota 5.15 6.02 14.44 3.07
Ohio 7.37 7.53 19.22 5.39
Oklahoma 6.04 6.37 14.14 4.55
Oregon 12.16 9.86 25.81 10.25
Pennsylvania 6.18 6.87 17.54 4.20
Rhode Island 13.00 12.44 30.16 9.74
South Carolina 7.20 7.24 19.24 5.15
South Dakota 5.79 6.44 13.95 4.28
Tennessee 5.41 5.92 14.70 3.81
Texas 5.11 6.32 13.76 3.30
Utah 4.41 5.12 9.83 3.04
Vermont 12.86 13.36 33.18 9.34
Virginia 5.54 6.61 17.06 3.44
Washington 10.21 9.45 23.44 8.11
West Virginia 5.27 6.63 17.55 3.29
Wisconsin 6.69 7.78 18.18 4.65
Wyoming 5.68 6.00 13.06 4.36
 

7greeneyes

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http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/04/the-marijuana-schizophrenia-link/




The Marijuana-Schizophrenia Link


People who oppose legalization of marijuana routinely raise the possibility that marijuana may cause or exacerbate episodes of psychosis, including schizophrenia. This is hardly settled science, but it’s not necessarily bogus, either.

The Federal government’s most recent evaluation of the health hazards of marijuana was written by experts at the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in the New England Journal of Medicine in June. In describing the effects of long-term or heavy use, it found an increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders, including schizophrenia, in persons with a predisposition to such disorders. It also warned that marijuana could exacerbate the course of illness in patients who have schizophrenia.

But the NIDA experts acknowledged that it is difficult to establish that marijuana actually caused these bad outcomes (as opposed to simply being “linked with” or “associated with” them) because many other factors may have caused the mental illness.

Another recent review of the evidence, written by experts at the Yale University School of Medicine and published in May in the journal “Frontiers in Psychiatry,” judged it “likely” that cannabis is an important component cause of psychotic disorders. The comprehensive 45-page review noted that some analyses have found that 8 to 14 percent of all schizophrenia cases may be due to cannabis use. But the review acknowledged that such estimates don’t mesh with this fact: a huge surge in cannabis consumption over the past four decades has not been accompanied by a commensurate increase in schizophrenia rates. The review also noted that a biologically plausible mechanism by which cannabis can increase the risk of psychotic disorders has yet to be established.

A 2010 paper by Australian researchers concluded that existing data from a slew of major studies can’t determine whether cannabis use can cause serious psychotic disorders that would otherwise not have occurred.

Schizophrenia is a relatively rare condition that afflicts about 1 percent of the American adult population. Although some people with a predisposition or existing disease may be adversely affected by marijuana use, the vast majority of individuals who consume cannabis do not experience any kind of psychosis. They need to identified and protected against harm but the risk to this relatively small group is not sufficient reason to bar marijuana use for everyone else.
 

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http://needham.wickedlocal.com/article/20140804/NEWS/140809115/?Start=2




Medical marijuana a no-go for Mass. college students living on campus


Medical marijuana may be legal in Massachusetts, but students with a prescription will be prohibited from using or storing it on their college campuses.

Higher education institutions including Harvard University, University of Massachusetts Boston, Curry College and Bridgewater State University said they are all banning medical marijuana from their campuses in order to comply with federal regulations that classify marijuana, medical or not, as an illegal narcotic.

Officials from these institutions have all stated that federal funding, including funding for student financial aid, could be at risk if they made an exemption in their student health codes to allow for prescription use marijuana.

Students at Bridgewater State University have called their health services department in the past year asking questions about personal use of medical marijuana prescriptions on-campus. “We’ve had some inquiries about it,” said Police Chief David Tillinghast, who added that making an exemption would be a risky proposition.

According to Bridgewater State University’s Police Department’s official policies listed online, the university must follow the Federal Controlled Substances Act, the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug Free Workplace Act. The policy adds that anyone in possession of medical marijuana would be cited under state statutes or federally prosecuted and face university disciplinary action. Additionally, the policy states that possession of the drug on-campus may have an adverse impact on future employment and limit a student’s ability to obtain federal financial aid.

In Quincy, Eastern Nazarene College said that it is still navigating the waters on medical marijuana use on its campus and has yet to form an official policy. “As this is a new issue here in Massachusetts, we have reached out to similar institutions in other parts of the country for insight into how they have addressed this issue,” said Jeffrey Kirksey, Vice President of Student Development and Retention.

While colleges like Eastern Nazarene have reached out to other institutions for guidance, Katy Abel, a commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, said that colleges in Massachusetts have not consulted her department to ask if an exemption for medical marijuana would result in a loss of federal funding. “The campuses would only be speculating...

Campuses have not sought counsel or legal opinion from us on this matter,” she wrote in an email.

No one at the U.S. Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Department of Education, could say whether a school would lose federal funding if it allowed medical marijuana on-campus.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), a Washington D.C.-based non-profit released a report in 2012 which states that “the Department of Education has never denied federal funds to any IHE as a result of policy change” and that the passage of more than 100 medical amnesty policies across the nation’s universities supports this notion.

“Given what we know, the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act does not require Harvard to disallow medical marijuana. Harvard has made a medical decision on behalf of its students. This decision should be made between a student and a doctor,” said Executive Director of the non-profit Betty Aldworth about Harvard’s ban on medical marijuana.

A 2012 National Public Radio report by Susan Sharon cited one student’s decision to drop out of the University of Maine and take online courses after he was told he could not use his doctor prescribed medical marijuana to treat an anxiety and joint disorder he developed after serving in the Army in Afghanistan for 15 months.

A professor and a drug policy expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, Mark Kleiman said he doubts that federal funding at universities is at risk: “I don’t see any prospect that the university federal funding would be damaged if they made an exemption for students citing medical marijuana.”

He added, “I think its unlikely that there isn’t cannabis smoking going on. I’m not sure this policy had any impact on the world.”

When asked why the universities are banning medical marijuana from their campuses, he said, “Bureaucrats do what bureaucrats do. The obvious answer when you’re asked a question is ‘no.’”
 

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http://www.theguardian.com/world/20...south-tightens-rules-barcelona-cannabis-clubs




Barcelona's booming cannabis clubs turn Spain into 'Holland of the South'


Catalonia's public health agency has proposed strict new measures to regulate cannabis clubs in the region, amid claims that Barcelona is on its way to rivalling Amsterdam as a smoker's haven.

Amsterdam has tightened restrictions on cannabis sales just as the number of clubs in Spain has proliferated from some 40 in 2010 to more than 700 today, say smokers' groups. The Catalan capital is home to more than half of these clubs.

From swanky clubs that span three floors to others with a small room and a few plastic chairs, the clubs take advantage of a provision in Spain's drug laws that allow marijuana to be grown and consumed for private use.

The clause has turned Spain – and especially Barcelona – into what Spanish media call the "Holland of the South". But unlike Amsterdam's coffee shops, which are open to the public, Spain's clubs are for members only.

Skirting the membership policy is fairly easy; while many clubs stick to a policy of requiring new members to be sponsored by existing ones, a number of clubs allow prospective members to register online or via telephone. Some clubs have employees who hand out promotional flyers in the street, promising to ease the registration process.

The past two years have seen hundreds of these cannabis clubs spring up in Barcelona, creating a thriving industry as other sectors suffered the economic crisis. Catalonia's cannabis clubs now count some 165,000 members, who rack up an estimated €5m (£4m) in sales each month, according to El País newspaper.

Local officials in Barcelona have been watching closely. In June, the city imposed a one-year moratorium on new licences for cannabis clubs. Calling it a "preventative" measure, deputy mayor Joaquim Forn said it would give the city some breathing space to regulate the industry and "avoid it becoming a serious problem".

A first draft of the regulations, drawn up by the public health agency of Catalonia and obtained by El País, sets out strict regulations on the cultivation and transport of the drug and clubs' membership in an effort to chip away at the legal grey zone in which the clubs currently operate.

Memberships will be limited to Spanish residents, taking aim at the region's growing reputation for cannabis tourism. Members will have to be 21 years of age or older and belong to the club for at least 15 days before being given access to marijuana.

Other measures include forcing clubs to register their plants and undergo an annual inspection, in an attempt to give regional authorities a more complete idea of the product on offer in the region.

The maximum quantity that members will be allowed to access each month has yet to be determined, said the proposal, but is expected to be somewhere between 60 to 100 grams a month (2-3.5 ounces). With some clubs currently with as many as 5,000 users, the draft noted that a maximum number of members must also be determined.

The proposed regulations were welcomed by the Catalonia Federation of Cannabis Associations, one of many associations that has been pushing the government to better regulate the sector. While the association took issue with the draft regulations' proposal of a fixed schedule that would force the clubs to close for a three-hour lunch each day and close by 8pm most days, the regulations were "positive in general", a spokesman, Jaume Xaus, told El País. Many of the clubs, he noted, already follow similar regulations.

One notable omission, he said, was to set a criteria for municipal licences. Without this, he worried, the granting of permits would be left to individual mayors, allowing for discrepancies to arise.

Cannabis clubs have also become popular in the Basque country in recent years, registering more than 10,000 members and leading the regional government to begin drawing up regulations for the clubs earlier this year.
 

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