Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate

http://i176.photobucket.com/albums/w175/hempjack/story-1.jpgCannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate, analyzes cannabis policies around the world and lays out the advantages of a fully regulated legal market and how a country can overcome the international conventions in order to have policies that better suites its individual needs. Below is an excerpt from the book.

(Article source: Huffington Post / Image from NORML)

Cannabis is by far the most widely used illegal drug and therefore the mainstay of the ‘War on Drugs.’ It is used by an estimated 4% of the global adult population, that is, 166 million people out of an estimated population of 200 million illegal drug users’. It therefore constitutes roughly 80% of the ‘illegal drug market.’ However, cannabis has only ever held a relatively marginal position in international drug policy discussions. In response to its peripheral role in the global debate, I decided to convene a team of the world’s leading drug policy analysts to prepare an overview of the latest scientific evidence surrounding cannabis and the policies controlling its use. The report would both bring cannabis to the attention of policy-makers and also provide them with the relevant facts to better inform their future decisions, particularly in the context of the United Nations Strategic Drug Policy Review of 2009, and thereafter.

The historical context of the United Nations’ policy is critical here. In 1998, the international community agreed a 10-year program of activity for the control of illegal drug use and markets. These agreements were made at a United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) held in New York in June of that year, and a commitment was made to reassess the situation at the end of the 10-year period. The nature of this program was epitomized by the slogan ‘A drug free world — we can do it!’ However, the reality is that since 1998 drugs have in general become cheaper and more readily available than ever before. We hope that this volume will help lead the way towards a more rational, effective and just approach to the control of cannabis.
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Can Marijuana Save the Economy? – GRITtv

(Source GRITtv)  An initiative in California for marijuana legalization is slowly moving toward an appearance on the November ballot, and several other states have taken steps to legalize the drug for medical purposes, or to decriminalize possession, reducing it to a misdemeanor charge. Since the start of the economic crisis, many–including the venerable Economist magazine–have called for legalization and taxing in order to boost revenues.

Could marijuana save the economy? Would the benefits–both for government money and for those who use the drug for medical purposes–outweigh the negatives? We ask Ryan Grim, correspondent for the Huffington Post and author of This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America, Brendan O’Flaherty, professor of economics at Columbia University and author of City Economics, and Terrence Farley, former prosecutor for Ocean County, NJ and former Director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.

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Medical Marijuana frees people from addiction to deadly painkillers

(Source: The Huffington Post 1.30.10)  On Wednesday, dozens of former addicts made the tough decision to share their stories publicly, doing so before news cameras and a standing-room only crowd. The admissions were not without irony. It was, after all, a federally prohibited drug, according to the patients who spoke, that freed them from their addictions to far more lethal–though legal–prescription narcotics.

Under the Colorado Capitol’s golden dome, dozens of patients gathered for a state Senate committee hearing, eager to give their two cents on the controversy at hand: How to regulate the doctor-patient relationship when it comes to physicians making medical marijuana recommendations.

After hearing testimony, committee members voted as most anticipated they would, injecting significant and potentially unconstitutional government mandates into doctor-patient relationships previously viewed as sacred to many of the state’s sick and dying. Only conservative Republican Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield voted against the bill, understanding that although he may have concerns with medical marijuana’s inclusion in our state constitution, lawmakers are sworn to uphold that constitution, even those portions with which they disagree.

The legislative action sadly reflects an overly emotional response to salacious headlines chronicling the alleged abuses by just a handful of the nearly 1,000 doctors who have issued medical marijuana recommendations. Their offense: they let greed trump patient health, and now stand accused of being far too flippant in making medical marijuana recommendations.

Troubling, yes. But as patient after patient testified Tuesday, any possible abuses of the state’s medical marijuana registry (now host to more than 20,000 patients) should be analyzed under a larger public health care perspective. As they told lawmakers, some through tears, medical marijuana has freed them from the agony of addiction resulting not from marijuana, but rather from the dangerous narcotic pain medications they had previously resorted to in an effort to curb their chronic and often progressive symptoms.

The message was clear: Marijuana use–which has put millions of Americans behind bars over the last seven decades–is now freeing Colorado’s sick and dying from their addictions to xycontin, vicodin, morphine, and a multitude of other prescription drugs incredibly dangerous, addictive, and destructive when taken over long periods of time.

Legislators should listen.

In Colorado, prescription drug overdoses are now the leading killer in our state. As we’ve written previously for this site, such drugs now kill more Coloradans than car accidents every year. Meanwhile, marijuana has never been independently linked to an overdose death. Not a single one.

Tuesday’s testimony was compelling, with its honesty and humility too real to be some paid construction of the lobbyists who sprinkled the crowd. Lawmakers heard from a former college football star now in his 60’s, a man who now suffers the excruciating effects of decades-old injuries and the surgeries that failed to make him whole. Without medical marijuana, he testified, he’d have no other option than to pop prescription pain pills by the handful. Another wheelchair-confined patient also spoke of how medical marijuana has freed him of his own long-term prescription addiction. His voice wavered as he talked tenderly of his late wife, who died seven years ago from liver failure resulting from overdosing on Tylenol PM.

Bill sponsor, Chris Romer, a well intentioned Denver Democrat, proudly proclaimed that “this is the beginning of the end of the wild west,” his bill could usher in a whole new set of problems. On Wednesday, he showed a growing willingness to accept amendments that removed some of the bill’s most controversial provisions. Still, while it’s true that Colorado’s medical marijuana industry has thus far outpaced efforts to usher in its regulation, his bill still raises issues that could result in unintended consequences extending far beyond the relationships between medical marijuana patients and their doctors.

Ultimately, one of the bill’s most troubling mandates is also its most ironic. The language would prohibit any doctor who has ever had his or her Drug Enforcement Agency Schedule I prescribing license suspended–even for a day or even 30 years ago–from making medical marijuana recommendations to Colorado patients. Meanwhile, while the bill relies on this federal DEA standard to define professional competence, it then ignores the fact under the DEA’s own rules, doctors who recommend medical marijuana are subjected to having this same Schedule I license yanked.

The bill also subjects doctors making medical marijuana recommendations to a new system that could very quickly result in a two-tiered witch hunt, empowering not only the Board of Medical Examiners to revoke a physician’s medical license in its entirety for medical marijuana-related offenses, but also granting the state Health Department the ability to revoke any physician’s right to advise patients on medical marijuana. Doctors, already looking over their shoulder when making recommendations, will now have even more to fear.

For many indigent patients in the room Wednesday, cost was the biggest issue on their minds.

One disabled veteran testified that the new changes could make getting his medical marijuana recommendation prohibitively expensive. Under current federal Veteran’s Administration policy, doctors are prevented from recommending medical marijuana entirely. As the vet noted, his only source of medical care comes from the VA, meaning he’d have to go elsewhere. A doctor recommendation and follow up care could now cost him hundreds of dollars annually due to one bill provision that prohibits dispensaries from reimbursing doctors for making recommendations.

In absence of financial assistance for such required examinations, the vet would be forced to explore one of two options, neither desirable. He could either obtain his medical marijuana from the black market where physician recommendations are not required, or he could return to prescription narcotics to treat his horrific symptoms.

For years, legislators have turned a blind eye as doctors have too freely prescribed narcotic painkillers without adequately assessing patient necessity, or in many cases, without even speaking with a patient in-person before writing a prescription.

But this was only a passing thought Wednesday to too many of the bill’s supporters. Law enforcement officials claimed that lawmakers have a duty to prevent illegitimate abuses of medical marijuana. Even if this obligation is presumed true, however, fighting medical marijuana abuse should be far down the public policy priority list from addressing the scourge of other, far more harmful drugs, including prescription pain killers and alcohol. A proper regulatory scheme would acknowledge the real issues facing patients and caregivers today, including the lack of assurances of medicinal quality and consistency some face when selecting medicine. (Click here to see our analysis of SB 109, including our support for several of the bill’s provisions, and suggestions concerning others).

As Senate Bill 109 now prepares to make its journey through the Capitol, we hope legislators will resist rubberstamping Tuesday’s emotional response to a perceived problem. While it’s true that a handful of the nearly 1,000 doctors who have made medical marijuana recommendations thus far are accused of abusing the process, this legislation would remove time-tested protections to the doctor-patient relationship that would not only hurt patients, but could also begin the erosion of confidentiality between a far larger population of sick people and their doctors.

For centuries, doctors have committed to uphold the Hippocratic oath, pledging to “first, do no harm.” In the aftermath of Tuesday’s committee bill passage, lawmakers should consider taking their own oath.

Listen. Get the facts. Then make the prescription. Don’t let emotion cloud the truths revealed through the testimony of Colorado’s real experts–the patients and doctors themselves–who have resoundingly demonstrated that medical marijuana is one of the greatest tools we have in the essential fight against prescription drug addiction.

Jessica Corry is a Denver land use attorney and Robert J. Corry, Jr., is a Denver medical marijuana attorney. Together, the Corrys represents several medical marijuana caregivers and patients.

Presidents and other role models on Marijuana – Quotations

Writing for the Huffington Post, Robbie Gennet put together some quotes from “rode models” regarding the issues of  smoking cannabis or growing hemp for food/fuel/fiber ~

Consider that back in the early days of the U.S., hemp was grown for both industrial and recreational reasons, as you can see in the quotes below. The fact that Olympians, scientists and Presidents have all achieved great success after or while using marijuana destroys the myths of marijuana danger and the “gateway drug” theory. President Obama is still having a hard time quitting tobacco but had no issues quitting marijuana, while good old Honest Abe Lincoln smoked “sweet hemp” during his presidency! So let’s let our greatest leaders and role models speak for themselves:

“Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica.”

- Abraham Lincoln (from a letter written by Lincoln during his presidency to the head of the Hohner Harmonica Company in Germany)

“Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country.”
– Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President

“Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere.”
– George Washington, U.S. President

“We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption.”
– John Adams, U.S. President

“Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marihuana in private for personal use… Therefore, I support legislation amending Federal law to eliminate all Federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marihuana.” – Jimmy Carter, U.S. President

“I inhaled frequently. That was the point.” – Barack Obama, U.S. President

“The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our nation’s marijuana laws.” -Barack Obama, January 2004

“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” – Carl Sagan, renown scientist, astronomer, astrochemist, author and TV host

“Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?” – Henry Ford, whose first Model-T was constructed from hemp fibers and built to run on hemp gasoline

“Prohibition… goes beyond the bound of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded” -Abraham Lincoln

“The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.” – Albert Einstein quote on Hemp

“That is not a drug. It’s a leaf.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California

Let’s end with a quote from one of the most clueless U.S. Presidents, who evidently thought of himself as an authority on cannabis:

“I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast” – Ronald Reagan

Perhaps with all the evidence coming out that marijuana may help prevent Alzheimer’s, it is possible that Reagan’s affliction could have been halted or prevented by the herb he so vilified. The powers that maintain the illogical status quo for marijuana’s illegality are feeling a seismic shift beneath their skewed logic and paranoid rhetoric. When scientific research is unambiguously and evenly applied to marijuana, the current laws and prohibition cannot and will not stand.

“If the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”
– Terence McKenna
~

A few facts about Hemp, in case you were wondering:

The first Bibles, maps, charts, Betsy Ross’s flag, the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were made from hemp.

80% of all textiles, fabrics, clothes, linen, drapes, bed sheets, etc. were made from hemp until the 1820s with the introduction of the cotton gin.

It was legal to pay taxes with Hemp in America from 1631 until the early 1800s.

Refusing to grow Hemp in America during the 17th and 18th Centuries was against the law. You could be jailed in Virginia for refusing to grow hemp from 1763 to 1769.

Rembrants, Gainsboroughs, Van Goghs as well as most early canvas paintings were principally painted on hemp linen.

In 1916, the U.S. Government Dept. of Agriculture predicted that by the 1940s all paper would come from hemp and that no more trees need to be cut down.

For thousands of years, 90% of all ships’ sails and rope were made from hemp. The word ‘canvas’ is Dutch for cannabis.

The hemp plant produces up to four times more cellulose per acre than trees. Hemp cultivation and production do not harm the environment. The USDA Bulletin #404 concluded that Hemp produces 4 times as much pulp with at least 4 to 7 times less pollution.

Hemp fuel is non-toxic, biodegradable and does not contribute to sulfur dioxide air poisoning.

In Feb. 1938, Popular Mechanics called Hemp a ‘Billion Dollar Crop.’ It was the first time a cash crop had a business potential to exceed a billion dollars.

The following information comes directly from the United States Department of Agriculture’s 1942 14-minute film encouraging and instructing ‘patriotic American farmers’ to grow 350,000 acres of hemp each year for the war effort:

…(When) Grecian temples were new, hemp was already old in the service of mankind. For thousands of years, even then, this plant had been grown for cordage and cloth in China and elsewhere in the East. For centuries prior to about 1850, all the ships that sailed the western seas were rigged with hempen rope and sails. For the sailor, no less than the hangman, hemp was indispensable…

…Now with Philippine and East Indian sources of hemp in the hands of the Japanese…American hemp must meet the needs of our Army and Navy as well as of our industries…

…the Navy’s rapidly dwindling reserves. When that is gone, American hemp will go on duty again; hemp for mooring ships; hemp for tow lines; hemp for tackle and gear; hemp for countless naval uses both on ship and shore. Just as in the days when Old Ironsides sailed the seas victorious with her hempen shrouds and hempen sails. Hemp for victory!

Victory indeed.

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