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The Report Card: Grading the Presidential Candidates on Marijuana Policy [FEATURE]

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

Marijuana is already legal in Alaska, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Oregon (as of Wednesday), and Washington. With legalization initiatives looming this year and next in states as diverse as Michigan, Ohio, Maine, Massachusetts, California, Nevada, and Arizona, marijuana policy is most definitely on the agenda in the 2016 presidential election campaign.

[image:1 align:left]Candidates and presumed candidates from both parties have staked out a wide array of positions on the issue (although none have taken the bold step of actually advocating for legalization). Now, thanks to the Marijuana Policy Project, we have a scorecard to keep them all straight.

The pro-legalization advocacy group has released its Voters Guide to the 2016 Presidential Race, detailing the candidates’ positions on marijuana policy and assigning them grades based on where they stand. The candidates were graded on actions they have taken and statements they have made indicating their support for ending pot prohibition, allowing legal access to medical marijuana and defending states' rights to set their own marijuana policies.

"Most Americans recognize that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and they think it should be made legal for adults," said MPP spokesperson Mason Tvert. "Voters should know which candidates support rolling back prohibition and which ones are fighting to maintain it. People are becoming increasingly wary of the federal government’s role in our nation’s marijuana policies."

Protecting the ability of states to set their own marijuana policies will be increasingly important in coming years, Tvert said, adding that, "Several states are likely to adopt new approaches to marijuana policy between now and when our next president takes office. She or he should be willing to work with Congress to ease the tension between state and federal marijuana laws. If states are to be our nation’s laboratories of democracy, our next president needs to respect their right to experiment. They should also be committed to basing marijuana laws on science and evidence instead of ideology and politics."

While Democratic candidates found themselves in the middle of the road (with grades ranging from B to D), Republicans were all over the letter-grade spectrum, with Rand Paul pulling down an A- (it seems you'd have to actually support legalization to get an A grade from MPP), and two GOP candidates, Christ Christie and Rick Santorum getting flunked with Fs.

"Some of these guys who tout states’ rights, fiscal responsibility, and getting the government out of people’s private lives want to use federal tax dollars to punish adults for using marijuana in states that have made it legal," Tvert said. "They say using marijuana is immoral or just too dangerous to allow, but serve alcohol, a more dangerous substance, at their fundraisers. The hypocrisy is astonishing."

Here are the candidates, by party and grade.

Democrats

Lincoln Chafee, Grade: B+

The former Rhode Island governor signed a decriminalization bill into law in 2013 and has expressed a willingness to explore the potential benefits of regulating and taxing marijuana, but he wants to wait and see what happens in states that have adopted such laws.

Chafee on marijuana and drug policy:

"We’ll see what comes out of the legislature. We’re just still putting in the medical marijuana component and we’ll certainly see what’s happening in Colorado … Certainly the revenue is enticing for all governors. Somebody was saying to me back with the bad weather we’ve had back home, and all the potholes, we should have the revenue go to infrastructure. ‘Pot for potholes.'" —Huffington Post, Feb. 24, 2014

"I think it should be an international discussion over our drug policy, whether its winning or losing the war on drugs, and the destabilizing effect the illicit drug trade has […] It should be an international discussion: is this working?" —YouTube, April 2013

Jim Webb, Grade: B+

The former Virginia senator and Reagan-era secretary of the Navy has come out for marijuana decriminalization and is an outspoken opponent of the war on drugs. As a senator, he introduced legislation to overhaul the criminal justice system.

Webb on marijuana and drug policy:

[In response to a question about whether marijuana legalization would be part of his criminal justice reform efforts:] "I think everything should be on the table, and we specifically say that we want recommendations on how to deal with drug policy in our country. And we’ll get it to the people who have the credibility and the expertise and see what they come up with. [Asked specifically about regulating marijuana:] I think they should do a very careful examination of all aspects of drug policy. I’ve done a couple of very extensive hearings on this, so we’ll wait to see what they say about that." —Huffington Post, April 27, 2009

"He also shied away from supporting or opposing marijuana legalization, calling state laws ‘an interesting national experiment’ that should be allowed to play out further." —Washington Post, March 10, 2015

Bernie Sanders, Grade: B

The insurgent Vermont senator has been a longtime critic of the war on drugs and supports medical marijuana, but has so far shied away from supporting pot legalization because of his concerns about other illegal drugs.

Sanders on marijuana and drug policy:

 

"I have real concerns about implications of the war on drugs. We have been engaged in it for decades now with a huge cost and the destruction of a whole lot of lives of people who were never involved in any violent activities."

"I’m going to look at the issue. It’s not that I support it or don’t support it. To me it is not one of the major issues facing this country. I’ll look at it. I think it has a lot of support and I’ll be talking to young people and others about the issues. But there are two sides to a story." —TIME, March 4, 2015

"The state of Vermont voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and I support that. I have supported the use of medical marijuana. And when I was mayor of Burlington, in a city with a large population, I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana. Our police had more important things to do. Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana and I’m going to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done. I will have more to say about this issue within the coming months." — Reddit AMA, May 19, 2015

Hillary Clinton, Grade: B-

The Democratic favorite says she is open to more research on medical marijuana and that she supports Colorado and Washington's rights to set their own marijuana policies. She says she is interested in seeing the results of their experiment before taking a position for or against legalization.

Clinton on marijuana policy: "I don’t think we’ve done enough research yet although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances."

"States are laboratories of democracy. I want to wait and see what the evidence is." —CNN, June 2014

Martin O'Malley, Grade: C+

The former Maryland governor has repeatedly spoken out against using marijuana for any reason, including medical, but he also signed into law in 2014 bills that decriminalized pot possession and established a medical marijuana program.

O'Malley on marijuana and marijuana policy:

 

"I’m not much in favor of it. We’ve seen what drug addiction has done to the people of our state, to the people of our city. This drug, its use and its abuse can be a gateway." —Mark Steiner radio show, Jan. 7, 2014

"As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety. I now think that [it] is an acknowledgment of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health." —Washington Post, April 7, 2014

Joe Biden, Grade: D

The vice president has not formally announced, but is still considered a potential contender. Throughout his career, Biden has been a hardline drug warrior, spearheading legislation that created the drug czar's office and sponsoring the RAVE Act, as well as backing bills to increase the mandatory minimum sentence for federal marijuana offenses. He continues to oppose the legalization of marijuana, but has spoken in favor of reducing enforcement of federal marijuana policies.

Biden on marijuana and drug policy:

"I think the idea of focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people for smoking marijuana is a waste of our resources. That’s different than [legalization]. Our policy for our administration is still not legalization, and that is [and] continues to be our policy."

"I am not only the guy who did the crime bill and the drug czar, but I’m also the guy who spent years when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of [the Senate Foreign Relations Committee], trying to change drug policy relative to cocaine, for example, crack and powder." —TIME, Feb. 6, 2014

"I still believe it’s a gateway drug. I’ve spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize." —ABC News, Dec. 2010

Republicans

[image:2 align:right caption:true]Rand Paul, Grade: A-

The libertarian-leaning junior senator from Kentucky has been a vocal supporter of states' rights to set their own marijuana policies, as well as decriminalizing small-time pot possession. He is also a sponsor of a bill that would let states set their own medical marijuana policies without federal interference, a bill that would let marijuana businesses gain access to the banking system, and a bill seeking drug sentencing reforms.

Paul on marijuana policy:

"I’m not for having the federal government get involved. I really haven’t taken a stand on … the actual legalization. I haven’t really taken a stand on that, but I’m against the federal government telling them they can’t." —Roll Call, Nov. 4, 2014

"If your kid was caught selling marijuana or growing enough that it’s a felony conviction, they could be in jail for an extended period of time, they also lose their ability to be employable. So I want to change all of that. I want to lessen the criminal penalties on it." 

Rick Perry, Grade: B

The former Texas governor opposes marijuana legalization, but supports states' rights to set their own marijuana policies and has voiced support for reducing penalties for pot possession.

Perry on marijuana and drug policy:

"After 40 years of the war on drugs, I can’t change what happened in the past. What I can do as the governor of the second largest state in the nation is to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization and keeps people from going to prison and destroying their lives, and that’s what we’ve done over the last decade." —Washington Post, Jan. 23, 2014

"I am a staunch promoter of the 10th Amendment. States should be able to set their own policies on abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, then people will decide where they want to live." … [S]tates should be allowed [to decide whether to legalize marijuana]." —U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 23, 2014

Ted Cruz, Grade: C+

The junior senator from Texas opposes marijuana legalization, but believes states should have the right to set their own marijuana policies.

Cruz on marijuana and drug policy:

"I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called the laboratories of democracy. If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I don’t agree with it, but that’s their right." —CPAC, Feb. 26, 2015

"I don’t support drug legalization, but I do support the Constitution. I think individual states can choose to adopt it. So if Texas had it on the ballot, I’d vote against it, but I respect the authority of states to follow different policies." —Texas Tribune, March 24, 2015

"That’s a legitimate question for the states to make a determination. And the citizens of Colorado and Washington State have come to a different conclusion. They’ve decided that they want to legalize it. I think it is appropriate for the federal government to recognize that the citizens of those states have made that decision. One of the benefits of it … is we can now watch and see what happens in Colorado and Washington State." —Hugh Hewitt Show, April 16, 2015

Carly Fiorina, Grade: C+

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO does not favor legalizing medical marijuana for any purpose, including medical use, but has recently supported decriminalization and the ability of states to set their own marijuana policies.

Fiorina on marijuana and drug policy:

"I remember when I had cancer and my doctor said, ‘Do you have any interest in medicinal marijuana?’ I did not. And they said, good, because marijuana today is such a complex compound, we don’t really know what’s in it, we don’t really know how it interacts with other substances or other medicines." —Slate, Feb. 2015

"I’m opposed to Prop 19 and the legalization of marijuana. Sending billions of dollars in new tax revenues to Sacramento is exactly the problem … because Sacramento has a spending problem and will continue to spend the money we send them." —10 Questions, October 2010

"Drug addiction shouldn’t be criminalized. We need to treat it appropriately." —Washington Post, May 4, 2015

"I don’t support legalized marijuana for a whole host of reasons, including the fact that this is a very complex chemical substance, and when we tell young people it is just like drinking a beer, we are not telling them the truth. But I think Colorado voters made a choice. I don’t support their choice, but I do support their right to make that choice." —The Hill, June 9, 2015

George Pataki, Grade: C

The former New York governor does not support legalization for any reason, including medical, but has come out for the ability of states to set their own marijuana policies.

Pataki on marijuana policy: "I am not in favor of legalizing marijuana, but having said that I am a great believer that states are the laboratory of democracy." —Bloomberg, Jan. 14, 2014

"So I would be very strongly inclined to change the federal law to give states, when they’ve had a referendum, the opportunity with respect to marijuana to decriminalize it, except for two factors. One is we have to know that neighboring states or the rest of the country are not being subjected to illegal marijuana because of the free selling of it and marketing in those states, and second with respect to young people." —HughHewitt.com, April 23, 2015

[image:3 align:left caption:true]Donald Trump, Grade: C

The businessman and television personality supported legalizing all drugs in 1990, but has since changed his tune. He opposes marijuana legalization, but supports access to medical marijuana and has suggested support for letting states decide their own pot policies.

Trump on marijuana and drug policy:

"I’d say [regulating marijuana] is bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it’s bad and I feel strongly about that. [In response to states’ rights argument] If they vote for it, they vote for it. But, you know, they’ve got a lot of problems going on in Colorado right now. Big problems. But I think, medical marijuana, 100%." —C-SPAN, Feb. 27, 2015

"We’re losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars." —Miami Herald, April 14, 1990

Lindsey Graham, Grade: C

The South Carolina senator opposes marijuana legalization, but supports legal access to medical marijuana. Graham has not taken a strong position on states' rights to set their own pot policies, and he voted against a bill designed to block the Justice Department from interfering in medical marijuana states (though he later tried unsuccessfully to switch his vote).

Graham on marijuana policy:

When asked whether he supports letting states decide or keeping marijuana illegal federally: "I don’t see a real need to change the law up here [in DC]. If marijuana is half as bad as alcohol, that’s probably enough reason to keep it illegal." —Just Say Now, Aug. 10, 2010

"I’m against legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. But when it comes to medical marijuana and this [CBD] oil, I think politicians should embrace what makes sense. When it comes to issues like this, I don’t want to be academic in thought. This is about people. This is about families with sick children. Why should someone in my position get in the way of helping a child, if you can reasonably and logically do it?" WBTV, Feb. 24, 2014

Bobby Jindal, Grade: C

The Louisiana governor has offered limited support for medical marijuana, but opposes legalization and does not support states' rights to set their own policies. Just last week, he refused clemency for a black man sentenced to 13 years in prison for possessing two joints, saying he hadn't served at least 10 years. As a member of Congress, he voted against measures trying to block federal interference in medical marijuana states in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Jindal on marijuana policy:

"I don’t think anyone should be legalizing marijuana, I think that’s a mistake. When it comes to the issue of medical marijuana, I’ve said as long as it’s done under tight restrictions, I can be okay with that." —ABC News, Feb. 26, 2015

[When asked if he would "bring down the hammer" on pot stores in states with legalization laws] "I don’t think you can ignore federal law. Federal law is still the law of the land. It still needs to be enforced." —Washington Times, April 1, 2015

John Kasich, Grade: C

The sitting Ohio governor is "totally opposed" to marijuana legalization, including for medical purposes, but would allow states to set their own marijuana policies.

"In my state and across this country, if I happened to be president, I would lead a significant campaign down at the grassroots level to stomp these drugs out of our country." —HughHewitt.com, April 21, 2015

"[The] answer is, no, I am not in favor of [medical marijuana]." —WLWT, March 19, 2014

"On medical marijuana, doctors that I know tell me we don’t need that, there are other ways to [treat pain]." OhioCapitalBlog, March 30, 2012

Jeb Bush, Grade: D

The former Florida governor is a long-time drug warrior who sits on the advisory board of the Drug Free America Foundation, a radical anti-pot group. He opposes marijuana legalization for any purposes, but has suggested states have the right to set their own pot policies.

Bush on marijuana policy: "I thought [legalizing marijuana in Colorado] was a bad idea, but states ought to have that right to do it. I would have voted ‘no’ if I was in Colorado." —C-SPAN, Feb. 27, 2015

Mike Huckabee, Grade: D

The former Arkansas governor and Fox News host opposes marijuana legalization for any purpose, including medical use.

Huckabee on marijuana policy:

"You know, I don’t support the idea of legalizing marijuana, so I want to be honest about that. I don’t think that there are as many wonderful things to come from it as there are some dangers to come from it. You know, if they’re targeting people [who use marijuana for medical purposes], I don’t know if that makes good sense. But I wouldn’t go and say, ‘You shouldn’t follow the law.’" [He is then asked whether he would stop the federal government’s raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, to which he responds:] "Probably not." —C-SPAN, January 2008

"I think the question is would I favor the legalization [of medical marijuana] at a federal level. And until there’s some stronger scientific evidence I’m unlikely to do that. I don’t support the idea of legalizing marijuana." —NH Marijuana Policy Initiative, October 2007

"Those who argued that legalizing marijuana would result in a boom in tax revenues have some preliminary proof. … But at what cost? The money is earmarked for youth prevention services, substance abuse treatment and public health. But what is a young person supposed to think when the state says, ‘Don’t do drugs…even though everyone around you is…and the same authority figures who tell you it’s bad not only condone it, but are also making a big profit off it’?" —Facebook post, March 13, 2014

Ben Carson, Grade: D

The author and retired neurosurgeon, a hero of social conservatives, rejects marijuana legalization and cites the discredited "gateway theory" for doing so, but has expressed some openness toward medical marijuana.

Carson on marijuana policy:

"I think medical use of marijuana in compassionate cases certainly has been proven to be useful. But recognize that marijuana is what’s known as a gateway drug. It tends to be a starter drug for people who move onto heavier duty drugs—sometimes legal, sometimes illegal —and I don’t think this is something that we really want for our society. You know, we’re gradually just removing all the barriers to hedonistic activity and you know, it’s just, we’re changing so rapidly to a different type of society and nobody is getting a chance to discuss it because, you know, it’s taboo. It’s politically incorrect. You’re not supposed to talk about these things." Fox News, Jan. 2, 2014

Marco Rubio, Grade: D

The young Florida senator staunchly opposes marijuana legalization, but has expressed some support for medicinal use of non-psychoactive forms of medical marijuana (CBD cannabis oil). He has wobbled on the states' rights issue.

Rubio on marijuana policy:

"If there are medicinal uses of marijuana that don’t have the elements that are mind-altering or create the high but do alleviate whatever condition it may be they are trying to alleviate, that is something I would be open to." —Tampa Bay Times, July 30, 2014

"Marijuana is illegal under federal law. That should be enforced." —ABC News, May 15, 2014

"The bottom line is, I believe that adding yet another mind-altering substance to something that’s legal is not good for the country, I understand there are people that have different views on it, but I feel strongly about that." —Yahoo! News, May 19, 2014

[Spokesman]: "Senator Rubio believes legalization of marijuana for recreational use is a bad idea, and that the states that are doing it may well come to regret it. Of course, states can make decisions about what laws they wish to apply within their own borders." —Politico, Jan. 31, 2015

"I’m against the legalization of marijuana." —C-SPAN, Feb. 27, 2015

[When asked if he would enforce federal law and shut down regulation in Colorado:] "Yes. Yes, I think, well, I think we need to enforce our federal laws. Now do states have a right to do what they want? They don’t agree with it, but they have their rights. But they don’t have a right to write federal policy as well. It is, I don’t believe we should be in the business of legalizing additional intoxicants in this country for the primary reason that when you legalize something, what you’re sending a message to young people is it can’t be that bad, because if it was that bad, it wouldn’t be legal." —Hugh Hewitt Radio Show, April 14, 2015

Scott Walker, Grade: D

The Wisconsin governor opposes either decriminalization or legalization because marijuana is a "gateway" drug, but did sign a limited bill allowing for the use of non-psychoactive CBD cannabis oil by children.

Walker on marijuana policy:

"Now there are people who abuse (alcohol), no doubt about it, but I think it’s a big jump between someone having a beer and smoking marijuana." —Huffington Post, Feb. 13, 2014

"From my standpoint, I still have concerns about making it legal. I understand from the libertarian standpoint, the argument out there. I still have concerns. I’m not, unlike the President, I still have difficulty visualizing marijuana and alcohol in the same vein." —CNN, Jan. 30, 2014

[Discussing a Wisconsin county sheriff’ who shares his position on marijuana legalization:] "Even there, the Democrat sheriff said to me last year when this issue came up, ‘Whatever you do, please do not sign the legalization of marijuana.’ This was a guy who spent his whole career in law enforcement. He was liberal on a whole lot of other issues. But he said it’s a gateway drug." —Wisconsin State Journal, March 31, 2015

Chris Christie, Grade: F

The New Jersey governor not only opposes marijuana legalization, but has spoken out repeatedly against states that have legalized it. He opposed the New Jersey medical marijuana law, which was passed before he became governor, and has hampered its effectiveness with strict limitations he has imposed.

Christie on marijuana policy:

"[Marijuana legalization]’s not gonna come while I’m here … See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado where there’s head shops popping up on every corner and people flying into your airport just to come and get high. To me, it’s just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey and there’s no tax revenue that’s worth that." —International Business Times, July 25, 2014

[In response to the question,"If you were president, how would you treat states that have legalized marijuana?"] "Probably not well. Not well, but we’ll see. We’ll have to see what happens." —Huffington Post, June 20, 2014

[When asked if he would enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized and regulated marijuana:] "Absolutely, I will crack down and not permit it." …

"States should not be permitted to sell it and profit [from legalizing marijuana]." —Huffington Post, April 14, 2015

Rick Santorum, Grade: F

The former US senator from Pennsylvania rejects marijuana legalization for any purpose, does not believe states have the right to set their own pot policies, and supports enforcing federal drug laws even in states that have voted to legalize it.

Santorum on marijuana and drug policy:

"I think Colorado is violating the federal law. And if we have controlled substances, they’re controlled substances for a reason. The federal law is there for a reason, and the states shouldn’t have the option to violate federal law. As Abraham Lincoln said, you know, states don’t have the right to wrong." —HughHewitt.com, April 16, 2015

"The federal government does have a role in making sure that drug use—that states don’t go out and legalize drugs. That there are drugs that are hazardous to people, that do cause great harm to the individual as well as society to the whole. And the federal government has a role in making sure those drugs are not in this country and not available and that people who use them illegally are held accountable. Ideally states should enforce these laws but the federal government has a role because it is a public health issue for the country." —Santorum campaign event, Jan. 9, 2012

 (This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)



Chronicle AM: Denver Activists Want Pot Social Clubs, Vancouver Cannabis Day Clashes, More (7/2/15)

Marijuana legalization comes with some additional sentencing reforms in Oregon, Denver activists roll out a pot social club initiative, Louisiana becomes the latest medical marijuana state, Vancouver cannabis clashes, and more. 

[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Oregon Governor Signs Legalization Implementation Law, Includes Sentencing Reform. Gov. Kathleen Brown Tuesday signed into law House Bill 3400, an omnibus bill designed to implement the Measure 91 legalization initiative approved by voters last November. In addition to implementing legalization, the new law reduces most marijuana felonies to misdemeanors or lesser felonies with significantly reduced sentences. These changes allow eligible persons with prior marijuana convictions to have their convictions set aside, sentences reduced, and records sealed. Click on the link for more details.

Denver Public Consumption Initiative Rolls Out. Some of the same folks who brought marijuana legalization to Colorado are now rolling out a Denver municipal initiative that would allow for limited public consumption of the weed. City officials today approved the final language for the measure, which would allow social use in businesses that choose to allow it. The initiative needs 4,700 valid voter signatures by September to qualify for the November ballot. Click on the link to read the initiative.

Medical Marijuana

Louisiana Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) Monday signed into law Senate Bill 143, which allows doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical use. The law foresees an extensive regulatory process to select and supervise a state-authorized grower and 10 licensed distributors, but some advocates are concerned that the prescribing language will make the law meaningless. The DEA will pull prescribing privileges from doctors who prescribe marijuana, which is why other states say doctors can recommend it. The bill originally called for recommendations, but the language was changed at the behest of social conservative groups in the state.

Drug Policy

Jim Webb Talks Serious Drug Policy Reform. The former Navy secretary and US senator from Virginia formally announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination today. Earlier this week, speaking before the National Sheriff's Association Conference, Webb suggested he supported decriminalizing drug use. "Just as in mental health issues, I don't think it makes a lot of sense to put someone in jail when they have a disease, when they have an illness, a physical illness," Webb said Tuesday. "There've got to be better ways for us to approach the issues of drug use in America. We didn't make cigarettes illegal," said Webb. "We just got the information out there and educated people about the potential harm."

International

After City Vows Crackdown, Clashes Mar Vancouver's Cannabis Day. The pro-pot event organized by Vancouver's first couple of cannabis, Marc and Jodie Emery, had gone on peacefully for two decades, attracting thousands to downtown Vancouver to celebrate the herb. But this year, the city tried to block the event, and when Cannabis Day rolled around, police were out in force. When they tried to arrest someone for allegedly selling pot to minors, a fracas broke out, with police deploying pepper spray and physical force. Four people ended up being arrested, and angry crowd trailed police down the street, blocking an intersection. "I’ve never seen the cops act so violent," said Jeremiah Vandermeer, a Cannabis Day organizer and editor-in-chief of Cannabis Culture magazine. "I’m shocked and appalled. This is horrifying behavior from the police, I’ve never seen anything like this," Vandermeer said. 

 (This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)



Medical Marijuana Update

It's been quite a week for medical marijuana. Delaware, Massachusetts, and Minnesota saw their first dispensaries open; Hawaii is now set to join the dispensary crowd; CBD cannabis oil became legal in Wyoming, and more.

[image:1 align:left]Delaware

Last Friday, the state's first dispensary opened for business. The First State Compassion Center opened last in a Wilmington industrial park. This is nearly four years after the legislature approved them, but the process was stalled when Gov. Jack Markell (D) backed away in the face of federal threats. Finally, Delaware's patients have a legal place to obtain their medicine.

Hawaii

On Monday, it became clear that the dispensary bill will become law. Gov. David Ige (D) has released a list of bills he intends to veto, and the dispensary bill is not on it. That bill, House Bill 321, will initially allow up to 16 dispensaries, to be operated by eight medical marijuana businesses. It comes 15 years after the state became the first to legalize medical marijuana through the legislative process.

Massachusetts

Last Thursday, the state's first dispensary opened for business. The Alternative Therapies Group has opened the state's first dispensary in Salem. It only took three years once voters approved medical marijuana in 2012.

Minnesota

On Wednesday, medical marijuana became legal in the state, but you can't smoke it. The state's new medical marijuana law went into effect at midnight, with people lining up at the Minnesota Medical Solutions clinic in downtown Minneapolis as it opened its doors as soon as it was legally able. The state's law is very restrictive and highly regulated, and does not allow for use of smokeable marijuana as medicine.

New Jersey

On Monday, the legislature approved a bill allowing sick kids to use CBD cannabis oil in school. The state Senate Monday approved the bill; an identical version had already passed the House. Now it's up to Gov. Christ Christie (R) to sign it.

Pennsylvania

Last Friday, the House Health Committee unanimously approved a medical marijuana bill. The committee voted unanimously to approve Senate Bill 3, which would allow seriously ill Pennsylvanians to access medical marijuana with recommendations from their doctors. The bill will now go to the House Rules Committee for further consideration. The bill had been bottled up by the committee chair, but a vote was allowed after Rep. Nick Miccarelli (R-Ridley Park) filed a discharge petition that would have put it before the House for a floor vote. The bill passed the Senate in May.

On Monday, a "compromise" medical marijuana bill was filed. Rep. Ron Marisco (R-Dauphin) and several cosponsors have filed House Bill 1432, which would allow for the limited use of medical marijuana. The move comes as a measure that passed the Senate, Senate Bill 3, has been stuck in the House.

Wyoming

On Wednesday, CBD cannabis oil became legal in the state. A new law allowing seizure patients to use CBD cannabis oil is now in effect. But the state health department hasn't yet created patient registration cards, leaving patients uncertain about their legal status. The department says it is working on it. The measure was House Bill 32

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]



Relative Addictive Properties of Various Commonly Used Drugs

relative dangers and addictive properties of various drugs
Source: Dr. Jack E. Henningfield, Ph.D. for NIDA. Reported by: Philip J. Hilts, New York Times, Aug. 2, 1994 "Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria You Use."
Image courtesy of Drug War Facts.

Medical Marijuana News Update

Marijuana is medicine for millions of patients around the US. Click here for medical marijuana news. Federal opposition persists in spite of successful medical marijuana programs in several states. States, cities moving to allow medical use by those in need.

For more information on medical marijuana and other drug policy reform issues, check out the Common Sense for Drug Policy. For the facts about medical marijuana, check out Drug War Facts: Medical Marijuana, and this CSDP public service ad on medical cannabis to learn more.


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Help make sure that patients can access medical cannabis safely and legally. Americans for Safe Access maintains this terrific Take Action page on their site to help you decide what actions you can take. Common Sense for Drug Policy also maintains this organizers' toolkit on their website.


Meet The Patients

The US Justice Department continues to stand between patients and their medicine. Click here to meet some of the patients and read their stories, and learn why this issue is so important.


The drug war lies on a foundation of myth. Learn the truth. Get the facts. Drug War Facts is your premier information source, offering uptodate information with full citations to aid in further research. Individual sections as well as full edition available electronically at DrugWarFacts.org. Get the facts about medical marijuana, prisons, drug treatment, syringe exchange, and more.
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Marijuana Is Safe, Effective Medicine

Cannabis, or marijuana as it is often called when referring to the drug form of the plant, is an effective medicine that is relatively safer than many commonly-used pharmaceutical products. In the last several decades US doctors and patients have been denied legal access to this substance. Click here to read this well-researched article about the medical benefits of cannabis and learn more about its uses.


Get Informed!

Get the facts about medical cannabis from Drug War Facts.
NORML's website provides a great deal of useful medical cannabis information. California NORML maintains this list of CA medical cannabis resources. Access hundreds of articles on medical cannabis from the popular press.


The US Justice Department is pressing forward with an aggressive campaign to prosecute medical marijuana offenders in spite of California's medical marijuana law (Prop 215) and in defiance of efforts by local officials to support legal medicine for patients. Targets have included prominent medical marijuana patients groups, caregivers, and individual patients attempting to grow medicine for themselves.... Click here for more.


Top Stories On The Web

US CA: Area Vexed By Mishmash Of Pot Rules

Appeal-Democrat, 05 Jul 2015 - From Yuba County officials' perspective, there is a bit of a domino effect that comes into play when talking about regulating medical marijuana cultivation. The notion is growers were pushed out of Butte County and into Yuba when the former enacted tighter growing regulations and when voters last year

US WA: Legal Pot, Year 1: Neither Best nor Worst Forecasts

Seattle Times, 05 Jul 2015 - WHAT HAPPENED? The revenue bonanza predicted by some for recreational marijuana hasn't materialized in the first year; nor have the horrors imagined by opponents. Before Washington voters could decide on legal weed, finance whizzes in state government had to project its tax bounty.

US WA: Legal Pot Sales Earn Wash. $70m In Taxes

Albuquerque Journal, 05 Jul 2015 - Two New Laws Aim to Give Some Relief to Farmers, Processors and Retailers SEATTLE (AP) - Washington launched its second-in-the-nation legal marijuana market with just a handful of stores selling high-priced pot to long lines of customers. A year later, the state has about 160 shops open, tax revenues have soared past expectations and sales top $1.4 million per day. And, who knows - the industry might even start making some money.

CM BC: Column: Cannabis And Compromises

Pique Newsmagazine, 02 Jul 2015 - In 2012 Colorado voters legalized the sale and consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes. Some ski towns have embraced marijuana, treating it little differently than alcohol. But others have been biding their time. To Vail and other towns, cannabis use by visitors and residents is an undeniable reality. But that doesn't mean they will allow stores selling THC-infused products.

US CA: Wtf, Dfw?

Sacramento News & Review, 02 Jul 2015 - Our Writer Encounters Mavmit, the Department of Fish and Wildlife's Mysterious Anti-Marijuana Task Force After a strange encounter with an agent from the Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation Team, our writer asks: If the Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to catch drug dealers, do they know what they're doing?

US NJ: Column: What Are They Smoking Running For

The Trentonian, 04 Jul 2015 - This week our infamous governor, Chris Christie, made headlines again with the announcement of his presidential campaign, following the release of polls showing an all time low approval rating by NJ residents. He's also ranked 11th, last place, among all the Republican candidates. Among the many crazy policies he has proposed is his stance on weed. He recently stated that he would go after legal cannabis states if elected president. With the public support for cannabis growing, and the number of states with legal recreational and medicinal cannabis growing, does Christie really seriously believe the majority of Americans will support a candidate with prohibition campaign?

CN ON: 'Let's Get Rid Of The Stigma' Of Pot

The Niagara Falls Review, 02 Jul 2015 - Rally held on Canada Day in front of courthouse Rob Thibault is happy to have his life back. He was part of a small rally every year Canada Day to celebrate and educate people about medicinal marijuana.

CN BC: Scuffle Mars Annual Pot Protest

Globe and Mail, 02 Jul 2015 - Organizer Cries Foul Over 'Violent' Treatment by Police, Who Say They Acted After Observing a Marijuana Sale An event that's been held for 19 years without incident - Vancouver's annual Canada Day marijuana protest - erupted in an ugly confrontation between protesters and police, leaving many up in arms over the city's policing of pot smokers.

CN ON: 'Let's Get Rid of the Stigma'

The Tribune, 02 Jul 2015 - Rally Held on Canada Day in Front of Courthouse Rob Thibault is happy to have his life back. He was part of a small rally every year Canada Day to celebrate and educate people about medicinal marijuana.

Medical Marijuana

Courtesy of Drug War Facts, a project of Common Sense for Drug Policy.

  1. Since 1996, ten states have legalized medical marijuana use: AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ME, NV, OR, VT and WA. Eight of the ten did so through the initiative process, Hawaii's law was enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor in 2000, and Vermont's was enacted by the legislature and passed into law without the governor's signature in May 2004.

    Source:  National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), from the web at http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=3391, last accessed Oct. 9, 2004.

  2. The Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on medical marijuana stated, "The accumulated data indicate a potential therapeutic value for cannabinoid drugs, particularly for symptoms such as pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation."

    Source: Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999).

  3. The Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on medical marijuana examined the question whether the medical use of marijuana would lead to an increase of marijuana use in the general population and concluded that, "At this point there are no convincing data to support this concern. The existing data are consistent with the idea that this would not be a problem if the medical use of marijuana were as closely regulated as other medications with abuse potential." The report also noted that, "this question is beyond the issues normally considered for medical uses of drugs, and should not be a factor in evaluating the therapeutic potential of marijuana or cannabinoids."

    Source: Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999).

  4. In the Institute of Medicine's report on medical marijuana, the researchers examined the physiological risks of using marijuana and cautioned, "Marijuana is not a completely benign substance. It is a powerful drug with a variety of effects. However, except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications."

    Source: Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999).

  5. The Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on medical marijuana examined the question of whether marijuana could diminish patients' immune system - an important question when considering marijuana use by AIDS and cancer patients. The report concluded that, "the short-term immunosuppressive effects are not well established but, if they exist, are not likely great enough to preclude a legitimate medical use."

    Source: Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999).

  6. "Conclusions: Smoked and oral cannabinoids did not seem to be unsafe in people with HIV infection with respect to HIV RNA levels, CD4+ and CD8+ cell counts, or protease inhibitor levels over a 21-day treatment."

    Source:  Abrams, Donald I., MD, et al., "Short-Term Effects of Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-1 Infection - A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial," Annals of Internal Medicine, Aug. 19, 2003, Vol. 139, No. 4 (American College of Physicians), p. 258.

  7. "This study provides evidence that short-term use of cannabinoids, either oral or smoked, does not substantially elevate viral load in individuals with HIV infection who are receiving stable antiretroviral regimens containing nelfinavir or indinavir. Upper confidence bounds for all estimated effects of cannabinoids on HIV RNA level from all analyses were no greater than an increase of 0.23 log10 copies/mL compared with placebo. Because this study was randomized and analyses were controlled for all known potential confounders, it is very unlikely that chance imbalance on any known or unknown covariate masked a harmful effect of cannabinoids. Study participants in all groups may have been expected to benefit from the equivalent of directly observed antiretroviral therapy, as well as decreased stress and, for some, improved nutrition over the 25-day inpatient stay."

    Source: Abrams, Donald I., MD, et al., "Short-Term Effects of Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-1 Infection - A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial," Annals of Internal Medicine, Aug. 19, 2003, Vol. 139, No. 4 (American College of Physicians), p. 264.

  8. "Nevertheless, when considering all 15 studies (i.e., those that met both strict and more relaxed criteria) we only noted that regular cannabis users performed worse on memory tests, but that the magnitude of the effect was very small. The small magnitude of effect sizes from observations of chronic users of cannabis suggests that cannabis compounds, if found to have therapeutic value, should have a good margin of safety from a neurocognitive standpoint under the more limited conditions of exposure that would likely obtain in a medical setting."

    Source:  Grant, Igor, et al., "Non-Acute (Residual) Neurocognitive Effects Of Cannabis Use: A Meta-Analytic Study," Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society (Cambridge University Press: July 2003), 9, pp. 687-8.

  9. In spite of the established medical value of marijuana, doctors are presently permitted to prescribe cocaine and morphine - but not marijuana.

    Source: The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, 21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.

  10. Organizations that have endorsed medical access to marijuana include: the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Family Physicians; American Bar Association; American Public Health Association; American Society of Addiction Medicine; AIDS Action Council; British Medical Association; California Academy of Family Physicians; California Legislative Council for Older Americans; California Medical Association; California Nurses Association; California Pharmacists Association; California Society of Addiction Medicine; California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church; Colorado Nurses Association; Consumer Reports Magazine; Kaiser Permanente; Lymphoma Foundation of America; Multiple Sclerosis California Action Network; National Association of Attorneys General; National Association of People with AIDS; National Nurses Society on Addictions; New Mexico Nurses Association; New York State Nurses Association; New England Journal of Medicine; and Virginia Nurses Association.

  11. A few of the editorial boards that have endorsed medical access to marijuana include: Boston Globe; Chicago Tribune; Miami Herald; New York Times; Orange County Register; and USA Today.

  12. Many organizations have favorable positions (e.g., unimpeded research) on medical marijuana. These groups include: The Institute of Medicine, The American Cancer Society; American Medical Association; Australian Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health; California Medical Association; Federation of American Scientists; Florida Medical Association; and the National Academy of Sciences.

  13. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 established five categories, or "schedules," into which all illicit and prescription drugs were placed. Marijuana was placed in Schedule I, which defines the substance as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. To contrast, over 90 published reports and studies have shown marijuana has medical efficacy.

    Source: The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, 21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.; Common Sense for Drug Policy, Compendium of Reports, Research and Articles Demonstrating the Effectiveness of Medical Marijuana, Vol. I & Vol. II (Falls Church, VA: Common Sense for Drug Policy, March 1997).

  14. The U.S. Penal Code states that any person can be imprisoned for up to one year for possession of one marijuana cigarette and imprisoned for up to five years for growing a single marijuana plant.

    Source: The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, 21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.

  15. On September 6, 1988, the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis L. Young, ruled:
    "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known....[T]he provisions of the [Controlled Substances] Act permit and require the transfer of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance."

    Source: US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, "In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition," [Docket #86-22] (September 6, 1988), p. 57.

  16. The DEA's Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young concluded: "In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care."

    Source: US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, "In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition," [Docket #86-22], (September 6, 1988), p. 57.

  17. Between 1978 and 1997, 35 states and the District of Columbia passed legislation recognizing marijuana's medicinal value.
    States include: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, IA, LA, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WV, and WI.

For additional research on medical marijuana, see this excellent analysis of medical marijuana research by Common Sense for Drug Policy President Kevin B. Zeese and this update from Common Sense for Drug Policy, as well as the Drug War Facts section on marijuana.

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