Sunday, March 18, 2012

Marijuana Legalization for Recreational Use in Colorado and Washington

Why Marijuana should be Legalized?

The debate over the legalization of Cannabis sativa, more commonly known as marijuana, has been one of the most controversial issues ever to occur in the United States. Its use as a medicine has existed for thousands of years in many countries worldwide and is documented as far back as 2700 BC in ancient Chinese writings.

Marijuana should be legalized for multiple reasons:

·         Moral. Prohibition must be weighed against the loss of personal freedom. Countries have a responsibility to respect individual free will and the right of self-determination. No drug eliminates free will. It is possible to quit using any drug. Many banned drugs, and marijuana in particular, are significantly less deleterious to free will than legal alcohol or tobacco. Severe physiological addiction has been demonstrated for tobacco (stronger than cocaine), but no strong physiological addiction has been shown for marijuana.

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·         Medical. The American Medical Association supports legalization of Marijuana, because it is actually not only much less dangerous than alcohol, cigarettes, but even comparing with most over-the-counter medicines or prescriptions. 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 a supervised routine of medical care. Marijuana has so many medical benefits that just mentioning them will require a separate article. For example, it relieves nausea suffered by cancer patients undergoing powerful chemotherapy. It is successfully used by patients who have multiple sclerosis and AIDS. It proves to be effective in the treatment of glaucoma because its use lowers pressure on the eye. It helps in severe cases of clinical depression, and, finally, it gives hope to Alzheimer’s patients, because is the only known substance which can reverse Alzheimer’s (subject for additional development).

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·         Overdose. Smoking extreme amounts of marijuana will do nothing more than put someone to sleep, while drinking excessive amounts of alcohol may kill you.
·         Addiction. Unlike substances, which are legal in the USA, alcohol and tobacco, marijuana has zero addiction and zero tolerance. That means that you have no need to increase the consumed dose to reach the same effect, and that you can stop consuming it any time with no psychological or physiological withdrawal effects.  Gateway effect, used as argument against marijuana legalization (claim that person started on Marijuana, will than inevitable use the heavy drugs), has been confirmed as non-existing, based on multiple researches and statistical data evaluation.
·         Financial. The money the government would make from taxes, which now goes to drug dealers, could be used for more important things, such as serious drugs or the national debt. And the amounts of funds, we are talking about, are quite significant.
·         Quality and Regulations. The regulation of marijuana also allows for many health benefits to those who use it. Today, marijuana is illegal, so there is no regulation of what the drug contains. Unwary buyers of the drug often get more than they bargain for when marijuana is laced with other drugs and other harmful additives. If it were legalized, not only would this harmful practice never occur, but the products themselves could be heavily regulated for health concerns including filtering, and specialized growing and manufacturing. Packages of the legal product would be emblazoned with warnings from the surgeon general describing the health risks involved.
·         Crime Rate. Legal prohibition does not stop consumers from consuming drugs, it does not stop traffickers from producing and selling it. The price of the final product increases to abnormally high values because of the black market status, which together with the powerful effects of drug addiction causes users to commit crimes in order to fund their addiction. Complete decriminalization of marijuana, combined with a system of regulation, as happens with alcohol and prescription drugs will positively affect the amount of related arrests and prosecutions, freeing police and legal systems for dealing with real crimes. By providing legal supplies of currently illegal drugs the price will fall, leading to a collapse in the illegal drug industry, and a reduction in crimes committed by both drug suppliers and users. The reduction in the price should not lead to any substantial growth in drug addiction, due to the inelasticity of demand. Some experts even claim that in a strictly regulated market, drug use may fall overall, by removing the marketing activities of the illegal drug industry. The crime rate in Amsterdam, where marijuana is legal, is lower than many major US cities, including San Francisco, for example.
·         Minors’ Consumption. Illegal Drug dealers will sell to anyone, including children. Merchants who legally sell alcohol and tobacco are not allowed to sell to children. Many high school students report that it is easier to obtain illegal drugs than alcohol and tobacco.

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·         Industrial. An entire industry could be created out of hemp based products. The oils extracted from the seeds could be used for fuels and the hemp fiber, a fiber valued for its strength that it is used to judge the quality of other fibers, could be manufactured into ropes, clothing, or paper.

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Why Marijuana was Criminalized?

I was surprised to learn that the real reasons for the Marijuana criminalization were far from care for the population health. As always, you should trace the MONEY…

Until 1937, consumption and sale of cannabis was legal in most American states. In some areas it could be openly purchased in bulk from grocers or in cigarette form at newsstands, though an increasing number of states had begun to outlaw it. In that year, federal law made possession or transfer of cannabis (without the purchase of a by-then incriminating tax stamp) illegal throughout the United States. This was contrary to the advice of the American Medical Association at the time. Legal opinions of time held that the federal government could not outlaw it entirely. The tax was $100 per pound of hemp, even for clothes or rope. The expense, extremely high for that time, was such that people stopped buying and making it.

The Marijuana Tax Act, which passed in 1937, coincidentally occurred just as the decoricator machine was invented. With this invention, hemp would have been able to take over competing industries almost instantaneously. William Hearst owned enormous acres of forest so his interest in preventing the growth of hemp can be easily explained. Competition from hemp would have easily driven the Hearst paper-manufacturing company out of business and significantly lowered the value of his land. DuPont's involvement in the anti-hemp campaign can also be explained with great ease. At this time, DuPont was patenting a new sulfuric acid process for producing wood-pulp paper. According to the company's own records, wood-pulp products ultimately accounted for more than 80% of all DuPont's railroad car loadings for the 50 years the Marijuana Tax Act was passed. Two years before the prohibitive hemp tax in 1937, DuPont developed nylon which was a substitute for hemp rope. The year after the tax was passed DuPont came out with rayon, which would have been unable to compete with the strength of hemp fiber. DuPont's point man was Harry Anslinger, who was appointed to the FBN by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who was also chairman of the Mellon Bank. Anslinger's relationship to Mellon wasn't just political; he was also married to Mellon's niece. The reasoning behind DuPont, Anslinger, and Hearst was not for any moral or health related issues. They fought to prevent the growth of this new industry so they wouldn't lose money.

New Legislative Initiatives

To date, marijuana legalization initiatives have made it to the ballot in two states, Colorado and Washington.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol collected enough signatures to place Initiative 30 on the November 2012 ballot as Amendment 64: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012. If voters pass the initiative, among other things it will:
  • Legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana,
  • Prohibit sales to anyone under age 21,
  • Designate the Colorado State Department of Revenue as the agency responsible for regulating marijuana commerce.
Amendment 64 will be on the November 6, 2012 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment.

New Approach Washington also collected enough signatures to place Measure 502 on that state’s November ballot. If approved, Measure 502 will also:
  • Legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana,
  • Prohibit sales to anyone under age 21,
  • Designate the Washington State Liquor Control Board as the regulatory agency.
Initiative 502 will appear on the November 6, 2012 statewide ballot in Washington as an Initiative to the Legislature. 

Driving under Influence of Marijuana

While Marijuana has no long-term negative health effects, it still has serious effect on the short-term state of mind. Marijuana causes dizziness, slowed reaction time and drivers are more likely to drift and swerve while they're high. Studies confirmed, that in closed course and driving simulator studies, marijuana's acute effects on psychomotor performance include minor impairments in tracking (eye movement control) and reaction time (break latency), as well as variation in lateral positioning (weaving), headway (drivers under the influence of cannabis tend to follow less closely to the vehicle in front of them), and speed (drivers tend to decrease speed following cannabis inhalation).

A 2001 study evaluating the impact of marijuana intoxication on driving proficiency on city streets among sixteen subjects reported essentially no differences in subjects' driving performance after cannabis administration, concluding: "Performance as rated on the Driving Proficiency Scale did not differ between treatments. It was concluded that the effects of low doses of THC ... on higher-level driving skills as measured in the present study are minimal." Similarly, a 1993 trial funded by the United States National Highway Traffic Association (NTHSA) evaluated subjects' driving performance after cannabis inhalation in high-density urban traffic. Investigators reported, "Marijuana ... did not significantly change mean driving performance."

But these studies refer to the low amount of the Marijuana consumption by the subjects. If it was moderate to high, the vehicle operation should be out of question. Bottom line is clear – if you are stoned, you should not be permitted to drive.

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This statement highlights the challenges law enforcement officers face using old tools to try to fix a new problem. Most convictions for drugged driving now are based on police observations, followed later by a blood test. Authorities envision a legal threshold for pot that would be comparable to the blood-alcohol standard used to determine drunken driving. But unlike alcohol, marijuana stays in the blood long after the high wears off a few hours after use, and there is no quick test to determine someone's level of impairment — not that scientists haven't been working on it. Physicians say that while many tests can show whether someone has recently used pot, it's more difficult to pinpoint impairment at any certain time. Urine and blood tests are better at showing whether someone used the drug in the past — which is why employers and probation officers use them. But determining current impairment is far trickier.

Proposed solutions include setting limits on the amount of the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, THC, that drivers can have in their blood. But THC limits to determine impairment are not widely agreed upon. Two states (Nevada and Ohio) place the standard at 2 nanograms per milliliter of blood. Others have zero tolerance policies. And Colorado and Washington States are debating a threshold of 5 nanograms.


Major Update 11-06-12:

Colorado and Washington State became the first states to legalize the production, sale and possession of recreational marijuana.

But Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) sounded a cautionary note, warning Colorado voters that federal law still prohibits marijuana use.

“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”

In Oregon, the third state attempting to legalize recreational marijuana, the measure is falling short so far of majority support with less than half of precincts reporting.

Sources and Additional Information:

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