Why Congress Should Legalize Marijuana

Featuring Jeffrey Miron, The Cato Institute

Federal law still outlaws marijuana, but numerous states have now decriminalized, medicalized, or legalized. In the 2014 midterm elections, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia all passed ballot initiatives that legalize marijuana, following the 2012 legalizations in Colorado and Washington.

What impact have these changes in marijuana law had across the country? Jeffrey Miron, director of economic studies at Cato, will join us to discuss his recently released working paper, “Marijuana Policy in Colorado,” which concludes that “changes in Colorado’s marijuana policy have had minimal impact on marijuana use and the outcomes sometimes associated with use.”

Read more here: http://www.cato.org/multimedia/events/why-congress-should-legalize-marijuana

Texas Legislature Will Consider Reducing Penalties for Marijuana Possession

State Rep. Joe Moody has introduced HB 507, a bill that would remove the threat of TFRMP-logo-on-greyarrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of $100

AUSTIN — Texas State Representative Joe Moody (D–El Paso) has introduced a bill  that would reduce state penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

[Click here to encourage your legislators to support HB 507.]

Representative Moody announced the details of the bill at a news conference hosted by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. He was joined by retired Texas District Court Judge John Delaney and representatives from the coalition including ACLU of Texas, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso)
Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso)

Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Rep. Moody said. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”

The proposed law would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of $100. Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

“The War on Marijuana is a failure and has needlessly ensnared hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system, at tremendous human and financial cost,” says Matthew Simpson, policy strategist for the ACLU of Texas. “It’s time to implement reforms that are fairer, more compassionate, and smarter at reducing drug dependency and improving our health and safety.”

According to the FBI, there were 72,150 arrests or citations for marijuana-related offenses in Texas in 2012, 97% of which were for simple possession. That same year, nearly 90% of all burglaries — including home invasions — and 88% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved.

“Giving a ticket for small amounts of marijuana makes sense,” Judge Delaney said. “The fine can be paid by mail, so police, prosecutors, and our courts will be able to use their limited resources for more important matters.”

More than 60% of Texas voters support limiting the punishment for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a fine of $100 with no possibility of jail time, according to September 2013 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling.

“There is broad support for reducing marijuana possession penalties, and it spans the political spectrum,” said Ann Lee, executive director of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. “The prohibition of marijuana is diametrically opposed to the Republican principles of limited government, individual responsibility, and personal freedom. There is nothing conservative about it.”

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“Most Americans are fed up with laws that saddle people with criminal records just for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Texas simply cannot afford to continue arresting and jailing people for marijuana possession.”

Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy is a broad coalition of organizations, activists, and community leaders dedicated to realizing effective, efficient, and evidence-based marijuana policies in Texas. For more information, visit http://www.TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org.

Texas Legislator Introducing Bill to Reduce Penalties for Marijuana Possession

News Conference TODAY at 11:30 a.m. CT

Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso)
Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso)


State Rep. Joe Moody will discuss the details of the proposal at the event; the will be joined by a former Texas district court judge and representatives from the ACLU, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, and the Marijuana Policy Project

AUSTIN — State Rep. Joe Moody will introduce a bill Monday morning that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession in Texas. He will announce the details of the bill at a news conference hosted by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy at 11:30 a.m. CT in the Texas State Capitol.

Rep. Moody will be joined by retired Texas District Court Judge John Delaney, Matt Simpson of the ACLU of Texas, Ann Lee of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, Heather Fazio of the Marijuana Policy Project, and other representatives of the coalition.

Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Rep. Moody said. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”

New Study: Medical Marijuana May Reduce Risk of Suicide

Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicides by Gender and Age

D. Mark AndersonPhDDaniel I. ReesPhD, and Joseph J. SabiaPhD 

Objectives. We estimated the association between legalizing medical marijuana and suicides.

Methods. We obtained state-level suicide data from the National Vital Statistics System’s Mortality Detail Files for 1990–2007. We used regression analysis to examine the association between medical marijuana legalization and suicides per 100 000 population.

Results. After adjustment for economic conditions, state policies, and state-specific linear time trends, the association between legalizing medical marijuana and suicides was not statistically significant at the .05 level. However, legalization was associated with a 10.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] = −17.1%, −3.7%) and 9.4% (95% CI = −16.1%, −2.4%) reduction in the suicide rate of men aged 20 through 29 years and 30 through 39 years, respectively. Estimates for females were less precise and sensitive to model specification.

Conclusions. Suicides among men aged 20 through 39 years fell after medical marijuana legalization compared with those in states that did not legalize. The negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young men is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana can be used to cope with stressful life events. However, this relationship may be explained by alcohol consumption. The mechanism through which legalizing medical marijuana reduces suicides among young men remains a topic for future study.

Read More: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301612

Houston police chief: drug war failing; feds need to take lead on new pot laws

Houston Police Chief, Charles McClelland
Houston Police Chief, Charles McClelland

The United States has done little to curb the flow of illegal drugs into this country, continues to disproportionately jail young minority men for drug offenses and trapped police officers between conflicting state and federal laws on marijuana legalization, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland says in an in-depth radio interview.

“Most police chiefs understand that when it comes to marijuana use, we cannot (continue) to criminalize such a large population of society that engage in casual marijuana use,” McClelland said during a pre-recorded interview for the Houston-based radio show,  Cultural Baggage.  ”We can’t, you just can’t continue to do that, we understand that.”

Read more here.

Tennessee Congressman: Epic Speech Railing on Marijuana Prohibition

Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) has been in Congress since 2007 and has been one of the staunchest supporters of marijuana in the government. If you Google his name you are bound to stumble upon a slew of recordings from the last year where he unabashedly shames everyone from DEA agents to government officials on the dysfunctional American pot policy and war on drugs. In the following clip from earlier in 2014, the congressman is seen and heard laying it on thick to Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. This is one of the most logical and direct arguments to change the US policy for marijuana that has been presented on a national scale.”

(Photo c/o abcnews.com)

via HighTimes.com: “Must-Hear: Congressman Delivers The Most Epic Pro-Pot Speech Ever

Marijuana Policy and Texas’ 84th Legislative Session

“We are proposing an alternative. Our bill will make the possession of 1 oz. or less a civil penalty, removing the opportunity for arrest, jail time, and criminal record. The fine would cap at $100,” Fazio said, adding the El Paso Representative Joe Moody, a former prosecutor who serves on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, would introduce the bill in approximately two weeks.

According to the Texas Chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) 2014 Voter’s Guide, Moody was one of six House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee members to vote to lower penalties.

Read more here: http://www.sacurrent.com/Blogs/archives/2014/12/02/marijuana-policy-and-texas-84th-legislative-session

A family’s hope: An Austin girl and the case for medical marijuana

Her parents say they had exhausted every medical option currently available. Then, in spring 2013, they tried cannabidiol, or CBD oil, the non-psychoactive element of marijuana.

A family’s hope: An Austin girl and the case for medical marijuana photo
Jane gives her 12-year-old daughter Christy one of six prescription medications needed to treat her epilepsy via a gastrostomy tube (g-tube). Christy has had epilepsy since she was 31/2 years old. After 20 different prescription drugs and surgery failed to relieve her symptoms, the family decided to try medical marijuana, which is illegal in Texas. The CBD oils were also given to Christy via her g-tube. The family says that they were the most effective medication to date. They ran out of their illegal supply in October 2013. (RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

During the next six months, they saw an improvement in Christy. She had fewer seizures and improved cognitively. She was able to answer more questions, and her responses were quicker.

There weren’t the side effects of other drugs, her parents say. Yet this conservative family, whose relationship with God as Christ’s followers informs how they live their lives, worried about getting caught and what that would do to their other children — Alice, 21, Joe, 19, and Lex, 16 — and to Christy. (These are not the real names of the family members and their last name is not being used in this story because medical marijuana use is not legal in Texas.)

Their supply dried up, and they watched Christy slowly return to being less verbal and having more seizures.

A family’s hope: An Austin girl and the case for medical marijuana photo
“Sometimes, (I think) it would have been easy if she had been born already having seizures and never having developed for those three years that she saw how happy and joyful she was,” said Tony about his 12-year-old daughter Christy. (RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

They and other parents like them want medical marijuana to be like any other drug a doctor prescribes. Now, they have found themselves as advocates for a hot-button issue, even though all they really want is to keep their daughter from withdrawing back into herself.

Read more here: http://www.statesman.com/news/lifestyles/a-familys-hope-an-austin-girl-and-the-case-for-med/nh6yx/

ABOUT THIS STORY

For six months, Statesman videographer Reshma Kirpalani has followed this family’s decision to use medical marijuana to treat their daughter’s epilepsy. They tell their story on the agreement of anonymity.

VIDEO: Is Texas Ready for Medical Marijuana?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Baker Institute, Rice University (Houston, Texas)

Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana programs, but they differ widely on such matters as the range of conditions qualifying for treatment, the ease of obtaining permits for use, and the right to grow one’s own medical marijuana.

This discussion of the therapeutic promise and legislative possibility for medical marijuana in Texas will feature an experienced legal grower and dispensary operator from New Mexico, a physician, a Baker Institute drug policy expert, a veteran Texas legislator, and current user and non-user advocates and activists.

SPEAKERS

Terri Davis Carriker
Advocate for Families of Children With Epilepsy

Amy Lou Fawell
President, Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana For Autism (MAMMA)

Vincent Lopez
Director of Patient Outreach, Texas Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
Founder, Patient Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics

William Martin, Ph.D.
Director, Drug Policy Program, Baker Institute

Leslie Grady McAhren
Executive Director and Director of Research, CG Corrigan

The Honorable Elliott Naishtat
Texas State Representative, District 49

Katharine A. Neill, Ph.D.
Alfred C. Glassell III Postdoctoral Fellow in Drug Policy, Baker Institute

Jeronimo Saldana
Coordinator, Movement Building Team, Drug Policy Alliance

Neeraj Shah, M.D.
Physician, Seton Medical Center

Grassroots Action for Legislative Reform