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media :: news - Tue, 16 Dec 2014 04:20:21 PST
Federal Spending Bill Includes Conflicting Provisions On Marijuana
Washington, DC: Language approved by the US House of Representatives on Tuesday restricts the Justice Department's ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states.
The amendment, which states "None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used ... to prevent ... states ... from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana" is included in a $1.1 trillion Congressional appropriations bill. Members of the Senate and the President are expected to sign off on the spending measure, which seeks to fund federal activities through the 2015 fiscal year, imminently.
Members of the House initially approved the provision in May by a vote of 219 to 189.
House lawmakers on Tuesday also gave final approval to a separate provision prohibiting the federal government from funding efforts to interfere with state-sanctioned industrial hemp programs, including those that allow for the plant's cultivation. In February, members of Congress approved language (Section 7606) in the omnibus farm bill authorizing states to sponsor hemp research absent federal reclassification of the plant.
Neither provision explicitly addresses state regulations governing the licensed production and sale of cannabis for recreational purposes, which is now permitted in Colorado and Washington. Voters in Alaska and Oregon approved similar legalization measures in November.
At this time, it remains uncertain what implications the soon-to-be passed federal spending bill will have upon the District of Columbia. Although some 70 percent of DC voters in November approved a municipal initiative (I-71) removing criminal penalties for adults who possess or grow small amounts of cannabis, language included in the federal spending act seeks to limit the law's implementation.
Specifically, a provision introduced by Maryland Republican Andy Harris states that no funds "may be used to enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act ... for recreational purposes." While the Congressional intent of the language is to "prohibit both federal and local funds from being used to implement a referendum legalizing recreational marijuana use in the District," it remains unclear whether the Congressional rider has the authority to halt District officials from depenalizing minor marijuana offenses.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting member of Congress, said that there exists "genuine disagreement" among lawmakers in regard to the extent to which the language interferes with the implementation of Initiative 71.
Poll: 60 Percent Of Americans Say States, Not Feds, Ought To Decide Marijuana Question
Washington, DC: Six out of ten voters believe that states, not the federal government, should authorize and enforce marijuana policy, according to national polling data reported this week by the Washington, DC think-tank Third Way.
When presented with the option, 60 percent of respondents said that state officials ought to possess the authority to "control and decide whether to legalize marijuana." Only 34 percent of those polled said that the federal government ought to enforce marijuana laws.
Similarly, a supermajority of voters (67 percent) agreed, "Congress should pass a bill giving states that have legalized marijuana a safe haven from federal marijuana laws, so long as they have a strong regulatory system."
Overall, 50 percent of voters said that they support legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes while 47 percent opposed the notion. However, among those opposed to legalization, 21 percent endorsed the idea of Congress providing a "safe haven" from federal prohibition in those states that have chosen to legalize the plant's use and sale.
"The fact that state legalization of marijuana violates federal law and creates an untenable policy situation was clear - and the voters we polled responded not with ideological proclamations but by supporting a middle-ground, pragmatic policy which would ease that conflict as the legal landscape continues to quickly shift," representatives for the think-tank stated in a media release. "This means marijuana is not an issue of absolutes for many Americans - rather, it requires a nuanced balancing of values and interests."
Nationwide, voter support for cannabis legalization was highest among Democrats (64 percent), Millennials (61 percent), and non-white/Hispanic voters (61 percent). A majority of women voters and Republicans opposed legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. By contrast, majority support (78 percent) for the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes extended throughout all demographics.
Fifty-four percent of respondents expressed a favorable view of those who used cannabis therapeutically, while only 36 percent said that they possessed a favorable view of social consumers.
When it came to the issue of how to most effectively influence voters' opinions on marijuana law reform, authors reported that neither negative nor positive messaging "moved voters substantially in either direction." Specifically, authors' reported that many respondents who did not already possess strong opinions on the issue failed to sympathize with the idea that the drug war was overly punitive or that the federal government might once again begin cracking down on state-compliant cannabis consumers and providers.
Authors concluded, "As opponents lean heavily into values-based arguments regarding teenage marijuana use and highway safety, more research still needs to be done to identify a compelling value for legalizing recreational marijuana - the way that compassion underlies support for medical marijuana."
Researchers collected opinion data over the course of several months in two separate waves - first with a late summer focus group and then with an October poll of 856 registered voters, conducted online.
Full text of the Third Way report @ https://www.thirdway.org/report/the-marijuana-middle-americans-ponder-legalization
NHTSA Report: Evidence Fails To Support Proposed DUI Impairment Levels For Cannabis
Washington, DC: Available science fails to support the imposition of driving under the influence (DUI) impairment thresholds for cannabis in a manner that is analogous to the per se limits already in place for alcohol, according to the conclusions of a November 2014 publication published by the United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Per se traffic safety laws criminalize those who operate a vehicle with trace or specific levels of a controlled substance in their bodily fluids, even in the absence of any further evidence indicating that the subject was behaviorally impaired.
States the paper's authors, "Every state has enacted a law defining drivers who are at or above .08 grams per deciliter BAC as 'legally impaired,' but there are no similar, commonly accepted impairment levels for other drugs." Nonetheless, despite this lack of consensus, authors acknowledge that "some state laws have established levels for some drugs at which it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle" - a position which they concede is not evidence based.
"The alcohol laws are based on evidence concerning the decreased ability of drivers across the population to function safely at these BACs," they write. "Such evidence is not currently available for concentrations of other drugs."
Eleven states presently impose a zero tolerant per se DUI limit for THC and, in some cases, the presence of its inert metabolite carboxy THC. Five additional states impose per se limits for the presence of either THC or carboxy THC.
NHTSA's recent acknowledgement is far from the first time that the federal traffic safety agency has opined against the imposition of per se limits for THC. In an online factsheet, entitled Drug and Human Performance: Cannabis/Marijuana, the agency concludes: "It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person's THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. ... It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone, and currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH [carboxy THC metabolite] concentrations."
Full text of the NHTSA report, "Understanding the Limitations of Drug Test Information, Reporting, and Testing Practices in Fatal Crashes," appears @ https://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812072.pdf. Additional information on cannabis and psychomotor performance is available from the NORML library @ https://norml.org/library/driving-and-marijuana
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