House Judiciary Chair Introduces Comprehensive Bill to End Federal Cannabis Prohibition
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act
Washington, DC: Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) on Tuesday introduced comprehensive legislation (The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act) to end federal marijuana criminalization.
The Act removes the marijuana plant from the federal Controlled Substances Act, requires the federal courts to expunge prior marijuana-related convictions, and provides grants to communities which have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war, among other changes.
"The MORE Act is the most comprehensive marijuana reform bill ever introduced in the US Congress and is backed by a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups," said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal, who assisted Chairman Nadler's office in drafting the bill. "It embodies the need to legalize cannabis and restore the rights of those who have suffered under the cruel and failed policy of criminalization."
Added NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri: "By passing the MORE Act, Congress can begin to remedy the pain caused by the criminalization of marijuana. This bill provides a real federal solution by fully descheduling of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and providing relief to those suffering under the collateral consequences of having a marijuana charge on their record by facilitating the process of expungements. The American public is overwhelmingly ready to legalize marijuana, their elected officials in Washington need to finally start representing the will of the people and advance this sensible legislation."
CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN SUPPORT OF THE MORE ACT
Poll: Over Six in Ten Americans Support Legalizing Cannabis
Poughkeepsie, NY: More than six in ten US adults endorse cannabis legalization, according to nationwide polling data compiled by The Marist Institute for Public Opinion, in partnership with National Public Radio and the PBS News Hour.
Sixty-three percent of respondents said that it is a "good idea" to "legalize marijuana nationwide." The issue received greater public support than did numerous other policy questions, including raising the national minimum wage to $15.00 (56 percent support), imposing a 'wealth tax' on those with incomes above $1 million (62 percent), and banning the sale of automatic weapons (57 percent).
"As Americans learn more about the successful legalization of marijuana in state after state, their support for the policy at a national level continues to grow," said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. "Even House Judiciary Committee members on both sides of the political aisle have concluded that it is time to end the federal prohibition of cannabis."
The results are similar to those of a nationwide Axios poll, released in June, which also reported that 63 percent of adults back legalization. Recently compiled polls by Gallup (66 percent), Pew (62 percent), and the Center for American Progress (68 percent), among others, show similar levels of national support.
Study: Liberalized Marijuana Laws Have Little Impact on Use Rates Among Adolescents, Young Adults
New York, NY: Policies that either liberalize or eliminate penalties specific to the possession of cannabis appear to have little if any impact on marijuana use rates by those under the age of 25, according to review data published in the journal BMJ Open.
Investigators from Columbia University in New York and INSERM (The Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale) in Paris, France reviewed 44 separate studies assessing marijuana use patterns among adolescents (ages 12 to 17) and young adults (ages 18 to 25) following either the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana.
Authors reported that both decriminalization and medical cannabis legalization were "not related to significant changes in patterns of use among adolescents and young people." They suggested that adult-use legalization "appears to possibly result in a small increase" among those age groups (standardized mean difference of 0.03), but also cautioned, "Among studies examining the consequences of the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes, only one was characterized by a very low risk of bias and five by a low risk of bias; therefore, the findings will need to be confirmed in future research."
They concluded: "Overall, policies regarding cannabis use and possession seem to have little effect on actual patterns of use among young people, with the possible exception of the legalization of recreational use. ... It will be important to reassess whether this tendency persists over time, varies across subgroups of youths and is comparable across settings, particularly as additional countries introduce changes in cannabis policy."
Several prior evaluations of marijuana use patterns in states post-legalization show little if any change in cannabis use or access by teenagers, but do show an uptick in use among those in their early-twenties. Most recently, data published online in JAMA Pediatrics reported that states with "recreational marijuana laws were associated with an eight percent decrease in the odds of marijuana use and a nine percent decrease in the odds of frequent marijuana use" among teens.
Full text of the study, "Does liberalization of cannabis policy influence levels of use in adolescents and young adults? A systematic review and meta-analysis," appears in BMJ Open.
Study: Adult-Use Marijuana Laws Linked with Decreased Online Interest Among Youth
Syracuse, NY: The enactment of state-specific adult-use marijuana regulatory laws is associated with a decrease in cannabis-specific online searches by young people, according to data pending publication in the journal Marketing Science.
Investigators from Syracuse University in New York and the University of Georgia assessed the relationship between marijuana legalization laws and online engagement concerning cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco over a three-year period.
Authors reported that legalization was associated with an increase in online interest about cannabis among adults, but was related to significantly decreased interest among young people (those ages 19 and younger). "Contrary to widely held public concern after recreational cannabis is legalized, teenagers appear to lose interest, rather than gain interest," the study's lead author stated in a press release. "Policymakers only concerned with an uptick in teen users, may want to rethink their stance."
Researchers also reported a decrease in online engagement and advertising effectiveness for alcohol products following legalization. But they did not identify a similar trend concerning tobacco, which showed an increase. "Hence, cannabis appears to be a substitute to alcohol, but not to tobacco," they wrote in the abstract to the study.
Questions persist about the issue of whether cannabis more typically acts as a substitute to alcohol or as a complement. A 2017 study reported a decline in alcoholic beverage sales in counties with liberalized medical marijuana policies as compared to controls, and a 2014 review paper on the topic acknowledged that cannabis "does appear to be a potential substitute for alcohol" among various segments of the population. By contrast, a 2019 report published by the Distilled Spirits Council indicated no long-term impact on alcohol sales in states that have implemented recreational cannabis sales.
Full text of the study, "Asymmetric effects of recreational cannabis legalization," appears in Market Science.
Richmond, VA: The total number of marijuana-related arrests in 2018 climbed to nearly 29,000 – a total that is three times higher than 1999 totals, according to crime data compiled by the Virginia State Police.
Marijuana-related arrests in Virginia have risen steadily in recent years – increasing an estimated 25 percent since 2016. The overwhelming majority of arrests are for possess-related offenses, and over half of those arrested are under 24 years of age.
"Voter attitudes are no longer reflected in state law," says NORML's Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML. "Marijuana arrests in Virginia have skyrocketed to a 20-year high, and in stark contrast to the year-over-year national trend downward. The Commonwealth now spends over $100M annually enforcing marijuana prohibition, at time when over three quarters of Virginians favor fines not crimes for simple possession and six in ten support legalizing and regulating responsible adult-use."
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring agrees. "While other states are moving to a more sensible approach to cannabis, Virginia is still moving in the wrong direction. It makes absolutely no sense," said Herring. "Marijuana arrests are now at their highest level in at least two decades and maybe ever, meaning that even more Virginians, especially young people and people of color, are being saddled with criminal records that can drastically affect their lives. Now is the time to put a stop to this costly, unfair, and ineffective approach, and to pursue a better, smarter, fairer course."
Under state law, first-time possession offenders face up to 30 days in jail and a criminal record. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to one-year in prison.
Senate legislation introduced earlier this year to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession offenses was rejected by members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee – with all Republicans voting against the measure. House companion legislation was similarly rejected along party lines.
Minnesota: Medical Cannabis Enrollment Associated with "Clinically Meaningful" Reductions in Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms
St. Paul, MN: Post-traumatic stress patients enrolled in Minnesota's medical cannabis access program report fewer symptoms following the initiation of marijuana therapy, according to data compiled by the state Department of Health.
Regulators surveyed over 700 enrollees with PTS who had used medical cannabis for three months. Over 70 percent of respondents showed a "clinically meaningful" reduction on a screening tool designed to measure the severity of their symptoms. Respondents reported that cannabis reduced symptoms of anxiety, stress, and chronic pain while also improving sleep and mood regulation. Patients using medical cannabis also became more open to participating in psychological therapies.
"This study shows [that] many patients with PTSD enrolled in the program are experiencing substantial benefits," said Dr. Tom Arneson, research manager with the Health Department's Office of Medicinal Cannabis.
Eighteen-percent of the total number of patients enrolled in the state's medical cannabis program are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.
Additional information regarding cannabis and PTS is available online.