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Poll: Florida’s Medical Marijuana Amendment in Danger

By: Wednesday September 17, 2014 7:14 am

Las Vegas mogul Sheldon Adelson donated $2.5 million to the No campaign

Efforts to make Florida the first southern state to adopt medical marijuana are in danger of possibly coming up short this November. A new SurveyUSA/WFLA pollfound only 56 percent of voters at this moment plan to support Amendment 2, Florida’s Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative while 31 percent plan to vote against it. The remaining 13 percent are still undecided

In most states that would be enough, but Florida’s unusual ballot rules require any amendment to receive at least 60 percent of the vote to be adopted. That means Amendment 2 is right at the cusp of victory or defeat.

If the undecided voters break evenly the measure would end up with roughly 62 percent of the vote, just barely clearing the threshold, but when it comes to ballot measures people are who undecided at the end tend to break towards the “No” camp. People often vote to maintain the status quo if they are unsure.

This is just the latest poll to show the election is extremely close. While a clear majority of Florida voters think medical marijuana should be legal, the size of the majority might barely not be big enough. This election could be a real nail biter.

After Legalization Votes, Marijuana Use Down Slightly Among Teens

By: Tuesday September 16, 2014 11:11 am

One of the most oft-cited arguments by prohibitionists against marijuana legalization ballot initiatives in 2012 was that it will send the “wrong” message to teenagers and more would start using marijuana as a result. Yet the year after voters approved legalization in Colorado and Washington State, national teen marijuana use rates around the country were actually down slightly, according National Survey on Drug Use and Health. From the survey’s findings regarding 12-17 year olds:

Figure 2.7

The rate of current marijuana use among youths aged 12 to 17 in 2013 (7.1 percent) was similar to the 2012 rate (7.2 percent) and the rates in 2004 to 2010 (ranging from 6.7 to 7.6 percent); however, it was lower than the rates in 2002, 2003, and 2011 (ranging from 7.9 to 8.2 percent). [...]

Among all youths aged 12 to 17, an estimated 4.8 percent had used marijuana for the first time within the past year in 2013, which was similar to the rate in 2012 (5.0 percent). As a percentage of those aged 12 to 17 who had not used marijuana prior to the past year (i.e., those at risk for initiation), the youth marijuana initiation rate in 2013 (5.5 percent) was similar to the rate in 2012 (5.7 percent).

We saw the same trend at the local level in Colorado. The Colorado Department of Public Health found ”Thirty-day marijuana use [among Colorado high school students] fell from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013, and lifetime use declined from 39 percent to 37 percent during the same two years.”

Basically, the prohibitionists’ argument boils down to the premise that young people are so incredibly stupid that there is no way to tell them they shouldn’t do something unless we spend billions locking people in jail for doing it. Of course that ignores the fact that we have very successfully messaged to young people that tobacco use is a bad idea for them without making it illegal for adults. Prohibition is not the only or even the best tool for informing people about what is and is not a smart choice.

Since voters in two states legalized and regulated marijuana for adults, the use rate among teens is effectively unchanged. The electorate’s support for marijuana reform didn’t cause a spike in youth consumption.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

Washington Post Makes Massive Factual Mistake in Editorial Against Marijuana Legalization

By: Monday September 15, 2014 7:10 am

Contra the Washington Post, 18 months is not less than a year

Despite overwhelming support for marijuana legalization among the residents of Washington D.C. the Washington Post’s editorial board has come out against Initiative 71, a legalization measure on the ballot this November. What is particularly disappointing about their piece is they got the basic facts wrong, which completely undermines their main argument. From the editorial:

It’s not been a year since Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana use and, as the Smart Approaches to Marijuana has catalogued, there have been negative consequences, including increased instances of impaired driving and increased use by youth. With marijuana already decriminalized, there’s no reason for the District to rush the next step; why not at least give Colorado a bit more time to provide lessons?

(emphasis mine)

This first statement is completely wrong. Recreational marijuana use for adults was legalized on December 10th, 2012 almost two years ago. While the state didn’t allow the first licensed adult use marijuana retail stores to open until January 2014, possession of up to an ounce and home cultivation of up to six plants has been legal for adults since late 2012. That is especially important in this debate because Initiative 71 would only legalize limited personal possesion and home growing by adults, so Colorado in 2013 provides a perfect test case.

In addition the “proof” that marijuana legalization has gone badly comes from citing an anti-marijuana legalization group without pointing to any data or studies. The best public data we have from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment actually found marijuana use among teens dropped after the state legalized marijuana, but the Washington Post might have missed this because they didn’t realize marijuana was actually legalized in late 2012 not in 2014.

The editorial board even ignored the Washington Post article by Radley Balko which highlighted the flaws in Project SAM’s argument about impaired driving, with data showing traffic deaths are down since the retail shops opened.

It is hard to take them seriously when their argument is ‘there hasn’t been enough time to judge,’ yet they don’t even know how much time has actually passed.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

Photo by Mike Herbst under Creative Commons license

Congressional Gridlock Indirectly Helps Legalization Efforts in D.C.

By: Wednesday September 10, 2014 9:49 am

The historic level of Congressional dysfunction this year has indirectly delivered a victory for marijuana legalization efforts in the District of Columbia.

A Congressional effort to prevent D.C. from moving forward with marijuana reform was effectively killed for the time being Tuesday night when Congressional Republicans introduced a “clean” continuing resolution to keep the government funded at current levels through December 11th.

Normally, the federal government would be funded via appropriations bills. Congress often includes riders in these appropriations bills to set new policy. For example, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act approved by the House contained an amendment from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) which would have prevented D.C. from spending money to advance local marijuana reform.

Yet with a divided Congress unable to agree on all pending appropriations measures they decided to basically drop them and instead do the bare minimum. A clean CR simply keeps funding basically the same for a short period without controversial policy riders. This lets Congress avoids a messy budget fight before the election so everyone can get back to their district to campaign. As a result the Harris amendment is dead for the moment.

This means that the November vote on Initiative 71, which would legalization marijuana possession for adults in the District, will go forward without the cloud of preemptive congressional interference hanging over it.

It is still possible that in the future Congressional Republicans will again try to interfere with D.C.’s local marijuana laws, but this clean CR means that at least won’t happen until after the election. By that point voters in D.C. are expected to have overwhelmingly approved the marijuana legalization ballot measure. It should then be politically more difficult for Congress to vote to directly override the clear will of the electorate.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

International Statesmen Call for Experimenting with Drug Legalization

By: Tuesday September 9, 2014 8:48 am

On Tuesday a broad coalition of international statesmen including former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and former Presidents from Mexico, Switzerland, Brazil, Portugal, Chile and Poland called for the world to move towards a new approach on drug policy. Their vision would end the criminalization of drug use and instead focus on health, harm reduction, and the legal regulation of drugs. The plan is laid out in a new report Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work from the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

“Ultimately, the global drug control regime must be reformed to permit legal regulation,” said former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso. “Let’s start by treating drug addiction as a health issue – rather than as a crime – and by reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives. But let’s also allow and encourage countries to carefully test models of responsible legal regulation as a means to undermine the power of organized crime, which thrives on illicit drug trafficking.”

The top recommendations of the report are to put health and safety first, to stop criminalizing people for drug use, focus on reducing the power of criminal organizations, find alternatives to incarceration for low-level parts of the drug market, and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs.

This is part of a movement towards drug policy reform which has been growing especially in the Americas as Latin American nations debate new approaches to reduce cartel violence.

The coalition will be meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson this afternoon to discuss their findings.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

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