- Published on 25 January 2014
- Written by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
Washington, DC: Consuming cannabis is less harmful to the individual than is drinking alcohol, President Barack Obama acknowledged this week in an interview with The New Yorker.
Responding to questions regarding the public's growing support in favor of legalizing the plant, the President stated: "As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice. ... I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol."
When asked whether he believes cannabis to be less of a threat to public health than booze, the President replied affirmatively, stating that the plant poses fewer harms "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer." However, he added: "It's not something I encourage. ... I think it's a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy."
According to a 2009 review published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal, the health-related costs per user are eight times higher for drinkers of alcoholic beverages than they are for those who use cannabis, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers.
The President also acknowledged that African Americans and Latinos comprise a disproportionate number of marijuana arrests compared to Caucasians despite engaging in similar rates of cannabis consumption. "Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," he said. "And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties."
According to a June 2013 ACLU study, African Americans nationwide are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Finally, the President acknowledged the significance of recently imposed changes in Colorado and Washington state laws allowing for the regulation of cannabis. Though he described the ongoing implementation of the new laws as a "challenge," he added: "[I]t's important for [these state reforms] to go forward because it's important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished. ... [W]e should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time."
In September, Deputy Attorney General James Cole testified to members of the United States Senate that the Obama administration "will not ... seek to preempt state ballot initiatives" regulating the plant's production and retail sale unless such activities specifically undermine eight explicit federal law enforcement priorities.
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano suggests this new position by the President is significant. He said: "While it is ultimately the responsibility of Congress to address America's longstanding and failed drug policies, the President can use the bully pulpit to set the tone and move the conversation in the proper direction. Until recently, he has largely failed to do so. But his recent public statements regarding the relative safety of cannabis compared to alcohol and his acknowledgement that criminalization disproportionately impacts minorities and the poor may indicate that the President and his Party are finally willing to utilize their public platform and political capital to fight for actual changes in law, rather than simply acknowledge changes in attitude."
Under federal law, marijuana is presently classified to be equally as dangerous as heroin.
- Published on 19 December 2013
- Written by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
Is teen pot use really associated with long-lasting, adverse effects on memory and an increased risk of schizophrenia? The conventional media says so. But a closer examination of the scientific literature reveals that it is the mainstream media, not cannabis consumers, who are suffering from memory loss.
Marijuana Use and Cognition
Claims that marijuana consumption causes permanent damage to the brain and cognitive skills are hardly new. In fact, such claims have remained pervasive since the very inception of cannabis prohibition. Yet there exists little scientific data to support these persistent allegations
For example, a comprehensive review published in 2003 in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society assessed effects of cannabis on neurocognitive performance in nearly a dozen published studies, involving over 1,000 test subjects. Authors reported: “In conclusion, our meta-analysis of studies that have attempted to address the question of longer term neurocognitive disturbance in moderate and heavy cannabis users has failed to demonstrate a substantial, systematic, and detrimental effect of cannabis use on neuropsychological performance. It was surprising to find such few and small effects given that most of the potential biases inherent in our analyses actually increased the likelihood of finding a cannabis effect.”
- Published on 23 November 2013
- Written by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
Washington, DC: Last Friday, Colorado Congressman Jared Polis (D) introduced HR 3483, Protecting Individual Liberties and States' Rights Act. The legislation was introduced in the wake of a federal memo to licensed gun dealers circulated nationwide last year warning them not to sell guns or ammunition to customers who legally use medical cannabis with their physician's recommendation, many of whom pay annual fees to be in state-run registries and receive state-issued identification cards.
The Federal Identification Card (FID), which allows citizens to purchase guns and ammunition from retail outlets, states that FID card holders can't, among other restrictions, use schedule I controlled substances, a legal classification created by the federal government in 1970 that cannabis was contentiously placed in.
HR 3483 seeks to remedy the discrimination of lawful, state-compliant medical cannabis patients of their inability to exercise their Second Amendment right to possess firearms for personal protection, sport and hunting.
NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre commented, "In a country where other medical patients don't lose their Second Amendment rights--even those that are prescribed potent narcotics--what reason can justify law-abiding medical patients who legally use cannabis as a therapeutic from being denied a sacredly held constitutional right?"