- Published on 19 February 2014
- Written by Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason magazine
A study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology last month found that 12.2% of drivers killed by car crashes in six states tested positive for cannabinol, a marijuana metabolite, in 2010, up from 4.2% in 1999. Here is how NBC News translated that finding in the headline over a story posted on Saturday: ”Pot Fuels Surge in Drugged Driving Deaths.” The article, which begins by describing the deaths of a Colorado woman and her infant son in a crash caused by “a driver who admitted he smoked pot that day,” links the purported surge in marijuana-related traffic fatalities to laws allowing medical use of cannabis. “As medical marijuana sales expanded into 20 states,” writes health reporter Bill Briggs, “legal weed was detected in the bodies of dead drivers three times more often during 2010 when compared to those who died behind the wheel in 1999.” There are several problems with reading the trend described by this study as evidence that legalizing medical marijuana causes an increase in fatal car crashes:
- The fact that cannabinol was detected in a driver’s blood does not mean he was under the influence at the time of the crash, let alone that marijuana caused the crash. “It is possible for a driver to test positive for cannabinol in the blood up to 1 week after use,” the researchers note. “Thus, the prevalence of nonalcohol drugs reported in this study should be interpreted as an indicator of drug use, not necessarily a measurement of drug impairment.”
- Only three of the six states included in the study (which were chosen because they routinely do drug testing on drivers killed in crashes) have medical marijuana laws: California, Hawaii, and Rhode Island.
- Traffic fatalities fell by more than 20% nationwide during the study period, even as “medical marijuana sales expanded.” Between enactment of its medical marijuana law in 1996 and 2010, California saw a 31% drop in traffic fatalities. The number of traffic fatalities also fell in Hawaii and Rhode Island after they legalized medical marijuana—by 14% and 21%, respectively.
- A study published last year by the Journal of Law & Economics found that adoption of medical marijuana laws is associated with a decline in traffic fatalities, possibly because people in those states are substituting marijuana for alcohol, which has a more dramatic impact on driving ability. Briggs mentions that study in the 17th paragraph of his article.
- Published on 15 February 2014
- Written by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director,
Anchorage, AK: State election officials have confirmed that a proposed initiative to regulate the production and retail sale of cannabis to adults has obtained the necessary number of signatures from registered voters to appear on 2014 ballot.
The initiative's proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska, gathered more than 45,000 signatures from registered Alaska voters. Last week, the director of the Alaska's Division of Elections confirmed that of those signatures, 31,593 have been verified, thus qualifying the measure for a public vote. The lieutenant governor's office is expected to certify the measure for the 2014 ballot in the coming days, once all of the remaining signatures have been counted and verified.
Once certified, the initiative will be placed on the August 19 primary election ballot, as is required by Alaska election law.
If approved by voters, the measure would legalize the adult possession of up to one ounce of cannabis as well as the cultivation of up to six-plants (three flowering) for personal consumption. The measure would also allow for the establishment of licensed, commercial cannabis production and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products to those over the age of 21. Commercial production and retail sales of cannabis would be subject to taxation, but no taxes would be imposed upon those who choose to engage in non-commercial activities (e.g., growing small quantities of marijuana for personal use and/or engaging in not-for-profit transfers of limited quantities of cannabis.) Public consumption of cannabis would be subject to a civil fine.
The measure neither amends the state's existing medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 1998, nor does it diminish any privacy rights established by the state's Supreme Court in its 1975 ruling Ravin v State.
Under present state law, the possession of marijuana not in one's residence is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 90-days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
According to the results of a statewide Public Policy Polling survey, released last week, 55 percent of registered voters "think (that) marijuana should be legally allowed for recreational use, that stores should be allowed to sell it, and that its sales should be taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol." Only 39 percent of respondents oppose the idea. The survey possesses a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or visit: http://regulatemarijuanainalaska.org.
- Published on 07 February 2014
- Written by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director
Washington, DC: Members of the US House and Senate have approved an amendment in the federal Farm Bill loosening federal restrictions pertaining to the state-authorized cultivation of industrial hemp.
House members approved the language, which had been advocated for in conference committee by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), last week. Members of the Senate followed suit on Tuesday, sending the bill to the President's desk.
President Obama is expected to sign the legislation imminently.
The amendment "authorizes an institution of higher education or state department of agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes if the laws of the State permit its growth and cultivation."
Some ten states have enacted legislation allowing for the state-authorized cultivation of hemp for research or commercial purposes.
Commenting on Congress' passage of the amendment, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said "The approval of this language marks the first change in federal policy regarding hemp cultivation since World War II."
According to a 2013 white paper published by the United States Congressional Research Service, hemp is "genetically different" from cultivated cannabis because it contains virtually no THC. The paper stated, "[A] commercial hemp industry in the United States could provide opportunities as an economically viable alternative crop for some US growers."
United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop.