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PA Marijuana
A Pennsylvania senator has requested that the District Attorney not prosecute any offenders arrested for using medical marijuana.

Democratic Senator, Daylin Leach, wrote in a letter to the District attorneys Association president:  “Given the likelihood that using lifesaving medical cannabis will not be a legal issue in Pennsylvania much longer, I ask that you consider using your prosecutorial discretion.”

A bill was sent to the senate just last month entitled “The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act” that would have outlined the way that Pennsylvania would have governed the medical marijuana market in its state had it passed.  Although there was a lot of support behind it, the bill still managed to fall short of making it to the House of Representatives.

Recent polls have shown that 80% of voters in Pennsylvania support legalizing medical marijuana.  With statistics like this, it would be a surprise to everyone if the District Attorney’s office still chooses to prosecute minor marijuana-related charges.

Leach ended the letter by saying, “I ask that you perform an act of compassion.”  In situations where a state is inevitably going to pass some sort of medical marijuana reform law, or it has already been passed, but yet to take effect, it seems like the only right thing to do would be for law enforcement officers and the courts to use their best judgment and not punish someone for trying to improve their quality of life my using small quantities of marijuana for personal use.

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Marijuana Schedule 1 Drug

Marijuana has long been classified by congress as a Schedule 1 substance, which is the worst possible classification it could receive.  The Schedule 1 classification means that the U.S. government believes marijuana has no medicinal benefits what so ever and it also carries with it a high potential for abuse.  This decision was made in 1970, and it has not yet been modified, but, hopefully, that’s all about to change.

Testimony is being heard this week in San Francisco that could change the federal classification of marijuana in what is being called the case of United States v. Pickard.  The defense has put together a team of qualified expert witnesses that will testify that marijuana does not meet the guidelines to be classified as a schedule 1 substance.

Dr. Carl Hart, the Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University in New York has said that, “It is my considered opinion that including marijuana in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act is counter to all the scientific evidence in a society that uses and values empirical evidence.  After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”

This will be the first time in a very long time in which a federal judge has allowed a hearing which could potentially change the current classification of marijuana in the United States.  With recreational marijuana now legalized in both Colorado and Washington and medical marijuana legalized in about 23 states, it’s nearly impossible for the general public to truly believe that marijuana is as dangerous as other Schedule 1 substances, such as heroin and LSD.

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Europe Marijuana

The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology recently presented their findings in regards to moderate marijuana use by young people and their IQ level at an event in Berlin, Germany.

Over 2,500 participants had their IQ tested at the age of 8 and again at the age of 15.  The results found by the University College of London showed that there was no correlation between marijuana use and lower IQ in the 15 year old subjects.  The study’s author stated that, “In particular, alcohol use was found to be strongly associated with IQ decline.  No other factors were found to be predictive of IQ change.”

The lead author of the study was even quoted in the Independent Business Times as saying, “Our findings suggest cannabis may not have a detrimental effect on cognition, once we account for other related factors particularly cigarette and alcohol use.  This may suggest that previous research findings showed poorer cognitive performance in cannabis users may have resulted from the lifestyle, behavior and personal history typically associated with cannabis use, rather than cannabis use itself.”

There is also the argument of whether kids begin doing poorly in school as a result of marijuana use or for other reasons.  Regardless, it appears that marijuana use doesn’t have any long term negative impacts on brain development in adolescents.

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Marijuana Search

For years police officers have gone through extreme lengths to keep drivers detained while awaiting back up in the form of a German Shepherd with a keen nose for marijuana in hopes of finding illegal drugs. There are countless instances of cops pulling over drivers for any number of reasons only to call for K-9 back up at the very last moment.

Luckily for motorists in the US, the Supreme Court has announced that it will review a case which could potentially change how these “routine” traffic stops play out.

The case comes in the form of an instance in Nebraska where a man was pulled over in 2012 for a minor traffic infraction. The kicker was that it took only 21 minutes for the officer to issue Denny Rodriguez the traffic ticket; however, they proceeded to hold him for an additional 6 minutes while waiting for a K-9 unit to arrive.

Once the dog sniffed Rodriguez’s car, it instantly alerted the officers that there were drugs in the car and after searching the vehicle they found a small amount of methamphetamine.

Rodriguez subsequently plead guilty to the drug charges; however, his attorney later filed an appeal because the search occurred after the officer had already issued the ticket which is a direct violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in regards to this case at the beginning of 2015, with a decision being made no earlier than June of 2015. This case is of extreme importance because whatever the Supreme Court decides will ultimately set the standard for how long police officers will be allowed to detain drivers during basic traffic stops.

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Vanita Gupta Marijuana
President Obama is planning on nominating the current director of the ACLU’s Center for Justice, Vanita Gupta, to head up the civil rights sector of the Department of Justice.

Gupta has received wide praise from both political parties for her work with civil rights. A large amount of her focus has and will remain on the war on drugs and how it effects minorities in America. She stated in 2011 that, “the war on drugs has been a war on communities of color.”

She has also openly defended mandatory minimum sentencing laws in regards to drug charges. She says that, “This country has spent 40 years relentlessly ratcheting up the number of people going to prison and dramatically expanding the time we hold them there. We’ve spent decades criminalizing people with drug dependency, passing extreme sentencing laws, and waging a war on drugs that has not diminished drug use.”

In the early 2000s Gupta spent time defending black men who were wrongfully charged with minor drug offenses in Texas. She has also worked towards ending police incentives to arrest bystanders for minimal amounts of personal-use marijuana.

Most importantly, Gupta strongly supports marijuana decriminalization and legalization at a state level. She was quoted in an op-ed for CNN this year as saying, “states could follow Colorado and Washington by taxing and regulating marijuana and investing saved enforcement dollars in education, substance abuse treatment, and prevention and other health care.”

Marijuana advocates are extremely pleased with the nod to Gupta. A spokesman with the advocacy group, Marijuana Majority, said that, “Hopefully she can convince the next attorney general to initiate the process of rescheduling marijuana under federal law.”

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Ethan Orr Marijuana
A state lawmaker in Arizona is looking into legalizing and taxing marijuana in an attempt to increase revenue for the state.

Ethan Orr, a Republican from Tuscon, took a look at the amount of money Colorado has been pulling in via their recent marijuana legalization, and the numbers are hard to ignore. Revenue projections reveal that Arizona will end this budget year roughly $520 million in the hole, and that number could double by 2016.

Orr went on to say, “Given the massive budget shortfall we’re facing, we need to look at revenue and think this is a logical place we need to look. I think it’s time to have an intelligent conversation about it [legalization].”

The Marijuana Policy Project of Arizona plans to model their initiative on the recreational marijuana program already underway in Colorado which has allowed adults age 21 and older to purchase and possess up to an ounce of marijuana at a regulated amount of retail shops.

The Legislative Council in Colorado suggests that the state will bring in close to $175 million before the fiscal year in 2017 comes to an end.

Orr hopes that he will gain some support from his fellow colleagues, but he is also preparing for the worst. He says that, “If I don’t think I’ll have the votes, I won’t take it forward.”

Marijuana is already legal in Arizona on a medicinal level, and just over 50,000 residents are enrolled in the program.

Orr also worries that there will be opposition not just from law enforcement officials in regards to legalizing marijuana recreationally, but also from owners of medical marijuana dispensaries who have put in a lot of time and money into modeling their businesses around the state’s medical marijuana laws.

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Jamaica Marijuana

The Justice Minster of Jamaica recently announced that legislation is under way to decriminalize marijuana.

The majority of the world views Jamaica as a place where marijuana is widely used and accepted, but that is far from the case. Jamaica has prohibited the use of marijuana for the last 100 years.

Justice Minister, Mark Golding, has suggested to lawmakers that they should make possession of 2 ounces or less a simple ticket before year’s end. He also hopes that marijuana use for religious purposes will be legalized as well. The Rastafarian religion, which views marijuana as a “holy herb,” smokes marijuana in a ceremonial fashion on a regular basis. Golding believes that they should be permitted to partake as they please.

Golding also believes that Jamaican scientists may hold the key to unlocking some of the vast therapeutic benefits of marijuana. Jamaican researchers even came up with a medication made from marijuana to help treat glaucoma over 20 years ago that has received little to no attention from the medical world.

In the midst of the legalization movement, Golding stresses that the government will continue to battle drug trafficking, organized crime, and keeping marijuana out of the hands of the youth.

Golding mentioned that while they do not plan on setting a maximum plant number on marijuana growing operations, the government wants to make sure that all small scale farmers “are not excluded and it does not just become something exclusively for major capital-intensive investors.”

The leader of the Drug Policy Alliance said of Golding’s legislation that it is “both noteworthy in that Jamaica is reforming policies on possession, religious use and medical use at more or less the same time, and politically important to providing leadership in the Caribbean.”

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New York Times Marijuana

The New York Times has endorsed the legalization of recreational marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. in their editorial released on October 5.

This is the second time this year that The New York Times has publicly stated their support for marijuana reform in the United States.

In an excerpt from the Times’ recent editorial, “Yes to Marijuana Ballot Measures: Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia Should Legalize Pot,” they repeatedly touch on the argument that marijuana is still “far less dangerous than alcohol” and that medical marijuana is now available in nearly half the states in the US.

The editorial said in regards to the legalization in Colorado: “Opponents of legalization warn that states are embarking on a risky experiment. But the sky over Colorado has not fallen, and prohibition has proved to be a complete failure. It’s time to bring the marijuana market out into the open and end the injustice of arrests and convictions that have devastated communities.”

In closing, the editorial stated, “Ideally, the federal government would repeal the ban on marijuana, so states could set their own policies without worrying about the possibility of a crackdown on citizens violating federal law. Even though a majority of Americans favor legalization, Congress shows no sign of budging. So it’s better for the states to take the lead than to wait for an epiphany on Capitol Hill that may never come.”

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Marijuana Seniors

A broad study looking into the effectiveness of medical marijuana on patients in California has come back with very positive results; 92% of patients polled said that using marijuana helped to alleviate their symptoms, which ranged from chronic pain stemming from migraines and arthritis to cancer.

The California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System’s data concluded that 5% of adults in California admitted to using medical marijuana in order to treat a serious medical condition.

The study’s author noted that, “The most common reasons for [marijuana] use include medical conditions for which mainstream treatments may not exist, such as for migraines, or may not be effective, including for chronic pain and cancer.”

The author of the study also mentioned: “Our study’s results lend support to the idea that medical marijuana is used equally by many groups of people and is not exclusively used by any one specific group.”

Even with medical marijuana being legal in 23 states in the US there are still a large number of hurdles to overcome. One political hurdle comes from former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who has referred to marijuana as “one of the greatest hoaxes of all time.”

It seems like listening to patients, the people actually living with these chronic ailments every day, are the ones with the most valid input, not the politicians.

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Marjuana and Alcohol

The anti-marijuana legalization movement seems to always come back to one argument which they believe helps their cause: that emergency room visits involving marijuana have risen over 175% since the mid 1990s.

The DEA even went so far as to state that nearly half a million emergency room visits in 2011 were a direct result of marijuana, with cocaine being the only drug responsible for more. But one large problem with this data is that there are roughly 70 times more marijuana users than cocaine users in the US, which would certainly result in more hospital visits for marijuana users. On a “per-user basis” marijuana causes drastically less emergency room visits than cocaine, and even less than alcohol.

Because the Drug Abuse Warning Network does not provide any information on emergency room visits related to alcohol, we will instead have to take a look at those numbers from a National Institutes of Health report which shows all alcohol-related emergency room trips. The report clearly reveals that marijuana is much less likely to end in a hospital visit than heroin, cocaine, meth, prescription drugs or alcohol.

The report goes on to show that for every thousand people who consume alcohol regularly, there are eight more trips to the hospital than when compared with marijuana.

These numbers were taken directly from the federal government’s records and they clearly prove that marijuana is a much safer substance than alcohol and other drugs.

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