Tuesday, May 31, 2016

'Cannabis Damages DNA' Claim Debunked By Leading Researcher Ethan Russo

by David Downs
Tue, May 31, 2016 at 9:16 AM

 Critics are calling "reefer madness" on a new study from Australia claiming smoking pot will give your kids cancer.

Cannabis has been shown in cell, animal and limited human trials to prevent, halt or kill cancer, researchers note. Australia is getting world-famous for their reefer-madness research, this time for equating pot to the notorious birth defect-causing chemical thalidomide.
  • Mutation Research
On Tuesday, Associate Professor Stuart Reece and Professor Gary Hulse at The University of Western Australia released a paper called “Chromothripsis and epigenomics complete causality criteria for cannabis- and addiction-connected carcinogenicity, congenital toxicity and heritable genotoxicity”, published July 2016 in the journal "Mutation Research".

A press release from the university paper ran the chilling conclusion that pot smokers were damaging their DNA, and effectively giving their kids cancer. “The worst cancers are reported in the first few years of  life in children exposed in utero to cannabis effects,” one researcher said.

But the paper's authors did no actual tests. Rather, they reviewed studies to “close the logical loop” that pot causes gene replication damage that is passed on to kids.

So the Express contacted Ethan Russo, founding editor of Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, widely considered to be one of the leading cannabinoid researchers on the planet who actually studies cannabinoids and he sent us this reply.  He stated:
“This report is based on a foundation of falsehoods. Cannabis is not mutagenic (productive of mutations in DNA), nor is it teratogenic (productive of birth defects) or carcinogenic (causative of cancer). Countless animal studies and human epidemiological studies support its relative safety in this regard.”
The paper’s abstract makes no mention of how the research reviewed was controlled for byproducts of smoking or other drugs, which are carcinogenic.

Russo states: “Additionally, there is a world of difference between drug abuse, and the judicious use of low doses of cannabinoids for therapeutic application in serious diseases.”

The paper’s abstract lacks basic information as to how much cannabis' relative carcinogenicity, congenital toxicity and heritable genotoxicity
could be a problem. It’s unclear if we should be singling out cannabis relative to other vectors. Even the research authors note other drugs damage DNA and cause the “acceleration of the aging process … including alcohol, tobacco, … stimulants and opioids.”

Other sources of epigenetic damage include life stressors like prohibition-related violence and incarceration. Sunburns and oxygen also damage DNA.

“Exposure to pharmaceutical and toxic chemicals, diet, stress, exercise, and other environmental factors are capable of eliciting positive or negative epigenetic modifications with lasting effects on development, metabolism and health. These can impact the body so profoundly as to permanently alter the epigenetic profile of an individual,” other reviews have noted.

Russo concludes: “It is high time to move beyond reefer madness and acknowledge the utility and safety of cannabis-based for the advancement of the public health.”

Friday, May 27, 2016

California Pot Legalization Debated During Historic Joint Session

by David Downs
Fri, May 27, 2016 at 1:05 PM

Not a single California legislator stated outright opposition to California’s pending marijuana-legalization initiative during historic hearings on the Adult Use of Marijuana Act in Sacramento this past Tuesday.

Rather, East Bay Assemblyman Bill Quirk stated his "strong support" for it, and Assemblyman Kenneth Gipson from Los Angeles predicted it "is going to be the law of the land," and urged his colleagues to plan its implementation.
The California statehouse in Sacramento, site of the historic joint session on AUMA Tuesday.
  • The California statehouse in Sacramento, site of the historic joint session on AUMA Tuesday.
The unique "joint session" was a new requirement for the initiative process, and the hearing for five legislative committees offered a platform for initiative proponents and opponents to road test their arguments. The testimony was a powerful indicator of just how far the Golden State has evolved on cannabis.

A nonpartisan summary by Aaron Edwards of the Legislative Analyst's Office finds AUMA would generate enforcement savings of $100 million and several hundred million to one billion dollars in tax revenues.  

California Medical Association Senior Vice President Janus Norman called AUMA comprehensive, well-crafted, and research-focused.  According to the event’s livestream, and notes taken by Dale Gieringer, Director of California NORML, Norman said it was the "beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in California," and "just a first step.”

Drug Policy Alliance lobbyist Glenn Backes said it is a myth that ‘no one goes to jail for marijuana’. California has over 13,000 felony arrests for marijuana per year, and most could be eliminated or reduced to misdemeanors under AUMA.  

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition leader and former narcotics officer Diane Goldstein testified that marijuana prohibition did not work.

Legalization foe and California Police Officers Association representative Shaun Rundle said marijuana is associated with murder, and pot enforcement already costs police millions each year.

California Police Chiefs Association Legislative Committee Chair Lauren Michaels wished AUMA had a ban on indoor cultivation, more detailed licensing, smaller farm size limits, and a firewall layer of independent distributors with no other stake in the industry.

Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana leader Carla Lowe warned AUMA would create a thriving illegal home grow market.

Self-appointed "Bishop" Ron Allen of the International Faith Based Coalition called for ongoing prohibition to protect children. But California NAACP head Alice Huffman said AUMA would strike a blow against "Jim Crow justice" in America,  and said the law’s drafters addressed every single one of the NAACP’s concerns.

Veteran police lobbyist John Lovell said AUMA would mandate licensing of drug trafficking bosses, but proponents said that’s not true. Regulators have wide discretion to reject license applications.

Some lawmakers worried pot shops would become public nuisances like liquor stores. But activists noted that cities can ban pot shops under AUMA, while they cannot ban liquor stores.

California Hospital Association legislative advocate Connie Delgado said taxing and regulating cannabis might increase marijuana-related emergency room visits, as was reported in Colorado, and cause more infants to be exposed to marijuana.

Lawmakers also worried about the potential for more marijuana DUIs, or the potential for regulatory capture by a legal cannabis industry.

California Growers Association president President Hezekiah Allen said his organization members are split on AUMA. “No consensus exists,” he said.

A new poll released this week by PPIC finds that 60 percent of likely California voters generally support legalizing marijuana. Up from 56 percent last year.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Study Says Pot Prohibitionists Lying About 'Protecting Kids'

by David Downs
Thu, May 26, 2016 at 10:58 AM

Critics of taxing and regulating cannabis for adults like to say that ending prohibition is too big a risk to the nation’s youth. But scientific research continues to show that argument to be fallacious. Teen abuse and use of pot is falling in America amid record support for medical and recreational use laws.

The latest study released this week comes from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, which looked at 12 years of drug use data on kids ages 12 to 17. As medical cannabis and recreational laws spread, problem pot use by teens dropped 24 percent from 2002 to 2013. Kids also reported 10 percent fewer, not more, instances of pot use in 2012, than in 2002.
Handcuffing kids for pot is not a valid public health approach, critics say. - VIA FLICKR STEVEN DEPOLO
  • via flickr Steven Depolo
  • Handcuffing kids for pot is not a valid public health approach, critics say.

Opponents of pot law reform in California have said this Spring that they think legalization would increase risk to kids. Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, a police lobby-backed Democratic senator from Stockton issued a 'what about the kids’ statement' this May, reports show.

Anti-pot activist and rehab clinic businessman Roger Morgan stated Sunday that:

“It is a lie to say this will protect children. Proponents of this act want to tax and regulate marijuana and teach our kids not to use it. Absurd! Expanding the availability and access will increase adolescent use as it has in Colorado and Washington. … In the interest of public safety, environmental protection and the future for our children, defeating full legalization isn’t adequate. We need to roll back what exists …”

But those opponents really care about their own paychecks, reporter Lee Fang from The Intercept writes.

The biggest funders of opposition to changing California cannabis laws are the prison guard managers lobby, and the police chiefs lobby — two groups who benefit from the 700,000 Americans arrested each year for pot crimes. In 2014, police seized more property from U.S. citizens using forfeiture laws than the nation's burglars collectively stole.

“The membership of the CCSO opposes the full-blown legalization of marijuana,” Paul Curry, a lobbyist for the California Correctional Supervisor’s Association, told The Intercept. Curry said prison guard supervisors do not want to see a society that encourages pot use and said many of his members are grandparents who are concerned about their children.
Contrary to the ‘sky is falling’ rhetoric from prohibitionists, researchers have found that drops in teen pot use and abuse “were accompanied by reductions in behavioral problems, including fighting, property crimes and selling drugs. The researchers found that the two trends are connected. As kids became less likely to engage in problem behaviors, they also became less likely to have problems with marijuana,” researchers stated.

Treating kids with psychiatric issues like anxiety, and depression — not expelling them from school for related pot use — could be improving American teens’ prospects, researchers found.

“We were surprised to see substantial declines in marijuana use and abuse," he said. "We don't know how legalization is affecting young marijuana users, but it could be that many kids with behavioral problems are more likely to get treatment earlier in childhood, making them less likely to turn to pot during adolescence. But whatever is happening with these behavioral issues, it seems to be outweighing any effects of marijuana decriminalization."

"Other research shows that psychiatric disorders earlier in childhood are strong predictors of marijuana use later on," Grucza said. "So it's likely that if these disruptive behaviors are recognized earlier in life, we may be able to deliver therapies that will help prevent marijuana problems — and possibly problems with alcohol and other drugs, too."

The study was published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. It used federal teen drug use survey data, and grant money from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the American Medical Association both support cannabis decriminalization to spare children and parents the public health harms of the pot prohibition — which include the now-routine killing and maiming of children during police raids.

This year, the California Medical Association has endorsed the California legalization measure the Adult Use of Marijuana Act — on similar public health grounds. The CMA states:
[AUMA] includes safeguards for children, workers, local governments and small businesses and strict anti-monopoly provisions and the toughest warning label and marketing-to-kids laws in the nation. It provides hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding – the highest level ever by any state in America – for youth drug prevention, education and treatment programs.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Oakland Marijuana Dispensary Harborside Makes CBS Morning News

by David Downs
Thu, May 19, 2016 at 8:38 AM

The massive Oakland medical-cannabis dispensary Harborside Health Center is slated to appear this morning on the national show CBS This Morning, which reaches several million viewers across the broadcast network.
Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center isn't intimidated by the crackdown. - CRAIG MERRILL/FILE PHOTO
  • Craig Merrill/file photo
  • Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center isn't intimidated by the crackdown.
Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo has been working for months with CBS on a report about senior cannabis use, the dispensary writes us. The segment will air locally on KPIX Channel 5 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The issue of senior access and usage of medical cannabis is blooming nationwide, now that there’s 36 states with a medical marijuana or cannabidiol law. Federal prosecutors are under orders to ignore state-legal medical pot activity.

Medical-marijuana legalization is allowing for more advanced modalities that avoid raw, smoked psychoactive flowers in favor of non-smoked, less euphoric and more accessible forms. Seniors are using infused hand rubs for arthritis, as well tinctures for pain and insomnia, and infused lozenges for conditions like Alzheimer’s Dementia.

Harborside has worked on senior outreach for years, and founder Stephen DeAngelo believes seniors hold the key to ending the war on cannabis. They have a ton of health problems that cannabis helps manage, they’re one of the few holdout opposition groups, and they vote.

For head of senior outreach for Harborside, Sue Taylor, won a permit from Berkeley this May to open the East Bay’s first dispensary to cater to seniors.

Over in Florida, seniors will decide the fate of medical cannabis legalization in the Fall, and support is at a record-high 80 percent, polls show.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Oakland Green Lights Drug War Reparations, Passes Marijuana Equity Program

by David Downs
Tue, May 17, 2016 at 11:22 PM

Oaklanders who’ve been jailed for pot in the last ten years will go to the front of the line for legal weed permits under a revolutionary new program enacted by the City Council Tuesday night.

The first-in-the-nation idea promises to make international headlines, and redefine the terms of reparations in post-Drug War America.  

Game Changer: Councilmember Desley Brooks
  • Game Changer: Councilmember Desley Brooks
Council voted unanimously to pass the historic “Equity Permit Program,” which bucks national trends in legal pot policy. Normally, convicted drug felons are barred from entering the legal cannabis trade. Instead, Oakland will reward them.

The recently incarcerated, as well as residents of a half-dozen police beats in East Oakland, will be uniquely eligible for medical cannabis industry permits under the new Program. The plan will help reward neighborhoods and people hardest hit by the drug war, councilmembers said.

Recent reports show that minorities are both: under-represented among legal canna-business owners; and over-represented in the criminal justice system for pot.

Critics say handing out every other new permit to a tiny group of people will create a licensing bottleneck that will cripple Oakland's vast expansion in licensed medical pot nurseries, farms, kitchens, stores, and testing labs. The Program was opposed by the majority of the city’s own Cannabis Regulatory Commission, who worked on the expansion for 18 months. Councilmember Desley Brooks added the permit program as a last-minute amendment, which passed unanimously at 1 a.m. one week ago. 

Councilwoman Brooks said Tuesday night that criticism of the Equity Permit Program amounted to “people wanting to protect their self-interest."

One member of the public tweeted that was  “a laughable quote when you see the districts she hand-picked [and] excluded West Oakland.”

Many of the Program’s winners reside in Brooks’ district. 

Female minority canna-business lobby Supernova Women requested more police beats be added to the list.

The amendments passed after generally supportive public comment, with council consensus to keep tweaking the scope of Equity Program, through fast-track amendments.

Oakland Poised to Green Light Controversial New Pot Rules Tonight

by David Downs
Tue, May 17, 2016 at 9:41 AM

Oakland City Council is rapidly moving to enact new medical-marijuana rules that some say may cripple the huge, multi-million dollar local pot economy and make it among the least competitive in the state.

Tonight, leaders are set to vote on the second reading of updates to local pot ordinances. The new rules passed unanimously just a week ago, in the literal dead of night, with some major, last-minute and controversial amendments.

Chief among them: a plan to give out every other new local pot industry permit to Oaklanders who have a recent weed conviction, or who have lived for the last two years in one of six Oakland Police Department Beats. They are are OPD Beats 26Y, 30X, 30Y, 31Z, 32Y, and 34X.

Here's a Map of who would get an advantage:
This map of Oakland police beats would help pick winners in the Oakland pot trade. - OPD
  • OPD
  • This map of Oakland police beats would help pick winners in the Oakland pot trade.

The “Equity Permit Program” amendments came from Councilmember Desley Brooks, who has stated publicly that she wants a form of economic reparations for people and neighborhoods affected by the war on marijuana. But Oakland has made pot enforcement its lowest priority under Measure Z since 2004. Many of the “Equity” police beats reside in her council district, and none of them include other neighborhoods affected by the War on Drugs, such as West Oakland.

A large coalition of Oakland pot interests has been lobbying to revise the amendment, on the grounds that it’s fundamentally unfair to others affected by the drug war and it will cripple the industry, as well as foment corruption. To gain an unfair advantage, enterprising pot moguls could simply buy residents in the "equity" police beats, or convicted pot dealers, and install them as puppet heads of companies.

Brooks has not responded to request for comment from the East Bay Express, or the San Francisco Chronicle, which followed our reporting on the story Monday.

Oakland city staffer Joe DeVries defended Oakland in the Chronicle Monday, saying it’s too early to predict that the equity system will fail.

Critics of the Brooks Amendment include the majority of the city’s own Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission, many industry members including the leading Dark Heart Nursery, and female minority pot business group like Supernova women.

Earmarking every other permit for a select group of city residents won’t solve the equity problem, argued Alex Zavell, a regulatory analyst in the law firm of Robert Raich. The Equity Permit Program will create second-class citizens in the pot trade — owners who cannot raise capital in exchange for majority equity, and who can’t sell their business.

It also disadvantages Oakland residents who’ve succeeded in moving out of some of the city's roughest neighborhoods, said OCRC member Matt Hummel.

Lots of black women and other disadvantaged minorities would be further excluded by the Brooks Amendment, notes Supernova Women, a support group for female minority pot entrepreneurs.

The Equity Permit Program is speeding through City Hall, however. It was voted on before significant public review just one week ago. Tonight, it comes up at the end of the council’s agenda, where it could be voted on again well after midnight.

The cannabis industry is set to hit $40 billion by 2020, and as legalization spreads, progressives have gone from supporting pot law reforms to criticizing who benefits. Wealthy white males are the best positioned to capitalize on legal cannabis — which can require large amounts of money for real estate and other startup costs. New entrants cannot simply walk into a bank and get a loan for a pot business.

In related news, the Berkeley City Council awarded the city’s fourth permit last week to a Black female senior citizen — Sue Taylor. Taylor and her team including the award-winning growers at C.R.A.F.T. and a leading permit firm 4Front Advisors beat out a dozen challengers to win the permit in an open bidding process that ranked applicants based on points earned for various criteria, followed by a final Council vote.

California cities and counties have entered uncharted waters when it comes to doling out essentially golden tickets for pot clubs — a process that has resulted in corruption indictments at the local and state level. Some cities like Long Beach have awarded permits via lottery, others like San Francisco have used the planning permit review and approval process.

Last year, leading union organizer and Oakland resident Dan Rush pled not guilty in federal court on corruption-related charges involving the  pot permit awards process in Oakland and Nevada.

Here’s the Text of the Brooks Amendment, from tonight's City Council Agenda:

“Priority shall be given to dispensary applications owned and operated by Oakland residents, in particular applicants owned and operated by Oakland residents in census tracts identified by the City Administrator as having high unemployment rates.

“Fifty percent (50%) of all permits issued under OMC 5.80 shall be issued to an Oakland resident who meets the Dispensary Equity Permit Program requirements set forth in Section 5.80.050. At no time shall the number of new General Application permits exceed the number of Dispensary Equity Permits issued by the City Administrator.

CRITERIA. Applicant must have at least one member who meets all of the following criteria:

1. Be an Oakland resident who,

2. Resides for at least two years prior to the date of application in Oakland Police Department Beats 26Y, 30X, 30Y, 31Z, 32Y, and 34X (Oakland Police Department Beat Map is attached and incorporated herein by reference); or those individuals who, within the last ten years, have been previously incarcerated for marijuana-related offense as a result of a conviction arising out of Oakland, California;

3. Maintains not less than a 50% ownership in the Dispensary applicant entity, partnership, limited liability corporation, collective, corporation, worker cooperative or other recognized ownership entity; and
4. Prior marijuana or cannabis conviction shall not be a bar to equity ownership. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Meet America’s First Black, Senior Pot Shop Owner

by David Downs
Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:10 AM

America has potentially its first black, senior citizen owner of a medical cannabis dispensary.

Sue Taylor — a retired Catholic school principal and Berkeley resident, grandmother of three and a veteran educator— beat out three other finalists in Berkeley’s competition to award a new pot shop permit Tuesday night.

Sue Taylor became one of America's first Black senior citizen dispensary owners. - (COURTESY OF SUE TAYLOR)
  • (courtesy of Sue Taylor)
  • Sue Taylor became one of America's first Black senior citizen dispensary owners.
According to reports, Taylor’s group iCANN Health Center — who partnered with the award-winning growers at the Bay Area delivery service C.R.A.F.T. — was unanimously picked by the Berkeley City Council to open a dispensary on Sacramento Street.

The Tuesday night finale brought out hundreds of supporters for each applicant. Public comment ran until 11 p.m., then Council quickly and unanimously selected Taylor.

Taylor’s win comes amid national outcry over the uneven distribution of profits from the legalization of cannabis.  iCANN will be a minority and senior-focused dispensary — two demographics that are underserved in the white, male Green Rush.

Racial equity was a chief factor in the Berkeley Council’s, according to reports.

“It’s minority owned, minority supported in a minority neighborhood. That’s the key for making them No. 1 for me,” Councilman Laurie Capitelli said, according to Berkeleyside reports.

“We may have missed some opportunities regarding equity in this city before, but there’s no reason for us to miss this opportunity,” Councilman Max Anderson stated, according to reports.

Taylor’s group won the permit process with a solid proposal and no special advantages. (Meanwhile in Oakland, many in the industry are demoralized by at a proposed rule which bottlenecks permitting to ensure every other license goes to business majority-owned by a resident from a few police beats in East Oakland, or who has a cannabis conviction. An applicant like Taylor would be disadvantaged in the Oakland process.)

She was born in Jennings, La., in the '40s, the seventh of twelve children, and grew up in San Mateo. She has a degree in social science from San Francisco State University, a master's degree in education, and wrote a parenting handbook called "Who’s Running the Show.” After retirement, it was her son who first asked her to help him open a cannabis dispensary.

“'That marijuana stuff?'” she remembers thinking. “'Oh no. I sent this child to Catholic school and college and now he wants to sell weed?'”

But she kept an open mind, studied up on medical cannabis, and saw loved ones with cancer and arthritis who improved with the use of cannabis.

Taylor became chief of senior outreach for Harborside Health Center, and has held medical cannabis seminars for WCRC (Women Cancer Resource Center), and the Commission on Aging in Alameda County, as well as Santa Clara, and Contra Costa Counties. She’s certified by the State of California to provide Continuing Education Credits to elder facilities.

[Listen to our affiliate podcast The Hash’s profile on Sue Taylor ‘Cannabis’ Senior Savior’]

Taylor’s competitors also received some good news Tuesday night. Council voted to potentially add two more dispensary permits in the city, raising the cap from four to six.

That might mean the second and third place contestants  Berkeley Innovative Health, at 1229 San Pablo Ave., and the Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective by Amoeba could eventually get permits.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

California Lawmakers Working to Jail Sober Drivers Collide with Science

by David Downs
Tue, May 10, 2016 at 9:44 AM

Every year, California lawmakers work to imprison automobile drivers who are sober, based on an arbitrary and unscientific amount of marijuana byproducts in their body.

But this year, Assembly Bill 2740 is about to have a huge, head-on collision with science.

Sponsored by Reps. Evan Low (Silicon Valley) and Rep. Tom Lackey, AB 2740 sits in the Assembly “Suspense File” — meaning its approval is pending on other Sacramento business, usually related to budgeting.

As it sat in the Suspense File this morning, the widely respected automotive group AAA released a bombshell of study adding to the proof such a law would be unscientific, unjust, wasteful, and dangerous, because it takes cops and prosecutors’ focus off real road dangers.

“There is no evidence from the data collected ... that any objective threshold exists that established impairment, based on THC concentrations measured in specimens collected from cannabis-positive subjects placed under arrest for impaired driving,” the AAA report “An Evaluation of Data from Drivers Arrested for Driving Under the Influence in Relation to Per se Limits for Cannabis” finds.

A regular medical cannabis patient or wellness user might easily test over AB 2740’s unscientific threshold of five nanograms of THC, per milliliter of blood, so California NORML is telling medical marijuana patients, as well as responsible drivers to contact their representative today to kill AB 2740 and prevent the criminalization of sober drivers.

Unjust, unscientific per se laws nationwide. - AAA
  • AAA
  • Unjust, unscientific per se laws nationwide.
This issue is coming up every year in California, because the alleged scourge of stoned drivers is trendy in law enforcement circles.

Law enforcement has been saying for decades that reforming cannabis laws makes roads more dangerous. The opposite is likely true.

In the cannabis capital of California, auto fatalities were down 1.1 percent from 3,107 in 2013 to 3,074 in 2014, and are at some of the lowest levels since World War II, despite tens of millions more cars being on the road.

But with cannabis legalization increasing, so is cops’ budgets for testing dead drivers’ blood for drugs. And the more you look for anything, the more you find. Just ask Washington.

The state of Washington went from testing one in four dead drivers for drugs, to every dead driver after legalization — and low and behold, they found more dead drivers with cannabis byproducts in their system.

But even that means little, AAA reports. For one, the amount of THC or its metabolite (known as THC-COOH) does not correlate with that driver’s level of impairment, AAA reports. This has been a scientific fact since the ‘60s, when the U.S. government approved pure THC pills called Marinol and warned patients to avoid driving until they could “tolerate the drug”.

Still, the trumped up ‘stoned driving’ menace will not die. In the media reporting on the AAA findings, many led with the headline that: “AAA: fatal crashes from those who recently used marijuana doubled”.

That’s not true. What doubled was the amount of dead drivers who were tested and then found to have THC-COOH in their system, THC-COOH that could be there days or weeks after the person used marijuana, and long after its effects have worn off.

“… it is possible that some of the THC-positive drivers in the current study may have last used marijuana several hours or even days prior to the crash,” AAA reports. “… the results of this study do not indicate that drivers with detectable THC in their blood at the time of the crash were necessarily impaired by THC or that they were at-fault for the crash.”

Researchers looked at records of 3,031 drivers involved in 2,070 fatal crashes that occurred in the state of Washington between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2014, and found most dead drivers’ blood wasn’t tested before legalization.

Half of the drivers in AAA’s studies “had missing values for THC”, so researchers fudged the numbers to try and make apples-to-apples comparisons of pre- and post-legalization years. They called it “imputation” and admit that “bias could still be present in the imputed values.”

After legalization, the cops started testing every dead driver’s blood: “the proportion of tested drivers whose tests were performed on blood specimens increased substantially over the study period. At the beginning of the study period, approximately one in four drivers tested for drugs was not subject to a blood test, whereas in 2013 and 2014, almost all drivers tested for drugs were subject to a blood test.”

AAA admits they cooked the books to make up for a lack of data in the years before legalization increased drug testing.

One out of three drivers in this drugged driving study, “were not tested for drugs at all, [so] the method of multiple imputation was used to estimate the proportion of drivers not tested for drugs who likely would have tested positive for THC had they been tested. This was done by analyzing the relationships between other available data and the probability of being tested for drugs and the probability of testing positive for THC if tested. Results of actual drug tests were combined with imputed results from drivers not tested for drugs to estimate the overall prevalence of detectable levels of THC among all drivers involved in fatal crashes in Washington during the study period.”

And where cannabis molecules are found, they are rarely the sole factor. Only 23 percent of these DUI drivers were positive only for cannabinoids. “Alcohol was present in 59 percent, and other drugs in 33 percent, of these cannabinoid-positive subjects.”

Cannabis advocates say Americans must stand up and reject the criminal justice industrial complex, which now seeks to imprison people who have committed no crime other than to drive sober. These 5 ng / ml THC per se limits are all the rage in law enforcement policy circles, and they’re a deadly waste of time and resources.

“… a quantitative threshold for per se laws for THC following cannabis use cannot be scientifically supported,” AAA states.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has repeatedly stated the biggest dangers on the road are drunk drivers, tired drivers, and distracted drivers, including those who text.

Diverting law enforcement money and time from the real vectors of road death to the boogeyman of stoned driving could likely cost hundreds of Americans their lives, through under-enforcement of drunk driving laws, anti-texting laws, and workplace rules around tired drivers — one of whom nearly killed comedian Tracy Morgan.

California road deaths remain at near their lowest point in recorded history, due in large part to safety improvements and law enforcement’s heroic work taking drunks off the road. But more should be done. Currently, California’s criminal justice system punishes drunk drivers, but doesn’t address their powerful addiction to alcohol; so it’s just a matter of time before they get back on the road again with their addiction intact.

That might be where lawmakers should be focusing their efforts, not scapegoating sober drivers with THC and THC-COOH in their system.

“There is understandably a strong desire by both lawmakers and the public to create legal limits for marijuana impairment, in the same manner as we do with alcohol,” stated Marshall Doney, AAA’s President and CEO. “In the case of marijuana, this approach is flawed and not supported by scientific research. It’s simply not possible today to determine whether a driver is impaired based solely on the amount of the drug in their body.”

Friday, May 6, 2016

Apartment Marijuana Smoking Ban Could Become California Law

by David Downs
Fri, May 6, 2016 at 9:09 AM

Renters may face eviction or other new consequences from smoking marijuana in their home under a new law working its way through Sacramento this spring.

Assembly Bill 2300 explicitly codifies a landlord’s existing right to prohibit pot smoking in the rentals they own, even if the tenant is a qualified medical marijuana patient. The bill has passed several hurdles in Sacramento and heads to the Senate Committee on Rules for assignment this May.

Some medical cannabis advocates oppose the law, which they say narrows the rights of patients to use the drug as they or their doctors see fit. But other advocates note California landlords already have the right to prohibit smoking in rentals, under existing clean air laws, and this law merely codifies it. Patients could also use vaporizers, edibles, tinctures, or other modes to cut down on the potentially skunky smell of cannabis flowers.

Cannabis smoke odor complaints regularly bedevil landlords who manage multi-unit apartments and condos. One in 20 California adults are thought to have used marijuana medically. About six percent of Americans are regular cannabis users.

AB 2300 is but one of several bills touching on marijuana this session in California, according to the state's bill tracking system.

Chief among them:
  • AB 821 will allow dispensaries to pay their sales taxes in cash, and goes to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee May 11
  • AB 1575 makes the foul-sounding Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) into the more neutral Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), and calls for other changes to facilitate pot banking, like protection from criminal liability. The bill goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee May 11.  (MRSA is already a popular acronym for sometimes deadly anti-biotic resistant bacterial infection.)
  • AB 2243 is a tax on medical pot growers of $9.25 per ounce for lowers, $2.75 for leaves, $1.25 per immature plant. It goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee May 11.
  • And AB 2385 smooths the way for Los Angeles dispensaries to get state permits. The fix-it bill will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 11.
There were 40 marijuana-related bills listed as active in this session. Many relate to 2015 laws passed, while others have already failed — like a bill to ban glass pipe shops. Another highly watched bill to create a “cottage” license for very small medical pot farmers is in the ’suspense file’ pending other matters.

California Legalization Campaign Launches With Top-Shelf Officials, Tepid Polling, Dangerous Foes

by David Downs
Fri, May 6, 2016 at 8:46 AM

California’s only viable legalization campaign launched Wednesday in downtown San Francisco with an all-star cast of officials from politics, law, activism, and medicine, drawing thousands of press mentions and electrifying the electorate with the tantalizing idea that cannabis could be fully legal for adults on November 9.
Let's Get It Right, California launches in San Francisco Wednesday. - COMMONWEALTH CLUB VIA TWITTER
  • Commonwealth Club via Twitter
  • Let's Get It Right, California launches in San Francisco Wednesday.
The group behind the Adult Use of Marijuana Act gathered over 600,000 signatures, it reports, and is all but certain to make the ballot.

However, the “Let’s Get It Right, California” far from a sure bet. For one, a poll released Wednesday found a narrow 50 percent majority of the Bay Area in support of legalization. Forty-one percent in the Bay Area were opposed, while about nine percent were undecided.

Normally, initiative campaigns want to start polling in the 60s, because opposition forces will peal away swing voters during the campaign, experts say. 

That opposition is going to include a strange bedfellows mix of conservative law enforcement, the Teamsters, and even some pot growers threatened by the end of prohibition.

Citizens Against the Legalization of Marijuana announced that opposition will include:
  • the California Police Chiefs Association
  • California Hospital Association
  • California Teamsters
  • California State Sheriffs’ Association
  • California Peace Officers Association
  • Los Angeles Police Protective League
  • the Small Farmers Association
  • “as well as Democrat and Republican elected officials”.

    The 'Let's Get It Right, California' coalition includes:
  • Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom
  • UCSF Prof. Dr. Donald I. Abrams
  • former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Deputy Chief Stephen Downing
  • former President of the California Fish and Game Commission Michael Sutton
  • California NAACP President Alice Huffman
  • Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy Youth Education and Prevention Working Group Marsha Rosenbaum
  • the Drug Policy Alliance
  • Marijuana Policy Project
  • National NORML
  • Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
  • and travel writer Rick Steves among others
The California Medical Association has also endorsed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which legalizes one ounce of pot in public and six plants in private, and lays a regulated commercial system for adults 21 and over atop the state’s medical marijuana system. Pot convicts could get records expunged or sentences reduced.

Let’s Get It Right, California has raised $3.3 million to opponents’ $13,635, which is more than 240 times as much money, the nonprofit MapLight finds. MapLight reports:

Carla Lowe, president of CALM, described her group's fundraising efforts as "really grassroots."

"If we were able to have even a portion of their money," Lowe said, "We would do all of the social media, billboards, we would do everything possible to tell people about this highly potent, mind-altering drug."

Jason Kinney, spokesman for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act campaign argues, however, that the contributions don't reflect the initiative's broad base of support.

"When people see that there's one consensus measure on the ballot supported by the largest coalition ever formed to support a marijuana policy measure. we have every expectation we will be getting contributions both large and small from across the state." 

However, legalization supporters vastly out-raised opponents in donations in 2010, yet still lost 46-54.

It could take $10-40 million to run a winning campaign in California, experts have said.

Recently, Bernie Sanders’ pollster Ben Tulchin increased his odds of California legalization, to 55-45 in favor, due to an expected increase in progressive voter turnout to counter a new arch-nemesis— presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

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