Tag Archives: drug war

Why the Legal Challenge to Colorado’s Adult-Use Marijuana Law Will Fail

6 Mar

A suit has been filed in federal court, by a handful of Colorado sheriffs among others, asking for Colorado’s legal adult-use program to be ended. There is one argument of significance:

The sheriffs, and some other prohibitionists, are asserting that when the state is put into the position of licensing and regulating activities that violate the CSA, they can be argued to be in violation of federal law.

That argument is not original, we’ve actually been hearing it mentioned in other parts of the country. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

The counter-argument to the CSA concern has always been that there is a 10th amendment to the US constitution, which is a guarantee of states’ rights. Also these are intra-state concerns and not inter-state concerns, so the interstate commerce clause of the US Constitution should prevent Congress from interfering with a state program. The two arguments together are quite powerful.

Unfortunately those arguments have been tried, and have failed, in the past. The Raich v Gonzalez case was decided by the Supremes back in 2005. A decade can be a long time in legal terms. We have a new court now, with new judges, and we have new attorneys who have the benefit of all the trial transcripts and motions and appeals histories. There are lawyers out there who have spent the past 10 years learning and studying and devising ways to win on those constitutional arguments.

And we’ve got a lot more than just that. When the Raich case first went to trial, we had very limited experience with regulated state medical marijuana programs. There were no state legal adult use programs. The justices and the attorneys on both sides had no data, no real world experience, on which to draw. They justified over-riding the commerce clause concerns because of the possibility that there might be public health or public safety concerns. And now, 10 years later, we have several states running regulated medical marijuana programs and the states of Washington and Colorado running legal adult-use marijuana programs. We have research and evidence showing that these programs have had a positive impact on public health, and a positive net impact on public safety.

This suit being brought against the state of Colorado by the sheriffs, it’s not an isolated thing. Prohibitionists around the world and around the nation are networked, they work together, they share information. I said before, I’ve heard some of these arguments recently. The state of Oregon is working to implement its own legal adult-use marijuana program. That state’s legislature is being lobbied by the Association of Oregon Counties and the League of Oregon Cities to give local governments more power and authority to ban marijuana businesses and to impose local taxes. Officials from those organizations have made some not-so-subtle threats that if they don’t get their way, some city or county might file suit in federal court, using the same arguments about the CSA that the Colorado suit mentions, to try and stop the Oregon legal adult-use program.

Significantly, those Oregon attorneys conceded that it’s only the regulation and licensing of sale and commercial production that could be challenged that way, and that personal use possession and cultivation could not be challenged with that argument. But I digress.

Doing a little more research, it appears that these arguments were developed in earlier cases, in Michigan and also in Oregon. They’ve been refining and expanding on these arguments over the years, and they’ve been learning from their losses. The prohibitionists think that they know what they’re doing. They don’t seem to understand that our side has also spent the past decade working and learning and sharing information, and learning from our losses as well as our victories. And we’ve been researching and assessing these programs, and their impacts on public health and public safety, and so have the states running these programs.

The prohibitionists want a replay of Raich v Gonzalez. But they must not realize what they’re asking for. The justice who wrote that decision, John Paul Stevens, retired in 2010. Federalism is making a resurgence. The evidence on marijuana legalization is finally in and it is clear that legalization is a good thing on several levels, having positive impacts on public safety and public health. The train has left the station, the tracks are clear, and this time around there are no stops until we have reached our final destination: the end of prohibition.

Drug War Facts Newsletter – Vol. 4, No. 1, Jan. 2014

8 Jan

What’s New At Drug War Facts – Vol. 4, No. 1, January 2014

Issue In Focus

The new Monitoring the Future Survey results for 2013 were released recently.

In discussing the new data in a video released on YouTube, Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said this: “If we compare the numbers that were, for example, in 2000 regular users, and now in 2013, we have seen increases in those numbers. But in 2000, at the 2000 level of 9 THC was at least half of the levels that we observe now, at least half. So that means that not just were there less kids taking the drug regularly, but even those that were taking it regularly were taking a much less potent drug.”

It almost sounded like she was asserting that THC levels have doubled but that’s not what she said. She did definitely assert that in 2000, cannabis was much less potent.

The short version of this report is, she was wrong. This isn’t just some political hack, or an uninformed blogger. She’s the director of the government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, she’s supposed to be the government’s science person on drugs. That’s not acceptable.

Let’s look at what’s known. These data are available through drugwarfacts.org, in the marijuana section, where you can find a table of average THC levels of seized samples of cannabis as reported by the University of Mississippi’s Potency Monitoring Project.

These are the only data on this, they’re the same data Nora Volkow has. The Project stopped testing domestic samples a few years ago, the last domestic cannabis data are from 2010. Samples of non-domestic cannabis – imports from Mexico, Jamaica, Canada, and so many other countries – continue to be tested, but only preliminary data for 2012 are currently available.

Average THC potencies are given for two grades of cannabis: low-end commercial grade – what they call simply “marijuana” – and high-end sinsemilla-type cannabis. The overall combined average they report includes a few samples of ditchweed, so we’ll stick with specific data for “marijuana” and “sinsemilla”, and since 2010 is the last year with domestic data, we’ll use it for comparison.

In 2000, non-domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 5.10% THC. The non-domestic sinsemilla type averaged 12.87%. Domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 3.96% THC, and domestic sinsemilla type averaged 12.72%.

In 2010, non-domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 6.69% THC. Non-domestic sinsemilla type averaged 12.81% THC. Domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 2.79% THC, and domestic sinsemilla type averaged 11.84%.

So only one category shows an increase in average potency from 2000 to 2010 is for non-domestic commercial grade cannabis – an increase of 31%, going from 5.1 to 6.69% THC. The others all show decreases, in fact the average THC of domestic commercial grade dropped by 29.5%.

There are fluctuations: In 2011, the average THC in non-domestic commercial marijuana was down to 5.6%, the average for non-domestic sinsemilla type was 13.47%. They stopped testing domestic samples in 2010, remember, and for what it’s worth those numbers were much lower in 2009, when domestic commercial averaged 2.43% THC and domestic sinsemilla type averaged only 7.37%.

So, Nora Volkow’s statement? Maybe not a flatout lie, but inaccurate and misleading at best. The point is, don’t just trust authority. Always question, always check, and the fact-checker’s best friend is Drug War Facts. Eventually, hopefully, we’ll get complete potency data for 2012, and when that’s available, you’ll find it at drugwarfacts.org.

Help Spread the Word!

Check out the new Drug Policy Facts podcast! You can download and subscribe from
http://www.podcastgarden.com/podcast/drugwarfacts.

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More graphics will be available soon, including data tables from the pages of DWF!

Notable New Facts

(Drug Offenders in US Prisons 2012)
Federal: On Dec. 31, 2012, there were 196,574 sentenced prisoners under federal jurisdiction. Of these, 99,426 were serving time for drug offenses, 11,688 for violent offenses, 11,568 for property offenses, and 72,519 for “public order” offenses (of which 23,700 were sentenced for immigration offenses, 30,046 for weapons offenses, and 17,633 for “other”).

State: On Dec. 31, 2011, there were 1,341,797 sentenced prisoners under state jurisdiction. Of these, 222,738 were serving time for drug offenses, of whom 55,013 were merely convicted for possession. There were also 717,861 serving time for violent offenses, 249,574 for property offenses, 142,230 for “public order” offenses (which include weapons, drunk driving, court offenses, commercialized vice, morals and decency offenses, liquor law violations, and other public-order offenses), and 9,392 for “other/unspecified”.
Source: E. Ann Carson and Daniela Golinelli, “Prisoners in 2012: Trends in Admissions and Releases, 1991-2012” (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2013), NCJ243920, Table 5, p. 3, and Appendix Table 10, p. 43.

(US Population Under Community Supervision Declining) “During 2012, the number of adults under community supervision declined for the fourth consecutive year. At yearend 2012, an estimated 4,781,300 adults were under community supervision, down 40,500 offenders from the beginning of the year (figure 1). About 1 in 50 adults in the United States was under community supervision at yearend 2012. The community supervision population includes adults on probation, parole, or any other post-prison supervision. (See BJS definition of probation and parole.)
“The decline in the total number of adults under community supervision is attributed to the drop in the probation population as probationers accounted for the majority (82%) of adults under community supervision. The decline of 38,300 offenders in the probation population (from an estimated 3,981,000 to 3,942,800) accounted for about 95% of the decline in the overall community supervision population. The parole population declined by about 500 offenders during 2012, falling from an estimated 851,700 to 851,200.”
Source: Laura M. Maruschak and Thomas P. Bonczar, “Probation and Parole in the United States, 2012” (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2012), NCJ243826, p. 1.

“Any Illicit Drug. The index of any illicit drug use tends to be driven by marijuana, which is by far the most prevalent of the many illicitly used drugs. In 2013, the proportions of students indicating any use of an illicit drug in the prior 12 months are 15 percent, 32 percent, and 40 percent in grades 8, 10 and 12, respectively—higher than a year ago by 1.5, 1.6 and 0.6 percentage points for the same grades (only the change at 8th grade is statistically significant). For the three grades combined, the rate is up by 1.3 percentage points, also a statistically significant increase. The percentages indicating any use in their lifetime are 20 percent, 39 percent and 50 percent. In other words, half of America’s high school seniors have tried an illicit drug by the time they graduate and four in 10 have used it in just the past year.
“But it should also be noted that fully half of today’s seniors have not tried an illicit drug by the end of high school,” said Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the study.
Source: Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (December 18, 2013). “American teens more cautious about using synthetic drugs.” University of Michigan News Service: Ann Arbor, MI, p. 2.

“Originally approved for use in the treatment of opioid dependence by the United States Food and Drug administration (FDA) in 1984, naltrexone is a competitive μ-opioid receptor antagonist with negligible agonist effects, blocking euphoric and physiological effects of opioid agonists.11,12 Naltrexone does not cause the development of dependence or tolerance over time, and dosing cessation does not result in withdrawal.13
“Orally dosed naltrexone is subject to first pass metabolism, where it is converted to active (6-β naltrexol) and inactive metabolites.14 ­First-pass metabolism of orally dosed naltrexone is high, evidenced by the peak dose of naltrexone and its ­metabolites 1 hour after oral dosing.15 Serum ­half-life for chronic oral administration is approximately 10 hours.15 The half-life, when compared to naloxone, another μ-opioid antagonist, is longer, and naltrexone is able to block the agonist effects of other opioids for 48 hours.16 Oral dosing is accomplished by either 50 mg daily dosing or three times weekly dosing with two 100 mg doses and one 150 mg dose.”
Source: Kjome, Kimberly L. and Moeller, F. Gerard, “Long-Acting Injectable Naltrexone for the Management of Patients with Opioid Dependence,” Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment 2011:5 1–9, doi: 10.4137/SART.S5452.

Notable New Sources

E. Ann Carson and Daniela Golinelli, “Prisoners in 2012: Trends in Admissions and Releases, 1991-2012” (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2013), NCJ243920, Table 5, p. 3, and Appendix Table 10, p. 43.

Laura M. Maruschak and Thomas P. Bonczar, “Probation and Parole in the United States, 2012” (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2012), NCJ243826, p. 1.

Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (December 18, 2013). “American teens more cautious about using synthetic drugs.” University of Michigan News Service: Ann Arbor, MI, p. 2.

Kjome, Kimberly L. and Moeller, F. Gerard, “Long-Acting Injectable Naltrexone for the Management of Patients with Opioid Dependence,” Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment 2011:5 1–9, doi: 10.4137/SART.S5452.

Walmsley, Roy, “World Prison Population List (Tenth Edition)” (Kings College, London, England: International Centre for Prison Studies, 2013), p. 1.

Media

Check out the new Drug Policy Facts podcast! You can download and subscribe from
http://www.podcastgarden.com/podcast/drugwarfacts.

Drug Truth Network Radio segments:
Full half-hour news programs:
Century Of Lies, 12/15/13, White House drug policy conference http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4647
3-minute news segments:
420 News, 12/1/13, Interviews with Ethan Nadelmann and Neill Franklin: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4627
420 News, 12/7/13, MDMA, Emergency Room Visits, and Young People: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4640
420 News, 12/27/13, New Monitoring the Future survey http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4662
420 News, 12/30/13, Correcting NIDA Director Nora Volkow http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4667

Doug McVay is also a regular blogger at CelebStoner dot com.

– See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/3520#sthash.BPHQSUNH.dpuf

Drug Policy Facts Podcast #9 Is Online!

8 Jan
The new Drug War/Drug Policy Facts podcast is dedicated to the 55,014 people now in state prison serving time for drug possession. This week: a new prisoner report; survey shows majority support for marijuana legalization; Playing Safe(ly) with Eddie Einbinder; harm reduction & drug user organizing with Ruth Kanatser; and talking weed with Mickey Martin. Download and subscribe from http://www.podcastgarden.com/episode/drug-policy-facts-9_8866
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