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California Study Suggests Marijuana a Substitute for Alcohol

A New York Times article this week, Few Problems With Cannabis for California, reports that a pending study in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management by Mark Anderson and Daniel Reese has found increased marijuana use to be a substitute for alcohol use in California:

Based on existing empirical evidence, we expect that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington will lead to increased marijuana consumption coupled with decreased alcohol consumption. As a consequence, these states will experience a reduction in the social harms resulting from alcohol use.
 

The article discusses alcohol's relationship to traffic fatalities and violent crime, including domestic abuse, predicting that marijuana legalization will reduce those problems, with youth use of marijuana remaining stable.

The substitution question has been raised repeatedly at academic fora on marijuana legalization since the Colorado and Washington initiatives passed last year. In our movement we have tended to assume that they are substitutes, but not all academics are sure. At a one-day conference held by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, at their Washington office, one of the guest presenters said the evidence they've seen "clearly" indicates that marijuana is a complement for alcohol use, e.g. increased availability of marijuana could have the effect of increasing alcohol use and is at least correlated with it. Another one of the guest presenters immediate chimed in to say that the evidence his team has seen "clearly" indicates that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes.

DPRC co-director Beau Kilmer often notes that a change in the amount of alcohol use, up or down, could dwarf any increase in marijuana use in terms of its public health ramifications, because alcohol is more harmful than marijuana. But he's cited evidence pointing in both directions, sometimes in different directions for different groups of people. Hopefully the JPAM study's findings will be born out by further research.

Senate Judiciary Holding Marijuana Hearing Next Month

Dept. of Justice building, Washington, DC (gsa.gov)
As promised, Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has scheduled hearings on marijuana policy. "Conflicts between State and Federal Marijuana Laws" will take place September 10 at 10:00am EST in Hart 216. The page has a webcast button. No witness names have been posted yet.

One option that may get discussed is the idea for the federal government to sign contracts with states agreeing to permit their legal systems to move forward if the states commit to moving against illegal growers who are exporting outside their states. Mark Kleiman, who is consulting on I-502's implementation for Washington State, suggested it in an article published last wee in the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis, according to The Seattle Times (hat tip Center for Legal Cannabis). The idea was floated by Stuart Taylor at a forum I attended at the Brookings Institution last April, "Marijuana Legalization: Are There Alternatives to State-Federal Conflict?" Taylor published a paper on it for Brookings last spring, who points to a provision of the Controlled Substances Act that makes it possible for the government to do without congressional action.

Also of relevance: state officials in Washington and Colorado believe the Dept. of Justice has given "tacit approval" for their legalization systems moving forward, according to a report by Talking Points Memo.

Kleiman Addresses His Prop 19 Editorial

Prof. Kleiman has responded to concerns raised over his remarks during the Prop 19 campaign in California, predicting that Prop 19 would cause prices to plummet and that the feds would have had to intervene in ways going beyond how they've dealt with the medical marijuana trade. He doesn't see that happening in Washington State; he thinks it may well happen in Colorado. He called it a "fair question."

Seattle skyline
Kleiman did not address the argument I raised in my post last night for why I doubt his analysis. I reasoned that continuing federal prohibition would have prevented Prop 19 from causing the kind of price drop from occurring in California, in the same way that the extensive medical marijuana industry hasn't seen price drops -- because it's too risky to create the industrial level grows and distribution systems that would be needed to achieve that kind of price drop -- a point raised by his coauthors during recent talks and fora.

I'm not making anything out of the fact that Kleiman hasn't addressed that point, by the way -- I don't know that he's read my post yet, and that particular point did not appear in the mainstream media articles he surely did read. Nor do I think that much should be made of it in 2013. But that's how I see that particular point, and therefore how I view that two and a half year old editorial.

I'm still cautiously optimistic, after reading the response, maybe even a little "excited" (I confess) as Kleiman wrote that he and his colleagues are feeling. Some of my colleagues have commented, and I tend to agree, that a cautious approach to implementing the Washington initiative is what will have the best chance of threading the federal needle and moving legalization forward -- especially in Washington, where the law allows for fewer licensed sales outlets and doesn't have home growing as Colorado does. And Washington or parts of it may provide our best shot at getting something resembling meaningful federal cooperation.

Some of my colleagues probably disagree with me, and many undoubtedly feel we should be wary. As a practical matter, I agree that we should be wary -- it's our responsibility as advocates to be wary, whoever the state decides to bring in. But it's also not like we get to decide who does the work on this -- our direct power to influence this ended on election day -- and I wasn't really expecting it to be someone from the all-out legalization camp.

As I wrote last night, time will tell -- about Kleiman et al's work, and about the future of I-502 and marijuana legalization in Washington State.

Location: 
WA
United States

Mark Kleiman Wins Washington Marijuana Legalization Implementation Contract

Prominent policy analyst and UCLA professor Mark Kleiman has won Washington State's consulting contract on I-502 implementation. According to Northwest Public Radio, "Washington's Liquor Control Board wants consulting help in four areas: marijuana industry knowledge, plant quality and testing, regulation, and to the extent possible, projecting how many people will use pot now that it's legal."

Mark Kleiman (ncjrs.org via Wikipedia)
Reformers have had a "love/hate" relationship with Kleiman over the years. He supports some of our issues, like marijuana legalization -- sort of. He acknowledges the impact of prohibition in increasing the harmfulness of addictive drugs to their users, but states as nearly a fact the assumption that overall harm would go up with legalization nonetheless -- while admonishing the rest of us not to make assumptions about the positive effects of even just marijuana legalization. He does pretty clearly want to make criminal justice less punishing, and wrote a book about that. Another book Kleiman's co-authored, which we've promoted on this web site and which Phil complimented in a book review, is "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know." (You can order a complimentary copy from us if making a donation of $35 or more.)

A quote that caused some consternation among reformers is one he gave to the LA Times during California's 2010 Prop 19 campaign:

"There's one problem with legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis at the state level: It can't be done. The federal Controlled Substances Act makes it a felony to grow or sell cannabis. California can repeal its own marijuana laws, leaving enforcement to the feds. But it can't legalize a federal felony. Therefore, any grower or seller paying California taxes on marijuana sales or filing pot-related California regulatory paperwork would be confessing, in writing, to multiple federal crimes. And that won't happen."
 

I think the quote deserves some criticism. Medical marijuana provision is also a federal felony, under the same law Kleiman cited with regard to legalization of marijuana. Kleiman's arguments in the piece -- that the feds can afford to largely ignore the medical marijuana industry only because prices remain high, and because regulation of medicine is traditionally a state matter -- are unpersuasive to me. Administrations in power during the medical marijuana years have not suggested that medical marijuana is a state matter; even Obama's inconsistently-respected "not a priority" position about going after businesses operating in compliance with state law, made clear that they can go after any medical marijuana business if they think it's in the federal interest to do so. And Kleiman or his coauthors during book talks and related fora I've attended have argued that we don't know what will happen to marijuana prices following state legalization in the face of continuing federal prohibition. One reason they've argued it might not is that federal prohibition makes it too risky to set up the very large scale growing and distribution infrastructures that are needed to bring down prices in the way that we'd predict from legalization at all governmental levels.

Still, I count myself among the optimistic when it comes to Kleiman's work for Washington State. Kleiman prefers a very non-commercial form of legalization to any big sales model. But he's also suggested the federal government allow the Washington and Colorado experiments with legalization to take place. And whatever quotes I might take issue with from time to time, Kleiman is a very serious academic who's written extensively about the issue; and he's not a drug warrior, even if his support for legalization, even of just marijuana, tends toward the tepid. I expect he'll do the best job he can on this very high profile assignment -- that assignment being to advise on the implementation of legalization, not on whether it's a good idea. (I also saw Kleiman wearing a Students for Sensible Drug Policy t-shirt at the Takoma Park Folk Festival one year. :-)) I can think of plenty of people who might have been in the running for the job, who would make me a lot more nervous than Kleiman. But time will tell.

Anyway, along with some articles linked here, CNN has pitched an interview with "Washington State's New Pot Czar" on "Erin Burnett OutFront" tomorrow (Tuesday) night. Perhaps the interview will provide some indicators of where Kleiman might go with this.

New Offer for Donating Members: "The Marijuana Conviction"

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/the-marijuana-conviction-200px.jpg
Dear Friend of Drug Policy Reform:

I am pleased to announce our newest offer for donating members, the reprinted drug policy classic The Marijuana Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States. Originally published in 1974, this amazing work by professors Richard Bonnie and Charles Whitebread was the first comprehensive history of marijuana use and its prohibition in the United States. Bonnie and Whitebread's historical overview examines the origins and history of marijuana prohibition as well as the laws' unintended consequences.

Thanks to a generous donation from our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance, we are able to offer this 368-page volume, which retails at $32.49, for $22 including shipping. (Add $2 for Canada or Mexico or $8 for overseas.) Donate $22 or more to StoptheDrugWar.org and you will be eligible to receive a complimentary of The Marijuana Conviction. Click here to make a donation online by credit card or PayPal. You can also donate by mail -- info below.

As a reader of Drug War Chronicle you know that it is a challenging time in drug policy reform. Medical marijuana is under attack; draconian sentencing bills are getting heard in Congress; drug testing bills are spreading from state to state. To help us fight back as hard and as well as we can, I hope you'll consider donating more than $22 if you can afford it, or to supplement your $22 with a continuing monthly donation. If gift items like The Marijuana Conviction are not important to you, I hope you'll consider sending a donation that's entirely for our work. (We are grateful for donations of any size -- don't feel bad if $22 is what you have to spare and you want the book!)

Donations to StoptheDrugWar.org can be made online at http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, or they can be mailed to: DRCNet Foundation (tax-deductible), P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036; or Drug Reform Coordination Network (non-deductible for lobbying), same address. (Contact us for information if you wish to make a donation of stock.) Be sure to indicate if you are requesting The Marijuana Conviction or another of our current gift items.

Thank you for standing with us to stop the drug war's cruelties and meet the opportunity this time offers to make a brighter future. And don't get discouraged by the challenges our movement and the cause are currently facing: Time, and the truth, are on our side!

Sincerely,


David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
http://stopthedrugwar.org

Use Science in Cases Alleging Pregnancy and Drug Use, Orgs and Experts Argue in Court Brief

National Advocates for Pregnant Women

www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Lynn Paltrow

January 10, 2012        

 

50 Leading Medical, Public Health and Child Welfare Organizations and Experts File Brief Insisting on Science not Stigma in Child Welfare Decisions Involving Pregnant Women and Allegations of Drug Use

 

Drug War Propaganda and Junk Science No Basis for Child Neglect and Abuse Finding

 

TRENTON, NJ (Jan. 10, 2012): On January 10, a group of fifty medical, public health and child welfare experts and advocates filed a motion to submit an amicus (friend of the court) brief before the state’s highest judicial authority challenging a finding of neglect against a mother identified in court records as “A.L.,” and an Appellate Division decision that radically expands the scope of the state’s civil child neglect and abuse laws to apply to a pregnant woman in relation to the fetus she carries and sustains. 

In this case, New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) v. A.L., A.L. gave birth to a healthy baby in September of 2007. DYFS argued that positive drug screens for cocaine on A.L. and her newborn were sufficient evidence of harm or imminent harm to find that A.L. had neglected her child.  A lower court and the Appellate Division agreed, not only finding neglect in this case but also declaring that a New Jersey’s neglect law could be applied to the context of pregnancy. On October 26, 2011, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

In their brief, amici focus on the New Jersey Supreme Court’s commitment to the use of reliable scientific evidence in judicial decisionmaking. Amici argued that the lower courts relied on popular assumptions about drugs, pregnant women, and child welfare that lack any foundation in evidence-based, peer-reviewed research.

Lawrence S. Lustberg, Esq. of Gibbons P.C., co-counsel representing amici, explains that “the New Jersey Supreme Court has been a national leader in recognizing that when cases raise scientific, medical, or other technical issues, the evaluation of these issues must be informed by existing scientific knowledge, including expert testimony. This case should be no exception.”

Amici also note that DYFS presented no evidence that the child had suffered any actual injury at birth or at any time after birth, and presented no witnesses with expertise regarding the effects of prenatal exposure to cocaine, what drug test results mean, or the association between a pregnant woman’s drug use and a likelihood of abuse or neglect of a child once born.  Nor did DYFS present, or the lower courts consider, the vast body of medical and social science research on these questions.

“Pregnant women and children who are caught up in the child welfare system and who are disproportionately low-income and of color, no less than other people, deserve decisions that are grounded in evidence-based research,” said Emma S. Ketteringham, co-counsel in the case and Director of Legal Advocacy for amici National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Ms. Ketteringham added, “Pregnant women and families should not be deprived of their fundamental rights -- including the right to family relationships -- based on junk science, or no science at all.”

Expert amici explained to the court that medical research makes clear that numerous substances, conditions, and circumstances raise similar or greater risks to fetuses as prenatal exposure to cocaine.  While amici were careful to note that they were not suggesting that prenatal exposure to criminalized drugs is benign, they emphasized that current scientific evidence simply does not support judicially re-writing state law to allow for a per se finding of abuse or neglect based solely on evidence of a woman’s use of cocaine or other criminalized drugs during pregnancy.

Amici also noted that there is no research to support the idea that a positive drug test demonstrates harm, risk of harm, or a likelihood of neglect or abuse. They emphasized, however, that there is research finding that threats of punishment, including of loss of child custody, deter pregnant women from care, undermining rather than advancing maternal, fetal and child health.

Wendy Chavkin, MD, MPH, a physician and researcher who has written extensively about the issue of drug use and pregnancy, observed: “These issues have become caught up in other political battles.  It is critical that state agencies, like DYFS, and the court base their decision on scientific evidence, not on misinformation and stereotype.”

Ms. A. L. is represented by Clara Licata of the New Jersey Office of Parental Representation.

The amici organizations include: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Addiction Science Research and Education Center, American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, American Society of Addiction Medicine, International Centre on Science in Drug Policy, International Doctors for Healthy Drug Policies, National Perinatal Association, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, Child Welfare Organizing Project, Health Right International (Former Doctors of the World-USA), National Women’s Health Network.

A copy of amicus brief accompanying the motion to submit, including and a complete list of organizations and experts is available at:

http://advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/briefs/NJ%20DYFS%20v.%20AL%20Brief%20of%20Amici%20Curiae.pdf

Additional Resources:

Am. Coll. of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Comm. on Health Care for Underserved Women, Committee Opinion 473, Substance Abuse Reporting and Pregnancy: The Role of the Obstetrician-Gynecologist

Don't Judge Pregnant Women Based on Junk Science

Location: 
Trenton, NJ
United States

These Are Your Rights on Drugs (Opinion)

Scott Lemieux, Assistant Professor of Political Science at The College of Saint Rose, discusses the Supreme Court's continued long-standing assault on constitutional protections in service of the war on drugs (or, as it might be more accurately described, the war on some classes of people who use some types of drugs).
Publication/Source: 
The American Prospect (DC)
URL: 
http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=these_are_your_rights_on_drugs

Marijuana and Racial Inequality: A "Cannabis Day" Look at How Marijuana Arrests Discriminate Against Young Black People

April 20 (4/20) -- the date unofficially recognized nationwide as marijuana day -- is probably as good a time as any to explore how marijuana arrests in the Unites States exemplify racially skewed policing tactics.
Publication/Source: 
Salon (NY)
URL: 
http://www.salon.com/life/drugs/?story=/news/feature/2011/04/20/racially_biased_marijuana_policing

Is DARE Program Worth It?

While participants remain enthusiastic, scientific reviews have been negative on the effectiveness of the DARE program, which started in Los Angeles in 1983. A 2006 report by the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that those who participate in DARE are just as likely to use drugs as those who don’t. Khadija K. Swims, of Grand Valley State University, reviewed several studies on DARE and concluded the program is "ineffective" in preventing future drug, alcohol and tobacco use in adolescents. The results of such studies mean schools can’t spend federal money on DARE. Under rules that went into effect in 1998, the Department of Education requires agencies that receive federal money to prove within two years that their programs reduce drug use among students.
Publication/Source: 
Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
URL: 
http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/4497466-418/is-dare-program-worth-it.html

Why It's Obvious We Are Losing the War on Drugs

Ed Dolan, an economist and textbook writer, discusses the economics of drug prohibition. He says drug trafficking organizations are strong because the US drug war strategy makes them strong.
Publication/Source: 
Business Insider (NY)
URL: 
http://www.businessinsider.com/econ-101-hayek-and-why-we-are-losing-the-war-against-drugs-2011-3

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