Marijuana Legislation: How Legal Is Cannabis Consumption In Each US State?

By Lisa Mahapatra | June 18 2013 7:48 AM

ohhhh-so-beautiful

Medical marijuana use is currently legal in 18 states and Washington, DC, and six more states seem to be following suit. However, the market for legally produced and distributed marijuana is largely untapped, and is expected to explode into a multimillion dollar industry, especially after more states make the move to legalize the drug.

And that’s what entrepreneurs and investors came together to discuss at at the ArcView Group’s quarterly forum on Friday.

Though potentially lucrative, the legal marijuana industry cannot truly mature before laws favoring the responsible distribution of marijuana are passed on local, state and federal levels.

Here is an interactive map that charts out where every American state currently stands on the marijuana use. Click on any state for details. Refer to the key provided below the map.

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Prohibitionists are Overstating Feds vs. State Marijuana Legalization Case to Media

by David Borden, December 10, 2012, 02:54pm

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A mostly great piece in Rolling Stone this weekend, "Obama’s Pot Problem," missed the mark on the federal preemption question — can the feds shut down Washington and Colorado’s legalized regulation systems? Tim Dickinson wrote the following on that subject:

[T]he administration appears to have an open-and-shut case: Federal law trumps state law when the two contradict. What’s more, the Supreme Court has spoken on marijuana law: In the 2005 case Gonzales v. Raich contesting medical marijuana in California, the court ruled that the federal government can regulate even tiny quantities of pot – including those grown and sold purely within state borders – because the drug is ultimately connected to interstate commerce. If the courts side with the administration, a judge could issue an immediate injunction blocking Washington and Colorado from regulating or taxing the growing and selling of pot – actions that would be considered trafficking under the Controlled Substances Act.

But a former Bush administration official quoted in the New York Times on Thursday, former DOJ civil division head Gregory Katsas, made the opposite prediction. Katsas was "skeptical" that a preemption lawsuit would succeed, according to the Times. Why? Perhaps because it’s not just that the feds can’t force states to criminalize drug possession, as Kevin Sabet selectively pointed out to Dickinson. It’s also the case that they probably can’t directly force the states to criminalize sales either. The Controlled Substances Act in fact leans against federal preemption of state drug policy, as pointed out in a law professors brief on preemption submitted in a California case this year.

Dickinson also pointed out that federal officials had used threats to prosecute state employees involved in implementing regulations for medical marijuana. In my opinion the US Attorney letters were deliberately vague — scary enough to influence state officials, but in most if not all cases stopping short of explicitly making that threat. A better piece of evidence, I think, is that in 16 years of state medical marijuana laws, no federal prosecutor has ever tried to actually invalidate such a law in court, not even after the Raich ruling. Why not? They must not think they have a slam dunk case. And if preemption is not a slam dunk for medical marijuana, then it’s not a slam dunk when it comes to legalization either, although there are additional arguments to throw against full legalization.

The reality is that no one knows how this will turn out if it goes to court. Raich established that federal police agencies can use their powers in medical marijuana states to continue to criminalize marijuana federally, justified by the Interstate Commerce Clause. But that is not the same as having the power to forbid states from granting exceptions to the states’ own anti-marijuana sales laws, which in legal terms is what the regulatory frameworks do, and plenty of smart lawyers are skeptical that they can do that. This is not a slam dunk either way.

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Why Are We Testing Newborns for Pot?

The science is alarmingly inconclusive, but the punishment for mothers is severe.

November 23, 2012  |  

Employees at US hospitals are testing more and more newborns for cannabis exposure. And, with alarming frequency, they are getting the wrong results. So say a pair of recent studies documenting the unreliability of infant drug testing.

 

 

In the most recent trial, published in the September edition of the Journal of Clinical Chemistry , investigators at the University of Utah School of Medicine evaluated the rate of unconfirmed "positive" immunoassay test results in infant and non-infant urine samples over a 52-week period. Shockingly, authors found that positive tests for carboxy THC, a byproduct of THC screened for in immunoassay urine tests, were 59 times less likely to be confirmed in infant urine specimens as compared to non-infant urine samples. Overall, 47 percent of the infant positive immunoassay urine samples evaluated did not test for the presence of carboxy THC when confirmatory assay measures were later performed.
Immunoassay testing – the standard technology used in workplace drug testing – relies on the use of antibodies (proteins that will react to a particular substance or a group of very similar substances) to document whether a specific reaction occurs. Therefore, a positive result on an immunoassay test presumes that a certain quantity of a particular substance may be present in the sample, but it does not actually identify the presence of the substance itself. A more specific chemical test, known as chromatography, must be performed in order to confirm any preliminary analytical test results. Samples that test positive on the presumptive immunoassay test, but then later test negative on the confirmatory test are known as false positives.
False positive test results for cannabis’ carboxy THC metabolite are relatively uncommon in adult specimens. Among newborns’ specimens, however, false positive results for alleged cannabis exposure are disturbingly prevalent.
In April, researchers at the University of North Carolina reported in the journal Clinical Biochemistry that various chemicals present in various baby wash products, such as Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash and CVS Baby Wash, frequently cross-react with the immunoassay test to cause false positive results for carboxy THC.

“[The] addition of Head-to-Toe Baby Wash to drug-free urine produced a dose dependent measureable response in the THC immunoassay,” the investigators concluded . “Addition of other commercially available baby soaps gave similar results, and subsequent testing identified specific chemical surfactants that reacted with the THC immunoassay. … Given these consequences, it is important for laboratories and providers to be aware of this potential source for false positive screening results and to consider confirmation before initiating interventions.”

Following the publication of the UNC study, researchers at the University of Utah screened for the presence of baby soap contaminants in infant urine. Surprisingly, they didn’t find any . Rather, they concluded that the disproportionately high rate of false positive test results discovered among their samples were the result of a cross-reaction with some other yet-to-be determined constituent. They cautioned: “Until the compounds contributing to positive urine screen results in infants are identified, we encourage the use of alternative specimens for the detection and investigation of neonatal exposure to cannabinoids. Screen-positive cannabinoid results from infant samples should not be reported without confirmation or appropriate consultation, because they cannot currently be interpreted.”
Yet despite these warnings, in many instances, hospitals fail to confirm the results of presumptive drug tests prior to reporting them to state authorities. (Because confirmatory testing is more expensive the immunoassay testing, many hospitals neglect to send such presumptive positive urine samples to outside labs for follow-up analysis.) Ironically, such confirmatory tests are required for all hospital employees who test positive for illicit substances. But presently, no such guidelines stipulate that similar precautions be taken for newborns or pregnant mothers. Explains Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women : “NAPW has had calls from numerous parents who were subjected to intrusive, threatening, and counterproductive child welfare interventions based on false or innocent positive test results for marijuana. We have learned that pregnant patients receive fewer guarantees of accuracy than do job applicants at that same hospital.” 

Regardless of whether or not the drug screen results are confirmed, the sanctions for those subjects who test positive are often swift and severe. Typically, any report of alleged infant exposure to cannabis will trigger a host of serious consequences ranging from the involvement of social services to accusations of child endangerment or neglect. In some instances, mothers whose infants test positive for carboxy THC will lose temporary child custody rights and be mandated to attend a drug treatment program. In other instances they may be civilly prosecuted. At least 18 states address the issue of pregnant women’s drug use in their civil child neglect laws; in 12 states prenatal exposure to any illegal drug is defined by statute as civil child abuse. (One state, South Carolina, authorizes the criminal prosecution of mothers who are alleged to have consumed cannabis, or any other illicit substance, during pregnancy and carry their baby to term.) 
Of further concern is the reality that the hospital staff’s decision to drug test infants or pregnant mothers appears to be largely a subjective one. There are no national standards delineating specific criteria for the drug testing of pregnant women, new mothers, or their infants. In fact, the only federal government panel ever convened to advise on the practice urged against its adoption. As a result, race and class largely influence who is tested and who isn’t. A study published in the  Journal of Women’s Health reported that "black women and their newborns were 1.5 times more likely to be tested for illicit drugs as non-black women," after controlling for obstetrical conditions and socio-demographic factors, such as single marital status or a lack of health insurance. A separate study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported similar rates of illicit drug consumption during pregnancy among both black and white women, but found that “black women were reported [to health authorities] at approximately 10 times the rate for white women.”
How many mothers have been accused of child neglect or abuse because of false positive drug test results? Nobody knows for sure. But no doubt some mothers have been penalized solely as a result of the test’s inherent fallibility – and many more are likely to face similar sanctions in the future. That’s because the practice of drug testing infants for cannabis exposure remains a relatively popular even though there exists limited, if any, evidence to justify it.
“No child-health expert would characterize recreational drug use during pregnancy as a good idea,” writes Time.com columnist Maia Szalavitz. “But it’s not at all clear that the benefits, if any, of newborn marijuana screening – particularly given how selectively the tests are administered – justify the potential harm it can cause to families.”
Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform agrees, telling Time.com that the emotional damage caused by removing an infant child from their mothers, as well as the risk of abuse inherent to foster care, far outweigh any risks to the child that may be caused by maternal marijuana use during pregnancy. 
In fact, the potential health effects of maternal marijuana use on infant birth weight and early development have been subject to scientific scrutiny for several decades. One of the earliest and most often cited studies on the topic comes from Dr. Melanie Dreher and colleagues, who assessed neonatal outcomes in Jamaica, where it is customary for many women to ingest cannabis, often in tea, during pregnancy to combat symptoms of morning sickness. Writing in the journal  Pediatrics in 1994, Dreher and colleagues reported no significant physical or psychological differences in newborns of heavy marijuana-using mothers at three days old, and found that exposed children performed better on a variety of physiological and autonomic tests than non-exposed children at 30 days. (This latter trend was suggested to have been a result of the socio-economic status of the mothers rather than a result of pre-natal pot exposure.)
Separate population studies have reported similar results. A 2002 survey of 12,060 British women reported, “[C]annabis use during pregnancy was unrelated to risk of perinatal death or need for special care.” Researchers added that “frequent or regular use” of cannabis throughout pregnancy may be associated with “small but statistically detectable decrements in birthweight.” However, the association between cannabis use and birthweight failed to be statistically significant after investigators adjusted for confounding factors such as the mothers’ age, pre-pregnancy weight, and the self-reported use of tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, and other illicit drugs.”

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Rand Paul: Relax Marijuana Penalties, Allow States To Determine Pot Policy

 

 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) continued to field questions this week about a possible entrance into the 2016 Republican presidential mix, reinforcing his views that legal penalties for marijuana offenses should be reduced and that states should be responsible for crafting their own laws regarding the plant.

In an interview with ABC, Paul said that while he did not personally support marijuana being legalized, or even used, for that matter, he did believe that punishments surrounding it were overly harsh.

"I think for example we should tell young people, ‘I’m not in favor of you smoking pot, but if you get caught smoking pot, I don’t want to put you in jail for 20 years,’" Paul said.

The senator went on to argue that states such as Washington and Colorado, which both voted to legalize and tax marijuana earlier this month, should be permitted to have their moves stand, despite running contrary to federal laws determining the drug to be an illegal substance.

"States should be allowed to make a lot of these decisions," Paul said. "I want things to be decided more at a local basis, with more compassion. I think it would make us as Republicans different."

He made similar comments in an earlier interview with Politico, saying that he planned to reach across the aisle to Senate Democrats in hopes of addressing his concerns with marijuana sentencing legislatively.

Both Paul and his father, retiring Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), have been outspoken proponents of states’ rights and compassion when it comes to marijuana laws. They’ve also both been avid supporters of legalizing the production of industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive relative of marijuana that has been caught up in the wider net of drug laws.

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States Legalizing Marijuana Will Violate Federal Law, Trigger Constitutional Showdown: DEA, Drug Czars

 

The Huffington Post | By Matt Ferner Posted: 10/15/2012 3:13 pm EDT

 

On a Monday teleconference call, former Drug Enforcement Agency administrators and directors of the Office of National Drug Control Policy voiced a strong reminder to the U.S. Department of Justice that even if voters in Colorado, Oregon and Washington pass ballot measures to legalize marijuana use for adults and tax its sale, the legalization of marijuana still violates federal law and the passage of these measures could trigger a “Constitutional showdown.”

The goal of the call was clearly to put more pressure on Attorney General Eric Holder to make a public statement in opposition to these measures. With less than 30 days before Election Day, the DOJ has yet to announce its enforcement intentions regarding the ballot measures that, if passed, could end marijuana prohibition in each state.

“Next month in Colorado, Oregon and Washington states, voters will vote on legalizing marijuana,” Peter Bensinger, the moderator of the call and former administrator of the DEA during President Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan administrations, began the call. “Federal law, the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court decisions say that this cannot be done because federal law preempts state law.”

Bensinger added: “And there is a bigger danger that touches every one of us — legalizing marijuana threatens public health and safety. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, drug driving arrests, accidents, and drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed. Drug treatment admissions are up and the number of teens using this gateway drug is up dramatically.”

Bensinger was joined by a host of speakers including Bill Bennet and John Walters, former directors of the While House Office of National Drug Control Policy; Chief Richard Beary of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP); Dr. Robert L. DuPont, founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and who was also representing the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and several others.

In response to the drug warriors calling out Holder again to take a strong public stance against these marijuana legalization measures, Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group behind Colorado’s Amendment 64 said to The Huffington Post:

We believe anything claimed by participants on the call today needs to be taken with many grains of salt. These people have made a living off marijuana prohibition and the laws that keep this relatively benign substance illegal. The nation wastes billions of taxpayer dollars annually on the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and people like Bill Bennett and John Walters are among the biggest cheerleaders for wasting billions more. The call today should be taken as seriously as an event by former coal industry CEOs opposing legislation curtailing greenhouse gas emissions. They are stuck in a certain mindset and no level of evidence demonstrating the weakness of their position will change their views.

This is an election about Colorado law and whether the people of Colorado believe that we should continue wasting law enforcement resources to maintain the failed policy of marijuana prohibition. Our nation was founded upon the idea that states would be free to determine their own policies on matters not delegated to the federal government. The Controlled Substance Act itself acknowledges that Congress never intended to have the federal government fully ‘occupy the field’ of marijuana policy. We hope the Obama administration respects these state-based policy debates. If Amendment 64 is adopted by the people of Colorado, there will be sufficient time before any new businesses are established for state and federal officials to discuss the implications.

Today’s call elaborated on a September letter that nine former DEA heads sent to Holder strongly urging him to oppose Amendment 64 in Colorado, Initiative 502 in Washington and Measure 80 in Oregon. “To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public and the global community a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives,” the nine said in the letter to holder obtained by Reuters.

A month before the 2010 election in California, Holder vowed to “vigorously enforce” federal marijuana laws and warned that the government would not look the other way and allow a state marijuana market to emerge. California’s Proposition 19 was narrowly defeated in 2010 and the pressure is on Holder again to voice opposition to these 2012 measures.

When pressed by a reporter during a Q & A following the call if the group was at all surprised that Holder had not yet made a statement about the measures, former drug czar John Walters replied, “I think it’s shocking. All you have to do is say things that this administration has already said. It would help enormously and I think it would defeat these measures.”

Both Colorado and Washington’s pot ballot measures are quite popular with voters, according to recent polling and have been backed by an increasingly diverse group across a range of ideological perspectives.

In Colorado, if marijuana is legalized it would be taxed and regulated similar to alcohol and tobacco. It would give state and local governments the ability to control and tax the sale of small amounts of marijuana to adults age 21 and older. According to the Associated Press, analysts project that that tax revenue could generate somewhere between $5 million and $22 million a year in the state. An economist whose study was funded by a pro-pot group projects as much as a $60 million boost by 2017.

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Justice Department uses prosecutorial discretion to seek decades in prison for legal Michigan cultivators

 

By ASA, Fri, September 28, 2012

Justice Department uses prosecutorial discretion to seek decades in prison for legal Michigan cultivators

 

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Detroit, MI — Five medical marijuana patients and caregivers will be sentenced in federal court next week, highlighting the human cost of the federal government’s intolerance for state medical marijuana laws.
Two medical marijuana caregivers from Monroe County who were convicted earlier this year in federal court will be sentenced at 3pm Monday, October 1st before U.S. District Court Judge David M. Lawson (231 W. Lafayette Blvd, Detroit). Gerald Lee Duval Jr., 52, and his son, Jeremy Duval, 30, were raided by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in 2011 and charged with felony cultivation, maintaining a place to cultivate marijuana, and conspiracy to distribute. In April, the Duvals were convicted at trial, the expected result of federal laws that prohibit any medical defense or reference to state law in front of juries.
“The Duvals’ case is another tragedy from President Obama’s war on medical marijuana,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group. “This type of enforcement is completely discretionary, unnecessary and far from the public health approach that medical marijuana patients deserve.” The Duvals face decades in prison despite no evidence of state law violations.
Days later, three more medical marijuana patients and caregivers will be sentenced in federal court in Michigan. Around the same time federal agents were raiding the Duvals, officers with the Central Michigan Enforcement Team (CMET) and the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Department raided the Austin Township home and other property of John Marcinkewciz, 42, and Shelley Waldron, 42. Marcinkewciz, Waldron and Jaycob Montague, 26, were originally charged under state law with cultivation and conspiracy to cultivate, but prosecutors soon turned their cases over to the federal Justice Department, where the three had no chance of defending themselves against federal law. Marcinkewciz, Waldron and Montague all subsequently took plea bargains in May.
Waldron and Montague are scheduled to be sentenced at 8:45am on October 4th before Judge Robert Bell in U.S. District Court at 110 Michigan Street NW, Grand Rapids. Marcinkewciz is scheduled to be sentenced at 8:45am on October 5th before the same judge. In spite of the plea bargains, the three medical marijuana providers still face decades in prison.
“The federal raids and prosecutions in Michigan are unfortunately only an example of the broader aggressive campaign by the Obama Administration to undermine state medical marijuana laws,” continued Sherer. As with the Duval raid, DEA agents commonly burst onto the scene wearing full body armor and wielding machine guns in a clear attempt to intimidate. Despite claims by the president that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws,” Obama’s Justice Department has conducted more than 200 SWAT-style raids and indicted well over 70 medical marijuana patients and providers since he took office.
A federal lawsuit to force the DEA to reclassify marijuana for medical use will be heard by the D.C. Circuit on October 16th. The case Americans for Safe Access v. DEA is bringing the science of medical marijuana into federal court for the first time in nearly 20 years. If marijuana were reclassified, the five people being sentenced in Michigan would be entitled to a medical defense, a right they are now denied.

 

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