MoDo-Proofing Edibles, Ctd

The free market is responding to customers like Maureen Dowd who can’t handle their dosage:

New on the shelves in Colorado’s recreational pot shops is the “Rookie Cookie,” a marijuana-infused confection that contains 10 milligrams of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient. That’s a low enough dose that most adults wouldn’t be too impaired to drive a car.

Then there’s a new marijuana-infused soda that’s 15 times weaker than the company’s best-known soda. The Dixie One watermelon cream soda contains 5 milligrams of THC — half of what the state considers a serving size — and is billed as “great for those who are new to THC or don’t like to share.”

But Sullum warns that it “would be a mistake to mandate a one-size-fits-all approach”:

Currently the maximum amount of THC per package for recreational products is 100 milligrams, or 10 standard servings. Gov. John Hickenlooper has suggested each package should contain just “one dose.” But one dose for whom? Ten milligrams may be plenty for an occasional user, but it is way too low for many regular users. As [Michael Elliott of the Marijuana Industry Group] puts it, “A lot of consumers are saying, ‘I don’t want to get diabetes trying to get everything that I want. I don’t want to have to eat 10 candy bars to get the 10 doses of marijuana that I want.” Such a mandate would impose extra packaging expenses on manufacturers (and ultimately on consumers) while decreasing customer satisfaction. It makes more sense to offer a variety of potencies to suit the needs of different consumers.


Questions For The Day

A Medical Marijuana Operation In Colorado Run By Kristi Kelly, Co-Founder Of Good Meds Network

Tom Angell has been spending some time at the Library of Congress reading through newly available papers from the estate of Carl Sagan, the scientist who might just have had more impact on the popular culture than any other in his time. What’s truly fascinating is how Sagan’s employment by NASA made it all but impossible for him to publicly say what he privately believed: that cannabis is a positive good for individuals and for society as a whole. But mainly, they also reveal a true scientist’s frustration with prejudice over data, and with easy answers to conventional questions.

After the jump is the full text of a letter Sagan wrote to the president of the Drug policy Foundation, responding to the idea of a televised debate on drug laws. It is largely a series of questions – and they remain as relevant today as ever:


Know dope.

(Photo: Pots of cannabis inside a medical cannabis cultivation facility in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Monday, March 4, 2013.   This is inside a warehouse in Denver, and is one of the facilities that Kristi Kelly, Co-Founder of Good Meds Network, operates. By Matthew Staver/For The Washington Post via Getty Images.)

Legal Weed Heads East

Matt Ferner flags a poll from last week showing that an astonishing 65 percent of likely voters in DC support the city’s legalization initiative:

The NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll’s finding that district voters support legalization by almost a 2-1 margin “is the highest support ever for a marijuana legalization ballot initiative,” Adam Eidinger, chair of D.C. Cannabis Campaign, the group backing the legalization measure, said in a statement. “It vindicates the work of this campaign so far, but we still have more work to do turning out the vote come Election Day.”

Only 33 percent of likely voters oppose legalization, which puts the scolds on the Washington Post’s editorial board in the distinct minority. Meanwhile, WaPo’s Aaron C. Davis and Peyton M. Craighill register a “major shift toward support [of legalization] among African Americans”:

The District’s black residents, who now account for half its population, once opposed marijuana legalization, partly out of fear it could lead to addiction among black youths. But as new studies have suggested otherwise, that attitude has evolved. One study last year showed that blacks account for nine out of 10 arrests for simple drug possession in the District, while another showed that was the case even as usage likely varied little among races. According to the poll, 56 percent of likely African American voters say they would vote for legalization, a near identical number to a broader question about support for legalization asked in a Washington Post poll in January. Together, the polls confirm a complete reversal of opinions among African Americans from four years ago. Then, 37 percent were in favor of legalization and 55 percent opposed.

But Jacob Sullum warns that even if Initiative 71 were to pass, Congress could still get in the way:

Legalization of the cannabis industry would be left to the D.C. Council, which could be overridden by Congress. Congress also could block implementation of Initiative 71, as it did for years with Initiative 59, the medical marijuana measure that D.C. voters approved in 1998. The last congressional effort to stymie marijuana reform in D.C., led by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), consisted of an amendment that would have barred the District from spending public money “to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution” of a controlled substance. The House approved Harris’ amendment in June, but it was dropped from the final version of the spending bill. Harris plans to try again if Initiative 71 passes.

As Matt Connolly notes:

A full-scale legalization effort, complete with dispensaries like those seen in Washington and Colorado, could provoke the ire of national conservatives again. It’s a fight D.C. is used to having, and its outcome might depend on how the other states with legalization measures – Oregon and Alaska for recreational, Florida for medical – end up voting.

Know dope.

Weed Makes A Bad Study Buddy

Last week, Christopher Ingraham covered a Lancet study connecting teen pot use to school graduation rates:

Teenagers who smoke marijuana daily are over 60 percent less likely to complete high school than those who never use. They’re also 60 percent less likely to graduate college and seven times more likely to attempt suicide.

But yesterday he qualified those findings:

From 2006 to 2012, monthly marijuana use among high school seniors increased by more than 4 percentage points*, from 18.3 percent to 22.9 percent. If indeed marijuana use were the educational catastrophe that opponents predict, you’d expect to see downward pressure on national graduation rates as more kids took up the habit. But in actuality, the opposite happened: over the same period, as kids were smoking more, graduation rates jumped 8 percentage points.

This should not be at all construed to imply that increasing rates of marijuana use are somehow causing higher graduation rates. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. And these numbers don’t even constitute an argument against the Lancet study findings – it’s perfectly plausible that any negative consequences of marijuana use are too small to show up in a simple national trendline like this.

But it’s a useful corrective against the facile notion that “more weed = less graduation.”

Jacob Sullum inserts further caveats:

It surely is plausible that teenagers who get stoned every day, like teenagers who get drunk every day, would have trouble doing well in school because they are intoxicated when they are supposed to be learning. But that observation leaves unanswered the question of why some teenagers, but not others, choose to get stoned every day. The propensity to engage in that sort of behavior may be a marker for characteristics that independently undermine academic performance.

When Cannabis Is No Longer A Crime

Sam Kamin and Joel Warner expect that, “as marijuana prohibitions continue to weaken and an increasing number of states reconsider stringent drug sentencing rules, people could begin to lobby to remove more serious pot convictions from their rap sheets or even get out of prison”:

However, if either the courts or clemency boards take up the work of reviewing past marijuana convictions, they will have to tackle a very thorny issue: Convictions don’t always match the crime that was committed. Many of the low-level offenders who might seek clemency struck plea deals with prosecutors, and those negotiations can obscure the underlying crimes. UCLA drug policy expert Mark Kleiman offers an example: “It’s entirely possible that a guy was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and cannabis, and the plea bargain he pled to was just the cannabis charge.” So how do you determine, sometimes many years later, whether a given conviction actually corresponds to a defendant’s true criminal culpability? And even if a marijuana conviction does in fact correspond to a marijuana offense, are all marijuana offenses created equal? Should it matter whether the 12 ounces of pot someone was busted with came from small-scale farms in Humboldt County, California, or were imported from Mexico by drug cartels?

Fascinating. At some point in the future, if and when cannabis is seen as the simple plant and medicine that it is, those behind bars – some for life – for non-violent offenses involving cannabis are going to seem awful victims of a regime long since discredited. Some relief will surely have to be granted – but I can sure see the complexities.

Who’s Really Making Marijuana Users ‘Lab Rats’?

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

The state of Colorado has just launched an asinine campaign to keep kids off marijuana. The initiative’s first tack, unveiled Monday, involves a cadre of nine-foot-tall rat cages staged around Denver, “with messages communicating the potential damage marijuana has on a teen’s brain and the notion that Colorado’s youth are the test subjects for continued observation,” according to a press release.

The “Don’t Be a Lab Rat” campaign will also feature television commercials (example above) and a website with warnings like the following:

Is Mother Nature’s miracle plant as harmless as most teens think? Maybe not. In fact, many early studies have shown the exact opposite. Scientists from Duke to Cambridge have uncovered a laundry list of troubling side effects.

Schizophrenia. Permanent IQ loss. Stunted brain growth.

Still, some people question this research. Claiming the studies need to go deeper. Look further. But who will be their guinea pigs?

Who’s going to risk their brains to find out once and for all what marijuana really does?

Don’t be a lab rat.

Marijuana Policy Project communications director Mason Tvert obviously disapproves of the ads. He told CBS Denver:

You don’t have to say, ‘You’re going to become a lab rat and it’s going to destroy you.’ This is the same type of fear-mongering that’s failed to prevent teen marijuana use for decades.

Seeing as many teens know older adults (possibly even their parents) who smoked pot as young adults and didn’t become developmentally-stunted schizophrenics, the warnings probably won’t ring too true. But the thing is, anyone who uses marijuana – medically or recreationally – is essentially a “lab rat” right now.

We don’t have a ton of research on how marijuana affects teen brains, glaucoma patients, veterans with PTSD, or anyone else. And there is precisely one reason we do not: because of federal drug policy.

American doctors and scientists have been clamoring to study marijuana’s health benefits and risks more closely. Yet the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance with “no accepted medical use,” which makes it incredibly hard for researchers to study it. (Other Schedule 1 drugs – including LSD and Ecstasy – also face regulatory hurdles that limit their medical potential, though studying these drugs is slightly less difficult than studying weed.) Among other things, would-be marijuana researchers must get special dispensation from multiple federal agencies and buy their supply from a federal grow facility that’s perpetually understocked. The New York Times recently detailed the hoops these researchers must jump through:

To obtain the drug legally, researchers … must apply to the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse — which, citing a 1961 treaty obligation, administers the only legal source of the drug for federally sanctioned research, at the University of Mississippi. … The process is so cumbersome that a growing number of elected state officials, medical experts and members of Congress have started calling for loosening the restrictions. In June, a letter signed by 30 members of Congress, including four Republicans, called the extra scrutiny of marijuana projects “unnecessary,” saying that research “has often been hampered by federal barriers.”

(…) Despite the mounting push, there is little evidence that either Congress or the Obama administration will change marijuana’s status soon. In public statements, D.E.A. officials have made their displeasure known about states’ legalizing medical and recreational marijuana.

When state governments and anti-drug crusaders warn folks not to be lab rats, let’s remember who’s keeping them that way.