Earlier this month, the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit that works toward ending the War on Drugs, published a report that analyzed how cannabis legalization has affected communities where it's been adopted—in the eight states and Washington D.C. (now nine states, since the governor of Vermont just pulled the completely gangster move of legalizing cannabis through legislature—making Vermont the first state to do so).
According to the report: Cannabis-related arrests are (predictably) down in areas where it's legal, saving states hundreds of millions of dollars and sparing innocent people from being locked in cages for something we know isn't harmful. Tax revenue collected from cannabis sales are being used to fund state schools, improving and enriching the lives of children in those areas. Cannabis use has remained counterintuitively stable in youth populations of the earliest adopters, contradicting the expectations of naysayers who understandably expected it to rise. Increased access to cannabis seems to have a correlation with drops in opioid use and opioid-related deaths. The total number of arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol or any substance has declined in Colorado and Washington. Vehicle crash rates don't appear to be influenced by legalization at all. And: These places are rolling in it. The cannabis industry is growing exponentially at a rate that is staggering economists.
Can you imagine legalization in New Mexico, dear reader? Let's all get real quiet and picture it. An end to our state funding problems. People moving in instead of moving out. Money and energy thrown at our poor and failing schools. A place that isn't one of the worst states for alcohol-related deaths and only a few people know heroin addicts.
Naw, fuck it. We're doing okay, right?
McCamley looking for medical cannabis protections
In the wake of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions' reversal of the Cole Memorandum—which has protected cannabis users and producers in states where it's been legalized from federal prosecution for years—leaders in states where cannabis has any legal status (like our own) have gotten twitchy and nervous, hugging themselves and chewing on the inside of their lips. They sleep little, but when they do, their dreams are occupied by a shrill little man with crooked ears and wet, crustacean eyes.
It's back to the early days of medical cannabis, just cross your fingers and hope you don't spend your life in jail.
Which is why Rep. Bill McCamley introduced a House Memorial earlier this month calling for the legislature to ask the state’s congressional delegation to create legislation that would explicitly protect medical cannabis patients from federal prosecution. At the moment, medical cannabis is protected from federal prosecution (despite Sessions' rescinding the Cole memo) because of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment—which bars the Department of Justice from using any funds to go after medical cannabis patients or producers. But it has to be renewed frequently, and McCamley wants a more permanent solution.
McCamley is a longtime friend of the state cannabis community. He's introduced legislation to legalize recreational use three times, but it hasn't ever made it to the House floor for a vote.
Cannabis Breathalyzer Stumps Scientists
A new study published in the journal Trends in Molecular Medicine explains why it's so hard to make a roadside testing kit for cannabis impairment. According to study co-author Marilyn Huestis Ph.D, the difficulty arises not from a testing accuracy issue—it's fairly simple to determine the amount of THC in a subject's bloodstream or urine. The problem is interpreting that data and learning how it applies to different people.
One issue is that an occasional user will stop testing positive for THC within hours or days, whereas the chemical sticks around longer for long term users. This is because THC bonds to fat tissue and stays in the fat cells, slowly releasing over time.
For a reference: The literature will tell you that if you're a daily user and you stop all THC intake, you will test negative in around two months—three tops. The only time I stopped smoking cannabis daily in the last 20 years was for 5 months in 2013. I stopped for five months because I needed to get a new job and it took that long for me to pass a urine test.
Let that one sink in. If I'd been tested for “cannabis inebriation” I would have tested positive five months after the last time I'd consumed any cannabis. Trust me. It had worn off.
Cannabis also tends to have a wide range of different effects on its users. One strain might cause you to become paranoid and cause me to become silly. The complex chemical makeup of natural cannabis (as opposed to an extract) makes it impossible to predict how one strain might affect a person.
Making it hard as hell to pinpoint when someone's ability to drive has been negatively impacted by looking at their THC levels. But the researchers had an answer to the problem: Law enforcement officers have to stop looking to chemical tests for answers and start using their powers of detection. They suggest developing a series behavioral markers to determine if a person is impaired or not.