All posts tagged: Medical Marijuana

Gateway Drug: Myth or Fact?

MarijuanaIt’s a question that keeps coming up in the legalization debate: Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

Myth? Fact? Or just maybe, a little of both.

A better question, and the one that seems to get lost in most of the studies regarding marijuana use is; Why do people use drugs at all?

There is a tendency in anti-marijuana circles to answer this age old question using modern constructs, thus ignoring a simple biological truth. Drugs make a person feel good. Drugs cause the brain to release larger amounts of dopamine, the chemical that makes us feel good.

If dopamine release is the benchmark, then we can conclude almost anything we ingest for pleasure is a “Gateway Drug”.

Chocolate, sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana and yes, harder drugs like cocaine, meth and heroin all cause the brain to create increased amounts of dopamine.

Consider this, from the governments own website, www.drugabuse.gov:

These findings are consistent with the idea of marijuana as a “gateway drug.” However, the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, “harder” substances. Also, cross-sensitization is not unique to marijuana. Alcohol and nicotine also prime the brain for a heightened response to other drugs50 and are, like marijuana, also typically used before a person progresses to other, more harmful substances.

So, can we conclude that using marijuana, tobacco or alcohol will ultimately lead to heroin addiction? Hardly. If marijuana was truly a “Gateway Drug”, then why is it, by the government’s own admission, “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use harder drugs.”

If marijuana is truly a Gateway Drug, then why are there so many drug dealers who smoke pot and are selling heroin and cocaine, but are not using heroin or cocaine themselves? It’s not like they can’t get any. Are we suggesting that greed overrides addiction? Or could it be, the reasons for drug use are far more complex than the simplicity of the “Gateway Drug” explanation?

Again, from drugabuse.gov:

It is important to note that other factors besides biological mechanisms, such as a person’s social environment, are also critical in a person’s risk for drug use. An alternative to the gateway-drug hypothesis is that people who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances like marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol, and their subsequent social interactions with other substance users increases their chances of trying other drugs. Further research is needed to explore this question.

In other words, social status, economic status and good old fashioned peer pressure can just as easily be behind drug use.

It’s a truth about youth that boundaries must be tested, social norms questioned, and the age old human need of being bad to feel good comes into play. Young people experiment. It’s just a fact of life.

Sometimes science goes too far and the idea that people make choices becomes subjugated to the notion that because of biology, we cannot control ourselves, and those choices are made for us. Nonsense.

Every study I’ve read through has had to admit that, the “Gateway Drug” explanation is in itself far too simple to fully explain how and why people end up using hard drugs like heroin.

The Rand Corporation is a highly respected think tank that has performed research on everything from drug abuse to nuclear war.

They compiled their own research as well as that of other institutions, finding that although on the surface, it could appear so, there is actually no definitive study that justifies claiming marijuana is a “Gateway Drug”:

This evidence would appear to make a strong case for a gateway effect. However, another explanation has been suggested: Those who use drugs may have an underlying propensity to do so that is not specific to any one drug. There is some support for such a “common-factor” model in studies of genetic, familial, and environmental factors influencing drug use. The presence of a common propensity could explain why people who use one drug are so much more likely to use another than are people who do not use the first drug. It has also been suggested that marijuana use precedes hard-drug use simply because opportunities to use marijuana come earlier in life than opportunities to use hard drugs. The DPRC analysis offers the first quantitative evidence that these observations can, without resort to a gateway effect, explain the strong observed associations between marijuana and hard-drug initiation.

Simply stated, there are many people who have a propensity for drug use, and where they start is not a simple, “one drug leads to another” explanation for drug abuse.

One factor that continually seems to be missed in all this is the legal status of marijuana. It’s classification as a Schedule 1 Narcotic makes selling marijuana profitable, and someone willing to sell drugs is not going to be too particular about which drugs they sell to make money.

By keeping marijuana illegal, and lumping it together with truly harmful drugs like heroin, we drive users to interact with illicit drug dealers, who are more often than not interested in making money. Period. “Hey, if you like weed, you’ll love this.”

That isn’t going to happen at a legal dispensary.

And don’t get me started on the dangers of prescription drugs like Oxycontin, which is basically synthetic heroin. Far too many people get hooked on hard drugs when their prescription runs out. When a physician refuses to refill a prescription for Oxycontin, $7 – $10 stamp bags of heroin are far more affordable than $30 – $50 Oxys. 

Changing the legal status of marijuana in states like Colorado has proven to actually reduce the use of hard drugs like heroin, because people are no longer forced to interact with criminals who may not have their best interests at heart in order to obtain marijuana.

So, enough with the “Gateway Drug” argument. There is absolutely no empirical evidence proving marijuana use leads to hard drug use, any more than eating chocolate, smoking cigarettes or drinking beer does. In fact, according to the government, the vast majority of marijuana users do not use hard drugs at all.

That hardly sounds like a “Gateway Drug” to me.

Related links:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana/marijuana-gateway-drug

http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB6010.html

 

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleGateway Drug: Myth or Fact?
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Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

Mascots that might appeal to children do not help win over parents or legislators.

Mascots that might appeal to children do not help win over parents or legislators.

Now that medicinal marijuana is about to be legalized in Pennsylvania, many questions are being raised regarding availability, treatable conditions, overall regulation and the relationship between medicine and employment.

The passage of SB 13 was very conditional, with built in limitations on what types of medical conditions qualified as being treatable with medicinal marijuana.

Yet amidst the wrangling over those specifics, there remains a much larger grey area to contend with: the right of an employer to impose conditions for employment.

Employers routinely set rules that limit what a person can and cannot do, both on and off the job. Safety concerns are the number one condition employers are most apt to have strict guidelines regarding employee conduct.

“What I do on my own time is none of their business”, is a common refrain, yet legally, that is simply not true.

Getting arrested for something you did on your own time can often be grounds for termination of employment. Your lunch hour is your own time, and perhaps you like a cocktail with your sandwich, but if you return to work with a buzz, you can certainly be subject to disciplinary action.

Employment that involves classified data relating to security issues is another area where employers routinely require codes of behavior both on and off the job. A drug habit, even a manageable one, can become a liability in countless ways under those circumstances.

Firemen, police officers, bus drivers, EMT personnel– all have codes of conduct relating to their employment contracts, because, that is what a job is: a contract between employer and employee.

There are many jobs that have “morality clauses” built in to their employee contracts. A company that deals primarily with products or services catering to children is a good example. Remember when Pee Wee Herman played with his pee wee in a Sarasota, Florida movie theater? His career tanked overnight, and only recently has Pee Wee made a comeback– with adults. It’s highly unlikely Paul Reubens will be seeing any Saturday morning TV time in the foreseeable future.

How all this  relates to medicinal marijuana legally speaking is still largely unknown. There are currently no accepted tests to determine actual impairment in the case of marijuana. As of now, the most commonly used tests will show the presence of THC– which is stored in fat cells– for up to six weeks after use. That means the joint you smoked 3 weeks ago at your nephew’s bachelor party can still be found in your system, even though the effects have long since passed.

Some states are attempting to incorporate patients rights regarding job security into their legalization legislation, yet even then, employers have traditionally had the right to set boundaries and conditions regarding medication use at the workplace.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll explore what they’re doing in states like Colorado, Washington and California to address these issues, and how their efforts can be used as a model for sensible legislation here in Pennsylvania.

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Patrick NightingaleMedical Marijuana and the Workplace
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Martavis Bryant: Chronic Pain or Just Chronic?

The US Stance on Medical Marijuana is Confusing at BestWhen it was announced last week that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant was being suspended for a whole season following a failed drug test, the assumption was he had marijuana in his system. In truth, he missed not one, but two scheduled drug tests, which defaults to a failed test.

This is not the first time Bryant has run afoul of the NFL’s “Zero Tolerance” policy for drug abuse. He was previously suspended for four games under similar circumstances. Remember kids; a missed appointment for a drug test = a failed test. It works that way for anyone on probation, parole, etc. By missing not one, but two tests, Bryant opened the door to much speculation about why he was suspended, yet the truth is, we don’t actually know if he was using any drugs at all.  He was never tested.

Steelers President Art Rooney II, in what appears to be an appeal to compassion, has called for getting Bryant, “…the help he needs…” for the drugs we don’t actually know he was taking. Okay…

But what if that help includes medicinal marijuana?

Bryant, who, admittedly, is still a very young man, is employed in a professional sport that regularly includes violent physical collisions, resulting in long term physical debilitation, multiple concussions and the attendant problems, both physical and emotional, that accompany the normal physical stress and wear that is a natural result of a career in the NFL.

The media has been rife with stories of NFL players, many of them Hall of Famers, who are now dealing with the severity of the physical trauma they experienced while ‘playing a game’. But the NFL is no game to them. It is an intensely physical contest between players of gladiatorial strength and it punishes players long after they hang up their cleats.

As public acceptance of the validity of medicinal marijuana continues to grow, and the political realities of legalization begin to creep into the mainstream conscious, many businesses are having to face some decisions regarding where their contractual obligations for their employees are beginning to clash with the law.

If an NFL player in Colorado wants to use legal marijuana, on their own time, for personal recreational purposes, does the League still have the right to say they can’t?

After all, many professions require clean drug tests to get and keep a job– Airline Pilots, Truck Drivers, Police Officers, Firemen, jobs within the security sector. What makes an NFL player any different?

There are still many unanswered questions surrounding legal marijuana. There is currently no reliable test to determine impairment in the way a blood test can determine blood alcohol levels, yet that hasn’t stopped municipalities from charging motorists with DUI for marijuana, based mostly on possession and the observations of the arresting officer.

Not exactly a scientific approach.

But what happens to an NFL player if his doctor prescribes marijuana as a treatment option? Does the NFL have the right to deny their employees legal medicine?

Players are routinely prescribed medications that could easily be abused or result in an arrest. There are plenty of people in court who were charged with DUI for their prescriptions. Something like Oxycontin is a very powerful drug that can and does impair the senses of those taking it. People taking it probably shouldn’t be driving, but that’s a separate issue.

If a player’s doctor prescribed Oxycontin, then the NFL has to accept that one or more of their players is in a position to abuse their medication, but they do not have the right to tell them they can’t take it. They can only act if that player abuses that medication, resulting in an arrest or an accident. The NFL is not a medical board. They do not have the right to independently determine what constitutes medicine and what doesn’t. They cannot and should not be allowed to override the determinations of a licensed physician, regardless of their personal or professional stance on the issue.

Some states with legal medicinal marijuana have built in protections for patients who are prescribed marijuana, to ensure they are treated fairly by both law enforcement and in their workplaces.  Pennsylvania’s law would provide employees protection from employer discrimination for using medicinal cannabis. A person who has a prescription for marijuana cannot be fired for using marijuana in a state where it’s legal, unless they are actively abusing it on the job. It’s generally a bad idea to show up for work stoned or drunk, so I think there’s some common sense in all this to protect the employee, the employer and the general public welfare. It makes sense that a Train Engineer should be sober when operating the train. We get that.

There’s no doubt there is still some legal grey areas involving medicinal marijuana where employment is concerned, especially in companies that operate in all 50 states. An NFL player from Denver who is traded to a team located in a state where marijuana is still 100% illegal, for example. Where do their rights to fair treatment come in to play? That player has a legal prescription, yet is still subject to arrest for using that medication outside the state in which he resided when prescribed the medication.

The question then becomes, does the NFL, or any employer, have the right to tell their employees which medications their physician can or cannot prescribe them, regardless of the State in which the prescription is written?

Maybe Bryant just wants to burn one with his friends, but the odds, and the statistics, suggest it’s equally possibly this young man is already experiencing the effects of the physical trauma associated with a career in the NFL.

The NFL needs to take a fresh look at an outdated policy that denies players any medically valid treatment options, or medicine, to repair or at least alleviate the chronic debilitating physical conditions brought on as a direct result of their employment conditions.

Medicinal marijuana is becoming legal in Pennsylvania soon. Maybe it’s time for Mr. Rooney to take the lead on this in the League, if he truly cares about the players and wants them to get the help they need, as he says.

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Patrick NightingaleMartavis Bryant: Chronic Pain or Just Chronic?
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Medical Marijuana: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.

marijuana law reformThere’s no way I can deny that this topic has become a classic example of a broken record. It’s like friggin’ Groundhog Day.

The only difference is, there has in fact  been steady progress towards a sane policy for legalization in Pennsylvania. Yes, it moves at what feel like glacial speeds, but it has moved closer to our goal of removing this harmless and helpful plant from the list of hard drugs, and eliminating criminal penalties that are often draconian in light of the mounting evidence in favor of legalization.

After all, Pennsylvania should be first in line when it comes to Liberty. We have Independence Hall! We have the Liberty Bell! We have Le’Veon Bell! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

This is a state that has been described as Philly on the right side, Pittsburgh on the left side and Alabama in between. That was said before the internet and cell phones and tablets and… you get the picture. Time is catching up. Even in rural areas, you will find that a majority of people support some form of legalization and or decriminalization.

In Pennsylvania, nearly 60% of people polled favored full legalization and regulation similar to states like Colorado, which has proven to be effective in reducing crime statistics and been financially rewarding for the state through taxation. Not to mention the upsurge in profits for Girl Scout cookie sales and pizza delivery drivers.

Even more impressive is the over 80% in favor of, at the very least, making medicinal marijuana available to Pennsylvanians who will benefit from it. Even the staunchest republican will have second thoughts after watching their grandchild’s seizures abate with CBD treatments. You’d have to be pretty heartless to tell a parent whose child has cancer that they shouldn’t be able to use every treatment available to save their child, because “Jesus”. I’m not a religious scholar or anything, but based on everything Jesus was quoted as saying, I think someone who would say that has really missed the point when it comes to Jesus.

The log jam is caused by that single log. Mr. Log lodges itself in such a way that it causes smaller debris to pile up and cause a flood. In the aftermath, we rarely think about that single log, but focus on the larger devastation caused by the flood.

Right now, a single politician, in a rural county that doesn’t begin to represent a fair and balanced cross section of the citizens of Pennsylvania, has intentionally been that log, jamming up the process for no other reason than his personal opinion. That’s it. Mr. Log has chosen to ignore the vast majority of scientific evidence, accredited medical studies, even the government’s own admissions of current law being outdated and not worth policing and enforcing, in favor of his personal view. Mr. Log represents a district that is rural in the extreme, yet he seems to be saying his constituents think it will become South Central L.A. if doctors are allowed to prescribe medicine that also gets you high.

Try telling that to the guy who voted for him, right after that guy comes out of a major surgery– No Morphine For You! You voted for Mr. Log! You’ll live, but you won’t like it. Have a Tylenol…

People say that he’s in the pocket of Big Pharma, blah blah blah. DUH! ALL politicians take money from questionable sources. Even Bernie Sanders, despite his admirable stance on refusing PAC money, etc., even he cannot claim that 100% of his donors are pure of heart and have no ulterior motives beyond feeling the Bern. Money is part and parcel of politics. Even when it’s not, it still is.

It’s ridiculous to think that medicinal marijuana will somehow devastate the pharmaceutical industry, and the money will stop flowing. Marijuana is not a miracle cure-all. No sane person would begin to make such an argument. It is a natural, non-toxic, and in many instances extremely effective treatment option. With it’s acceptance as a viable medicine, there is every reason to believe that it will have additional benefits which, because of it’s illegal status, have not yet come to light.

But, you know all this. You’ve read all this and more, so many times, you could write it yourself with a random word generator program and a few dabs. I get it.

Kind of makes you wonder if they even have cell phones in rural Pennsylvania. Maybe they only have a black and white Zenith, with two channel knobs and maybe five channels to choose from.

2019 was the year the film, Blade Runner took place, so as a nation, we’re already behind on flying cars, but apparently, in one rural Pennsylvania county, it’s still black and white TV when it comes to it’s political landscape. At least that seems to be Mr. Log’s perspective.

But the flood has risen, in ways Mr. Log cannot control. Now is the time to contact your state representatives and demand they vote in favor of medicinal marijuana.

Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have passed decriminalization measures. Both are still standing. Both represent a huge percentage of Pennsylvanians, and those numbers extend into the surrounding districts as well. We cannot let one rural district representative like Mr. log dictate to the entire state, simply because he chairs a committee, and  thinks he can act like the Dictator of some third world backwater without indoor plumbing. Or a rural county in Pennsylvania, even.

The fight for legalization is not over in Pennsylvania, but we are on the verge of a significant victory with passage of a medicinal marijuana bill. Contact your state representatives and voice your support. Don’t let this moment pass us by.

Oh, by the way, I don’t name the politician because I call him, Mr. Log, and that’s all the name recognition he’ll get from me.

 

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Patrick NightingaleMedical Marijuana: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.
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Making Sense of Politics

Patrick testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

Patrick testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

When one hears the word, “Politics”, it is natural to think of the political process itself, but politics is a much wider arena than merely a way to get elected to office.

In this election year, we’re being inundated with politics. The politics of the left, of the right, of the corporations, of the special interests… of the people. It’s no accident I list ‘the people’ last.

When I’m standing in the Capitol at Harrisburg, having a sense of deja vous all over again, to quote Yogi Berra, it’s pretty easy to see why the people are frustrated with the entire political process.

This week I did just that, and I must admit, I felt pretty damned frustrated.

Once again, I found myself speaking at the state capitol, on behalf of the people who need medicine.

Medicine.

Not a buzz, not a way to enhance their listening pleasure when they put on, “Dark Side of the Moon”.

Medicine.

How heartless the system must seem to those who feel they no longer have a voice. How cold and unforgiving and uncaring that system appears to people, including those of us who are an integral part of that system. Now, imagine the depth of that feeling when that system would deny medicine to people who need it, and being one of those people, or the relative of those who need that medicine.

Imagine being severely injured, in need of pain killers, and being denied that medicine because of politics, simply because that medicine flies in the face of a political narrative, that has very little to do with helping people.

Heroin has become a scourge once again. Young people are using it at an alarming rate. It’s a very real problem, featuring a drug that truly destroys lives. Yet no politicians are saying Morphine, or any of it’s derivatives, should be discontinued because it also gets you really high.

Heroin comes from morphine, and by the logic of politicians, morphine should be illegal –AS MEDICINE.

It’s the exact same argument politicians are using to deny people medicinal marijuana. People get high on marijuana, so it can’t be medicine.

You can bet those arguments would evaporate for those same politicians if they or their loved ones were denied pain killers to ease their suffering.

Morphine is pretty potent stuff before it becomes heroin. It can be smoked or eaten or distilled into a drinkable form. Sound familiar? Yet, that’s where the similarities with marijuana end.

Morphine, and all it’s derivatives, are highly addictive, and is often at the heart of addiction problems that become worse once someone can no longer get it- or it’s derivatives- as a prescription. Those people often turn to drugs like heroin once they are cut off from their prescription, but at that point, it’s no longer medicine. It’s feeding an addiction.

By contrast, even in it’s purest form, THC is non-addictive and non-toxic. It does not result in catastrophic consequences for those who use it as a recreational drug, let alone as a means of easing suffering. Unless of course, they get arrested for possessing or selling it. That can be quite catastrophic.

Unlike morphine, marijuana is not just a pain killer– it can also be a cure. Scientific studies overwhelmingly agree that medicinal marijuana has potential to be an effective cure for many conditions. It is often the legal status that prevents even more research from being done.

And still, here we are, standing in the state capitol, once again pleading with a few politicians to stop denying people medicine. Not doctors. Not scientists. Politicians.

As I read through my Facebook feed, and see the level of rancor in any attempt to discuss political solutions to very real problems, I have to SMH and do a double face palm. Polls show an overwhelming 84% of Americans support medicinal marijuana. Why would any politician attempt to fight numbers like that? Eighty four percent.

This is only politics for those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Why they would want to ignore so clear a mandate from the people they represent to maintain that status? That is the real question we should be asking.

Who do these politicians really represent?

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleMaking Sense of Politics
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Obama: Marijuana Reform Not On Federal Table

MarijuanaWe had high hopes for 2016 indeed.

A President who freely admits to using marijuana in his younger years.

Legalization and reform happening across the nation, from decriminalization reform right here in Pittsburgh to states like Colorado, where full legalization is reaping huge revenue benefits for the state coffers.

Polls steadily rising for reform on both the recreational and medicinal fronts.

Surely, 2016 would be the year the Federal Government removes marijuana from the Schedule 1 list.

It’s starting to look like a pipe dream now.

Fortunately, the bloviating of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie fell on deaf ears when he said if he is elected President, he’ll ‘go after’ states like Colorado. The public is apparently equally deaf to his appeal for the Republican nomination, as he was not even on the proverbial radar in this weeks’ Iowa Caucus.

Even as many of his fellow Republicans have come around on the issue of reform, Christie chose to double down on his anti-marijuana position. The fact that it gained him no momentum and only the briefest of soundbites suggests the public isn’t interested in what he thinks. They are more interested in the success of successful reform in states like Colorado.

obama-tokingOf course, there was never really any hope that a Republican in the White House would lead to reform, but there was a lot of hope when President Obama took office.

We thought he was one of us.

This week the President said it was up to Congress to enact legislation for the reform of marijuana laws. It is not on his agenda.

Stunned silence here.

What? This from the man who has not been reluctant to use his pen to bypass Congress to make things happen? From a President in his final year of office, with the backing of the vast majority of his party and their constituents?

Recent polling shows support for full legalization at 58% and those in favor of Medicinal Marijuana, a staggering 84%! When was the last last time 84% of Americans agreed on anything?

Senator Bernie Sanders has made it clear he supports total legalization. Hillary Clinton has been remarkably silent on the subject unless she has to say anything, and her actual position is still not entirely clear.

As I said earlier, we can’t look to the Republicans to make this happen if they win the White House.

What’s left?

A collective effort by all Americans to make this happen, this year, while there is a President in office who would most likely sign a Marijuana Reform Bill if passed by Congress.

This means we have to bring the fight to our Senators and Congressional representations. The time is now. We must act.

We have to flood their offices with demands that Marijuana be removed from the list of Schedule 1 Narcotics and at the very least, if not legal, then made a Schedule 2 so it’s medicinal benefits can be legally prescribed.

84% of Americans support Medicinal Marijuana. Thousands of people need this medicine to treat and control a wide array of medical conditions.

Contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives and demand they enact legislation on the Federal level this year. They’ve dragged their feet long enough.

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Patrick NightingaleObama: Marijuana Reform Not On Federal Table
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Theresa Nightingale Receives Tokey Award

theresa-budtokinwoman.blogspot.com: “Celebrating famous female cannabis connoisseurs throughout herstory to the present day.”
They have just announced the 2015 “Tokey Awards” recipients and Theresa Nightingale was one of five women honored for “Activist of the Year” for her work bringing decriminalization to the city of Pittsburgh.
Theresa, who is also a founding member of the Pittsburgh NORML Womens Alliance, took some time out of her busy day to answer a couple questions about her work as an activist in the state of Pennsylvania.
How did you first get involved in the legalization movement?
Theresa:  I started by showing up to a Pittsburgh NORML meeting in January 2012. I knew that NORML was the oldest cannabis reform organization in existence and I wanted to be a part of it.

What has been the most challenging part for you, personally?

Theresa:  By far it has been the constant danger of having my child taken away from me due to the fact that I am so outspoken. I am lucky to live in the city of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, which is by far more liberal than the suburbs.

What lessons have you taken away from your experience?

Theresa:  That almost everything negative that you have ever heard about politicians is spot on, and then some. I’ve also learned that many of my peers don’t vote, and that is incredibly sad and frustrating. However, we as an organization are working to change that. We have voter registration information on our website and at many of our events.

http://www.pittsburghnorml.org/register-to-vote/

You were Miss High Times in March 2015– how did that come about?

Theresa:  I found out about the contest via a copy of HIGH TIMES magazine I had. I thought it would be fun to try to win a month. I then took some pictures of myself and uploaded them to the Miss High Times website, I was voted into the top 10, and after that I was invited to a few Cannabis Cups. The staff got to know me and eventually I received a month in the magazine due to my activism and other assets. It’s been a wonderful opportunity and experience.

What challenges does the legalization movement in PA face in the coming year?

Theresa:  Our Republican dominated House continues to stall any and all medical marijuana legislation. House leader Mike Turzai is our biggest opposition at the moment. We encourage everyone to give him a call and let him know how you feel about him stalling medical cannabis in Pennsylvania. His number is (412) 369-2230.

What is most rewarding thing about your activism for you?

Theresa:  As a mother I really enjoy helping other parents and their children. I have been able to see first hand how medical marijuana works for some of these children with seizure disorders. The idea that these parents are considered criminals in my state is sickening. We will not stop until every single patient in PA has safe and affordable access to this medicine.

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Patrick NightingaleTheresa Nightingale Receives Tokey Award
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Blame Buddie: Ohio Rejects Legal Weed

Issue-3-mascotThere’s already plenty of crowing from the anti-legalization crowd as Ohio has rejected marijuana legalization. But, is that what actually happened?

The proposals Ohio voters were asked to consider were somewhat confusing. Issue 3- legalization- was countered by Issue 2, which stipulates that it is illegal to insert economic privileges into the state constitution, which Issue 3 essentially did by stipulating a limited number of growing licenses be issued to predetermined recipients and leaving the rest out in the cold, thus essentially creating a growers cartel.

Some voters were obviously opposed to legalization itself, but there were also many who support legalization, yet are opposed to setting up monopolies for big business with little or no mention of taxes, education, etc.

And then there was “Buddie”.

Buddie is the mascot for the legalization movement in Ohio, and can best be summed up in the words of my 14 year old daughter. When shown a picture of Buddie, she said, “Oh my God, that’s awful!”

Thus even my child saw how irresponsible it was to include a mascot that could easily be construed as appealing to children.

The number one argument of opponents to reform has consistently been a fear that kids would take up toking as a result of legalization. In my recent visit to Denver, I found the exact opposite to be true.

Marijuana dispensaries were clean, efficient and safe. They require ID to enter and if you go in, you must buy. No window shopping and no children at all.

The staff was very helpful and professional. Indeed, it was very much like purchasing alcohol at a Pennsylvania State store.

And the numbers bear this out. Colorado has actually seen a drop in marijuana use by those under 18 since legalization.

And yet, here’s Buddie. In the eyes of opponents, it was like Disney World had opened a park dedicated to Cheech and Chong, complete with a smiling character based on a bud for the children to play with.

It might be the single dumbest move ever in the history of the legalization movement.

Coupled with the confusion created by Issue 2 and Issue 3, and the reluctance of many supporters to embrace creating a monopoly, it’s no wonder the measure failed to pass.

It stands as a warning to those of us in the movement to legalize. Even though there are states that have passed legalization, giving impetus to others to continue the fight, it has also created a sense of false hope that it would become easier now that Colorado and others have legalized weed.

Ohio stands as a stark reminder that the fight is going to be a hard one that is going to continue.

Here in Pennsylvania, we have consistently taken a two pronged approach to the fight. The first is that Marijuana is quite simply medicine for many people with chronic medical conditions.

The second is RESPONSIBLE USE by ADULTS, regulated in the same way we regulate the consumption of alcohol.

We have consistently advocated not just for legalization, but for educational programs that would steer kids away from marijuana until they are legally old enough to make the decision for themselves. No one in Pittsburgh NORML would for a moment suggest doing anything that might impede or contradict that policy.

“Responsible Ohio”, the advocacy group, in creating a mascot that flies in the face of that logic in the way Buddie does, could hardly be considered being responsible.

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Patrick NightingaleBlame Buddie: Ohio Rejects Legal Weed
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Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and… Marijuana

marijuana law reformAs we’ve been winding down our summer, and the Autumn chill begins to turn the leaves brown, I’ve been thinking about the things we love as a nation, about patriotism and the things we hold to be “American”.

While it’s true that marijuana was once something that came from south of the border, illegally brought to this country by Mexican and South American drug cartels using speed boats and drug mules in the middle of the night, that is no longer the case.

Today it has become increasingly rare to see news stories of vast quantities of weed being interdicted by authorities at border check points, or tales of bales of marijuana floating to the Gulf shores after being jettisoned by smugglers at sea.

The reason for this is simple. America grows better weed than pretty much the rest of the world.

American marijuana enthusiasts rival French wine tasters in their knowledge of marijuana, the various strains, flavors and potency.
American growers are consistently producing a far superior product to anything smuggled across the border.

This has caused potential revenue from smuggling to dwindle to the point of where it is no longer worth the risk. The term, “Mexican Brick Weed” has become completely derogatory, meaning an inferior product no one wants.

Conversely, we’ve seen enormous streams of revenue being produced in states where marijuana is legal. Colorado alone has reaped millions of dollars in tax revenues generated by legal marijuana sales, revenue that is being used to fund education, law enforcement efforts to battle serious crimes, and programs to treat addiction to hard drugs. In fact, Colorado has produced so much revenue from legal weed, they’re even looking at tax rebates for all their citizens.

Not only is there tax revenue, there is also a growing industry providing jobs where there once was only the expenditures associated with interdiction, enforcement and imprisonment.

This is trickle down economics in spades, a veritable flood of revenue and tax relief one would think politicians would wholeheartedly embrace as being American ingenuity and capitalism at it’s finest.

And beyond the financial windfall, there is something else legal marijuana does for all Americans: It takes away a revenue stream from our enemies.

It’s no secret that the money from illegal drug sales often ends up in the hands of foreign enemies bent on destroying the United States. Profits from drugs like heroin become funding for terrorist organizations and even some foreign governments hostile to America.

Legal marijuana, grown by Americans for Americans, regulated by the government for safety and producing tax revenue, is a nightmare for the enemies of freedom.

Maybe you personally do not use marijuana, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that every single person who reads this has a close friend and even family members, who enjoys smoking marijuana. Chances are, you have someone in your life who is ill, and marijuana can be the medicine that they need to control and even eliminate their illness.

The fact is, marijuana prohibition has been a dismal failure, costing the nation billions of dollars over the past fifty years. Prohibition has fueled anti-American groups with funding to carry out attacks on Americans around the world. It has given vast sums of money to criminal organizations like the cartels and has caused the needless incarceration of hundreds of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens who simply enjoy the mild intoxicating effects of marijuana.

For those who say marijuana is a “Gateway drug”, well, they are right even while being wrong. Rather than being a gateway TO drug abuse, the truth is, Colorado alone has seen a 25% REDUCTION in deaths resulting from the abuse of opioids (both illegal and prescription) since legalization. More and more accredited studies show that legal marijuana actually helps people to get off hard drugs like heroin. And less addicts means less money for our enemies to use against us. It is the gateway to freedom from addiction to hard drugs.

Much like alcohol prohibition in the early part of the twentieth century, marijuana prohibition has in truth benefited criminals the most, while leaving those who need medicine or simply enjoy smoking a little weed before watching Star Trek out to dry, and making them into criminals who in truth hurt no one.

The fact is, Marijuana use is as American as apple pie, and makes apple pie even more enjoyable to eat in the process. Legal marijuana takes away a resource used by our enemies and instead, uses it to create jobs, tax revenue and medicine used by and for Americans.

Legal Marijuana makes America stronger.

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Patrick NightingaleBaseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and… Marijuana
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NFL to Pittsburgh NORML: Cease and Desist.

MarijuanaThe hypocycloid itself is a symbol that cannot be trademarked.

What is a hypocycloid, you may ask? It’s the star-like symbol incorporated in the logo used by the Pittsburgh Steelers- three hypocycloids with the word “Steelers” in a white circle.

In our quest to find a logo for Pittsburgh NORML, we chose a similar design which replaces the hypocycloids with marijuana leaves.

norml-logoThe NFL recently caught wind of our design and sent us a classic cease and desist order.

Now, I will concede that the NFL has an economic interest in protecting its “brand”. Their objection is premised on the belief that it’s consumers would confuse our two marks. In other words, the NFL believes our use of the hypocycloid will cause National Football League consumers to believe that we were affiliated with the league. How stupid do they think NFL fans are?

It would be nice if we were actually affiliated with a sport where chronic pain is commonplace and many of it’s own employees use marijuana to alleviate that pain. Some of them even use it for recreation.

Last year, we saw a Steelers running back get arrested for using marijuana. Le’Veon Bell was caught driving (with another player) and was high at the time. He got a DUI and faced disciplinary action from the league. Bell is still on the team, and just this past Monday had a stellar game running the ball against the San Diego Chargers. I guess it’s safe to say the wacky weed doesn’t have much of a negative impact on his performance.

Seriously, though, as far as making a fight against the League for our logo goes, we’re throwing in the proverbial terrible towel, but I want to use it as a teaching moment. In my response, I offer the following statement:

“We honestly believed that our use of the hypocycloid was a “fair use” and therefore permissible under intellectual property law. However, we have no interest in going toe to toe with the Almighty National Football League. We hope, however that the league will listen to it’s own players, who are demanding access to a non-toxic and wholly natural pain management alternative. We still considered our logo a fair use, falling under the parody clause. Certainly no one would confuse marijuana leaves as being the true logo of the Steelers. However, we are a small, local non profit – not a multi-billion dollar non profit like the NFL. We would rather work on legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania than battle the all powerful NFL in court over a parody image.”

To be fair, the league would do the same thing if we were operating a hot dog cart, so their position is not about marijuana use.

Our logo position is not untenable, but we are choosing to focus our efforts and limited resources on what we feel is the important issue at stake here, and we’re making progress. In fact, the league has moved (slowly to be sure) towards our stance at NORML: Marijuana is medicine. This article in The Atlantic talks about the league taking a somewhat more enlightened approach to the issue.

Players like former Pitt star and Dallas Cowboys lineman Mark Stepnoski, who sits on NORML’s board of directors, and Marvin Washington, who spent 11 seasons in the NFL and now represents players as a financial adviser, agree that marijuana is medicine, and they are lobbying the league to take a more realistic, compassionate and enlightened approach to the issue.

Read about Marvin Washington here.

Why are these players coming forward in increasing numbers? Consider the case of NY Giants player Tyler Sash, from a story in Bleacher Report, whose use of opiate like drugs like methadone and hydrocodone to treat his chronic pain led to his untimely death at age 27.

We applaud these and other brave players who have publicly supported Marijuana as medicine, and encourage other players to ‘come out of the closet’ regarding marijuana use in the league.

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Patrick NightingaleNFL to Pittsburgh NORML: Cease and Desist.
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