All posts tagged: NORML

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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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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Marijuana Decriminalization in Pittsburgh: What Does It Mean?

MarijuanaHaving been in the front lines of the fight for marijuana legalization in the state of Pennsylvania, I am naturally excited by the recent events in Pittsburgh. The City Council voted in favor of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana and hashish within city limits.

This is a big step forward in the fight, make no mistake. It will also be a relief for citizens, the court system and police. No longer will the police and the courts be tied up dealing with simple possession charges, which will translate to an estimated annual savings to the city of one million dollars per year.

For citizens, it means a fine rather than criminal charges, and the stain of having a criminal record, losing one’s drivers license (6 month suspension if convicted of possession), or even losing employment. That alone makes the victory worth celebrating.

That said, let’s not celebrate too much. Marijuana is still illegal.

Many people are understandably confused by what this all means, so here’s a quick breakdown:

Can I just go out and light up?

Absolutely not. In fact, the fines range from $25 to $100 because it’s at the discretion of the police, and they’re going to base that decision on the discretion, or lack thereof, of the offender. The more public the circumstances, the larger the fine.

What if I’m driving?

Driving under the influence of any drug, even a prescribed medication, is considered Driving Under the Influence (DUI). If a Pittsburgh police officer has reason to believe a driver is impaired, they can arrest them for a DUI, and cite them for possession. Those type of situations can be complicated, and it’s advisable to have legal representation if you are so charged.

Is the presence of marijuana still considered ‘Probable Cause” for a search?

Yes. Marijuana is still an illegal substance, possession of which is grounds for a further search of a vehicle or your person. The same applies when an officer smells marijuana.

Does Decriminalization apply to surrounding towns, etc.?

No. Decriminalization applies only within the city limits of Pittsburgh. Marijuana possession in the rest of Allegheny county is still a criminal offense.

Will there be ‘court costs’ associated with the fine?

No. If the fine is paid within 30 days, it’s just the fine. Failure to pay could lead to increased fines or even additional charges, so it’s important to pay that fine.

Hopefully this addresses your questions regarding Marijuana Decriminalization in Pittsburgh.

It’s important to remember that this is a battle we’ve won in a much larger campaign, and there is still work to be done. Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support Medicinal Marijuana and a majority support full legalization. We must continue to bring the fight to Harrisburg until all of the citizens of Pennsylvania have access to the medicine they need and responsible, common sense legislation for adult recreational marijuana use.

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleMarijuana Decriminalization in Pittsburgh: What Does It Mean?
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Lessons from Colorado. What I saw and didn’t see in the “Wild West of Weed.”

MarijuanaThe word of the day, of the year, in Colorado, is COMPLIANCE.

One might think the state of Pennsylvania would appreciate this, as the state operates “PA Wine & Spirits”, or “State Stores” as they are commonly called.

In Colorado, the state does not actually sell marijuana, but they do regulate the stores that sell, and it’s pretty impressive how they have really taken into consideration all aspects of retail marijuana.
Retail outlets are clean, discreet dispensaries with licensed employees.

This no Cheech and Chong version of legal weed. (Not that I have anything against Cheech and Chong. They seem harmless enough to me). This is serious business for both the state and retailers. These licenses are far too hard to get to lose it over non-compliance.

Underage sales are virtually impossible to make as each store has at least two points of checking ID.

In terms of service, PA Wine & Spirits could learn a thing or two from the legal cannabis business model. Dispensaries are staffed by individual ‘bud tenders’ to assist the customer in finding the strains that best suit their individual needs.

Two other key elements are clear, easy to read labeling and safe packaging. The legal marijuana business is as straight forward as any regulated business I can think of, with plenty of safeguards in place.

One of the big concerns about legal marijuana has been eliminating any chance of children getting their hands on cannabis. This is why dispensaries are required to provide child proof bags to ensure children don’t accidentally become exposed.

Marijuana MUST be in a child proof package before leaving the store. The paper and plastic bags associated with liquor stores don’t come close to this kind of responsible packaging.

There is no window shopping, either.

For example, in Denver, one must cannot just go in and wander around dispensaries. The stores have websites where potential customers can do their window shopping prior to their visit to the store.

Originally, the medicinal licensing required vertical integration – a dispensary had to grow its own. That requirement was recently eliminated, but the successful dispensaries are in control of their own inventory. They want to make certain people are getting the strains that work best for their individual medical conditions– another reason stores have licensed, knowledgeable employees.

Colorado is even more serious about growing marijuana. Grow operations face inspections and often have armed security, and they have real time video monitoring with a feed to the Marijuana Enforcement Division. Yes, Colorado has a division of government much like our own Liquor Control Board, or LCB, to regulate marijuana growing and sales.

This is frustrating for those of us still on the front lines of the fight for legalization.

In Pennsylvania, state officials in opposition act as if they have to invent the wheel when it comes to a common sense, responsible and effective system of retail compliance. Yet, here is an excellent working model where all the legwork has already been done.

Licensing, safety, and taxation are all in place. It’s simply a case of taking the Colorado business model and tailoring it to meet the needs of the citizens of Pennsylvania. Not just the needs of those who wish to indulge, but also those citizens who have legitimate concerns about the issue. It’s a fair approach that can work here.

Pennsylvania is a state where polling suggests a majority of citizens– especially in and around urban areas like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia– support legalization in some form. By adopting a common sense, well regulated approach like that in Colorado, we can provide the medicine people need and the recreational use people want, while effectively addressing the needs and concerns of all of the citizens of our state.

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Patrick NightingaleLessons from Colorado. What I saw and didn’t see in the “Wild West of Weed.”
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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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Medical Marijuana: A Brand New Battle in Pennsylvania

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.

Who is Matthew Baker and more importantly, who does he think he is?

If I had to guess, he’s a power hungry politician who represents a very small percentage of Pennsylvanians. He seems more intent on being a pseudo scientist and medical professional than in being a legislator.

One cannot argue the republican representative is very popular in Tioga County (population a bit over 46,000) where he garners enough support to potentially remain in office for a very long time.

He claims to have all this scientific data and research, yet has failed to produce even one study during the debate on Senate Bill 3, the Medical Cannabis Act.

He utterly ignores the fact that 23 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana already, and all without attendant horror stories of death and mayhem.

Even more amazing, he ignores the fact that the United States government itself actually provides medical marijuana for a small number of patients. That’s right, Uncle Sam is dealing the Devil’s Lettuce in the form of tin cans of perfectly rolled joints.

This is the same government that keeps marijuana listed on the Schedule 1 narcotics list, though we are starting to see a change of attitudes on that among politicians and law enforcement professionals.

And still Mr. Baker, who chairs the House Health Committee, refuses to focus on what is happening in the world around, before his very eyes. He instead chooses to focus on the fear of “what if?”, and perhaps the fear of losing his office.

Or maybe, just maybe, he fears losing a rather large portion of his donors, which for some reason include a large number of pharmaceutical firms. This would not be odd if these companies had offices or manufacturing facilities located in Tioga county, but they don’t. Why would they even donate to a campaign whose outcome has no actual effect on their business?

He certainly has no difficulty ignoring the fact that several of his contributors are facing penalties and fines for selling drugs for uses which are unapproved by the FDA:

“It is amazing when you consider the strong opposition of the expert medical and scientific community that appeared to be ignored (and) the only drugs that should be allowed in the Commonwealth are those that are authorized through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process. —  Rep. Matthew Baker

How can one explain his unwillingness to produce these reports of strong opposition and why pharmaceutical companies would be concerned about the election outcomes in a very small county in Pennsylvania?

Oh, wait. He chairs that committee. Let’s give him money.

Actually, I am reminded of the scene from Blazing Saddles, when Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) says, “But, where could we find such a man? And why am I talking to you?” “You” being, WE, the people.

Do you have any idea how tired I and others are of reminding Mr. Baker that 88% of the people in Pennsylvania approve of medical marijuana legalization?  Apparently, a large part of that other 12 percent live in Tioga County, which must be populated by folks who would rather let children die than see their beloved representative lose his corporate donor base.

Why is it even legal for a corporation with no address in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, to donate in what is, by definition, a local election?  I find it hard to believe they do it because they call it home… in their hearts, anyway.

How would you feel if, say, 10 doctors agreed on a potentially life saving medicine for you, or heaven forbid, your child, but a single politician, backed by money from a bunch of companies with no viable alternative to offer (I know, they’re working on it, so just suffer till they work it out), is able to tell your doctors, “No, let your patient die.”

Does any of this make sense to you?

It makes sense to Matthew Baker. He seemingly has no problem (or compassion) saying ‘no’ when a weeping mother stands before him, telling a true story of how this medicine can save her child. He’d rather protect imaginary children than real, living breathing children.

Or maybe it’s even simpler than that. Maybe he’d rather have the money.

Scott Gacek at The Daily Chronic has written an excellent piece detailing the campaign contributors Mr. Baker actually represents. He has quoted myself and others in the fight to legalize marijuana about Matt Baker and about new strategies we need to explore.

Frankly, having participated in this ongoing debate for years, including testifying in Harrisburg, I am starting to wonder if Mr. Baker is delusional and in need of some medication from his supporters.

Or at the very least, the man seems to be in need of an enema, and fortunately, he won’t need a prescription for that.

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Patrick NightingaleMedical Marijuana: A Brand New Battle in Pennsylvania
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Teens and Pot: The Glamour of Crime

MarijuanaWe see it in our popular films and TV shows every day. There are websites that can make you famous for recording crimes you commit such as brutal assaults.

Shows like The Sopranos, Shameless and Breaking Bad portray crime (or just plain bad behavior) in a glamorous light.

Movies like Fast and Furious portray reckless driving as an adventure. To impressionable young minds, that’s exciting stuff; being bad and breaking the law.

What teenager doesn’t push the boundaries of the system? Some, more than others, to be sure, but testing boundaries and limits is a part of growing up. It is for many, a rite of passage in the literal sense that they are following in the footsteps of the older kids they once looked up to. The cool big sister or the tough big brother, whose exploits are legendary in the local arcade or city park.

Legalizing Marijuana removes that element from the equation of teens trying pot.

And the numbers bear this out. The fact is, in states where marijuana has been either decriminalized or legalized, teen use rates drop. For starters, in places where it’s legal, one can simply walk into a shop, provide age verification and make a purchase. The profit motive for street dealers no longer exists. The criminal aspect, the excitement of “the score”, no longer applies.

Addict after addict involved in hard drugs like Heroin or Meth, will confess that just the process of scoring illegal drugs is a high in itself. The danger of getting caught, the subterfuge of the transactions, the clever code words and cool phrases, can be a siren song of glory and street cred to the teenager looking to show they, too, are a grown up.

I see it all the time in court, often with tragic results. A young kid, often no more than a child themselves, getting caught up in the world of the illicit drug trade. The consequences to that person can be life long, and even worse, life ending.

But legal marijuana becomes… passe’ to the teenager simply looking for thrills. The teenager who sadly may be “preconditioned” to believe that crime is the way to prove themselves to their peers, will not get much props for a ‘drug’ that can be bought at a store down the street, openly and without shame.

Study after study shows that legalization, coupled with education and honest dialogue between parents, teachers and their kids, can work near miracles in reducing the incidences of teen crime. And not just marijuana related arrests. Crime rates overall tend to drop, because the violence and other criminal activity associated with drug dealing is eliminated from the equation when talking about marijuana, itself the most non-violent of all recreational substances.

Suddenly the dealer who also sells hard drugs, is no longer selling marijuana, and anyone buying marijuana will have a far lesser risk of being exposed to those harder drugs as a result. In that sense, all drugs are gateway drugs, but marijuana simply does not have to be one of them. It’s illegal status is the only real, provable causation for access to harder drugs, and the curiosity to try them.

If a teen tries pot, and finds out they were lied to about it being the devils weed from hell itself, they will no longer believe what you tell them about truly dangerous drugs like Heroin. “Hey pot wasn’t near as bad as they said it was, heroin must be okay, too.”

The vast majority of marijuana smokers have never even felt the desire to experiment with drugs like heroin. Anti-marijuana folks want to claim that smoking marijuana in itself leads to other drug use, but the statistics simply do not bear that out at all. In fact, in the case of alcohol use, marijuana legalization seems to have the opposite effect, as studies now show in legal states like Colorado, alcohol use actually drops and is instead replaced by marijuana, as opposed to combining the two.

There are burdens of proof in any legal case, and by those standards, the anti-marijuana folks do not have a leg to stand on. Research overwhelmingly shows the effects of marijuana use to be minimal in the extreme. As for being “dangerous” and a potential cause of death, as tired as you might be of hearing it, I’m just as tired of having to say it: Alcohol and tobacco, both legal, killed more people in the past six months than marijuana has in the past 200 years.

But what about the children?

Yes, the children are very important. I know because I have 3 of them living in my home, and rest assured, none of them will be trying pot before they are 21– whether or not it’s legalized. You see, I talk to my kids. I want them to have as much information as possible, because I imagine one day they will be old enough to drink alcohol, so like it or not, when they turn 21, I can only hope the lessons my wife and I teach them will keep them from abusing alcohol.

I also imagine that they will have moments when they have to make a decision to try alcohol (or pot) for the first time, whether or not they are legally old enough to do so.

By removing the glamour, the decision becomes a heck of a lot easier for them. They will not feel the level of peer pressure than can come with, “What’s the matter, are you chicken?”

They will feel confident saying, “No thank you”, because they are aware of the facts, and can make a sound decision without being the uncool kid. And let’s face it, there are grandmothers smoking marijuana these days. It’s kind of hard to make a case for pot smoking being, over the top cool, when Nana can pick up some Purple Haze at the local pot store.

Now of course the case of edibles has been brought up. “It’s candy! Kids love candy!”

*sigh*

That problem is as easy to solve as regulated packaging. They do it now with advertising cigarettes.

Remember Joe Camel?

If you really want to save the teenagers, maybe we should stop disrupting their lives by arresting their parents and older siblings for smoking a little weed? And just like Colorado, put that tax revenue to work educating them, instead of setting them up for incarceration.

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Patrick NightingaleTeens and Pot: The Glamour of Crime
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Go Slow Approach Only Cares About Lawsuits, Not Medicine

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.

For the Pennsylvania Medical Society to pretend that there are not literally hundreds of peer reviewed clinical studies on the medical efficacy of cannabis for a wide variety of conditions is shameful and disgusting. Their testimony proffered at the hearing last week in Harrisburg just ignored the fact that 23 other states have legalized medicinal cannabis. The PA Medical Society couldn’t even be bothered to check with, for example, the Colorado Medical Society to see what their professional colleagues in a medicinal state had to say. But, Dr. Karen Rizzo I think summed it up perfectly when she told NBC out of Philadelphia that even if it were legal doctors wouldn’t recommend it because of fear of being sued. Surprisingly she didn’t bother to check with malpractice carriers in Colorado or Washington or even bother to see if a physician in a medicinal state had, in fact, ever been accused of professional negligence. Their opposition is ignorant and based solely on controlling medical malpractice insurance premiums and not in treating patients with a non-toxic treatment alternative. Their opinion should be disregarded in its entirety.

Here is an article in the Pittsburgh Business Times, regarding the “Go Slow” approach that flies in the face of evidence and reason.

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Patrick NightingaleGo Slow Approach Only Cares About Lawsuits, Not Medicine
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A Conversation with a Frustrated Friend

MarijuanaA friend of mine, someone who has been a strong supporter of the legalization efforts of NORML, recently broached the topic with more than a little exasperation.

“How much more evidence do they need!?” he said in a most animated way. “The research is there! Study after study! The FDA approves prescription drugs that don’t have one tenth of the research time given marijuana!”

It’s hard to argue with him. The clinical studies. The medical benefits studies… But he wasn’t done, yet.

“Doctors! F***ing doctors are already prescribing marijuana to patients in how many states!?” Why would doctors risk prescribing it if it didn’t help their patients? I mean, it’s not like dealers give them kickbacks the way big pharma does!”

Again, he makes a good point. Doctors do, in fact receive incentives’ from pharmaceutical companies to prescribe their medications. Doctors are also increasingly embracing marijuana as a legitimate form of treatment for a wide variety of conditions.

“How can politicians even begin to think they know better than doctors about medicine?” he continued. “Even the police will admit it’s harmless and often a waste of their time. But they have quotas to meet and it’s an easy citation to write up. The odds of a shootout have to be virtually non-existent when busting someone on a simple possession charge.”

Marijuana is the most non violent of any substance consumed by man to get a buzz. Even caffeine, or the lack thereof, can cause someone to experience road rage in a traffic jam. Marijuana smokers are much more likely to just chill and wait it out.

My friend paused and then said, “You know I love you man. The work you’ve done with NORML… I would be hard pressed to name anyone who has worked harder to bring about reform, but all this damn legalese and procedural stuff is killing momentum. State Bill # one million, something something… It’s confusing for the average person. It’s incredibly frustrating for those of us who are informed, let alone for the patients and parents of children in need of medicine. I really think we need to refocus and streamline the effort. Just point out the common sense, provable reasons legalization makes sense. The waters keep getting muddied by biased asshats like Nancy Grace and Republican lawmakers interested in making deals– holding medical marijuana hostage so they can privatize liquor stores in Pennsylvania… It’s maddening!”

Yes, it does get pretty frustrating, and my buddy is right. Being an attorney, I bring all available evidence to light, but maybe we’re overloading the average person with too much terminology and procedural matters. Maybe we should just start focusing on the children in desperate need of medicine, the average people whose lives get disrupted by a simple possession charge.

Fortunately, in Governor Tom Wolf, we have an ally in Harrisburg. We need to strike while the iron is hot. We need to keep the ‘grass roots’ (pun intended) aspect of this campaign alive. We need to contact our state representatives and let them know we support legalization now. We need to let them know we’re watching how they vote, and their vote will likely influence OUR vote in the next election. And most important of all, we need YOUR voice.

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Patrick NightingaleA Conversation with a Frustrated Friend
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