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Harvard Economist: Decriminalizing Marijuana Could Save Rhode Island $11 Million Annually

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

MARCH 3, 2010

Harvard Economist: Decriminalizing Marijuana Could Save Rhode Island $11 Million Annually

Taxing and Regulating Marijuana Could Provide State With Up to $48 Million Per Year, According to Testimony Expected Thursday

CONTACT: Mike Meno, MPP assistant director of communications …… 202-905-2030 or [email protected]

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND — Tomorrow, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron will testify before the state’s Marijuana Prohibition Study Commission and explain how changing the state’s current marijuana policies could save tens of millions of dollars annually, and even possibly generate additional tax revenue.

         According to Miron’s estimates, reducing the penalty for the possession of small amounts of marijuana to a civil fine would save Rhode Island roughly $11.1 million per year in reduced expenditures on police. Miron also estimates that taxing and regulating marijuana would save the state roughly $40.5 million per year in reduced expenditures on police, prosecutors, judges and prisons. Taxing and regulating marijuana could also generate roughly $7.6 million per year in new tax revenue, according to Miron.

         “Professor Miron’s estimates illustrate just one of the many reasons why Rhode Island lawmakers should consider changing the state’s disastrous prohibition on the nation’s largest cash crop,” said Robert Capecchi, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “As lawmakers examine the economically unsound and wasteful policies that unnecessarily arrest, prosecute and incarcerate thousands of individuals simply for using a substance that is safer than alcohol, I hope they pay particular attention to Professor Miron’s findings, especially in these tough economic times.”

         WHAT: Meeting of Rhode Island’s Marijuana Prohibition Study Commission

         WHO: Prof. Jeffrey Miron, Department of Economics at Harvard University

         WHEN: Thursday, March 4, at 5 p.m.

         WHERE: Room 212 in the State House

         With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit


Providence, RI
United States

Why Drugs Matter: The Impact of Drug Policy on Connecticut's Economy, A Forum with Connecticut Gubernatorial Candidates

We hope that you'll join us at this forum, the purpose of which is to promote discussion and understanding among policy makers and stakeholders regarding the cost and effectiveness of current and potential drug policy in Connecticut. For more information including the forum agenda see or contact Andrew Clark at 860-832-1871 or [email protected], Lyndsay Ruffolo at 860-832-1872 or [email protected], or Aileen Keays at 860-832-1873 or [email protected].
Thu, 03/18/2010 - 2:00pm - 6:00pm
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050
United States

International Conference on Drug Reform Legislation

Please join us at this important conference. For more information, see
Mon, 02/08/2010 - 8:45am - 3:45pm
Avenida 28 de Julio 776
Miraflores, LI

Legal War on Pot Ineffective: Authors Push Governments to Seek Safer Ways for People to Buy Marijuana

CBS News

Utah Law Review joins AMA in Call for Marijuana Rescheduling

Fear of "the other" is at the core of marijuana prohibition. At least that is the conclusion that may be drawn from a review of its history, as outlined in a 70 page article in the 2009 Volume of the Utah Law Review. The article, entitled Medical Marijuana: The Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and Political Ideology, calls for a rescheduling of cannabis in the light of current research demonstrating both its safety and efficacy. 

The fears and irrationality which have held the prohibition of marijuana in place for much of the twentieth century, and on into the twenty-first are no basis for law, according to the article's author, Peter J. Cohen *.

The article states: The  decision whether to legalize the medical use of marijuana should be based on a dispassionate scientific analysis; neither disapproval by the legislature nor approval by popular vote should be dispositive. [URL, Vol 2009, No. 1, p. 102]

Marijuana has been treated as a dangerous drug by the United States Government since 1937, with its use and sale federally prohibited. There was a brief exception to this policy during World War II when farming and production of marijuana, in the form of industrial hemp, were temporarily encouraged. 

According to the ULR,  During the early part of the last century, localities and states with large Mexican American and African American populations began criminalizing marijuana use as a way to exact some measure of control upon an unwanted element of society.  Public discourse on the subject was limited to yellow journalism, particularly through the Hearst Newspaper chain, as well as government funded propaganda in the form of "public information" motion picture releases with fictional stories of crime, murder and insanity resulting from marijuana use.

Since the reasons for the initial ban were racial in nature and linked to fear and distrust of Mexican immigrant and African-American culture, where marijuana was used recreationally, no verified scientIfic evidence of the supposed dangers of marijuana was ever presented during congressional hearings. On the contrary, the AMA testified against the ban, but this testimony was withheld from legislators.

After one and a half minutes of debate a congressional vote was taken, and the Marijuana Tax Act was born. Most members did not realize they were actually voting to ban what they knew as hemp, which, parenthetically, was poised to be a billion dollar agricultural crop nationally. Indeed, marijuana, or cannabis had been used for nearly 100 years in the US as a safe and effective medicine prior to 1937, and as a source for fiber since the founding of the our nation. It was grown by both Washington and Jefferson, as considered an essential resource. 
1972 Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which ranked drugs and other substances in terms of perceived dangers at a time when marijuana use was linked to vigorous anti-war protests. In spite of the recommendation of a Presidential Committee formed to assess the impact marijuana use (subsequently called the Shafer Report) which supported legalization, cannabis was positioned at the pinnacle of substances which per the CSA, had "no current use for medical treatment in the United States, a high-potential for abuse, and were unsafe even under a physician's care."

Furthermore, unlike LSD, and heroin which share the Schedule I distinction, the US government retains a strict monopoly on the production of cannabis, in effect, completely stymying scientific research on the substance unless the goal was to prove harm.

As a result, frustrated activists had to turn to the legislative process and public referendum on the state level in order to make what they perceive as an effective medicine available to those who need it.  

This is a flawed approach, according to the articles author, and he calls for rigorous, non-ideological science-base research under the FDA to prove or disprove the safety and efficacy of cannabis, and that subsequent scheduling or re-scheduling should be based solely upon those results.

Peter J. Cohen, is an Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center; B.A., Princeton University, 1956; M.D., Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1960; J.D., Georgetown University Law Center, 1995.

Open Forum on Heroin-Assisted Treatment

A town hall-style seminar will explore a variety of perspectives on the future of heroin assisted treatment (HAT) as a cutting edge intervention in the United States. Renowned international speakers will give presentations on what components an evidenced-based drug policy should include, what HAT programs have looked like when implemented elsewhere, and how we can consider all options in order to best meet the needs of those individuals struggling with drug addiction. For more information, contact 202.994.2160 or email [email protected]. The event is sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance and the GWU School of Public Health and Health Services.
Wed, 01/20/2010 - 6:00pm - 8:30pm
2300 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
United States

Press Release: AMA Report Recognizes Medical Benefits of Marijuana, Urges Further Research

PRESS RELEASE Americans for Safe Access For Immediate Release: November 10, 2009 AMA Report Recognizes Medical Benefits of Marijuana, Urges Further Research Largest and oldest U.S. physician-based group reverses long-held position on medical marijuana Houston, TX -- The American Medical Association (AMA) voted today to reverse its long-held position that marijuana be retained as a Schedule I substance with no medical value. The AMA adopted a report drafted by the AMA Council on Science and Public Health (CSAPH) entitled, "Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes," which affirmed the therapeutic benefits of marijuana and called for further research. The CSAPH report concluded that, "short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis." Furthermore, the report urges that "the Schedule I status of marijuana be reviewed with the goal of facilitating clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods." The change of position by the largest physician-based group in the country was precipitated in part by a resolution adopted in June of 2008 by the Medical Student Section (MSS) of the AMA in support of the reclassification of marijuana's status as a Schedule I substance. In the past year, the AMA has considered three resolutions dealing with medical marijuana, which also helped to influence the report and its recommendations. The AMA vote on the report took place in Houston, Texas during the organization's annual Interim Meeting of the House of Delegates. The last AMA position, adopted 8 years ago, called for maintaining marijuana as a Schedule I substance, with no medical value. "It's been 72 years since the AMA has officially recognized that marijuana has both already-demonstrated and future-promising medical utility," said Sunil Aggarwal, Ph.D., the medical student who spearheaded both the passage of the June 2008 resolution by the MSS and one of the CSAPH report's designated expert reviewers. "The AMA has written an extensive, well-documented, evidence-based report that they are seeking to publish in a peer-reviewed journal that will help to educate the medical community about the scientific basis of botanical cannabis-based medicines." Aggarwal is also on the Medical & Scientific Advisory Board of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the largest medical marijuana advocacy organization in the U.S. The AMA's about face on medical marijuana follows an announcement by the Obama Administration in October discouraging U.S. Attorneys from taking enforcement actions in medical marijuana states. In February 2008, a resolution was adopted by the American College of Physicians (ACP), the country's second largest physician group and the largest organization of doctors of internal medicine. The ACP resolution called for an "evidence-based review of marijuana's status as a Schedule I controlled substance to determine whether it should be reclassified to a different schedule. "The two largest physician groups in the U.S. have established medical marijuana as a health care issue that must be addressed," said ASA Government Affairs Director Caren Woodson. "Both organizations have underscored the need for change by placing patients above politics." Though the CSAPH report has not been officially released to the public, AMA documentation indicates that it: "(1) provides a brief historical perspective on the use of cannabis as medicine; (2) examines the current federal and state-based legal envelope relevant to the medical use of cannabis; (3) provides a brief overview of our current understanding of the pharmacology and physiology of the endocannabinoid system; (4) reviews clinical trials on the relative safety and efficacy of smoked cannabis and botanical-based products; and (5) places this information in perspective with respect to the current drug regulatory framework." Further information: Executive Summary of AMA Report: Recommendations of AMA Report: American College of Physicians resolution: df # # # With over 30,000 active members in more than 40 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.

AMA Calls for Review of Medical Marijuana’s Legal Status

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                           
NOVEMBER 10, 2009

AMA Calls for Review of Medical Marijuana’s Legal Status

New Policy Marks Historic Shift From Prior Stance

CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications …………… 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205

HOUSTON, TEXAS — In a move considered historic by supporters of medical marijuana, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates today adopted a new policy position calling for the review of marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug in the federal Controlled Substances Act. The old language in Policy H-95.952 had previously recommended that “marijuana be retained in Schedule I,” which groups marijuana with drugs such as heroin, LSD and PCP that are deemed to have no accepted medical uses and to be unsafe for use even under medical supervision.

         The revised policy, adopted today, states, “Our AMA urges that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods.” It goes on to explain that this position should not be construed as an endorsement of state medical marijuana programs.

         “This shift, coming from what has historically been America’s most cautious and conservative major medical organization, is historic,” said Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, who attended the AMA meeting. “Marijuana’s Schedule I status is not just scientifically untenable, given the wealth of recent data showing it to be both safe and effective for chronic pain and other conditions, but it’s been a major obstacle to needed research.”

         Drugs listed in Schedule II, for which medical use is permitted with strict controls, include cocaine, morphine and methamphetamine. A pill containing THC, the component responsible for marijuana’s “high,” is classed in Schedule III, whose looser requirements allow phoned-in prescriptions.

         With more than 29,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit


The Pre-Colombian Origins of Drug Trafficking in the Americas: Illicit Cocaine, 1945–1973

A historian who has studied the global emergence of cocaine out of Latin American will give a free public talk. Paul Gootenberg will present “The Pre-Colombian Origins of Drug Trafficking in the Americas: Illicit Cocaine, 1945–1973.” A professor of history at Stony Brook University, Gootenberg is the author of “Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug.” Based on more than a decade of research in international archives, including declassified documents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and its predecessors, the book demonstrates the existence of a close long-term relationship between the United States and Andean cocaine. He claims that over time the “war on drugs” has actually created a global menace out of what had been local trades in indigenous coca leaf and a boom in medicinal cocaine at the turn of the last century. Gootenberg serves as co-director of Latin American Studies at Stony Brook and is one of the coordinators of the Initiative in Historical Social Sciences and the New York Latin American History Workshop. His talk is sponsored by the Marjorie Fortunoff Mayrock Lecture Series in History, which is funded by Elliot Mayrock ’73 in memory of his mother.
Thu, 11/19/2009 - 6:00pm
953 Danby Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
United States

Europe: British Science vs. Politics Battle Explodes As Top Drug Advisor Fired for Heresy

The British Labor government has created a firestorm of controversy with its firing of Professor David Nutt, head of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) last Friday. Nutt was canned by Home Secretary Alan Johnson after the psychopharmacologist again went public with his criticism of the government for refusing to follow a science- and evidence-based drug policy.
David Nutt
As of this week, after a weekend of furious back and forth in dozens of newspaper articles, two more members of the ACMD have resigned in protest over the firing, and a mass resignation of the 31-member body may come after a meeting next Monday. Johnson told parliament Monday that he had agreed to a request from the ACMD for an urgent meeting, but he also told parliament he had ordered a review of the ACMD to satisfy ministers that the panel is "discharging its functions" and that it still represents a value to the public.

The ACMD's charge is to "make recommendations to government on the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs, including classification and scheduling under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its regulations," its web page explains. "It considers any substance which is being or appears to be misused and of which is having or appears to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to cause a social problem. It also carries out in-depth inquiries into aspects of drug use that are causing particular concern in the UK, with the aim of producing considered reports that will be helpful to policy makers and practitioners."

In 2004 the Labor government down-scheduled marijuana on the Advisory Committee's advice, shifting it from Class B, the middle rank in Britain's drug classification scheme, to Class C, the least harmful. The maximum sentence for possession of a Class C drug is two years; for Class B drugs it is five years. Tensions between the ACMD and Labor began rising last year, when Prime Minister Gordon Brown reversed that decision, saying he wanted to send a strong message that use of the drug is unacceptable. Tensions rose again when the ACMD recommended that Ecstasy be down-scheduled from Class A (most harmful) to Class B, and the Brown government promptly ignored that advice too.

At that point, Nutt went public with his criticisms of then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. He also famously compared the dangers of Ecstasy to those of horse-riding, deeply offending both the horsey set and the Labor government. Smith told Nutt to shut up, and he managed to do so until last week.

Last week, in a lecture and briefing paper at the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, Nutt accused Smith of "distorting and devaluing" scientific evidence when she decided to reclassify marijuana. He also said that Ecstasy and LSD are less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco.

"We have to accept young people like to experiment -- with drugs and other potentially harmful activities -- and what we should be doing in all of this is to protect them from harm at this stage of their lives," he said. "We therefore have to provide more accurate and credible information. If you think that scaring kids will stop them using, you are probably wrong."

Nutt's briefing paper included a ranking of various licit and illicit drugs by comparative harm. Heroin and cocaine were ranked the most harmful in Nutt's scheme, with alcohol fifth, marijuana ninth, LSD fourteenth, and Ecstasy eighteenth.

"We need a full and open discussion of the evidence and a mature debate about what the drug laws are for -- and whether they are doing their job," Nutt said.

That was too much for Home Minister Alan Johnson. He told parliament Monday that Smith had warned Nutt not to publicly disagree with ministry decisions again. "Well, it has happened again," said Johnson. "On Thursday October 29 Professor Nutt chose, without prior notification to my department, to initiate a debate on drug policy in the national media, returning to the February decisions, and accusing my predecessor or distorting and devaluing scientific research. As a result, I have lost confidence in Professor Nutt's ability to be my principal adviser on drugs."

Prime Minister Brown is standing behind Johnson. An official spokesman said the firing was based on the "important principle" that advisers should present advice to ministers but not speak out against their policy decisions. "It would be regrettable if there were other resignations, but this is an important point of principle," the spokesman added. "The government is absolutely committed to the importance of having independent advice and evidence presented by advisory bodies."

Nutt defended himself and attacked the government in a London Sunday times opinion piece. "My sacking has cast a huge shadow over the relationship of science to policy," he wrote. "Several of the science experts from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) have resigned in protest and it seems likely that many others will follow suit. This means the Home Office no longer has a functioning advisory group, which is very unfortunate given the ever-increasing problems of drugs and the emergence of new ones. Also it seems unlikely that any 'true' scientist -- one who can only speak the truth -- will be able to work for this, or future, Home Secretaries.

One of the ACMD members who resigned, chemist Les King, said ministers were putting inappropriate pressure on scientists to make drug policy decisions based on political -- not scientific -- reasons. "It's being asked to rubber stamp a predetermined position," he said, warning that others could leave the council over the brouhaha. "If sufficient members do resign, the committee will no longer be able to operate," King said.

Scientist and Labor MP Robert Winston said Nutt had a "very reasonable" point about the relative dangers of legal and illegal drugs, and that he was disappointed by the firing. "I think that if governments appoint expert advice they shouldn't dismiss it so lightly," he said. "I think it shows a rather poor understanding of the value of science."

Reuters reported Saturday that the firing is causing consternation in scientific circles. Scientists told the news agency the decision could undermine the integrity of science in policymaking, including critical areas like health, the environment, education, and defense.

"Scientific data and their independent interpretation underpin evidence-based policy making -- and nobody rational could possibly want a government based on any other type of policy making," said Chris Higgins, chair of an advisory committee on spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow" disease.

Maurice Elphick, a professor of animal physiology and neuroscience at Queen Mary, University of London, said politicians should look elsewhere if they wanted data to back social policies and allow science to maintain objectivity. "If, however, politicians really do want to have an objective assessment of the relative risks to health of different recreational drugs, then they should listen to what the medical scientist has to say, not sack him." he said.

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