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Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM)
Ranks Presidential Candidates
on Their Marijuana Policies

SAM evaluates the positions of 18 candidates—15 Republicans and 3 Democrats—on their support of an evidence-based marijuana policy:
  • Opposition to marijuana legalization for recreational purposes
  • Support of prevention, intervention, and treatment for marijuana use
  • Regulated, FDA-approved approach to the legitimate medical use of marijuana components 
Some candidates are still formulating a position (e.g., John Kasich). SAM will be sending a questionnaire to the candidates to clarify their stance.
 
Best Candidates:
Marco Rubio
Chris Christie
Ben Carson
 
Worst Candidates:
Bernie Sanders
Rand Paul

Read SAM's Scorecard of 2016 Presidential Candidates here.
 
Marijuana Use and
Marijuana Use Disorders Double in 11 Years
 
Researchers analyzed data from two national surveys, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (data collected April 2001-April 2002; N = 43,093) and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions–III (data collected April 2012-June 2013; N = 36,309). They found that past-year marijuana use more than doubled among American adults during that 11-year period.
 
What’s more, those suffering a marijuana use disorder (abuse or dependence according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, IV) nearly doubled.
 
Three out of ten Americans, some 6,846,000 people age 18 or older, had a marijuana use disorder in 2012-2013. Further, the increases in disorders were heaviest among people aged 45 to 64, blacks, Hispanics, people with the lowest incomes, and people living in the South.
 
“More Americans now favor legalization of marijuana use than in previous years,” note the researchers. “Further, fewer Americans view marijuana use as risky, although studies have shown that use or early use of marijuana is associated with increased risk for many outcomes, including cognitive decline, psychosocial impairments, vehicle crashes, emergency department visits, psychiatric symptoms, poor quality of life, use of other drugs, a cannabis-withdrawal syndrome, and addiction risk. Further, marijuana use disorders (abuse or dependence) are associated with substantial comorbidity and disability and are consequently of substantial public health concern.”
 
The researchers conclude that these findings indicate that as use via legalization increases, more people will experience marijuana abuse and addiction. They call for a major public-education campaign to inform healthcare workers, policy makers, and the public.

Read full text of JAMA Psychiatry study here
 
Drug Use Not Why So Many People Are in Prison
 
Writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Post Columnist Charles Lane tests Presidential candidates' statements about marijuana use and incarceration rates against reality. He notes that nearly all the candidates have bought into the myth that legalizing marijuana will greatly reduce state and federal prison populations.

"Too bad this bipartisan agreement is contradicted by the evidence," he says.

Forty-six percent of all state and federal prison inmates were there for violent offenses and that estimate does not include some 30,000 federal prisoners incarcerated for weapons offences. 

Drug offenders account for 19.5 percent of all state-federal prisoners. Most were convicted of dealing cocaine, heroin, and meth, not smoking pot.

Nor would ending the war on drugs end the racial disparity among those incarcerated, as illustrated above. 

"Blacks make up 37.5 percent of all state prisoners, about triple their share of hte population as a whole, according to the Justice Department. If we released all 208,000 people currently in state prison on a drug charge, the proportion of African-AMericans in state prison would still be at 37 percent.

So how can we reduce our prison population significantly?

"Reduce the frequency and duration of imprisonment for violent crimes,while 
continuing to reduce violent crime," says Mr. Lane, adding, "If any of the candidates has a plan to do that, he or she should speak up."

Read Charles Lane's analysis in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.
 
The Marijuana Report is a weekly e-newsletter produced by National Families in Action in partnership with SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Subscribe to The Marijuana Report and visit our website, The Marijuana Report.Org, to learn more about the marijuana story unfolding across the nation.

About National Families in Action (NFIA)
NFIA consists of families, scientists, business leaders, physicians, addiction specialists, policymakers, and others committed to protecting children from addictive drugs. Our vision is:
  • Healthy, drug-free kids
  • Nurturing, addiction-free families
  • Scientifically accurate information and education
  • A nation free of Big Marijuana
  • Smart, safe, FDA-approved medicines developed from the cannabis plant (and other plants) 
  • Expanded access to medicines in FDA clinical trials for children with epilepsy

About SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) 

SAM is a nonpartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists and other concerned citizens who want to move beyond simplistic discussions of "incarceration versus legalization" when discussing marijuana use and instead focus on practical changes in marijuana policy that neither demonizes users nor legalizes the drug. SAM supports a treatment, health-first marijuana policy. 

SAM has four main goals: 
  • To inform public policy with the science of today's marijuana.
  • To reduce the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies, such as lifelong stigma due to arrest.
  • To prevent the establishment of "Big Marijuana" - and a 21st-Century tobacco industry that would market marijuana to children.
  • To promote research of marijuana's medical properties and produce, non-smoked, non-psychoactive pharmacy-attainable medications.
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