The Politics of Cannabis: A Week in Review Aug. 8, 2018

There was a lot of compelling marijuana news being reported last week – and most of it was highly encouraging: A new study published in the Journal of American Medical Association indicates opioid use plummeted in states with legal access to medical cannabis; Albuquerque officials voted to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis, and Michigan’s Republican lawmakers contemplate legalization before the November election.

Counterintuitive cure or political trick? The roots of marijuana reform continued to spread over the past week.

JAMA Studies

Two studies published on Monday in a peer-reviewed medical journal – JAMA International Medicine – expanded the existing body of research for states with medical cannabis laws and reduced opioid use. The studies implied a correlation between those states that have reformed their medical marijuana laws and a noteworthy decline in opioid use. While the first study analyzed the total number of prescribed opioids for all states under Medicare part D, the second study compared and contrasted opioid prescription rates in states that had reformed their medical cannabis laws (MCL) against non-MCL states.

The bottom line is clear and concise: Prescriptions for opioids fell — by 3.74 million daily doses per year in one study — when medical cannabis dispensaries opened.

Albuquerque Votes to Decriminalize

With the support of the Albuquerque police union, the City Council voted on April 2 to approve a measure that will decriminalize personal amounts (< 28 g) of marijuana. If signed by Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller (D), the proposed plan would amend Albuquerque’s criminal code to make marijuana paraphernalia, and the possession of less than 1 ounce, a ticketable offense that would be accompanied by a $25 fine – but not jail time.

“At the end of the day, our police officers have more important things to do,” said Albuquerque City Council member Pat Davis.

Michigan Contemplates Adult Use Vote

Michigan’s Republican lawmakers seem to understand marijuana legalization is traditionally a Democratic issue, and one that’s known to elevate turnout among liberals and progressive at the ballot box. Republican lawmakers have begun debating the political value of legalizing recreational marijuana through the legislative process – before the midterm elections.

A marijuana initiative on the November ballot could increase voter turnout, and Republican lawmakers are making moves to increase their chances of being reelected come Nov. 6.

As America’s marijuana policies are exposed for their duplicitous nature, the smart money is betting our elected officials who support continued prohibition will be experiencing a string of unnaturally grim months in the years to come.

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