On Thursday, June 6, 2013, Democratic Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a state legislative bill decriminalizing the possession of marijuana (Cannabis sativa). The new law which goes into effect July 1st, 2013, removes criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. The new Vermont law imposes a $200 fine for first-time offenders with higher fines for repeat offenders. Under the new law, marijuana possession is no longer a crime that results in a criminal record. Pot proponents praise marijuana decriminalization law. To date, 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws decriminalizing the use of medical marijuana.
Proponents of the bill hope approval of decriminalization for small amounts of marijuana will end the racial inequality prevalent in prior enforcement of the state’s cannabis laws. As noted in a report released this week by the ACLU, “African Americans in Vermont were 4.4 times more likely be arrested on marijuana charges than whites, according to 2010 records. Despite this difference, blacks and whites reported using the drug at near-equal rates. This disparity was greater than the national marijuana arrest rate, which was 3.7 times greater for African Americans than it was for whites.”
“I applaud the Legislature’s action to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana,” Shumlin said last month, announcing his support for the bill. “Vermonters support sensible drug policies. This legislation allows our courts and law enforcement to focus their limited resources more effectively to fight highly addictive opiates such as heroin and prescription drugs that are tearing apart families and communities.”
Vermont joins forward-thinking Colorado and Washington State in decriminalization for non-medical marijuana. In 2012, voters in Washington and Colorado adopted ballot measures to legalize and tax cannabis for recreational use among those 21 years and older.
On May 23, 2012 MSN Now reported, “A new Rasmussen poll has found 56 percent of U.S. voters “favor legalizing and regulating marijuana similar to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are currently regulated.” The support for legalization is up nine percentage points from March this year, when Rasmussen found 47 percent of us believed in legalizing and taxing marijuana to help extricate the nation from our current financial jam. Fiscally-minded stoners of America might feel somewhat conflicted about such support.”
All across the nation, more and more people are speaking out: advocating the decriminalization of marijuana and urging support for medical research to explore the many health benefits of nature’s herbal remedy.
Smoking Marijuana Does Not Harm Lungs
Fact is, moderate smoking of marijuana is not harmful to the lungs. Published January 11, 2012, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), reports that smoking marijuana, at moderate levels, enhances airflow rates and increases lung volume.
The extensive study compared the impact of marijuana and cigarette smoking. Utilizing a large national database, the research team analyzed the lung function of 5,000 U.S. cigarette and marijuana smokers over a period of 20 years. Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the study reviewed data gathered by the Coronary Artery Risk Development In Young Adults Study (CARDIA). The lengthy project recruited male and female participants from 4 major U.S. cities: Birmingham, Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland. Scientists determined that smoking cigarettes or exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke decreased lung capacity, while smoking marijuana produced the opposite effect. The study was also supported by funds from the National Heart Lung Blood Institute.
Smoking damages the lungs and causes marked lung damage:chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory symptoms and lung cancer. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), reports that smoking is to blame for over 443,000 deaths every year in the United States. Until now, data for the long-term effects of marijuana smoking on the pulmonary system has been scanty.
“We found exactly what we thought we would find in relation to tobacco exposure: a consistent loss of lung function with increasing exposure,” stated the study’s lead author, Dr. Mark Pletcher, an associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Pletcher noted, “We were, however, surprised that we found such a different pattern of association with marijuana exposure.”
The study measured test subject’s lung capacity and airflow at regular intervals of 2, 5,10, and 20 years. A person’s airflow is calculated by measuring the amount of air the person can exhale in a single second, after taking a deep breath. Lung capacity is calculated based on the total amount of air exhaled following a deep breath. Dr. Mark Pletcher stated, “In some ways, marijuana smoking is really a lot like doing a pulmonary function test.”
The study showed that study participants were just as likely to smoke cigarettes or marijuana and many used both. During the course of the study, more than 37 percent of participants reported smoking marijuana at some point during the duration of the research study. This number compares with percentages derived in national surveys about marijuana use in the United States. A National Household Survey On Drug Use and Health reported that in 2009, 4.3 million people relied on marijuana to relieve pain.
Stefan G. Kertesz, M.D., senior author of the research study and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Division of Preventive Medicine, reported: “Occasional marijuana use was associated with increases in lung air flow rates and increases in lung capacity. Those increases were not large, but they were statistically significant. The data showed that even up to moderately high-use levels — one joint a day for seven years — there is no evidence of decreased air-flow rates or lung volumes.”
Dr. Kertesz cautioned against the use of marijuana as a modality to improve lung health. “It’s not enough of an increase that would make you feel better. Healthy adults can blow out 3 to 4 liters of air in one second. The amount of gain, on average, from marijuana is small, 50 ccs or roughly a fifth of a can of coke. So it’s not something that would be noticeable.” The study indicated that although marijuana smoking does not induce long-term lung problems, marijuana smokers might still experience a cough or minor throat irritations.
Savvy Entrepreneurs Plan To Cash In On Cannabis
According to a 2005 United Nations research report; the worldwide marijuana trade is valued in excess of $142 billion dollars, another reason why pot proponents praise the Decriminalization of Marijuana.
Jamen Shively, 35, former Microsoft corporate strategy manager plans a Seattle, Washington based enterprise to create the first national brand of pre-packaged marijuana. To that end, Shively announced he will launch his business with the acquisition of 3 medical pot dispensaries. Shively is seeking $10 million from investors. Envisioning a plan that includes legally importing cannabis from Mexico, Shively dreams of a brand as recognizable as McDonalds or Starbucks.”It’s a giant market in search of a brand,” Shively said. “We would be happy if we get 40 percent of it worldwide.”
By: Marlene Affeld
Former Microsoft manager wants to create pot brand
US Library Of Medicine
Association Between Marijuana Exposure and Pulmonary Function Over 20 Years, Mark J. Pletcher, MD, MPH; Eric Vittinghoff, PhD; Ravi Kalhan MD, MS; Joshua Richman, MD, PhD; Monika Safford, MD, Stephen Sidney, MD, MPH; Feng Lin, MS: Stefan Kertesz, MD
Marijuana What Physicians Need to Know, Hillary Kunins, MD, MPH