NORML Responds To Steve Cook Addressing Marijuana Policy At The Department Of Justice

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: In response to the Department of Justice detailing Steve Cook to address marijuana policy, Justin Strekal, Political Director for NORML stated:

“Steve Cook and Jeff Sessions are advocating for the failed policies of the “Just Say No” era — policies that resulted in the arrests of millions of otherwise law abiding citizens who possessed personal use amounts of marijuana. At a time when the majority of states now regulate marijuana use, and where six out of ten votes endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective to try to put this genie back in the bottle. It is high time that members of Congress take action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”

The Cole Memo, a Justice Department memorandum, authored by US Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013 to US attorneys in all 50 states directs prosecutors not to interfere with state legalization efforts and those licensed to engage in the plant’s production and sale, provided that such persons do not engage in marijuana sales to minors or divert the product to states that have not legalized its use, among other guidelines.

During a Q and A with reporters in Richmond, VA in March, Jeff Sessions  said “The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,”

But while the Justice Department contemplates its next move, state politicians are taking action. Recently, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the Obama Administration’s largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo.

“Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.”

“Given that Sessions has recently reiterated that the Cole Memo is valid, Steve Cook would be wise to maintain the current interpretation and not interfere with the right of states to set and enforce their own marijuana policies,” concluded Justin Strekal, Political Director of NORML.

Drug Use Declines Among American Youth: Past-Year Marijuana Use Remains Relatively Stable

NEW YORK:  The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Study (MTF), an annual survey tracking teen drug abuse among approximately 45,000 8th-, 10th- and 12th- graders, shows some positive inroads and encouraging news in substance use trends among American youth. The new survey data show a continued long-term decline in the use of many substances, including alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, Ecstasy, as well as the misuse of some prescription medications, among 8th- 10th-, and 12th graders. The MTF survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Findings from the survey indicate that past-year use of any illicit drug was the lowest in the survey’s history for 8th graders, while past-year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana is down from recent peaks across all three grades. Use of several illicit drugs – including MDMA (known as Ecstasy or Molly), heroin, cocaine and synthetic marijuana – showed a noted decline in this year’s data. Marijuana use among our nation’s youth remained relatively stable; though teens’ perception of risk associated with marijuana use continue to soften.

Marijuana Use Remained Stable Among Teens in the U.S.
While the survey found that past-month marijuana use among 8th graders dropped significantly in 2016 to 5.4 percent, from 6.5 percent in 2015, almost a quarter of high school seniors (22.5 percent) report past-month marijuana use and 6 percent report daily use; both measures remained relatively stable from last year. Similarly, rates of marijuana use in the past year among 10th graders also remained stable compared to 2015, but are at their lowest levels in over two decades.

The new data also confirm that teens who live in states where medical marijuana is legal report a higher use of marijuana edibles. Among 12th graders reporting marijuana use in the past year, 40.2 percent consumed marijuana in food in states with medical marijuana laws compared to 28.1 percent in states without such laws.

Attitudes toward marijuana use have softened, but perception of harm is not necessarily linked to rates of use. For example, 44 percent of 10th graders perceive regular marijuana smoking as harmful (“great risk”), but only 2.5 percent of them used marijuana daily in 2016. This compares to a decade ago when 64.9 percent of 10th graders perceived marijuana as harmful and 2.8 percent of them used it daily. The number of eighth graders who say marijuana is easy to get is at its lowest in the history of the survey, at 34.6 percent.

Teen Misuse and Abuse of Rx Medicines Trending Downward, But Still at High Levels
MTF also found although non-medical use of prescription opioids remains a serious issue in the adult population, teen use of prescription opioid pain relievers is trending downward among 12th graders with a 45 percent drop in past-year use compared to five years ago. The past-year rate for non-medical use of all opioid pain relievers among 12th graders is at 4.8 percent, down significantly from its peak of 9.5 percent in 2004, while the past-year non-medical use of Vicodin among high school seniors is now lower than misuse of OxyContin (2.9 percent compared to 3.4 percent). Past-year non-medical use of Adderall, a prescription stimulant used to treat Attention Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is relatively stable at 6.2 percent for 12th graders. However, non-medical use of Ritalin dropped to 1.2 percent, compared to 2 percent last year, and a peak of 5.1 percent in 2004.

Eighth graders alone reported an increase in misuse of over-the-counter cough medicine at 2.6 percent, up from 1.6 percent in 2015, but still lower than the peak of 4.2 percent when first measured in 2006.

“While we are pleased to see that marijuana use has stabilized among teens, 6 percent of high school seniors reporting that they smoke marijuana every day is still unacceptably high. The MTF survey also found that more teens report using marijuana edibles in states where marijuana has been legalized and a softening of attitudes about the dangers associated with this drug – this is a real cause for concern,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “The recent declines in the abuse of prescription opioids among teens are also encouraging. But the persistently high percentage of teens who report abusing stimulants is also worrisome. The Partnership has been working for quite some time through our Medicine Abuse Project to help educate parents, families and communities about the risks of medicine abuse and we are glad to see continued progress.”

Taylor added, “It’s important to remember that while today’s news about substance use among teens is mostly positive, we cannot let that take our focus off of the prescription drug and heroin crisis among other age groups across the U.S. As a country, we need to focus more of our attention and resources on early intervention and addressing substance use disorders, rather than cleaning up a problem once it has reached epidemic levels.”

The 2016 MTF survey of approximately 40,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades also found:

  • Inhalant use, usually the only category of drugs used more by younger teens than their older counterparts, was down significantly among eighth graders compared to last year, with past year use at 3.8 percent, compared to 4.6 percent in 2015. Past-year inhalant use peaked among eighth graders in 1995 at 12.8 percent.
  • Use of MDMA (known as Ecstasy and Molly) has been falling since 2010 and is at its lowest point for all three grades in the history of the MTF survey. Past-year use is down among 8th graders to just 1 percent, from last year’s 1.4 percent.
  • Cigarette smoking continued a decades­ long decline. A large drop in the use of tobacco cigarettes was seen in all three grades, with a long-term decline from their peak use more than 20 years ago. For example, in 1991, when MTF first measured cigarette smoking, 10.7 percent of high school seniors smoked a half pack or more a day. Twenty-five years later, that rate has dropped to only 1.8 percent. MTF indicates that marijuana and electronic vaporizers (e-cigarettes) are more popular than regular tobacco cigarettes. The past-month rates among 12th graders are 12.5 percent for vaporizers and 10.5 percent for cigarettes.
  • Alcohol use by the nation’s teens also continued its long-term decline in 2016, with the rate of teens reporting they have “been drunk” in the past year at the survey’s lowest rates ever. For example, 37.3 percent of 12th graders reported they have been drunk at least once, down from a peak of 53.2 percent in 2001.
  • The proportion of secondary school students using heroin has fallen gradually over the past few years, and it continued a gradual decrease in all three grades in 2015. Heroin rates remain low with teens still in school and in the history of the MTF survey, heroin (with a needle) rates have never been higher than 0.7 percent among 12th graders, as seen in 2010.

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Launches “Fried Egg 2016” Campaign

NEW YORK: The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a national nonprofit committed to helping families struggling with their son or daughter’s substance use, launched a campaign that illustrates the evolution of the drug landscape, including the challenging questions parents get asked by their kids. The new campaign breaks today and features a :30 TV ad and a :30 radio spot that were created by Campbell Ewald, an advertising agency with offices in DetroitLos Angeles and New York. The campaign also includes a print ad and online banner ads created by BFG Communications, an agency headquartered in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with offices in New York and Atlanta. The TV spot was directed by Janusz Kaminski, who has won numerous awards, including two Oscars (“Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan”) and for the past two decades has worked as Steven Spielberg’s cinematographer on most of his films. All creative for the new campaign was developed and produced entirely pro bono by all agency and production partners.

The “Fried Egg 2016” TV PSA (public service announcement) features a voiceover from Emmy-Award winning actress Allison Janney, who not only portrays a mother in recovery on the CBS sitcom, “Mom,” but whose own brother struggled with substance abuse for many years before he ultimately lost his battle with addiction and depression.

“‘Fried Egg 2016″ is a nod to the Partnership’s iconic TV spot from the 1980s, but is re-envisioned to reflect parenting today and the change in perceptions and awareness about drug use,” said Rebecca Shaw, Director of Advertising and Production for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “The new campaign focuses on the litany of drug questions that parents face from their teens, and it also shows how the Partnership has evolved to meet the needs of families. We understand just how difficult this subject can be for parents who are facing it head on and we’re here with answers, help and guidance.”

The new TV spot opens with familiar imagery, an egg being cracked open on a cast iron frying pan, as the sound of hot butter sizzles. Then the voiceover says, “This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” It transitions to a series of kids asking parents questions about substance abuse in rapid succession. “Um yeah, I have questions,” says one teen. “Prescription drugs aren’t as bad as street drugs, right?” says another. “Weed’s legal, isn’t it?” The tension continues building in the spot with each question. “Why is heroin so addictive?” “Dad, did you ever try drugs?” The PSA then closes with a voiceover from actress Allison Janney: “They’re going to ask. Be ready. Go to drugfree.org.”