Thursday, May 27, 2021

Have A Safe And Happy Memorial Day Weekend

This coming Monday, May 31, is Memorial Day, often known as the unofficial first day of summer and National BBQ Day.  But let's remember what it really is--a day to honor all of the men and women of our armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, past and present.  And that of course includes all of those who died serving our country before they were legally old enough to drink.  Let us all take a moment of silence to honor them.

As for Candy Lightner, the ageist turncoat founder of MADD who had the chutzpah and hubris to go on national TV in 2008 and publicly insult our troops, may her name and memory be forever blotted out. 

And as always, arrive alive, don't drink and drive.  It's just not worth it, period.  And it's very simple to prevent.  If you plan to drive, don't drink, and if you plan to drink, don't drive.  It's not rocket science.   Designate a sober driver, call a cab or rideshare, crash on the couch, or even walk if you have to.  Or don't drink--nobody's got a gun to your head.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

"No Safe Level" Is A Red Flag For Junk Science

According to a wise man named Paracelsus (essentially the Western world's first toxicologist) long ago, it is the dose that makes the poison.  Anything (even water) can be poisonous in a high enough quantity, and conversely there is, practically speaking, a safe level for everything.  It is all a matter of degree.  So why, when it comes to things like alcohol, do the "experts" seem to lose all common sense?

Take the latest study of alcohol and the brain at Oxford, for example.  This one claims that there is no safe level of alcohol for the brain, that is, any amount will cause damage.  The observational study, which notably has not even been peer-reviewed yet, finds a negative linear correlation between alcohol drinking volume and the volume of gray matter (as well as white matter) in brain scans, even after controlling for every confounder they could think of.  While it is known that excessive drinking can damage the brain, the shocker here seems to have more to do with much lower levels of drinking previously thought to be safe.

I bet the reader can quickly spot the problem here.  If not, here it goes.  A closer look at the data shows that, given how small the overall effect size is, with alcohol explaining only 0.8% of the variance in gray matter, combined with the tendency of people (especially heavier drinkers) to undercount their drinks, the apparent harmful effects of light to moderate drinking may very well be spurious at the lower end of the curve even if likely genuine towards the higher end.  That, and the lack of peer review of course.

They also found an additive effect of "binge" drinking over and above the effect of drinking volume alone, particularly for daily "binging", which was fairly strong and consistently statistically significant.  But given the rather wide confidence intervals, for less than daily "binge" drinking, it was not always statistically significant.  Given the typically fairly low definitions used for "binge" drinking, it would not be surprising that the confidence intervals are so wide.

It also appears from this study that people with hypertension (high blood pressure) and/or a high BMI are significantly more sensitive to the apparent adverse effects of alcohol than the average person for whatever reasons as well.  The interaction was not just additive, but multiplicative.  That will certainly require further study going forward. 

We are not in any way encouraging anyone to drink alcoholic beverages. But specious inferences should not cloud the issue either.

There is a safe level everything, even arsenic apparently.  So why would that not be true for alcohol?  Especially since our own bodies can actually produce a bit of it as a byproduct, believe it or not?

On the bright side, at least the study looked largely at older adults (age 40+) and did not indulge in the usual youth drinking panic routines.  Even if the observed effects are 100% true, that would of course mean that young people are not uniquely vulnerable to the adverse effects of alcohol on the brain.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

25, You Say? Let's Nip That In The Bud

A handful of psychiatrists in Minnestota, where cannabis has not yet been legalized for recreational use (but is currently being considered), is calling for the age limit to be 25 when it is legalized.  They cite anecdotal evidence of young patients with psychosis that they claim is caused by today's high-potency weed.  And here is why they are, in a word, wrong:

  1. First of all, these psychoses that they cite are occurring despite recreational cannabis remaining illegal in Minnesota for all ages.  Legalizing it with an utterly unrealistic age limit of 25 will only preserve and entrench the current black market while worsening criminal justice inequities, both age and racial disparities.
  2. The brain continues developing well into the 30s and 40s, and the risk period for schizophrenia continues until about 30, so 25 is arbitrary.
  3. While excessive cannabis use can be harmful at any age, and starting use before age 18 and especially before 15 is likely more harmful than starting at 18 or older, there is really no clear and convincing evidence that using it at 18-20 is any worse than using at 21-24 or 25+, especially for light or moderate use.  To claim otherwise is unscientific, disingenuous, and really pushes the limits of the precautionary principle.
  4. As we have noted many times before, the relationship between cannabis and psychosis is quite complex, and far more nuanced than Reefer Madness.  Though there is likely a tiny, exquisitely vulnerable sliver of the population that should really avoid weed like the plague at any age, that is no reason for blanket bans or restrictions (by age or otherwise) for legal adults.  That would be unscientific and unjust.
  5. And finally, if today's high-potency weed is in fact the culprit in an alleged (and far from certain) recent increase in psychosis among young people, the solution is NOT to raise the age limit and force it deeper underground, but to put a cap (say, 10% or 15%) on the potency of THC on legal weed (and perhaps also setting a minimum level of CBD, which counteracts many of the adverse effects of too much THC), and/or taxing it based on THC/CBD levels.  And also warn people who are at increased risk of psychosis as well via honest public education messaging without sensational fearmongering.
There it is.  Problem solved.  No good reason to set the age limit any higher than 18, let alone 25.  Let's nip this ageist idea in the bud, pun intended of course.

UPDATE:  Twenty-One Debunked believes that proper labeling and tax incentives alone will likely be enough to encourage lower THC and higher CBD levels even in the absence of hard THC/CBD limits.  Taxing cannabis at a higher rate base on THC levels (whether proportionally, or perhaps disproportionally when exceeding a specific threshold or for specific product categories) and applying an offsetting tax discount based on CBD levels would do the trick, as the market would adjust accordingly.

Also, getting back to the subject of psychosis in young people, don't forget to take your fish oil.  Yes, you read that right.  Apparently a new study found that there is an inverse correlation between omega-3 fatty acid levels during adolescence and psychosis in young adulthood.  This dovetails nicely with a study from 2010 that found that just 12 weeks of giving fish oil supplements to teens at ultra-high risk of psychosis greatly reduced their risk of developing psychosis a year later compared with those given placebo.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Latest California Smoking Age Study More Smoke Than Fire

Last month, a new study looking at the results of California's smoking age hike from 18 to 21 in 2016 turns out to be less than meets the eye.  The study, looking at BRFSS survey data for 18-20 year olds pre versus post implementation, found that, compared to 21-23 year olds in California and to 18-20 year olds in the eight comparison states, 18-20 year olds did not see any significant change in the rate of decline of current or ever smoking, but did see significantly faster declines in the rates of daily smoking in the three years after the age limit was hiked to 21 versus before implementation.  Interestingly, vaping was not examined at all due to apparent data gaps at the time, so this study says absolutely nothing about vaping.

While the part about daily smoking sounds impressive on the surface, one should keep in mind that cigarette taxes were hiked by $2.00/pack in 2016 (effective April 2017), and generally the younger a person is, the more price-sensitive they are since they tend to have less disposable income, and furthermore the earlier they are in the course of their tobacco habits.  So it would stand to reason that the tax hike alone, which makes regular and especially daily smoking that much more of an expensive burden on the smoker, would have had a larger impact on 18-20 year olds than 21-23 year olds in California.  That would also explain why current or ever smoking (which were essentially not affected at all) would be much less affected than daily smoking as well.  

Of note, Pennsylvania had also raised their cigarette tax in 2016 yet still kept their age limit at 18 (until July 2020, that is), yet interestingly that state was NOT one of the eight comparison states.  The results of this study would thus likely have been very different if Pennsylvania was one of the comparison states.

Alternatively, some of the progression to daily smoking may simply have been delayed by a few years by the age limit hike, yielding no real long-run benefits, kinda like some studies have strongly suggested about drunk driving deaths when the drinking age was raised to 21.  Indeed, by 2019 the daily smoking rate among 21-23 year olds was actually a bit higher than it was in 2016.

And as we have previously noted, in NYC and elsewhere, raising the smoking age to 21 does not seem to actually reduce high school smoking rates compared with keeping it 18, so the "trickle-down" theory that is often used as a specious justification for Tobacco 21 laws is very unlikely to be the case in California (or anywhere else) either.

Thus, this study is more smoke than fire.  And regardless, we at Twenty-One Debunked would still oppose the 21 smoking age on principle regardless of its effects.  Young adults who are old enough to go to war, be tried as adults, etc. should NOT have the state dictating what otherwise legal substances they choose to put into their own bodies at all, period.  Seriously.

And that is a hill we will die on.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Et Tu, DeSantis?

Florida's controversial Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has been a bit of a mixed bag overall.  The True Spirit of America Party (TSAP) is, to put it mildly, not exactly a fan of Republicans in general and Trump supporters in particular, but has nonetheless generally agreed with his light-touch, focused protection handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has actually yielded a lower cumulative per capita death rate than the national average (and much lower than several lockdown states) despite Florida's significantly older and fatter population.  And in terms of excess all-cause mortality, wide-open Florida even did better than the overall strictest state of all, California.  There are some bad things about DeSantis of course, such as his latest Georgia-style voter suppression efforts and his heavy-handed and poorly-written anti-rioting law that arguably throws out the proverbial baby with the bathwater, but generally he is not too terrible by current low-bar Republican standards.

And of course, Twenty-One Debunked in particular has supported the fact that he was one of the most prominent holdouts in keeping the legal smoking age at 18 despite the trend towards raising it to 21 at the local, state, and eventually federal levels.  After all, he has previously opposed and vetoed every single attempt to raise Florida's smoking age any higher than 18.  Well, until now, that is.  Like most other governors, as of today, DeSantis has officially SOLD OUT and signed into law a bill that raises Florida's smoking and vaping age to 21, effective October 1, 2021.  True, this new law does have an exemption for military service members aged 18-20, making it a shade less bad than some other states, but we still oppose this law on principle like we oppose all inherently ageist Tobacco 21 laws, period.

One could argue that any state law that sets the age limit below 21 is effectively void since the federal smoking age has been 21 since December 2019, but that is beside the point.  A state that chooses to remain 18 in spite of the federal Tobacco 21 law is a principled state with integrity, and is at the very least NOT helping the federal government enforce such an ageist abomination.  Today, Florida lost that status.

DeSantis is now the 34th governor to raise the age limit for tobacco and vaping to 21, bringing it to now more than two out of three states who set it at 21.  With "allies" like him (and Trump, who raised the federal age limit to 21), who really needs enemies?

Sunday, May 2, 2021

NEWS FLASH: Vaping Black Market Concoctions Is Bad For Your Lungs

That is what the conclusion should have been from the latest vaping study finding that cannabis vaping is more harmful to the lungs than nicotine vaping, cannabis smoking, and tobacco smoking.  But that does not appear to be the way the mainstream media is presenting the study, without any sort of nuance or detail.  The study did not distinguish between black market, gray market, and legitimate market products, nor did it bother to examine or even mention the old-fashioned way of vaping weed (namely heating regular and pure whole bud in a loose-leaf vaporizer).

Have we really forgotten the primary culprit in the EVALI (vaping illness) epidemic in 2019, namely questionable additives and diluents such as Vitamin E acetate (et al.) that were almost entirely found in black and gray market cannabis vape oil concoctions?  Especially since EVALI was significantly less common in states where cannabis is fully legal compared to states where it is not, as there are by definition much safer alternatives to the black market in legal states (though a significant black market still remains in highly taxed and tightly regulated states like California as well, or at least did in 2019-2020).

The solution is really quite simple:  legalize cannabis 18+, ban any additives that have not been proven safe for human consumption via inhalation, implement strict quality control standards, don't overtax it, charge excessive licensing fees, or otherwise have excessive barriers to entry into the legitimate market, and crack down on any remaining illicit markets.

And for users, as we have said before, DO NOT vape, juul, or dab anything you find on the black market!

Problem solved.  We ignore these facts at our peril.

Friday, April 30, 2021

What About Tobacco, Again?

The Biden administration is currently considering two new sweeping FDA rules affecting combustible tobacco cigarettes:  1) banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, and 2) reducing nicotine levels, presumably to a non-addictive level.  Where we stand on these two potential changes is as follows:

The first one, Twenty-One Debunked is on the fence about that, as we can see both sides of that issue, noting that Canada has already banned menthols and the EU has phased them out, while also noting the inconvenient truth of racism and how it intersects with this issue as well.   The flavored cigars we generally lean against banning, while for menthol cigarettes we believe that if they must do it for whatever reason, they should phase them out more gradually and allow existing stocks to be sold well after the designated "quit date" for selling newly manufactured menthols.  Also, possession and consumption of menthols should NOT be banned or punished, and police should NOT go out of their way to target the sale of menthols or "loosies" in underprivileged neighborhoods with people of color.

(For what it's worth, quit rates in Canada have improved significantly since their menthol ban, particularly among formerly menthol-preferring smokers.  That lends credence to the idea that menthol enhances the overall addictiveness of tobacco by making the high nicotine levels less harsh on the throat, which also makes it easier for young experimenters to pick up the habit in the first place.)

The second one, reducing nicotine levels, Twenty-One Debunked has cautiously supported since 2014, and we still do, provided that all of the following are true:

  • The phasedown of nicotine to a non-addictive level is done gradually and stepwise over a period of at least a year, in at least three stages.
  • The sale of existing domestic stocks of cigarettes above the nicotine cap can continue at least six months after the "quit date" for manufacturing and importing cigarettes above that cap (at each step of the phasedown).  
  • The possession/consumption of cigarettes with nicotine levels above the cap is NOT banned or punished.
  • The only other tobacco products subject to the same cap shall be little cigars (below a certain size), perhaps all cigars with a smoke pH below 8, and possibly loose roll-your-own cigarette tobacco and/or pipe tobacco with a pH below 8.  Nothing else, period.  We would be fine with, and would actually prefer, if only pre-rolled commercial cigarettes and little cigars (the size of cigarettes) were subject to the nicotine cap.  
  • The addition of any harmful or addictive additives to all newly manufactured tobacco products is banned effective immediately as well.  All additives must meet the same standards as for additives to food.  Radioactive fertilizers for growing tobacco must also be banned as well.
While the effectiveness of the flavor ban is a bit questionable at best, the nicotine cap and phasedown would likely greatly reduce the prevalence of tobacco smoking and associated disease and death, simply by making this conveniently deadly product by design far less addictive.  More people would quit fairly quickly, and fewer people would take up the habit in the first place.  And people who miss the old high-nicotine smokes of yore would still be free to use alternative tobacco and nicotine products.

And doing it gradually enough will make it so there is no more of a black market for higher-nicotine cigarettes than there is for incandescent light bulbs.

As for vaping, Twenty-One Debunked does not support such a massive reduction in nicotine levels to that proposed for combustible cigarettes, but rather we support reducing the nicotine content in vape products to the maximum levels permitted in the EU, UK, and Israel.  That would nix the super-addictive ones that notoriously get young people hooked within seven days (JUUL, we're looking at you!) while still allowing plenty of nicotine for adult vapers who are trying to quit smoking.  (Twenty-One Debunked does NOT recommend anyone take up vaping, except as a last-ditch effort for truly hardened and refractory adult smokers who cannot quit any other way.)

Of course, we also think the smoking age should be lowered back to 18, just like we feel about the drinking age and toking age.  We are not called Twenty-One Debunked for nothing, after all.  Raising the age limit to 21 was at best useless, and is an ageist abomination.  In the meantime, though, the above is our nuanced and well-thought-out stance on the latest tobacco-related measures being proposed. 

FINAL THOUGHT:  By the way, the fact that they use the "think of the children!" argument to justify the banning of menthols and flavored cigars, is really just a tacit admission that raising the smoking age to 21 was essentially useless in keeping cigarettes and cigars from "trickling down" to people under 18.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

More Proof That Curfews Don't Really Reduce Crime

Curfews, especially youth curfews for people under an arbitrary age limit, have long been a solution in search of a problem.  They have been touted as a panacea for all sorts of social ills, most notably street crime.  And the evidence for that has been very weak at best, with plenty of evidence against it in fact.

But now we have the strongest "natural experiment" with the extreme, unprecedented, all-ages COVID lockdowns, curfews, and other restrictions in 2020 that did not exist in 2019 and prior years.  If curfews and similar policies actually reduced crime, we would have seen a sharp decrease in crime in 2020 relative to the average of previous years.  So what were the results of this yearlong natural experiment?

Well, you might wanna sit down before reading this.  Turns out, crime actually went way up in 2020 compared to the past few years, particularly homicides.  Preliminary data from the first half of 2020 put the per capita homicide rate in the USA at a 15 year high (highest since 2005), and the second half of the year may turn out to be even worse still, possibly even the highest since the late 1990s. And of course, plenty of rioting as well.  Even mass shootings and hate crimes are up as well, and if the first three months of 2021 are any indication, this very ugly trend unfortunately may not subside anytime soon, and alas may very well persist well after all such restrictions are finally lifted.

Even the supposedly good news about reported rapes being down in the first half of 2020 needs to be qualified.  Given how the vast majority of rapes occur behind closed doors and go unreported even in a normal year, the apparent decrease in 2020 may simply be an artifact of an increase in underreporting due to lockdown, especially since domestic violence and child abuse both appear to have increased significantly during lockdown.  We will ultimately see when the 2020 survey results for NCVS and NISVS are released, either later in 2021 or even as late as 2022.

Back in April 2020, anecdotal evidence of course suggested that crime was down in some areas.  But clearly that decrease was short-lived, and then the opposite occurred.  Whether it is due to pent-up rage, restlessness, boredom, unemployment, fewer "eyes on the street", destruction of community, or all of the above, these sorts of authoritarian and illiberal policies clearly do more harm than good on balance.

So let this be the final nail in the coffin for lockdowns, curfews, and similar restrictions.  If curfews are to ever be used to fight crime and/or civil disorder, they need to be very limited, local, nuanced, and short-term--if they are to even be used at all.

QED

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Our Position on Parental Notification

With the recent kerfuffle in New Jersey regarding their long-overdue cannabis legalization, particularly regarding parental notification for underage possession offenders under 21, we at Twenty-One Debunked thus see a need to clarify our position on parental notification for underage possession consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis.  We believe the age limit for all three should be 18 and not a day later (i.e. the Alberta Model), and regardless of the age limit we believe the following as well:

  • For anyone over 18, parental notification should be prohibited, period, as 18 is the legal age of majority.  Why this is even the least bit controversial is truly mind-boggling.
  • For anyone under 18, parental notification should NOT be mandatory, but rather should be discretionary, at least for first offenses of simple possession.  Even for subsequent offenses, there should still be nuance and proportionality.
  • For younger teens/tweens under 15 or 16, parental notification may very well be the preferable go-to option in many cases, but for older teens it should be regarded as more of a "nuclear" option for serious or repeat offenders.
  • Underage possession/consumption per se should be decriminalized.  That is, it should bypass the criminal justice system entirely, and should carry no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record.  Rather, the penalties (if any) should include only a verbal or written warning, a modest civil fine (i.e. a parking or traffic-style ticket), a brief educational course, and/or confiscation of the contraband items.
  • Any more serious penalties should be reserved solely for more serious and/or flagrant offenses that go beyond simple possession or sharing among peers, such as when impaired driving, violence, vandalism, theft, trespassing, obstructing traffic, disturbing the peace, and/or disorderly conduct is involved.  For ALL ages.  (Note that most of these are arrestable offenses.)
  • No one should lose their driver's license for any non-driving related infractions.
  • Rather than disproportionately targeting young people themselves, there should be a much greater focus on adults over 18 who sell or furnish such substances to people under 18, especially when there is a large age difference between the furnisher and furnishee.
None of these should be controversial at all.  If you honestly think these are extremist positions, you seriously need to have your head examined!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Clarification of Our Position on Cannabis

For years now, Twenty-One Debunked (along with its parent organization, the True Spirit of America Party or TSAP), has supported the full legalization of cannabis (marijuana, reefer, pot, herb, ganja, etc.) for all Americans over 18 years of age, period.  Our position for adult-use legalization is roughly the same as NORML's, with the differences highlighted in red from the otherwise cut-and-paste from the below:

Adult-Use

The TSAP supports the removal of all penalties for the private possession and responsible use of marijuana by adults over 18, including cultivation for personal use, and casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts. TSAP also advocates for the creation of a legal and regulatory framework for marijuana’s production and retail sale to adults over 18.

Core Attributes of Adult Access Regulations

Adults ought to have the legal option to cultivate personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences

The TSAP supports the right of individuals to grow their own cannabis as an alternative to purchasing it from licensed retail producers, and maintains that provisions permitting this behavior should be codified in adult use access laws. maintains that the inclusion of legislative provisions protecting the non-commercial home cultivation of cannabis serves as leverage to assure the product available at retail outlets is high quality, safe and affordable. Additionally, permitting home cultivation provides adult consumers with an immediate source of cannabis — providing an alternative to the illicit market. Such a source is necessary because it typically takes state regulators several months, or even years, following the law’s enactment to establish licensed retail operators.

At present, most adult use laws permit this behavior and there exists no compelling state interest to infringe upon it. State regulations governing the alcohol market permit adults the option to legally brew non-commercial quantities of their own alcohol, and it is consistent with this policy to similarly permit home cultivation.

Taxes imposed on either the commercial production or retail sales of cannabis must not be excessive

The commercial production and retail sale of recreational cannabis in legal jurisdictions is presently subject to both excise taxes and sales taxes, similar to many other commercial goods. The taxation of these goods remains popular with elected officials as well with the general public — particularly among those who do not personally use cannabis, but view the plant’s legalization positively as an alternative source of state revenue. The imposition of fair and reasonable taxes on these commercial activities generates support from members of the public who may otherwise show little interest in cannabis law reform. Revenue from retail marijuana taxes is currently being used to fundschool construction and other popular programs in various states, as well as to offset administrative and regulatory costs associated with adult use regulatory programs.

Such taxation ought not to apply to non-commercial activities involving cannabis, such as home cultivation or cannabis gifting. Most importantly, taxation on commercial activities should not be so excessive that it incentivizes consumers to obtain cannabis from the illicit or grey market. Studies show that most consumers are comfortable paying a premium price for cannabis available legally at retail stores (up to approximately $14 per gram), but warn that excessive pricing due to heavy taxation induces consumers to return to the illegal market.

Regulators should not inadvertently create undue barriers of entry for those seeking to participate in the legal adult use marketplace

African Americans and other minorities have historically been disproportionately targeted and adversely impacted by cannabis criminalization. This lack of equity must not persist in an environment where adult use cannabis production and sales are legally regulated.

In order to provide for inclusiveness within the legal industry, regulators should strive to impose nominal to low application fees in order to encourage participation from formerly disenfranchised populations. Further, regulations must not prohibit those with prior criminal records for past violations from seeking to activity participate in the legal marketplace.

NOTE:  Excessive licensing fees are far worse than excessive taxes.  Not only are they more harmful to such businesses, but they can actually paradoxically encourage the few businesses that do get ahead to push their products even harder on the masses to recoup their losses, as has been found with alcohol license fees going back to the 19th century.  At least taxes, when properly structured per unit, reduce excessive consumption on balance.

The enactment of adult use access regulations ought not to amend or override existing medical use access laws

Laws and regulations governing medical cannabis access to qualified patients exist in a majority of US states. TSAP acknowledges that the medical cannabis market and the recreational cannabis market are not necessarily one and the same, and that individual consumers of these markets may possess needs that differ from one another.

For instance, patients may require access to a wider array of products, as well as to products of higher cannabinoid potency (e.g., concentrates), than do those consuming cannabis for recreational purposes. Further, many patients require a consistent supply of cannabis to mitigate chronic conditions, and therefore they should not necessarily be subject to the same sort of taxes, fees, or possession limits that are imposed upon those accessing the adult use market.

Cannabis products sold at retail must be subject to third-party testing in order to assure product quality

Cannabis flower sold at retail must be subject to third-party testing in order to assure that the product is free from unwanted contaminants, such as molds or pesticides. Testing of cannabis and/or cannabis infused products must further identify the precise presence of individual cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) and terpene content, and such information must be prominently displayed on the products’ label. Such testing and labeling ensures that adult consumers have consistent access to a standardized product and have the information necessary to make an informed decision prior to purchase.

Adult use laws ought to include provisions facilitating the automatic review of past criminal records and for the expungement of those records in instances where the past behavior is no longer classified as a criminal offense

Millions of Americans, a disproportionate percentage of whom are young people and minorities, have been subject to a marijuana-related arrests and criminal conviction.

Branding these individuals, many of whom are at an age when they are just beginning their professional careers, as lifelong criminals results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, voting rights, professional licensing, and student aid and serves no legitimate societal purpose. The imposition of such lifelong penalties is even more punitive in instances where the criminal conviction is related to behavior or activities that have since been legalized and regulated.

In the interest of justice and fairness, TSAP maintains that adult use legalization policies must include legislative provisions to facilitate an automatic review of prior criminal records and also include a mechanism to allow for the expungement of such records in instances where the activity is no longer defined as criminal under state law. Some states, like California, already provide for this type of relief, and national polling finds that a supermajority of registered voters support the imposition of policies of sealing and/or expunging the criminal records of those formerly convicted of marijuana-related offenses in now-legal states.

The public use of marijuana in non-designated areas ought to be a violation

The use of cannabis products in public, non-designated spaces (e.g., parks, city streets) ought to be discouraged and penalized via the imposition of civil fines. In addition, regulators should take steps to provide a framework for the allowance of designated social use spaces (e.g., licensed social clubs) whereby adults would have the option to legally consume cannabis outside of their home. Such private spaces would be ideal for visiting tourists and others (such as those tenants who rent in buildings where cannabis use is not permitted), and ideally would reduce the likelihood of adults consuming cannabis in non-designated public spaces.

Adult use laws ought to include provisions prohibiting employers from discriminating against workers in the practices of either hiring or firing solely because their off-the-job cannabis use

Contrary to the fears of critics, changes in the legal status of cannabis have not been associated with any significant adverse effects on workplace safety and, overall, off-the-job marijuana use has not been statistically associated with increased occupational accidents or injuries – as per the findings of the National Academy of Sciences and others. While cannabis use either prior to or while at work ought not to be accommodated by employers, TSAP advocates that policies which impose sanctions for those who are legally engaged in the use of cannabis off-the-job away from work are discriminatory and ought to be discouraged. As long as one’s off-the-job cannabis use does not impede one’s on-the-job performance, such behavior should be of no concern to employers.

Adult use laws should not contain any provisions amending existing traffic safety laws in a manner that impose arbitrary and non-scientific per se thresholds for the presence of either THC or its metabolite in a driver’s blood or urine

Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance is defined as illegal behavior in all 50 states. Amending the illicit status of cannabis under state law does not change this fact. It remains just as illicit to drive under the influence of cannabis post-legalization as it is before legalization.

Most states prosecute drugged driving using an ‘effect based’ standard. This means that in order to gain a drugged driving conviction, law enforcement officials and prosecutors must establish 1) that a motorist recently ingested a controlled substance and 2) that his or her driving behavior was impaired by this substance.

The TSAP ideally supports the enforcement of ‘effect-based’ standards, and has opined for additional tools and resources – such as the use of modified Field Sobriety Testing and the training of additional Drug Recognition Evaluators – to assure that such laws are sufficiently enforced.

By contrast, lawmakers ought to oppose the imposition of proposed per se thresholds, which make it a criminal violation to operate a vehicle with the trace presence of either THC or its inactive metabolite above an arbitrary level in one’s blood or urine. These latter policies are not evidence based and are opposed by the majority of experts in the scientific and traffic safety community, including the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Automobile Association. This is because, unlike the case with alcohol, maximal levels of either THC or carboxy-THC are not consistently associated with the impairment of psychomotor performance. In addition, residual levels of THC and its metabolite may be detectable for weeks or even months following past consumption – well beyond any reasonable expectation of driver impairment. Consequently, the enforcement of these strict liability standards risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations, including those persons who are consuming cannabis legally in accordance with state statutes.

As additional states consider amending their marijuana possession laws, lawmakers would be advised to consider legislative and regulatory approaches to address concerns over DUI cannabis behavior that do not rely on solely on the presence of THC or its metabolites in blood or urine as determinants of guilt in a court of law. Otherwise, the imposition of traffic safety laws may inadvertently become a criminal mechanism for law enforcement and prosecutors to punish those who have engage in legally protected behavior and who have not posed any actionable traffic safety threat.

The TSAP does, however, support the use of prima facie thresholds (e.g. 5 ng/mL) for THC as an alternative to per se thresholds.  Colorado's law is a current example.

We also do support rational, science based per se thresholds (when possible) for psychoactive substances other than cannabis or alcohol, as well as enhanced penalties for driving under the combined influence of alcohol and cannabis, alcohol and other drugs, and/or cannabis plus other drugs.

Those under the age of 21 18 who possess personal use amounts of cannabis ought to be subject to civil sanctions rather than a criminal arrest

Studies from legal states have determined that marijuana-related arrests fall significantly for adults over 21 post-legalization, but that many under 21 (including 18-20 year old young adultscontinue to face criminal arrest for marijuana-related activities despite no significant increase in marijuana use by teenagers. These arrests of young people can potentially result in a lifelong criminal record, as well as the stigmatization and loss opportunities that accompany it (such as the loss of student financial aid and issues finding gainful employment). TSAP believes that youth marijuana use and access ought to be discouraged, but also believes that the harms of a criminal arrest carry significant adverse consequences. Therefore, TSAP supports lowering the age limit to 18 as well as provisions decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession offenses by certain youth offenders under 18.  In such cases, violators would at most face modest civil fines or have the option of other non-criminal sanctions (e.g., participation in a drug education class at no cost to the offender), but would be spared from a criminal arrest and criminal record.  (Some states/localities already do/did this with tobacco, so there is a model to follow.)

(Where it originally read "NORML" it has been replaced by TSAP.)

Fair Use Notice:  The above excerpt constitutes "fair use" as commonly understood, and is intended to criticize and comment on the work being referenced.

Our positions on medical cannabis and industrial hemp are practically identical to NORML's as well.