Real World Ramifications of Cannabis Legalization and Decriminalization

Paul Armentano

Deputy Director

NORML | NORML Foundation

Editor’s Note: As more states begin to debate the question of legally controlling marijuana, many lawmakers are posing questions to NORML regarding what effect, if any, such a policy change may have upon the public’s use of cannabis and/or young people’s attitudes toward it.

The following paper reviews various studies** that have examined this issue in regions that have either a) regulated marijuana use and sales for all adults; b) decriminalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana for adults; c) medicalized the use of marijuana to certain authorized individuals; or d) deprioritized the enforcement of marijuana laws. This paper also proposes general guidelines to govern marijuana use, production, and distribution in a legal, regulated manner.

**This paper expands upon the studies initially referenced by NORML in its paper, Marijuana Decriminalization & Its Impact on Use.

Criminal Marijuana Prohibition Is A Failure

By any objective standard, marijuana prohibition is an abject failure.

Nationwide, U.S. law enforcement have arrested over 20 million American citizens for marijuana offenses since 1965, yet today marijuana is more prevalent than ever before, adolescents have easier access to marijuana than ever before, the drug is on average more potent than ever before, and there is more violence associated with the illegal marijuana trade than ever before.

Over 100 million Americans nationally have used marijuana despite prohibition, and one in ten – according to current government survey data – use it regularly. The criminal prohibition of marijuana has not dissuaded anyone from using marijuana or reduced its availability; however, the strict enforcement of this policy has adversely impacted the lives and careers of millions of people who simply elected to use a substance to relax that is objectively safer than alcohol.

NORML believes that the time has come to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education.

The Case For Legalization/Regulation

Regulation = Controls

  • Controls regarding who can legally produce marijuana
  • Controls regarding who can legally distribute marijuana
  • Controls regarding who can legally consume marijuana
  • Controls regarding where adults can legally use marijuana and under what circumstances is such use legally permitted

Prohibition = the absence of controls – This absence of control jeopardizes rather than promotes public safety

  • Prohibition abdicates the control of marijuana production and distribution to criminal entrepreneurs, such as drug cartels, street gangs, drug dealers who push additional illegal substances
  • Prohibition provides young people with easier access to marijuana than alcohol (CASA, 2009)
  • Prohibition promotes the use of marijuana in inappropriate settings, such as in automobiles, in public parks, or in public restrooms.
  • Prohibition promotes disrespect for the law, and reinforces ethnic and generation divides between the public and law enforcement.

Defining Marijuana Legalization/Regulation

What would marijuana regulation look like?

  • There are many models of regulation; depending on the substance being regulated these regulations can be very loose (apples, tomatoes) or very strict (alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs)

The alcohol model of regulation:

  • Commercial production is limited to licensed producers (though non-retail, home production is also allowed)
  • Quality control and potency is regulated by the state, and the potency of the product is made publicly available to the consumer
  • Retail sale of the product is limited to state licensed distributors (liquor stores, restaurants, bars, package stores, etc.)
  • The state imposes strict controls on who may obtain the product (no minors), where they may legally purchase it (package store, liquor store, etc.), when they may legally purchase it (sales limited to certain hours of the day), and how much they may purchase at one time (bars/restaurants may not legally service patrons who are visibly intoxicated, states like Pennsylvania limit how much alcohol a patron may purchase at a licensed store, etc.).
  • The state imposes strict regulations prohibiting use in public (no open container in public parks, or beaches, or in an automobile) and/or furnishing the product to minors
  • The state imposes strict regulations limiting the commercial advertising of the product (limits have been imposed on the type of marketing and where such marketing may appear)
  • States and counties retain the right to revoke the retail sale of the product, or certain types of alcohol (grain alcohol, malt liquor, etc), altogether (dry counties)

A regulatory scheme for marijuana that is similar to the scheme described above for alcohol would be favorable compared to the present prohibition.Ideally, such a regulatory scheme for marijuana would maintain the existing controls that presently govern commercial alcohol production, distribution, and use – while potentially imposing even stricter limits regarding the commercialization, advertising, and mass marketing of the product.

Marijuana Legalization And Its Impact On Use

Real-world examples of marijuana regulation:

India (prior to 1985)

  • Federal government imposed no national criminal prohibitions on marijuana cultivation, production, sale, possession, consumption, or commerce prior to the mid 1980s
    • “The incidence of the habit as estimated … after extensive studies in the field ranged between 0.5% and 1.0% of the population.” (United Nations Bulletin on Narcotics, 1957)
    • “So far as premeditated crime is concerned, particularly that of a violent nature, the role of cannabis in our experience is quite distinctive. In some cases these drugs not only do not lead to it, but actually act as deterrents. We have already observed that one of the important actions of these drugs is to quiet and stupefy the individual so that there is no tendency to violence, as is not infrequently found in cases of alcoholic intoxication.” (United Nations Bulletin on Narcotics, 1957)

The Netherlands (30+ year history)

  • Retail sale of limited quantities of marijuana (5 grams or less) is allowed in licensed retail outlets for patrons age 18 or over
  • Ministry of Health also licenses production and distribution of marijuana for qualified patrons
    • “These data are consistent with reports showing that adult cannabis use is no higher in the Netherlands than in the United States and inconsistent with the demand theory that strict laws and enforcement prevent adolescent cannabis use.” (International Journal of Drug Policy, 2010)
    • “Our findings suggest that the Dutch system of regulated sales has achieved a substantial separation of markets. … As expected, most Amsterdam respondents obtained their cannabis in licensed coffee shops, and 85% reported that they could not purchase other illicit drugs at their source for cannabis. San Francisco respondents were three times more likely to report being able to purchase other illicit drugs from their cannabis sources.” (International Journal of Drug Policy, 2009)
    • “Proponents of criminalization attribute their preferred drug-control regime a special power to affect user behavior. Our findings cast doubt on such attributions. Despite widespread lawful availability of cannabis in Amsterdam, there were no differences between the 2 cities (Amsterdam and San Francisco) in age at onset of use, age at first regular use, or age at the start of maximum use. … Our findings do not support claims that criminalization reduces cannabis use and that decriminalization increases cannabis use” (American Journal of Public Health, 2004)
    • “The Dutch experience … provides a moderate empirical case that removal of criminal prohibitions on cannabis possession will not increase the prevalence of marijuana or any other drug.” (British Journal of Psychiatry, 2001)

Canada, Germany, Israel (3-10 year history)

  • Federal health department oversees the licensed production and distribution of marijuana to qualified patrons
  • No evidence this limited regulatory model has led to an increase in general marijuana use or attitudes among the public
    • “The data provide no evidence that strict cannabis laws in the United States provide protective effects compared to the similarly restrictive but less vigorously enforced laws in place in Canada, and the regulated access approach in the Netherlands.” (International Journal of Drug Policy, 2010)

California, Colorado, New Mexico (1 year to 10+ year history)

  • County/city licensing of outlets overseeing distribution of marijuana to qualified patrons
    • “Our results indicate that the introduction of medical cannabis laws was not associated with an increase in cannabis use among either arrestees or emergency department patients in cities and metropolitan areas located in four states in the USA (California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington). … Consistent with other studies of the liberalization of cannabis laws, medical cannabis laws do not appear to increase use of the drug.” (International Journal of Drug Policy, 2007)

Marijuana Decriminalization And Its Impact On Use

Real-world examples of marijuana decriminalization (removing the threat of arrest for the personal possession or cultivation of marijuana, but maintaining prohibitions on commercial cultivation and retail sale):

Europe (Spain, Italy, Portugal, Luxemburg, etc.)

  • “Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U. … The U.S. has long championed a hard-line drug policy, supporting only international agreements that enforce drug prohibition and imposing on its citizens some of the world’s harshest penalties for drug possession and sales. Yet American has the highest rates of cocaine and marijuana use in the world, and while most of the E.U. (including Holland) has more liberal drug laws than the U.S., it also has less drug use.” (, 2009)
  • “Globally, drug use is not distributed evenly, and is simply not related to drug policy. … The U.S. … stands out with higher levels of use of alcohol, cocaine, and cannabis, despite punitive illegal drug policies. … The Netherlands, with a less criminally punitive approach to cannabis use than the U.S., has experienced lower levels of use, particularly among younger adults. Clearly, by itself, a punitive policy towards possession and use accounts for limited variation in national rates of illegal drug use.” (PLOS Medicine, 2008)
  • “This paper has shown that … decriminalization does not result in lower prices and higher consumption rates, nor in more sever patterns of cannabis use, … and that criminalization may reduce the legitimacy of the judicial system.” (Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 2008)
  • “While the Dutch case and other analogies have flaws, they appear to converge in suggesting that reductions in criminal penalties have limited effects on drug use, at least for marijuana.” (Science, 1997)

Australia (20+ year history)

  • “There is no evidence to date that the (expiation/decriminalization) system … has increased levels of regular cannabis use or rates of experimentation among young adults. These results are broadly in accord with our earlier analysis of trends in cannabis use in Australia. … They are also consistent with the results of similar analysis in the United States and the Netherlands.” (Australian Government Publishing Service, 1999)

Great Britain (2004-2008)

  • “Cannabis use among young people has fallen significantly since its controversial reclassification in 2004, according to the latest British Crime Survey figures published today. The Home Office figures showed the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds who had used cannabis in the past year fell from 25% when the change in the law was introduced to 21% in 2006/07” (The Guardian, 2007)

United States

  • Decriminalization (12 states, 30+ year history)
    • “In sum, there is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in use” (U.S. National Academy of Science, 1999)
    • “The available evidence indicates that the decriminalization of marijuana possession had little or no impact on rates of use. Although rates of marijuana use increased in those U.S. states [that] reduced maximum penalties for possession to a fine, the prevalence of use increased at similar or higher rates in those states [that] retained more severe penalties. There were also no discernible impacts on the health care systems. On the other hand, the so-called ‘decriminalization’ measures did result in substantial savings in the criminal justice system.” (Journal of Public Health, 1989)
    • “Overall, the preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people. The data show no evidence of any increase, relative to the control states, in the proportion of the age group who ever tried marijuana. In fact, both groups of experimental states showed a small, cumulative net decline in annual prevalence after decriminalization” (U.S. Institute for Social Research, 1981)
  • Medicalization (13 states, 2-13 year history)
    • “More than a decade after the passage of the nation’s first state medical marijuana law, California’s Prop. 215, a considerable body of data shows that no state with a medical marijuana law has experienced an increase in youth marijuana use since its law’s enactment. All states have reported overall decreases – exceeding 50% in some age groups – strongly suggesting that the enactment of state medical marijuana laws does not increase marijuana use” (MPP, 2005, 2008)
  • LLEP/Deprioritization (various municipalities nationwide including Seattle, WA; Denver, CO; Oakland, CA; Missoula, MT; Columbia, MO, etc.)
    • “Many states and localities have either decriminalized marijuana or deprioritized the enforcement of marijuana laws. There is no evidence that the decriminalization of marijuana by certain states or the deprioritization of marijuana enforcement in Seattle and other municipalities caused an increase in marijuana use or related problems. This conclusion is consistent with the findings of numerous studies indicating that the increasing enforcement of marijuana laws has little impact on marijuana use rates and that the decriminalization of marijuana in U.S. states and elsewhere did not increase marijuana use” (Beckett/ACLU, 2009)


  • Strict government legalization/regulation of marijuana is unlikely to increase the public’s use of marijuana or significantly influence attitudes.
  • Decriminalization is unlikely to increase the public’s use of marijuana or significantly influence attitudes.
  • Free market legalization of marijuana without strict government restrictions on commercialization and marketing is likely to increase marijuana use among the public; however, given that the United States already has the highest per capita marijuana use rates in the world, this increase is likely to be marginal relative to other nation’s experiences.


Simons-Morton et al. 2010. Cross-national comparison of adolescent drinking and cannabis use in the United States, Canada, and the NetherlandsInternational Journal of Drug Policy 21: 64-69.

Reinarman et al. 2009. Cannabis policies and user practices: market separation, price, potency, and accessibility in Amsterdam and San FranciscoInternational Journal of Drug Policy 20: 28-37. “Drugs in Portugal: did decriminalization work?” April 26, 2009.

Beckett et al. 2009. The Consequences and Costs of Marijuana Prohibition. University of Washington: Seattle.

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. 2009. National Survey on American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XIV: Teens and Parents. Columbia University: New York.

Figure 2.5 Marijuana Use in Past Year among Persons Age 12 or Older. U.S. Office of Applied Studies, 2009.

Table 13 Trends in Availability of Drugs as Perceived by 12th Graders. Monitoring the Future: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor, 2008

Degenhardt et al. 2008. Toward a global view of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and cocaine use: findings from the WHO world mental health surveysPLOS Medicine 5: 1053-1067.

Van den Brink. 2008. Decriminalization of cannabisCurrent Opinion in Psychiatry 21: 122-126.

Terry-McElrath et al. 2008. Saying no to marijuana: why American youth report quitting or abstainingJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 29: 796-805.

Earleywine et al. 2005/2008. Marijuana Use by Young People: The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Laws. Marijuana Policy Project: Washington, DC.

Gorman et al. 2007. Do medical cannabis laws encourage cannabis use? International Journal of Drug Policy 18: 160-167.

The Guardian. “Fewer young people using cannabis after reclassification.” October 25, 2007.

Reinarman et al. 2004. The limited relevance of drug policy: cannabis in Amsterdam and San FranciscoAmerican Journal of Public Health 94: 836-842.

MacCoun et al. 2001. Evaluating alternative cannabis regimesBritish Journal of Psychiatry 178: 123-128.

National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. 1999Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Washington, DC.

MacCoun et al. 1997. Interpreting Dutch cannabis policy: reasoning by analogy in the legalization debateScience 278: 47-52.

Donnelly et al. 1999. Effects of the Cannabis Expiation Notice Scheme on Levels and Patterns of Cannabis use in South Australia: Evidence from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 1985-1995. Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra.

Single. 1989. The impact of marijuana decriminalization: an updateJournal of Public Health 10: 456-466.

Johnson et al. 1981. Marijuana decriminalization: the impact on youth 1975-1980. Monitoring the Future, Occasional Paper Series: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan: Ann Arbor.

Chopra. 1957. The Use of Cannabis Drugs in India. United Nations Bulletin on Narcotics: Vienna.

Mayo: Can police dispense pot fines fairly?

Broward County commissioners are crafting a law that could bring $100 fines instead of arrests and jail for people who possess small amounts of marijuana. Commissioners in Palm Beach County have given initial approval to a similar law.

In theory, this sounds good. The reality on the ground could be trickier.

Will Pot Lite Punishment be applied fairly and evenly by police?

“As a middle-aged pot smoker, I’m delighted that we’re headed in this direction,” said Norm Kent, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and longtime marijuana activist. “But as a constitutional rights attorney, I’m concerned. You’re creating a two-tiered system for the same offense. You’re making a cop into a judge.”

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, supports the civil citation option but said, “We don’t want to wake up five years from now to find out white kids are getting fined and black kids are getting arrested.”

Broward County Commissioner Marty Kiar, the ordinance sponsor, said, “This is a big step in the right direction, but it’s not going to be perfect…It’s incredibly important that this is done fairly and evenly, that people in wealthy areas and poorer areas are getting civil citations at similar rates.”

With marijuana still illegal in Florida, commissioners can’t compel police agencies to issue tickets instead of hauling people to jail. All they can do is create guidelines for the option and nudge cops in that direction.

Police on the street will have final say whether to write a civil citation (similar to a speeding ticket) or make a misdemeanor arrest of those who possess less than 20 grams of pot.

“You could be setting up a challenge down the road,” Kent said. “For anybody who gets arrested, I’ll have a good argument that the ordinance is inconsistent and unconstitutional.”

It’s nice that South Florida politicians want a kinder, gentler approach to minor pot offenses, mindful that arrests and convictions can upend lives. It’s also nice that there’s buy-in from Broward Sheriff Scott Israel on this initiative. It makes no sense to clog jails and the court system with these cases.

As someone who thinks that marijuana should be handled like alcohol – legalized and regulated, with punishment for those who drive under the influence and treatment available for abusers – I’m just afraid this well-intentioned effort might bring discriminatory results.

Kent said he also is concerned that class and racial bias might come into play, and wonders whether police will dispense citations equally.

We’ve seen how drug enforcement can skew against the poor and minorities, with harsher penalties for cheaper crack cocaine than regular cocaine. And a report this week by Jim DeFede of CBS-4 revealed that blacks have accounted for 68 percent of Broward’s misdemeanor marijuana arrests since 2010, even though they make up 29 percent of the population and federal studies say blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rate.

Kiar said he was “amazed by the disparities.” He wants to add data review and monitoring components to the ordinance before it comes up for a vote on Nov. 10. “At the end of the day you need to look at the numbers to make sure that this is being applied fairly,” Kiar said.

Despite potential inequities, the ACLU’s Simon supports the new approach: “This is a baby step toward sanity in our nation’s drug laws. Let’s start the process.”

Daily Press October 7, 2015

Nancy Grace’s debate with 2 Chainz over pot legalization will melt your brain

It was unclear whether she wants to criminalize pot or rap music.

It’s truly a wonder that I was able to write this article at all, as I was certain that, at some point during Nancy Grace’s interview with rapper 2 Chainz, my brain would, indeed, explode.

The HLN host kicked off her Tuesday night show with a couple of stories about young children who died or suffered due in part to their parent’s recreational marijuana use. (Disclosure: HLN is a video partner of the Daily Dot.) While these stories are certainly tragic, they served as shallow evidence to support Grace’s stance that marijuana should not be legalized—something she’s debated extensively (mainly with herself). But even more worrisome than her stance on this issue is how she chose to invite 2 Chainz onto her show to discuss it while attacking his character and being, frankly, racist.

She starts off by introducing 2 Chainz and noting that he is also known as “Tity Boi,” which is the best thing I’ve heard in 2015 thus far. She also adds that his real name is Tauheed Epps.

“I know your persona is different than your rap persona,” she says to him. Then she mentions his 4.0 GPA in college and the fact that he got a scholarship to earn his degree. In the land of Nancy Grace, the implication here is you should know better.

Throughout the entire interview, Grace unsuccessfully tries to discredit 2 Chainz’s view that marijuana should be legalized by pointing out his explicit rap lyrics and lifestyle. “I’ve seen video of you smoking a big fat doobie,” she says to him, while showing viewers the footage. The implication here is this guy’s opinion can’t be trusted, look at him. It’s unclear whether she wants to criminalize pot or rap music.

I’m not going to pretend that I ever considered 2 Chainz to be a scholar, but from the get-go he maintained impressive composure in the face of a shrieking Grace, as she tried to draw a connection between a few sets of irresponsible, pot-smoking parents, and the entire pot-smoking community. “I don’t think you can put an umbrella on the community you just named,” he tells her. “I just feel like you can’t use these particular stories to define everybody that has recreational use.”

Rebuttal: “I’m not defining everybody. So don’t put me in that pot and stew me.”


“I’m not sure if you know, but everybody can get their hands on pot right now, whether it’s legal or not,” 2 Chainz tells Grace. He then shares with her things that she should already knows but appears to be hearing for the first time, like the fact that keeping marijuana illegal contributes to overcrowding prisons and results in unnecessary arrests, which stain people’s public records and prevent from them getting things like loans. What he implies, but doesn’t state explicitly, is that this disproportionately affects minorities.

“If you want to qualify for a loan, then why don’t you just not smoke pot? Why don’t you just not get arrested?” Grace asks, implying that this is how the world actually works.

Over the course of the interview, Grace peppered in quotes from 2 Chainz lyrics and recited them back to him to undermine his completely valid opinion on marijuana legalization. “Smoking California weed with California hoes,” was one such lyric. Is that a nice thing to say? No. Does it have anything to do with the topic? No. She also goes to great pains to bring up his two daughters, implying that his stance is hurting them.

“What we talking about, Nancy? You everywhere,” he quips. Point: 2 Chainz.

After some more lyric recitation, attacks on his parenting skills, and input from other guests who joined the fray—Brad Lamm, an addiction specialist against legalization, and Norm Kent, an attorney in support of legalization—Grace brings us back to the point that 2 Chainz should know better. 

“My stars, man, you graduated with a 4.0. You’re a millionaire,” Grace said. “You’re successful. At some point you have to look in the mirror and say this is wrong.”

“Giving your kids drugs is just wrong,” he fires back. “We know that. You don’t have to be a genius. You don’t have to graduate from school. You don’t have to be a successful artist or entertainer to know that giving any child—not just your child—drugs is wrong. You know that. I’m not gonna argue with that.”

Norm Kent, who earlier on said 2 Chainz was giving a voice to millions who shared the same view, got the final word.

“2 Chainz’s children are gonna grow up in a world where they use marijuana responsibly, where they don’t go to jail unjustly, where cannabis consumers are going to be lawfully protected, where government revenues are going be remarkably enhanced, and we’re all gonna be a lot better off. Marijuana smokers are coming out of the closet like gay people, and it’s about time they have.”

I can only hope that in the future Nancy Grace invites guests on for the sake of enhancing the conversation, and not to perpetuate a pernicious stereotype that has little to do with the subject at hand. 

A girl can dream, right?

Marisa Kabas— Jan 14, 2015 at 5:42AM | Last updated Dec 10, 2015 at 7:31PM

Field Drug Tests Defective

This stunning YouTube Video prepared with the help of Dr. Bronner’s soaps is a legal basis for throwing out a commonly used field test by hundreds of police agencies across the country called NarcoPouch.

In fact, it was instrumental in dropping charges against a band member in Southern California who was wrongly prosecuted based on the false presumption that his liquid soap was GHB. The false positive in the street field test led to his arrest. The crime lab’s testing eventually exonerated the accused musician.

It appears that the testing equipment utilized to ascertain GHB, a controlled substance, also tests positive for ANY natural or organic soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s Hemp-Pure Castille soap, readily available at Whole Foods markets locally. Further testing subsequently revealed that the popular NarcoPouch unit also tests positive on many colognes and perfumes.

Like the Intoxilyzer machines that have fallen under scrupulous legal review, if you can successfully show in a pre-trial motion that field-testing equipment is inherently compromised, the arrest itself can fail. Last week, the UK Guardian reported that a popular street side test for marijuana has also been compromised.

Known as the Duquenois-Levine, or D-L Test, it is produced by various for-profit manufacturers, and the standards to create the product are not exactly supervised by health agencies or homeland security. Not to be sarcastic, but you have to persuade a court that these companies have their own best pecuniary interests at heart, not the public good. We need to get the courts to presume fallibility.

Many of us already remember what happened to Robin Rae Brown on March 20, 2009, in Weston, here in Broward County, Florida. She parked her pickup truck and went for a hike off the beaten path along a remote canal and into the woods to bird watch and commune with nature. “I saw a bobcat and an osprey,” she recalls. “I stopped once in a nice spot beneath a tree, sat down and gave prayers of thanksgiving to God.”

Robin had packed a clay bowl and a “smudge stick,” a stalk-like bundle of sage, sweet grass, and lavender that she had bought at an airport gift shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Under the tree, she lit the end of the smudge stick and nestled it inside the bowl. She waved the smoke up toward her heart and over her head and prayed.

Spiritual people from many cultures, including Native Americans, consider smoke to be sacred, and believe it can carry their prayers to the heavens. Law enforcement does not so abide. I learned that on Star Island in the 1980’s counseling members of the Ethiopian Coptic Church, whose daily rituals of religious marijuana use were not accepted by the DEA, who raided and arrested them, chasing them from Florida.

Robin Brown’s bird watch became a nightmare leading to an illegal arrest. When she returned to her pickup truck, a Broward deputy and a Florida Fish and Wildlife lieutenant confronted her. One spotted her incense and asked if he could see it. He took the bowl and incense, asking whether it was marijuana.

Robin told the police it was her ‘smudge.’ “Smells like marijuana to me,” said the deputy, who admitted he had never heard of a smudge stick. He then took the incense back to his car and conducted a D-L field test, which proved ‘positive for marijuana.’ She was eventually arrested.

Robin’s case has gained notoriety because she later learned that her incense had never been subjected to a confirmatory lab test. The Broward state attorney negligently filed a criminal charge without the subsequent testing, and was sued after the charges against her were dropped. Robin’s lawyers so far have not prevailed based on statutory immunity. Sadly, the state is immune from its carelessness, but innocent citizens go to jail because of it.

The test itself works fine. The problem is that, in addition to identifying marijuana or hashish, the D-L test frequently reads positive for tea, nutmeg, sage, and dozens of other chemicals—including ‘resorcinols,’ a family of over-the-counter medicines, which, includes Sucrets throat lozenges.

In a 2008 article for the Texas Tech Law Review, Frederic Whitehurst, Executive Director for the Forensic Justice Project and formerly with the FBI, concluded: “We are arresting vast numbers of citizens for possession of a substance that we cannot identify by utilizing the forensic protocol that is presently in use in most crime labs in the United States.”

As renowned drug expert author, John Kelley, has pointed out in Alternet articles, there are many flaws emerging with these tests. In fact, the problem of “false positives” in drug tests isn’t just limited to substances that appear to resemble marijuana or GHB. In Canada, the owners of a family-based chocolatier business were fingered as dangerous drug dealers by a Duquenois field test and found themselves in jail. Incarceration by Chocolate!

The test, as shown in the Bronner soap video, above, is a simple chemical color reagent test. To administer the test, you simply break a seal on a tiny micropipette of chemicals, and insert a particle of the suspected substance. If the chemicals turn purple or green or a particular color, this indicates the possibility of marijuana or maybe GHB. But ‘possibility’ is not automatically, ‘reliability.’

As scientific examiners unearth new drug testing techniques, the defense bar needs to maximize ways to bust them for their fallibility.

Don’t walk your clients to the plea counter. Plead their case instead with pre trial motions that require the state to authenticate the drug testing sources that provided the basis for the initial arrest. You may have the fruits of a poisonous tree. Suck it dry for everything it is worth.

Norm Kent

Originally published, August, 2012


DEA Keeps It’s Head in the Sand — Refuses to Reschedule Cannabis

Despite the overwhelming shift in the way cannabis is viewed in this County, the DEA has again refused to remove it from Schedule I.  As you are probably aware, Schedule I is for drugs that have a “high potential for abuse” and “no accepted medical use”.  Even drugs like morphine and cocaine are placed in lower schedules.

At the urging of former governors from Rhode Island and Washington, the DEA agreed to reconsider the placement of cannabis in the most restrictive schedule.  However, a rescheduling was ultimately rejected, despite the fact that medical use of cannbis is supported by volumes of medical evidence and enjoys majority support all across the country.

The DEA did agree to expand research into medical marijuana, which is encouraging, but to continue placing pot in Schedule I, along with drugs like heroin and peyote, shows that the DEA has failed to read the writing on the wall.

Myopia in the Manors – FCC420’s Norm Kent Responds to Wilton Manors Anti-Dispensary Law

Florida Cannabis Consultant’s own Norm Kent has published an opinion piece about Wilton Manor’s proposed anti-dispensary law.  It has been published in the South Florida Gay News.

CLICK HERE to read the full article.

Questions of Corruption and Politics Surround Florida’s Medical Cannabis Licenses

Alternet has published an incredibly thorough and detailed examination of questions related to how Florida has awarded licenses to cultivate and dispense high-CBD cannabis.  The article is a condemnation of how Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has handled the process, and suggests that the licenses have been handed  out to politically connected entities with questionable qualifications.

There are allegations that some license holders, such as Surterra Therapeutics, have engaged in misrepresentation and plagiarism in their applications.  There is also an interesting examination of the political contributions and connections of several license holders.

As the vote on Amendment 2 approaches and the possibility of a much larger medical marijuana market is on the horizon, articles like the one published in Alternet are extremely important in determining how fair the dispensary licensing process is.  Will politicians continue to put profit before patients?

If you have an interest in how Florida is implementing its medical cannabis system, as a patient or an entrepreneur, then you really should read the Alternet article.

You can CLICK HERE to read the full article.

Wilton Manors Says “No Thanks” to Medical Pot Shops

The town of Wilton Manors, FL may have started as a working class suburb to Fort Lauderdale, but in recent years it has developed into one of the most progressive cities in the state.  It’s large LGBTQ population has generally brought with it a more tolerant view on most issues.

However, that openness might not extend to the use of medical cannabis.  The Wilton Manors City Commission has started the process of passing an ordinance that would strictly limit the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.  Specifically, the proposed law would prohibit cannabis dispensaries from locating within 1000 feet of schools, daycares, churches, and other locations.  This buffer zone would effectively eliminate dispensaries from all but a few locations  in the city.

The law also places restrictions on when dispensaries may be open (no later than 6pm and closed on Sundays).  It also requires twice daily trash removal  and “odor filtration” systems.  Additionally, the law seeks to prohibit certain “offensive” words in the business names used by dispensaries, such as “ganja”, “pot”, “weed”, etc.

It still remains to be seen whether this ordinance will pass, but it is likely to be one of many similar laws that will  pop up around the state as medical marijuana continues its march towards legalization.

The Publix War on Weed … Where Shopping Might Not Be a Pleasure

Floridians have always taken pride in having one of the nation’s best supermarket chains.  Publix usually enjoys a wonderful reputation based on its clean, well-stocked stores and its high level of customer service.  In fact, Publix recently placed second in a Consumer Reports ranking of all supermarkets nationwide.  Plus, their chicken fingers are the perfect remedy for a case of the munchies!

However, recent political contributions by Publix heiress, Carol Jenkins Barnett, is causing many advocates of medical marijuana to reconsider their support for this Florida grocery behemoth.  Ms. Barnett recently donated $800,000 to help fund the anti-medical marijuana campaign in Florida.  This donation comes as Floridians prepare to head to the polls for a crucial second chance vote to legalize medical cannabis.  It will  no doubt be used by anti-pot groups to fund advertising, which has been controversial for its dubious claims about the “dangers” of allowing legal access to patients.

So, next time you find yourself with the munchies, think about Ms. Barnett and consider Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or  another one of the shopping options available in our state.

First Medical Marijuana Delivered in Florida! … Now What?

After a seemingly never-ending series of delays, lawsuits and other road blocks, the first delivery of medical cannabis under the Charlotte’s Web law has taken place.  This past week, a patient in Hudson, Florida legally received cannabis from the State’s first dispensary, Trulieve in Tallahassee.

Granted, the number of patients who qualify under the Charlotte’s Web law is quite limited and for most of them only low-THC cannabis is available.  However, this is still another important step in the path to sensible marijuana laws in Florida.  Another brick in the wall of prohibition has been chipped away.

So, the question is .. “Now What?”

Well, first and foremost, we will see the system for registering patients, certifying doctors and establishing dispensing organizations continue to develop and evolve.  There are currently only a handful of doctors who have completed the necessary class for certification to recommend cannabis.  But more are being added every day.  There is also only one dispensing organization actively distributing cannabis, but four more have been granted licenses and are working towards being operational.  The law has been modified to allow for more dispensing organizations as the patient pool expands.

The most notable event remaining on the horizon is the November 8th election.  On that date, Floridians will be given a second chance to pass a much broader medical cannabis law that will allow patients suffering from a much wider group of ailments to access marijuana legally.  If that measure passes, the face of medical cannabis will change drastically in the state.

So, this week’s developments show that we continue to move in the right direction, but there is still work that remains to be done as we work to knock down the wall of prohibition.