Compared with other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use. Those are the top-line findings of recent research published in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature. Researchers found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine. Marijuana was roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Given the relative risks associated with marijuana and alcohol, the authors recommend “risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs.” And they say that when it comes to marijuana, the low amounts of risk associated with the drug “suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach.”
Marijuana becomes legal in Alaska tomorrow, but where it will be allowed to be used remains a bit hazy. Public consumption of pot remains prohibited, but local leaders continue to debate the definition of public place. Public place is defined in Alaska criminal statutes as “a place to which the public or a substantial group of persons has access.” The statute lists about a dozen examples, including schools, parks, highways, bus stops, businesses and apartment building lobbies and hallways. Possessing an ounce of marijuana outside of the home by a person 21 or older will be legal under the law approved by voters in November. Consuming marijuana in public remains illegal and is punishable by a $100 fine. The law also allows people older than 21 to have six marijuana plants and to trade pot. Regulations enacting provisions of the new law pertaining to the setting up and licensing of marijuana retail establishments are required to be in place later this year.
Marijuana legalization in Washington DC will take effect at the end of this week, unless Congress acts to stop it. Ever since Initiative 71—which will allow District residents to legally possess up to two ounces of marijuana—was overwhelmingly passed through a voter initiative, lawmakers and residents alike have feared that some members of Congress would prevent it from taking effect, as they’re wont to do. There was even that rider in the House Appropriations Committee’s $1.1 trillion spending bill barring the District from implementing marijuana legalization. But the legislation was submitted to Congress for the 30-day review period and it’s looking like it’ll pass. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton says that “unless a resolution of disapproval overturning it is enacted during that period or other legislation is enacted before, during or after that period that blocks or overturns it,” DC will be legal by the weekend.
Montel Williams is joining a Missouri Republican in efforts to allow patients with specific ailments access to medical marijuana with a state-monitored distribution program. A House committee on Monday will consider a bill that would set up a process for patients to register for access to marijuana for cancer, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical conditions. Republican Rep. Dave Hinson’s bill would not allow recreational use of marijuana. It would require growers and distributors of medical marijuana to be licensed and follow certain security procedures. Williams, a TV personality with multiple sclerosis, uses marijuana to treat some of his symptoms and will testify in support of the bill. He says Missouri could be a model for other states.
Republicans lawmakers in Florida who once opposed medical pot are now embracing it, motivated by the strong show of support from voters and worried that another constitutional amendment during next year’s presidential race could drive opponents to the polls. It got about 58 percent of the vote in November, but needed 60 percent to pass under Florida law. That sent a powerful message to legislators in Tallahassee. Amendment 2 garnered more support than any statewide candidate and served as the impetus for the introduction of medical marijuana bills for the legislative session, which begins March 3. A sticking point in Florida is just who exactly would be allowed to use medical pot. Both the Senate and the House proposals would permit people with certain conditions to use it, including AIDS, epilepsy, Lou Gehrig’s disease and multiple sclerosis. But the House version wouldn’t allow it for people with chronic pain, nausea or seizures or other debilitating illnesses that aren’t included on the list.