Cannabis prohibition has a disproportionate impact on people of color. A prime example of that can be found in arrest data in New York City. Below is more information about what is currently going on in New York City (which is a situation that is obviously unacceptable) via our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance:
A major investigation by the New York Times found continued racial disparities in marijuana enforcement and arrests in every neighborhood in the City.
The Times found, “Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people over the past three years. Hispanic people were arrested at five times the rate of white people. In Manhattan, the gap is even starker: Black people there were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people.”
The Times also debunked the NYPD explanation for the disparities, which the police attribute to more 311 and 911 complaints in certain neighborhoods.
“New York’s marijuana arrest crusade is causing significant harms to the City’s most vulnerable communities and has long been used as a justification for the hyper-policing of communities of color,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “NYPD is funneling tens of thousands of New Yorkers into the maze of the criminal justice system every year and putting people at risk of deportation, losing custody of their children, and barring them from employment and housing – all for nothing more than a small amount of marijuana.”
“Given New York’s embarrassing history as the marijuana arrest capital of the world, we must focus on repairing the harms of prohibition and ending the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers. Ultimately, the best way to address the disparities and challenges posed by prohibition is to create a system to tax and regulate marijuana that will reinvest in communities that have been most harmed by the marijuana arrest crusade,” Frederique continued.
DPA has consistently documented the NYPD’s racist marijuana enforcement over the past decade, including the release of multiple reports.
DPA is currently leading a campaign, Start Smart New York, to pass marijuana legalization in New York, with a focus on racial, social and economic justice.
Last week, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Liz Krueger were joined by organizations and groups dedicated to criminal justice reform, civil rights, and public health as they stood in support of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), a bill that would legalize the production, distribution, and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The bill would effectively end marijuana prohibition in New York State and would create a system to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
The legislation also ensures tax revenue generated from marijuana legalization is put to use repairing communities devastated by harsh enforcement of prohibition by directing revenue to fund job training, adult education, youth development programming, establish or expand community centers, bolster re-entry services for the formerly incarcerated, and otherwise support community-focused programming in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war, in addition to education, public health, and drug treatment.
The National Football League (NFL) currently prohibits cannabis consumption by players with zero exceptions. The NFL’s drug test threshold for cannabis is 35 ng/mL of THC metabolites, which is less than Major League Baseball (50 ng/mL) and far less than the standard that Olympic athletes are held to (150 ng/mL).
Over two dozen states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes beyond just low-THC/high-CBD, and all but four states have reformed their cannabis laws to at least allow low-THC/high-CBD possession in limited circumstances. Nine states have passed measures to legalize cannabis for adult-use. Washington D.C. has legalized cannabis for both medical and adult-use.
Of the four states that still completely prohibit cannabis (Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, and South Dakota) none of them have an NFL team. Literally, every state and district that NFL teams are located have more progressive cannabis policies than the NFL itself. Why does the NFL continue to cling to cannabis prohibition? Cannabis prohibition provides zero benefits to the NFL and it can be easily argued that cannabis prohibition is bad for the NFL and its players.
By not allowing NFL players to make the safer choice and use cannabis, the NFL is pushing players towards much more harmful substances, most notably addictive opioids. Increased access to cannabis has been associated with significant reductions in opioid use, which is something that the NFL should be embracing given its ongoing issues related to opioid addiction and abuse by current and former players.
Cannabis has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol, which is a substance that the NFL widely embraces. In addition to players being allowed to consume alcohol, the NFL is heavily sponsored by the alcohol industry. The NFL’s prohibition on cannabis in the name of ‘player safety’ while they simultaneously embrace alcohol and pharmaceuticals is blatant hypocrisy.
An unfortunate example of that hypocrisy played out recently with the NFL’s denial of a medical cannabis exemption request by NFL running back Mike James. James had applied for a therapeutic use exemption with the NFL which is a process meant to help players that require the use of a banned substance to treat a diagnosed medical problem.
James, who had been taking harmful pharmaceuticals to treat his chronic pain since 2013, found relief after using medical cannabis. He was able to beat his addiction to opioids, which improved his health and quality of life. “I never had something where I could be coherent and still have pain relief.” James said according to CNN.
Now James is faced with three choices. He can either go back to using opioids, continue to use cannabis and risk his career, or he can retire from the NFL. Obviously, none of those options are acceptable. The NFL should have compassion for Mike James and other suffering players and at the least allow them to be exempt from the NFL’s cannabis policy, or even better, to end cannabis prohibition altogether.
The fans of the NFL want to see their players on the field competing, and not serving a suspension because they decided to use a substance that is safer than alcohol and most pharmaceutical drugs. NFL players should only be prevented from competing if they are too hurt to play or they have done something truly wrong. Suspending them for cannabis takes away from the NFL’s product and often ruins players’ careers.
NFL cannabis prohibition perpetuates institutional racism. Cannabis reform in the NFL has the support of fans, players, and even members of sports media according to polling. The NFL needs to care more about the well-being of its players and get on the right side of history. Cannabis is medicine and cannabis prohibition is a failed policy, both inside and outside of NFL stadiums. Shame on the NFL for denying Mike James’ request and a huge hat tip to James for having the courage to speak out. Free the plant!
It’s official – cannabis legalization has made the ballot in Michigan. Clifford Robinson played for the Detroit Pistons from 2001-2003 and lived in Michigan after his playing career was over. He has long supported cannabis reform efforts in the state of Michigan and is extremely happy that Michigan voters will see cannabis legalization on the ballot in November.
The Uncle Cliffy team, including and especially Clifford Robinson himself, want to extend a huge congratulations to cannabis advocates in Michigan for their successful signature drive! Now the hard work begins as the campaign effort in Michigan shifts from gathering signatures to educating voters about the benefits of legalization and the harms of prohibition.
Below is more information about the initiative making the ballot in Michigan via our friends at the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol:
The Michigan State Board of Canvassers approved today the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s petition to place an initiative that would legalize marijuana possession and consumption for all adults 21 years and older on the state’s November ballot. If approved by voters, Michigan would become the first state in the Midwest with an adult-use cannabis law.
“This November, Michigan voters will finally get the chance to eliminate Michigan’s outdated marijuana laws,” said Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spokesperson John Truscott. “Just like with alcohol, it is clear that prohibition doesn’t work and that regulation and taxation is a far better solution.”
In addition to allowing adults 21 and older to possess and consume limited amounts of marijuana, the initiative would:
- License marijuana businesses that cultivate, process, test, transport and sell marijuana;
- Legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp (used to make textiles, biodegradable plastics, food, construction materials and even fuel);
- Protect consumers with proper testing and safety regulations for retail marijuana;
- Impose a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sold at the retail level on top of the state’s 6 percent sales tax; and
- Give local governments the option of whether they want to allow marijuana businesses in their community.
“This is an important reform that will help end thousands of unnecessary arrests and redirect law enforcement resources to real needs – like combating violent crime and fighting the opioid epidemic – while also generating hundreds of millions of new tax dollars for our schools, roads and local governments,” said former Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon.
“This isn’t just my opinion,” McKinnon added. “I’ve talked to countless law enforcement officials throughout Michigan and the country who believe the same.”
Voter-initiated laws are required to collect 252,523 valid signatures to have an issue placed on the ballot. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted more than 365,000 signatures to the state Elections Bureau in November last year. Elections Bureau staff estimate that more than 277,000 signatures were valid.
“When you look at the success of other states that have already legalized and regulated marijuana, it is clear this initiative is the path forward,” said Michigan NORML board member Brad Forrester. “States that have legalized and regulated marijuana have seen decreases in opioid-related deaths while also adding hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue each year.”
Other organizations supporting the coalition include the Marijuana Policy Project, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the ACLU of Michigan, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association and MILegalize.
“With polls showing nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters supporting legalization, it’s clear that the public is way ahead of the politicians on this issue,” said Jeffrey Hank, executive director of MILegalize. “The people are tired of the failed policies of the past and understand that creating reasonable, responsible regulations is the way forward to tens of thousands of new jobs and opportunities in Michigan. This November the people will make their voice heard!”
For more information about the ballot initiative, including full language of the proposed law, please visit www.RegulateMI.org.
For more information about the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, please visit RegulateMI.org.
A big push has been underway to legalize cannabis in Connecticut, led by the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana. Clifford Robinson is a proud member of the coalition and has had a special place in his heart for reform efforts in Connecticut ever since he attended college at the University of Connecticut (class of 1989).
With surrounding states looking more and more likely to legalize cannabis sooner rather than later, Connecticut would be smart to get on the right side of history.
The Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana sent out an action alert today, which can be found below. If you live in Connecticut, please do what you can. If you don’t live in Connecticut but know those that do, please share the below message with them:
HB 5394 — a bill to move Connecticut towards legalizing and regulating marijuana — received a calendar number yesterday! This means that, procedurally speaking, it can be called for a vote in the House at any time (or it could never get acted on).
Now comes our biggest challenge: Making sure we have a majority of representatives committed to voting “yes” to replace marijuana prohibition with sensible regulation.
Please call your state representative TODAY. Just click on this link, fill in your address, and our automated system will provide your representative’s number along with talking points to help you decide what you want to say.
Polls show that 71% of Connecticut residents want to end marijuana prohibition. But for this bill to pass, it is crucial that lawmakers hear that this is an issue their constituents care about.
So, please, make the phone call today. Then, spread the word so that, together, we can make history in the Constitution State.
Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana
Currently, the National Basketball Association (NBA) prohibits all forms of cannabis use by players, even when the player is in a state where cannabis is legal, and even when the use is medical in nature. There are no exceptions.
That policy is extremely out of touch in 2018. As of the posting of this article 9 states have approved measures to legalize cannabis for adult use, in addition to Washington D.C. More than three times as many states have legalized cannabis for medical use (in addition to Washington D.C.). More states are likely to legalize cannabis in the near future, as is the entire country of Canada.
Gallup’s most recent poll found that a record level of Americans now support legalizing cannabis for adult use (64%). A different poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 94% of Americans support allowing people to use cannabis for medical purposes. Yet, despite all of that, the NBA still clings to cannabis prohibition.
When the NBA suspends players for using cannabis, they are not only harming the players and their teams, they are also harming the league itself. Ultimately the NBA’s main product is its players. When players are not on the court, the league’s overall product suffers. Fans want to see their team’s players on the court, and the NBA should want to as well.
Sometimes taking a player off the court makes sense, such as when a player is hurt or dealing with a personal matter. Other times taking a player off the court, such as for valid disciplinary reasons, is warranted. However, taking a player off the court simply because they have THC metabolites in their urine is ludicrous.
The NBA has a current threshold of just 15 ng/mL. If a player crosses that threshold they are penalized, which was the case recently with Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel and Utah Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha. Both players were suspended for 5 games after violating the league’s anti-cannabis policy.
To put the 15 ng/mL threshold into perspective, one study found that someone could fail a drug test for just simply being around other people that were consuming cannabis. The study found that one participant tested at over 50 ng/mL and several participants tested at over 20 ng/mL due to secondhand cannabis smoke exposure.
NBA players could theoretically be in violation of the league’s policy when they haven’t even personally consumed cannabis, especially considering that cannabis can stay in a person’s system for as long as 100 days. Olympic athletes are held to a standard that is ten times more lenient.
The Uncle Cliffy team does not know the circumstances with these players, but the fact that it’s even a possibility that they could have been suspended due to secondhand cannabis smoke exposure highlights how ridiculous the NBA’s current cannabis policy is. NBA cannabis policies should be based on science and compassion, and not on outdated political views.
NBA league officials need to get on the right side of history, and NBA players need to refuse to settle for anything less. The league’s current cannabis policy is harmful to players, to their families who also have to deal with stigma, to their teams, and to the league itself. It’s so strict that it could result in players being suspended when they have not even consumed cannabis.
Cannabis is 114 times safer than alcohol, which is a substance that is widely embraced by the NBA. If the NBA can embrace alcohol, then players should be able to consume a plant that is exponentially safer. To say otherwise defies logical reasoning. The NBA needs to do what is right and free the plant!
Clifford Robinson is a very proud member of the Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana which has been working to make cannabis legalization a reality in Connecticut. Robinson played college basketball at the University of Connecticut from 1985-1989 and is a member of UConn’s Men’s Basketball All-Century Team.
The Uncle Cliffy team is happy to announce that a cannabis legalization bill was approved by a committee in Connecticut’s Legislature today. More information about today’s victory can be found below via a press release issued by the Marijuana Policy Project:
The Joint Committee on Appropriations approved a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana for adults in Connecticut on Thursday, potentially setting it up for floor consideration before the end of this year’s legislative session.
HB 5394, which was introduced by the committee, would task the commissioners of Mental Health and Addiction Services and Consumer Protection and Revenue Services with developing regulations for possession and retail sales of marijuana for adults 21 and older. More details will be added to the bill as it moves forward over the coming weeks.
“This committee vote reiterates what most Connecticut residents already know: it is time to make marijuana legal for adults,” said Becky Dansky, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The discussions that have taken place in the legislature this year have provided more than enough information to effectively move forward with legalization. Connecticut should stop punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol, and it has an opportunity to regulate marijuana before it starts losing tax revenue to other states in the region that have already started this process.”
There are nine states that have made marijuana legal for adults, as well as the District of Columbia. Neighboring Massachusetts is in the process of implementing its regulated marijuana market, and in nearby New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has made legalizing and regulating marijuana a priority this year.
A poll conducted by Sacred Heart University in October 2017 showed that 71% of Connecticut residents support regulating and taxing marijuana for adults.
# # #
The Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana is a coalition of citizens, organizations, and community leaders working to end marijuana prohibition in Connecticut and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. For more information, visit https://www.RegulateCT.org.
Opioid use is a major concern for athletes that compete at all levels. Athletes are at a higher risk of getting injured compared to non-athletes, and whenever there is an injury involved the potential for opioid abuse becomes a very real threat.
Professional sports leagues have been struggling to reduce opioid abuse among players, and retired athletes have been scrambling to find ways to battle the issue on their own. Fortunately for athletes, there is a plant that can help according to a growing body of research. That plant is, of course, the cannabis plant.
The results of two studies were released recently which found that increased access to cannabis leads to a reduction in opioid use. Below is more information about it from our friends at Americans for Safe Access:
New research has been released that further highlights the potential role of medical cannabis in combating the Nation’s opioid crisis . Two studies, published on April 2nd by the Journal of the American Medical Association reveal a net decrease in opioid prescriptions in states with medical cannabis laws for Medicare and Medicaid populations.
The first study, conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia, found that states with active medical cannabis dispensaries saw 3,742,000 fewer daily doses per year filled for prescription opioids under Medicare Part D (typically enrollees are over 65) compared to states without medical cannabis programs. This decrease equates to about a 14% reduction in opioid prescriptions in states with medical cannabis laws. The other study revealed that states with medical cannabis laws were associated with a 5.88% lower rate of opioid prescribing for individuals enrolled in Medicaid (typically enrollees are low income) than states without medical cannabis laws.
“This research continues to validate the notion that cannabis is an effective tool in pain management” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director for Americans for Safe Access. “The latest numbers show us that there were over 64,000 opioid deaths last year. We need to be doing more to fight this epidemic, especially by making sure that individuals suffering from chronic pain have the option to use non-addictive, effective pain treatments like medical cannabis.”
In January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found significant evidence that cannabis is effective at treating pain in some conditions. Previously published research has indicated that states with medical cannabis laws have shown up to a 25% reduction in opioid deaths and that states with medical cannabis dispensaries have shown reductions in opioid overdose deaths by as much as 40%.
In response to the ongoing opioid crisis, Americans for Safe Access, in partnership with the U.S. Pain Foundation and other advocacy organizations launched the End Pain, Not Lives campaign in late 2017. The campaign focuses on making cannabis an option for pain management.
More can be found about the campaign here.
Clifford Robinson played for the New Jersey Nets from 2005-2007 and lived in New Jersey after he retired from the National Basketball Association. Because of that Clifford has always supported cannabis reform efforts in New Jersey.
Unfortunately, cannabis reform has been hard to come by in New Jersey this decade due to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The winds of change are picking up though now that New Jersey has a new Governor (Phil Murphy).
Today New Jersey announced that it would be expanding its medical cannabis program, which is something that the Uncle Cliffy team applauds. Below is more information about today’s announcement via our friends at the Drug P0licy Alliance:
Today, Governor Phil Murphy announced steps to expand New Jersey’s long-stalled Medicinal Marijuana Program. The Governor acted quickly after taking office, issuing an executive order mandating the Department of Health to review the program and make recommendations for improvement. The announcement today is the result of this executive order.
The changes include:
- Five new qualifying conditions, including chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, chronic pain of visceral origin (relating to the stomach), migraines, anxiety and Tourette Syndrome;
- Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) currently operating will be able to open satellite locations and an additional grow site in order to increase the supply of medical marijuana;
- Registration fees will be reduced from $200 to $100 for a medical marijuana card;
- All patients will be able to access edible forms of marijuana;
- The monthly limit will be raised from 2 ounces to 4 ounces;
- Patients will be able to register at more than one ATC.
Advocates applauded the Department of Health and Governor Murphy for the quick action.
“We want to thank Commissioner Elnahal and Governor Murphy for moving so quickly to expand the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This action will help thousands of patients for whom medical marijuana is the best option for relieving their suffering and improving their quality of life.”
The Drug Policy Alliance led the campaign to pass the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act and has continued to work to see the program effectively implemented. The Drug Policy Alliance submitted a petition to the state’s Medicinal Marijuana Review Panel in support of adding chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions.
The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed by Governor Jon Corzine right before he left office in January 2010 due to advocacy by the Drug Policy Alliance and partners. Then incoming Governor Chris Christie was charged with implementing the law. Patients and advocates have criticized the slow implementation—eight years later the state has only five Alternative Treatment Centers where patients can access medical marijuana—and the burdensome regulations the Christie Administration promulgated.
Having grown up in New York State Clifford Robinson knows firsthand that New York’s cannabis laws are harmful. That is why he advocates so passionately for cannabis reform in the state of New York, including in New York City. Cannabis possession arrest data shows that racial disparities persist in New York City, which is obviously unacceptable. Below is more information about it from our friends at NORML via a press release they issued recently:
New York City police are continuing to disproportionately arrest African Americans and Latinos for minor marijuana possession violations, despite ongoing pledges from Mayor Bill de Blasio to halt the practice.
In 2017, city police made an estimated 17,500 arrests for marijuana possession in the 5th degree – a class B misdemeanor. Consistent with past years, 86 percent of those arrested were either Black or Hispanic.
Since the de Blasio administration took office in 2014, city police have made over 75,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests; 86 percent of arrestees were either Black or Latino.
Under state law, the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is a non-arrestable offense, except instances where the police contend that the substance was either being burned or was in public view.
While law enforcement officials alleged that the high volume of arrests was a result of citizens’ complaints, a POLITICO.com analysis found no evidence to support that claim.
Despite consuming cannabis at rates comparable to whites, recent analyses of marijuana arrest data from multiple states find that African Americans are consistently arrested for marijuana possession offenses at least three times the rate of Caucasians.
Multiple reasons have been offered up over the years as ‘justification’ for prohibiting cannabis in professional sports. One of the most common ones is that ‘cannabis is illegal’ and so, therefore, leagues must prohibit it. That ‘justification’ has become more problematic for league prohibitionists in recent years due to the spread of cannabis reform across the country and globe. Reform opponents still use the talking point, but it’s less valid with every passing year.
Another ‘justification’ that has been offered up over the years is that cannabis is harmful to players’ health. The ‘player safety’ argument has been watered down over the years as more and more studies have found that not only is cannabis safer than many other substances that leagues embrace (alcohol, pharmaceuticals, etc.), but that cannabis has the potential to treat all types of conditions, ailments, and injuries that professional athletes experience.
The latest talking point used by league officials, and even some player union reps, is that cannabis reform cannot occur in professional sports because of fears of what United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions might do. The ‘Jeff Sessions boogeyman argument’ is a stretch at best. While Jeff Sessions may go after large cannabis companies or even smaller cannabis companies, it would be unheard of for the federal government to take action against a professional athlete who has THC metabolites in their system.
The Uncle Cliffy team has discussed this a number of times on this blog (here, here, here, here, and here). The talking point was flimsy at best in previous months but recently became completely moot when Jeff Sessions made it clear that the federal government won’t go after ‘routine cases’ dealing with cannabis, let alone go after a professional athlete for consuming cannabis. Jeff Sessions stated the following late last week, per Marijuana Moment:
“We’re not going to be able, even if we desired, to take over state enforcement of routine cases that might occur,” he said, referring to the growing number of states that have legalized cannabis. “Federal agents are highly paid, highly trained, and they work on cases involving cartels, international organizations, major distribution networks, large amounts of cash. And they deal with criminal organizations, RICO-type cases. And we’re not out there prosecuting those cases every day.”
League cannabis prohibition policies have nothing to do with international crime organizations, major distribution networks, RICO-cases, or large amounts of cash. They deal entirely with prohibiting professional athletes from having THC metabolites in their systems due to prior cannabis use. Claiming that Jeff Sessions’ opposition to cannabis is ‘justification’ for keeping cannabis prohibition in place in pro sports is not only ridiculous and unfounded, it’s harmful.
Players are having their careers ruined and their lives harmed because of league cannabis prohibition policies. Players who are penalized for cannabis also see their families deal with a tremendous amount of stigma too, which is very sad on many levels. League cannabis policies should be based on compassion and science, and not the outdated political views of a handful of people.
Professional athletes need to stand up to those that wish to drag their feet on reform via unfounded claims, such as that Jeff Sessions might go after a professional athlete if leagues remove cannabis form their banned substances lists. The National Hockey League (NHL) does not list cannabis on its list of banned substances, and Jeff Sessions has never gone after any NHL player, nor does the Uncle Cliffy team expect him to do so. The same would be true for other sports leagues if they followed the NHL’s lead. It’s time for leagues and player union reps to stop the delay tactics and free the plant!