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Florida’s Drug-Testing of the Poor Proves a Failure, but Some States Still Want to Follow their Example

By Kellen Russoniello, George Washington University Law student and NORML Legal Intern

The recent push for implementing drug testing for potential welfare recipients across several states has revealed at least two things: 1. The policy is not economically sound; and 2. It really brings out the hypocrisy in some elected officials.

NORMLReeferMadness 233x300 Florida’s Drug Testing of the Poor Proves a Failure, but Some States Still Want to Follow their ExampleLast summer, Florida implemented a law requiring all welfare applicants to submit to a mandatory drug test before receiving any benefits (Applicants had to pay the $ 30 for the test themselves, only to be reimbursed later if they passed. For more information, see this NORML blog post.). Not surprisingly, the program was brought to a quick halt. Back in October of 2011, a federal judge ruled that the Florida drug testing law was unconstitutional.

Further, in the few months that the program was up and running, it was shown that only 2% of welfare applicants tested positive for drugs. About 9% of the general population reports using drugs in the past month. So much for Governor Rick Scott’s theory that the poor use drugs more often than the rest of the populace.

Even more striking is the amount of money that Florida lost from this poorly designed policy. The Tampa Bay Online estimated that $ 3,400 to $ 8,200 in savings would be recognized every month from drug testing welfare applicants. As it turns out, the program is estimated to have cost Florida over $ 200,000. From any perspective, this policy can be regarded as a failure.

Despite the lessons that can be learned from Florida’s debacle, several states are still considering implementing programs to subject their impoverished population to drug tests. The Huffington Post reported that twelve states attempted passing legislation in 2011 that would require drug tests for welfare applicants. Florida, Missouri, and Arizona were the only three that succeeded. However, Pennsylvania has just begun a pilot program in Schuylkill County that subjects certain applicants to drug tests. By tailoring their laws to apply only to applicants that have aroused reasonable suspicion, these states are hoping to avoid constitutional problems like those that ultimately invalidated the Florida law and a similar Michigan law in 2000 (which was affirmed in 2003). Several states have also tried to drug test those who seek unemployment benefits, state employees, and private sector employees, including the passage of an Indiana law that requires drug testing for those in a state job-training program.

When pressed, legislators that support this policy try to justify their position by claiming that the taxpayers should not subsidize drug addiction. But taxpayers pay for much more than just welfare. Some of their money goes towards paying their legislators’ salaries. Wouldn’t this same rationale justify drug testing legislators? This has been the tactic of many Democratic state legislators to thwart Republican efforts to test welfare applicants. In fact, a Republican State representative in the Indiana General Assembly recently pulled a bill after another representative amended it to include drug testing for legislators. The bill was reintroduced and passed by the Indiana General Assembly the following week, which included a section requiring legislators to submit to random drug tests. Missouri and Tennessee currently have bills that would require legislators to submit to drug tests. These were introduced in reaction to a slew of bills aimed at requiring drug tests on different areas of the population. It seems that the legislators who want to drug test the poor aren’t really convinced of the merits of the program when applied to themselves.

Hopefully, state politicians will come to their senses as knowledge about the failure of Florida’s policy becomes more well-known. But given this country’s track record on drug policy, I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath.

To see a hilarious summary of Florida’s drug-test-the-poor policy, watch this Daily Show clip, which includes Florida State Representative Scott Plakon’s and Governor Rick Scott’s reactions to being asked to take a drug test.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Want to Lower Traffic Fatalities? Try Legalizing Medical Marijuana.

rethinklogohd12 300x125 Want to Lower Traffic Fatalities? Try Legalizing Medical Marijuana.That’s at least according to a paper published today by University of Colorado Denver Professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University Assistant Professor D. Mark Anderson. The study looked at traffic fatalities nationwide for the years 1990-2009 to see if there was any correlation between highway fatalities and liberalized medical marijuana laws. They found that, in states that legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, both traffic fatalities and alcohol consumption declined.

Study shows medical marijuana laws reduce traffic deaths
Leads to lower consumption of alcohol

DENVER (Nov. 29, 2011) – A groundbreaking new study shows that laws legalizing medical marijuana have resulted in a nearly nine percent drop in traffic deaths and a five percent reduction in beer sales.

“Our research suggests that the legalization of medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities through reducing alcohol consumption by young adults,” said Daniel Rees, professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver who co-authored the study with D. Mark Anderson, assistant professor of economics at Montana State University.

The researchers collected data from a variety of sources including the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

The study is the first to examine the relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and traffic deaths.

“We were astounded by how little is known about the effects of legalizing medical marijuana,” Rees said. “We looked into traffic fatalities because there is good data, and the data allow us to test whether alcohol was a factor.”

Anderson noted that traffic deaths are significant from a policy standpoint.

“Traffic fatalities are an important outcome from a policy perspective because they represent the leading cause of death among Americans ages five to 34,” he said.

The economists analyzed traffic fatalities nationwide, including the 13 states that legalized medical marijuana between 1990 and 2009. In those states, they found evidence that alcohol consumption by 20- through 29-year-olds went down, resulting in fewer deaths on the road.

The economists noted that simulator studies conducted by previous researchers suggest that drivers under the influence of alcohol tend to underestimate how badly their skills are impaired. They drive faster and take more risks. In contrast, these studies show that drivers under the influence of marijuana tend to avoid risks. However, Rees and Anderson cautioned that legalization of medical marijuana may result in fewer traffic deaths because it’s typically used in private, while alcohol is often consumed at bars and restaurants.

“I think this is a very timely study given all the medical marijuana laws being passed or under consideration,” Anderson said. “These policies have not been research-based thus far and our research shows some of the social effects of these laws. Our results suggest a direct link between marijuana and alcohol consumption.”

The study also examined marijuana use in three states that legalized medical marijuana in the mid-2000s, Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Marijuana use by adults increased after legalization in Montana and Rhode Island, but not in Vermont. There was no evidence that marijuana use by minors increased.

“Although we make no policy recommendations, it certainly appears as though medical marijuana laws are making our highways safer,” Rees said.

Read the full press release here.

So, it seems those prohibitionist claims about high bus drivers crashing into buildings and stoned motorists wrecking havoc on our highways now slip even further into the realm of fantasy. Though perhaps that 5% reduction in alcohol consumption explains why the California Beer and Beverage Distributors Association found it necessary to contribute $ 10,000 last year to oppose Proposition 19.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Reason.tv: PBS Travel Guru Rick Steves — “If I Work Hard All Day Long And Want To Go Home And Relax With A Joint, That Is My Civil Liberty”

Television host, author, and NORML Advisory Board member Rick Steves is arguably one of the most articulate and passionate voices for cannabis legalization. Catch the latest edition of Reason TV to hear why.

“[T]o me, high is a place … and when I want to go there I don’t need the government to give me a passport.”

You can also listen to Rick Steve’s keynote address from the 2009 national NORML conference here.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Crybaby Cops Want Govt Immunity from Police Brutality Charges (‘Beat Mexican Piss out of you’)

Real News @ RevolutionNews.US — (SEATTLE) Cops Caught Committing Police Brutality On Video Say They’re Entitled To Governmental Immunity… this is the cop who cried while he testified before the cameras… what a wuss. I’M GONNA BEAT THE MEXICAN PISS OUT OF YOU HOMEY… YOU FEEL ME? — Feel Free To Repost Anywhere! Please subscribe to all of our backup channels! — “Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people.” —Thomas Jefferson Time For A New American Revolution? Follow us on Twitter twitter.com Facebook: facebook.com Original Channel: youtube.com
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default Crybaby Cops Want Govt Immunity from Police Brutality Charges (Beat Mexican Piss out of you)

Throughout human history, narcotics have been used as medicine and for pleasure, but those who use them can be stigmatized. When drug use is legal or accepted, is it still taboo? More than a century ago, Queen Victoria is said to have used marijuana to alleviate cramps. Today, patients in California are smoking it to relieve pain and other chronic symptoms. Deep in the Brazilian Amazon, a congregation gathers to drink a powerful hallucinogenic drug. Even children participate in the ritual. Narcotics: The Blurry Line Narcotics can alter minds and ruin lives. Users are often stigmatized, even reviled. Many users end up in prison, yet there are some people who have won the right to take illegal drugs. MEDICAL MARIJUANA The ancient Egyptians used marijuana for medical purposes and Piaroa shamans in Venezuela have used the hallucinogen Yopo for healing and enlightenment. Up to 85000 people are behind bars for marijuana offenses. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana — or cannabis — for medical use, when Proposition 215 was passed by popular vote. Prop 215 allows qualified patients to possess, cultivate, and consume marijuana with immunity. Up until 1937, you could buy marijuana from your local store or pharmacy. The 1937 Act taxed medical marijuana out of existence and by the 1960s all marijuana was illegal. Health insurance does not cover the purchase of medicinal cannabis. Oaksterdam University was established in 2007, and teaches students all
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