Police Searches Drop Dramatically in States that Legalized Marijuana

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

Police Searches Drop Dramatically in States that Legalized Marijuana

Traffic searches by highway patrols in Colorado and Washington dropped by nearly half after the two states legalized marijuana in 2012. That also reduced the racial disparities in the stops, according to a new analysis of police data, but not by much. Blacks and Hispanics are still searched at higher rates than whites.

Highway stops have long been a tool in the war on drugs, and remain a charged issue amid a furious national debate about police treatment of minorities. Last week, protests erupted over the acquittal of a Minnesota police officer who shot to death Philando Castile after pulling him over for a broken tail light.

Sam Petulla

The overuse of traffic stops can damage the public trust in police, particularly when searches disproportionately involve black and Hispanic drivers.

“Searches where you don’t find something are really negative towards a community,” said Jack McDevitt, director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice in Boston. “Have a police officer search your car is really like, ‘Why are they doing this to me?’ And you get more pissed off. If you’re trying to do relationship building, it’s not a good thing to do a lot of searches.”

Sam Petulla

The analysis comes from data crunched by the Stanford Open Policing Project, a team of researchers and statisticians that collected more than 60 million records of traffic stops and searches by highway patrol officers in 22 states. By sharing the data, the group aims to promote a deeper understanding of the patterns and motivations behind the most common interaction Americans have with police.

The data compiled by the Stanford group is limited in that it is not uniform across states. Each of the country’s law enforcement agencies track traffic stops differently, and some don’t release the data publicly. In the end, the group compiled data from 20 states that was deep enough to allow a rigorous analysis. Colorado and Washington were compared against 12 of these states to arrive at the conclusion that marijuana legalization likely had an effect on search rates.

In both states, marijuana legalization eliminated one of the major justifications used by police officers to stop motorists, cutting searches by more than 40 percent after legalization. In Colorado, the change occurred gradually, with searches dropping initially by 30 percent, and then flatting out to a more than 50-percent drop within a year.

In Washington, there was a drop of more than 50 percent in searches within three months of legalization. The search rate remained low thereafter. The 12 states in the Stanford study that did not pass marijuana decriminalization legislation during the period did not experience significant drops.

The biggest finding ─ and one that mirrors the results of investigations in individual states and jurisdictions ─ is that minorities are still stopped and searched at higher rates than white drivers. The threshold before a search is performed is also lower for minority drivers than it is for whites, according to the researchers at Stanford behind the Open Policing Project.

Those differences remained in Colorado and Washington even after searchers dropped following pot legalization.

Jack Glaser, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said that although the disparities persisted, the overall drop in searches means that fewer minorities would be unfairly targeted.

“As long as police officers (like the rest of us) hold implicit or explicit stereotypes associating minorities with crime, they will perceive minorities as more suspicious,” Glaser wrote in an email.

In both states, the analysis excludes searches incident to an arrest. Those searches are not a good barometer for the searches officers conduct after making a stop at their own discretion, the researchers said.

AG Jeff Sessions Proves Without Any Doubt That He Is A Total Idiot Concerning Marijuana

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

Jeff Sessions Says Marijuana Is Only ‘Slightly Less Awful’ Than Heroin. Science Says He’s Wrong

Updated: 3:36 PM Eastern | Originally published: 2:42 PM Eastern
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in remarks prepared for delivery this week that he believes marijuana is “only slightly less awful,” than heroin.

“I realize this may be an unfashionable belief in a time of growing tolerance of drug use. But too many lives are at stake to worry about being fashionable,” reads his prepared statement Wednesday during an appearance with local and federal law enforcement officials in Richmond, Va. “I reject the idea that America will be a better place if marijuana is sold in every corner store. And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana — so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful. Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.”

Sessions veered from the script and did not say marijuana is “only slightly less awful” during his speech, though it remains in the remarks on the Department of Justice website. Scientists who study marijuana disagree with his position.

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“The statement flies in the face of the science,” said Dr. Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California San Francisco, who has studied the health effects of marijuana. “No one has died from an overdose of cannabis. There’s abundant evidence that it is a useful intervention for chronic pain, and we may see it’s useful in harm reduction.”

In the United States, more than half-a-million people have died from drug overdoses from 2000 to 2015, and currently an estimated 91 people die every day from an opioid overdose.

In January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a committee review of all research on the health impacts of cannabis since 1999, and reported that there’s substantial evidence to suggest marijuana can help people dealing with chronic pain — and that it could be an alternative to opioids. (Abrams served on the committee.) A 2015 analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a 30% or more reduction in pain from cannabinoids — compounds from cannabis — compared to a placebo. Studies suggest cannabinoids interact with receptors in pain activity centers located in the brain and spinal cord, and may have anti-inflammatory effects.

Whether marijuana can help someone overcome an opioid addiction is unknown, but research suggests that states that have legalized medical marijuana have experienced drops in opioid-related deaths. In a 2014 report, Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, an assistant professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, found that states with legal medical marijuana experienced 25% fewer prescription drug overdose deaths compared to states where medical marijuana is not legal.

“For some patients with chronic pain, medical marijuana should be an option,” Bachhuber said. “Anecdotally, I’ve seen patients cut down on use of opioids when they start using medical marijuana.”

In the U.S., marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. Many researchers argue that classification isn’t supported by evidence, and that it makes marijuana harder to study. While opioid addiction tends to be long-term and difficult to successfully overcome, a 2015 study found that after three years, 67% of people that could be diagnosed with cannabis use disorder no longer met the criteria.

“I’ve been a physician for almost 40 years and I’ve never admitted a patient for complications from cannabis use,” Abrams said. “The number of patients we see with problems with use of alcohol, heroin, and methamphetamine is enormous. [Sessions’] statement is unfortunate and uninformed.”

Mellow drivers? Study says states with medical-marijuana laws have lower traffic fatality rates.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TRIPPING’ AND THE WASHINGTON POST)

Mellow drivers? Study says states with medical-marijuana laws have lower traffic fatality rates.

December 20

 

States with medical-marijuana laws have fewer traffic fatalities than those without, especially among younger drivers, a new study has found.

You would think crash rates might be higher, supposing that more drivers are, too — especially around midnight, when a run to a 7-Eleven becomes necessary.

But, no. Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found an 11 percent reduction in traffic fatalities on average when examining places that have enacted medical-marijuana laws — 23 states and the District of Columbia. The presence of medical-marijuana dispensaries also correlated with fewer traffic fatalities, the study found.

Silvia Martins, a physician and associate professor who was the study’s senior author, theorized that lower traffic fatality rates in states with marijuana laws might be related to lower levels of alcohol-impaired driving as people, especially younger people, substitute weed for booze.

There was little evidence of a reduction in the traffic fatality rate for people 45 or older, who are disproportionately represented in larger numbers among enrollees in state medical-marijuana programs. The largest drop in traffic fatality rates in states with medical-marijuana laws occurred among drivers ages 15 to 44.

“We found evidence that states with the marijuana laws in place compared with those which did not, reported, on average, lower rates of drivers endorsing driving after having too many drinks,” Martins said in a written statement. She said other factors that might help explain the correlation could be the “strength of public health laws related to driving, infrastructure characteristics, or the quality of health care systems.”

The researchers cautioned, however, that not all states with medical-marijuana laws experienced declines in traffic fatality rates. California and New Mexico had initial reductions of 16 percent and 17.5 percent, respectively, after the passage of medical-marijuana laws but then saw gradual increases in their traffic fatality rates.

The study, which was published online in the American Journal of Public Health, analyzed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on traffic fatalities from 1985 to 2014. The researchers took into account factors such as whether the states had graduated driver licensing laws, as well as median household income, unemployment rates, laws increasing the speed limit to 70 mph or more, laws on enforcing the use of seat belts, and bans on using cellphones and texting while driving.

The researchers undertook the study as more states passed medical-marijuana laws — nine between 2010 and 2014 — and concerns were raised about the possible effect on public safety. Previous research, for example, found that marijuana use caused drivers to weave in traffic more often and have slower reaction times; studies also found that drivers who were high tended to reduce speed and increase headways — suggesting that the users were aware of their marijuana-related impairment and were trying to compensate.

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