Sunday, September 22, 2013

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Canada - New medical marijuana club hopes to spark pot debate at University of Manitoba

source: CTV News

A University of Manitoba student is hoping to spark a debate about all things pot by recruiting fellow students to join a medical marijuana club on campus -- the first of its kind in Canada.

With students returning to the U of M’s campus for fall semester, club founder Steven Stairs set up a table at the university’s recruitment week, displaying several strains of marijuana to promote his new group.

It was a far cry from some of the more traditional groups, like photography club or book club, but Stairs says it’s generating interest.

"I got 25 (new students to join) in about a half hour … and I've gotten one or two in the past five minutes," Stairs told CTV News this week.

Stairs says more than 30 students in total have joined the club -- a list that continues to grow -- and that all aspects of the club are legal.

In Stairs’ case, he uses marijuana to relieve the pain from his glaucoma. On campus, he is allowed to use a smokeless vapourizer to ingest the drug.

But he believes his fellow students are becoming more interested because the topic of marijuana has gone mainstream in recent months.

"Going forward, it seems to be that Canada is leaning toward a much more progressive stance on marijuana," he said.

ryan riley The topic sparked a national debate this summer after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau revealed he had smoked pot at least once since becoming an MP. Several politicians then also admitted to using the drug at some point in the past, including Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

A recent proposal by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police also garnered much attention, suggesting that Canada’s police forces should be handing out tickets rather than criminal charges for pot possession.

A poll conducted by Forum Research in late August found relaxing the rules concerning marijuana is overwhelmingly favoured by Canadians: 70 per cent said they wanted it either legalized (36%) or decriminalized (34%).

But Royce Koop, a political scientist at the University of Manitoba, says he thinks it is unlikely that marijuana will be an election issue.

"It doesn't really rank that high compared to things like the economy or health care," Koop said. "It's way down on the list for most people."

The federal government has said that it is possible that ticketing pot users could happen someday but it currently has no intention of legalizing marijuana.

According to the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the country.

Daniel Emond, an addictions counsellor with Teen Challenge of Central Canada, calls pot a gateway drug adding that eight out of 10 people addicted to hard drugs started by using marijuana.

He says that’s why the discussion around decriminalizing marijuana needs to end.

"Are we willing to open that door? And what are the consqueneces?" said Emond.

But Stairs says that’s exactly the types of discussions that need to be taking place – something that will happen when his club starts meeting monthly.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

State-By-State Look At Cannabis Reform Across The U.S.

source: The Weed Blog

  • Alabama:
Ron Crumpton, Executive Director of the Alabama Safe Access Project (ASAP), tells us that State Representative Patricia Todd – in collaboration with ASAP - will be filing multiple cannabis reform measures in the upcoming legislative session, including a measure to decriminalize cannabis, a proposal to legalize it entirely, and two proposals to bring protection for medical cannabis patients; one would legalize medical cannabis entirely, and one would provide an affirmative defense for qualified patients
  • Alaska
In June the State of Alaska officially certified an initiative to legalize cannabis, passing it through its initial hurdle towards becoming law. Advocates will now need to collect 30,169 valid signatures by next summer to place the proposal – which would legalize cannabis possession, and retail outlets – on next November’s general election ballot.
  • Arizona
In May, Behavior Research Center poll - which shocked the political world in Arizona – found that 56% in the state support the legalization of recreational cannabis (4% above the national average). The next month, an initiative was filed which would do just that; legalize cannabis for those 18 and older, including state-licensed retail outlets.
Advocates of the initiative – which, like Colorado’s Amendment 64, is a constitutional amendment – will need to gather roughly 260,000 signatures to put the proposal to a vote of the people in 2014, though they have until Jul 3rd to do so.
In July, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that police must return cannabis seized from an authorized patient from California, setting legal precedent across the state which forces police to abide by the portion of Arizona’s medical cannabis law which recognizes valid patients from other medical cannabis states.
  • Arkansas
Earlier this month the state’s attorney general gave approval to a medical cannabis legalization initiative which was filed by Arkansas for Responsible Medicine, giving them the go-ahead to begin collecting signatures to put their proposal to a vote in 2014. Another group has filed a separate initiative, a constitutional amendment which would legalize cannabis possession, cultivation and distribution centers; the proposal awaits approval by the state.
Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the proponents of last year’sIssue 5 which would have legalized medical cannabis in Arkansas, but failed narrowly in the election, have also filed a new medical cannabis initiative after being rejected by the attorney general several times in recent weeks, based on “ambiguities” in the language.
  • California
Last month California’s Democratic Party – the largest state Democratic Party in the country -approved two cannabis related resolutions, one calling for President Obama to respect state marijuana laws, and one urging state lawmakers to pass legislation protecting medical cannabis safe access. Both are now official platforms of the party.
On October 1st activists will begin gathering signatures for the California Cannabis Hemp Act of 2014 (also known as the Jack Herer Initiative), aiming to put it to a vote in 2014; the proposal would fully legalize cannabis possession (12 pounds), private cultivation (99 plants), industrial hemp and cannabis retail outlets.
  • Colorado
In May, the state’s governor signed multiple cannabis proposals which made the state the first in history to approve regulations for recreational cannabis. A couple days later, the governorsigned a proposal explicitly legalizing hemp in the state.
Last week a poll was released which found that 54% of those in Colorado support the legalization of cannabis, showing that support has remained steady since the passage of Amendment 64 in November.
Recreational retail outlets are expected to begin opening early next year.
  • Delaware
Earlier this month Delaware Governor Jack Markell announced that he would be moving forward with the state’s 2011-approved medical cannabis law (though in scaled-back form, with 1 dispensary rather than 4), which he halted over fears of the federal government prosecuting state employees. This will lead to the state’s first medical cannabis dispensary opening, likely by next year.
  • District of Columbia (U.S. Capital)
Last month a proposal was filed in the city’s council which would decriminalize cannabis possession in the district. The proposal – which will be formally voted on next month – is sponsored by a majority of the council, indicating that it will be up to the mayor to decide whether or not the measure passes into law.
A few weeks ago Washington D.C.’s first medical cannabis dispensary opened its doors, located just blocks from the White House, with a view of the U.S. Capitol Building.
  • Florida
Earlier this month the group United for Care submitted over 100,000 signatures (after only a month of collecting) on their initiative to legalize medical cannabis in the state; the group needed to submit 70,000 to have it reviewed by the state’s supreme court. Once given approval, the group will need to collect roughly 685,000 signatures to put the proposal to a vote in 2014.
The leader of the group, attorney and former Obama fundraiser John Morgan, has pledged to do “whatever it takes” to get the initiative passed into law, and plans to spend over $20 million to do so.
  • Georgia
Although nothing new has come forward in terms of specific legislation, the nonprofit, pro-legalization group Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform and Education (Georgia C.A.R.E. Project) continues to educate the public in Georgia on the necessity of reforming their state’s failed cannabis policies
  • Hawaii
Although the state’s Senate unanimously approved marijuana decriminalization this year, the proposal eventually stalled in the House. However, lawmakers and advocates behind the bill plan to continue to fight for its passage in 2014, and are optimistic about its chances.
  • Idaho
The organization Compassionate Idaho - which is now officially a subchapter of Americans for Safe Access – in continuing to work on an initiative aimed at legalizing medical cannabis.
  • Illinois
On the first day of this month, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a proposal into law which legalized medical cannabis, including up to 60 state-licensed dispensaries. Although the passage of this law is a giant step forward, advocates continue to fight for further reform, as the restrictive law is only a 4-year starter program.
  • Indiana
Senate Bill 0580 – which would have decriminalized the possession of 2 ounces of cannabis – was filed earlier this year by Senator Karen Tallian, though unfortunately no significant progress was made on it in the Senate. However, Senator Tallian plans to refile the proposal next session, and advocates will continue to push for its passage.
  • Iowa
H.F. 22, introduced this session, would have legalized the possession and state-licensed sale of medical marijuana to qualified patients, though it was eventually voted down in committee. Regardless of the vote, the bill started a conversation in the state which was much-needed.
  • Kansas
Earlier this month a bill to legalize medical cannabis was filed in the Kansas Senate, titled theCannabis Compassion and Care Act. The measure has been referred to the Public Health and Welfare Committee.
  • Kentucky
Last month State Senator Perry Clark introduced a medical cannabis legalization proposal, which had a public hearing on August 21st. This legislation, according to polling released this month, is supported by an overwhelming 78% of Kentucky residents.
  • Louisiana
A measure designed to drastically reduce the penalties – and remove mandatory minimums – for cannabis charges was approved in May by the state’s full House, but unfortunately ended up being narrowly rejected by the full Senate the following month. The fight, however, is far from over, as those behind the proposal plan to continue working towards its passage in the upcoming legislative session.
  • Maine
In June, legislation to add post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying medical cannabis conditions officially became law in Maine.
Last month, an initiative to legalize cannabis was officially sent to the November ballot in Portland, Maine, giving voters the opportunity to reform their city’s marijuana laws
  • Maryland
In May the state’s governor signed legislation to allow medical cannabis distribution to occur at certain authorized academic medical centers that become licensed with the state. The passage of the proposal drew mixed reactions, with some calling it a step forward, and others calling it a farce.
  • Massachusetts
The State of Massachusetts is moving forward with implementation of its 2012-approved medical cannabis law, and has recently begun accepting applications from those interested in receiving a license to open a medical cannabis dispensary.
  • Michigan
In May, the Michigan Supreme Court made an important ruling which protects medical cannabis patients from the state’s zero-tolerance THC driving policy.
In June, the nonprofit medical cannabis organization Michigan Compassion became the first cannabis-related organization to receive a Google Grant; the group will be awarded $240,000 in free advertising. Also in June, activists in the cities of Ferndale and Jackson submitted the required number of signatures to put their cannabis decriminalization proposals to a vote this November.
In August, a medical cannabis review panel gave preliminary approval to the addition of PTSD as a qualifying medical cannabis condition; a public hearing will be held before a final vote occurs.
Earlier this week an initiative to legalize cannabis possession was officially verified for this November’s ballot in Lansing, Michigan’s capital.
  • Minnesota
In may legislation was introduced in Minnesota to legalize medical cannabis. The proposal is sponsored by over 40 lawmakers, and although it was filed too late to be approved in 2013, proponents are preparing for a huge push in 2014.
  • Missouri
In St. Louis a proposal decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis officially became law on June 1st.
In July, a state lawmaker announced that he will be filing two cannabis-related bills in the 2014 session; one to decriminalize up to 35 grams, and one to legalize cannabis similar to Colorado’s Amendment 64.
  • Nebraska
Nebraska NORML ran an initiative earlier this year to legalize cannabis, though unfortunately fell short of the signatures required to place the proposal on the ballot. However, the group is continuing to push for legalization; those interested in getting involved should e-mail
  • Nevada
In June Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a proposal into law which legalizes medical cannabis dispensaries throughout the state, fixing a huge hole in the law; up until the passage of this proposal, dispensaries were entirely illegal, despite medical cannabis being a constitutional right since 2000, leading most patients to rely on the black-market to obtain their medicine.
  • New Hampshire
Last Month New Hampshire officially became the 20th state to legalize medical cannabis, after the governor signed legislation into law.
  • New Mexico
Earlier this year the state’s House of Representatives approved a measure which would decriminalize up to a quarter pound of cannabis, making it a simple $100 ticket. Although the measure has stalled in the Senate, it has been an inspiration to activists, and lawmakers will continue to discuss the issue in the next session.
  • New York
In June New York’s Assembly approved a measure legalizing medical cannabis; the approval now sits in the Senate, where, according to the bill’s primary sponsor, it has enough support to pass.
Earlier this month a federal judge ruled that New York City’s ‘stop-and-frisk’ policy is “unconstitutional”.
  • North Carolina
House Bill 637, which would make the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis a simple ticket rather than a criminal misdemeanor, passed its first reading in the house, though stalled in subcommittee. Advocates in the state should contact their lawmakers, urging them to support this common-sense proposal to free-up police resources to focus on serious offenses.
  • Ohio
In May the Ohio Ballot Board unanimously approved an initiative to legalize cannabis and hemp, sending it through the initial hurdle towards putting it to a vote; advocates will now need to collect roughly 385,000 valid signatures to place the initiative on the 2014 ballot.
  • North Dakota
Although there’s not much new to report on, Oklahoma State Senator Constance Johnson continues to consider running an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
  • Oklahoma
Although there’s not much new to report on, Oklahoma State Senator Constance Johnson continues to consider running an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
  • Oregon
In July, Oregon’s governor signed a measure drastically reducing the penalties for most cannabis-related charges, including making the possession of up to an ounce a ticket, rather than a misdemeanor.
Just a couple weeks ago the governor signed a proposal legalizing medical cannabis dispensaries, a move which remedies a problem which found medical cannabis legal for qualified patients, despite access points being entirely illegal. Under the regulations set forth in the initiative, over 200 dispensaries are expected to open.
Last week advocates of last year’s Measure 80 to legalize cannabis announced that, starting next month, they’ll begin to collect signatures on two new initiatives aiming for the 2014 ballot; one a state-law change, one a constitutional amendment.
  • Pennsylvania
In June the NCAAP officially endorsed a proposal in the state’s Senate which would legalize the possession, private home cultivation and state-licensed retail sale of cannabis for adults.
Polling released in May found that over 80% in the state support medical cannabis legalization.
  • Rhode Island
On April 1st the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis became decriminalized in Rhode Island. In just 4 months – from April 1st to August 1st - nearly 1,000 misdemeanors were avoided because of this new law.
  • South Carolina
Members of Columbia NORML are actively lobbying lawmakers in the state in an attempt to bring forth the legalization of cannabis.
  • South Dakota
Earlier this year a piece of legislation was introduced and discussed in South Carolina which would have added legal protections to those using cannabis for medical purposes. The bill didn’t advance out of committee, but will be filed again in 2014.
  • Tennessee
Tennessee State Senator Frank Nicely is considering drafting legislation to legalize hemp in the state.
  • Texas
A few months back Texas lawmakers held a public hearing on House Bill 594, which would have added an “affirmative defense” for patients who possess and use marijuana. The law never advanced beyond that, but began a conversation which is vital to the eventual passage of such measures. Advocates in the state should be constantly communicating with their lawmakers, urging them towards cannabis law reform.
  • Utah
poll released this week found that a large majority in Utah support medical cannabis legalization; 61% to 28%.
  • Vermont
On June 6th Vermont’s governor signed a proposal decriminalizing cannabis possession – the law took effect on July 1st. Also in July, the state’s first medical cannabis dispensaryopened its doors for qualifying patients.
  • Washington
The state’s Liquor Control Board continues to finalize regulations for the newly-legal recreational cannabis industry, with retail outlets to be licensedby the end of the year. In the meantime, the nonprofit organization Sensible Washington is working on legislation that they plan to have filed in the upcoming legislative session which would defelonize the possession of all drugs (when not intended for distribution), making the charges misdemeanors rather than felonies (in Washington State the possession of any amount of a controlled substance, or over 40 grams of cannabis a felony with a maximum sentence of 5 years in prisons). So far the effort has at least 4 legislative cosponsors.
  • West Virginia
House Bill 2961, sponsored by 10 state legislators, would allow qualifying patients in the state (as well as their caregiver) to purchase, grow and possess cannabis. The measure would allow patients to grow up to 12 plants, and would also legalize dispensaries. Although the proposal stalled in committee, advocates plan to continue building support for the proposal.
  • Wisconsin
Several lawmakers in Wisconsin are in the process of drafting legislation to legalize medical cannabis, which they plan to introduce in the upcoming session.
  • Wyoming
Earlier this month the newly-formed Wyoming NORML announced an initiative campaign to put a cannabis legalization initiative on the 2016 ballot. The group will need to collect roughly 37,000 signatures to do so.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cannabis fans cheer Tuesday's historic Senate hearing

source: USA Today
Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press

Clarification: An earlier version of this story contained a quote that was misattributed.

The pros and cons of marijuana will take center stage Tuesday in Washington, D.C., when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a landmark hearing on legalization.

Requested by committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the hearing was triggered by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement last month that federal authorities no longer will interfere as states adopt laws to allow medical marijuana or to legalize the drug entirely.

The hearing is on conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws. In calling for it, Leahy questioned whether, at a time of severe budget cutting, federal prosecutions of marijuana users are the best use of taxpayer dollars.

Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the nonprofit lobby group Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., said he hopes for a breakthrough in the hearing that would lead to changes in federal banking laws, allowing marijuana sellers to accept credit cards and checks, not just cash.

That would do a lot to legitimize the nation's marijuana industry, safeguarding transactions from the risk of robberies and smoothing the route away from the black market and Mexico's drug cartels, Riffle said.

But "the elephant in the room is that we have an administration that's essentially working around federal law" to allow states to legalize marijuana, he said. "What we should do is just change federal law — just legalize marijuana."

This fall, Michigan lawmakers could take up bills that would ease laws on marijuana and widen medical users' access to it.

With public attitudes bending toward legalization in the last three years and reaching a majority in March, those who favor legal weed say they've reached a watershed year — one like 1930 might have felt to those who welcomed the nationwide legalization of alcohol in 1933.

"It is historic — you can feel it," said Matt Abel, a Detroit lawyer who heads Michigan NORML, the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Fans of legal marijuana say their cause just hit the tipping point, and point to a series of events that they say prove that legalization is on the cusp of being more than a pipe dream.

They include that:

• In March, for the first time, a majority of Americans — 52% — told pollsters they favored legalizing marijuana, according to the Pew Research Center.

• In anticipation of retail pot stores opening this January, recreational users are reportedly flocking to Colorado and Washington state.

• Two national opinion leaders signaled changes of heart about cannabis. CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, in his documentary Weed last month, reversed the stance he expressed in his 2009 Time magazine article, "Why I Would Vote No on Pot." And U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told an audience in Tucson last week, "Maybe we should legalize marijuana. ... I respect the will of the people."

Planning to be in a front-row seat at Tuesday's hearing is Neill Franklin, who heads Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a nationwide group of mostly retired police, judges and corrections officers who want to see all street drugs legalized.

"A nationwide policy of prohibition leads to organized crime, underground crime, mass incarceration, very costly law enforcement, and ironically, the drugs become widely available and more dangerous because there are no quality-control standards," Franklin said last week.

"We saw that with alcohol," he said.

But not all at the hearing will be in favor of all-out legalization.

Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser on drug policy to President Barack Obama's drug czar, is expected to testify that legalization is being rushed into the states without understanding its consequences.

His arguments are laid out in detail in his new book Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths about Marijuana, Sabet said.

"It's an appeal for a science-based and a health-based marijuana policy, not based on legalization but also not based on incarceration for small amounts" — and instead advocates wider access for marijuana users to state-of-the-art drug treatment programs, said Sabet, the director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida.

"Yes, there are medical properties in marijuana," Sabet said, "but we don't need to deliver that by smoking a joint or eating a brownie."

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

State to move forward with hemp regulations

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Source: The State Journal

The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission voted to move forward with writing regulations for a hemp farming permit program Thursday, as Attorney General Jack Conway considers the impact of a U.S. Department of Justice memo on recreational marijuana.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture will begin drafting the new regulations on industrial hemp licensing after the Department of Justice issued a memo stating the agency would not prosecute states that regulate and tax the sale of marijuana with some exceptions, such as restricting out-of-state sale of the drug and keeping revenue out of the hands of cartels and gangs.

Department of Agriculture officials see the memo as a green light for hemp farming in Kentucky after Senate Bill 50 passed the General Assembly earlier this year and established a regulatory framework for hemp cultivation.

“I’m confident that the regulations that are developed in Kentucky for the oversight of industrial hemp will be strongly enforced, and I’m confident that whatever regs are developed will pass muster,” said Luke Morgan, a contracted attorney with the Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul will co-sign a letter to the Department of Justice, letting the agency know of Kentucky’s plans to farm industrial hemp.
But Maj. Anthony Terry with Kentucky State Police, a member of the hemp commission, said the Department of Justice memo does not change federal and state laws regarding cannabis.
Allison Martin, Conway’s spokeswoman, said

Conway is reviewing the memo and will issue an advisory letter on its effect in Kentucky within the next few weeks.

After the meeting, Comer said he was surprised to hear of the attorney general’s upcoming opinion on the Department of Justice memo. He said he has not spoken with anyone from the attorney general’s office on the matter, but he’s hopeful Conway will “treat this issue fairly and help to move this industry forward.”

“We have an open door policy to anyone, and we would look forward to having discussions with anyone in the attorney general’s office,” Comer said. “We had no idea that they were even debating or contemplating any type of ruling until the state police mentioned that today.”

Holly Harris, Comer’s chief of staff, said Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole has made clear that properly regulated industrial hemp programs would not be prosecuted by the federal government.
She said SB 50 made hemp legal in Kentucky, though the botanical cousin to marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“The attorney general’s opinion is just that — it’s another lawyer’s opinion,” Morgan said. “We’re hopeful that he sees it in the way that the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency have seen this.”

Martin said Conway’s opinion is paramount to the issue of whether the Department of Justice memo clears the path for industrial hemp farming across the state.

“The attorney general is the attorney general of Kentucky, and it falls to him to interpret how that affects Kentucky’s law,” she said.

Comer said he expects the hemp licensing regulations will easily move through the approval process given the support industrial hemp received in the General Assembly. The plant could be in the ground by April, when the next planting season begins.

The crop probably will not surpass staples such as corn, tobacco and soybeans, but industrial hemp will provide new opportunities for Kentucky farmers, Comer said. During the meeting, Comer noted a number of representatives from various industries — including equine, poultry and automotive — have contacted him with interest in hemp products.

“I think that this is a very exciting first step, and we’ll just have to see,” Comer said. “History will decide whether this was a defining moment in Kentucky agriculture or not.”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

“You Are Now Leaving the European Union"


Thursday, September 5, 2013

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cannabis Use On the Rise, Use of Prescription Painkillers, Cocaine and Meth Declining

The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health was released today, finding for at least the 6th straight year that cannabis consumption is on the rise. The report found that 7.3% of those 12 and older consumed cannabis in 2012, up from 5.8% in 2007.

Despite the rise in cannabis consumption, the use of prescription painkillers, cocaine and meth has been on a consistent decline; the usage of other drugs, such as psychedelics, remain steady.

According to the report; “Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug. In 2012, there were 18.9 million past month users. Between 2007 and 2012, the rate of current use increased from 5.8 to 7.3 percent, and the number of users increased from 14.5 million to 18.9 million.”

The number of last-month methamphetamine users, on the other-hand, is on a strong decline; “The number of past month methamphetamine users decreased between 2006 and 2012, from 731,000 (0.3 percent) to 440,000 (0.2 percent).”

There was also a drastic decrease in the number of young adults using cocaine; “There was a decrease from 2005 to 2012 in the use of cocaine among young adults aged 18 to 25, from 2.6 to 1.1 percent.”
Overall, despite the liberalization of cannabis policies across America, the number of youth cannabis consumers aged 12 to 17 is at 7.2%, down from 8.2% in 2002.

The full National Survey on Drug Use and Health report can be found by clicking here.