Pubdate: Thu, 12 Nov 2015
Source: Times-Herald, The (Vallejo, CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Times-Herald
Author: Richard Freedman


Fact is, said Paul Armentano, "it's the ground one stands upon, not 
the act of consuming marijuana itself, that largely dictates what 
one's legal outcome will be."

And that's the foundation for the Vallejoan's 160-page paperback, 
"The Citizen's Guide to State-By-State Marijuana Laws," charting and 
explaining laws and penalties for weed use around the country.

As the deputy director for NORML (National Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws), Armentano said it's not as if he was 
compelled to write "the definitive answers to all your legal 
questions" about weed.

"I never said to myself, 'I have to write this book.' The publisher 
approached me and said, 'You have to write this book,'" Armentano said.

That's progress itself, he noted.

"There was a time when book publishers expressed little interest in 
titles having to do with marijuana or marijuana policy," Armentano 
said. "Today, publishers recognize that there is a large audience who 
wants to read about this subject."

The clientele is out there, the author said.

"Tens of millions of Americans consume cannabis. Many do so for 
social purposes, but an estimated 1.5 million Americans also do so 
for therapeutic purposes," Armentano said. "And many more are 
contemplating whether cannabis therapy is appropriate for them. In 
some states, both patients and non-patients possess the option to use 
marijuana legally, if they follow state parameters. In other 
jurisdictions, any possession or use of marijuana is strictly illegal 
and can result in an arrest, jail time, and a criminal record."

Armentano went on to say that "despite our culture's growing 
acceptance of marijuana, over 700,000 Americans are arrested annually 
for violating marijuana laws - that's almost 2,000 arrests per day. 
In most cases, those arrested are victims of geography."

Armentano's guide "is the first book to provide both consumers and 
non-consumers with an explicit road map of this complex and rapidly 
changing legal landscape."

Yes, he added, laws are "in a near constant state of flux. This 
reality all but guarantees that there will be a second and third 
editions of this title down the road."

For now, Armentano stands by the book and his stance on pot, 
realizing during his research "that marijuana laws and penalties are 
among the most arbitrary in our criminal code. What other behavior 
can brand one a state-licensed, tax-paying entrepreneur in one 
jurisdiction and a felon in another."

While home cultivation and retail sale is state authorized in 
Colorado, "if one crosses the state line into Oklahoma, the 
cultivation of even a single marijuana plant or engaging in the sale 
of any amount can result in life in prison. Seriously, life. That is 
the state law," Armentano said.

As with alcohol regulation, "there is a growing consensus that 
marijuana policies ought to be the prerogative of state lawmakers and 
voters, not the federal government," Armentano said. "More and more 
states are taking a stand and making it clear that they wish to 
pursue alternatives to marijuana prohibition and I believe the trend 
will continue."

Locally, Armentano hoped there would be "clarity" in the medicinal 
marijuana dispensary policies "to differentiate from activity that is 
lawfully permitted and activity that is not. I think that local 
officials and state politicians for too long abdicated their 
responsibility to provide this clarity."

Whether a marijuana user is truly smoking it for therapeutic reasons 
"lies with the discretion of a licensed physician in good standing 
with the state," Armentano said. "Every day we rely on these same 
physicians to use their discretion in regard to the use of hundreds 
of potential therapeutic opioids, with amphetamines, with steroids, 
with benzodiazepenes. Why should we be any more concerned with cannabis?"

Armentano's "pot law forecast" for 2016? "Never in modern history has 
there existed greater public support for ending the nation's nearly 
century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition and replacing it 
with regulation," he said. "The majority of the public realizes that 
it makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal 
perspective or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and 
stigmatization of those adults who choose to responsibly consume cannabis."

Armentano's writing and research on marijuana policy have appeared in 
more than 750 publications, scholarly and/or peer-reviewed journals, 
as well as in more than a dozen textbooks and anthologies.

Armentano is the 2013 Freedom Law School Health Freedom Champion of 
the Year and the 2013 Alfred R. Lindesmith Award recipient in the 
achievement in the field of scholarship.

"Citizens Guide to State-By-State Marijuana Laws" is available for 
$16.95 in bookstores and dispensaries, and online at 
under the Health & Wellness section.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom