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Cannabis is a plant containing a psychoactive chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol(THC), in its leaves, buds and flowers.
Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug, with forty-two percent of American adults reporting that they have used it.
Despite the fact that Cannabis is less harmful than most other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, it is the most common drug that people are arrested for possessing.
US Cannabis policy is unique among American criminal laws in being enforced so widely and harshly, yet deemed unnecessary by such a substantial portion of the population.

Fact: More than 800,000 people are arrested for Cannabis each year, the vast majority of them for simple possession.
    Fact : Police prosecuted 858,408 persons for Cannabis violations in 2009, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report. Regardless of state laws to the contrary, there is no such thing as “medical” marijuana under Federal law. Marijuana continues to be a Schedule I substance meaning that it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. It is also important to know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved medical use of isolated components of the marijuana plant such as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana and related synthetic compounds. Dronabinol is one synthetically produced compound used in the FDA-approved medicine Marinol (a Schedule III drug). Marinol is legally available by prescription from physicians for patients who suffer from pain and chronic illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. Another FDA-approved medicine, Cesamet, contains the active ingredient Nabilone (a Schedule II drug), which has a chemical structure similar to THC. And Sativex, an oromucosal spray approved in Canada, the UK, and other parts of Europe for the treatment of multiple sclerosis spasticity and cancer pain, is currently in late-stage clinical trials with the FDA. It combines THC and another active ingredient in marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD), and provides therapeutic benefits without the “high” from the drug.

    Fact : Department of Justice Guidelines: The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidance for Federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana under state law. The guidelines explain that it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law or their individual non-commercial caregiver. However, persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling, or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of Federal law, and are subject to Federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. The DOJ guidelines do not legalize marijuana. The DOJ guidance explicitly states that marijuana remains illegal under Federal law. Enforcing Federal law against significant traffickers in illegal drugs including marijuana remains a core Department of Justice priority. Cannabis arrests now comprise more than one-half (approximately 52 percent) of all drug arrests reported in the United States. A decade ago, Cannabis arrests comprised just 44 percent of all drug arrests.
    Approximately 46 percent of all drug prosecutions nationwide are for Cannabis possession.
    Of those charged with Cannabis violations, approximately 88 percent (758,593 Americans) were charged with possession only.
    The remaining 99,815 individuals were charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes virtually all cultivation offenses.

Fact: Most Cannabis users never use any other illicit drug.
    Cannabis does not cause people to use hard drugs.
    Cannabis is the most popular illegal drug in the United States today.
    People who have used less popular drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and LSD, are likely to have also used Cannabis.
    Most Cannabis users never use any other illegal drug and the vast majority of those who do try another drug never become addicted or go on to have associated problems.
    For the large majority of people, Cannabis is a terminus rather than a so-called gateway drug.

Fact: Most people who use Cannabis do so occasionally.
    Increasing admissions for treatment do not reflect increasing rates of clinical dependence.
    According to a federal Institute of Medicine study in 1999, fewer than 10 percent of those who try Cannabis ever meet the clinical criteria for dependence, while 32 percent of tobacco users and 15 percent of alcohol users do.
    According to federal data, Cannabis treatment admissions referred by the criminal justice system rose from 48 percent in 1992 to 58 percent in 2006.
    Just 45 percent of Cannabis admissions met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for Cannabis dependence.
    More than a third hadn’t used Cannabis in the 30 days prior to admission for treatment.

Fact: Claims about Cannabis potency increases are vastly overstated.
    Potency is not related to risk of dependence or health impacts.
    Cannabis potency may have increased somewhat in recent decades, claims about enormous increases in potency are vastly overstated and not supported by evidence.
    According to the federal government’s own data, the average THC in domestically grown Cannabis – which comprises the bulk of the US market – is less than 5 percent, a figure that has remained unchanged for nearly a decade.
    In the 1980s, the THC content averaged around 3 percent.
    THC is virtually non-toxic to healthy cells or organs, and is incapable of causing a fatal overdose.
    Currently, doctors may legally prescribe Marinol, an FDA-approved pill that contains 100 percent THC.
    The Food and Drug Administration found THC to be safe and effective for the treatment of nausea, vomiting, and wasting diseases.
    When consumers encounter unusually strong varieties of Cannabis, they adjust their use accordingly and smoke less.

Fact: Cannabis has not been shown to cause mental illness.
    Some effects of Cannabis ingestion may include feelings of panic, anxiety, and paranoia.
    Such experiences can be frightening, but the effects are temporary.
    One study performed in Germany showed that Cannabis offsets certain cognitive declines in schizophrenic patients.
    Another study demonstrated that psychotic symptoms predict later use of Cannabis, suggesting that people might turn to the plant for help rather than become ill after use.

Fact: Cannabis use has not been shown to increase risk of cancer.
    Several longitudinal studies have established that even long-term use of Cannabis (via smoking) in humans is not associated with elevated cancer risk, including tobacco-related cancers or with cancer of the following sites:
    A more recent (2009) population-based case-control study found that moderate Cannabis smoking over a 20 year period was associated with reduced risk of head and neck cancer (See Liang et al).
    A 5-year-long population-based case control study found even long-term heavy Cannabis smoking was not associated with lung cancer or UAT (upper aerodigestive tract) cancers.

Fact: Cannabis has been proven helpful for treating the symptoms of a variety of medical conditions.
    Cannabis has been shown to be effective in reducing the nausea induced by cancer chemotherapy, stimulating appetite in AIDS patients, and reducing intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma.
    There is also appreciable evidence that Cannabis reduces muscle spasticity in patients with neurological disorders.
    A synthetic capsule is available by prescription, but it is not as effective as smoked Cannabis for many patients. 

Fact: Cannabis use rates in the Netherlands are similar to those in the U.S. despite very different policies.
    The Netherlands’ drug policy is one of the most nonpunitive in Europe.
        For more than twenty years, Dutch citizens over age eighteen have been permitted to buy and use cannabis (Cannabis and hashish) in government-regulated coffee shops.
        This policy has not resulted in dramatically escalating Cannabis use.
        For most age groups, rates of Cannabis use in the Netherlands are similar to those in the United States.
        For young adolescents, rates of Cannabis use are lower in the Netherlands than in the United States.
        The Dutch government occasionally revises existing Cannabis policy, but it remains committed to decriminalization.[8]

Fact: Cannabis has not been shown to cause long-term cognitive impairment.
    The short-term effects of Cannabis include immediate, temporary changes in thoughts, perceptions, and information processing.
    The cognitive process most clearly affected by Cannabis is short-term memory.
    In laboratory studies, subjects under the influence of Cannabis have no trouble remembering things they learned previously.
    However, they display diminished capacity to learn and recall new information.
    This diminishment only lasts for the duration of the intoxication.
    There is no convincing evidence that heavy long-term Cannabis use permanently impairs memory or other cognitive functions.[9]

Fact: There is no compelling evidence that Cannabis contributes substantially to traffic accidents and fatalities.
    At some doses, Cannabis affects perception and psychomotor performance – changes which could impair driving ability.
    In driving studies, Cannabis produces little or no car-handling impairment – consistently less than produced by low to moderate doses of alcohol and many legal medications.
    In contrast to alcohol, which tends to increase risky driving practices, Cannabis tends to make subjects more cautious.
    Surveys of fatally injured drivers show that when THC is detected in the blood, alcohol is almost always detected as well.
    For some individuals, Cannabis may play a role in bad driving.
    The overall rate of highway accidents appears not to be significantly affected by Cannabis’s widespread use in society.

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