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Legal Marijuana Coming to New Jersey and Virginia?

Legal Marijuana Coming to New Jersey and Virginia?

Author: Justin Mckibben

The elections held this past Tuesday may not have directly addressed the status of marijuana, but voters in multiple states did elect officials who are adamant about making legal marijuana more available.

Next Year in New Jersey

One of those states is New Jersey, who’s outgoing governor is Chris Christie, chairman of the White House commission on opioids.

Last week Democrat Phil Murphy, who made legal marijuana one of the cornerstones of his campaign, won the state over. This creates a radical change for the state. For years Chris Christie has blocked attempts to legalize cannabis, and even maintains his opposition to it while fighting to help the country get a grip on the opioid epidemic.

Phil Murphy has been pretty open about his support for marijuana legalization. According to Forbes, Murphy even talked about it during his primary night victory speech saying,

“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,”

“And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”

Apparently, it isn’t just Murphy in the state that is looking forward to pushing this legislation along. The Democratically-controlled state Senate is expecting to bring up legal marijuana as early as next year. In regards to the topic, earlier this year Senate President Stephen Sweeney said,

“We are going to have a new governor in January 2018. As soon as the governor gets situated we are all here and we intend to move quickly on it.”

Voters in Virginia

Voters in the Commonwealth of Virginia also elected an official who advocates for loosening restrictions on marijuana. Current lieutenant governor Ralph Northam is in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession. While it may not be as liberal a stance as Murphy, it is still a big step in a lot of people’s minds. Northam writes,

“We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia.”

But it isn’t just about the individuals. Northam also points out the resources going to this issue. He has written to the Virginia State Crime Commission as part of its review of the effects of marijuana decriminalization.

“Virginia spends $67 million on marijuana enforcement—enough to open up another 13,000 pre-K spots for children,”

Again, not that he is pushing for complete legalization, but to stop stiff penalties for those with small amounts of marijuana. Northam also advocates for research into the medicinal uses of marijuana. According to Richmond Times-Dispatch, he has stated,

“As a doctor, I like to make the point to people, over 100 of the medicines that we use on a daily basis come from plants,” he said in an interview Monday. “So I think we need to be open-minded about using marijuana for medical purposes.”

He isn’t alone in Virginia either. Even the Republican state Senate leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. questioned whether or not small amounts of marijuana should remain a crime.

Marijuana in More Areas

But it isn’t just these two offices that indicate there may be more change coming for marijuana policy. In other areas around the country, there are other notable shifts that may dramatically impact marijuana policy.

  • Athens, Ohio

77% of voters in the college town eliminated fines and court costs for possessing or growing up to 200 grams of marijuana.

  • Wayne County, Michigan

In an area that includes Detroit, voters now allow cannabis businesses to operate in more areas and to stay open longer. Michigan is expected to have a marijuana legalization bill on the 2018 ballot.

  • Philadelphia

Lawrence Krasner won the election for District Attorney. Krasner has been outspoken about the benefits of marijuana reform. According to Krasner,

“One of the things we see in other jurisdictions is that, where marijuana is readily available, there’s a 25% reduction in opiate/opioid overdose deaths.”

“So if Philadelphia is looking at 500 opiate/opioid overdose deaths a year, a district attorney, by choosing not to enforce against marijuana usage, can potentially save 125 lives. That’s what a district attorney should exercise his or her discretion to do.”

It seems between lightening the punishments for possession, expanding programs for legal marijuana, and electing officials that will advocate for its use, marijuana may have already seen some real change this November.

What to Remember about Legal Marijuana

It is important to note for anyone who has a history of substance use disorder that the legal status of a substance does not make it safer. You could argue that marijuana is much safer than opioids like prescription drugs or heroin. While marijuana is not as lethal concerning overdose deaths, it still should not ignore the risks.

Marijuana reform has the potential for some positive and negative outcomes. Ultimately voters will have to consider weighing the pros and cons of reform. Either way, it is important to remember that any substance, legal or not, can be addictive. While marijuana may become more accepted on a legal level, it is still unhealthy to abuse this drug. If you find yourself abusing this or any drug it is very important that you seek safe and effective treatment resources.

Because drug abuse is always destructive, marijuana abuse is no exception. If you or someone you love are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please seek help. Regardless of whether a drug is legalized or not, losing control of your use can lead to something much worse. We want to help. You are not alone. Call toll-free now. 

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Prescribing Naloxone with Opiate Painkillers

Prescribing Naloxone with Opiate Painkillers

Author: Justin Mckibben

We have already taken note by now the opiate epidemic in America has been a devastating reality for a massive piece of the population, and it is partially due to the over prescription and abuse of opiate painkillers.

An overwhelming percentage of people struggling with heroin have credited their addiction to a rough past with prescription opiate painkillers, and even those medications themselves have proven to be debilitating and deadly. Should we be providing more access to alternative treatments? What about the overdose antidote?

What if doctors were writing as many prescriptions for naloxone as we are for opiate painkillers? Could this help stop the saturation of opiate abuse issues and overdose related deaths?

The announcement that a bipartisan bill is being pushed by two U.S. senators from Virginia and West Virginia to expand access to the opiate overdose antidote naloxone, to have it be prescribed along with opiate painkillers, seems like another innovative step in the direction of healing a nation that has been shaken up by sky-scraping overdose death rates in the past few years.

Is this kind of expanded access the kind of harm reduction influence we need in order to turn things around?

The Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act

The new bill is called the Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act. It was introduced by the Democratic Senator Virginia Tim Kaine and the Republican Senator from West Virginia Shelley Moore Capito and was developed with the intention to encourage physicians to co-prescribe naloxone whenever they chose to prescribe opioid medication. Another aim is to help make naloxone more broadly available in federal health settings.

The Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act would authorize a program that would give funding to state health departments to:

  • Establish co-prescribing guidelines
  • Purchase naloxone
  • Fund the training for health professionals and patients

It would require similar actions to be taken by:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Veterans Affairs

With the Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act, Capito and Kaine hope to further expand access to naloxone by making it available to doctors and patients.

Kaine and Capito

In regards to pushing for this new legislation the two senators seem very adamant about how much of an impact the opiate epidemic has made on their communities. Capito spoke on how West Virginia has one of the highest incidence rates of drug overdose deaths in the nation, stating:

“Families and communities across West Virginia have been affected by the drug abuse epidemic, with our state sadly leading the nation in drug-related overdose deaths,”

According to the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in 2012 alone more than 800 people in Virginia died of drug overdose, while the state has also made a very clear and consistent effort to address opioid abuse, including a series of bills back in July to expand access of naloxone to law enforcement agencies.

Kaine was passionate about pursuing the bill as a means of bringing more support and resources to the people, stating:

“A particularly heartbreaking aspect of this crisis is that many of the deaths from opioid and heroin overdoses could have been prevented. My bill would increase access to medication that can save someone’s life during an overdose and establish clear prescribing guidelines that will help get vital information about opioids to doctors and patients.”

Providing expanded access to naloxone means giving more resources to those who may desperately need them. As more of these programs are put in place, the hope is that more deaths can be avoided and more people can be reached in time to get them the help they need to recover.

As with most programs like this, some people may feel it promotes drug abuse more than anything, but while this is still uncertain what is certain is that all over the country where similar programs to provide more overdose antidote access to the public have been instated there are hundreds of lives being saved in the process. Harm reduction may not be a permanent solution, but it works.

The next step is providing more treatment to those in need of lasting recovery from addiction. Holistic drug addiction treatment has shown to be extremely effective and has helped thousands of people change their lives forever.

Overdose death and addiction have destroyed enough lives already, and they continue to hurt people all over America. With more programs becoming available to help those who are hurting a healthier future is closer than ever, and you can have it too. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Virginia Bans the Box on Job Applications

 Virginia Bans the Box on Job Applications

By Cheryl Steinberg

Many people feel that all-too-familiar dread when they are on the job hunt: not only is filling out the job application exhaustive and sometimes a bit daunting; for those with criminal records, seeing a question on the app that asks whether they’ve ever been arrested or convicted of a crime tends to cause anxiety and discouragement. “If they’re going to ask such a question,” one might think – one with a spotty legal background – “then why even bother?”

It’s long since been known – and criticized – how difficult it is for ex-cons to be able to acclimate into civilized society, with getting work a major stumbling block.

Well now, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is doing something about that. Last Friday, he recently signed an executive order that would remove all questions regarding criminal history from applications for state government jobs.

It should be mentioned that hiring agencies can still do a criminal background check on a job applicant but, only after considering them qualified for the position. This way, everyone gets a ‘fair shake’ at the position in question. And, once an applicant is considered a viable candidate for the position, the background check can be conducted but, that’s doesn’t make it a deal breaker.

By changing the application process in this way, an applicant gets to show off their abilities, skills, and training for said position without being immediately dismissed once the interviewee looks down at ‘the box’ – you know, the one that contains those anxiety-inducing sweats – about criminal history.

Virginia Bans the Box on Job Applications

The Virginia Governor spoke at a local Goodwill store in Richmond, Virginia, and said that the Easter holiday played an important role in his decision; McAuliffe emphasized how the holiday focuses on turning over a new leaf.

“We should not seal the fate of every man and woman with a criminal record based on a hasty verdict,” he said. “If they are eager to make a clean start and build new lives in their communities, they deserve a fair chance at employment.”

This is no small or insignificant feat. Studies have found that, among those returning from jail or prison, the unemployment rate 60 to 75%. Difficulty securing a job is a major reason so many ex-convicts end up committing another crime and subsequently return to prison.

Furthermore, The National Employment Law Project estimates 70 million American adults have arrests or convictions in their past that can make it difficult for them to be employed.

McAuliffe also spoke to how there are consequences of “checking the box” on a job application and disclosing a past criminal conviction especially for people of color. In fact, this practice has a disproportionate impact on the Virginia’s workers who are people of color.

“We all know that this box has an unequal impact on our minority families,” he said. “One study found that 34 percent of white job applicants without a record received a callback, while only 17 percent of those with a criminal record did. Among African Americans, 14 percent without a criminal record received a call back while only 5 percent of those with a record heard back from a potential employer.”

The order also encourages, but does not require, private employers in Virginia to ‘ban the box’ as well — and praises employers such as Target, WalMart and Home Depot that have already done so.

Similar laws have already been passed in Georgia, Nebraska, the District of Columbia, and a handful of others states as well as in order to offset hiring discrimination against workers with criminal records.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse and have court cases as a result, seeking help in the form of drug and alcohol treatment can help. Palm Partners offers holistic and traditional methods as well as treatment for dual diagnosis – those with substance abuse and mental illness. We have several different services and methods meant to specifically handle each client’s specific situation with care and ease. Case management, for one, allows you to meet with a case worker who can help you address your legal issues while you’re in treatment, getting the healing help you need. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Bong Ban in Virginia Outlaws Paraphernalia

Bong Ban in Virginia Outlaws Paraphernalia

Author: Justin Mckibben

There are all types of strange and inventive contraptions out there that have been creatively and craftily designed, labeled for ‘tobacco use only’ as some stores claim, but are ultimately used for smoking marijuana and other drugs. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are sometimes even made to be concealed and disguised as other objects.

Paraphernalia does not just mean those bongs or ‘water pipes’ that you see in head-shops. The term also applies to other accessories and instruments used for the transporting or consumption of illicit drugs. In a lot of cities these days you can find a shop selling these products around almost any corner, but it seems that one part of Virginia in particular is going to extreme lengths to make sure their shelves are not stocked with the tools of the drug trade.

Princeton Paraphernalia Crackdown

The City of Princeton in the state of Virginia recently took what some would see as an astonishing action toward ridding the area of drug abuse with a new ban on all drug paraphernalia and drug concealment novelties, which is sure to put a hurting on their local head-shops.

The new law defines paraphernalia:

“as any legitimate equipment, product, or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing illegal drugs such as cocaine, cocaine-based derivative, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine and includes certain pipes, smoking masks, bongs, cocaine freebase kits, marijuana grow kits, and items such as hollowed out cosmetic cases or fake pagers used to conceal illegal drugs and dealer-specific products used for preparing illegal drugs for distribution at the street level such as scales, vials, and baggies.”

Being in possession of any of these articles of paraphernalia is officially considered a misdemeanor offense under this new legislation, but not every is happy about the implications or confident in the specifics.

Summary of Banned Items

By city ordinance, Princeton has banned number of specific utensils for drug use, especially marijuana accessories such as:

The new law also prohibits items that have traces of illegal drugs, such as:

  • Scales
  • Vials

The law prohibits the use of any items designed to conceal illegal drugs as well, including:

  • Hollowed out cosmetic cases
  • Fake cans of soda with hidden compartments
  • Fake shaking cream bottles with hidden compartments

A lot of times these hidden compartments are made from all types of everyday items you would find in any grocery store or in the home of any modern family, so while they may be a little harder to spot there was once a time where they were available at most shops specializing in ‘water pipe’ and bong sales.

Ironic those devices designed to hide things from the police were regularly being sold right out in public.

Future of Enforcing the Ban

Police Chief J.W. Howell in Princeton made the announcement this past December the ordinance would take effect at the beginning of this month on January, 1, 2015. City Counsel had approved the ban at the end of 2014, and the call to get enforcement started was so police officers could become familiar with the distinctions between legal devices and what is now illegal. Police Chief Howell stated,

“My officers see, almost on a daily basis, needles, crack pipes, marijuana smoking pipes, just all kinds of paraphernalia so this will be a big aid to them as well,”

During a public hearing before the vote, several individuals voiced concerns about electronic cigarettes or vaporizers, and whether or not these devices would be criminalized, or could be considered part of the laws designation. This concern does not go unwarranted what considering the detailed nature of the law, and it is a fact that vaporizers and e-cigarettes have been used to smoke illicit drugs. Will this cause problems for the Princeton vape community?

Either way this whole idea seems strange given the status of a lot of new opinions on such a prohibition-style on drug policy, and the impact the midterms had on marijuana reforms that are still working their way through the nation. Parts of Virginia seem to be set on taking steps in the opposite direction so far.

This just goes to show that some people have very different views of drugs, and how the drug problem in America should be handled. Regardless of politics, an addict should always know that they have an opportunity to avoid being trapped in a life-style dependent on drugs. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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