2004: The Year In Review – NORML’s Top Ten Events That Shaped Marijuana Policy

#1: Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments On Whether Feds Can Prosecute Medical Marijuana Patients
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in late November to determine whether patients who use marijuana in compliance with state laws are constitutionally protected from federal arrest and prosecution. “If our Constitution means anything, it should mean that ‘the war on drugs’ cannot be made to be a war on the quality of life of the chronically or terminally ill,” NORML stated in an amicus curaie filed with the Court on behalf of the respondents, patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by March 2005. Read the full story at:

#2: Voters Nationwide Embrace Marijuana Law Reform Proposals
Voters in 2004 approved numerous ballot proposals liberalizing marijuana laws, including a statewide measure in Montana legalizing the use of medicinal cannabis for medical purposes, as well as several municipal proposals depenalizing the possession of marijuana for personal use. Read the full story at:

#3: Marijuana Arrests For Year 2003 Hit Record High
Police arrested an estimated 755,187 persons for marijuana violations in 2003, the highest annual total ever recorded in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2004 Uniform Crime Report. A marijuana smoker is now arrested every 42 seconds in America. Read the full story at:

#4: Cannabinoids Treat Pain, Protect Brain Cells And Delay
Neurodegenerative Disease Progression, Studies Say Clinical studies published in 2004 reported that cannabinoids may aid in the treatment of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), as well as aid in the treatment of pain and obesity. Read the full story at:

#5: NORML Activists Tell Congress: “We’re Here. We Smoke. We Vote.”
Hundreds of marijuana law reformers from around the nation convened in Washington, DC in April to participate in NORML’s first-ever Congressional Lobby Day. “There’s no substitute for face-to-face contact between constituents and their elected officials,” NORML’s outgoing Executive Director Keith Stroup said. “The intent of NORML’s first annual Congressional Lobby Day was to encourage hundreds of marijuana law reformers to begin careers as ‘citizen lobbyists,’ and to urge them to replicate their efforts not only in Washington, but also in their home districts.” Read the full story at:

#6: Canada To Authorize Prescription Use Of First-Ever Medical Cannabis Spray
Health Canada issued a “Qualifying Notice” in December for the approval of Sativex, an oral spray consisting of natural cannabis extracts, for the treatment of neuropathic pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Produced by the British biotechnology firm GW Pharmaceuticals, Sativex is a whole plant medicinal cannabis extract containing precise doses of the cannabinoids THC and cannabidiol (CBD). Health Canada is expected to finalize marketing authorization for Sativex by early 2005. Read the full story at:

#7: Feds To Employ Hair, Sweat And Saliva Testing For Government Workers
Guidelines proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2004 would allow federal agencies to collect samples of employees’ hair, sweat and saliva to test for illicit drugs. About 400,000 federal workers are subject to federal drug testing and stand to be impacted by the new regulations, which would also clear the way for the expanded use of alternative testing technologies in the private business sector. Read the full story at:

#8: Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Hemp Foods Ban
The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in February struck down Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulations criminalizing the possession and manufacture of edible hemp seed or oil products that contain trace amounts of THC. Read the full story at:

#9: Researchers Propose Per Se Guidelines For Cannabis And “Drugged Driving”
Laws prohibiting motorists from operating a vehicle with any detectable level of marijuana or marijuana metabolites in the driver’s blood or urine improperly classify occasional marijuana smokers as impaired, concluded a report presented in August at the 17th International Conference on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety (ICADTS). Read the full story at:

#10: Britain: Pot Reclassification Finally Takes Effect
Long-awaited British legal reforms downgrading marijuana from a Class B to a Class C scheduled drug took effect in January, marking the first substantial change to the nation’s 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act in more than 30 years. Read the full story at: