Marijuana legalization support at all-time high

CBS NEWS April 20, 2017, 7:00 AM

Last Updated Apr 20, 2017 11:57 AM EDT

By Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto

A recent CBS News poll shows support for legalizing marijuana is higher than ever.

Sixty-one percent of Americans think marijuana use should be legal, a five-point increase from last year and the highest percentage ever recorded in this poll. Eighty-eight percent favor medical marijuana use. 

Seventy-one percent oppose the federal government’s efforts to stop marijuana sales and its use in states that have legalized it, including opposition from most Republicans, Democrats, and independents.  

Sixty-five percent think marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs. And only 23 percent think legalizing marijuana leads to an increase violent crime.

More generally on the topic of drug abuse, 69 percent think that should be treated as an addiction and mental health problem rather than a criminal offense.

Support for legal marijuana continues to climb

The belief that pot should be legal has reached a new high in CBS News polls.  Sixty-one percent of Americans now say the it should be, a five-point increase from a year ago.  This sentiment has increased each year we’ve measured it since 2013, with the turning point to majority support coming in 2014. Back in 1979, this poll found just 27 percent saying it should be legal.  

Those over 65 are the most opposed to legalization, but most under age 65 support it. And women are now as much in favor of legal marijuana as men are; in previous years they were less so. 

Many states have legalized pot in some form, and most Americans don’t think the federal government should try to stop its sale and use in those states.  Even among those who think marijuana should be illegal, only half think the federal government should get involved with the states.

(full article)

Marijuana & Crime

Is Marijuana Legalization Linked to Increased Violent Crime?

Although this claim appears to be making its way into political talking points regarding recreational marijuana, no credible evidence has been provided to support it.

On 27 February 2017, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested that there is a link between legalized marijuana and violence, and that his conversations with Nebraska Attorney General Douglas Peterson — a long-time legalization opponent — helped bring this issue to his attention.

As reported by Huffington Post:

“I don’t think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot,” Sessions said to reporters Monday at the Department of Justice. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice, and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago, and we’re seeing real violence around that.”

Sessions said he had a meeting on Monday with the attorney general of Nebraska, who is very concerned about marijuana flowing in from Colorado, which legalized weed in 2012. “Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved,” he said. […]

“You can’t sue somebody for drug debt; the only way to get your money is through strong-arm tactics, and violence tends to follow that,” Sessions said.

These comments offer two claims that require investigation. First is the specific information that Sessions attributes to Nebraska attorney general Peterson regarding “more violence around marijuana than one would think” as a result of legalization in neighboring Colorado. The second is that there exists a broad association between marijuana legalization and violent crime. Both claims lack credible data to support these assertions.

Peterson has already attempted unsuccessfully (along with then Oklahoma Attorney General and now EPA commissioner Scott Pruitt) to seek permission from the United States Supreme Court to sue the state of Colorado over alleged increases to crime. It is likely that the matters highlighted by this case are what Sessions is referencing.

On 18 December 2014, Oklahoma and Nebraska filed a motion for permission from the Supreme Court to sue the state of Colorado over damages they alleged to have suffered after their legalization of recreational marijuana, as reportedby at the time:

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433 pain pills for every man, woman and child

Drugs are killing so many people in West Virginia that the state can’t keep up with the funerals

By Christopher Ingraham March 7

Deaths in West Virginia have overwhelmed a state program providing burial assistance for needy families for at least the fifth year in a row, causing the program to be nearly out of money four months before the end of the fiscal year, according to the state's Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Funeral directors in West Virginia say the state's drug overdose epidemic, the worst in the nation, is partly to blame.

West Virginia's indigent burial program, which budgets about $2 million a year for funeral financial assistance, had already been under pressure from the aging of the baby-boom generation. The program offers an average of $1,250 to help cover funeral expenses for families who can't otherwise afford them.

In the current fiscal year ending June 30, "1,508 burials have been submitted for payment through the Indigent Burial Program,” according to Allison Adler, a spokesman for state DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch. “There are funds remaining for 63 additional burials.”

The program has been around for decades, according to Adler, but only began running out of funds starting in 2013. In 2014, the program ran out of money in June. By 2015, the program's budget was depleted by March, similar to where it stands this year.

Adler didn't respond to a question on the role drug overdoses have played in the program running out of money. But funeral directors such as Robert C. Kimes of the West Virginia Funeral Directors Association blame skyrocketing overdose deaths for the current troubles. In 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia's drug overdose death rate stood at 41.5 cases per 100,000 residents, the highest rate in the country and nearly three times the national average. In 1999, the state's overdose fatality rate was below average.

Nationally, drug overdose deaths accounted for fewer than two out of every 100 fatalities in 2015. But in West Virginia, overdoses claim more than three out of every 100 fatalities. And among certain demographic groups, the likelihood of overdose is much higher: roughly 8 percent of all fatalities among white men age 35 to 64, for instance, and over 28 percent of deaths among white males age 15 to 34.

The state's funeral directors are on the front lines of this trend. “When you get an overdose, typically it's going to be a younger individual who's not financially in a great position,” Kimes said. “I've heard from several funeral directors that the majority of [overdose deaths they deal with] are addressed via the indigent burial program.”

West Virginia is somewhat unique in providing a state-level program for indigent burials, Kimes said. The majority of states don't provide such services at the state level, and most of the ones that do limit them to recipients of Medicaid, SNAP or other social programs for the poor. In many states, funeral assistance is left to the discretion of individual counties or cities.

West Virginia expects a half-billion-dollar budget shortfall in the next fiscal year, making relief from the state unlikely. Social service agencies report being overwhelmed by the number of overdose and addiction cases. In the city of Huntington (population 49,000), for instance, authorities responded to 26 heroin overdose cases in one four-hour span last year.

A Charleston Gazette-Mail investigation last year found that between 2007 and 2012, as the state's drug overdose epidemic skyrocketed, drug wholesalers shipped over 780 million doses of opiate painkillers hydrocodone and oxycodone to the state, or roughly "433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia.” Those two drugs killed more than 1,700 West Virginians during that time period, the investigation found.

“That's not the kind of business you want” as a funeral director, Kimes said. “You hate to see a young person's life thrown away.”

Original post

9 New Visual Content Marketing Trends for 2017

Visual content, done well, can be incredibly popular. Infographics, videos, data visualizations, and other forms of visual content can generate tons of engagement and attract links to your site.

More importantly, visuals help tell your story. Visual content can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool, one that helps your target audience remember you – better than a 1,000 word text article alone (no matter how great it is) ever could.

Here’s what’s trending in visual content marketing for 2017, according to a survey of 300 online marketers from Venngage, a platform that helps you create free infographics.

1. Visual Content Usage is Growing

In 2016, 53 percent of marketers said they published content containing visuals between 91 and 100 percent of the time. That was an increase of 130 percent from 2015, up from 40.5 percent.

What it means: People pretty much expect visual content all the time. So give it to them – or else people may move on if they’re greeted with nothing but text content.

2. Stock Photos Rule

Stock photos are the most popular form of visual content, used by 35 percent of the survey. Original graphics, including infographics, were used 30 percent of the time. Other forms of somewhat popular visual content: videos and presentations (15 percent); charts and data visualizations (14 percent); and GIFs and memes (5 percent).

What it means: While stock photography is a fine option, it can also lead to having incredibly boring pictures, or pictures that people have already seen dozens of times before. If you use stock photos, use wisely. And how is video usage that low still?

3. Infographics Get the Most Engagement

Infographics (and other original graphics) had the highest engagement, according to the survey. Even though stock photos are used the most, they don’t generate much engagement (just a measly 7 percent). Charts and data visualizations performed decently (25.7 percent), as did videos and presentations (20 percent), while GIFs and memes performed best 5 percent of the time.

What it means: Use original graphics whenever possible, and use more charts, data visualizations, videos, and presentations whenever possible. Also don’t be afraid to show a little humor/personality with funny GIFs and memes – these can get tons of engagement on social media.

(Fittingly, Venngage turned their survey into an infographic; check it out at the bottom of this post.)

4. Marketers Don’t Spend Much Time Making Visuals

The overwhelming majority of marketers (71 percent) spend less than five hours a week making visuals, according to the survey. Meanwhile, 17 percent spent between 5 and 15 hours, and 11 percent spent more than 15 hours a week producing visual content.

What it means: There is no “right” amount of time to spend here. You have to do what gives you the most return on your investment. If you’re spending too much time on graphics and not getting a return, then cut back; but if your visuals aren’t generating any interest, maybe try spending a little more time to make them more interesting or compelling.

5. Marketers Prefer DIY Tools

Graphic design tools were the favorite choice for 46 percent of marketers. For the remainder, 30 percent used an in-house designer and 24.1 percent used a freelancer designer.

What it means: It depends. If you honestly have the skills do create nice-looking images yourself using graphic design software or tools, then do it. But if not, find someone good, whether it’s in-house or freelance, who can create interesting visuals that generate engagement.

6. Consistency is a Huge Challenge

Creating visual content is hard – but the biggest challenge is consistently creating engaging visuals, according to 36 percent of the surveyed marketers. Three other big challenges cited: being able to product well-designed visuals (29 percent); reaching a wider audience (24 percent); and finding reliable and interesting data (10 percent).

What it means: These challenges are real. So if you’re going to use visual content, you need talent/creativity, data (original research/stats, ideally), and a content strategy. All these pieces won’t guarantee your success, but they will greatly increase your odds.

7. Visual Content is ‘Absolutely Necessary’

Yes, 60 percent of marketers believe visual content is essential to their 2017 marketing strategy, while 31 percent said it was very important and 5 percent said it was important. As for the 2 percent who think it’s somewhat important or unimportant – what the hell, guys?

What it means: Visuals matter to marketers, because people respond to them. So if you’re still an unbeliever, it’s time to get out of the stone ages!

8. Visual Content = Less Than 20% of Budgets

What percentage of their marketing budget was spent on producing visual content in 2016? For 56 percent of marketers, that number was 20 percent or less.

What it means: If it’s done right, visual content can be incredibly valuable for months or even years, bringing in prospects, leads, and new customers. Perhaps consider a bit more time and budget to create better visual content and more of it in 2017.

9. Visual Content Investments Will Grow in 2017

In 2017, 35 percent of marketers said they will spend more than a third of their entire budget on visual content, while 42 percent will spend less than 20 percent of their marketing budget on visual content.

What it means: A bit tough to tell, as comparing the last trend to this one to get an accurate comparison, but it seems like there is definitely a trend of marketers increasing their investment on visual content this year.

Colorado County Funds College Scholarship With Marijuana Money

DENVER ― Budding scholars, rejoice.

Commissioners in Pueblo County, Colorado, on Monday signed off on what they’re calling the “world’s first cannabis-funded scholarship.”

The fund of approximately $475,000 will be available for high school students in Pueblo County who wish to attend Pueblo Community College or Colorado State University-Pueblo in fall 2017.

Of that funding, about $425,000 comes from cannabis excise tax revenue, which is a one-time county-level tax on all marijuana grown in Pueblo County. A state government-run scholarship program makes up the remaining $49,664.

Every qualifying high school graduate in the county should expect about $1,000 in aid this year, with more being awarded based on merit and need. PCC in-state tuition is slightly more than $3,000 per year, while CSU-Pueblo can cost up to around $6,000 per year depending on the number of credit hours taken.

County commissioner Sal Pace told local news outlet KKTV he’s thrilled to see the money applied to something that can benefit the community.

“A couple years ago, these are dollars that would have been going to the black market, drug cartels ... now money that used to fund drug cartels is now being used to fund college scholarships,” he said. 

Pueblo County’s excise tax applies a 2 percent tax on marijuana that growers sell to retailers. That tax is slated to increase by 1 percent each year, maxing out at 5 percent, with at least half earmarked for the Pueblo County Scholarship Fund.

The scholarship fund is expected to grow in the next several years, as both marijuana cultivation and the taxation rate increase.

“It will grow annually because the excise tax increases annually,” Pace told The Huffington Post. “We also expect many new farms to come online this year. Only roughly half of the licensed farms were operational in 2016.”

 A Pueblo County spokeswoman said in a statement to HuffPost that finding new ways to help students pay for college is important to her community. 

“It is so critically important to make college affordable for our youth if we want to provide long-term economic opportunity to our community,” she said. “Too many kids can’t afford to go to college, with this program we are taking cannabis-tax revenue and using it to provide for a brighter future in Pueblo.” 

Ryan Grenoble Reporter, The Huffington Post