Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Marijuana legalization seemed like a pipe dream for its Texas proponents until passage of the Texas Compassionate Use Act in 2015. And in June 2017, Texas issued the first licenses to retailers for the sale of marijuana-based products. DPS awarded three companies licenses to produce, process, and dispense cannabidiol oil. CBD, unlike THC, is a nonpsychoactive molecule approved in Texas for the treatment of seizures associated with intractable epilepsy. Until recently, only the licensed dispensaries could legally cultivate small quantities of marijuana solely for the purpose of procuring CBD.
But according to Star-Telegram author Anna Tinsley, any day now medical marijuana will legally start to grow on a much larger scale in Texas. The state’s first license went to Cansortium Texas, which owns the only 10-acre parcel of land currently approved for marijuana cultivation.
Braden Maccke—an author with the Austin Chronicle—also thinks that Texas’ marijuana policy may be progressing quicker than expected. In his May 12 article, Maccke discussed the circumstances surrounding HB 2107, which died before it could hit the full House floor. The bill was written to remove THC restrictions, turn "low THC" marijuana into "medicinal marijuana," and expand the list of conditions for which cannabis can be used legally with a doctor's recommendation, removing language requiring it to be "prescribed.” The bill had tons of bipartisan driven momentum on its way to the House, with 77 sponsors and co-sponsors, including 29 Republicans. Despite the unfortunate result of HB 2107, Maccke believes that future similar legislation is destined to pass congressional muster.
A recent poll shows that over 80% of Texans support medical cannabis. And 53% of Texans support full adult legalization, while only 17% oppose possession of any kind.
Texas seems to be trending in the right direction. When state legislation begins to diverge from the ideology of those subject to it, change is inevitable. Governor Abbott has been adamant that low-THC, high-CBD marijuana for the treatment of epilepsy is as far as Texas will take it….”at this stage.” So even the Republican former state attorney general realizes the potential for Texas to eventually follow the lead of 29 other states and Washington DC. Texas’ early reluctance might even prove to be beneficial, giving legislators time to analyze market data from the “marijuana states” and learn from both their mistakes and accomplishments.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
In Iowa, elected executives are advising the State's Department of Public Health to refrain from corroborating with its neighboring states to obtain cannabis oil. Barbara Rodriguez reports on how the lack of federal enforcement is causing confusion among states concerning how to implement medical marijuana legislation, according to an article in The Des Moines Register:
An unusual attempt by Iowa to work with another state to transport medical marijuana oil across state lines is on hold amid legal concerns it could invite scrutiny from the federal government.
The Iowa Attorney General's office advised the Iowa Department of Public Health this month that it should not implement a small section in Iowa's new medical marijuana law that requires the state, before the end of the year, to license up to two "out-of-state" dispensaries from a bordering state. Those entities would have been expected to bring cannabis oil into Iowa in order to sell it.
That's considered illegal under federal law, which categorizes marijuana as a type of controlled substance that is prohibited from being moved across state lines. But during the final hours of the legislative session in April, some Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature suggested adding the language to open the door for a partnership with a neighboring state like Minnesota.
The development is not expected to impact other provisions in the law that call for establishing an in-state production system for cannabis oil by the end of 2018. Still, some GOP lawmakers expressed frustration with the news because the provision was also aimed at creating more immediate access to cannabis oil. Currently, Iowans have no way of getting the product within the state.
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, noted in a statement that no matter what the Legislature had decided, the state still would have been in violation of federal law.
"As I've said before, the federal government needs to act on this issue or let the states do their work," she said, adding, "The out-of-state distributors are the quickest way to supply sick Iowans with a product that doctors say could be beneficial. If that provision doesn't work out, then people will have to wait another year, and that's disappointing."
Possessing, manufacturing and selling marijuana remains illegal under federal law. In 2013, the Department of Justice issued a memorandum offering assurance that states could proceed with medical marijuana programs without fear of federal prosecution, in part by avoiding agreements that would move marijuana from one state to another.
Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said in an email that if a state program authorizes or encourages diversion from one state to another, "it is possible that state's program may come under increased scrutiny from the federal government." He said the halt on implementation should remain "until the federal government provides further guidance regarding state medical marijuana programs."
The out-of-state dispensaries provision is tucked into the second-to-last page of a 20-page law, and is separate from requirements that Iowa license up to two cannabis oil manufacturers in Iowa and up to five dispensaries to sell it in-state. The oil would be supplied in Iowa by the end of 2018. Smoking marijuana remains prohibited.
Fear of federal enforcement against states who have legalized marijuana in some form is not new, but rather has steadily increased since the Trump administration assumed office in 2016. Although the Obama administration issued memorandums assuring states with medical marijuana regimes that they would be free from scrutiny if they followed certain standards, that may not be the case much longer. The United States Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, firmly believes marijuana is a dangerous drug and claims he will reconsider existing marijuana policies.
Assuming nothing changes in President Trump's federal enforcement of marijuana, Iowa's proposal to work with neighboring states presents a potential problem, even under the Obama administration's prosecutorial guidelines. The Cole II Memo stated that states could avoid federal intervention of its medical marijuana regime if they followed eight federal priorities. The pertinent priority here being to prevent the diversion of marijuana from legal states to illegal ones.
While Iowa's proposal only includes corroborating with its direct neighbors who have also legalized medical marijuana, the transportation of marijuana products across state lines is considered interstate commerce, thus invoking Congress' authority under the Constitution's Commerce Clause.
Therefore, Iowa's proposal not only clearly contradicts Congress' Controlled Substance Act, but may also trigger judicial review because Congress has clearly preempted the transfer of interstate marijuana. By proposing such a law, Iowa's legislature is inviting scrutiny from all three branches of government, something marijuana advocates attempt to avoid whenever possible.
In California a new state regulation will require dispensaries to shut down operations by Dec. 15 or risk not being able to get the new license required to operate as a dispensary and distribute "medical marijuana". But what will happen to the patients who depend on dispensaries to get their medically necessary marijuana? The State believes that three months is enough time for patients to get in contact with a caregiver that will meet their needs. Will this new regulation better protect these patients? Aileen Wingblad gives a brief insight to this subject.
The state’s Medical Marihuana Licensing Board on Tuesday said the December deadline gives ample time for dispensaries to wind down service, and that it will begin that day to accept applications for licenses – required under a new regulatory system aimed at increasing oversight and taxing the industry.
The new licensing regulations list “provisioning centers” for the sale of medical marijuana, and the licensing process asks applicants to disclose any marijuana-related business they’ve been involved in, such as a dispensary. Harns said background investigations – paid for with non-refundable application fees – will be conducted before licenses are issued. Falsifying information is cause for being denied a license. Criminal history can also affect eligibility.
Until licenses are issued, registered patients will have to grow their own marijuana or obtain it from caregivers, as allowed under existing law.
Read the full article.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program has hit a few bumps on the road so far, and is currently battling lawsuits claiming that regulators improperly granted licenses to the winning applicants. But Philadelphia lawyer Steven Schain of Hobart Law Group is offering praise and support for regulators who, he says, "got it right." He offers his take on things in a new piece on the Cannabis Business Executive site, Lessons Learned From the First Phase of Pennsylvania’s Marijuana Program. A sample:
Ignoring the program’s primary objective of swiftly providing sick people with medicine, the first phase license denials and awards triggered a tidal wave of malevolence to wash across Pennsylvania.
Seduced by their own PowerPoint deck’s glitter, both high and mighty and hardscrabble applicants received a rude awakening in the form of both denied applications and modest scoring. Stunned by their lack of sway and convinced that shenanigans prevented fair consideration, lawsuits ranging from “striking Pennsylvania marijuana law as unconstitutional” to “disqualifying successful applicants for alleged wrongdoing in other jurisdictions” are being loudly threatened across all 67 counties.
Although the program allows each applicant to receive a de-briefing on how respective applications were scored, and for unsuccessful applicants to appeal their scoring, here is what the first phase results revealed:
▪ Life ain’t fair. Mirroring Arizona’s 2016 dispensary permit results (in which 750 applicants sought 31 licenses), each program application had less than 1 in 11 chance of winning. Further, because the program omits any residency requirement, Pennsylvanians, whom had never grown, processed or sold marijuana, had even less of a chance.
▪ Big marijuana carried the day. Approximately 70 percent of the winning applicants were affiliated with growers, processors and dispensaries already operating in multiple legalized marijuana jurisdictions. Beyond being able to demonstrate a history of being a transparent, compliant and profitable marijuana-related business, winning applications were crafted by experts at submitting winning applications, which is distinct from growing, processing and selling marijuana.
▪ Consultant means failed grower. Like a rube swindled by a suddenly exiting town carny, seemingly sophisticated Pennsylvanians got suckered by consultants with shiny trade show booths leveraging claims of “Colorado or California growing experience” and selling fanciful and proprietary lighting, fertilizing and yield optimization techniques. Also, enjoying handsome windfalls at 400 unsuccessful applicants’ expense were lobbyistS and juiced-in lawyers offering connectivity to politicos with jazzy titles and zero decision-making process impact.
▪ Follow the rules closely. Does your diversity definition encompass armed forces veterans or involve third-party certification? Regardless, because Pennsylvania’s marijuana law defines a diverse group as a certified disadvantaged, minority-owned, women-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned or veteran-owned small business, the program’s unique criteria disqualified many seemingly qualified applicants.
▪ Pennsylvania’s Program Is Built to Last. Perceived inequities aside, the DOH and the program got it right. Beyond meeting every self-set deadline and blitzing through 500 applications in 90 days, licenses were generally awarded to the best-funded applicants with proven track records of success. In an exceedingly volatile industry hinging upon timing, adequacy of funding, and fullness of regulatory compliance, in the first phase the DOH has positioned the program for its greatest likelihood of swift success.
Read the whole thing.
Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va) wants Congress to get off its collective derrière and resolve the problem of marijuana legalization by turning it over to the states. Earlier this year he introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 (H.R. 1227), which would remove cannabis (both marijuana and hemp) from the Controlled Substances Act entirely and turn regulation over to the states.
It's basically the same bill that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) introduced a couple of years ago. In a story on PJ Media, GOP Lawmaker on U.S. Pot Policy: ‘We’re Completely on Our Asses,’ he has some blunt words about why he favors the approach:
On Monday, Garrett doubled down on the legislation, explaining the reasons he supports state discretion over medical marijuana policy. After he outlined his reasoning to his constituents, Garrett said at the Cato Institute, “I didn’t have anyone vehemently opposed.”
The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances, bringing it in line with alcohol and tobacco standards. Decriminalization would eliminate a justice system that Garrett believes disproportionately disenfranchises the poor and politically weak, would allow medical professionals rather than the federal government to make key decisions for conditions like epilepsy, and would allow states to realize hundreds of millions of dollars in economic revenue annually.
Garrett’s district grows about seven-eighths of all tobacco in Virginia, and his state, Kentucky and Tennessee, he said, could be economic “monsters” in the industry of agricultural hemp due to climate advantages if marijuana were decriminalized.
. . .
“You should be free to do what you so choose to do so long as it’s not an impact on others that’s negative. That’s easy, and that’s who we’re supposed to be as a nation,” he said, adding that the government closest to the people – local government – governs the most efficiently.
Garrett, a former prosecutor, described the Republican Party as “AWOL” when it comes to marijuana policy. At the same time, he said that more dangerous drugs like heroin should be treated differently for their rapid and widespread destruction.
“I am not pro-marijuana. I’m not anti-marijuana,” he said. “I’m pro-Constitution. I’m pro-liberty. I’m pro-government that enforces its laws.”
Monday, September 11, 2017
The ginormous spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump extends the Congressional prohibition on use of Justice Department funds to prosecute state-licensed medical marijuana facilities that are in compliance with state laws. There was some doubt about that earlier this week when the House Rules Committee blocked the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment from the House version of the spending bill, but it made its way into the final bill anyway.
President Trump, in his signing message, signaled that he wasn't necessarily on board with the amendment, however. The Washington Times reports:
MMr. Trump n his statement also questioned a provision in the law that bars the Justice Department from using funds “to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories.”
Mr. Trump said, “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
That appears to be in line with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ comments that he opposes the “expanded use” of marijuana. A White House spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.
Michael Collins, deputy director of Drug Policy Alliance, said Mr. Trump “continues to send mixed messages on marijuana.”
“After stating during the campaign that he was ‘100 percent’ in support of medical marijuana, he now issues a signing statement casting doubt on whether his administration will adhere to a congressional rider that stops DOJ from going after medical marijuana programs,” Mr. Collins said. “The uncertainty is deeply disconcerting for patients and providers, and we urge the administration to clarify their intentions immediately.”
Twenty-eight states have some form of medical marijuana, but the drug is illegal under federal law.
The spending bill’s provision on medical marijuana prevents the Justice Department from arresting or prosecuting patients, caregivers and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. The measure will only be binding through the end of September.
I'm not sure we should read too much into the statement. Given that the amendment now is the law, it is itself one of those that the President will have to faithfully execute. The real issue is whether Trump's DOJ reads the restriction as narrowly as Obama's DOJ did. He may decide that the way to get Congress off its collective backside to address the legalization question is to follow the previous Administration's approach. After all, as President Grant famously said, "I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution."
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Do you know enough about medical marijuana to consider yourself well-informed? Sufficiently informed? According to Amanda Chicago Lewis, even the people who are cool with pot often don't know very much about how they might go about integrating cannabis into their own wellness routines. Some topics covered in her Rolling Stone article:
- Start simple: acknowledge that cannabis has medical properties
- Be familiar with the downsides
- Remember that doctors receive no education about medical marijuana
- Not every medical cannabis option involves getting high
- When you look up info about pot online, consider the source
- Nothing is legal in all 50 states
- Temper your expectations, and the expectations of those around you
"So I wanted to offer up some of the collected wisdom I've managed to gain during years of conversations with scientists, doctors, patients and caregivers. Just as I hoped a few weeks back that my fellow stoners might help spread the gospel about how to be a good weed citizen with their canna-curious friends, this guide aims to provide you with the tools to help introduce someone to the world of medical marijuana."
-- Daniel Carter
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Cannabis production in Canada seems to be looking up, as at the country's top licensed marijuana producer, Canopy Growth Corp., is set to double its production. Reuters reports that growers are rushing to ensure product to all Canadians who will be legally capable of purchasing recreational marijuana by July of next year. Canopy's substantial increase, which will involve a C$21 million investment to upgrade its facility, is in response to an unexpected shortage in supply. From the report:
“This is a very big leap, in terms of our output, our capacity, our footprint,” Bruce Linton, Canopy Growth’s CEO, said in an interview.
Canopy Growth is currently licensed to produce 31,000 kilograms of marijuana and related products, and aims to triple that by July next year, the deadline the federal government has given provinces to make pot legal for all.
The deal gives Canopy 450,000 square feet of greenhouses that can be immediately added to its existing 350,000 square foot facility in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. It is also building an additional 200,000 square feet of greenhouse capacity on its existing property.
Linton said that a 250,000 square foot greenhouse should be able to produce around 10,000 kilograms of marijuana annually, which at an average sale price of C$8 a gram could bring in C$80 million.
The company says it is expanding beyond Niagara to other parts of Canada and expects 3 million Canadians to use legal recreational marijuana next year. It also has partnerships with medical marijuana companies in Brazil and has been exporting marijuana to Germany for sale in German pharmacies for over a year.
Canopy may be expanding in Canada, but the company says it intends to stay far away from United States market due to uncertainty in a country where all aspects of marijuana are federally illegal.
-- Erin Milliken
Friday, September 8, 2017
The medical marijuana business in Arkansas, like that in a lot of places, s shrouded in legal uncertainty. And the banking industry, being traditionally risk-averse, apparently isn't prepared to test the waters just yet. From Arkansasonline.com:
The medical marijuana business in Arkansas will not be cash only, as feared by opponents during last year's campaign for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.
But banking services for the business will be expensive, secretive and legally dubious, according to representatives of the financial industry.
Right now, medical marijuana banking is tentatively allowed under guidance from federal regulators. According to federal figures, 368 banks and credit unions were serving the industry nationally in March, an increase of 63 from a year prior.
"The fact is that the legalization in Arkansas is not a defense for nor a cover for the legality by the federal laws, and all banks -- whether they're state chartered, nationally chartered or anything else -- are under the federal laws and regulations," said Bill Holmes, president of the Arkansas Bankers Association.
So without banking, the medical marijuana industry in Arkansas may wind up relegated to operating on a cash basis, which poses numerous financial difficulties. In addition, there is a potential crime and safety issue. Holmes went to to say:
"I'm not on a side for or against medical marijuana, but I understand why folks are concerned when you look at the problems that have arisen in some of the other states. It is a cash business at this point. With what we've had in Little Rock, let's be honest, do you want to inflame that and have cars driving around with bags full of $100 bills? I don't think so."
Little Rock, capital of Arkansas, has one of the highest crime rates in America. Cash-heavy businesses are potential targets for crime, which endangers not only the businesses, but the people involved in them as well—cashiers, delivery drivers, security personnel, not to mention the customers themselves (who better a criminal target than someone headed into a business who must be carrying cash or leaving with marijuana?).
This isn’t to say that droves of violent criminals are suddenly going to be targeting medical marijuana businesses and customers, but it does seem, at least theoretically, that a heightened crime risk exists. And therein lies a paradoxical effect embedded in the current federal drug policy: a criminal law, which among its aims should reduce crime, could actually end up generating more crime.
-- Christopher Daves
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Despite their historical connections with the War on Drugs, the fastest-growing demographic group of marijuana consumers turns out to be aging Baby Boomers. According to study published in the journal Addiction, Demographic trends among older cannabis users in the United States, 2006-13, the number of 65-year-olds that admit to using marijuana products has risen approximately 250 percent between 2006 and 2013.
The majority of Baby Boomers that using cannabis products say they are doing so at least in part for medicinal reasons, and a recent research paper found that 90 percent of Colorado seniors were doing so due to chronic pain.
In HealthOnline's Why Are More Seniors Using Marijuana?, writer Temma Ehrenfeld explores the multiple issues that these changes are bringing, noting that some medical professionals remain skeptical:
However, marijuana can weaken balance and slow reaction time, noted Dr. Lynn Webster, the immediate past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine.
“I’m worried about falls,” he told Healthline. “I wish we had the science to understand who [marijuana] would help, and in what doses, and for whom it would be toxic.”
“We really know very little about the effects of marijuana in the elderly. Everything about medical marijuana needs better study, but especially this topic,” Dr. Daniel Clauw, a pain specialist at the University of Michigan, told Healthline.
Ehrenfeld's piece includes a great deal of information and some interesting anecdotes about use of cannabis by seniors, and it's well worth a full read.
-- Jake Wiggins
In 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law the Texas Compassionate Use Act. This Act, among other things, allows individuals with intractable epilepsy to obtain cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a form of low-THC cannabis. The Act gives authority to the Department of Public Safety (DPS), to regulate and award dispensary licenses.
Now, nearly two years later, Texas has issued its first medical marijuana license to the company Cansortium Texas. Two more proposed growers had their applications accepted previously and it is expected that those two will also be awarded licenses in the next days or weeks. Though these new developments might seem like a step in the right direction, there have been many critics of the Act and the stringent regulations imposed by DPS. Bob Sechler of the Austin American-Statesman, explores what lies ahead for the industry in Texas:
The Texas licenses won’t equate to quick profits, however, and success in Texas over the long haul might depend as much on the Legislature as on business acumen. Cansortium and the two other companies expected to operate in Texas are facing strict state regulations that limit their customer bases solely to patients with intractable epilepsy and that constrain how they formulate their products — on top of investment costs running into the millions of dollars.
“It is safe to say that it is a challenging market,” said Morris Denton, chief executive of Compassionate Cultivation.
Denton said an initial goal for his company will be to prove that medical marijuana can be dispensed safely in Texas and that it is beneficial, with the aim of persuading state leaders to make it available to patients suffering from a wider variety of ailments in coming years.
Hidalgo said Cansortium considers the market among Texas patients suffering from intractable epilepsy potentially lucrative enough and didn’t opt to expand into the state because of the prospect that additional medical conditions eventually will be made eligible. Still, he said he considers it likely that future discussions among the state’s leaders regarding medical marijuana will revolve around “what conditions and for what reasons they are considering expanding” its availability.
“I think it remains to be seen what will happen (in Texas), but the evidence is out there,” Hidalgo said.
Proponents in Texas already are anticipating a major push during the next regular session of the Legislature in 2019 to try to increase patient access to medical cannabis. Some industry experts have said the Texas market for medical cannabis could rival California’s estimated $2.8 billion market, if restrictions are loosened and it becomes more widely available.
As things stand, each of the three companies selected for licenses is required to pay a $488,520 fee upon final approval, followed by a license renewal fee of $318,511 in two years if they want to stay in business. The fees are designed to cover the cost of regulating the new industry, state officials have said.
. . .
The Compassionate Use Act legalized the production and sale of cannabidiol, an oil derived from the cannabis plant that doesn’t produce a high, by the state-licensed dispensaries. But the law limits use of the oil, commonly called CBD, to certain patients suffering from intractable epilepsy — and only if they have a doctor’s prescription for it and already have tried two conventional drug treatments that proved to be ineffective.
Observers of the burgeoning legal marijuana industry in the U.S. say the new Texas law is significantly more restrictive than medical marijuana laws in the 29 other states that have enacted them.
“We have not yet seen any other state try to launch a medical cannabis program based solely on a single condition,” said John Kagia, executive vice president for industry analytics at New Frontier Data, a cannabis market research firm based in Washington. “Under the (Texas) law as it is currently structured, it is going to remain a fairly narrow, constrained market. It is going to be a relatively limited business environment.”
The Epilepsy Foundation Texas has pegged the number of Texans with intractable epilepsy at about 150,000.
But only a fraction are expected to meet the Compassionate Use Act’s eligibility requirements for CBD, want to try it and know a doctor willing to write a prescription for it.
New Frontier Data hasn’t yet estimated the monetary value of the Texas medical cannabis market under the new law, but Kagia said it’s just a sliver of what it could be.
-- Victoria Olivarez
Without legislation, states would lose protection they have enjoyed for the past four years, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions could begin his long-sought crackdown on the rapid expansion of legalized pot.At a Wednesday morning closed-door briefing of House Republicans, California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) implored his GOP colleagues to press House leaders to allow a vote on his amendment.
Fellow Californian Rep. Duncan Hunter told The Hill that after Rohrabacher “talked about it this morning in conference,” GOP leaders said “it splits the conference too much so we’re not going to have a vote on it.”
Rohrabacher had pled with his colleagues in a Tuesday night floor speech to allow the vote.
“The status quo for four years has been the federal government will not interfere because the Department of Justice is not permitted to use its resources to supercede a state that has legalized the medical use of marijuana,” Rohrabacher said.
He said that without his amendment, “we’re changing the status quo in a way that undermines the rights of the states and the people … to make their policy.”
Rohrabacher’s amendment, co-sponsored with Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), was included in the previous four Commerce-Justice-Science funding measures, when President Obama was in the White House. It was also included in an omnibus funding bill signed by President Trump earlier this year that expires at the end of the month.
This doesn't mean that the Amendment is dead, however. Its language was previously included in the Senate version of the bill, and given the fairly strong support it's had in the past few years, it may well find itself in the final conference bill despite yesterday's action.
In Washington, D.C., some lawmakers are attempting to dismantle the medical marijuana industry created by individual states. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Dana Rohrabacher, U.S. House Representative of California's 48th District, is calling on his fellow conservatives to keep his amendment intact and declare themselves as proponents of medical progress, according to an Op-Ed in the Washington Post:
Surprisingly, given the Obama administration’s generally liberal approach to marijuana, its Justice Department tried to interpret the amendment in such a convoluted way as to allow counterproductive raids on marijuana dispensaries. The courts — most recently the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit — repeatedly ruled that our amendment meant exactly what it said.
Unfortunately, my longtime friend Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has urged Congress to drop the amendment, now co-sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). This, despite President Trump’s belief, made clear in his campaign and as president, that states alone should decide medical marijuana policies.
I should not need to remind our chief law enforcement officer nor my fellow Republicans that our system of federalism, also known as states’ rights, was designed to resolve just such a fractious issue. Our party still bears a blemish for wielding the “states’ rights” cudgel against civil rights. If we bury state autonomy in order to deny patients an alternative to opioids, and ominously federalize our police, our hypocrisy will deserve the American people’s contempt.
More than half the states have liberalized medical marijuana laws, some even decriminalizing recreational use. Some eighty percent of Americans favor legalization of medical marijuana. Only a benighted or mean-spirited mind-set would want to block such progress.
Part of the reason is the failure of too many conservatives to apply “public choice economics” to the war on marijuana. Common sense, as well as public choice theory, holds that the government’s interest is to grow, just as private-sector players seek profit and build market share.
The drug-war apparatus will not give ground without a fight, even if it deprives Americans of medical alternatives and inadvertently creates more dependency on opioids. When its existence depends on asset seizures and other affronts to our Constitution, why should anti-medical-marijuana forces care if they’ve contributed inadvertently to a vast market, both legal and illegal, for opioids?
I invite my colleagues to visit a medical marijuana research facility and see for themselves why their cultural distaste might be misplaced.
Better yet, they might travel to Israel — that political guiding light for religious conservatives — and learn how our closest ally in the Middle East has positioned itself on the cutting edge of cannabis research. The Israeli government recently decriminalized first use, so unworried it is about what marijuana might do to its conscript military.
My colleagues should then return to Washington and keep my amendment intact, declaring themselves firmly on the side of medical progress. Failing that, the government will keep trying to eradicate the burgeoning marijuana business, thereby fueling and enriching drug cartels. Trust me: Hugs from grateful supporters are infinitely better.
Representative Rohrabacher chastises his fellow conservatives for failing to uphold a key political platform: state autonomy. Warning politicians to avoid hypocrisy, the Republican from California urges his fellow House members to personally visit medical marijuana research facilities and Israel before siding with the federal government rather than individual states.
The Congressman makes strong points, focusing on the question of medical marijuana and not touching on the more controversial subject of recreational use. He seems to be making strong appeals to a core conservative position -- the role of the states in a federal system -- while pointing out America's current opioid problem and how legalizing medical marijuana might help alleviate it.
-- Zachary Ford
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Medical marijuana may be helping epileptic patients live more normal lives, but it's still illegal under federal law. the federal government still refuses to acknowledge the medical qualities of cannabis. A group of plaintiffs, including Alexis Bortell, 11-year-old girl from Rowlett, Texas, is suing the federal government to force a change in that law. CBS-TV in Dallas has the story, with a video.
Monday, September 4, 2017
If you want to know why New York is set to change its rules and regulations around medical marijuana, all you have to do is show up at a local dispensary and start talking to patients. But first, be prepared for security. The new rules could make it easier for doctors to prescribe the drug and might increase the number of products for sale in dispensaries. And security might loosen up, too. Right now, it’s against regulations to enter a dispensary without a medical marijuana card.
Reaction to the proposal from prescribers and New York’s medical marijuana industry has been mostly positive. But Dr. Orrin Devinsky, the director of New York University's Epilepsy Center, raised the issue of efficacy. Dr. Devinsky said he has treated at least 500 patients, mostly children and their parents, with medical marijuana over the last few years, keeping meticulous notes.
Part of the problem, he said, is that once he gives patients a medical marijuana card, he has no control over what they buy. “The person in the dispensary can tell them, 'You should get this and blow it up a child’s nose if they're having a seizure,'” he said. “You know anything can be said to anybody.”
- Daniel Carter
Colorado is at the forefront for many things cannabis. but its laws aren’t always so friendly. Smoking weed in public has been illegal in Colorado, but Denver voters last year approved a measure to allow licensed social clubs where marijuana could be consumed on the premises. An Associated Press report notes that startup businesses are now seeking to fill the gap in available places for legal users to smoke. But it's not easy. Detailed restrictions include prohibitions against serving alcohol or being within a certain distance from places that do, restricting the ability to dispense marijuana on site, and license fees in the thousands of dollars. From the report:
"There are plenty of places where you can consume alcohol. Let's give people a place to go to consume marijuana," said Jordan Person, head of Denver NORML, which advocates for pot-friendly public policy.
But Denver's would-be "social use" clubs have faced one delay after another.
First, the state liquor board prohibited pot use at any place with a liquor license, making bars and many restaurants off-limits. And pot shops can't allow consumption on the premises.
That left gathering places like coffee shops, art galleries and yoga studios. Furthermore, would-be clubs must stay twice as far as liquor stores from schools and anywhere children congregate, including playgrounds and sports fields.
"We can't be in places where it makes sense," said Kayvan Khalatbari, a Denver marijuana consultant who helped run last year's club campaign.
City officials say the rules are as flexible as possible given stiff resistance from some community groups and marijuana skeptics. The voter-approved club measure also says the club licenses are a pilot program and neighborhood groups must agree to allow a club before it could open.
The voter-approved club measure also says the club licenses are a pilot program and neighborhood groups must agree to allow a club before it could open.
"There were no surprises in the rules," said Dan Rowland, spokesman for the Denver department that regulates marijuana businesses. "They reflect all the comments we got from the community."
One hopeful applicant says the regulations are stringent but still a step forward for the industry.
"A lot of us are hoping this will ... open the doors for a new kind of business," said Connor Lux, who runs a co-work space for the cannabis industry and plans to apply for a social use license to hold public, weed-friendly events at his business just north of downtown Denver. Applying for a license costs $1,000; the licenses itself is $1,000 a year.
-- Clarissa Dauphin
Sunday, September 3, 2017
A Connecticut act that protects applicants and employees who are prescribed medical marijuana is not preempted by federal law according to a recent federal district court ruling. The opinion is Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Opeprating Co., LLC, No. 3:16-cv-01938 (JAM) )D. Conn. Aug. 8, 2017). In the opinion, Judge Jeffrey Meyer held that federal law does not preempt the Connecticut Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA), which prohibits employers from firing or refusing to hire employees who use medical marijuana. Over at the National Law Review, lawyer Sara J. Robertson of Polsinelli PC gives a good rundown of the case.
Plaintiff Katelin Noffsinger was prescribed a daily dose of Marinol (capsulated synthetic marijuana) to treat symptoms arising from post-traumatic stress disorder, which she took only at night. Bride Brook, a nursing home, extended an offer of employment to Noffsinger, contingent upon passage of a drug test. Noffsinger disclosed her Marinol prescription to Bride Brook, and, as anticipated, tested positive for marijuana metabolites. Thereafter, Bride Brook rescinded her job offer. Noffsinger filed a lawsuit against Bride Brook alleging a violation of PUMA’s anti-discrimination provision.
[The court . . . held that PUMA did not create an “actual conflict” with any of the three federal statutes. First, the [Controlled Substances Act] did not preempt PUMA because the CSA does not prohibit employers from hiring or employing individuals who use illegal drugs. Second, the ADA did not preempt PUMA because, while the ADA allows employers to prohibit the illegal use of drugs in the workplace, PUMA does not authorize individuals to use marijuana while at work, and the ADA does not address use of drugs outside of the workplace. Finally, the FDCA did not preempt PUMA because the FDCA does not regulate employment, but PUMA does.
The Noffsinger decision creates further complications for employers that conduct drug testing for marijuana, particularly in states that have enacted laws that protect medical marijuana patients from adverse employment actions based solely on their use of medical marijuana. While the Noffsinger decision is not binding on other courts, courts in other jurisdictions with similar medical marijuana statutes might follow its lead. Therefore, employers may wish to reevaluate policies that either automatically deny employment to, or require termination of, an employee following a positive drug test resulting from the employee’s use of prescribed medical marijuana.
Saturday, September 2, 2017
The big money continues to flow into medical and recreational weed. In new industries, small players can often get a head start and find success before the big players intervene. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Apple were started by a few guys working out of their garages. ,Many of the countries young cannabis businesses started the same way, but things are changing, according to a story on the STATnews medical news website, by editor Charles Piller, Big-name tech investors pour millions into marijuana — both medicinal and not. From the article:
The storied Silicon Valley venture firm Benchmark Capital has launched a slew of tech companies: Twitter, Uber, Snapchat, Instagram. Now its search for the next big thing has led it to … pot.
Benchmark recently invested $8 million in Hound Labs, a startup here in Oakland that’s developing a device for drivers — and law enforcement — to test whether they’re too buzzed to take the wheel.
And that’s just the start. Wealthy investors are pouring tens of millions into the cannabis industry in a bid to capitalize on the gold rush that’s expected when California legalizes recreational marijuana on Jan. 1. They’re backing development of new medicinal products, such as cannabis-infused skin patches; new methods for vaporizing and inhaling; and “budtender” apps like PotBot, which promises to scour 750 strains of cannabis and use lab research, including DNA analysis of each strain, to help customers find the perfect match.
Among the noted investors: tech and biotech mogul Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and made a fortune with the cancer drug startup Stemcentrx. Thiel contributed $300,000 to the California ballot campaign that paved the way for legalization. And in the first public endorsement of the industry from a major biotech investor, Thiel’s Founders Fund has sent millions to Privateer Holdings, a Seattle private equity firm that backs research into medical marijuana products, among other cannabis-related ventures.
With big companies already investing millions into marijuana startups, will there be any room for small "mom and pop" type businesses? It seems that big investors are already positioned to out-compete small businesses in this new field, reducing business opportunities for small investors.
-- Zac Artim
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission recently released new rules related to the pesticide testing of marijuana plants. Starting August 30, 2017, every batch of usable marijuana must be tested directly for pesticides. This is a substantial change from the 2016 rule which stated that one-third of every batch of usable marijuana must be tested for pesticides. The OLCC offers this brief summary of the major changes:
Producer or grower transferring to retailer:
- Must be tested for pesticides, moisture content/water activity and potency.
Producer or grower transferring to a processor (making an extract or concentrate):
- Must be tested for moisture content/water activity unless the processor is processing in a way the uses effective sterilization.
Producer or grower transferring to a processor making a marijuana product (example: tincture made from flower material and alcohol):
Must be tested for pesticides and moisture content/water activity.
The full test of the rules themselves is here.
-- Matthew Richter
Marijuana, now has the potential to be a game changer for those affected by anxiety, according to a recent piece in Forbes magazine. Most anxiety medications, writes author David DiSalvo, have heightened potential for addiction, whereas marijuana alternative may decrease this potential. A sample of the piece:
Research into the potential medical uses of marijuana compounds continues apace. Among the most recent, a study delved into why marijuana is an effective stress reducer. While not conclusive on their own, the results contribute to a longer-term possibility – that marijuana compounds may turn out to be more effective and safer in alleviating anxiety than prescription anxiety meds.
The recent study focused on marijuana’s potency in reducing the stress response in regular users. Stress was measured by tracking cortisol amounts in study participants’ saliva. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is a reliable indicator of stress; higher or lower amounts correlate closely with a person’s response to stressful situations.
The study compared the stress responses of a group of daily marijuana users to a group of non-users. The results were consistent: regular users had a “blunted” response to acute stress. In effect, their internal stress engines had been tuned down by regular exposure to marijuana.“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the effects of acute stress on salivary cortisol levels in chronic cannabis users compared to non-users,” said Carrie Cuttler, study co-author and clinical assistant professor of psychology. “While we are not at a point where we are comfortable saying whether this muted stress response is a good thing or a bad thing, our work is an important first step in investigating potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis at a time when its use is spreading faster than ever before.”
"While preliminary, the latest research suggests that the compounds in marijuana could eventually be harnessed to deliver anxiety relief with decreased dependency, fewer side effects and less overdose potential."
Read the whole thing.