Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Via presidential decree, Mexico legalizes medical marijuana

Mexico-Officially-Legalizes-Medical-Marijuana-696x333As reported in this Washington Post piece, "Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a decree this week legalizing medical marijuana."   Here is more:

The measure also classified the psychoactive ingredient in the drug as “therapeutic.”  The new policy isn't exactly opening the door for medical marijuana dispensaries on every corner. Instead it calls on the Ministry of Health to draft and implement regulations and public policies regulating “the medicinal use of pharmacological derivatives of cannabis sativa, indica and Americana or marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinol.”  It also tasks the ministry with developing a research program to study the drug's impact before creating broader policies.

The measure had broad support from Mexico's Senate and Lower House of Congress, where it passed 347-7 in April. Marijuana legalization advocates are celebrating the decision and calling on the government to do more.  Sen. Miguel Barbosa said the legislation was “well below the expectations of society.”  Sen. Armando Rios Peter called it a “tiny” step away from a failed drug policy.

For decades, Latin America has struggled to address the rampant corruption and violence wrought by the drug trade.  Lately, many places have focused on a particular strategy: decriminalization. As my colleague Josh Partlow wrote last year: “Uruguay has fully legalized weed for sale.  And a large chunk of South and Central America, including Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica, have made marijuana more available in varying ways, whether it is for medicinal or recreational use.” It's a recognition, he wrote, that “years of violent struggle have failed to stem the flow of narcotics into the United States.”...

Recreational marijuana is still broadly prohibited in Mexico, but the government is considering a measure that would let citizens legally possess up to an ounce of it. In 2015, Mexico's Supreme Court granted four people the right to grow their own marijuana for personal consumption.  The ruling set a precedent that could accelerate efforts to pass legislation permitting broader use of pot. “Absolute prohibition is excessive and doesn’t protect the right to health,” Justice Olga Sánchez Cordero said at the time.

Peña Nieto, who once was a vocal opponent of drug legalization, has undergone a similar shift in thinking.  He has said that addiction should be thought of as a “public health problem” and that users should not be criminalized.  He has also advocated for the United States and Mexico to follow similar policies on drug use and marijuana legislation.

June 21, 2017 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Will Utah be among the states voting directly on marijuana reform in 2018?

Logo_Final-copy_200I already have my eye upon states like Arizona and Michigan for potential notable marijuana initiative votes in 2018.   And this local article, headlined "Medical marijuana advocates within weeks of filing ballot initiative," suggests Utah is another state worth watching.  Here are the basics:

For years now, the Utah Legislature has labored over the question of whether or not to legalize medical marijuana.  In 2014, the Legislature chose to legalize a marijuana extract for use in controlling epileptic seizures.

In 2016, two laws which would have legalized medical marijuana — to differing extents — both passed through the Utah Senate, but never reached a vote in the House of Representatives.  And in the 2017 session, the only marijuana legislation passed allowed only for studies to take place, which could take years to yield results.

Despite the Legislature’s hesitancy to act on medical marijuana legalization, Utahns may have the chance to vote on the issue directly in the form of a ballot initiative in 2018.  “Having tried multiple times to persuade the legislature to help these people and facing significant resistance, we think it’s best now to give the public a chance to decide for themselves,” said Connor Boyack, who is acting as a consultant for the ballot initiative.  Boyack has previously advocated for medical marijuana in his role as the president of Libertas Institute, a Libertarian think tank....

It’s an extensive process to put an issue on the ballot.  First, the language of the legislation must be written and an application turned into the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.  The language of the medical marijuana initiative is almost complete, Boyack said, and is based off of language from one of the bills that failed in the Legislature in 2016.  Senate Bill 73, sponsored by then-Sen. Mark Madsen of Saratoga Springs, was used as a baseline for the language of the ballot initiative, Boyack said, with just a few tweaks.  For instance, autism was added to the list of conditions for which medical marijuana could be used....

According to state law, to get an initiative on the ballot, signatures must be gathered that total 10 percent of the total votes cast in the last presidential election.  Since Utahns cast approximately 1.13 million votes in the 2016 presidential election, it would take just over 113,000 signatures to get an initiative on the ballot.  It’s not as simple as just collecting the 113,000 signatures.  They have to be spread out semi-evenly over the many senate districts in the state....

Boyack said they already have much of the financial backing that will be needed to pay professionals to gather signatures. “We’ve got some very strong commitments,” Boyack said. “We’re following up to get checks written.” He said he’s confident that they’ll get the $2 million needed to pay for signature gathering and promotional media.  “There are a lot of individuals who are very upset with the Legislature for having the chance to help people, then punting,” Boyack said....

Even if the necessary signatures are collected, Utah voters would still have to choose to pass the initiative. Organizations like the Utah Medical Association have consistently opposed legalizing cannabis as medicine before it has been approved by the Federal Drug Administration.  Even the prominent and influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints weighed in on the issue in 2016, specifically favoring one medical marijuana bill over another more comprehensive one.  Boyack says he believes the odds of passage are good — polls show that people want medical marijuana to be legal, he said.

June 19, 2017 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bipartisan group introduces new version of CARERS Act to reform federal marijuana prohibition

CARERS-act-header-backgroundAs reported in this new Roll Call article, a "bipartisan group of senators and representatives have reintroduced legislation that would enable states to set their own medical marijuana policies."  Here are the basics:

Senators Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., joined by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., made the announcement on Thursday....

The legislation reintroduced Thursday would protect patients, doctors and businesses participating in state medical-marijuana programs from federal prosecution. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act would not legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states. Instead, it would ensure that people in the states where medical cannabis is legal can use it without violating federal law.

In addition to Booker and Gillibrand, co-sponsors of the CARERS Act include Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Al Franken, D-Minn. 

This press release from Senator Booker is titled "Lawmakers Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Medical Marijuana Bill: CARERS Act would ensure patients have access to lifesaving care without fear of federal prosecution." The press release includes quotes from all the sponsors and state that "the CARERS Act would:

(1) Recognize States’ Responsibility to Set Medical Marijuana Policy & Eliminate Potential Federal Prosecution

The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act so that states can set their own medical marijuana policies. The patients, providers, and businesses participating in state medical marijuana programs will no longer be in violation of federal law and vulnerable to federal prosecution.

(2) Allow States to Import Cannabidiol (CBD), Recognized Treatment for Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders

The CARERS Act amends the Controlled Substances Act to remove specific strains of CBD oil from the federal of definition of marijuana. This change will allow youth suffering from intractable epilepsy to gain access to the medicine they need to control their seizures.

(3) Provide Veterans Access

Current law prohibits doctors in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities from prescribing medical marijuana. The CARERS Act would allow VA doctors in states where medical marijuana is legal to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans.

(4) Expand Opportunities for Research

The CARERS Act removes unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for researchers to gain government approval to undertake important research on marijuana and creates a system for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage research.

The CARERS Act has the support of more than 20 health, veteran and policy organizations, including: American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Safe Access, Compassionate Care NY, Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ, Drug Policy Alliance, Housing Works, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Marijuana Policy Project, MS Resources of Central New York, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, NY Physicians for Compassionate Care, Parents Coalition for Rescheduling Medical Cannabis, Patients Out of Time, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The American Cannabis Nurses Association, The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, Third Way, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, Veterans for Peace and Veterans for Safe Access and Compassionate Care."

June 15, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Deputy AG Rosenstein tells Congress marijuana is "properly scheduled under Schedule I"

During his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee,  Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was asked the Department of Justice’s stance on marijuana.  Here from The Cannabist is a report on this discussion:

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski used part of her time to ask about marijuana, and the tension between federal law, under which cannabis is illegal, and states like Alaska which have legalized recreational as well as medical marijuana.

Rosenstein’s response: “We do have a conflict between federal law and the law in some states.  It’s a difficult issue for parents like me, who have to provide guidance to our kids…  I’ve talked to Chuck Rosenberg, the administrator of the DEA and we follow the law and the science.  And from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug.  It’s properly scheduled under Schedule I.  And therefore we have this conflict.”

He also mentioned that there may be changes coming to the Cole Memorandum. “Jim Cole tried to deal with it in that memorandum and at the moment that memorandum is still in effect.  Maybe there will be changes to it in the future but we’re still operating under that policy which is an effort to balance the conflicting interests with regard to marijuana.  So I can assure you that is going to be a high priority for me as the U.S. Attorneys come on board to talk about how to deal with that challenge in the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, whether it be for recreational or medical use…”

He concluded that the Department of Justice is “responsible for enforcing the law. It’s illegal, and that is the federal policy with regards to marijuana.”

Murkowski responded only, “Confusing.”

June 13, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 12, 2017

AG Jeff Sessions has urged Congress to end limit on DOJ appropriations concerning state-compliant medical marijuana actors

In this new MassRoots posting, Tom Angell reports on a notable letter sent by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to member of Congress back in May.  Here are the details (with a bit of my emphasis added):

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asking Congressional leaders not to renew a current federal law that prevents the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.  “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions wrote in a letter to Republican and Democratic House and Senate leadership. “The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.”

The letter, sent to Capitol Hill last month, was shared with MassRoots by a Congressional staffer. The protections are the result of a rider — known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, after its lead Congressional sponsors — which has been enacted into law with strong bipartisan votes for the past three fiscal years, including the current one.

But when President Trump signed a Fiscal Year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill into law last month, he issued a signing statement that essentially reserved the right to ignore the medical marijuana protections. “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he wrote. And when the president made his first full budget request to Congress, he did not include an extension of the provision.

While President Obama never issued a signing statement concerning the provision, he did suggest that Congress delete it in his last two budget requests. And the Obama Justice Department took the position that the budget rider only prevented the government from stopping states from implementing their laws and did not provide any protections to patients or providers who are acting in accordance with those policies.

But last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, over the Justice Department’s objection, that the measure does in fact prevent federal prosecutors from pursuing cases against state-legal medical cannabis patients, growers and dispensaries. However, the ruling only applies to the nine states and two territories that fall under the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction.

“As a result, in the Ninth Circuit, many individuals and organizations that are operating in violation of the CSA and causing harm in their communities may invoke the rider to thwart prosecution,” Sessions wrote in the new letter to Congress....

In the new letter to Congress, the attorney general wrote that marijuana use has “significant negative health effects,” arguing that is “linked to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders such as psychosis, respiratory ailments such as lung infections, cognitive impairments such as IQ loss, and substance use disorder and addiction.”

Congress is now considering appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2018, and marijuana law reform advocates are pushing to include the state medical cannabis protections again as well as add broader new ones that would cover full recreational legalization laws. “I respectfully request that you oppose the inclusion of such language in Department appropriations,” Sessions wrote to the Capitol Hill leaders.

On Tuesday, relevant House and Senate appropriations subcommittees will take testimony about the Justice Department’s budget request from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Sessions was initially slated to testify but will instead appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The line I emphasized highlights that this newly-unearthed Sessions letter does not mark a huge departure from the position of the Justice Department under Prez Obama. Nevertheless, this letter, which stresses research on the harmfulness of marijuana and suggests that criminal organizations seek to hide within state marijuana regulatory regimes, reinforces the notion that AG Jeff Sessions is not too eager to allow state marijuana reform regimes to operate without significant possible federal review and oversight.

June 12, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, June 2, 2017

"Battling the racial roadblocks to joining the legalized marijuana trade"

Download (2)The title of this post is the headline of this lengty new Washington Post article which highlights racialized realities in the marijuana industry.  Here are excerpts:

States generally do not track the race and ethnicity of license applicants, but industry analysts and researchers say that dispensaries and the more-profitable growing operations across the country are overwhelmingly dominated by white men.

The lack of minority representation is especially fraught given that research shows African Americans were disproportionately arrested and incarcerated during the war on drugs. Now that marijuana is seen as a legitimate business, advocates argue that minorities should also reap the profits....

The marijuana trade, legal in some form in 29 states plus the District of Columbia, is one of the country’s fastest-growing industries. The $6.6 billion in medical and recreational marijuana sales in 2016 is expected to expand to $16 billion by 2020, according to New Frontier Data, a cannabis data analytics company headquartered in the District.

But African Americans seeking to go into business as growers or retailers face a host of hurdles, researchers say. Many states bar convicted drug felons from the industry, disproportionately hurting minorities because of historically higher conviction rates. Others have set high investment requirements. Some dole out licenses through appointed commissions that industry researchers say reward the politically connected, who by and large are wealthy and white.

“Marijuana legalization without racial justice risks being an extension of white privilege,” said Bill Piper, a lobbyist for Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for drug policy reforms.

The disparities have become such a source of consternation for some lawmakers and industry leaders that more than half a dozen states and municipalities, including Oakland and the District, are taking steps to boost minorities in the competitive licensing process....

Colorado, one of the earliest states to legalize marijuana, has nearly 1,000 dispensary licenses and nearly 1,500 cultivation licenses. African Americans make up less than a handful of license holders, according to cannabis entrepreneurs in the state. Wanda James, a former Navy lieutenant who says she’s one of the few black growers and dispensary owners in Colorado, blames regulations barring those convicted of drug crimes from owning, and working in, a dispensary or cultivation center.

“In Colorado, if you sell 10 pounds of cannabis today, you probably get written up in Forbes about what a great businessperson you are, but if a young black man sells a dime bag on a street corner in Alabama, he’s probably going to jail for 10 years,” she said. A black person is nearly four times more likely than a white person to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though the two groups use marijuana at similar rates, according to a 2013 American Civil Liberties Union report that examined arrests in every state using a decade’s worth of FBI crime data....

Jesce Horton, an Oregon marijuana entrepreneur who started the Minority Cannabis Business Association in 2015 to diversify the industry, said that as a college student in Florida, he was arrested three times for marijuana possession. His criminal record would have barred him from entering the business in other states. “It’s really a slap in the face to communities who have been targeted,” Horton said. “A lot of people see these as racist regulations. These are fear-based tactics by legislators who are more than willing to go along with the business interests sitting in the room.”

Some states also require applicants to have financial holdings upward of $1 million, a particularly high bar given the documented wealth disparities between blacks and whites. Those without ready access to capital cannot turn to banks, which are unwilling to provide business loans for an industry that is still illegal at the federal level....

Even with potential shifts in federal drug-enforcement policies, several jurisdictions have moved to address racial disparities in the industry. Oakland recently voted to set aside half of all marijuana business permits for people who had been arrested for drug crimes in the city or lived in neighborhoods with high marijuana arrests.

Illinois, like Pennsylvania, awards extra points to minority applicants. Ohio requires 15 percent of licenses to be issued to minorities. Florida has reserved one of its future marijuana-cultivation licenses for a member of the state’s Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association. Maryland marijuana regulators, meanwhile, are fending off a lawsuit that threatens to halt its program after no black-owned businesses won cultivation licenses.

Some prior related posts:

June 2, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Notable commentary and stories about mothers and marijuana

Especially because I have long loved and respected all the mothers in my life, I am always drawn to motherly perspectives on marijuana and also to considering the various potential connections between mothering and marijuana.  Accordingly, these recent commentaries and stories on these kinds of topics caught my attention:

From ABC News here, "Doctors worried about increased marijuana use in pregnant women"

From Babble here, "Inside the Private World of Mothers Who Smoke Weed"

From Creators here, "A Conservative Mom Breaks the Pot Taboo"

From Metro (UK) here, "Weed-smoking Mums are sick of being judged by wine-drinking Mums"

June 2, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Head of Veterans Affairs acknowledges marijuana may be "helpful" to veterans

This notable new article from The Hill reports on notable new comments by the head of the federal Veterans Affairs department.  The piece is headlined "VA chief: Medical marijuana could help vets," and here are excerpts:

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday he's open to expanding the use of medical marijuana to help service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but noted it’s strictly limited by federal law.  “There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful and we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that,” Shulkin told reporters, pointing to states where medical pot is legal.

The VA has come under pressure from some influential veterans groups, including the American Legion, to reclassify marijuana to allow federal research into its effect on troops with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries....

“Right now, federal law does not prevent us at VA to look at that as an option for veterans,” said Shulkin, who is a trained physician. “I believe that everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and by medical experts and we will implement that law."

Relaxing enforcement of marijuana laws, however, would conflict with several top administration officials who take a hard-line approach on drugs, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Shulkin, who spoke at the White House about President Trump’s proposed reforms at the scandal-plagued agency, is a holdover from the Obama administration. The Senate confirmed him unanimously in February to lead the VA.

Some prior related posts:

May 31, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pennsylvania legal publication notes "Medical Cannabis Is the Next Boom" and asks "but When Will It Bust?"

As a law professor, I am always distinctly interesting in stories about how marijuana reform is impacting the legal profession. Consequently, this new article from a Pennsylvania legal newspaper, headlined ""Medical Cannabis Is the Next Boom, but When Will It Bust?", really caught my attention.  Here are excerpts:

With Pennsylvania well on its way toward implementing a medical marijuana program, dozens of lawyers in the state are preparing for an explosion of legal work related to cannabis. The blossoming industry is reminiscent of the surge in legal work that grew out of the Marcellus Shale play, which sparked up engagements for all kinds of firms almost a decade ago.

“Everyone wanted to be in it, there were people who carved out individual expertise … but the special area is here to stay,” said Steve Franko, a solo practitioner from Northeast Pennsylvania and member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s medical marijuana and hemp law committee. “It’s going to be, just like the [natural] gas was, a combination of people who have skills that maybe cross upon multiple areas.”...

Lawyers now getting into the medical marijuana space acknowledge that there may come a time when federal authorities decriminalize marijuana, decreasing the number of legal questions and the demand for cannabis-related legal consultations. But that’s a long way off, they said, as Pennsylvania is just starting to address the complicated effects of medical marijuana on numerous areas of law.

Andrew Sacks, head of both the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia bar association’s medical marijuana and hemp committees, said he has also heard lawyers compare medical cannabis to Pennsylvania’s gambling expansion, which created a rush of legal work several years ago, then saw a decline in work when casinos got their licenses.

But licensing is just the surface of medical marijuana law, said Sacks, a name partner at Philadelphia’s Sacks Weston Diamond. Lawyers in many other practices areas have an opportunity to get in on the action. “Everybody is searching the world, searching the country and cities to see what people have done in their specific area so they can become specific experts,” Sacks said. “People are gearing up to become the names in the category.”...

Things will really explode in the legal world “the second the first drip of medical marijuana gets sold,” Sacks said. When that happens, it won’t just create heath care and business issues, he said, but questions in a multitude of legal practices.

Kathryn Palladino, a criminal lawyer and subcommittee chair on the Philadelphia Bar’s medical marijuana committee, said she expects medical marijuana to become part of her day-to-day work, and it’s not just about clients breaking federal law to use it. DUI cases will raise questions about whether patients can drive after using marijuana, she said, and patients who are incarcerated may seek access to cannabis in prison. Patients on probation or parole who seek access to medical marijuana may risk violating parole. “It will only grow as the patients have access to the marijuana and we see some issues come up that the legislature hadn’t planned for,” Palladino said. And that’s just criminal law.

The new field of medical marijuana law will also touch on employment law, family law, education, intellectual property, licensing, life sciences, real estate, tax, workers’ compensation and zoning law, lawyers said. That’s one way that medical marijuana is different from the Marcellus Shale boom, Sacks said. Drilling and natural gas led to legal questions in five or so other areas of law, he said, but for legal cannabis, the collateral issues are more numerous.

May 30, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

"Older Women and Medical Marijuana: A New Growth Industry"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable lengthy New York Times article.  Here are excerpts:

Jeanine Moss never expected to get into the cannabis industry. But that was before her hip-replacement surgery.

Ms. Moss, 62, of Marina Del Ray, Calif., had quit her job as a marketing consultant before she had her hip done in 2014. As she left the hospital, her doctors handed her a “shopping bag filled with opiates,” she said. The drugs made her disoriented and woozy.

So she switched to medical marijuana, which is legal in California and was familiar to her, having grown up in the nearby Venice section of Los Angeles. Within a week, she had tossed away her pharmaceuticals.

As it turned out, Ms. Moss was in good company: Many of her friends were also using cannabis to manage their ailments. Slightly embarrassed about carrying around a drug associated with naughty high school students, the older women would lament that they had nowhere to stash their drugs. “Everyone was pulling baggies out of their Gucci and Louis Vuitton purses, and I thought, ‘Why are we sneaking around like guilty teenagers?’” Ms. Moss said.

In 2015, she started a business called AnnaBis, a line of aroma-controlled handbags, clutches, vape cases and other pot-related accessories. Soon after, she began publishing cannabis-friendly travel guides exclusively for women — becoming one of a small but growing number of older women who are marijuana entrepreneurs.

“What other industry is growing so fast there’s the opportunity and low cost of entry?” Ms. Moss said. “Entrenched opportunities already have their systems set up. This hasn’t been created yet.”

Her story is typical of the women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who have started up businesses in the world of pot. Inspired partly by their own use of the drug for pain relief, or by caring for others who use it for their own aches, these women see viable business opportunities and view their work as therapeutic for their customers. “It’s definitely a trend,” said Troy Dayton, the chief executive and a co-founder of the Arcview Group, an investment and market research firm that focuses on the cannabis industry....

There seems to be a market for such services: A study of 47,140 participants released in December, based on responses to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that cannabis use among adults ages 50 to 64 had increased nearly 60 percent from 2006 to 2013, while use by people 65 and older had risen 250 percent.

Ms. Taylor, a former Catholic school principal, used to think marijuana was a “hard-core drug like crack or cocaine,” she said. “If someone would have told me 12 years ago that I’d be an advocate for cannabis, I’d say, ‘You’ve been smoking too much.’” But now? “I get so much gratification from this work, and it’s so rewarding to see people get healed,” she said. “My life is better than ever. I’m healthy, and I’m starting a new business at 69.”

May 27, 2017 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Encouraging new research about CBD as an effective treatment for Dravet syndrome

ImagesAs reported in this NBC News piece, headlined "Cannabis Drug Reduces Seizures in Severe Epilepsy Cases," some encouraging new research news was published in a major medical journal today. Here are the details:

A compound taken from marijuana greatly helped some children with a severe and often deadly form of epilepsy and completely stopped seizures in a very few, researchers reported Wednesday.  It's a rare success in a field suffused with more hope than facts — in which advocates clamor to have marijuana and compounds taken from the herb legalized for free use, while government rules limit use and researchers struggle to prove what works and what doesn't.

In this study, the researchers enrolled kids with Dravet syndrome, a very rare and often deadly form of epilepsy caused by a genetic mutation.  These kids have multiple, prolonged seizures that cause brain damage. There's no treatment. "It's hard to portray how serious and devastating this is," Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, told NBC News.

Devinsky and colleagues around the country tested a cannabis derivative called cannabidiol — CBD for short — on 120 Dravet syndrome patients.  Half took it for 14 weeks and half got a placebo.

"Seizure frequency dropped in the cannabidiol-treated group by 39 percent from nearly 12 convulsive seizures per month before the study to about six; three patients' seizures stopped entirely," the team wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.  "In the placebo group, there was a 13 percent reduction in seizures from about 15 monthly seizures to 14," they added.

"Quite remarkably, 5 percent of the children in the active treatment group with CBD were completely seizure free during the 14 weeks of the trial," Devinsky said. "And these were kids who were often having dozens of seizures, if not many more than that per week."

The kids who got CBD were more likely to stop the trial because of side-effects. "Side-effects were generally mild or moderate in severity, with the most common being vomiting, fatigue and fever," Devinsky wrote.  But those who have been helped have been transformed, he added. "There's no doubt for some children this is just been an incredibly effective and game changing medication for them," Devinsky said.

"These are some of the children I care for [who] were in wheelchairs, were barely able to open their eyes in an office visit and really showed no emotion and … now they come in, they're walking, they're smiling, they're interactive. It's like a different human being in front of you."

He said it's not quite accurate to called CBD "medical marijuana."

"Cannabidiol is the major non-psychoactive compound present in cannabis or marijuana," Devinsky said.  "In this study, we were giving a compound CBD which has no high-producing or psychoactive properties."...

"The drug we gave was derived from cannabis or marijuana but it really should not be confused with the medical marijuana that would be obtained from dispensaries in the 44 U.S. states that have approved it. Those typically contain combinations of THC with CBD and many other compounds," Devinsky said.

It's not clear precisely how CBD works. It appears to attach to brain cells, he said. "The CBD binds with a novel receptor in the brain and thereby dampens down too much electrical activity," he said. "It seems to be a relatively unique mechanism of action that's not shared by any of the existing seizure medications."

Doctors are interested in trying CBD on autism, anxiety, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, Devinsky said.  It may help people with other types of seizures, as well....

Australian epilepsy expert Dr. Samuel Berkovic said much more testing is needed. "This trial represents the beginning of solid evidence for the use of cannabinoids in epilepsy," Berkovic, who works at the University of Melbourne, wrote in a commentary.

May 24, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

American Legion, the largest US vets' organization, pressing Trump Administration on medical marijuana reform

LegionemblemThis new Politico article, headlined "American Legion to Trump: Allow marijuana research for vets," reports on a notable new push by a notable organization to seek a notable change in federal marijuana laws with the new administration. Here are excerpts from an article which strikes me as pretty big news:

One of the nation’s most conservative veterans’ groups is appealing to President Donald Trump to reclassify marijuana to allow large-scale research into whether cannabis can help troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder . The change sought by The American Legion would conflict with the strongly anti-marijuana positions of some administration leaders, most vocally Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Under current rules, doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot even discuss marijuana as an option with patients.  But the alternative treatment is gaining support in the medical community, where some researchers hope pot might prove more effective than traditional pharmaceuticals in controlling PTSD symptoms and reducing the record number of veteran suicides.

"We are not asking for it to be legalized," said Louis Celli, the national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the American Legion, which with 2.4 million members is the largest U.S. veterans’ organization.  "There is overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets.  The difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal."

The Legion has requested a White House meeting with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and close aide, "as we seek support from the president to clear the way for clinical research in the cutting edge areas of cannabinoid receptor research," according to a recent letter shared with POLITICO.

The request marks a significant turn in the debate over medical marijuana by lending an influential and unexpected voice.  The Legion, made up mostly of Vietnam and Korean War-era veterans, is breaking with other leading vets’ groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars in lobbying for the removal of the major roadblock in pursuing marijuana treatment.  But it also comes as the new administration, led by Sessions, is sending strong signals of its desire to thwart marijuana decriminalization and legalization efforts.  Expectations are growing in Congress that DOJ may even try to roll back medical marijuana laws in 29 states....

"We desperately need more research in this area to inform policymakers," said Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist at the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona who is running one of the only cannabis studies underway focused on vets suffering from PTSD.  "I really want to see the most objective data published in peer reviewed medical journals.” She added that she isn’t prejudging what the outcome of the research will be.

“I don't know if cannabis will turn out to be helpful for PTSD,” Sisley said.  “I know what veterans tell me but until we have rigorous controlled trials, all we have are case studies that are not rigorous enough to make me, medical professionals, health departments or policymakers convinced."

Some veterans’ activists are angry at the federal government’s continued resistance to even studying cannabis, even as an average of 20 vets kill themselves every day. "We need solutions," said Nick Etten, a former Navy SEAL who runs the Veterans Cannabis Project, a health policy organization. "We need treatment that works. We need treatment that is not destructive.  The VA has been throwing opiates at veterans for almost every condition for the last 15 years.  You are looking at a system that has made a problem worse the way they have approached treatment."...

The VA declined to address whether it is reconsidering its stance on the issue, citing the illegality of marijuana in all its forms under federal law....  Most leading veterans’ groups are toeing that line, including Veterans of Foreign Wars.  "The VFW has no official position regarding this ongoing debate because marijuana is illegal under federal law," said Joe Davis, the group's spokesman.

But grassroots support is growing among veterans — both young and older — and in Congress to reconsider the current approach.  Much of that is because of growing anecdotal evidence that marijuana helps some veterans with PTSD control their symptoms when approved drugs do not, such as ridding them of nightmares and helping them sleep.  And that is what is driving the efforts of the American Legion.  Celli said the group's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission, which represents veterans from World War II to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, recently gave the Legion "overwhelming support" to advocate changes....

In addition to cannabis, the organization is advocating for more research on so-called Quantitative EEG neurometrics, which measures the brain's electrical activity.  "The American Legion believes these two areas alone can help cut the amount of veteran suicides and cases of chemically addicted veteran by more than half," the letter to the White House says.  "The American Legion respectfully requests a meeting with President Trump as soon as possible and looks forward to partnering with this administration in the fight against narcotics addiction and reducing the veteran suicide rate from the tragic loss of 20 warriors per day, to zero."

May 21, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, May 19, 2017

"New potential for marijuana: Treating drug addiction"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy CNN piece.  Here are excerpts:

Most European countries and Canada have embraced the idea of harm reduction, designing policies that help people with drug problems to live better, healthier lives rather than to punish them. On the front lines of addiction in the United States, some addiction specialists have also begun to work toward this end.

Joe Schrank, program director and founder of High Sobriety, is one of them. He says his Los Angeles-based treatment center uses medicinal cannabis as a detox and maintenance protocol for people who have more severe addictions, although it's effectiveness is not scientifically proven. "So it's a harm-reduction theory," he said. "With cannabis, there is no known lethal dose; it can be helpful for certain conditions."

"Some say it's hypocritical because, you know, you're supposed to go to rehab to get off drugs," said Schrank, who recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety from alcohol and all drugs. "And cessation of drug use can be a goal for some people, but pacing is also important." Some patients want to gradually move into abstinence, weaning themselves off drugs over time. Others want to maintain sobriety from a drug by using a less harsh drug, such as cannabis.

Others, including Todd Stumbo, CEO of Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center in Georgia, do not favor using marijuana as treatment for addiction. "I'm all about adding interventions and therapeutic techniques that have proven to be significantly profound in the changes to somebody's life and treatment. Unfortunately, I don't know that there's evidence to substantiate that marijuana's had that effect," says Stumbo. "Our take is abstinence based and we use every tool or intervention we can that's been proven effective in the past."

Still, harm reduction is gaining acceptance in the wider field of addiction specialists in the U.S. "In principle, what we have aimed for many years is to find interventions that would lead to complete abstinence," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Practically, though, that has been very difficult to achieve with relapsing addictions.

"One of the things is, we don't have any evidence-based medication that has proven to be efficacious for the treatment of cocaine addiction," Volkow said. "So we currently have no medicine to intervene, and it can be a very severe addiction and actually quite dangerous."...

"We have started to explore the extent to which interventions that can decrease the amount of drug consumed can have benefits to the individual," Volkow said, adding that she'd make this same argument for opioids and heroin. "It would be valuable to decrease the amount of drug consumed."...

Schrank, who readily concedes there are possible health and addiction risks with marijuana, says he offers his cannabis detox and maintenance protocol to people addicted to crack cocaine as well as those trying to kick opioids. Through the years, he says, he's treated about 50 people with this technique and expects to see "more people wanting to try to have a voice in their recovery rather than just plug into systems telling them what to do." Marijuana "can really help people with pain management and other health issues, or it can help them be safer," Schrank said.

Yasmin Hurd, director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, says generally, cannabidiol is the more important compound when it comes to marijuana as a treatment for addiction. It is one of the two primary cannabinoids, along with Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), found in the cannabis plant. In terms of the wider scope of medical marijuana research, this is the "same cannabidiol being looked at for the kids with epilepsy," Hurd said.

May 19, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Minnesota health department reports "perceptions of a high degree of benefit for most patients" in state's medical marijuana program

Rsz-minnesota-patients-with-chronic-pain-now-qualify-for-medical-marijuana-640x401Minnesota's medical marijuana program has garnered some headlines this week in part because of reports of big economic losses being suffered by industry players.   As this local article details, "Minnesota's medical marijuana manufacturing companies have lost $11 million in just two years of sales."  But the story emerging from the state this week that seems greater potential import and impact concerns a state study of patients noted this AP piece headlined  "Study: Minnesota medical marijuana patients report benefits."

The study comes from the Minnesota Department of Health and is titled "Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program: Patient Experiences from the First Program Year."  The complete report is due to to be released next month, but this Executive Summary was released this week and includes these passages:

Between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016 a total of 1660 patients enrolled in the program and 577 health care practitioners registered themselves in order to certify that patients have a medical condition that qualifies them for the program. The most common qualifying conditions were severe and persistent muscle spasms (43%), cancer (28%), and seizures (20%). Each of the remaining six qualifying conditions during the first year – Crohn’s Disease, Terminal illness, HIV/AIDS, Tourette Syndrome, glaucoma, and ALS – accounted for less than 10% of patients. Ten percent (167 patients) were certified for more than one qualifying condition. Most patients were middle-aged (56% between ages 36-64), 11% were <18, and 11% were ≥65. Distribution by race/ethnicity generally matched the state’s demographics, with 90% of patients describing themselves as white....

Information on patient benefits comes from the Patient Self-Evaluations (PSE) completed by patients prior to each medical cannabis purchase and from patient and health care practitioner surveys. Results of analysis of PSE and survey data indicate perceptions of a high degree of benefit for most patients....

Moderate to severe levels of non-disease-specific symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, and sleep difficulties were common across all the medical conditions. And the reductions in these symptoms was often quite large. These findings support the understanding that some of the benefit perceived by patients is expressed as improved quality of life.

May 18, 2017 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Interesting look at how religion and religious groups might support or oppose marijuana reform

Genesis-129-Bible-Jesus-Religion-cannabis-17234763584

This lengthy new BuzzFeed News article, headlined ""Can Cannabis And Christ Coexist? These Devout Southern Christians Think So," provides am interesting and effectively review of some issues that arise at the intersection of marijuana reform and religion.  I recommend the piece in full, and here are some extended excerpts:

Lydia Decker couldn’t miss the man in the motorized wheelchair as he whirred down the aisles of a West Texas grocery store. As someone with lung problems herself, she noticed his oxygen tank and wondered about his illness and his meds. They got talking, and Decker mentioned Genesis 1:29, the organization she heads that uses religion to preach the value of medical cannabis. This was one conversion that wasn't going to happen.

“Oh, that trash!” Decker remembered the man saying as she tried to reason with him in the pharmacy aisle. The nurse with the man “politely” asked Decker, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, to leave. She did, but not before handing the nurse a Genesis 1:29 business card, which features a map of Texas covered with a large cannabis leaf and the words “One Mission End Prohibition!”...

Decker, 49, tells anyone in Texas who will listen why cannabis is, in fact, a permitted therapy for Christians — not a sin. She hopes her openness will help generate support for medical cannabis among state lawmakers, and in April she submitted passionate testimony in hopes of swaying them. She described being rushed to the ER, “gasping for air” on New Year’s Day in 2014, when her COPD was first diagnosed, and the blur of medications and treatments she's endured since then. “I live 80 miles from a legal state line,” Decker wrote, referring to New Mexico, where medical cannabis is permitted. She questioned why such treatment should be off-limits to her, “just because I choose to live and work in Texas, where I was born?”

Genesis 1:29, which Decker formed in 2010, is named after a Bible verse that’s oft-repeated by Christians in favor of medical marijuana: "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” To Decker, a nondenominational Christian who follows the Bible’s verses in a literal way, it means that cannabis is “meant to be eaten, whether in oil, whether in an edible,” she said.

Obviously, not everyone in Texas is receptive to Decker’s interpretation of the Bible — none of the laws covering medical or recreational cannabis were likely to pass before the legislative session ends in late May. “People in the Bible Belt say, ‘You’re using the Bible to promote drugs,'” she said, drawing out the word “drugs” for emphasis. Decker disagrees. “We’re using the Bible to promote what God gave us. We say that God made the perfect medicine. Man is the one that made it illegal.”

The South is the last frontier for cannabis law reform. And it is no coincidence that it is also the most religious region in the country, according to Pew Research. It’s a place where interpretations of God’s word can be as powerful as law, and where preachers have long proclaimed the evils of marijuana. So as pot takes hold for medical use in more than half the country, and for recreational use in eight states and Washington, DC, both are nonstarters in much of the South. Only Arkansas, Florida, and West Virginia have full medical marijuana programs, and recreational use is not even on the horizon.

The president of the organization that represents the largest evangelical group in the US won’t budge on calling marijuana a sin. “The scripture speaks against drunkenness, and marijuana is a mind-altering substance with the purpose of achieving, essentially, what the Bible would describe as drunkenness,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

To get the votes they need, pro-legalization groups can't just preach to nonbelievers; they also need to court people of faith, says Morgan Fox of Marijuana Policy Project, a lobbying group that is behind most of the cannabis laws in the country. Support from religious groups has become as key as support from law enforcement groups, addiction specialists, and parent groups. “I know that most of the major policy reform organizations are working on that right now — trying to build coalitions with faith-based groups,” Fox said.

After all, marijuana has never been more popular with young people — recent polls show the 18–34 crowd overwhelmingly in support of legalization. At the same time, young people’s church attendance is dropping. As much as pro-pot groups need religious support, religious leaders need to hold onto their flocks, and sometimes that means loosening opinions on controversial issues.

In Utah last year, the Church of Latter-day Saints weighed in on competing medical cannabis bills and made the unprecedented move of expressing support for one, albeit by backing the stricter of two pieces of legislation. And a group of Muslim undergraduate students at the University of South Florida, where medical marijuana was on the state ballot, tackled the question of whether cannabis use is haram last year during an event called "Contemporary Issues in Islam: A Discussion on Medical Marijuana.” Some faiths have expressed varying degrees of support for medical marijuana, including the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Unitarian churches. In New York, one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries had the cannabis blessed by a rabbi. And globally, to respect the traditional use of cannabis by Rastafarians, Jamaica legalized cannabis for religious use in 2015.

But to bring cannabis to the region of the US where states are deeply red and religious and where pot is both a social taboo and a ticket to jail, Decker and others are harnessing their devotion to their faiths to evangelize for it....

Still, religious opposition continues to influence drug policy throughout the region. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention spoke out against the nine legalization initiatives put before voters in November. “I think when it comes to marijuana I’m, of course, for criminal penalties for marijuana use and for continuing criminalization of marijuana,” Moore told BuzzFeed News, specifying, though, that he is not in favor of the “incoherent mass incarceration that we’ve had as a result of the drug war.”

The Catholic Church has also come out against legalization; in 2014, Pope Francis remarked that "drug addiction is an evil” and “attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called 'recreational drugs,' are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.” The Catholic diocese in Arizona and Massachusetts came out against legalization in fall 2016. While this “didn’t swing the pendulum in Massachusetts,” where legalization squeaked through in November, “it very well could have in Arizona,” where legalization failed, Fox said.

May 16, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Religion | Permalink | Comments (10)

"Risky Business? The Trump Administration and the State-Licensed Marijuana Industry"

The title of this post is the title of this short essay authored by Rob Mikos and available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear that he opposes legalization of marijuana, a drug he considers “only slightly less awful” than heroin.  Such comments have fueled speculation that the Trump Administration might soon launch a new war on weed.  In this short essay, however, Professor Mikos suggests that the Trump Administration’s impact on state reforms and the state-licensed marijuana industry is likely to be tempered by three potent forces: (1) political support for state reforms; (2) practical limits on the DOJ’s enforcement capacity; and (3) legal doctrines that weaken the DOJ’s ability to turn back the clock on state reforms.  The essay discusses each of these constraints in turn and ultimately suggests that the Attorney General might pursue less draconian tactics, like anti-marijuana media campaigns, to curb the rise of the marijuana industry and the harms he attributes to it.

May 16, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 8, 2017

"The Marijuana Industry Is Getting Super-Sized"

Medicinal-marijuana-business-dailyThe title of this post is the headline of this notable new Forbes article.  Here are excerpts:

Retail sales for legal marijuana are growing so big and so fast that the industry is having to super size their operations. Growing and producing marijuana products is now happening on an industrial scale.

Retail sales in the U.S. from 20 jurisdictions were $6.5 billion, but according to Greenwave Advisors that number is projected to grow to $30 billion by 2021. In order to meet the demand for customers, the growers and makers of infused products are having to scale up their operations. More automation, more square footage and the ability to manage this fast growth is separating the mom & pops from corporate cannabis.

Berto Torres, Chief Operations Officer at GFarmaLabs in California has been with the company since it started with four grow lights and had a canopy of 3,000 square feet. They now have 700,000 square feet under management. Torres said the company's growth boomed after they made the jump to branded products and specifically after they won a Cannabis Cup award for chocolate truffles in 2014. “It created so much demand, we had to scale up,” he said, “We needed to organize ourselves and run and function like a normal corporate company.”... Of course success in the cannabis industry immediately comes with accusations of “going corporate.” “We were accused of selling out by having a consistent product,” said Torres. “I think we're one of the few companies that's been able to create a successful blending of both worlds.”

One of the companies that is helping the cannabis industry scale up in volume is Convectium. While some industrial equipment companies refuse to work with the cannabis industry, Convectium has jumped at the opportunity. “If this was a stagnant industry, slow growth would be okay. Cannabis is growing so fast, you get passed by if you don't automate,” said Danny Davis, a Managing Partner at Convectium. He added that a laid back chill attitude in this business won't work. “Aggressive is a solid attitude to have in cannabis.”

For example, when it comes to filling a cannabis oil cartridges for vaping some small companies fill them by hand using a syringe. Davis said it takes a company an hour to fill 100 cartridges in that manner. His machine can fill 100 vape cartridges in 30 seconds. “The demand for machines is 5 times what it was from one year ago,” he said. “We truly believe that the only way to scale is to add technology and standardization.” Like the people that criticize G Farma for going corporate, Davis said there are many operations that are resistant to change. “They don't trust technology,” he said. “Many of the companies out there are primitive, even the big ones, but they will learn they had better scale quickly.”

Kiva Confections is one of the biggest infused edible companies in California that has successfully grown. Co-founders Kristi Knoblich and Scott Palmer started with a couple of workers and now Kiva employs 85 people, with products in 1,000 dispensaries. The business began in their kitchen, but the fast growth has them moving to a 30,000 square foot facility. “We're looking at large scale equipment to prepare for the recreational market.” said Palmer. Kiva is also in Nevada and Arizona and has plans to expand to Colorado, Illinois and Hawaii....

The days of local growers selling out of backpacks to dispensaries wasn't that long ago, but it is definitely over. Growers must produce large volumes of consistent flower. Producers must be able to sell branded product that is the same from state to state and meet the demand of hundreds of dispensaries. Scaling up will be the new challenge for the biggest players in the marijuana industry.

May 8, 2017 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Prez Trump issues notable statement when signing spending bill with DOJ limit on going after medical marijuana states

170301105323-trump-marijuana-780x439As reported in this Bloomberg piece, headlined "Trump Spurns Congress as He Signals Medical Marijuana Fight," the President made a significant statement on a number of topics, including marijuana enforcement, while signing the latest spending bill. Here are the details:

President Donald Trump signaled he may ignore a congressional ban on interfering with state medical marijuana laws, arguing in a lengthy statement that he isn’t legally bound by a series of limits lawmakers imposed on him.

Trump issued the “signing statement” Friday after he signed a measure funding the government for the remainder of the federal fiscal year, reprising a controversial tactic former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama used while in office.  Trump also suggested he may ignore gender and racial preferences in some government programs as well as congressional requirements for advance notice before taking a range of foreign policy and military actions....

In the signing statement, Trump singled out a provision in the spending bill that says funds cannot be used to block states from implementing medical marijuana laws.  “I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” he said.

Obama also occasionally released signing statements objecting to congressional restrictions on his authority.  The White House described Trump’s signing statement as routine, but did not indicate whether the president planned to take action to defy Congressional restrictions....

Tim Shaw, a senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said that the president is bound by the language in the spending bill that now bears his signature.  “Part of the argument here in this signing statement is that he has the constitutional requirement to execute the law,” Shaw said in an interview.  “But this is one of those laws, and Congress has the ultimate authority over funds getting spent.”

Because the language used in this signing statement is somewhat boilerplate, I am disinclined to view this development as a direct announcement or even an indirect signal of any new firm policy of the Trump Administration in the arena of marijuana reform.  Still, given that the President has said almost nothing about marijuana reform since his election and given that some members of his Cabinet are clearly not fans of the marijuana reform movement, this statement provides more evidence that Prez Trump and others within the White House are not eager to be active cheerleaders for state marijuana reform efforts.

May 6, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

National District Attorneys Association releases report on "Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors' Perspective"

UntitledIn this post a few months ago, I praised the  National District Attorneys Association for forming a diverse working group to address modern marijuana laws and polices.  As detailed in this local article, though, it does not seem all the diverse perspectives reflected in the working group resulted in a nuanced position paper from the group:

District attorneys from across the nation recently backed a position statement that declares that marijuana legalization has increased access by children and that supports federal enforcement.  The perspective – ironically released by the National District Attorneys Association on April 20, the 420 day of marijuana celebration – could help guide policy direction by the Trump administration, which has signaled a possible crackdown.

“Legalization of marijuana for purported medicinal and recreational purposes has increased access by children.  For all of these reasons, it is vitally important to do all we can to prevent access to marijuana by youth in America.  Their health, safety and welfare demand no less,” the perspective states.  It suggests that “marijuana for medical use and recreational use clearly sends a message to youth that marijuana is not dangerous and increases youth access to marijuana.”  The opinion goes on to say that alcohol is different because “alcohol use does not cause the same type of permanent changes to teens’ ability to concentrate and learn that marijuana does.”

The perspective cites “scientific studies” that show cannabis can be addictive, especially for children, and initial evidence of child hospitalizations due to “unintended exposure to marijuana.”   The perspective in many instances draws upon information provided by the anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM.

On federal enforcement, the NDAA white paper states that there should be a consistent application of federal law across the nation “to maintain respect for the rule of law.”

The statement has split Colorado district attorneys, especially on the issue of impacts to children. In Colorado, the experience has been the opposite. The latest Healthy Kids Colorado Survey from 2015 found that teen cannabis use has not increased since legalization.  Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, in February on national television reiterated those statistics.  “We didn’t see a spike in teenage use, if anything it’s come down in the last year, and we’re getting anecdotal reports of less drug dealers,” Hickenlooper said on “Meet the Press.”

It’s a thorny subject for Colorado prosecutors, where legalization has often left district attorneys in an uncomfortable situation. While cannabis is legal in Colorado, it remains illegal on the federal level and in many states.

Tom Raynes, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys Council, was one of four people from Colorado on a policy group along with prosecutors from other states with “positions all over the spectrum,” he said.  “Nowhere does that document say an individual office or any state organization takes a specific position,” Raynes said.  Raynes said he finds the NDAA statements to be “innocuous and general in nature.”

“The only other statement one could make is that federal drug policy should be applied inconsistently across the nation,” Raynes said. “That would be absurd.”

But Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, who leans to the left on criminal justice reform and who sat on the NDAA panel, took issue with the perspective of the association. He said the association is “dominated” by conservative prosecutors from the rural South.  “They don’t tend to be people on the cutting edge of criminal justice reform,” Garnett said.  He added that his participation on the working group was “pretty painful.”  Prosecutors wanted to send a letter to Hickenlooper demanding that he close down all legal marijuana businesses in Colorado.  The governor would not have even had the authority to make such a move.

“If anything, use is going down by children,” Garnett said, adding that NDAA is a conservative group without a lot of experience in the regulated legalized marijuana industry.  There’s a lot of urban myths out there about what’s going on in Colorado from people who don’t really know, and some of that is promulgated by the DEA and the prohibition groups who are funded pretty heavily to continue marijuana prohibition, They tend, on occasion, to distort the reality of what’s going on in Colorado.”

The relatively short report from NDAA is titled "Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors’ Perspective," and it can be accessed in full at this link.

April 26, 2017 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Making the latest full-throated pitch for Congress to finally do something on marijuana reform

Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director of NORML, has this new Daily Caller commentary headlined "It’s Time For Congressional Action On Marijuana Policy." Like many other calls for congressional action, I doubt this piece will actually prod any politician into action. But it is a worthwhile read as a sign of the federal reform advocacy times, and here are excerpts:

West Virginia recently became the 30th state to authorize the physician-recommended use of marijuana or marijuana-infused products.  An additional fourteen states permit patients to access products containing cannabidiol, a specific chemical compound available in the cannabis plant.  And this past January, scholars at the National Academy of Sciences determined that there exists “conclusive evidence” that the herb is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and other diseases.  Nonetheless, federal law continues to declare that neither marijuana nor any of its organic constituents possess any “accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”  This sort of Flat Earth contention no longer passes the smell test.

That is why it remains exceedingly curious and excruciatingly frustrating that members of Congress steadfastly refuse to amend federal law in a manner that comports with this new reality.  Ninety-four percent of US voters now believe that medical cannabis therapy ought to be legal and regulated, according to survey data provided last week by Quinnipiac University, and the overwhelming majority of Americans now reside in jurisdictions that have amended their laws in a manner that recognizes the therapeutic utility of the cannabis plant.  It is high time that federal lawmakers do the same, and do so soon.

The failure of Congress to amend federal marijuana laws places the millions of patients who rely on these state-sanctioned programs at legal risk.  That is because an existing federal provision protecting these programs could potentially expire later this week. The provision, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, maintains that federal funds can not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”  In December, Congress re-authorized the amendment as part of a short term spending package through April 28, 2017, at which time the budget — and the Amendment — will expire unless it is reauthorized by Congress.

In recent years, strong majorities of Congress have voted in favor of keeping this budgetary provision in place and it is vital that they do so again, especially now that the incoming administration has threatened to increase anti-marijuana enforcement efforts in states that have legalized it.  Yet Congress can do far more.

Several bipartisan pieces of legislation are pending before the House and Senate that would rectify the existing, and ultimately untenable, conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.  Among these, SB 777 | HR 1810 would amend the federal tax code in a manner that acknowledges the legitimacy of state-licensed marijuana businesses, HR 1820 would expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans, and HR 715 would reclassify marijuana and cannabidiol under federal law in a manner that for the first recognizes their therapeutic utility.

In addition, both HR 975, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ and HR 1227 provide states with the flexibility and autonomy to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.  More than seven out of ten voters, including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, support allowing states — not the federal government — the power to arbitrate pot policy....

[W]e know enough about the relative safety and efficacy of cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to allow adults the option to consume it and to allow states the autonomy to regulate it as best they see fit. It is time for members of Congress to acknowledge this reality and to amend federal laws in a manner that comports with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.

April 25, 2017 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)