Wednesday, July 22, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing new Reuters article. Here are excerpts:
When choosing retirement locales, a few factors pop to mind: climate, amenities, proximity to grandchildren, access to quality healthcare. Chris Cooper had something else to consider – marijuana laws.
The investment adviser from Toledo had long struggled with back pain due to a fractured vertebra and crushed disc from a fall. He hated powerful prescription drugs like Vicodin, but one thing did help ease the pain and spasms: marijuana.
So when Cooper, 57, was looking for a place to retire, he ended up in San Diego, since California allows medical marijuana. A growing number of retirees are also factoring in the legalization of pot when choosing where to spend their golden years. “Stores are packed with every type of person you can imagine,” said Cooper who takes marijuana once or twice a week, often orally. “There are old men in wheelchairs, or women whose hair is falling out from chemotherapy. You see literally everybody.”
Cooper, who figures he spends about $150 on the drug each month, is not alone in retiring to a marijuana-friendly state.... Figuring out how many people are retiring to states that let you smoke pot is challenging since retirees do not have to check off a box on a form saying why they chose a particular location to their final years.
But “there is anecdotal evidence that people with health conditions which medical marijuana could help treat, are relocating to states with legalized marijuana,” said Michael Stoll, a professor of public policy at University of California, Los Angeles who studies retiree migration trends.
He cited data from United Van Lines, which show the top U.S. moving destinations in 2014 was Oregon, where marijuana had been expected to be legalized for several years and finally passed a ballot initiative last November. Two-thirds of moves involving Oregon last year were inbound. That is a 5 percent jump over the previous year, as the state “continues to pull away from the pack,” the moving company said in a report.
The Mountain West – including Colorado, which legalized medical marijuana in 2000, and recreational use in 2012 – boasted the highest percentage of people moving there to retire, United Van Lines said. One-third of movers to the region said they were going there specifically to retire....
Many of the health afflictions of older Americans push them to seek out dispensaries for relief. “A lot of the things marijuana is best at are conditions which become more of an issue as you get older,” said Taylor West, deputy director of the Denver-based National Cannabis Industry Association. “Chronic pain, inflammation, insomnia, loss of appetite: All of those things are widespread among seniors.”
Since those in their 60s and 70s presumably have no desire to be skulking around on the criminal market in states where usage is outlawed, it makes sense they would gravitate to states where marijuana is legal. “In Colorado, since legalization, many dispensaries have seen the largest portion of sales going to baby boomers and people of retirement age,” West said.
July 22, 2015 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, July 16, 2015
As reported in this new Denver Post piece, the "Colorado Board of Health voted 6-2 — amid shouts, hisses and boos from a packed house — not to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the medical conditions that can be treated under the state's medical marijuana program." Here is the backstory for this notable regulatory decision:
A dozen of the veterans who testified said cannabis has saved their lives. Many said drugs legally prescribed to them for PTSD at veterans clinics or by other doctors — antidepressants, antipsychotics, opioids and others — nearly killed them or robbed them of quality of life. "It is our brothers and sisters who are committing suicide every day. We know cannabis can help. We're not going to go away," said John Evans, director of Veterans 4 Freedoms.
"We've legalized it," Evans said. "We'll take the tax dollars from our tourists (for recreational marijuana) before we'll help our vets."
The president of the nine-member board, Tony Cappello, an epidemiologist, said he could not vote to approve pot's use for PTSD because scientific evidence does not support it. Most board members agreed that mountains of anecdotal evidence aren't enough. One board member was absent. "I'm struggling with the science piece," board member Dr. Christopher Stanley said.
The American and Colorado psychiatric associations do not support it, said board member Dr. Ray Estacio, an internist at Denver Health and associate professor in medicine at the University of Colorado Denver.
But board member Joan Sowinski, an environmental and occupational health consultant, said the testimony from veterans and other PTSD sufferers was so persuasive — as was recent research about symptoms reduction — that she could support it. Jill Hunsaker-Ryan, an Eagle County commissioner, was the only other yes vote.
"Blood is on your hands," one audience member shouted after the board voted not to make Colorado the 10th state to allow medicinal marijuana use for PTSD.
The state's chief medical officer, Dr. Larry Wolk, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, recommended the state add the condition. He suggested a provision that would cause the issue to be re-examined in four years, after two state-funded studies produced results. Wolk said listing PTSD as a treatable condition would increase transparency and reveal actual usage, shedding light on its effectiveness and reinforcing a physician-patient relationship for many users.
Many veterans are self-medicating with recreational marijuana or using medical marijuana ostensibly as pain treatment, although it is really for PTSD, he said. Currently allowed uses of marijuana include pain (93 percent of recommendations), cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, muscles spasms, multiple sclerosis, severe nausea and wasting disease (cachexia).
Dr. Doris Gundersen, a psychiatrist who spoke at the meeting, said only 4 percent to 5 percent of the state's physicians recommend medical marijuana to patients. About 15 physicians make 75 percent of the recommendations, she said. The state has roughly 14,000 licensed doctors. "Why are so few getting on board? (Because) there is a lack of quality evidence that it is safe and effective ... and does no harm," Gundersen said.
One of the state-funded medical marijuana investigators, Sue Sisley, who is looking at effects on veterans' PTSD, said federal policy on marijuana is a prime reason research is scant. It will take at least four years for her study, she said, because the team has been delayed in getting the study drug, still illegal under federal law, from the authorized supplier — the U.S. government.
A few of the roughly 30 public speakers noted that what patients want — not hard science — is driving demand for expanded medicinal uses of marijuana. That's not a bad thing, advocates said. "It is very important patients become part of this discussion," said Teri Robnett, director of the Cannabis Patients Alliance and member of the state's advisory council. "Patients are getting enormous relief."
July 16, 2015 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Washington Post Wonkblog entry that reports on a notable new study about the relationship between marijuana reform and reduction in the harms from opiate addictions and overdoses. Here is how the piece gets started (with links from the original):
Medical marijuana opponents recently pounced on a big new analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that there isn't good evidence that marijuana works for many of the conditions, like glaucoma, anxiety, or Parkinson's disease, that it's often prescribed for. The JAMA study was based on a meta-analysis of the findings of 79 previously-published studies.
Now, the study did not say pot isn't helpful for people suffering from those ailments; it said there was no evidence to that effect, as German Lopez noted at Vox. Importantly, however, the JAMA study found solid evidence that marijuana is effective at treating one big condition: chronic pain. The JAMA review found "30% or greater improvement in pain with cannabinoid compared with placebo," across the 79 studies it surveyed.
A new NBER working paper out today is a helpful reminder of why that finding is so important. Pain management -- especially chronic pain management -- is a tricky business. Prescription painkillers are highly addictive and deadly -- they killed more than 16,000 people in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's's latest numbers. In the U.S., drug overdoses kill more people than suicide, guns or car crashes. The CDC now calls prescription painkiller abuse an "epidemic."
The researchers on the NBER paper, however, found that access to state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries is linked to a significant decrease in both prescription painkiller abuse, and in overdose deaths from prescription painkillers. The study authors examined admissions to substance abuse treatment programs for opiate addiction as well as opiate overdose deaths in states that do and do not have medical marijuana laws.
They found that the presence of marijuana dispensaries was associated with a 15 to 35 percent decrease in substance abuse admissions. Opiate overdose deaths decreased by a similar amount. "Our findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers," the researchers conclude.
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new and lengthy Politico magazine piece headlined "The Senate's experiment with cannabis: Hardliners on Judiciary open up to research on medical pot." Here are excerpts:
Congress has resolutely opposed the state-level movements toward legalizing marijuana, keeping it a Schedule I controlled substance on par with heroin, LSD and peyote. But now some of the nation’s toughest law-and-order senators just might be opening the window to cannabis, at least a crack.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have all begun speaking up about the need for more clinical research on the marijuana plant compound known as cannabidiol, or CBD. The three sit on the powerful Judiciary Committee, which has a key voice in setting the federal government’s firm stance on pot in all its different forms.
They sent a clear signal in a packed hearing room last week, when the senators took on the tricky issue of CBD, a compound derived from an illegal drug but which many scientists and public health officials believe could treat conditions including cancer, diabetes, chronic pain, and alcoholism. Some parents and doctors have already turned to CBD as an anti-seizure medicine for children who suffer from rare and extreme types of intractable epilepsy.
Grassley, the chairman of the powerful Judiciary panel, told the audience at a narcotics caucus meeting that it's not an “inconsistent position" to embrace the beneficial components of the pot plant even while rejecting pretty much everything else about the drug, adding that doctors prescribe morphine but don’t recommend their patients go out and smoke opium or heroin. Feinstein and Hatch also spoke about the potential benefits from CBD, and complained that current drug laws impede the parents of sick children from access to what appears to be a helpful medicine.
At the same time, the senators went through elaborate motions to explain they weren’t softening their stance against recreational pot. “I have deep concern that [pot] does more harm than anything else,” Feinstein said in an interview. “But in terms of the medical aspects of it, it’s a totally different picture. It’s like any other plant. I’m sure there are other plants that if you ate you’d hallucinate or something. But if you can get the beneficial parts out, get them researched, be able to standardize it, regulate it, you may have something very good.”
The lawmakers’ comments, coming on the heels of two recent Obama administration moves to expand medical-marijuana research, marked another pointed moment in the country’s shifting views on drug policy. What was once an absolute red line in the “Just Say No” era is now a more porous border. Twenty-three states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical marijuana; Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and the District of Columbia have also legalized recreational use, despite the clash with federal drug laws.
Congress, so far, has made no moves at all to relax recreational marijuana laws, and in Washington D.C. – where it effectively holds veto powers over the local government’s affairs – it prohibited the city from spending money to implement its voter initiative on recreational use. As a result, the nation’s capital considers marijuana legal but doesn’t have any sales and taxation system....
Utah, Hatch noted, was “certainly no redoubt of hippie liberalism,” but in March 2014 became the first of 15 states to legalize use of the CBD oil. Now, he's pushing the Senate to pass a bipartisan bill that would remove CBD from the definition of marijuana under federal law, giving parents a green light to buy the medicine without the threat of DEA agents busting them.
One sticky issue on the cannabis front has been that its outlaw status makes it more difficult to carry out both government and privately funded research. While it’s technically legal to study the medical aspects of pot, researchers must go through a rigorous DEA and FDA approval process, and can only obtain their marijuana from the government’s sole authorized U.S. supplier, located at the University of Mississippi.
While Grassley rarely has praise for Team Obama, he applauded the Democratic administration for two moves it made in June on the medical-research front: the Department of Health and Human Services got rid of what it called a duplicative 16-year old paperwork review requirement for private researchers studying the drug; and separately, the Justice Department and HHS moved to study whether CBD should be classified on a less stringent level than the entire marijuana plant. “This is a significant breakthrough and I commend these agencies for agreeing to take this step,” Grassley said.
The feds are in part playing catch-up with the black market, where parents using the oil extracts for their children say they’ve spent as much as $2,500 for a month’s supply. Feinstein said she hears complaints from constituents in California and around the country that they have bought CBD without labels, factory seals or clear dosage amounts. “This is an untenable situation. It is not how medicine should work,” Feinstein said. Her goal, she said, was "to get this process expanded, and get it legitimized and get it regulated. And I think those are the things we have to do and do as quickly as we can.”...
Despite their interest, Feinstein and her colleagues were circumspect still about how far Congress will go this session. The House in June included several pot-related amendments to a spending bill funding the Commerce, Justice and State departments; one measure adopted on a 297-130 vote allows states that have legalized cannabidiol to do it without federal interference; another prohibits the federal government from blocking states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws. (President Barack Obama signed a similar provision into law in last year's "CRominbus" spending bill, but the language lapses at the end of the fiscal year.) The House also narrowly rejected an amendment – on a 206-222 vote – that would have told the feds to butt out in the implementation of any state marijuana laws, either recreational or medical.
In the Senate, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are leading an effort for a broader medical marijuana bill that would help make the drug available for a range of conditions, including cancer, glaucoma and for children via the CBD extract. Their legislation would block the federal government from halting state medical marijuana laws; permit doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe the drug to military veterans; allow banks to do business with medical marijuana dispensaries and let states import the CBD oils for treatments. The senators also want to change how marijuana is classified under the Controlled Substances Act – moving it from the most restrictive Schedule 1 category that limits its use for research and defines it as having no accepted medical benefits into the Schedule 2 category that comes with fewer requirements before it can be studied.
In an interview, Gillibrand said it was a "huge deal" to have Grassley, Hatch and Feinstein supportive of expanding cannabis research. “I think it’s the first step toward a fuller conversation on how important medical marijuana is to so many patients across the country," she said.
But Gillibrand still has work in front of her if she wans to pick up their support for many of the specifics in her bill. Grassley, who has been a high-profile partner with Gillibrand on legislation tackling sexual assault crimes in the military and on college campuses, said he wasn't ready to ally with the Democrat yet on medical marijuana legislation.... And when asked if she backed the push to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 controlled substance, Feinstein – who represents a state that legalized medical marijuana nearly 20 years ago – replied: “I’m not there yet.”
Personally, I have a "deep concern" that Senator Feinstein may do "more harm than anything else" if she is still clinging to a refeer madness view of marijuana as the most hamful of all drugs. But, especially if Senator Feinstein still does have a unsupportable view as to the harms of marijauana, the fact that even she is now talking up the importance of some medical marijuana reform perhaps is a great sign for the overall reform movement.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
As effectively reported in this local article, headlined "One word could render Louisiana's medical marijuana law useless, advocates say," there is big marijuana reform news in the Bayou. But, as the article also explains, the real-world effectiveness of the reform is uncertain because of a critical term used in the reforms:
Louisiana now has a law in place authorizing the growth, prescription and dispensary of medical marijuana to certain patients. But advocates of medical marijuana who lobbied this year at the Louisiana State Capitol for the bill's passage worry a last-minute word change could essentially render the new law useless.
In the 23 other states where medical marijuana is legal, the laws refer to a "recommendation" for medical marijuana, not a "prescription." David Brown, the director of a group called Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana, said changing out "prescription" for "recommendation" allows doctors and pharmacists to get marijuana to patients without risking their federal license with the Drug Enforcement Agency....
The sponsor of the bill (SB 143), state Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, is aware of the concerns of Brown and other advocates. He said, however, that Louisiana Board of Pharmacy Director Malcolm Broussard has assured him the issue of prescription versus recommendation could be "worked through" during the rule-making process.
Jacob Irving, a medical marijuana advocate and recent graduate of LSU, suffers from spastic quadriplegia -- a rare form of cerebral palsy that causes chronic muscle stiffness and has been effectively treated with marijuana. If the law in its current form is properly enacted, his disease is on the list of those that would quality for medical marijuana. Irving was the one who convinced a House panel to change the wording to "recommendation," before it was stripped out of the bill on the House floor.
The Louisiana Family Forum, the state's most influential conservative Christian group, requested the word "prescription" be put back into the bill before it reached the House floor. Even the Louisiana Sheriff's Association, who had expressed strong opposition to the bill last year, were OK with "recommendation," Fred Mills said. Family Forum Director Gene Mills said early this month he told Fred Mills putting the prescription language in the bill was a requirement for his group to remain neutral on the bill.
Opposition from the Family Forum could have hurt the bill's chance of passing and might have drawn a veto from Gov. Bobby Jindal, who closely follows Mills' guidance on social policies. Jindal, too, had requested the term prescription be used. Gene Mills said the prescription requirement keeps the proposed law in the realm of medical practice, subjecting it to the oversight and "necessary safeguard."
"That's why we're in the neutral zone," said Gene Mills, days after the House passed the version of the bill with "prescription" included.
Brown said the Louisiana Family Forum and Jindal's hardline position on calling it a prescription provides more evidence that the wording neuters the bill. "Why on earth would you insist so hard on that language being included (in the bill) unless you were fully aware, like we are, that by including it you've essentially gutted the bill?" he said.
While Irving is hopeful the wording won't cause a problem as the bill's sponsor has suggested, he can't ignore the potential threat it has to thwart access to patients. "If a doctor writes a prescription, he may go to jail or lose his DEA license," Irving said.
Brown said there's no pharmacist willing to put his or federal license at risk by signing off on dispensing a schedule I substance. By doing so, they would be "risking their whole livelihood -- for just that one prescription that they write." Broussard, however, acknowledged in an email provided by Mills that the use of the word "recommendation" has been suggested by other states to reduce risk to doctors and pharmacists. But he also indicated it made little difference.
"The outcome of the process -- whether it is a 'recommendation' or a 'prescription' -- remains the same," Broussard said. "It is an order generated by the physician for filling at the pharmacy." Irving still worries the seemingly minor wording problem could lead to another empty medical marijuana law that doesn't actually get the drug in the hands of patients who need it.
It's happened before: Louisiana technically legalized medical marijuana in 1978 and again in 1991, but those statutes didn't provide legal structure to allow for legal access to the drug -- from the ground to the patient. The law signed Monday (June 30) by Jindal was supposed close those loopholes.
Irving, who is 22, said he has been waiting his whole life for structural flaws in Louisiana's current medical marijuana law to be sorted out. "I just don't want to see a whole second generation pass (before) this bill is set up (to work)," he said. "It's needless suffering that can end."
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
As reported in local pieces linked below, two notably different northern states have two notably different marijuana reforms becoming effective today:
Unsurprisingly, the events in Oregon are a bigger deal from a national marijuana reform perspective, as this story from the national news outlet Reuters highlights. It is headlined "Crowds count down to legalization of marijuana in Oregon, then light up," and starts this way:
Crowds counted down the minutes to midnight then lit up joints as smoking marijuana became legal in Oregon on Wednesday, part of a growing legalization movement spreading down the United States' west coast.
Hundreds gathered on the Burnside Bridge in downtown Portland and smoked under the glow of a neon city sign, marking the moment that the law allowing recreational use, backed by voters in November, came into effect.
The legislation opens the way for shops to sell marijuana by next year - though some lawmakers say they will still try to block retail outlets.
Similar legislation is already in force in Alaska and Washington State, reflecting a shifting legal landscape for a drug that remains illegal under federal law.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
As explained in this helpful new Washington Post piece, a "long-standing bureaucratic obstacle to privately-funded medical marijuana research has just been removed, effective immediately." Here are the details
Until today if you wanted to conduct marijuana research, you'd need to do the following:
- Submit your study proposal to the Food and Drug Administration for a thorough review of its "scientific validity and ethical soundness."
- Submit your proposal to a separate Public Health Service (PHS) board, which performs pretty much the exact same review as the FDA.
- Get a marijuana permit from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
- Finally, obtain a quantity of medical marijuana via the Drug Supply Program run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which maintains a monopoly on medical marijuana grown for research in the U.S.
As you might imagine, this can be a complicated, time-consuming process. Step 2, the PHS review, has been a subject of particular consternation among researchers and advocates. That step is not required for research into any other drug, including cocaine and heroin.
The PHS review is nearly identical to the one performed by the FDA. Sometimes, it can take months to complete. In recent years, advocates of overhauling marijuana laws, researchers, members of Congress, and even marijuana legalization opponents have called for the PHS review to be eliminated in the name of streamlining research.
This week, the Department of Health and Human Services agreed, determining that the PHS review process is redundant with the FDA review, and that it is "no longer necessary to support the conduct of scientifically-sound studies into the potential therapeutic uses of marijuana."
"The president has often said that drug policy should be dictated by unimpeded science instead of ideology, and it’s great to see the Obama administration finally starting to take some real action to back that up," said Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization group.
Even those who oppose legalization agreed. "I think it's a sensible change; but people are being delusional if they think this will result in a flood of research on the drug," said Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group. "But it's a step in the right direction as the development of a non smoked cannabis medication goes forward."...
There are still more bureaucratic hurdles to marijuana research than to research in any other drug. NIDA's monopoly on legal marijuana production doesn't exist for any other drug, meaning that heroin and cocaine remain easier for researchers to work with. "The next step should be moving marijuana out of Schedule I to a more appropriate category, which the administration can do without any further Congressional action," said Angell. "Given what the president and surgeon general have already said publicly about marijuana’s relative harms and medical uses, it’s completely inappropriate for it to remain in a schedule that’s supposed to be reserved for substances with a high potential for abuse and no therapeutic value."
June 23, 2015 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, June 21, 2015
This lengthy new local article, headlined "State seeks more medical marijuana doctors," highlights how the modern history (and the federal ferocity) of marijuana prohibition presents distinct challenges for states like Connecticut seeking to establish and administer effective medical marijuana programs. Here are excerpts from an interesting article:
With only a small fraction of the state’s doctors participating in Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, the agency that’s running it has begun a public-service blitz to let physicians and patients know the drug is safe and legal. The goal is to break through the stigma and lack of information that seems to be holding doctors back from registering, which they need to do to be able to prescribe the drug.
The state is reaching out to the 7,000 doctors in the Connecticut State Medical Society, with radio and print ads highlighting the medical benefits of marijuana, and showing that edibles and oils are steadily taking the place of smoking the plant’s flowers....
There are 11 ailments for which patients may be certified for use of medical cannabis and six more have been authorized for inclusion and are currently being reviewed for submission to the legislative Regulation Review Committee. Brian Tomasulo, 34, of Newtown, said when his personal physician certified him last year, the only product available at the Bethel facility was traditional marijuana flowers for smoking. “Basically, as they brought out more products, the pharmacist suggested more direction,” he said.
Diagnosed two years ago with testicular cancer that spread to his lymphatic system and lungs, after six months of chemotherapy and remission the cancer spread to his brain, causing seizures. He’s back working part-time as a personal trainer.
Now, he mostly uses oils that he puts under his tongue, sublingually, for headaches, although he occasionally smokes cannabis for faster relief from pain, including joint soreness. He uses strains of oil that have higher CBD levels in the morning and a higher THC percentage at night. “My brain had been so inflamed, I had a hard time speaking,” Tomasulo said. “I’m more clear-headed now.”
With only 222 doctors participating, the program is still double the size it was last October, when the first of the state’s six dispensaries began to supply marijuana from the four producers. It’s a sign of steady progress, says Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris.
“It will be interesting to see what our outreach efforts to the physicians are,” Harris said. “It’s a private-sector model and it should be driven by the businesses, patients and doctors on the ground. It’s a unique position as a regulator to clear up the misinformation, tear down some of the barriers and give people some comfort that they’re not going to get into any kind of trouble if they participate.”
The radio spots are appearing on Hartford-area public radio. Harris has been making speaking appearances throughout the state to get the word out on the 2012 law. “We want to make people better-informed when and how to participate.”
Ken Ferrucci, senior vice president of policy and governmental affairs for the Connecticut State Medical Society, admits the organization has been cautious and didn’t have an official reaction to the outreach by the Department of Consumer Protection. “We’ve been consistent in our position,” he said. “We did not support the bill originally and once it passed and became statute we wanted to make certain physicians were free to participate without prosecution. The longer the program is in existence, the more willing physicians will participate providing there is no legal action or enforcement. We have been supportive of education opportunities when we have been asked to provide medical information. We have circulated and do not try to prevent anyone from being educated on whether or not want to certify patients for the program.”
Medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the U.S. Justice Department has said it will not prosecute those who are complying with the laws in their state. Harris said the longer the federal government leaves the medical-marijuana program alone, the more patients and doctors will feel comfortable to join. In the 2012 legislation, when the Connecticut General Assembly agreed to change marijuana’s status from a dangerous Schedule I drug with no medical benefits, to Schedule II, it challenged federal policy.
A regional organization of pro-marijuana physicians, called Canna Care Docs, has opened an office in Hartford, with plans, according to its website, to open clinics in Fairfield County and between New Haven and New London along Interstate-95. “Depending on what the feds ultimately do, then you’ll have the lid totally taken off,” Harris said, who’s optimistic about further growth. “It’s a medical model and we’re hearing more on the ground on the innovations in dose-able forms.”
David Lipton, the founder and CEO of Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven, is surprised oils and edibles seem to be taking over the market, but he can understand why pharmacists in the dispensaries find it easier to suggest dosage amounts. “You know that if you eat a cookie with 20 milligrams of THC, it’s easier and more exact, to medicate yourself rather than buying a flower with 25-percent THC and smoking it,” Lipton said, noting a change in the kinds of products the dispensaries are requesting. “I believe that as more and more doctors are made aware that when they’re recommending this, their patients getting something formulated, they’ll feel assured they’re getting the right amount of medicine.”
Friday, June 19, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this new Forbes column by Jacob Sullum. This piece reinforces my belief that family law and family lawyers need to be paying considerable attention to marijuana reform developments and realities. Here is an excerpt:
In Live Free or Die, a 2010 memoir recounting how cannabis oil saved her life, Shona Banda emphasizes the importance of “self-taught knowledge,” acquired by constantly asking questions and “looking at all of the angles of any information given.” Her son may have learned that lesson too well. Had he been less inquisitive, less prone to question authority, he might still be living with his mother, and she might not be facing criminal charges that could send her to prison for decades.
Banda, a 38-year-old massage therapist who appeared in criminal court for the first time on Tuesday, is free on a $50,000 bond while her case is pending. She was able to pay a bail bondsman the $5,000 fee necessary to stay out of jail thanks to donations from supporters across the country who were outraged by her situation. The case has drawn international attention partly because it features draconian penalties and a mother’s forcible separation from her 11-year-old son but also because of the way it started.
During a “drug education” program at his school in Garden City, Kansas, on March 24, Banda’s son heard some things about marijuana that did not jibe with what he had learned about the plant from his mother. So he spoke up, suggesting that cannabis was less dangerous and more beneficial than the counselors running the program were claiming. That outburst of skepticism precipitated a visit to the principal’s office, where the fifth-grader was interrogated about his mother’s cannabis consumption. School officials called Child Protective Services (CPS), which contacted police, who obtained a warrant to search Banda’s house based on what her son had said.
As translated by the Garden City Police Department, Banda’s son “reported to school officials that his mother and other adults in his residence were avid drug users and that there was a lot of drug use occurring in his residence.” From Banda’s perspective, what her son had observed was her consumption of a medicine that had “fixed” her Crohn’s disease, alleviated her pain, and restored her energy. “I had an autoimmune disease,” she says in a 2010 YouTube video during which she displays the scars left by multiple surgeries aimed at relieving her crippling gastrointestinal symptoms. “With Crohn’s disease, it’s like having a stomach flu that won’t go away.” But after she started swallowing capsules containing homemade cannabis oil, she says, her life was transformed. “I’m working for the first time in four years,” she says. “I’m hiking. I’m swimming. I’m able to play with my kids [two sons, one of whom is now 18]….Anything beats raising your kids from a couch and lying there in pain all day.” Banda’s personal experience aside, there is scientific evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
As far as the police were concerned, none of that was relevant, since Kansas is not one of the 23 states that allow medical use of cannabis. In the cops’ view, what they found at Banda’s house — “approximately 1 ¼ pounds of suspected marijuana” — was contraband, not medicine. And when CPS caseworkers took Banda’s son away from her, they were protecting him, not kidnapping him. “The most important thing here is the child’s well-being,” Capt. Randy Ralston told the Associated Press. “That is why it is a priority for us, just because of the danger to the child.”
The precise nature of that danger remains mysterious. Ralston says “the items taken from the residence” — the marijuana, plus “a lab for manufacturing cannabis oil on the kitchen table and kitchen counters, drug paraphernalia and other items related to the packaging and ingestion of marijuana” — were “within easy reach of the child.” But police came to Banda’s house in the middle of the afternoon, so that detail is less alarming than it sounds. “She was producing oil during the day, while her son was in school,” says Sarah Swain, Banda’s criminal defense attorney.
So far Banda has been unsuccessful at regaining custody of her son, who is living for the time being with her husband, from whom she is separated. “He is in state custody and has been since the beginning of the case,” Swain says. “He is placed [temporarily] with the father.” A family court judge ultimately will decide whether it is in the boy’s best interest to be reunited with his mother.
But as Swain notes, that process will be “moot” if “Shona goes to prison.” The charges against her, which Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier announced on June 5, include two misdemeanors—endangering a child and possession of drug paraphernalia—and three felonies: unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance, possession of equipment used to manufacture a controlled substance, and distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of school property. The distribution charge, a “drug severity level 1 felony,” carries the longest maximum sentence: 17 years. Swain says Kansas law allows sentences for different offenses to be imposed consecutively as long as the total term does not exceed twice the longest maximum, which means Banda could be sent to prison for as long as 34 years. Richmeier, apparently based on the assumption that any sentences would be served concurrently, says the maximum term Banda faces is 17 years.
It seems unlikely that Banda, who has no criminal record, would receive a sentence as long as 34 or even 17 years. But a substantial prison sentence is a real possibility given the charges she faces. “When your cure is illegal,” says a caption at the beginning of Banda’s 2010 video, “you are forced to make the choice to live free or die.” If Richmeier has her way, living free will no longer be an option for Banda.
June 19, 2015 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing NPR piece, which somewhat reinforces my belief that the modern marijuana reform movement is going to have to work through a number of notable environmental issues in the years ahead. Here are excerpts:
The marijuana industry has a pesticide problem. Many commercial cannabis growers use chemicals to control bugs and mold. But the plant's legal status is unresolved....
As any farmer will likely say, damage to the crop equals damage to the bottom line. [Colorado grow ownwer Nick] Dice's employees used to spray the crop with mild chemicals. They would switch between multiple pesticides and mildew treatments, treating anywhere from every three to four days. Dice says he's seen other operations crumble as their cannabis succumbs to mildew or bugs. Pest controls ensure a good yield. And when it comes to cannabis, yields really matter.
Dice estimates the grow room is worth as much as $180,000. Protecting that yield is hard work. That's why many growers in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana use chemicals. But it's the federal government that tells farmers which pesticides are safe to use. And so far, the feds wants nothing to do with legalized marijuana. Colorado State University entomologist Whitney Cranshaw says that's left growers to experiment with little oversight. "In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to just whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate," he says.
Tobacco farmers, for example, have a stable of pesticides the government says are safe to use. But Cranshaw says marijuana growers have none. "Sometimes they've used some things that are inappropriate, sometimes unsafe," he says.
Brett Eaton is a plant expert with American Cannabis Company, a Denver-based consulting group. He's concerned about what the pesticides are doing to the product as well as the consumer. "Anybody can get their hands on harmful chemicals, and they can just spray away all the way up until the last day of harvest," he says.
Safety concerns led Denver officials to place a hold on tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year, pending an investigation. Colorado doesn't require growers to test the crop for traces of pesticides before being sold. But state agriculture officials did recently release a list of pesticides deemed appropriate for use on cannabis. Washington state, Nevada and Illinois have similar lists. Eaton says regulators are only playing catch up. "Other agricultural industries already have policy in place for the safe use of spraying certain pesticides and fungicides," he says. "This being a new industry, it hasn't been addressed yet."
And with more states turning marijuana into a legal commodity crop, it'll take a mix of policy, science and industry self-regulation to figure out what's appropriate, and what's not.
June 17, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Huge new NIH-funded study concludes "passage of state medical marijuana laws does not increase adolescent use of marijuana"
I am pleased to see that this huge new NIH-funded study on the impact of medical marijuana reforms on use of marijuana among young folks has just been released. The research, conducted by multiple researchers, is published in The Lancet Psychiatry under the title "Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the USA from 1991 to 2014: results from annual, repeated cross-sectional surveys." Here is its summary:
Background Adolescent use of marijuana is associated with adverse later effects, so the identification of factors underlying adolescent use is of substantial public health importance. The relationship between US state laws that permit marijuana for medical purposes and adolescent marijuana use has been controversial. Such laws could convey a message about marijuana acceptability that increases its use soon after passage, even if implementation is delayed or the law narrowly restricts its use. We used 24 years of national data from the USA to examine the relationship between state medical marijuana laws and adolescent use of marijuana.
Methods Using a multistage, random-sampling design with replacement, the Monitoring the Future study conducts annual national surveys of 8th, 10th, and 12th-grade students (modal ages 13–14, 15–16, and 17–18 years, respectively), in around 400 schools per year. Students complete self-administered questionnaires that include questions on marijuana use. We analysed data from 1 098270 adolescents surveyed between 1991 and 2014. The primary outcome of this analysis was any marijuana use in the previous 30 days. We used multilevel regression modelling with adolescents nested within states to examine two questions. The first was whether marijuana use was higher overall in states that ever passed a medical marijuana law up to 2014. The second was whether the risk of marijuana use changed after passage of medical marijuana laws. Control covariates included individual, school, and state-level characteristics.
Findings Marijuana use was more prevalent in states that passed a medical marijuana law any time up to 2014 than in other states (adjusted prevalence 15·87% vs 13·27%; adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1·27, 95% CI 1·07–1·51; p=0·0057). However, the risk of marijuana use in states before passing medical marijuana laws did not differ significantly from the risk after medical marijuana laws were passed (adjusted prevalence 16·25% vs 15·45%; adjusted OR 0·92, 95% CI 0·82–1·04; p=0·185). Results were generally robust across sensitivity analyses, including redefining marijuana use as any use in the previous year or frequency of use, and reanalysing medical marijuana laws for delayed effects or for variation in provisions for dispensaries.
Interpretation Our findings, consistent with previous evidence, suggest that passage of state medical marijuana laws does not increase adolescent use of marijuana. However, overall, adolescent use is higher in states that ever passed such a law than in other states. State-level risk factors other than medical marijuana laws could contribute to both marijuana use and the passage of medical marijuana laws, and such factors warrant investigation.
June 16, 2015 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)
Monday, June 15, 2015
Colorado Supreme Court affirms statutory interpretation permitting dismissal of medical marijuana user
As reported in this local article, a long awaited Colorado Supreme Court ruling concerning application of the state's employment laws for marijuana user finally was handed today. Here are the basics:
The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday affirmed lower courts' rulings that businesses can fire employees for the use of medical marijuana — even if it's off-duty. The 6-0 decision comes nine months after the state's highest court heard oral arguments in Brandon Coats' case against Dish Network. Coats, who had a medical marijuana card and consumed pot off-duty to control muscle spasms, was fired in 2010 after failing a random drug test.
Coats challenged Dish's zero-tolerance drug policy, claiming that his use was legal under state law. The firing was upheld in both trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals. When the case went to the state Supreme Court, legal observers said the case could have significant implications for employers across Colorado. They also noted that the ruling could be precedent-setting as Colorado and other states wrangle with adapting laws to a nascent industry that is illegal under federal law.
As such, the question at hand is whether the use of medical marijuana — which is in compliance with Colorado's Medical Marijuana Amendment — is "lawful" under the state's Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute. That term, the justices said, refers to activities lawful under both state and federal law.
"Therefore, employees who engage in an activity, such as medical marijuana use, that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute," Justice Allison H. Eid wrote in the opinion. The justices said the court will not make a new law. Current Colorado law allows employers to set their own policies on drug use.
Coats' attorney Michael Evans, of Centennial-based The Evans Group, called the decision "devastating."
"For people like Brandon Coats, there really isn't a 'choice,' as MMJ is the only substance both he and his (Colorado-licensed) physicians know of to control his seizures due to his quadriplegia," Evans said. "He has to have it. " A silver lining of the decision, Evans said, is that it provides clarity in a "scary, gray area" of state law.
"Today's decision means that until someone in the House or Senate champions the cause, most employees who work in a state with the world's most powerful MMJ laws will have to choose between using MMJ and work," Evans said in a statement....
Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver, said the justices' decision comes as no surprise. "It's easy to make too much of this decision," he said. "It really comes down to interpreting this one word in this one statute." As a matter of statutory interpretation, the court got it right, he said.
But for Coats and medical marijuana advocates, this is a blow, Kamin said. Coats was a "dream plaintiff" in that marijuana served as medicine, he said. Coats was rendered a quadriplegic by a car accident and used marijuana to control leg spasms.
The cause likely would land in the hands of the state legislature, Kamin said. "I think (Coats') case is very sympathetic, and I think his case would be quite compelling before the legislature," Kamin said.
The full ruling in this notable state Supreme Court can be accessed at this link, and the only thing I find surprising is why it took the Colorado justices a full nine months to resolve this matter.
In addition, though I fully understand the disappointment felt by Coats and his lawyer, I share Sam Kamin's view that this ruling is not that big a deal. This ruling does not mean state employers must dismiss marijuana users, only that they are not required by statute to keep such users who comply with state law employed. Ultimately, this case only would have been a very big deal if it had come out the other way. And, especially as more and more state legalize medical marijuana, I suspect more and more employers will become more eager to make accomodations for medical marijuana patients.
June 15, 2015 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings | Permalink | Comments (0)
This new USA Today article, headlined "Patchwork of pot rules hampers marijuana business expansion," highlights why the succeeding in the marijuana industry is not quite as easy as it migth seem. Here is how the article gets started:
Marijuana entrepreneurs rushing into the booming market are running headlong into a patchwork of state-by-state regulations that make it hard to transfer their expertise, brands and staff— and even their profits.
Because the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana have developed widely divergent rules governing their semi-legal marketplaces.
In Colorado, for instance, retailers until recently had been required to grow the majority of the marijuana they sell to customers. But Washington state bans retailers from growing their own cannabis, forcing them to buy from state-licensed farms.
New York and Minnesota ban the sale of smokeable medical marijuana but their systems will permit very sick people to consume cannabis oil and other extracts, while the District of Columbia allows residents to possess up to two ounces of smoking marijuana for recreational use.
Some states require marijuana growers and sellers to be legal residents of the state they're operating in, which means companies seeking to franchise their brands can't just send in managers from existing operations elsewhere.
Colorado requires a clean criminal record to get a marijuana-growing or retail license, while in Washington a conviction doesn't necessarily disqualify them.
"If you're trying to open a bagel shop in New York and a bagel shop in St. Louis, they're going to end up basically the same," said Kris Krane, the co-founder and managing partner of marijuana consulting firm 4Front Ventures. "The only difference is that the bagels might taste better in New York. (With marijuana), every state we go into we have to tailor the operating model. It's a real challenge."
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Even since California legalized medical marijuana nearly 20 years ago, and especially since Arizona, Oregon and Washington moved forward with various significant marijuana reforms, the far west has been the US region to watch most closely for those interested in both the legal and practical dynamics of marijuana reform. And now, as this Las Vegas Sun article highlights, Nevada seems finally poised to join its western neighbors as a state to watch closely in this dynamic arena. The article is headlined "New rules aim to stimulate Nevada’s nascent medical marijuana market," and here are excerpts:
It's been two years since the Legislature approved a new law establishing a system of dispensaries and growing facilities to make medical marijuana more accessible to patients, but so far not a single bud has been sold.
That could change in the coming weeks with the planned opening of the Euphoria Wellness dispensary in Las Vegas, but there's no denying there have been growing pains as the industry struggles to launch.
Many of the issues stem from unintended consequences arising from the way the 2013 law was written, and Sen. Tick Segerblom, a leading marijuana advocate, made it a priority during the recently ended legislative session to fix as many problems as possible. "When you grow (an industry) from scratch, there's all kinds of issues you never thought about," Segerblom said. "Basically all these things we're dealing with are things we've learned over the last two years."...
Senate Bill 276 is intended to give medical marijuana entrepreneurs more flexibility with their businesses, allowing investors to sell or transfer their interest in a dispensary, lab, production or growing facility to another party, something that wasn't allowed under the previous law. The change will allow medical marijuana businesses to bring on new investors to raise capital or to cash out shareholders who no longer wish to be in the medical marijuana business. The law also allows marijuana establishments to change locations, so long as they stay in the same jurisdiction for which they're licensed and receive local government approval.
A different bill, Senate Bill 447, made various tweaks to criminal statutes surrounding marijuana and medical marijuana that deal with things like counterfeit patient registration cards and the production of cannabis concentrates. The bill also deals with noncriminal matters, most importantly allowing the use of certain pesticides in cannabis growing operations, something that's common in states like Colorado and California but wasn't allowed in Nevada.
Assembly Bill 70 also started out with a narrow focus — this time dealing with taxes on medical marijuana — but was expanded to help out businesses by allowing third party vendors to be used in operations. Previously, any nonpatient stepping foot into a dispensary or growing facility had to be an employee or volunteer of the establishment and register with the state. The new law will allow third party contractors to be hired by multiple businesses at a time, so long as the contractor is registered with the state....
The goal, Segerblom said, is to get the businesses up and running in advance of the 2016 election, when Nevada voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. "We want the voters to see what it's like," he said, "so we need to get these things out there so folks can see these are not bad operations."
With states like Colorado and Washington already bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars through their recently launched recreational marijuana markets, Segerblom said expanding access in Nevada would be a major revenue generator for the state. "We are perfectly situated to take advantage of this for all kinds of reasons. For us not to have marijuana tourism when Colorado and Washington have it just makes no sense," he said. "The reality is they're already (smoking) it, we're just not getting any tax revenue."
June 11, 2015 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, June 5, 2015
Over a six month period, NBC News correspondent Harry Smith reports on the potential lifesaving benefits of medicinal marijuana and the emotional journey three Virginia families must take to help their children who suffer from life threatening seizures.
And here are highlights from the NBC News piece:
Joel Stanley, a medicinal marijuana grower[,] and his five brothers grow medicinal marijuana in Colorado, where it is legal. Together, Paige and Joel [Figgi] made an oil from a cannabis plant that Stanley says is low in THC — the compound that gets someone high — and high in CBD, the compound some believe helps treat the seizures. Charlotte had been having 300 seizures a week. Paige says they stopped when she gave her daughter the CBD oil. To this day, all Charlotte (or "Charlie," as her family calls her) takes is two doses a day of the oil.
The Stanley brothers have now built a lab and are making the CBD oil on a large scale in Colorado. They call the CBD oil "Charlotte's Web," named for its first user. The Stanley brothers maintain their plant is not actually cannabis, but rather hemp. A botanist would tell you the plants are the same, but the federal government said in the Federal Farm Bill of 2014 that a plant with less than .3% THC is hemp.
The Stanleys insist that what they are doing is legal in Colorado, and even on the federal level, because they say they are making a hemp supplement. Several federal agencies, including the DEA and the FDA, maintain that marijuana and hemp for consumption are still illegal on the federal level.
Because of stories like Charlotte's, people with profoundly ill children, mostly with these extreme cases of epilepsy, have flocked to Colorado for treatments. In many ways, Colorado has become something of a "new Lourdes" for people looking for a "miracle." The Stanley brothers helped to form Realm of Caring, an organization that assists people who move to Colorado and provides support services and resources for those using Cannabinoid products....
As striking as [many] stories are [about the benefits of CBD oils], they remain anecdotal stories. The safety and effectiveness of these oils has not been established by clinical research in this country, according to doctors. Some researchers say that's largely because marijuana in all forms remains illegal at the federal level, making it difficult for scientists to obtain the plant for clinical trials.
One scientist who is intrigued by the potential of marijuana treatments is Dr. Amy Brooks-Kayal, a neurologist specializing in epilepsy in Denver, who is also the president of the American Epilepsy Society. She urges caution, saying there just isn't enough known about these oils to say they are safe or how they may ultimately affect patients. "There's no question that based on the science, there is potential there for a component of marijuana and possibly Cannabidiol to be an effective treatment, but we don't know that yet, and most importantly we don't know the potential side effects. We don't want to make their seizures better and make their lives worse." Dr. Brooks-Kayal welcomes more research on medical marijuana....
Dr. Brooks-Kayal, and the organization she heads, do support changing federal laws to make research on marijuana easier. Other experts Harry Smith spoke to believe there is potential to alleviate other neurodegenerative conditions with cannabis-based treatments .
June 5, 2015 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new Dallas Observer article headlined "Texas' New Medical Marijuaan Law Could Send Doctors to Jail." Here is what it says:
Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law that is intended to make cannabis-based oils with low levels of THC legally available to people who suffer from intractable epilepsy.The problem is, no one is likely to be able to get it. State Senator Kevin Eltife announced the plan to legalize CBD oil in January. He was careful to emphasize that patients would not be able to get high from the oil, because THC content would be limited to 5 percent.
Marijuana advocates and potential patients criticized the law, saying it failed to account for the benefits of whole-plant marijuana therapy and interfered with patients' and doctors' ability to seek out the best treatment available for epilepsy or other conditions. "I'm glad the we're talking about medical marijuana with some actual sincerity now in Texas, because this entire state is just tragically behind the rest of the country," Shaun McAlister, the president of DFW NORML said. "On the other hand, I'm really nervous about a CBD-only push because, for one thing, CBD-only legislation represents a really shallow understanding of what cannabis actually is and what it can do."
Still, Eltife's bill snaked its way successfully through the Legislature, despite the objections and language that requires doctors to "prescribe" the oil to their patients. Unfortunately a doctor cannot prescribe what the federal government considers a Schedule I substance without a DEA license, and CBD is a Schedule I substance. In other states, the “prescription” is referred to as a “recommendation” so that doctors can legally suggest that patients use it, says Amanda Reiman, the manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance says.
Tamar Todd, the Drug Policy Alliance's Director of Marijuana Law and Policy, compared the Texas law to a 1996 Arizona law that did not lead to a single patient getting CBD oil. Arizona passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislation in 2010. Texas marijuana reform advocates are hoping for a similar evolution in the Lone Star State.
The headline of this article (and of my post) fails to deal with the reality that even if a legitimate doctor in Texas (or anywhere else) really did actually make an effort to "prescribe" marijuana to a patient under any circumstances, it is hard to believe any federal prosecutor would pursue a prosecution based on that prescription. So, the answer to the question in the title of this post is "No." But the more important point that this article is intended to highlight is that the new medical marijuana reform in the Lone Star State is not really a significant reform based on both its structure and its semantics.
Monday, June 1, 2015
This new New York Times article, headlined "Medical Marijuana Feeds Familiar Hopes of Renewal Around New York State," spotlights some folks looking to make hay out of making medical marijuana in the Empire State. Here are excerpts:
[W]hen a stranger came to town and announced plans to grow marijuana on the fallow land next to his, Mr. Crawford was thrilled. “It’s better than a bunch of houses,” he said.
And it would be legal. The prospective farmer, Erik Holling, a former chief operating officer of a technology company, is vying to become one of five registered producers of medical marijuana — or medical cannabis, the term favored by those in the trade — permitted under a New York State law coming into effect.
The enthusiastic local reception that Mr. Holling’s company, Valley Agriceuticals, has received offers a case study in how the public perception of medical marijuana has changed, and how some communities have come to view it as a potential economic boon....
The competition for the marijuana licenses resembles the recent jockeying among those competing to operate casinos in New York, as a newly legal enterprise is welcomed as a potential lifeline in economically underserved areas, where local officials are eager to look beyond any stain of disrepute.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
The leading public policy group actively opposing modern marijuana reform movements, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has today released this new report titled ""Researching Marijuana’s Medical Potential Responsibly: A Six Point Plan." This SAM webpage provides this helpful summary of what the report says:
Given the increasing interest and demand for research into marijuana’s therapeutic potential, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a nonpartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists and other concerned citizens opposed to marijuana legalization, today released a new report, Researching Marijuana’s Medical Potential Responsibly: A Six Point Plan, and called for a series of recommendations. Specifically, the six-point plan recommends that the federal government:
(1) Allow multiple licenses to grow marijuana for research purposes, beyond the sole contractor that works with NIDA;
(2) Waive DEA registration requirements for handling CBD;
(3) Eliminate the Public Health Service (PHS) review for marijuana research applications;
(4) Establish compassionate research programs for the seriously ill;
(5) Begin federal-state partnerships to allow a pure CBD product to be dispensed/explored by board-certified neurologists and/or epileptologists to appropriate patients under a research program;
(6) Shut down rogue “medical marijuana” companies that do not play by the rules
“These recommendations can be enacted relatively easily by HHS and DOJ. Congress could also help prod them along,” remarked Dr. Stuart Gitlow, the Immediate Past President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and Vice-Chair of SAM. “It’s time we do the research and, importantly, separate the medical issue from the legalization issue.”
In recent years, numerous companies have profited off of “compassion” without having to play by the rules, the report says. These recommendations would allow real research to move forward while halting rogue companies.
“For too long, simplistic and dangerous recommendations such as marijuana legalization or even rescheduling have been presented as the only ways to do legitimate research on marijuana’s therapeutic potential,” remarked SAM President Kevin A. Sabet, a former White House drug policy advisor. “But there are so many things the government could do to offer the seriously ill experimental medications while not endangering public health through legalization. This report shows them how.”
Intriguingly, the report does not call for the rescheduling of marijuana off Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act though it does call for waivers and others actions to facilitate medical research.
Friday, May 22, 2015
As reported in this notable local article, headlined "Mike DeWine looks at drafting his own medical marijuana proposal," the various on-going efforts to bring marijuana reform to the ballot in the Buckeye State has finally convinced the chief law enforcement representative in Ohio to start seriously considering marijuana reform. Here are the basics:
Attorney General Mike DeWine has directed staff to look at potentially drawing up a new proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio, a spokesman said Friday.
DeWine staffers have been reviewing medical marijuana schemes in other states to see whether it's possible to set up "very tightly regulated" rules that can't be exploited by recreational pot users, said AG spokesman Dan Tierney.
Specifically, Tierney said, the attorney general is interesting in other states' plans that allow medical marijuana to be used in ways other than smoking, such as ointments or pills. If one of those plans is found to be "worthy of support," Tierney said, the AG's office may present those findings to the legislature or seek a ballot issue.
However, Tierney cautioned that it's still "far too early" to say when DeWine would take such a step – or even if he will end up taking any action at all.
Marijuana proponents are working on at least three different ballot initiatives in Ohio that would fully legalize the drug. A fourth group is gathering signatures to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
DeWine still has "grave concerns" about full marijuana legalization, Tierney said.
I have noted in some prior posts how interesting my own home state of Ohio has become in the marijuana reform arena thanks almost entirely to the significant direct democracy legalization initiative making its way to the ballot for voters to consider in 2015 (and then perhaps again in 2016). This news coming from the notable GOP Attorney General is yet another sign og how the people can, with the help of direct democracy, push the representative to actually do more of what the people say they want.
Some prior related posts on recent Ohio developments:
Sunday, May 17, 2015
In this post from a few weeks ago, I was promped by an article about the Tesla battery and marijuana cultivation to ask this question is a post title: "Could/will the marijuana industry become a boon for green energy innovation?". Continuing with the theme of innovations for ganja growing is this fascinating new article via the International Business Times headlined "Legal Marijuana Cultivation Is Driving A Technology 'Revolution' In Industrial Agriculture." Here are excerpts:
[A] growing number of companies in North America [are] designing new products and systems specifically for the cultivation of cannabis, a finicky crop that needs a precise balance of light, moisture and water to thrive. Although these cannabis ventures aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel -- greenhouse technologies have existed for decades -- they are injecting the kinds of capital and brainpower into the field of industrial agriculture that simply wasn’t there a decade ago.
They’re also adding a new level of urgency. As more countries and U.S. states soften their policies on both medical and recreational marijuana, companies are racing to become the industry leaders in data-mining software, ultraefficient lamps and water-sipping irrigation systems. These tools will benefit more than marijuana growers alone: Industrial food producers and tree growers could adapt the same technologies to cut energy costs and boost their crops. Operators of large buildings could use the systems to lower their electricity use.
“Cannabis is spurring on an ag-tech revolution,” said Troy Dayton, CEO of ArcView Group, a cannabis-industry research firm in Oakland, California. “This is a boom born entirely out of ending repressive laws. The market is already there, it’s just moving from the shadows into the light. That’s why you’re seeing this incredible growth and why so many people see it as a once-in-a-lifetime [business] opportunity.”
That market is rapidly expanding in the U.S., where 23 states have already legalized medical marijuana, and three states -- Alaska, Colorado and Washington -- allow recreational-marijuana sales. Voters in Oregon approved a ballot measure last fall that allows for personal pot use and limited cultivation. The policy takes effect July 1. In Texas, Ohio, Nebraska and a number of other states, voters and policymakers are considering similar initiatives. (In Canada, medical-marijuana use was legalized in 2001, and recent policy changes are enabling a rise in industrial growing operations.)....
Companies such as Heliostat are moving into the cannabis space for three key reasons -- first and foremost, cash. Unlike tomato and pepper producers, cannabis growers boast wide profit margins, giving them a bigger budget for top-of-the-line technologies and a greater appetite for research and experimentation....
Second, young technology whizzes and expert plant biologists are both bringing their skills to the burgeoning sector. “For the newer generation that’s just getting out of college or new to the workplace, cannabis is a more interesting project than say a real-estate project, or a lettuce project,” said Michael Mayes, CEO of Quantum 9 Inc., a Chicago consulting firm for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing. “The cool factor can drive innovation.”
Third, there is plenty of demand among growers. As they build new greenhouses and indoor facilities, they’re interested in shaving off as much electricity and water consumption as possible to reduce operating expenses and protect profit margins as more players enter the market.
Dayton of ArcView Group said the cannabis industry is still in the earliest stages of its technology “renaissance,” and that the only thing holding it back are prohibitive marijuana policies in certain states.
Even so, the gradual easing of cannabis laws is already drawing interest from mainstream businesses, including a subsidiary of Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. The company’s Hawthorne Gardening Co. in April purchased General Hydroponics Inc. and Bio-Organic Solutions Inc., which make liquid nutrients for indoor marijuana cultivation. Terms were not disclosed, but the acquisition should make Scotts, with its $2.97 billion in annual revenue, a formidable player in the marijuana market.
Prior related post: