Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Monday, August 13, 2018

"Medical marijuana laws and workplace fatalities in the United States"

1-s2.0-S0955395918X00061-cov150hThe title of this post is the title of this notable new research article forthcoming in the October 2018 issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy. Here is its abstract:

Aims

The aim of this research was to determine the association between legalizing medical marijuana and workplace fatalities.

Design

Repeated cross-sectional data on workplace fatalities at the state-year level were analyzed using a multivariate Poisson regression.

Setting

To date, 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Although there is increasing concern that legalizing medical marijuana will make workplaces more dangerous, little is known about the relationship between medical marijuana laws (MMLs) and workplace fatalities.

Participants

All 50 states and the District of Columbia for the period 1992–2015.

Measurements

Workplace fatalities by state and year were obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Regression models were adjusted for state demographics, the unemployment rate, state fixed effects, and year fixed effects.

Findings

Legalizing medical marijuana was associated with a 19.5% reduction in the expected number of workplace fatalities among workers aged 25–44 (incident rate ratio [IRR], 0.805; 95% CI, .662–.979).   The association between legalizing medical marijuana and workplace fatalities among workers aged 16–24, although negative, was not statistically significant at conventional levels.   The association between legalizing medical marijuana and workplace fatalities among workers aged 25–44 grew stronger over time.  Five years after coming into effect, MMLs were associated with a 33.7% reduction in the expected number of workplace fatalities (IRR, 0.663; 95% CI, .482–.912).   MMLs that listed pain as a qualifying condition or allowed collective cultivation were associated with larger reductions in fatalities among workers aged 25–44 than those that did not.

Conclusions

The results provide evidence that legalizing medical marijuana improved workplace safety for workers aged 25–44.   Further investigation is required to determine whether this result is attributable to reductions in the consumption of alcohol and other substances that impair cognitive function, memory, and motor skills.

August 13, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Catching up with recent state marijuana reform news and research via Marijuana Moment

Monday, July 30, 2018

Notable review of Florida’s "booming" medicial marijuana industry

Florida-medical-marijuana-program-rules

This local Florida article, headlined "Marijuana booming as state nears 2-year mark," reports on (unsurprising?) medical marijuana realities in the Sunshine State.  Here are highlights from the lengthy piece:

More than 100,000 Floridians now can legally take marijuana for medicinal purposes.  This milestone, reached in April, is one of many signs that Florida’s young marijuana industry is booming as the state approaches the two-year anniversary of voters legalizing medical pot.

But issues remain: Some patients complain that the Florida Department of Health’s rules create unfair barriers for patients. They can’t smoke their marijuana or grow their own, for example.  They also gripe about the patient approval process and the cost of medication.  Companies eager to jump into the marijuana business are waiting for the state to issue additional licenses required by law upon passing the 100,000-patient mark....

In November 2016, 71 percent of Florida’s voters gave the green light to medical marijuana.  The state still is issuing guidelines and battling lawsuits over how that should be done.  But the direction is clear.  Already, analysts are projecting a $1 billion medical marijuana market in Florida by 2020. 

Fourteen companies have received licenses from the state.  They’ve opened 43 dispensaries statewide, including offices in Summerfield and Lady Lake, to serve the growing number of approved patients, which has more than doubled since the start of the year.  The coveted licenses are drawing attention from established marijuana businesses.  In June, California-based MedMen paid $53 million to acquire the cultivation and distribution rights from Treadwell Nursery in Eustis....

[T]he process to become a qualifying doctor [initially meant] doctors were required to pay $1,000 for an eight-hour course. That requirement has since decreased to a two-hour course costing $250. More than 1,500 physicians now are able to recommend marijuana to patients, including more than 40 in Sumter, Lake and Marion counties.

Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties have the most registered physicians, with more than 200 each.  Demand for doctors persists, with 1,500 to 3,500 patients joining the registry every week....

Even as more and more people line up for treatment, criticism of the program continues.  Companies and advocates of Amendment 2, which authorized medical marijuana, are challenging some of the rules laid out by the Department of Health.  Attorney John Morgan sued the department over its rule banning smokeable cannabis, arguing it goes against the will of the voters who approved the amendment.  Vaping is allowed.  Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers sided with Morgan, saying the restriction was unconstitutional.  The state immediately appealed the decision, and Morgan tried to get the Florida Supreme Court to consider the case.  He now is focusing on legalizing recreational use.

Morgan criticized Gov. Rick Scott, who had opposed the broad legalization of medical marijuana, for allowing the smoking ban. Scott defended following the law as it is written. He is not alone in voicing smoking opposition. The American Society of Addiction Medicine rejects smoking as a means of drug delivery for medical purposes. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the ACS’s advocacy group, has not taken a position on legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, citing a need for more scientific research on marijuana’s potential benefits and harms.

July 30, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Effective explanation of why it is so hard to explain the exact number of "medical marijuana states"

MarijuanamapOver at Marijuana Moment, Kyle Jaeger has this nice new piece on a bit of head-counting (or should I say state-counting) that always sticks in my craw. His piece is headlined "How Many Medical Marijuana States Are There? Advocates Disagree On The Number," and here are excerpts:

Is it 30? 31? How about 45 or 49?

With marijuana legalization efforts moving forward at full steam in states across the country, it can be understandably difficult to keep track of the total number of states that have legalized cannabis in some form, especially when it comes to counting differing medical programs.

In some cases, even national advocacy groups disagree over the actual tally.  For example, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) lists 30 legal medical marijuana states, while NORML says the number is 31.  Americans for Safe Access, meanwhile, has an interactive map that provides information about existing cannabis laws in 45 states. So what is the number, really?

If you ask NORML, it’s a plain and clear 31. Paul Armentano, the organization’s deputy director, told Marijuana Moment that it’s based on simple reasoning: there are currently 31 states in the U.S. that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes (not including more limited, CBD-focused laws in other states, but we’ll get to those in a minute)....

Unlike NORML, MPP determines what constitutes a legal medical marijuana state based on the fact the state passed a law aimed at medical cannabis in addition to an independent analysis of the efficacy of those laws.  That’s why the organization doesn’t include Louisiana in its list of legal states, for instance, even though NORML and others count it.

“Forty-nine states have adopted some form of medical marijuana law, and we feel that the easiest distinction to draw is between those that are effective and relatively comprehensive and those that are ineffective or highly restrictive,” Mason Tvert, MPP’s media relations director, told Marijuana Moment.  “There are some states, such as Louisiana, that could arguably fall into both categories, but our policy experts currently still consider it to be too limited to be considered one of the states that has adopted an effective and comprehensive medical marijuana law.”...

When you hear numbers in the upper 40s, those generally take into account states that allow certain patients to use CBD extracts with low-THC composition, but licensed programs providing those products are few and far between. Generally speaking, legalization advocates don’t consider CBD-only states “legal,” per se, but it’s another factor that can muddle the math.

What consequence, if any, these varying tallies have on public policy is uncertain. Advocates believe, however, that including the CBD-only states is one key factor that led to the passage in 2014, and subsequent extension, of a congressionally approved rider preventing Justice Department interference in medical marijuana states.  Since the text of the measure itself meticulously lists out all of the affected states — including ones like Texas and Virginia, which only have CBD laws — it is that much harder for lawmakers from those states to vote no....

One thing advocates do agree on is the number of states that allow recreational, or adult-use marijuana. That’s nine, plus Washington, D.C.

July 19, 2018 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Highlighting how extraordinary the approval of medical marijuana was in Oklahoma

OK-Yes-788Over at Marijuana Moment, Kyle Jaeger has this terrific new piece reflecting on the extraordinary dynamics surrounding the vote on Tuesday in Oklahoma approving a medical marijuana initiative. I recommend the piece in full, and here are excerpts:

Voters in one of the reddest states in the nation approved one of the most far-reaching marijuana ballot measures on Tuesday, making Oklahoma the 30th state to legalize medical cannabis.

And while advocates and pro-legalization organizers in the state will tell you they weren’t necessarily surprised by the results — with polls consistently showing majority support in the lead-up to Tuesday’s vote, for example — the initiative’s passage by a wide margin (57 percent to 43 percent) is still extraordinary.

In part, that’s because of the political landscape of Oklahoma. The state hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, and its marijuana laws have historically reflected a staunch, prohibitionist mindset. Just four years ago, getting caught consuming cannabis in public twice could land you in prison for up to a decade.

But perhaps even more impressively, the initiative was decisively approved—during a midterm primary election—in spite of the fact that committees in support of State Question 788 were outspent by committees opposed to the measure six-to-one. According to the latest campaign finance records, Oklahomans for Health, which played a leading role in support of the initiative, and Yes On 788 spent a total of about $155,000 during their campaigns based on the latest campaign finance disclosure statements submitted June 26.

Committees opposed to the initiative, Oklahomans Against 788 and SQ Is NOT Medical spent a total of about $920,500 on their anti-legalization campaigns, some of which was used for television advertising against the measure. Supporters, on the other hand, did not have enough funds to go on the air with their message.

Chip Paul, chairman of Oklahomans for Health, told Marijuana Moment that the group’s minimal spending “speaks volume for liberty, freedom, unity… because Oklahoma united around this and made it happen.”...

Unlike pro-legalization campaign committees advancing reform bids in many past state-level elections, Oklahomans for Health did not receive financial contributions from national advocacy groups such as Marijuana Policy Project or the Drug Policy Alliance. Paul said it was better that way because “it means more if we do this for $0 or $10,000.”

Another element of the group’s campaign efforts involved strategically avoiding divisive, partisan politics. While the initiative itself has been characterized as “liberal” because it doesn’t include a list of limited medical conditions that qualify individuals for cannabis, the issue at hand is increasingly bipartisan. A recent survey from the progressive think tank Center for American Progress found a record 68 percent of Americans favor recreational legalization, including 57 percent of Republicans. Support for medical marijuana legalization is even higher, with 93 percent of Americans in agreement that patients should be able to legally access the plant. “For the most, we’ve managed to rise above things that would divide us,” Paul said.

June 28, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Senate minority leader Charles Schumer introduces "Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act"

220px-Chuck_Schumer_official_photoAs reported in this press release, "Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today formally introduced new legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level."  Here is more from the press release, with its links to the proposed legislation:

Specifically, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act, effectively decriminalizing it at the federal level.  The legislation allows states to continue to function as laboratories of democracy and ultimately decide how they will treat marijuana possession.  The legislation, however, does not change federal authorities’ ability to prevent trafficking from states where marijuana is legal to states where is not.  The bill also preserves the federal government’s ability to regulate marijuana advertising -- just as it does tobacco -- so that advertisers cannot target children.  Schumer has long advocated for states’ rights when it comes to medical marijuana.

Leader Schumer’s new legislation also takes steps to help communities that have been disproportionally affected by our current marijuana laws.  The bill includes authorization of grant programs designed to encourage states and local governments to allow individuals to seal or expunge marijuana possession conviction records, and it creates a new funding stream to help ensure that women and minority entrepreneurs have access to the new marijuana industries in their states.  The bill also makes new investments in research to fully understand the effect of THC on both driving and public health – particularly in adolescents.  

Leader Schumer’s Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is cosponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).... 

A fact sheet on the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act can be viewed here. The full text of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act can be viewed here. A section-by-section summary of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act can be found here.

Specifically, Leader Schumer’s new legislation would:

  • Decriminalize Marijuana: The legislation would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by descheduling it, which means removing marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970;
  • Respect States’ Rights: The legislation would maintain federal law enforcement’s authority to prevent marijuana trafficking from states that have legalized marijuana to those that have not;
  • Level The Economic Playing Field: The legislation would establish dedicated funding streams to be administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for women and minority-owned marijuana businesses that would be determinant on a reasonable estimate of the total amount of revenue generated by the marijuana industry;
  • Ensure Public Safety: The legislation would authorize $250 million over five years for targeted investments in highway safety research to ensure federal agencies have the resources they need to assess the pitfalls of driving under the influence of THC and develop technology to reliably measure impairment;
  • Invest In Public Health: The legislation would invest $500 million across five years for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work in close coordination with the Director of National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to better understand the impact of marijuana, including the effects of THC on the human brain and the efficacy of marijuana as a treatment for specific ailments;
  • Protect Children: The legislation would maintain the Department of Treasury’s authority to regulate marijuana advertising in the same way it does tobacco advertising to ensure the marijuana businesses aren’t allowed to target children in their advertisements. The bill also allows the agency to impose penalties in the case of violations;
  • Incentive sealing and Expungement programs: The legislation authorizes grant programs to encourage state and local governments to administer, adopt, or enhance expungement or sealing programs for marijuana possession convictions. The bill provides $100 million over five years to the DOJ to carry out this purpose. 

This is big news not only because it provides still further evidence that "establishment Democrats" are now fully behind federal marijuana reform, but also because Senator Schumer is positioned to be the House majority leader if Democrats retake control of the Senate in either 2018 or 2020. If that happens, Senator Schumer presumably would be most interesting in having his version of marijuana reform considered first among all the competing bills now floating about.

June 27, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Oklahoma voters resoundingly pass medical marijuana initiative

OK-Yes-788

As reported by Tom Angell at Forbes, "Voters in Oklahoma approved a ballot measure making the state the 30th in the nation to allow broad access to medical marijuana."  Here is more:

The proposal, which was leading by a 57% to 43% margin with more than 98% of precincts reporting on Tuesday night, would allow doctors to recommend cannabis for any medical condition they see fit.  Most other state medical marijuana laws delineate a specific list of diseases and disorders for which physicians can authorize patients' participation.

The approval of such a far-reaching marijuana proposal in a deeply red state like Oklahoma -- during a midterm primary election, no less -- is a clear sign of the mainstream political support that cannabis reform now enjoys....

Under the new Oklahoma law as drafted, legal patients will receive state ID cards and be allowed to possess three ounces of cannabis in public, and store up to eight ounces at home.

Home cultivation of six mature plants and six seedlings is allowed, as is possession of up to one ounce of cannabis concentrates and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused edible products.  Patients could also designate a caregiver to purchase or grow medicine for them.

The new law would also add some level of protection for medical cannabis patients who don't go through the step of getting a state-issued identification card.  People who are caught with 1.5 ounces or less of marijuana and can "state a medical condition" would face a misdemeanor offense punishable by no more than a $400 fine.

The state would issue licenses for medical cannabis cultivation, processing, transportation and dispensing businesses, and a 7% retail tax would be applied to medical cannabis sales.  Revenue would first go toward covering implementation and regulation costs, with the remainder funding education as well as drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

Any of these provisions are subject to change, however, and there are indications that they may be amended soon. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said last week that she was prepared to call lawmakers into a special legislative session this summer to address provisions which, in her view, essentially allow "recreational marijuana in the state of Oklahoma."

And in a statement on Tuesday night, the governor said she "respect[s] the will of the voters in any question placed before them to determine the direction of our state" but that "it is our responsibility as state leaders to look out for the health and safety of Oklahoma citizens."

"I will be discussing with legislative leaders and state agencies our options going forward on how best to proceed with adding a medical and proper regulatory framework to make sure marijuana use is truly for valid medical illnesses [said] Governor Mary Fallin...

In the lead up to the vote, the measure faced vocal opposition from Fallin and from other popular officials like U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R), who appeared in a television ad urging voters to reject medical marijuana.  Groups like the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association and the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association also campaigned against legalization.

I thought there was a real chance that this Oklahoma initiative might fail because state leaders seemingly did an effective job of conveying the message that the proposal was tantamount to approving recreational marijuana, and it also seemed more resources were spent in the campaign against the initiative than for it. But despite these forces, a significant form of marijuana reform passed by a very wide margin in a very red state. Too bad representatives in Washington DC have still not yet fully come to understand the depth and strength of voter interest in ending blanket marijuana prohibitions.

June 26, 2018 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"High on Crime? Exploring the Effects of Marijuana Dispensary Laws on Crime in California Counties"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new research now available via SSRN authored by Priscillia Hunt, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula and Gabriel Weinberger. Here is its abstract:

Regulated marijuana markets are more common today than outright prohibitions across the U.S. states.  Advocates for policies that would legalize marijuana recreational markets frequently argue that such laws will eliminate crime associated with the black markets, which many argue is the only link between marijuana use and crime.  Law enforcement, however, has consistently argued that marijuana medical dispensaries (regulated retail sale and a common method of medical marijuana distribution), create crime in neighborhoods with these store-fronts.

This study offers new insight into the question by exploiting newly collected longitudinal data on local marijuana ordinances within California and thoroughly examining the extent to which counties that permit dispensaries experience changes in violent, property and marijuana use crimes using difference-in-difference methods.  The results suggest no relationship between county laws that legally permit dispensaries and reported violent crime.  We find a negative and significant relationship between dispensary allowances and property crime rates, although event studies indicate these effects may be a result of pre-existing trends.  These results are consistent with some recent studies suggesting that dispensaries help reduce crime by reducing vacant buildings and putting more security in these areas.  We also find a positive association between dispensary allowances and DUI arrests, suggesting marijuana use increases in conjunction with impaired driving in counties that adopt these ordinances, but these results are also not corroborated by an event study analysis.

June 16, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, 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)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Maine Supreme Court rules federal prohibition preempts effort to make employer subsidize an employee’s medical marijuana

Mmm[1]_0As reported in this AP article, "Maine employers don’t have to pay for medical marijuana under the state workers’ compensation system because federal law supersedes state law, the state supreme court ruled Thursday."  Here is more on this state court ruling and some national context:

The court concluded in a 5-2 decision that federal law takes precedence in a conflict between the federal Controlled Substances Act and the state medical marijuana law. Existing case law demonstrates that an individual’s right to use medical marijuana under state law “cannot be converted into a sword that would require another party” to engage in conduct that violates current federal law, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm wrote for the majority.

The legal case focused on whether a paper mill must pay for medical marijuana prescribed for a worker who was disabled after being hurt on the job in 1989. Madawaska resident Gaetan Bourgoin won an appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Board after arguing that marijuana is cheaper and safer than narcotics. But the Twin Rivers Paper Co. argued that it shouldn’t be required to cover the cost of medical marijuana and that doing so put it in violation of federal law.

The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the Maine Legislature’s exemption of medical marijuana patients from prosecution under state law “does not have the power to change or restrict the application of federal law that positively conflicts with state law.”

Two dissenting justices wrote that the compelling story of how the injured worker was weaned from opioids by use of medical marijuana justified requiring the reimbursement. “The result of the court’s opinion today is to deprive (the worker) of reimbursement for medication that has finally given him relief from his chronic pain, and to perhaps force him to return to the use of opioids and other drugs...,” Justice Joseph Jabar wrote....

At least five states — Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey and New Mexico — have found medical marijuana treatment is reimbursable under their workers’ compensation laws, according to the National Council for Compensation Insurance. Florida and North Dakota, meanwhile, passed laws last year excluding medical marijuana treatment from workers’ compensation reimbursement.

The full 50-page Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling is available at this link.  Here is how the majority opinion gets started:

After sustaining a work-related injury, Gaetan H. Bourgoin was issued a certification to use medical marijuana as a result of chronic back pain.  He successfully petitioned the Workers’ Compensation Board for an order requiring his former employer, Twin Rivers Paper Company, LLC, to pay for the medical marijuana.  On this appeal from the decision of the Appellate Division affirming that award, we are called upon for the first time to consider the relationship between the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MMUMA).  We conclude that in the narrow circumstances of this case — where an employer is subject to an order that  would require it to subsidize an employee’s acquisition of medical marijuana — there is a positive conflict between federal and state law, and as a result, the CSA preempts the MMUMA as applied here. See 21 U.S.C.S. § 903 (LEXIS through Pub. L. No. 115-181). We therefore vacate the decision of the Appellate Division.

June 14, 2018 in Court Rulings, Employment and labor law issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, State court rulings, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The Politics of Passing and Implementing Medical Marijuana in Ohio"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper just posted to SSRN authored by A. Lee Hannah.  Here is its abstract:

Why did the state of Ohio adopt a medical marijuana policy? And why did it do so in 2016?  This article addresses these questions by examining the diffusion of medical cannabis policy across the U.S., by describing the evolution of images related to the policy, and by exploring the content of the law.

Using evidence from legislators’ remarks on the floor of the Ohio General Assembly and interviews with activists and analysts, I show that the direct initiative helped push members of the Ohio General Assembly to write and adopt a medical marijuana law (MML) when they were unlikely to do so. Next, I analyze trends in media coverage of medical marijuana to demonstrate that the spread of the policy has also been aided by shifting images related to the beneficiaries of medical cannabis programs.  Turning to the content of the law, I find that Ohio’s MML is written similarly to later adopters in the Midwest – where laws are more restrictive and medicalized. Finally, I assess how the characteristics of the law and looming elections will affect the implementation of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program.

June 14, 2018 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mapping out Oklahoma positions with approaching medical marijuana reform initiative vote

OK-Yes-788

This recent article from Religion News Service, headlined "In red-state Oklahoma, marijuana ballot question splits people of faith," provides a great look at the range of perspectives on marijuana reform in Oklahoma with only weeks before a big initiative vote. Here are snippets from an article worth reading in full:

As Presbyterian minister Bobby Griffith sees it, legalizing medical marijuana in Oklahoma could help arthritis sufferers with chronic pain and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The 41-year-old husband and father has a personal reason, too, for supporting State Question 788 — a pro-marijuana initiative that the Bible Belt state’s voters will decide June 26. “For myself, I would be interested in a prescription for it to see if it works better than my anxiety and depression medications,” said Griffith, co-pastor of a Presbyterian church near downtown Oklahoma City and a member of the national group Clergy for a New Drug Policy.

As Griffith characterizes it, the Oklahoma ballot measure’s potential to improve health outcomes and reduce dependence on addictive opioid painkillers makes it a “moral issue.”

Religious opponents counter that backing the issue would be immoral. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., an ordained Southern Baptist pastor, blasts the ballot measure as a “recreational marijuana vote disguised as medical marijuana.”

“The moral issue to me is really a family issue,” Lankford, who directed a Baptist youth camp before his 2010 election to Congress, told Religion News Service. “The best thing for our state is not to get more parents and grandparents to smoke marijuana,” added the senator, who filmed a commercial urging voters to reject State Question 788. “To have our communities more drug-addicted and distracted, that doesn’t help our families. It doesn’t make us more prosperous. It doesn’t make our schools more successful.”...

[F]aith arguments are prominent in a state where three out of four residents describe themselves in Gallup polling as “moderately religious” or “very religious.” The vote — which will take place on the state’s primary day for governor and other state and federal offices — resulted from a petition signed by nearly 68,000 voters and presented to state officials two years ago.

If State Question 788 passes, Abner warns, Oklahoma could follow the nine states that have authorized recreational use of marijuana. “The key thing is that it’s not medical,” he said. “This is something that’s hiding behind that (terminology) to bring recreational marijuana to Oklahoma. And from a spiritual standpoint, none of us can sustain the sound minds and healthy bodies God desires us to have when we place ourselves under the controlling influence of something other than the Holy Spirit.”

Other religious opponents include top officials of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma — representing the state’s roughly 577,000 Southern Baptists — and the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, the public policy arm of the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses, comprising roughly 288,000 parishioners. “My hope is that Oklahoma will vote down marijuana legalization and continue to put legal barriers between addiction and the communities it devastates,” Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said in a statement published by The Baptist Messenger, an Oklahoma newspaper.

But Jon Middendorf, senior pastor of Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene, said he favors “whatever can bring relief to folks who are in chronic pain.”

“I’m just exhausted of conspiracy theories that always seem to emanate from the Christian right,” said Middendorf, who stressed that he was speaking personally and not on behalf of his congregation. “There’s always some sinister story behind it all,” he added. “It really might be that somebody who’s in pain just needs something that hasn’t been tried just yet, that offers some help for relief and quality of life, that they would not have had otherwise.”...

Typically, Oklahomans rank among the most conservative voters in the nation.... But on the medical marijuana issue, recent polling shows State Question 788 enjoying support from 57.5 percent of voters and seeming likely to pass, reported Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com.

“We’ve polled this issue multiple times over the last five years, and we continue to see that certain groups, who one might think would be opposed to SQ788, continue to support it,” Shapard said in a statement. “Thirty years ago, these groups would have opposed it, but roughly half have changed their minds since then.”

Griffith, whose congregation is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America, said some of his most conservative friends support State Question 788. “A very conservative person I know — I mean, she loves President Trump but she also wants medical marijuana,” he said. “She has rheumatoid arthritis and wants to have something that helps relieve the pain and has some healing qualities about it without the addiction.”

Notably, this article was published before Prez Trump's comments this past Friday suggesting he would support a federal marijuana reform bill that would formally respect state marijuana reform laws.   I suggested in this post a few months ago that proponents of Question 788 likely could benefit greatly, given that 65% of the state voted for Prez Trump, if they could claim he was supportive of state marijuana reform efforts.   interesting times.

Some prior related posts:

June 9, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Religion, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 8, 2018

President Donald Trump suggests he supports new STATES Act effort to reform federal marijuana prohibition

Tom Angell has this notable breaking news in a new Marijuana Moment posting:

President Trump said on Friday that he “really” supports new marijuana legislation filed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

“I really do. I support Senator Gardner,” he said when asked about the bill by reporters during an impromptu press conference on the White House lawn as he prepared to board Marine One to head to G-7 summit in Canada.

“I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it,” he said. “But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”

The bill, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Entrusting States (STATES) Act, would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act to exempt state-legal marijuana activity from its provisions. It would also protect banks that work with legal cannabis businesses and legalize industrial hemp.

Critically, there is a very big difference between "end[ing] up supporting" a piece of proposed legislation and actively championing it. Especially with various leaders in Congress seemingly actively opposed to any major (or even minor) federal marijuana reforms, I am not optimistic about the prospects of this bill unless and until it has Prez Trump actively campaigning for it. But, for political reasons, maybe he ultimately will.

Prior related post:

Members of Congress introduce STATES Act described as "Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect State Marijuana Policies"

June 8, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Members of Congress introduce STATES Act described as "Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect State Marijuana Policies"

Ccc_SQUAREAs reported in this press release, titled "Gardner, Warren, Joyce and Blumenauer Unveil Bicameral, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect State Marijuana Policies," today has brought a big interesting new federal marijuana reform proposal. Here are the details via the press release (with links from the original):

U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Representatives David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) today introduced the bicameral, bipartisan Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act (STATES Act) to ensure that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders.  The bill also extends these protections to Washington D.C, U.S. territories, and federally recognized tribes, and contains common-sense guardrails to ensure that states, territories, and tribes regulating marijuana do so safely. 

Forty-six states currently have laws permitting or decriminalizing marijuana or marijuana-based products - and Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and a number of tribes have similar laws.  As states developed their own approaches to marijuana enforcement, the Department of Justice issued guidance to safeguard these state actions and ensure practical use of limited law enforcement resources. However, this guidance was withdrawn earlier this year, creating legal uncertainty, threatening public health and safety, and undermining state regulatory regimes....

Ignoring the ability of states, territories, and tribes to determine for themselves what type of marijuana regulation works best comes with real costs. Legitimate businesses that comply with state laws are blocked from access to basic banking services.  Illicit markets often spring up and local law enforcement must divert resources needed elsewhere.  Thousands of people are prosecuted and locked up in our criminal justice system. Qualified scientists and state public health departments struggle to conduct basic and epidemiological research or spur medical advances, and the fundamental nature of state and tribal sovereignty is violated.  As more states, territories, and tribes thoughtfully consider updates to marijuana regulations, often through voter-initiated referendums, it is critical that Congress take immediate steps to safeguard their right to do so by passing the STATES Act.

 The legislation has been endorsed by organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Safe Access, Americans for Tax Reform, the Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign for Liberty, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cooperative Credit Union Association, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Institute for Liberty, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Maine Credit Union League, the Mountain West Credit Union Association, the National Cannabis Bar Association, the National Cannabis Industry Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the New Federalism Fund,NORML, the Northwest Credit Union Association, R Street, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

 The STATES Act:

  • Amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so that - as long as states and tribes comply with a few basic protections - its provisions no longer apply to any person acting in compliance with State or tribal laws relating to marijuana activities.
  • Clearly states that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.
  • Removes industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances under the CSA.
  • The following federal criminal provisions under the CSA continue to apply:
    • Prohibits endangering human life while manufacturing marijuana.
    • Prohibits employment of persons under age 18 in drug operations.
  • Prohibits the distribution of marijuana at transportation safety facilities such as rest areas and truck stops.
  • Prohibits the distribution or sale of marijuana to persons under the age of 21 other than for medical purposes.

A fact sheet about the legislation is available here, and the full bill text is available here.

June 7, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Medical marijuana news nationwide, in states large and small, developing and debated

There are so many interesting developments, some small and some big, in medical marijuana states that I cannot come close to keeping track of it all.  Having seen a lot of notable stories in a lot of states in recent days, I figured it might be time to do a round-up of stories that caught my eye.  So, though this is not in any sense comprehensive, here goes in alphabetical order:

From Arkansas here, "Arkansas Supreme Court to hear dispute over medical marijuana rollout"

From Connecticut here, "With booming medical marijuana program, some fear shortages"

From Georgia here, "Georgia couple loses custody of son after giving him marijuana to treat seizures"

From Florida here, "As marijuana dispensaries open their doors, Florida registers 5,400 new users per week"

From Maryland here, "Overwhelmed computer system stalls medical marijuana sales over weekend in Maryland

From Ohio here, "Ohio announces 56 sites where medical marijuana will be sold"

From Oklahoma here, "Oklahoma's medical marijuana law would be unique"

From Utah here, "Unofficially, many Utah law enforcement groups are lining up to oppose the medical marijuana initiative"

June 4, 2018 in Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, June 1, 2018

Brookings debuts short documentary: "The Life She Deserves: Medical Marijuana in the United States"

Regular readers have often seen me use this space to sing the praises of various writings from various folks at Brookings on various marijuana reform topics.  This Brookings feature highlights that their work in this space has taken on a new dimension:

For 100 years, Brookings has been known for its in-depth public policy research, primarily shared through reports, books, and events. This year, the Institution has added a new medium to its canon of work: narrative film.

On May 29, Brookings and Variety co-hosted the Washington, D.C. premiere of the Institution’s first documentary-short film, “The Life She Deserves.” The film is an intimate portrait of Virginia teenager Jennifer Collins and her family’s struggle to find a treatment to control her debilitating epilepsy and their fight to change medical marijuana laws. Following the screening of the film—a culmination of more than two years of work between Senior Fellow John Hudak and the Institution’s creative video team — John Hudak, Jennifer Collins, her mother and medical cannabis advocate Beth Collins, and George Burroughs, the film’s director, discussed the role of film in influencing policy and the current picture of state-level marijuana legalization and federal restrictions on the use and clinical research into medical cannabis. Ted Johnson, a senior editor at Variety, moderated the conversation....

“The Life She Deserves” is available to watch online at www.lifeshedeserves.com.

June 1, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 28, 2018

"PTSD & Pot: Veterans making Memorial Day push for legal marijuana"

The title of this post is the title of this lengthy new Fox News article. Regular readers know I have, since starting this blog more nearly five years ago, regularly blogged about a range of issues relating to veterans and their access to marijuana (a dozen of recent posts on this topic are linked below). As I have said before and will say again, I feel a genuine and deep debt to anyone and everyone who serves this nation through the armed forces, and I feel especially strongly on a day like Memorial Day that veterans should be able to have safe and legal access to any and every form of medicine that they and their doctors reasonably believe could help them with any ailments or conditions. Here is part of the start of the Fox News piece:

Veterans from across the country will be gathering in our nation's capital on Memorial Day this year to not only honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, but to advocate for a cause that isn't typically associated with our nation's heroes -- the legalization of marijuana.

The veterans and advocates taking part in the Memorial Day Veterans Rally DC hope to change the stigma that surrounds cannabis, the preferred term for marijuana among advocates, by arguing that this alternative medicine is already helping some vets treat issues like PTSD, chronic pain and depression -- all without the use of dangerous & addictive prescription drugs like opioids. One of their rallying cries is "plants over pills," and they're not just coming from the usual legal pot hot-spots like Colorado....

Beyond a lack of access in all 50 states, advocates say one of the biggest problems is that veterans are forced to pay for this alternative treatment out of pocket, despite what they say are life-saving results. That's due to Department of Veterans Affairs regulations which stipulate VA doctors still cannot prescribe medicinal marijuana to patients, despite the fact that they are allowed to "discuss marijuana use with veterans as part of comprehensive care planning."

Some recent prior related posts:

May 28, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Florida trial judge strikes down state legislature's prohibition on smoking medical marijuana

Download (13)As reported in this local article, a "Leon County circuit court judge ruled Friday afternoon that the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana is unconstitutional, setting up continued legal fights as the state appeals the decision." Here is more about the ruling:

In a 22-page order, Judge Karen Gievers said that the Legislature's ban on smoking medical cannabis conflicted with the intent of a constitutional amendment that had broadly legalized the drug for medical use after voters approved it in 2016.

She concurred with arguments made last Wednesday by Jon Mills, an attorney for the plaintiffs, contending the definition approved by voters included "all types of medical marijuana," including forms that can be smoked. Mills had also argued that the amendment implicitly recognized smoking in private by recognizing that there was no right to smoke it in public places.

Gievers, in striking down the ban, invoked both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in her decision and highlighted Washington's characterization of the constitution as a "sacred obligation."

"Just as no person is above the law, the legislature must heed the constitutional rights Floridians placed in the Constitution in 2016," she wrote. "The conflicting, overreaching 2017 statute, while presumably adopted in good faith and with good intentions, cannot be allowed to overrule the authority of the people to protect rights in the Constitution."

Devin Galetta, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, said it would appeal the verdict, resulting in an automatic stay. The notice of the appeal was filed Friday night. "This ruling goes against what the legislature outlined when they wrote and approved Florida’s law to implement the constitutional amendment that was approved by an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority," he wrote.

About 71 percent of Florida voters had approved Amendment 2 in 2016, authorizing the use of marijuana as a medical treatment for people with debilitating conditions. But in a bill implementing the amendment the following year, lawmakers limited the scope of its use to only oils, sprays, tinctures, vaping and edibles. Lawmakers excluded smoking as a method for medical treatment, arguing that smoking would be a "backdoor attempt" at allowing recreational use.

Gievers heard arguments in a one-day trial last week for the case, which was brought against the state last July by John Morgan, an Orlando attorney who also financed the campaign behind the successful constitutional amendment. His suit, filed on behalf of two patients and two advocacy organizations, asked the court to invalidate the implementing law passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Ben Pollara, who managed the political campaign that helped push the constitutional amendment, said the ruling was a victory both for Florida patients and for voters who supported the amendment.... "The voters of Florida wanted this," he said. "It was clear in the intent language and in the ballot language. ... Smoked marijuana is the most effective and quickest delivery system, period."

He cautioned that Scott, who is running for the U.S. Senate, should reconsider continuing to fight for the smoking ban. "What I would say to Rick Scott and [Attorney General] Pam Bondi is, 'If you decide to appeal this verdict, I think Rick Scott will lose the U.S. Senate race on this issue alone,' " he said.

The full ruling in this case is available at this link.

May 26, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Court Rulings, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

"Cannabis supporters brace for lackadaisical launch of marijuana in Ohio"

Images (12)The title of this post is the headline of this local article providing a partial update on the roll-out of medical marijuana in the Buckeye State.  I like the headline because it has a nice alliteration, "lackadaisical launch," which I am now inclined to steal when talking about what is afoot in Ohio.  Here are just some of the reasons reasons why this label is so fitting:

Kim Rupp is anxiously awaiting the day she can buy and consume medical marijuana in Ohio. "You're hoping that when this opens that it will change your life," Rupp said, referring to dispensaries where legal cannabis will be sold in the Buckeye State. Rupp said she's battled a debilitating bone disease for years, consuming countless pharmaceutical drugs along the way.

A big proponent of medical marijuana, Rupp is pessimistic that Ohio's new pot program will be fully up and running by Sept. 8th, as required by law. "We would be fortunate if we see anything happening by spring," Rupp said. "I mean, anything where people have access." Instead, Rupp thinks only a few dispensaries will be open by fall.

Ohio's Board of Pharmacy delayed Wednesday's scheduled announcement of who will get to operate the stores. That means nobody's started building what have to be fortified sites, because buying cannabis is typically an all-cash transaction. "I don't think you'll see everybody open on the same day," said Greg May. May is with Ohio Releaf III, a company that hopes to build a dispensary in Forest Park.

Missing only a few stores will likely have a major impact. The pharmacy board can award up to 60 dispensary licenses statewide, with just three dispensaries for all of Hamilton County. "My advice is get your recommendation now or as soon as possible," said Rob Ryan, executive director of the Ohio Patient Network. Even though he anticipates a slow rollout, Ryan urges anyone with a qualifying medical condition to talk to their doctor about marijuana now.

UPDATE The new AP article, headlined "Medical marijuana ramp-up in Ohio sees progress, questions," provides more details on Ohio's struggles to get is medical marijuana regime up and running.  Here is how it gets started:

The medical marijuana program Ohio's set to launch later this year has been beset by questions.

Will growing operations be able to ramp up in time to meet initial demand? Will legal and administrative challenges tangle the rollout in red tape? Will enough doctors obtain certificates to serve needy patients?

Still, much progress has been made since Ohio became the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana in 2016 and set Sept. 8 of this year as the launch date.

Mark Hamlin, the Ohio Department of Commerce's policy adviser on medical marijuana, acknowledges the process has been "bumpy." But he said he hopes the public recognizes this is not just a short-term project.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This new Columbus Dispatch article provides yet another account of these stories under the headline "Ohio in danger of missing Sept. 8 deadline for medical marijuana," which includes these excerpts:

The program must be “fully operational” by early September, according to the state’s Medical Marijuana Control Program website. But state officials say that means only that a minimal amount of some form of medical marijuana must be available by then. “I don’t think there is a lot of confidence in that Sept. 8 date. If there is not a seed in the ground right now, you can speed up the permit process and build 24 hours a day, but the only thing you can’t speed up is Mother Nature,” said Bob Bridges, the patient advocate on the state’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee.

For cultivators, the only way to speed up the process is to plant a cutting from an existing cannabis plant rather than starting with a seed. That short-cuts the germination process, but it still takes eight to 12 weeks to mature.

Bridges is one of 14 members of the committee, tasked with advising the three state agencies involved with the program, appointed with approval by Gov. John Kasich. “Patients are very, very concerned product won’t be ready,” Bridges said. “Overwhelming, the concern has been: ‘Is medicine going to be available Sept. 8?’”

May 24, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Arizona Supreme Court strikes down state legislation prohibiting medical marijuana on college campus as inconsistent with voter initiative

The Arizona Supreme Court has issued a series of opinions giving broad effect to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which was enacted by voters as Proposition 203 in 2010.   The latest example of such an opinion was handed down today in Arizona v. Maestas, No. CR-17-0193-PR (Az. May 23, 2018) (available here). Here is the first paragraph and key substantive paragraphs from the ruling:

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”), enacted by voters as Proposition 203 in 2010, generally permits qualified AMMA cardholders to possess a limited amount of marijuana and, with certain exceptions and limitations, immunizes their AMMA-compliant possession or use from “arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner.” A.R.S. § 36-2811(B).  Among its limitations, the AMMA prohibits the possession or use of medical marijuana at certain specified locations.  A.R.S. § 36-2802(B). In 2012, the Arizona Legislature added another location by enacting a statute under which “a person, including [a qualified AMMA cardholder], may not lawfully possess or use marijuana on the campus of any public university, college, community college or postsecondary educational institution.” A.R.S. § 15-108(A). Because that statute violates Arizona’s Voter Protection Act (“VPA”) with respect to AMMA-compliant marijuana possession or use, we hold it unconstitutional as applied to the university student/cardholder in this case....

To comply with the VPA, the legislature may constitutionally amend a voter initiative only if “the amending legislation furthers the purposes of such measure and at least three-fourths of the members of each house of the legislature . . . vote to amend such measure.”  Ariz. Const. art. 4, pt. 1, § 1(6)(C) . Here, “at least three-fourths of the members of each house of the legislature” voted to enact § 15-108(A).  Id.  The dispositive question, therefore, is whether § 15-108(A) “furthers the purposes” of the AMMA. Id. It does not.

The AMMA “permits those who meet statutory conditions to [possess and] use medical marijuana.”  Reed-Kaliher v. Hoggatt, 237 Ariz. 119, 122 ¶ 7 (2015).  “Because marijuana possession and use are otherwise illegal in Arizona, . . . the drafters [of the AMMA] sought to ensure that those using marijuana pursuant to [the] AMMA would not be penalized for such use.”  Id.  Indeed, this purpose is made explicit in the AMMA’s voter initiative statements.  See Proposition 203 § 2(G) (2010) (stating that the purpose of the AMMA “is to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions . . . from arrest and prosecution, [and] criminal and other penalties . . . if such patients engage in the medical use of marijuana”).  Criminalizing AMMA-compliant marijuana possession or use on public college and university campuses plainly does not further the AMMA’s primary purpose as expressed in those statements supporting the voter initiative.  Section 15-108(A) does not “protect” qualifying AMMA cardholders from criminal penalties arising from AMMA-compliant marijuana possession or use on public college and university campuses, but rather subjects them to such penalties.  Therefore, because § 15-108(A) does not further the purpose of the AMMA, we hold that § 15-108(A) violates the VPA as applied to AMMA-compliant marijuana possession or use.

May 23, 2018 in Court Rulings, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Key House committee votes (for the first time) to extend limits on Justice Department concerning medical marijuana prosecutions

WashingtonDC-Capitol-MarijuanaAs reported in this Forbes piece by Tom Angell, headlined "Congressional Committee Protects Medical Marijuana From Jeff Sessions," this afternoon brought some interesting developments out of Congress. Here are the details:

A powerful congressional panel voted on Thursday to continue shielding medical marijuana patients and providers who comply with state laws from prosecution by the federal government.

While the provision has been federal law since 2014, when it was first attached to legislation that funds the U.S. Department of Justice, its continuance has been in question because of recent efforts by Republican leadership to prevent votes on cannabis amendments.

But in a stunning bipartisan move, the House Appropriations Committee voted to add the provision as a rider to legislation funding U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session's department for Fiscal Year 2019. The amendment was offered by Rep. David Joyce (R-OH)....

Historically, the measure has been approved on the House floor but, because Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) has effectively blocked floor votes on cannabis amendments for the last several years -- most recently on Wednesday when his panel prevented three hemp measures from advancing -- supporters haven't gotten a chance to bring the medical marijuana measure before the full chamber since 2015, when it passed by a margin of 242-186. Since then, the provision has been extended, mostly by default, through large-scale omnibus bills or short-term continuing resolutions that have largely kept federal spending policy riders frozen in place for the last few budget cycles.

But legalization supporters circumvented their Pete Sessions problem on Thursday by inserting the marijuana language into the funding bill at the earlier Appropriations panel stage, a move they previously haven't risked because members of Congress are seen as more likely to avoid bucking party leadership at the committee level when bills are being crafted....

The growing number of states that are enacting medical cannabis laws in recent years means that far more members of Congress represent constituents who stand to be harmed by the spending riders' disappearance, however, so advocates felt comfortable placing the measure before the committee this year....

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has no familial relation to the Rules Committee chairman of the same last name, asked congressional leadership to discontinue the provision in a 2017 letter, but lawmakers then extended it anyway as part of large-scale budget deals for the rest of that fiscal year and into FY 2018....

Now, the protections for state medical marijuana laws and the people and businesses who rely on them are pace to continue through 2019 as well. The rider does not protect broader state laws allowing recreational marijuana use and businesses. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to take up its version of the Justice Department legislation next month. That panel has easily approved the medical cannabis rider -- and other marijuana provisions -- in recent fiscal years, and is expected to do so again.

By taking the House committee route, led by Joyce, marijuana reform supporters also avoided the measure's long association with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who has been its chief sponsor for years and who isn't a member of the Appropriations panel. The reputation of Rohrabacher, who is seen as one of the most pro-Russia members of Congress, has been damaged amid revelations about that country's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race And his reelection this year, in a district that Hillary Clinton won, is uncertain.

Now, because the measure was successfully attached to the 2019 Justice Department bill by Joyce, it is the Ohio congressman's name -- and not Rohrabacher's -- that will likely appear at the top of congressional sign-on letters about it, probably making it more likely that fellow GOP members will more seriously consider supporting its extension....

Separately during the Appropriations Committee's markup of the Commerce, Justice Science spending bill, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), an opponent of legalization, successfully offered an amendment urging the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to quickly process pending applications to cultivate marijuana to be used in scientific research.

May 17, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)