Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Marijuana Edibles and 'Gummy Bears'"

The title of this post is the title of this notable and timely new paper authored by Paul Larkin now available via SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

Contemporary American society has decided that, whatever may be the benefits and harms of liberalizing marijuana use by adults, we should continue to outlaw the sale of recreational-use marijuana to children and adolescents.  Even the states that permit recreational marijuana use under state law draw the line between adults and minors. Unfortunately, some companies pay only lip service to that line.  The ability to develop products that closely resemble cookies, brownies, candies, and other substances that are attractive to children and adolescents — albeit, for different reasons — poses the risk that minors — some accidentally, some intentionally — will consume marijuana edibles found around the home or elsewhere.  Any use of marijuana by children and long-term use of marijuana by adolescents poses health risks avoidable through federal prohibition or regulation of edibles.

To avoid the danger to their health and safety, the Justice Department and the FDA should take steps to prevent adulterated and mislabeled edibles from harming the public.  Even if the Justice Department decides not to challenge the state medical or recreational use programs, the FDA should consider treating such edibles as adulterated foods under the FDCA — taking whatever steps are available to prevent the sale of any such products altogether — or to allow sales to go forward only under strictly regulated conditions.  Doing so would help to reduce the danger that edibles pose to the health and safety of children and adolescents without materially interfering in state decisions on how to regulate the distribution of medical-use marijuana or the recreational use of that drug by adults.

April 26, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Food and Drink, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Does the new Medical Cannabis Research Act now have a real shot at becoming law?

DownloadThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new Bloomberg article headlined "Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Backing of Key Republican in House." Here are the interesting details from the piece:

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has agreed to co-sponsor a Florida Republican’s bipartisan bill to make medical marijuana research easier, his office confirmed on Wednesday.

That backing by the conservative Virginia Republican potentially bolsters the bill’s chances in the House. Representative Matt Gaetz started circulating a handout Tuesday night explaining his Medical Cannabis Research Act, with Goodlatte listed as a co-sponsor. "I can confirm that the chairman will co-sponsor," said Kathryn Rexrode, a spokesman for Goodlatte, who is not running for re-election, in an email.

A spokesman for Gaetz said the measure was to be introduced on Wednesday or Thursday, with its sponsors set to hold a news conference on Thursday.... A draft of the legislation was also obtained Tuesday by Bloomberg News -- as well as a separate summary Gaetz was circulating outside the House chamber.

That summary listed current co-sponsors as Goodlatte and fellow Republicans Dana Rohrabacher of California and Karen Handel of Georgia; as well as Democrats Alcee Hastings and Darren Soto of Florida; Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.

The measure, as described would increase the number of federally approved manufacturers of cannabis for research purposes, and it would also provide a "safe harbor" for researchers and patients in clinical trials so that institutions such as universities would not risk losing federal funding.  The bill makes it clear that the Department of Veterans Affairs could refer patients for clinical trials, and eligible researchers at the VA could perform research on medical cannabis.

Clear standards on federally approved growers would be imposed.  At the same time, the measure was described as fostering innovation, making it easier for industry leaders to work with researchers to develop new scientific breakthroughs.

Even so, the chances that most of Gaetz’s Republican colleagues will help him pass the bill in an election year are slim.  And the odds of Sessions reversing course are also long....

Asked if he’s talked to the attorney general about his new bill, Gaetz said he has not. He joked of Sessions, "doesn’t call or visit me anymore." Gaetz is among House conservatives who have been criticizing the Justice Department in unrelated battles over providing Congress documents tied to the FBI’s handing of its investigations of Hillary Clinton’s emails, and the Russia inquiry led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump offered qualified support for legalization while on the presidential campaign trail, saying that medical marijuana “should happen” and that laws regarding recreational usage should be left in the hands of the states. Trump made his assurances this month after Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, a state that has legalized marijuana, had held up Justice Department nominees.

This article is right to suggest that the odds of any marijuana reform making it through Congress these days are slim. But because the Medical Cannabis Research Act sounds like a very modest proposal that has the backing of a key Committee Chair, this bill would seems to at least have some chance. Indeed, because there are a number of other more robust federal marijuana reform proposals gaining attention and sponsors, it strikes me as even possible that AG Jeff Sessions might not oppose this proposal as actively as he may be inclined to oppose others making the rounds.  That all said, I still think the most likely answer to the question in the title of this post is "no."

UPDATE: Over here at Marijuana Moment, Tom Angell has more details on the provisions of the Medical Cannabis Research Act.

April 25, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Making a case for the FDA as the main federal agency on marijuana reform

Download (13)Paul J. Larkin Jr., a senior legal research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, has this interesting new Fox News commentary headlined "On marijuana, let the Food and Drug Administration make the decisions." Here are excerpts:

Reports about the Trump-Gardner deal and Schumer proposal [to reform federal marijuana laws and policies] raise several additional questions:

· Will the federal government pursue an entirely new policy regarding marijuana regulation?

· If so, will that new direction leave decision-making entirely up to the states?

· If not, will the federal government still play a role?

· Will that change lead to a net social plus or minus?

The answer to each of those questions is the same: “Maybe yes, maybe no.” That’s because there is another possible option lying between “absolute federal ban” and “complete state freedom.”...

In 1962, Congress also prohibited the distribution of new drugs unless the FDA commissioner first found them to be both “safe” and “effective.” Since then, Congress has consistently reiterated that the FDA should be responsible for making those decisions – not Congress, not the states, not the public. It’s an important matter. We do not decide by plebiscite which drugs should be sold to the public. America has resolved that experts should make that decision because the average person lacks the education, training and experience to answer the medical question of whether a particular drug is safe and effective.

Why should we treat marijuana differently? For more than two decades, states have decided to reconsider their marijuana laws and permit people to use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes even though the distribution of marijuana is forbidden under federal law. Three presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama – each failed to force Congress to decide whether federal law should also be re-examined.

President Trump may be willing to do what his three predecessors should have done. It is time for Congress to take up this subject once again. Great nations, like great people, always must be willing to reconsider their laws in light of new developments. It makes sense for Congress to revisit this issue.

But that does not mean senators and representatives should act in a vacuum, without regard for the nation’s designated authority on food and drug safety. Nor should members of Congress simply act according to polling results. We do not let the public decide which antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, or chemotherapy drugs can be marketed. There is no reason to treat marijuana differently.

Congress has never let the FDA decide this issue, because federal law has treated marijuana as contraband since the year before the FDCA became law. Maybe we should treat marijuana in the same way that we treat any other new drug that someone argues should be used therapeutically.

No healthy democracy can afford to glibly disregard the opinions of experts on matters within their expertise. Since 1962, the United States has decided to trust the FDA with the responsibility to resolve any debate, either within or beyond the scientific community, over a drug’s safety and efficacy. That decision is entitled to no less respect today than it was 50 years ago.

So maybe Congress will re-examine the treatment of marijuana under federal law and send the nation in a new direction. But maybe that new direction will be to leave the decision how to treat marijuana in the hands of the person we trust to make other, similar decisions: the commissioner of food and drugs. And maybe that approach will be a net social plus. We certainly think so with respect to other drugs. Perhaps, it’s time to enlist the FDA commissioner to make a scientific judgment about this issue too.

April 25, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Food and Drink, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Is federal marijuana reform certain if Democrats win back the House this fall?

WashingtonDC-Capitol-MarijuanaThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Politico article fully headlined "Legal Marijuana’s Big Moment: Despite hostility from the Trump administration, signs indicate federal decriminalization is only a flipped House away." Here are snippets from the lengthy article:

In Washington, evolution on the marijuana issue is proceeding at warp speed in political terms.  Boehner is just the latest in a string of noteworthy newcomers to the legalization movement that has been barreling through state houses for the past decade.  Just in the past several weeks, Mitch McConnell fast-tracked a Senate bill to legalize low-THC hemp.  Chuck Schumer announced that he would introduce a bill to de-schedule marijuana entirely. Colorado Senator Cory Gardner struck a deal with President Donald Trump, who promised to not target Colorado’s legal marijuana industry in exchange for Gardner releasing his hold on Trump’s Department of Justice nominees.  The FDA opened a comment period on the scheduling of marijuana ahead of a special session of the World Health Organization convened to re-evaluate marijuana laws, and both chambers of Congress passed “right to try” bills that might have accidentally legalized medical marijuana for terminally ill patients.  Taken together they suggest that nearly 50 years of federal marijuana prohibition is about to disappear, and it’s happening in the face of an administration that has expressed its outright hostility to the notion....

When POLITICO Magazine caught up with [Representative Earl] Blumenauer last week, he bubbled with enthusiasm.  The prospects for legalizing marijuana at the federal level, he said, have never been brighter. “It’s kind of exciting, isn’t it?” he told me.  “It’s all cresting this year… I think we’re entering into the final stages, if everyone does their jobs right.”

“I think the next Congress will finish the job of reform, and clean it up,” he told me, by which he means if it flips to Democratic control and legislation is permitted to proceed.  “We’ve got the votes in the House and the Senate and there will be a huge shakeup in the next Congress.” With Democrats in control, the new chairs of the relevant committees would be pro-marijuana: Jerry Nadler in Judiciary, Frank Pallone in Commerce, and Jim McGovern in Rules.  “These are our friends with good records,” he said.  Blumenauer thinks the votes are there now, but bills are bottled up by Republican leadership.  “I think this Congress, if the Republican leadership would not stifle this bipartisan consensus of virtually every Democrat and several dozen Republicans, if they’d just allow the vote, it would pass [a number of measures].”  

This Politico article rightly highlights recent federal marijuana reform momentum, and I am not surprised to hear bullish reform talk from Rep. Blumenauer. However, I have seen federal sentencing reform momentum build for five+ years without it resulting in any significant new legislation, and I always fear at the federal level it is easier to talk about reform than to get it done. Relatedly, we have seen how marijuana reform momentum in New Jersey and a few other states has stalled as legislators have to turn away from political rhetoric and toward the development of specific legislation.

Relatedly, Vice News has this lengthy new piece reviewing the positions of all 100 US Senators on marijuana reform under the headline "Does Your Senator Think Weed Should Be Legal?"

April 24, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 23, 2018

"Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper I have written for a forthcoming issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter which is now available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

States reforming marijuana laws should be particularly concerned with remedying the past inequities and burdens of mass criminalization.  State marijuana reforms should not only offer robust retroactive ameliorative relief opportunities for prior marijuana offenses, but also dedicate resources generated by marijuana reform to create and fund new institutions to assess and serve the needs of a broad array of offenders looking to remedy the collateral consequences of prior involvement in the criminal justice system.  So far, California stands out among reform states for coupling repeal of marijuana prohibition with robust efforts to enable and ensure the erasure of past marijuana convictions.  In addition to encouraging marijuana reform states to follow California’s lead in enacting broad ameliorative legislation, this essay urges policy makers and reform advocates to see the value of linking and leveraging the commitments and spirit of modern marijuana reform and expungement movements.

Part II begins with a brief review of the history of marijuana prohibition giving particular attention to social and racial dynamics integral to prohibition, its enforcement and now its reform.  Part III turns to recent reform activities focused on mitigating the punitive collateral consequences of a criminal conviction with a focus on the (mostly limited) efforts of marijuana reform states to foster the erasure of marijuana convictions.  Part IV sketches a novel proposal for connecting modern marijuana reform and expungement movements.   This part suggest a new criminal justice institution, a Commission on Justice Restoration, to be funded by the taxes, fees and other revenues generated by marijuana reforms and to be tasked with proactively working on policies and practices designed to minimize and ameliorate undue collateral consequences for people with criminal convictions.

Cross-posted at Sentencing Law & Policy

April 23, 2018 in Criminal justice developments and reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Senate Minority Leader to introduce bill to deschedule marijuana

95ff435c240b91016a0f6a70670077ffVice News has this notable new story under the headline "Sen. Chuck Schumer to introduce bill to 'decriminalize' marijuana." Here are the details:

In an exclusive interview with VICE News, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) confirmed he is putting his name on legislation that he said is aimed at “decriminalizing” marijuana at the federal level.

For Schumer, this is a shift. While he has backed medical marijuana and the rights of states to experiment with legal sales of pot, what he is proposing is a seismic shift in federal drug policy . “Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?” Schumer said....

The legislation, which Schumer’s office expects will be released within the next week, has six main points. First, it would remove marijuana from Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances, which would end federal prohibition and leave it up to states to decide how to regulate the drug. Schumer stopped short of calling it legalization, but de-scheduling would essentially make marijuana legal at the federal level.

His bill would also would create some funding for minority and women-owned marijuana businesses, provide money for research into overall effects of marijuana and it’s specific effect on driving impairment.  And lastly, it would “maintain federal authority to regulate marijuana advertising in the same way it does alcohol and tobacco,” which Schumer said is to make sure marijuana businesses aren’t targeting children with their ads.

Schumer went further saying that he would support legalization in his home state of New York as well as any other state that wants to move in that direction.  “My personal view is legalization is just fine,” he said. “The best thing to do is let each state decide on its own.”

While this looks like an obvious election year-play, Schumer claimed it wasn’t about he looming 2018 or 2020 elections.  “I’m doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do.  I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined by the criminalization,” he said.  “If we benefit, so be it.  But that’s not my motivation.”

When asked if he had ever smoked weed before, Schumer said no, but when pressed on whether he might be willing to try it he said, “Maybe, I’m a little old, but who knows?”

April 19, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

SBNation takes big look at "Sports in the age of cannabis"

DownloadThe sports website SBNation has this big new series of articles under the banner "Sports in the age of cannabis." Here is how the site sets up its coverage along with links to more than a half-dozen article of note:

We, as a nation, are changing the way we feel about cannabis.

Gone are the days of Reefer Madness, the hysteria of the War on Drugs.  As more and more states decriminalize and legalize cannabis, we are seeing a new American attitude that views it as much a business opportunity as something to be feared or banned.

These attitudes are making their way into the sporting world as well. Some professional leagues still test for weed, though how eager they are to actually bust athletes is a matter of debate. And athletes are now seriously turning toward cannabis as a pain-management solution — as we learn more about the dangers of opioid abuse, weed appears more and more like a safer option.

While the changing stigmas around cannabis present exciting opportunities for some, it’s not all that simple. We still live in a country where people, too often people of color, are being arrested for selling and using a product that is already making entrepreneurs, in the sporting world and outside of it, tons of money.

We wanted to look at it all, from the mountains of Colorado to the streets of Atlanta, THC and CBD, oils and smoke, and all the rest.  This is sports in the age of cannabis.

ATHLETES ARE LEADING CANNABIS INTO THE MAINSTREAM

WEED AND SPORTS: A TIMELINE

CANNABIS IS FUELING ONE OF THE BEST RUNNERS IN AMERICA

WHICH WEED IS RIGHT FOR ATHLETES?

HOW ATHLETES BEAT WEED TESTS

THE GENDER DOUBLE STANDARD OF WEED IN SNOWBOARDING

WEED STIGMAS ARE CHANGING, BUT NOT FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR

April 17, 2018 in Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Sports, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Guest post: "New Database Tracks Local Variation in Implementing Cannabis Legalization in California"

David-Ball-2015Professor W. David Ball, who has served on California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom's Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Regulation, was kind enough to alert me to a new database that details how localities in California are implementing the state's marijuana reform laws. He was even kinder to take up my invitation to write up an account of this resource. Here is his terrific guest post:

California's regulated cannabis market is roughly four months old, but within the statewide framework, there are notable local variations.  The ballot initiative that legalized adult-use provided for a strong degree of local control and, as this article details, some areas have been quicker (and more willing) to license activities than others.   This database provides details about which activities county and municipal governments have decided to permit (sales, testing, manufacturing, growing, and distributing) for both the medical and adult-use market.

The database (and accompanying article) point out a number of dynamics likely to be replicated in other nascent adult-use markets.  First, the statewide framework is usually only the beginning -- localities still have a great degree of control over which geographical areas (and which parts of the new market) will be a part of a regulated cannabis regime.  California requires local licensing, but even if it didn't, local governments, via land-use regulations and zoning laws, would still be able to exercise a significant amount of control.  Focusing only on inter-state differences fails to capture the significant intra-state differences that exist within a given statewide regime.  It may be true that, say, the regulations of the San Francisco market have more in common with Seattle than they do with Fresno.

Second, we should remember that regulation is an ongoing process. Proposition 64, the adult-use legalization initiative, gave California the foundation to enact administrative rule-making.  These administrative rules, in turn, will be modified as the market develops.  Indeed, one bill currently under consideration in the state assembly would cut cannabis taxes in order to lure price-sensitive customers to the legal market.  There is no reason to suspect that the database of local regulations won't change on a regular basis.  Some localities might expand the scope and depth of permitted activities, some might contract them.  This is why it is important both to have a flexible framework and to ensure that stakeholders (including those not participating in the market as either consumers or producers) remain engaged.

With almost 40 million people and a population and landscape that contains almost every kind of diversity one sees in the country, a closer analysis of these local regulations is sure to yield insights normally associated with the federalist conception of "laboratories of democracy."  In this instance, though, the laboratories are to be found within a single state, rather than among the 50 states.

April 16, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 13, 2018

AG Sessions' decision to rescind Cole Memo ultimately leads to Prez Trump pledge to safeguard states' marijuana reforms

Gardner-trumpAs reported in this CNN piece, "Trump promises GOP lawmaker to protect states' marijuana rights," a little more than three months after Attorney General Sessions decided to rescind the Cole Memo stating that federal prosecutors would not prioritize criminal enforcement against state-compliant marijuana businesses, President Donald Trump gave a Colorado Senator his word that he was eager to protect state marijuana reform efforts.  Here are the basic:

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump told Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner that the President will support efforts to protect states' that have legalized marijuana, according to a statement from Gardner released Friday.

The deal, which was first reported by The Washington Post, comes after Gardner said he'd block all Justice Department nominees after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded guidance from the Obama administration, known as the Cole memo, that had adopted a policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws.

The Department of Justice was not consulted on this promise to Gardner from the President, according to a source familiar.

"Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice's rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado's legal marijuana industry," Gardner said in a statement. "Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states' rights issue once and for all."

He continued: "Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees." Gardner said he and his colleagues are working on a bill that would prevent the federal government from interfering in states' marijuana legalization. "My colleagues and I are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution that can pass Congress and head to the President's desk to deliver on his campaign position," he said in the statement.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the statement from Gardner "accurate" during Friday's press briefing. "The President did speak with the senator," she said. "The statement that the senator put out today is accurate."

In many respects, it is somewhat amazing that Prez Trump was able to go the first 15 months of his presidency without ever speaking directly about federal or state marijuana policies. But now I think it is even more amazing that the decision by Attorney General Jeff Session to rescind the Cole memo has now directly led to the President of the United States indicating his support for a "federalism-based legislative solution" to modern marijuana reform issues.

Prior related posts:

April 13, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Senators Orrin Hatch and Kamala Harris write to AG Jeff Sessions to push for more medical marijuana research

53352_lgAs reported in this new press release, "US Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter today to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to cease efforts to slow medical marijuana research, following reports that the Department of Justice was blocking medical marijuana research efforts by delaying approvals for manufacturers growing research-grade medical marijuana."  Here is more from the text of the letter:

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

We write to request that you enable the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fulfill its charter of lawfully registering manufacturers of the controlled substance of marijuana for research without delay. Research on marijuana is necessary to resolve critical questions of public health and safety, such as learning the impacts of marijuana on developing brains and formulating methods to test marijuana impairment in drivers.

To date, it has been federal practice that only one manufacturer — the University of Mississippi — is licensed to produce marijuana for federally-sanctioned research. Historically, as the DEA has noted, that single manufacturer could meet the minimal demand for research. However, the DEA changed its policy nearly two years ago because, as it explained, “There is growing public interest in exploring the possibility that marijuana or its chemical constituents may be used as potential treatments for certain medical conditions,” and the DEA — along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — “fully supports expanding research into the potential medical utility of marijuana and its chemical constituents.”

As of August 11, 2016, 354 individuals and institutions were approved by the DEA to conduct expansive research on marijuana and its related components. Those researchers needed access to a federally compliant expanded product line—they needed to study different types of marijuana and across various delivery mechanisms. Accordingly, a diverse, DEA-vetted market of suppliers of research-grade marijuana would be critical. Since the DEA’s Federal Register Notice on August 12, 2016, at least 25 manufacturers have formally applied to produce federally-approved research-grade marijuana....

We write this letter because research on marijuana is necessary for evidence-based decision making, and expanded research has been called for by President Trump’s Surgeon General, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the FDA, the CDC, the National Highway Safety Administration, the National Institute of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Academies of Sciences, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In order to facilitate such research, scientists and lawmakers must have timely guidance on whether, when, and how these manufacturers’ applications will be resolved.

The benefits of research are unquestionable. Research will give law enforcement guidance to do their jobs:protecting drivers on the roads, protecting kids in schools, and maintaining law and order. Ninety-two percent of veterans support federal research on marijuana, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is aware that many veterans have been using marijuana to manage the pain of their wartime wounds. America’s heroes deserve scientifically-based assessments of the substance many of them are already self-administering.

By allowing expanded research, the Department of Justice will aid legislators in making sound decisions, help law enforcement in developing critical public safety guidance, and ensure that citizens have the benefit of informed, evidence-based policy.

April 12, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Former US House Speaker and former Massachusetts Gov join advisory advisory board of major marijuana corporation

Weld-boehner-1523466227As reported in this company press release, "Acreage Holdings (“Acreage”) (www.acreageholdings.com), one of the nation’s largest, multi-state actively-managed cannabis corporations, announced the appointments of former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner and former Governor of the State of Massachusetts Bill Weld to its Board of Advisors." Here is more from the announcement:

As members of the Board, Speaker Boehner and Governor Weld will bring an immense, collective and unique set of experiences in government affairs, unmatched leadership and guidance to help drive Acreage towards its strategic mission. In concert with this announcement, Speaker Boehner and Governor Weld have issued this joint statement:

While we come at this issue from different perspectives and track records, we both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy. Over the past 20 years a growing number of states have experimented with their right to offer cannabis programs under the protection of the 10th amendment. During that period, those rights have lived somewhat in a state of conflict with federal policy. Also, during this period, the public perception of cannabis has dramatically shifted, with 94% of Americans currently in favor of some type of access, a shift driven by increased awareness of marijuana’s many medical applications.

We need to look no further than our nation's 20 million veterans, 20 percent of whom, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, reportedly use cannabis to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments. Yet the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend its usage. There are numerous other patient groups in America whose quality of life has been dramatically improved by the state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.

While the Tenth Amendment has allowed much to occur at the state level, there are still many negative implications of the Federal policy to schedule cannabis as a Class 1 drug: most notably the lack of research, the ambiguity around financial services and the refusal of the VA to offer it as an alternative to the harmful opioids that are ravishing our communities.

We are excited to join the team at Acreage in pursuit of their mission to bring safe, consistent and reliable products to patients and consumers who could benefit.  We have full confidence in their management team and believe this is the team that will transform the debate, policy and landscape around this issue....

Both the Speaker and the Governor have agreed to immediately join the Company’s Board of Advisors and have committed to join the Company’s Board of Directors once it has been formed and other qualified directors have been appointed.

April 11, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announces plans for new hemp bill to remove plant from CSA

Pjimage-34As reported in this new AP article, the "U.S. Senate’s top leader said Monday he wants to bring hemp production back into the mainstream by removing it from the controlled substances list that now associates it with its cousin — marijuana." Here is more:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told hemp advocates in his home state of Kentucky that he will introduce legislation to legalize the crop as an agricultural commodity. The versatile crop has been grown on an experimental basis in a number of states in recent years. “It’s now time to take the final step and make this a legal crop,” McConnell said.

Kentucky has been at the forefront of hemp’s comeback. Kentucky agriculture officials recently approved more than 12,000 acres (4,856 hectares) to be grown in the state this year, and 57 Kentucky processors are helping turn the raw product into a multitude of products.

Growing hemp without a federal permit has long been banned due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Hemp got a limited reprieve with the 2014 federal Farm Bill, which allows state agriculture departments to designate hemp projects for research and development. So far, 34 states have authorized hemp research, while actual production occurred in 19 states last year, said Eric Steenstra, president of the advocacy group Vote Hemp. Hemp production totaled 25,541 acres (10,336 hectares) in 2017, more than double the 2016 output, he said.

The crop, which once thrived in Kentucky, was historically used for rope but has many other uses, including clothing and mulch from the fiber, hemp milk and cooking oil from the seeds, and soap and lotions. Other uses include building materials, animal bedding and biofuels.

Hemp advocates fighting for years to restore the crop’s legitimacy hailed McConnell’s decision to put his political influence behind the effort to make it a legal crop again. “This is a huge development for the hemp industry,” Steenstra said. “Sen. McConnell’s support is critical to helping us move hemp from research and pilot programs to full commercial production.”

Brian Furnish, an eighth-generation tobacco farmer in Kentucky, has started making the switch to hemp production. His family will grow about 300 acres (120 hectares) of hemp this year in Harrison County. He’s also part owner of a company that turns hemp into food, fiber and dietary supplements. Furnish said hemp has the potential to rival or surpass what tobacco production once meant to Kentucky. “All we’ve got to do is the government get out of the way and let us grow,” he told reporters.

McConnell acknowledged there was “some queasiness” about hemp in 2014 when federal lawmakers cleared the way for states to regulate it for research and pilot programs. There’s much broader understanding now that hemp is a “totally different” plant than its illicit cousin, he said. “I think we’ve worked our way through the education process of making sure everybody understands this is really a different plant,” the Republican leader said.

McConnell said he plans to have those discussions with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to emphasize the differences between the plants. The Trump administration has taken a tougher stance on marijuana. The Department of Justice’s press office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

McConnell said his bill will attract a bipartisan group of co-sponsors. He said the measure would allow states to have primary regulatory oversight of hemp production if they submit plans to federal agriculture officials outlining how they would monitor production. “We’re going to give it everything we’ve got to pull it off,” he said.

In Kentucky, current or ex-tobacco farmers could easily make the conversion to hemp production, Furnish said. Equipment and barns used for tobacco can be used to produce hemp, he said. Tobacco production dropped sharply in Kentucky amid declining smoking rates.

March 26, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Reviewing the work of Representative Pete Sessions to block marijuana reform efforts in Congress

ThPolitico has this extended new article on federal marijuana reform focused on a Sessions who is even more important than AG Jeff.  The full title of the article explains: "Washington’s Most Powerful Anti-Pot Official Is Named Sessions. It’s Not Who You Think: Rep. Pete Sessions has quietly used his chairmanship of the House Rules Committee to stifle popular amendments that would protect legal marijuana." I recommend this lengthy piece in full, and here are highlights:

[W]hile the nation’s top law enforcement officer has made it abundantly clear over the years that he views marijuana as a scourge equal to heroin, it turns out the unofficial title of Washington’s most powerful marijuana opponent belongs to someone else named Sessions: Pete, the longtime congressman from Texas’ 32nd district in Dallas. No relation to the attorney general, Pete Sessions nevertheless shares the former Alabama senator’s unforgiving attitudes toward all things cannabis.

“Marijuana is an addictive product, and the merchants of addiction make it that way,” Pete Sessions said in January. “They make it to where our people, our young people, become addicted to marijuana and keep going.” In February, at an opioid summit at the University of Texas Southwestern, Rep. Sessions stretched scientific fact when he said, today’s product is “300 times more powerful” than when he went to high school. (Later, his communications director confirmed that he meant three times more powerful.)

What Pete Sessions has, however, that Jeff Sessions doesn’t have is the power to change laws. Very quietly, but with implacable efficiency, Pete Sessions has used his position as the chair of the House Rules Committee to stymie or roll back amendments that protected legal marijuana in the 29 states that have approved it (30 states if you count Louisiana). States that have grown increasingly dependent on tax revenue from newly legal marijuana businesses, and investors who are pumping millions into an industry that is projected to hit $28 billion globally by 2024, have sought assurances that federal authorities wouldn’t try to invoke national drug law that still classifies marijuana as one of the most serious of all illegal drugs. Short of changing federal drug law, legislators in the states with forms of legal pot have sought the next best protection: using the power of the purse to curtail enforcement. But Sessions, with the approval of House leadership, has thwarted his colleagues. He neutralized one amendment that sailed through with a comfortable bipartisan majority and smothered others that would pass if they were ever allowed to see the light of day.

So far, the only people who have complained are the legislators whose amendments he has torpedoed and pro-marijuana lobbyists. That criticism has never troubled Sessions in his 21-year career (representing two districts). But recent polling indicates that 83 percent of Texas voters now favor legalizing medical marijuana, and that seems to be feeding a nascent campaign to use Sessions’ anti-marijuana influence against him in the 2018 midterm election. Even some Texas Republicans think his zealousness on the issue violates essential conservative principles of less government. “He’s got this personal viewpoint; he’s just personally against it. And there’s nothing that’s going to change his mind,” said Zoe Russell, of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP). “That’s the absolute worst of big government.”

The only thing that has prevented Pete Sessions from completely wiping out protections for medical marijuana, and freeing Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice to execute the crackdown he seems to pine for, is Congress’ own dysfunction. Because Congress could not agree on a budget, Rohrabacher-Farr has remained alive through a series of never-ending continuous resolutions. In addition, the Senate hasn’t been quite so willing to stifle its members’ wills on this issue; Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has proposed a companion amendment to Rohrabacher-Farr, which passed the Senate’s appropriations committee by acclamation....

The question of whether the appropriations conference committee will approve the Senate version with the Leahy amendment or the House version that killed Rohrabacher-Farr remains to be answered. The current continuing resolution ends on Friday at midnight. Don Murphy, director of conservative outreach for the Marijuana Policy Project, bemoaned the fact that the Republican Party has surrendered ownership of marijuana reform as Democratic support for the issue gains steam: “What had once been a GOP effort known simply as ‘Rohrabacher’ after [Republican Dana Rohrabacher’s] decade-long sponsorship, will now be known as ‘the Leahy Amendment.’ It’s a missed opportunity for the GOP.”

When he speaks publicly about marijuana, Pete Sessions often positions himself as a bulwark against just that kind of Republican accommodation, insisting even against mounting evidence to the contrary that marijuana is a gateway drug to the opioid epidemic. This is a viewpoint shared by Jeff Sessions but not by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, generally an anti-marijuana group, which acknowledges “the observed drop in opioid overdose death rates in states where marijuana use is legal for medicinal purposes. One study found that states with ‘medical marijuana’ laws had a 24.8 percent lower average annual opioid overdose death rate compared to states without similar laws.”...

The signs that the Drug War is thawing even in deep-red Texas are hard to miss In 2015, the Texas legislature passed an extremely limited medical marijuana program that grants access to non-psychoactive CBD concentrates to Texans suffering from epilepsy. Given that the Drug Enforcement Administration still considers non-psychoactive CBD to be a drug with no medicinal value, Texas’ tiptoe into the waters of medical marijuana legalization has been an act of civil disobedience against a federal drug enforcement policy that is staunchly defended by the likes of Pete Sessions. In Dallas County, where the majority of Sessions’ constituents reside, police no longer arrest people caught with up to a quarter pound of marijuana, opting instead for a cite-and-release program meant to unclog the jails and judicial system, following the example of similar programs in San Antonio, Houston and Austin.

Against this backdrop, Sessions finds himself defending his congressional seat in 2018 in a district that Hillary Clinton won by nearly 2 percentage points just two years ago. The Cook Political Report rates the race as leans Republican, but does Sessions’ opposition to marijuana law reform make him more vulnerable to a Democratic challenger in November? Some Republicans fear that medical marijuana might be an effective wedge issue that could steer Republican voters toward a Democrat who supports marijuana law reform at the national level....

“Pete Sessions has made himself the No. 1 target of drug policy reformers in the 2018 general election,” Don Murphy of MPP told POLITICO Magazine. “Defeating Pete Sessions in 2018 will send a message to Washington that even the tone-deaf GOP can’t miss.” In fact, Murphy’s prediction appears to be taking shape in Texas. “It doesn’t matter which Democrat wins. Either way, we’re going to un-elect him,” said Rob Kampia, the former executive director of MPP. Kampia’s new venture is the Marijuana Leadership Campaign and its companion Marijuana Leadership PAC. “Our invitation-only launch meeting was held in Dallas,” he told POLITICO Magazine, “and I can safely say we'll be spending $500,000 on this singular congressional race.”

March 21, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Detailing how racial justice concerns are driving marijuana reform debate in New Jersey

732521_1One of many great lines in the great musical Hamilton is "Everything is legal in New Jersey."   But that is not quite right with respect to marijuana yet, though the recent election of a Governor who ran advocating for marijuana reform led to many reform advocates thinking the Garden State could become the next big legalization state.  But, as is often the case, legislative reform is full of complications, and this New York Times article highlights how completing views on racial justice is shaping the debate in New Jersey.  The piece is headlined "Racial Justice Drives Fight for, and Against, Legal Pot in New Jersey," and here are excerpts:

During his campaign for governor of New Jersey, Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, pledged to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, telling Democrats at a party conference last year in Atlantic City that creating a new tax revenue was not what was motivating him.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Hey, are you sure you can generate $300 million from the legalization of marijuana?” Mr. Murphy said, citing a figure that his campaign had trumpeted. “I say, ‘You know what, I’m not sure, but that’s not the question. We’re not doing it for the dollars. We’re doing it for social justice.’”

Mr. Murphy argues that the disproportionate number of African-Americans who are jailed on marijuana charges is a main reason to legalize the drug, and he has the support of civil rights groups, cannabis business lobbyists, lawyers, doctors who prescribe medical marijuana and out-of-state cannabis growers.

But now that Mr. Murphy occupies the governor’s office, a major legislative obstacle is emerging: Ronald L. Rice, the state’s longest-serving black senator and the leader of its Black Caucus. “It’s always been said the issue is not money, the issue is social justice,” said Mr. Rice, a Democrat and a former Newark police officer. “But, it’s being sold on the backs of black folk and brown people. It’s clear there is big, big money pushing special interests to sell this to our communities.”

Medical marijuana became legal in New Jersey under former Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, but his successor, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, rejected proposals to make recreational cannabis use legal.

The growing and selling of marijuana has already generated billions of dollars in the nine states where it is legal — but it is an industry that is overwhelmingly white. Mr. Rice fears the consequences would be dire in cities like Newark, which is already wrestling with a variety of problems, including widespread heroin addiction and a foreclosure crisis. Cannabis stores, he believes, would proliferate in black communities, much like liquor stores, and would produce a new generation of drug abusers....

His position on cannabis legalization not only puts him at odds with the governor and members of his party, but also with many African-Americans.

In New Jersey, African-Americans are three times more likely to be charged with marijuana possession than whites, even though both populations use the drug at similar rates. That has galvanized civil rights groups like the N.A.A.C.P. and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey to support legalization. “All the collateral consequences that come with an arrest — jail time, losing your job, losing your housing — are disproportionately falling on communities of color,” said Dianna Houenou, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of New Jersey. “Through legalization we can begin to address the harms that have been inflicted.”

A statewide coalition of black pastors, the N.A.A.C.P. and the New Jersey chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance is pushing for legalization as a social justice issue, but only if it is linked to some type of compensation for the harm they say was done to black and brown families whose sons were incarcerated. The pastors said they wanted to make sure members of their communities were able to participate in the billion-dollar cannabis industry as growers and sellers, not just workers. They are frustrated that the wealth being generated in the other states where marijuana is legal is not reaching people of color.

Researchers at Marijuana Business Daily, an industry news site based in Denver, found that 81 percent of cannabis business owners were white, while less than 4 percent were black....

At a marijuana legalization forum held recently at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, the Rev. Charles Boyer of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Woodbury said the worst thing that could happen was for communities most harmed by the prohibition to not have a say about legalization. “Do we want to be the ones responsible for playing a part in a system that will make tons of young white millionaires after years of making hundreds of thousands of poor black felons?” Pastor Boyer said.

The Drug Policy Alliance is lobbying for a bill that includes the automatic and retroactive expungement of criminal records for possession, making permits for cannabis shops affordable so that the market is accessible to lower-income entrepreneurs, and a commitment that a portion of the revenue from marijuana sales be used to provide education and job training for people of color. Some social justice activists are also calling for allowing people to grow their own cannabis plants.

State Senator Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat from Linden, is the author of a bill that would legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for anyone over 21 and would establish a state Division of Marijuana Enforcement. But it does not include any language discussing compensation. Mr. Scutari agrees that arrests for marijuana possession are disproportionately higher for blacks and Latinos and says his bill addresses the issue of social justice. “The individuals that are previously convicted of marijuana possession will no longer be subject to prosecution,” Mr. Scutari said....

For his part, Mr. Rice has proposed his own marijuana bill that would decriminalize the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana, and make carrying more a disorderly persons charge that would impose only a fine. It would also expunge criminal records and release incarcerated people serving sentences for possessing small amounts of marijuana. But Mr. Scutari said that decriminalization would simply create an open-air drug market that would allow drug dealers to get richer without creating any kind of regulatory system to control how marijuana is sold.

Ultimately, any effort to promote civil rights could depend on what kind of bill Mr. Murphy is willing to sign. In a statement, Daniel Bryan, a spokesman for the governor, said that Mr. Murphy was committed to “the goal of building a stronger and fairer New Jersey, and supports the legalization of marijuana to advance the cause of social justice and combat the racial disparities in our criminal justice system.”

March 13, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Political perspective on reforms, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"America Is Giving Away the $30 Billion Medical Marijuana Industry"

800x-1The title of this post is the headline of this notable lengthy new Bloomberg Businessweek article.  I am tempted to politicize this post by saying that a true "America First" President ought to be quite concerned about the sub-headline of this piece: "Why? Because the feds are bogarting the weed, while Israel and Canada are grabbing market share."  I recommend the piece in full, and here are excerpts:

Lyle Craker is an unlikely advocate for any political cause, let alone one as touchy as marijuana law, and that’s precisely why Rick Doblin sought him out almost two decades ago. Craker, Doblin likes to say, is the perfect flag bearer for the cause of medical marijuana production—not remotely controversial and thus the ideal partner in a long and frustrating effort to loosen the Drug Enforcement Administration’s chokehold on cannabis research. There are no counterculture skeletons in Craker’s closet; only dirty boots and botany books. He’s never smoked pot in his life, nor has he tasted liquor. “I have Coca-Cola every once in a while,” says the quiet, white-haired Craker, from a rolling chair in his basement office at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he’s served as a professor in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture since 1967, specializing in medicinal and aromatic plants. He and his students do things such as subject basil plants to high temperatures to study the effects of climate change on what plant people call the constituents, or active elements....

In June 2001, Craker filed an application for a license to cultivate “research-grade” marijuana at UMass, with the goal of staging FDA-approved studies. Six months later he was told his application had been lost. He reapplied in 2002 and then, after an additional two years of no action, sued the DEA, backed by MAPS. By this point, both U.S. senators from Massachusetts had publicly supported his application, and a federal court of appeals ordered the DEA to respond, which it finally did, denying the application in 2004.

Craker appealed that decision with backing from a powerful bench of allies, including 40 members of Congress, and finally, in February 2007, a DEA administrative law judge ruled that his application for a license should be granted. The decision was not binding, however; it was merely a recommendation to the DEA leadership. Almost two years later, in the last week of the Bush administration, the application was rejected. Craker threw up his hands. He firmly believed marijuana should be more widely grown and studied, but he’d lost any hope that it would happen in his lifetime. And he had basil to attend to.

Then, in August 2016, during the final months of the Obama presidency, the DEA reversed course. It announced that, for the first time in a half-century, it would grant new licenses. Doblin, who has seemingly endless supplies of optimism and enthusiasm, convinced the professor there was hope—again. So Craker submitted paperwork, again, along with 25 other groups. The university’s provost co-signed his application, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) wrote a letter to the DEA in support of his effort. He’s still waiting to hear back. “I’m never gonna get the license,” Craker says.

Pessimism isn’t surprising from a man who’s been making a reasonable case for 17 years to no avail. Studies around the world have shown that marijuana has considerable promise as a medicine. Craker says he spoke late last year at a hospital in New Hampshire where certain cannabinoids were shown to facilitate healing in brain-damaged mice. “And I thought, ‘If cannabinoids could do that, let’s put them in medicines!’ ” He sighs. “We can’t do the research.”

Another sigh. “I’m naive about a lot about things,” he says. “But it seems to me that we should be looking at cannabis. I mean, if it’s going to kill people, let’s know that and get rid of it. If it’s going to help people, let’s know that and expand on it. … But there’s just something wrong with the DEA. I don’t know what else to say. … Somehow, marijuana’s got a bad name. And it’s tough to let go of.”....

Many people expect the Republican-controlled Congress to follow its recent tax overhaul by looking for ways to slash costs in Medicaid and Medicare. Legitimate research into the medicinal properties of marijuana could help. Studies show that opioid use drops significantly in states where marijuana has been legalized; this suggests people are consuming the plant for pain, something they could be doing more effectively if physicians and the FDA controlled chemical makeup and potency. A study published in July 2016 in Health Affairs showed that the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative “fell significantly,” saving hundreds of millions of dollars among users of Medicare Part D....

Among those who’ve advised Craker is Tony Coulson, a former DEA agent who retired in 2010 and works as a consultant for companies developing drugs. Coulson was vehemently antimarijuana until his son, a combat soldier, came home from the Middle East with post-traumatic stress disorder and needed help. “For years I was of the belief that the science doesn’t say that this is medicine,” he says. “But when you get into this curious history, you find the science doesn’t show it primarily because we’re standing in the way. The NIDA monopoly prevents anyone from getting into further studies.”

Coulson blames the Obama administration for not acting sooner, creating a situation in which the decision on granting new growing licenses was passed down to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has publicly declared his belief in the dangers of marijuana. The NIDA monopoly is now his to change. “Sessions has a 1930s Reefer Madness view of the marijuana world,” Coulson says. “It’s not realistic, and it’s not what rank-and-file DEA really are concerned about. DEA folks have moved beyond this.”

“I guess I take a nationalist approach here,” says Rick Kimball, a former investment banker who’s raising money for a marijuana-related private equity fund and is a trustee for marijuana policy at the Brookings Institution. “We have a huge opportunity in the U.S.,” he says, “and we ought to get our act together. I’m worried that we’re ceding this whole market to the Israelis.”

March 7, 2018 in Business laws and regulatory issues, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical community perspectives, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 26, 2018

Federal judge dismisses high-profile suit challenging marijuana's placement on Schedule 1 under the Controlled Substances Act

Earlier this month, as noted in this prior post, a federal district judge heard arguments concerning a motion to dismiss the high-profile suit challenging marijuana's placement on Schedule 1 under the Controlled Substances Act.  Though the suit garnered a good bit of public attention, the case of Washington, et.al v. Sessions, et.al, is now likely to go down as yet the latest failed effort to attack the CSA's treatment of marijuana in court because today judge Alvin Hellerstein dismissed the lawsuit. Tom Angell has a useful summary of the ruling and a link to its full 20 pages here.  Here is part of that summary:

Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ruled on Monday that advocates have “failed to exhaust their administrative remedies” to alter cannabis’s legal status, and should pursue changes through the administration and Congress instead of in the courts. “[P]laintiffs’ claim is an administrative one, not one premised on the constitution,” he wrote, and “is best understood as a collateral attack on the various administrative determinations not to reclassify marijuana into a different drug schedule.”...

Hellerstein wrote that “it is clear that Congress had a rational basis for classifying marijuana in Schedule I, and executive officials in different administrations have consistently retained its placement there… Even if marijuana has current medical uses, I cannot say that Congress acted irrationally in placing marijuana in Schedule I.”

However, the judge, who observers say appeared moved by anecdotes about the plaintiffs’ medical uses of cannabis during oral arguments, wrote that he does not reject out of hand the notion that marijuana can be beneficial....

Hellerstein dismissed every other claim in the lawsuit, as well, making it clear he’s done with the case. “Because plaintiffs have failed to state a claim under any constitutional theory, all of plaintiffs’ remaining claims are also dismissed,” he wrote. “For the reasons stated herein, defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint is granted.  Plaintiffs have already amended their complaint once, and I find that further amendments would be futile.”

The plaintiffs in this suit could appeal this dismissal to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and doing so would likely keep the case in the headlines. I am not optimistic it would achieve much else, but one never knows with courts these days.

Prior related posts:

February 26, 2018 in Court Rulings, Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 23, 2018

American Legion continues to push federal government for more research on how marijuana can help veterans

American%20Legion%20Logo%20-%20American%20Flag%20on%20either%20sideThis new article from The Cannabist, headlined "Veterans group ratchets up pressure on White House and Congress to support medical marijuana research: The American Legion wants the federal government to focus on cannabis as potential treatment for PTSD and other ailments," reports on notable new comments from a notable old advocate for medical marijuana research and reform. Here is how the article begins:

Top officials at of The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization, on Friday stepped up their calls for the federal government to legitimize and invest in medical marijuana research. In a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Legion National Commander Denise Rohan outlined how the White House and Congress could improve the delivery of benefits to the nation’s 20 million-plus veterans. Medical cannabis was on the list. In fulfilling its mission to make sure veterans are taken care of, “we have to find replacements for the opioid epidemic we have in this nation,” Rohan said.

The organization’s call for additional research into cannabis as a potential treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain and other ailments was reiterated by Louis Celli, National Director Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation at the Legion. “We just need to know that the American government is focused on trying to find cures for not only veterans but for all Americans,” he said. “And if cannabis, which is a drug, is something that can help (then) they have to do the research to do that.”

The Legion has passed several resolutions on cannabis over the past two years. A 2016 measure calls on the Drug Enforcement Agency to license privately-funded medical marijuana operations, ensuring “safe and efficient” research into cannabis. It also asks for the rescheduling of cannabis from its current, decades-long classification as a Schedule 1 drug into a category that, “at a minimum, will recognize cannabis as a drug with a potential medical value.”

The other resolution, passed last year, calls on the Veterans Administration (VA) to allow its medical advisors to openly discuss the use of medical cannabis with veterans for medical purposes – as well as to recommend medicinal cannabis where it is legal.

Last November, a Legion-commissioned national survey showed strong support for medical cannabis research and legalization within the military veteran community.  In December, the VA issued a directive, allowing its doctors and pharmacists to discuss cannabis with veterans taking part in state-approved medical marijuana programs. However, the Weed for Warriors Project, a pro-cannabis legalization veterans group, warned that vets who choose to talk about marijuana use with doctors might be identified by the VA as having a substance abuse disorder, which would in turn curtail their access to other medicines.

The Legion’s Celli also addressed that issue Friday, when asked if he was seeing any pushback to the organization’s stance on cannabis due to the stigmas still surrounding marijuana. “I wouldn’t say we’re getting pushback,” he responded.  “What we’re getting is…stories from veterans who live in states that have legal cannabis programs, and they’re participating in those programs with a feeling of inner guilt.”

Ambivalence about medical cannabis, he said, comes from years of being told that marijuana is bad and immoral.  Veterans in those state-legal cannabis programs, he added, see pot as a valid treatment but still feel like they could be on “the wrong side of the law.”

Prior related posts:

February 23, 2018 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

"'Doobies Make Boobies': Police Apologize After Officer Says Marijuana Makes Men Grow Breasts"

9M1YJMo-_400x400The title of this post is the amusing headline of this amusing story about a little bit of misinformation delivered by law enforcement officers to teens in Canada.  Here are the details:

Don't smoke marijuana, boys, or you'll develop breasts.  That's the message that an officer for Canada's York Regional Police shared with high school boys last week during a drug-awareness talk in which the officer claimed that smoking marijuana would make boys develop breasts.

“There are studies that marijuana lowers your testosterone,” drug recognition officer Nigel Cole told students during a panel held at the York District School Board headquarters.  “We call it ‘doobies make boobies,’ we are finding that 60 percent of 14-year-olds are developing ‘boobies.’”

Health experts quickly responded to dismiss the bogus claim.  “Smoking marijuana does not give you breasts,” said Dr. John Harrison, Chief Scientific Officer for the healthcare company TeamMD.  “Marijuana does impact hormones but by no means does it give anyone breasts. That’s what you call knowledge going the wrong way.  There’s no scientific basis that I know of.”...

The police agree.  Yesterday, the official Twitter account for the York Regional Police released an apology for spreading misinformation.  "We’re no health experts," YPR wrote, "but we’re pretty sure getting high does not cause enhanced mammary growth in men.  We are aware of the misinformation about cannabis that was unfortunately provided to the community by our officers.  We’re working to address it."

The York Regional Police should certainly be given credit for forthrightly apologizing for spreading misinformation rather than for trying to deny this happened. But this incident serves to provide another reminder of the enduring challenges of ensuring that only sound information is part of needed efforts to educate the community about the array of potential pros and cons of marijuana use.

February 22, 2018 in International Marijuana Laws and Policies, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Senator Gardner apparently stopping much of his DOJ blockade in response to rescinded Cole Memo

According to this new AP article, "Colorado’s Republican U.S. senator will stop blocking nominees for some Justice Department jobs over concerns about the marijuana industry, saying Thursday that federal officials have shown good faith in recent conversations on the department’s pot policy."  Here is more:

Cory Gardner used his power as a senator last month to freeze nominations for posts at the agency after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era protections for states like Colorado that have broadly legalized recreational marijuana.  It was a dramatic move by a Republican senator against his own party’s attorney general and came after Gardner said Sessions had promised him there wouldn’t be a crackdown.  Gardner said he was placing holds on nominees until Sessions changed his approach.

The holds have created friction both with Sessions, who has complained that critical posts are going unfilled, and some of Gardner’s fellow GOP senators who want key law enforcement officials in their states confirmed.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Gardner said Thursday that he’s discussed the issue with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and has been pleased with progress so far. Department leaders have “shown in good faith their willingness to provide what I think will be hopefully the protections we sought, and as sort of a good faith gesture on my behalf I’ll be releasing a limited number of nominees,” Gardner said.  He will release his holds on nominees for U.S. attorneys in a dozen federal districts, U.S. marshals in every district and on John Demers, who was nominated to head Justice’s national security division.... 

Gardner will continue to hold the nominations of seven top Department of Justice nominees. He’s also working with a bipartisan group of members of congress to pursue legislation protecting states that have legalized marijuana.

A few prior related posts:

February 15, 2018 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Criminal justice developments and reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mixed messages from US District Judge hearing legal challenge to federal marijuana prohibition

In this post earlier this week, I noted today's scheduled hearing in federal court concerning a lawsuit challenging marijuana's placement on Schedule 1 under the Controlled Substances Act and asked "Could a high-profile lawsuit help end federal marijuana prohibition?". This Bloomberg article, headlined "Trump Administration Battles Sick Kids on Access to Legal Pot," suggests that the judge hearing the case is sympathetic to the plaintiffs' complaints but still seemingly unlikely to run in their favor:

In a New York courtroom packed with cannabis supporters, the Trump administration urged a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit that aims to pave the way for legal marijuana across the country.

The case was brought on behalf of two sick children, a former National Football League player who says athletes deserve a better way to treat head trauma than addictive opioids and the Cannabis Cultural Association. The suit, filed in July 2017, seeks a ruling that marijuana was unconstitutionally labeled alongside heroin and LSD as a so-called Schedule I drug -- the harshest of five government ratings -- when Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act in 1970.

In court on Wednesday, Justice Department attorney Samuel Hilliard Dolinger said the plaintiffs didn’t follow legal requirements before suing, beginning with a petition to the Drug Enforcement Agency. "The right thing is to defer to the agency," said U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, an 84-year-old who was nominated by former President Bill Clinton, who famously admitted to experimenting with pot while claiming he "didn’t inhale."...

Hellerstein said he would issue a ruling later, and it was far from clear which way he was leaning. The judge, who had the courtroom erupting in laughter on more than a few occasions during the hearing, was skeptical of the government’s claim that there’s no medical benefit to marijuana. "Your clients are living proof of the medical effectiveness of marijuana," Hellerstein said to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Michael Hiller....

Cannabis was criminalized "not to control the spread of a dangerous drug, but rather to suppress the rights and interests of those whom the Nixon Administration wrongly regarded as hostile to the interests of the U.S. -- African Americans and protesters of the Vietnam War," the suit says.

At the hearing, Hellerstein said that argument wasn’t going to work with him. The decision "will not depend on what may have been in the mind of Richard Nixon at the time," Hellerstein said.

Prior related posts:

February 14, 2018 in Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)