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Medical Marijuana Update

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

September 16, 2015

MMJ%20leaf%20and%20stethoscope%20KY%20OD

California passes historic medical marijuana regulation, Illinois blocks expanding qualifying conditions, Missouri activists gear up for a 2016 initiative, and more.

California

Last Friday, the legislature approved sweeping medical marijuana regulation. After nearly 20 years of wrangling over what is and is not legal under California's 1996 Proposition 215 medical marijuana law, the state legislature has passed a set of bills designed to bring order to the chaos. After working with Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on acceptable language, the Assembly and the Senate Friday passed Assembly Bill 243,Assembly Bill 266, and Senate Bill 643. The session ended at midnight Friday. Click on the title link for more, and read our feature article on reactions to the move here.

Illinois

Last Thursday,the governor vetoed medical marijuana for PTSD. Gov. Bruce Rauner ® Thursday vetoed a measure that would have allowed people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to qualify for medical marijuana. His administration also refused to expand access to medical marijuana for 10 other ailments. The Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board had recommended adding the 11 conditions, but Rauner killed PTSD and the Department of Public Health killed the rest. Rauner said expanding the program was premature.

Iowa

On Wednesday, Iowa activists announced they would use their state's primary campaign to pressure candidates. The advocacy group Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis is taking advantage of the state's early presidential primary and the attention it generates to pressure presidential candidates to stand up for medical marijuana. The group has developed a questionnaire it plans to deliver to all the candidates. "Moms and dads across America want to know what presidential candidates are proposing to help the sick and suffering obtain medical cannabis, a proven plant that is made by God," said Maria La France, a Des Moines mother whose 14-year-old son Quincy has epilepsy.

Missouri

Last Friday, Missouri activists said they would run a 2016 medical marijuana initiative. The activist group Show Me Cannabis has announced it will try to put a medical marijuana initiative -- not a legalization initiative -- on the November 2016 ballot. They will need to come up with 160,000 valid voter signatures by next May to do it.

Nevada

Last Wednesday, Las Vegas' only dispensary was forced to shut its doors over shortages after test samples came up dirty. The only dispensary in the city, Euphoria Wellness, was forced to close its doors for almost a week after it ran short on marijuana because too many batches failed state-required contamination tests. The state basically allows no pesticides to be present, and about one-third of samples have failed, mostly over the presence of pesticides, but some for microbial contamination. The dispensary planned to reopen today.

New Jersey

Last Tuesday, an appeals court ruled that the smell of marijuana is still enough for a warrantless search. Even though medical marijuana is legal in the state, an appeals court ruled that the smell of marijuana can still be used by police as grounds for a warrantless search. The ruling came in the case of a man arrested after a vehicle stop in which the officer used the smell of marijuana to justify searching the vehicle.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

September 23, 2015

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A sitting US senator addresses the marijuana industry, California cops raid an Indian reservation grow op, Florida signature-gathering for another initiative is well underway, and more.

National

On Monday, a US senator addressed an industry meeting and called for the feds to butt out. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) spoke at the National Cannabis Industry Association meeting in New York and told industry professionals she is pushing a bill she cosponsored last March with Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) that would bar the federal government from interfering with marijuana in states where it is legal, either medicinally or recreationally. "There's a conflict between state and federal statute that confuses doctors, patients and providers alike," she said. "People aren't sure what's legal, what's not, and the gray area that resulted is hindering health care and the industry's development."

California

Last Thursday, a union organizer was indicted on federal corruption charges. Dan Rush, a pioneer in organizing marijuana industry workers for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), was indicted on federal corruption, attempted extortion, and money laundering charges in Oakland. Rush is accused of using his position "to obtain money and other things" over a five-year period. He is accused of taking kickbacks from an attorney for referring medical marijuana business clients to him and of accepting $550,000 in debt forgiveness from a dispensary operator (who was also acting as an FBI informant at the time). Rush and his attorneys have denied the charges.

Last Friday, a state monopoly medical marijuana initiative was filed. Foes of marijuana reform in the Golden State have filed an initiative that would eliminate private marijuana cultivation and privately-owned dispensaries "in the interest of public safety." They would be replaced by one "state-owned cultivation site," which would supply "state-owned dispensaries." The initiative would also raise the minimum age for patients from 18 to 21. The initiative's proponents include anti-marijuana campaigner the Rev. Ron Allen, Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, and the Take Back America campaign.

On Tuesday, California cops raided an Indian reservation grow operation. Mendocino County sheriff's deputies Tuesday raided a commercial marijuana cultivation operation on the Pinoleville Pomo Nation reservation in Ukiah, cutting down about 400 plants, seizing about 100 pounds of trimmed buds, and an undetermined quantity of cannabis oil. The county maintains the operation is illegal under the state's medical marijuana laws.

Connecticut

Last Friday, dispensaries came a step closer to reality. The state Department of Consumer Protection announced that it has received 19 new applications for dispensaries in response to its June request. Three dispensaries will be selected to operate in New Haven or Fairfield counties.

Florida

Last Friday, initiative organizers said they had half a million signatures. The United for Care campaign to put medical marijuana on the ballot last year reports that it has already gathered 500,000 signatures. They need 683,149 valid voter signatures by February 1 to qualify. This is the same group that was behind the 2014 medical marijuana initiative, which garnered 58% of the vote, but came up short because constitutional amendments require 60% to pass.

Michigan

On Tuesday, a House panel advanced a package of medical marijuana bills. The House Judiciary Committee Tuesday passed a package of bills aimed at legalizing dispensaries and edible forms of medical marijuana. The bills have tighter rules than similar measures that failed last year, and some patient advocates are grumbling. Seed-to-sale tracking is one new addition; an 8% excise tax is another. Now it will be up to the legislature's GOP leadership to advance the bills or not.

New Jersey

On Monday, news came that the state will get a fourth dispensary. The state Department of Health has issued a permit for Compassionate Sciences in Bellmawr. It will becomes the state's fourth dispensary when it opens next month.

Pennsylvania

On Tuesday, patients and parents demanded action on pending medical marijuana legislation. Supporters of delayed medical marijuana legislation rallied at the state capitol Tuesday to urge solons to act on a pending bill. A bill passed the state Senate in May, and House leaders earlier this summer created a group to draft a version that would pass in the GOP-led chamber. Protestors urged House leaders to just hold a vote on the Senate-passed bill.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

September 30, 2015

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Last week's reservation raid in California reverberates, dispensaries move a step closer in Maryland, a medical marijuana bill advances in South Carolina, and more.

California

Last Friday, the Pinoleville Pomo Nation responded to a raid on its collective grow operation. The tribe said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman "overstepped his authority, violated tribal sovereignty, and acted outside of his legal jurisdiction" in the raid last Tuesday, in which deputies "seized and destroyed property that belonged to the tribe's cannabis collective." Allman argued that the operation was illegal because it was for profit, but the tribe says it will "seek all legal remedies against the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office" for damages from the raid.

Maryland

Last Thursday, the attorney general's office clarified that counties cannot ban dispensaries. Faced with an effort by Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh to ban medical marijuana facilities in the county, the office of the attorney general issued a non-binding legal opinion saying that while state law allows counties to decide where such facilities may locate, it does not allow them to ban them.

On Monday, the state began taking applications for medical marijuana businesses. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is accepting applications for state licenses for growers, processors, and dispensaries. The commission will issue 15 licenses for growers, up to 92 for dispensaries, and an unlimited number for processors. The deadline for applications is November 6, and dispensaries could be stocked and open by next fall. Click on the commission link for more details.

Minnesota

Last Friday, lawmakers and regulators got an earful from patients at a hearing. The task force overseeing the state's medical marijuana program heard from patients and providers at a hearing last Friday, with complaints about high prices and logistical problems getting lots of attention. Click on the link for more details.

South Carolina

Last Thursday, a medical marijuana bill won a Senate panel vote. A Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee today approved Senate Bill 672 a full-fledged medical marijuana bill. The vote was unanimous. The bill will head to the full committee early next year. The state approved a CBD cannabis oil bill last year.

Oregon

Beginning Thursday, some dispensaries will start selling to non-medical users. More than half of the state's 345 medical marijuana dispensaries have told the Health Authority they plan to sell recreational marijuana starting Thursday, October 1. Recreational marijuana has been legal in the state since July 1, but recreational pot shops won't be open until next year, so the state is allowing dispensaries to fill the void.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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ASA Activist Newsletter - Oct 2015

William Dolphin

October 08, 2015

In This Issue:

•Kettle Falls Patients Get Federal Prison Sentences

•New Bill Takes on Asset Seizures and Cannabis Eradication

•California Regulations on Governor’s Desk

•Maryland Opens Medical Cannabis Applications

•California Passes Comprehensive Regulations

•Study Confirms Long-term Cannabis Use Is Safe

•National Medical Association Urges Rescheduling

•ACTION ALERT: Sign the Pardon Petition

____________________________

Kettle Falls Patients Get Federal Prison Sentences

President Obama Urged to Pardon All Three Defendants and End Prosecutions

icon_washington.jpgFederal prison sentences were handed down Oct. 2 for the three remaining defendants in the Kettle Falls Five case in Washington State. The case has received national attention as an example of federal interference with state-qualified medical cannabis patients, and lobbying by Larry Harvey, a defendant in the case who died last month from cancer, was instrumental in getting Congress to restrict Department of Justice enforcement in states with medical cannabis laws.

Larry Harvey’s widow, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, and her daughter-in-law Michelle Gregg were each sentenced to one year and a day. Rhonda’s son, Rolland Gregg, received a sentence of 33 months. All three were released pending appeal.

They were each charged with multiple federal felonies that carried stiff mandatory minimum sentences after a 2012 raid on the family’s personal cannabis garden in rural Washington State, even though there was no evidence of distribution and the garden was clearly marked as medical. The defendants were barred from raising a medical necessity defense, despite being qualified patients in Washington State. The jury acquitted them of all the government’s primary charges but found them guilty of “manufacturing” fewer than 100 plants.

“Federal prison time for patients who were participating in an established state medical cannabis program is an embarrassment to our judicial system and a violation of the restrictions Congress placed on the DOJ,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “We’re calling on President Obama to pardon all three defendants immediately.”

Prosecutors dropped charges against the terminally ill Larry Harvey just days before the case went to trial. The fifth defendant, family friend Jason Zucker, pleaded guilty and received a 16-month sentence after cooperating with the prosecution. He is free pending an appeal of his sentence.

Thanks in part to lobbying by Larry Harvey, Congress has now twice enacted the Rohrabacher-Farr amendments to the DOJ budget that ban it from interfering with state medical cannabis programs. The landmark amendment was signed into law by President Obama late last year.

In an April 8, 2015 letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder, amendment co-authors Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) cited “criminal prosecutions, like the recent Kettle Falls case in Washington” as examples of what the amendment was intended to stop. Rohrbacher and Farr have called on the Inspector General's Office to launch an investigation into federal raids and prosecutions of state-legal medical cannabis activities protected under the amendment.

Earlier this year the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Rohrabacher-Farr medical cannabis amendment by an even wider margin, voting in favor 242 to 186. The amendment passed the Senate Appropriations Committee 22-8.

Kettle_Falls_Five_White_House_Petition.j

Pardon_the_Kettle_Falls_Five

More Information:

Petition to Pardon the 3 defendants

Rohrabacher-Farr Letter to Attorney General Eric Holder

Rohrabacher-Farr Letter Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz

Medical Marijuana Patients Applaud House Reauthorization of Rohrabacher-Farr CJS Amendment

Senate Vote Reaffirms Congressional Support to End of Federal Interference In State-Level Medical Marijuana Programs

____________________________

New Bill Takes on Asset Seizures and Cannabis Eradication

icon_federaladvocacy.jpgA new bill in the House would prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from using civil asset forfeitures to fund cannabis enforcement. In introducing HR 3518, the “Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act,” Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) noted the DEA spent $18 million on cutting down cannabis plants last year, resulting in 6,310 arrests.

“As multiple states legalize marijuana across our nation, it is a huge waste of federal resources for the DEA to eradicate marijuana,” said Lieu. “The federal government should focus its precious resources on other issues and let the states innovate in the cannabis field.”

If enacted, the bill would also ban transferring seized property to any federal, state or local agencies “for any purpose pertaining to” the DEA’s cannabis eradication program. In 2013, the DEA got $18 million in seized property and funds, which it distributed to over 120 local and state agencies to target cannabis cultivation. The DEA claims the program destroyed more than 4.3 million plants this year, with more than half of those in California.

In 1985, federal forfeiture amounted to $27 million. By 2013, it was $2 billion. The DEA says it should receive $210 million of those funds this year.

The House of Representatives has already adopted by voice vote an amendment by Rep. Lieu to cut funding for the DEA’s cannabis eradication program by half. The money saved is to go toward deficit reduction and victims of domestic violence and child abuse.

This bill is another attempt to rein in asset forfeiture actions. Early this year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) introduced again the “Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act” in the House (HR.540) and the Senate (S.255). The FAIR Act would make it more difficult for federal agencies to seize and keep property and require any forfeiture proceeds to be deposited in the General Fund of the Treasury instead of being kept by the agency that seized it. The House bill currently has 85 bipartisan cosponsors; the Senate version is before the Judiciary Committee.

Under current law, property owners do not need to be convicted of a crime or even charged to lose their property. Citizens in civil forfeiture proceedings do not have a right to an attorney and must prove their innocence to reclaim their property. Current law creates incentives for property seizures because law enforcement agencies can keep whatever they seize.

Medical cannabis patients and providers have been routinely targeted by federal civil asset forfeiture proceedings, and federal prosecutors have used it to close hundreds of dispensaries.

____________________________

California Regulations on Governor’s Desk

icon_california.jpgNearly 20 years since California voters made medical cannabis legal, their state legislators have finally passed a trio of bills that would establish comprehensive regulation and licensing of commercial distribution. Governor Jerry Brown has until October 11 to sign or veto the bills. If he does nothing, they become law.

On September 11, the final day of the legislative session, the Assembly and Senate slammed the three bills through, after unveiling them midday. Lawmakers had seen a host of medical cannabis bills introduced, amended, and combined, before pulling them all at the 11th hour at the behest of the governor. Staffers worked behind closed doors through the beginning of the month on three linked bills: Assembly Bills 243 and 266 and Senate Bill 643.

ab266_pressconf.jpg

Assemblymember Bonta's press conference urgin signatures on the medical cannabis bills with Don Duncan at right

“History has shown that regulatory oversight can improve community outcomes and protect patient access to reliable medicine,” said Don Duncan, ASA’s California Director. “Establishing medical cannabis regulation now before the state establishes an adult-use recreational system next year is extremely important for preserving a program that serves patients.”

Taken together, they delegate regulation and licensing of commercial medical cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, transportation, and distribution. Personal cultivation and collective gardens of five patients or fewer will remain options for patients, though a last-minute change limits individuals to 100 sq.ft. of cultivation space. ASA strongly opposes that limit and will work with legislators and regulators to modify it.

ASA successfully lobbied to exempt personal cultivation from commercial regulatory rules and to move proposed oversight from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to the Department of Consumer Affairs, where a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation will be created. ASA also helped stop a proposed state-wide production tax on commercial cannabis cultivation.

“Licensing and regulation will ensure higher quality standards and increased product safety, legally protect industry workers, and help reduce public ambivalence about the medical cannabis program,” said Kristin Nevedal, Director of ASA’s Patient Focused Certification program. “But no law is perfect, and we will urge legislators to revisit several aspects of these bills, such as the limits on personal cultivation and barriers to vertical integration of the medical cannabis industry.”

Further Information:

Assemblymember Bonta’s press conference with ASA’s Don Duncan and others, asking the governor to sign the bills

Why Regulations Are Good for Patients in California

Assembly Bill 243 Text

Assembly Bill 266 Text

Senate Bill 643 Text

___________________________

Maryland Opens Medical Cannabis Application Process

PFC Program Hosting Informational Event for Interested Companies

icon_maryland.jpgMaryland has begun accepting applications for operating medical cannabis businesses in the state, with a deadline of November 6. Separate licenses will be issued for cultivating, processing and dispensing medical cannabis. A maximum of 15 cultivation facilities and up to two dispensaries for each of the state’s 47 senate districts will be licensed. The number of processor licenses is yet to be determined.

The Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.says it expects to complete its selection process by sometime mid-January, depending on how many applications are received. Once approved, licensees will have one year to complete the remaining licensing requirements, including local zoning, and request final inspection.Assemblymember Bonta's press conference urgin signatures on the medical cannabis bills with Don Duncan at right

Maryland regulations require medical cannabis professionals to meet extensive training requirements and comply with the most robust product safety protocols in the country. ASA’s Patient Focused Certification program (PFC) is under contract with the State of Maryland to train all compliance inspectors for its medical cannabis program.

PFC_logo.jpg

PFC will be hosting an education and networking event for those interested in applying on October 12 from 5:30 – 9:00pm at the Hilton Baltimore. Leading industry experts will cover how to adequately prepare for the application process, including best practices for satisfying regulatory requirements. Speakers include ASA Lead Scientist Jahan Marcu, Ph.D., who is Chief Auditor for the PFC program, PFC Program Director Kristin Nevedal, and ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer.

The PFC training and education program prepares individuals to comply with state and local regulations and meet industry best-practice standards. PFC training is currently mandated by the Department of Public Health in the District of Columbia for all staff working in the DC medical cannabis program.

___________________________

Study Confirms Long-term Cannabis Use Is Safe

icon_closerlook.jpgA study of patients using medical cannabis to control chronic pain has confirmed that prolonged use is safe. Researchers found that pain patients using medical cannabis were no more likely to suffer serious adverse events than non-cannabis patients.

The “Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study (COMPASS)” was published online last month in the Journal of Pain. COMPASS included chronic pain patients using medical cannabis and a control group that was not, all selected from seven Canadian pain clinics.

The principal investigator for the study was Mark Ware, M.D., Director of Clinical Research of the Alan Edwards Pain Management Unit at the McGill University Health Centre and Executive Director of the non-profit Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids.

“This is the first and largest study of the long-term safety of medical cannabis use by patients suffering from chronic pain, ever conducted,” said Dr. Ware. “We found that medical cannabis, when used by patients who are experienced users and as part of a monitored treatment program for chronic pain over one year, appears to have a reasonable safety profile.”

“Dr. Ware’s research clinically documents how safe medical cannabis can be for pain management,” said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. “This study is an example of the type of research we can expect in America once federal barriers are removed.”

U.S. research is hampered by the classification of cannabis is listed as Schedule I drug, the most highly restricted category. The National Institutes of Drug Abuse is still the only source for research cannabis in the U.S. despite a ruling from a DEA Administrative Law Judge that more federal cultivation licenses should be issued.

More Information:

Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study (COMPASS)

___________________________

National Medical Association Urges Rescheduling

icon_closerlook.jpgThe American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), one of the largest medical organizations in the United States, is calling for changing the federal classification of cannabis to a drug with medical uses.

The resolution adopted last month at the AAFP’s annual meeting in Denver states, “Drug Enforcement Administration scheduling of marijuana as a Schedule I drug prevents funding and legalization of research on the pharmacological properties of cannabinoids.” The doctors group says “reclassifying marijuana … will facilitate further research on the potential medical uses of pharmaceutical cannabinoids.” Cannabis is currently classified as among the most highly dangerous drugs with no currently accepted medical uses.

The AAFP represents more than 120,000 doctors, residents and medical students.

___________________________

ACTION ALERT: Sign the Pardon Petition for the Kettle Falls Five

Sign the petition today calling on President Obama to pardon the three Kettle falls Five defendants.

Despite Congress telling federal prosecutors to stop interfering in state medical cannabis programs, three of the patients charged in the Kettle Falls Five case have been sentenced to federal prison terms and fines. Even though they were acquitted of 4 of 5 charges and only convicted of a single lesser charge related to cultivating for themselves under Washington State's medical cannabis program, they will each go to prison for more than a year at an enormous cost to taxpayers.

We urge you to take action to ask President Obama to issue immediate orders of commutation and remission of jail time and fines for Rolland Gregg (sentenced to 2 years, 9 months; 3 years supervised release; $7,500 fine), his wife Michelle Gregg (1 year, 1 day; 3 years supervised release), and his mother Rhonda Firestack-Harvey (1 year, 1 day; 3 years supervised release). Additionally, we are asking for complete pardons of their convictions so that they are no longer considered felons.

Rhonda, Rolland, and Michelle deserve to get on with their lives and return to being the productive members of society that they were before this ordeal began.

Take a minute now to sign the White House petition. SafeAccessNow.org/pardon_the_kettle_falls_five

___________________

Get the PDF Version to Print and Distribute

Download a printable copy of this Newsletter

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

October 14, 2015

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Nearly two decades after the passage of Prop 215, California will finally get comprehensive, statewide medical marijuana regulation, legal dispensaries come a step closer in Michigan, and more.

California

Last Friday, the governor signed a medical marijuana regulation bill package into law. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law a package of bills designed to bring comprehensive, statewide regulation to the state's thriving medical marijuana industry. The three-bill package will establish "a long-overdue comprehensive regulatory framework for the production, transportation, and sale of medical marijuana," Brown said in his signing statement. "This new structure will make sure patients have access to medical marijuana, while ensuring a robust tracking system," said Brown. "This sends a clear and certain signal to our federal counterparts that California is implementing robust controls not only on paper, but in practice." The bills are Assembly Bill 266, Senate Bill 653, and Assembly Bill 243

Florida

Last Thursday, a Florida legislator filed a medical marijuana bill. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) has filed House Bill 307, which would allow patients to use medical marijuana under the state's "investigational drug" law. Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming) said he would file a companion measure in the Senate.

Massachusetts

Last Friday, medical marijuana sales were climbing as more dispensaries opened. Medical marijuana patients purchased some 1,676 ounces of marijuana in September, up from the 1,488 ounces sold in August. The increase comes as the state's second dispensary opened in Brockton. Click on the link for more details.

Michigan

Last Wednesday, the House approved dispensary and edibles bills. The House voted 95-11 to approve House Bill 4209, which would create a state board to regulate dispensaries, as well as approving bills to allow for the use of edibles and to set up a tax structure. The measures now head to the state Senate.

On Tuesday, the Detroit city council approved dispensary regulations. The city council approved regulations to govern the city's booming dispensary business. There are an estimated 150 dispensaries operating in the city. Now, dispensaries will have to get a license or be shut down, and operators will have to undergo a police background check. The regulations also bar drive-through services and bans staying open 24 hours a day.

Missouri

Last Thursday, medical marijuana initiatives were filed.. Show-Me State activists under the aegis of New Approach Missouri Thursday filed a pair of initiatives aimed at legalizing medical marijuana. The group has about $70,000 in the bank and needs to gather some 160,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

October 21, 2015

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A California federal judge has told the Justice Department to butt out of state-legal marijuana businesses in a case involving the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, the Brookings Institution has a new report on the feds stifling research, ASA has a new report on the beneficial impacts of dispensaries, and more.

National

Last Thursday, ASA released a report on the impact of dispensaries on communities. Americans for Safe Access released a report, Where Will Patients Obtain Their Medicine?, that shows dispensaries do not bring elevated crime rates or other social ills, but do bring economic opportunity and provide access to medicine for patients. "The research shows that well-regulated dispensaries are responsible neighbors and valued members of the community," said Steph Sherer, ASA’s executive director. "They bring jobs and increased economic activity while providing patients suffering from serious illnesses with an essential physician-recommended medicine. Creating equitable rules for medical cannabis access is a win-win scenario for everyone in a community."

On Tuesday, a Brookings Institution report accused the federal government of stifling medical marijuana research. Researchers at the liberal think-tank called on the federal government to eliminate obstacles to medical marijuana research in a strongly-worded report today. "The federal government is stifling medical research in a rapidly transforming area of public policy that has consequences for public health and public safety," the report, authored by John Hudak and Grace Wallack, says. "Statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area." For a start, marijuana should be moved to Schedule II, they said.

California

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that the feds can't shut down state-legal marijuana businesses. US District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled that the Justice Department is barred from prosecuting with marijuana operations that are in compliance with state laws. Breyer cited recent votes in Congress to prohibit such actions. The move came in the case of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which had been ordered closed by a permanent injunction in 2012. Attorneys for the alliance successfully argued that the congressional moves invalidated the injunction, and Breyer agreed. "The plain reading of [Congress's amendment] forbids the Department of Justice from enforcing this injunction against MAMM to the extent that MAMM operates in compliance with California law," Breyer wrote. "To the Court's recollection," Breyer added, "the Government has yet to allege or even suggest that MAMM was at any time operating in violation of state law."

Kansas

Over the weekend, the Silver Haired Legislature renewed its push for medical marijuana. The Silver Haired Legislature, which advocates for senior citizens, is again calling on the legislature to pass medical marijuana. At a meeting earlier this month in Topeka, the group adopted three proposed bills it will push to see passed in the next term. Click on the link for more details.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday, the state got its fifth dispensary. The state Health Department said then it had issued its final permit for Breakwater Treatment and Wellness, a dispensary in Cranston.

New York

Last Thursday, the Seneca Nation was moving toward allowing medical marijuana. The Seneca Nation of Indians is preparing to vote early next month on whether to authorize the National Council to start drafting laws and regulations to govern medical marijuana. The vote would be only a first step toward the tribe getting in the medical marijuana business. The Justice Department opened the door for tribes to get involved in pot operations with a memo last fall.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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by psmith,

October 28, 2015

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Of course there is a challenge to California's new medical marijuana law, New York takes another step on the path to medical marijuana, North Dakota petitioners will have to go back to the drawing board, and more.

California

Last Wednesday, a collective operator filed suit over the state's new medical marijuana law. Collective operator David Armstrong has filed a lawsuit claiming the state's new medical marijuana law violates the state constitution because it amends a voter initiative, the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (Prop 215). Armstrong's attorney, Nicholas Emmanuel, said that although the full effect of the law signed this month is not clear, his client wanted to "get a jump on things."

Florida

Last Thursday,the state Supreme Court set a December hearing date for the medical marijuana initiative. The court said it will hear oral arguments on whether language for a medical marijuana initiative complies with state requirements on December 8. The initiative is sponsored by People United for Medical Marijuana, the same group behind last year's failed initiative. (It actually won a majority of the vote, but because it was a constitutional amendment, it needed 60% to pass). The group said it has already turned in nearly half the 683,000 valid voter signatures needed to qualify for the 2016 ballot.

New York

Last Thursday, the state unveiled a new medical marijuana training course for doctors. The state Health Department this week rolled out an online medical marijuana training course for physicians who wish to prescribe it. Doctors who want to register to prescribe medical marijuana must first complete the four-hour course. The state aims to have medical marijuana available for patients by next January.

North Dakota

On Tuesday, medical marijuana initiative language was rejected. Secretary of State Al Jaeger ® Tuesday rejected an initiative from the North Dakota Committee for Medical Marijuana, saying it had errors. Jaeger directed committee members to a petition drafting tool on state government web pages so they can get it right next time.

Washington

On Tuesday, calls came for signatures on a Change.org petition for the Kettle Falls Five. Prosecuted as marijuana traffickers for growing medical marijuana for their own use in a state where marijuana is legal, three of the Kettle Falls Five were sentenced earlier this month to federal prison. The petition here seeks "immediate orders of commutation and remission of jail time and fines for Rolland Gregg, his wife Michelle Gregg, and his mother Rhonda Firestack-Harvey. We seek complete pardons of their convictions so that they are no longer considered felons. Allow them to return to being the productive members of society they were, before this ordeal began." Click on the link to add your signature.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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its only been two yrs since ny made the med mj laws and it will still take till january for the first patiants to get their hands on any meds ...figured the gov drasgging their feet on this ..while there are folks are sick and getting worse while they are forced to wait ..its not a fare law to begin with ..it only covers the dieing in most cases ..while pain managment is not part of the law , i guess i'll be making trips to the rez were the native americans are lining up to have meds availible to sick folks soon ..not sure who's all covered under the natives laws but i aM sure it will cover those dealing with chronic pain ..

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

November 04, 2015

MMJ%20leaf%20and%20stethoscope%20KY%20OD

More Indian tribes move toward okaying medical marijuana, a North Dakota initiative petition gets its language okayed, and more.

California

Last Wednesday, Los Angeles decided to stop giving tax permits to unlicensed dispensaries. The city council voted to stop giving tax certificates for new medical marijuana dispensaries. In 2013, the city approved Measure D, which banned most dispensaries, but that hasn't stopped them from opening. The city had been issuing tax certificates to them, but the council agreed that it was "insincere" to collect taxes from shops the city was working to shut down. Click on the link for much more detail.

On Tuesday, the Huntington Beach city council voted to keep its ban on dispensaries. The move came as the council denied appeals by four dispensaries challenging the city's eight-year-old ban on the operations. The dispensaries had operated without business permits, and the city had recently obtained temporary injunctions to shut them down.

Nevada

Last Thursday, a Nevada tribe decided to join the medical marijuana industry. The Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe is planning to open a medical marijuana grow facility for economic development reasons. "Jobs to bring our people out of poverty, to create the jobs that we can better our community," said tribal president Tildon Smart. "And the profits would be used for helping out with programs." The tribe said it plans to start growing next spring.

New York

On Tuesday, the Seneca Nation approved a medical marijuana measure. Tribal members approved a measure clearing the way for the creation of a legal and regulatory framework for medical marijuana operations on the reservation. The vote was 448-364. "A decision on our Nation's path of action on medical cannabis is far from made, but now, having heard from the Seneca people, our discussions and due diligence can begin in earnest," said tribal President Maurice John. "The first step from here is establishing thoughtful regulation for how the Seneca Nation could potentially move forward."

North Dakota

On Monday, medical marijuana initiative petition language was approved. The second time was the charm. Secretary of State Al Jaeger Monday approved petition language for a medical marijuana initiative. He had initially rejected the proposal because of language flaws. The measure would create a system of state-licensed dispensaries and would allow patients to possess up to three ounces. Patients more than 40 miles from a dispensary could grow their own.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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ASA Activist Newsletter - Nov 2015

William Dolphin

November 04, 2015 

In This Issue

•Federal Judge Lifts Injunction that Shut Dispensary

•Dispensary Report Details Benefits of Regulated Local Approach

•Scientific Society Launches Cannabis Research and Testing Group

•Think Tank Says Government Stifles Cannabis Research

•California Medical Cannabis Regulation Bill Signed

•ACTION ALERT: Sign the Kettle Falls Pardon Petition

_______________________________

Federal Judge Lifts Injunction that Shut Dispensary

First Court to Enforce Congressional Limit on Prosecutors

icon_federaladvocacy.jpgFor the first time, a federal court has said federal prosecutors cannot stop the distribution of medical cannabis if it is done in compliance with state law. The ruling enforces a budget amendment enacted last year to rein in the Department of Justice (DOJ).

On October 20, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer lifted a federal injunction that in 2011 had closed a Northern California dispensary, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM). The judge ruled the injunction violated restrictions placed on the DOJ by Congress last year in the Rohrabacher-Farr budget amendment, which says the DOJ cannot use tax dollars to interfere with the implementation of state medical cannabis programs.

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Judge Breyer’s ruling says that a “plain reading of [the Amendment] forbids the Department of Justice (DOJ) from enforcing this injunction against MAMM to the extent that MAMM operates in compliance with state California law” and noted that local officials considered MAMM to be a “model business in careful compliance” with state law and local regulations.

The DOJ and the U.S. Attorney in the MAMM case had argued that the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment does not prevent prosecutions or civil actions targeting individuals. MAMM was shut down by a civil injunction that was accompanied by the threat of criminal prosecutions. Other federal courts, such as the one that tried the Kettle Falls Five in Washington State, have not allowed the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment to be used to stop the prosecutions.

“The Justice Department’s interpretation of our amendment was completely ludicrous,” said Rep. Sam Farr, (D-CA), one of the amendment’s coauthors. “It should not have taken a federal judge to explain that to them. Closing dispensaries denies patients access to medicine, clearly preventing states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws. With this ruling, it’s time for the Department to finally listen to the majority of Americans who want patients to have access to medical marijuana.”

Fellow amendment sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) also issued a statement, saying, “After months of experiencing the Department of Justice’s refusal to follow the letter and intent of the ‘Rohrabacher-Farr’ provision, a federal court has finally reined them in. The people’s representatives in Congress have, on more than one occasion, heeded the demands of the American people to allow for the possession, cultivation, and distribution of medical marijuana in states that permit such activities. For the Department of Justice to flout this Congressional directive is unfathomable. As such, Judge Breyer’s rebuke of DOJ’s ridiculous interpretation of our amendment is most welcome.”

Congress passed the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment for this fiscal year last December. An updated version for next year names the additional states that have passed medical cannabis laws since then. It passed the House by an even wider margin than last year (242-186) and has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee (21-9), but the budget bill it is attached to has not yet passed the full Senate.

“After all the years we’ve worked to make the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment a reality, this ruling is the first major victory it has brought to patients,” said Michael Liszewski, ASA’s government affairs director. “Judge Breyer’s ruling shows that Congress has provided real-life protection from federal harassment for medical cannabis businesses.”

After sending a memo to members of Congress while the amendment was debated saying its passage would prevent all marijuana prosecutions, the DOJ now claims it only prevents them from bringing direct legal challenges to state laws. Judge Breyer ruled otherwise, saying "it defies language and logic for the government to argue that it does not prevent California from implementing its medical marijuana laws by shutting down these...heavily regulated medical marijuana dispensaries."Judge Breyer also noted that the sponsors of the amendment have brought complaints against the DOJ for ignoring the law.

On July 30, Reps. Rohrabacher and Farr asked the Inspector General’s Office within DOJ to investigate if the continued raids and prosecutions against state-legal medical marijuana patients and providers violate the Antideficiency Act that requires federal agencies to spend money only as Congress directs. In that letter, they noted that everyone in Congress was clear that “the intent and language of the provision was to stop DOJ from interacting with anyone legitimately doing business in medical marijuana in accordance with state law."

More Information:

U.S. vs. MAMM Injunction Ruling

ASA memorandum to DOJ on Application of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment

Senate Reaffirms Support to End of Federal Interference In Medical Marijuana Programs

House Reps Demand Investigation of DOJ for Crackdown on Medical Marijuana

_______________________________

icon_closerlook.jpg

Scientific Society Launches Cannabis Research and Testing Group

Cannabis research and testing standards are the focus of a new initiative by the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific group. The ACS, which is 139 years old and has 150,000 members, voted last month to establish a Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision within the society’s Division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS). The CHAS provides expertise in laboratory safety, chemical management and chemical safety practices, a mission that will extend to the subdivision, according to its chair, Ezra Pryor.

“Having a group like this will help everyone get on the same page, and upcoming programming could elucidate existing regulations and testing challenges in the cannabis industry,” said Pryor. “We have the opportunity to recognize those that are taking every effort to be ethical and compliant while also informing those who are not. We can also educate the general public and illustrate how consumer awareness can drive best industry practices. I’d like to thank Americans for Safe Access for supporting this important work.”

Comprised of experts with collectively over 100 years of experience in cannabis chemistry, research and industry regulation, the subdivision will provide a symposium for research and facilitate the development and use of best practices. Since 2011, the number of cannabis testing laboratories has grown from two to more than two dozen, some of which provide product testing required by state law.

“The American Chemical Society recognizes the need for scientific leadership on cannabis,” said Jahan Marcu, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) senior scientist and CANN subdivision vice chair. “We were told the process might take years, but the members realized the importance of this work and made the process much faster.”

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ASA has previously collaborated with the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) to create standards for cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and laboratory analysis. AHPA’s cannabis standards have been included in regulations in over a dozen state medical cannabis laws including, Alaska, Florida, New York, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Hawaii, Colorado and California.

ASA also worked with the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia to create the Cannabis monograph, which established the first scientifically valid standards for companies engaged in laboratory analysis of cannabis, cannabis-derived products and hemp products.

“The creation of the Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision is another important milestone in the professionalization of cannabis science,” said Steph Sherer, ASA’s executive director. “We will work with America’s top chemists to promote sound cannabis laboratory regulations and create effective standards that give patients confidence in their medicine.”

More Information:

CCANNDCHASANN Facebook Page

AHPA Guidelines

APH Cannabis Monograph

_______________________________

Think Tank Says Government Stifles Cannabis Research

icon_federaladvocacy.jpgA respected think tank last month issued a scathing report criticizing the U.S. federal government for actively undermining important research on the therapeutic potential of cannabis.

The Brookings Institution report “Ending the U.S. government's war on medical marijuana research” explains the various barriers that have “paralyzed science” that could lead to a better understanding of the medical uses of cannabis. The authors, Brookings fellow John Hudak and senior research assistant Grace Wallack, note that “of all the controlled substances that the federal government regulates, cannabis is treated in a unique manner in ways that specifically impede research.”

While cannabis is demonstrably a far safer drug than any other listed in Schedule I or even Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Hudak and Wallack note the circular logic that keeps it in the most restrictive classification. Medical research is limited because Schedule I means it lacks current accepted medical use, and it is not accepted for medical use because it lacks large-scale research.

Just changing the classification would not fix the problem, according to the report. Layers of institutional barriers would remain. Among the recommendations the report makes are: “removing the DEA-mandated NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) monopoly on production of marijuana for research, issuing agency guidance, expanding the compassionate use program, and reforming license and registration requirements."

The report also notes that even though the Executive Branch could initiate some of these changes, it would take far longer than action by Congress. The CARERS Act that was introduced in the Senate would make many of the necessary changes, but despite its widespread bipartisan support, it remains stalled. The authors comment that this political “reluctance is very difficult to understand” as public opinion everywhere in the country overwhelmingly favors allowing physicians to prescribe cannabis like other drugs.

Now that 40 states have enacted some sort of law that establishes legal medical use of cannabis or a cannabis derivative, a substantial majority of the country lives somewhere that allows it and would directly benefit from the research that current policy blocks.

_______________________________

Dispensary Report Details Benefits of Regulated Local Approach

ASA last month released a new white paper on medical cannabis dispensaries that details the benefits of local regulations for managing the impacts on patient access, teen use, crime rates and community concerns. The report “Where Will Patients Obtain Their Medicine?” covers the experiences of local officials and communities that have grappled with this contentious issue since dispensaries emerged in California in 1996.

ASA’s report finds no basis for concerns that medical cannabis dispensaries will worsen crime rates or otherwise undermine the communities that host them. Empirical research conducted by law enforcement, academics and journalists shows that dispensaries bring economic development and are not associated with increased levels of crime or other social ills.

“Studies show that well-regulated dispensaries are responsible neighbors that create jobs and improve communities,” said Steph Sherer, ASA’s executive director. “Creating equitable rules for medical cannabis access is a win-win scenario for everyone.”

Among the states that have passed legislation to create medical cannabis programs, several are still implementing dispensary licensing. Massachusetts, Minnesota and Illinois have issued licenses to medical cannabis dispensaries for the first time in the last year. Maryland, Hawaii and New Hampshire are currently accepting license applications for dispensaries and cultivation sites.

"Counties and cities in states with new medical cannabis programs can be uncertain about dispensaries opening,” said Mike Liszewski, ASA's Government Affairs Director. “But local officials who restrict access to dispensaries are not creating any public benefit by imposing extra burdens on a vulnerable patient population."

ASA published a similar report in 2004, “Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collective and Local Regulation,” to guide California communities in creating effective, equitable regulations for dispensaries. Since then, hundreds of cities and counties have established licensing, zoning and other regulatory rules for dispensary locations.

ASA is distributing the report along with state-specific legal information to officials in Maryland, Hawaii and New Hampshire to educate them as they craft regulations to facilitate medical cannabis access in their communities.

More Information:

ASA Report: Where Will Patients Obtain Their Medicine?

ASA Report: Medical Marijuana Access in The U.S.

ASA Analysis: Maryland County to Choose Between Sensible Zoning and Anti-Patient Restrictions

_______________________________

icon_california.jpg

Governor Signs California Medical Cannabis Regulation Bill

Medical cannabis in California will become a commercial business like any other once the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act is fully implemented. Since 1996, distributors and cultivators have existed as not-for-profit collectives and cooperatives, but lack of clarity in how to operate legally has generated years of litigation.

On October 9, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the trio of interconnected bills that will establish commercial regulation of medical cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and transportation, as well as a state-level licensing system. After years of wrangling, the California legislature passed Assembly Bills 243 and 266 and Senate Bill 643 on September 11, 2015, with overwhelming support in both the Assembly and the Senate.

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“Governor Brown’s approval of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act ushers in a new era in California,’” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta, the lead sponsor of AB 266. “Patients will have more assurances that their products are safe. Law enforcement will have a foundation for identifying drugged drivers and increased funding to protect the public. The environment will be protected from neglect, destruction, and water diversion. And the medical marijuana industry itself will be able to come out of the shadows and receive the same protections under the law as other state-licensed businesses, creating jobs and contributing to the economy.”

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has long advocated for sensible regulations that provide legitimacy and oversight for the medical cannabis industry and ensure the safety and quality of medicine provided to patients. ASA lobbied to make the Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act as effective and inclusive as possible, successfully advocating to exempt patients’ personal cultivation rights from commercial regulatory rules and to move oversight from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, where it was to be housed, to a newly created Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the Department of Consumer Affairs. ASA also successfully opposed a state-wide production tax on commercial cannabis cultivation.

““This action ensures that safe and legal access to medical cannabis will be a permanent right for Californians,” said Steph Sherer, ASA’s executive director. “ASA has been working for more than a decade to show California that sensible regulations can facilitate patient access, ensure product safety and create fair rules that are sensitive to community concerns.”

Implementation of the new laws will entail significant rule making by state agencies over the next year. ASA and other advocates will have a chance to influence how that plays out.

“We remain concerned over some of the last-minute changes to these bills and will work hard to fix problems,” said Don Duncan, ASA’s California director. “Limiting personal cultivation space to 100-square-feet may create hardship for patients who need it the most, and vertical integration restrictions create undue obstacles to legitimate members of the medical cannabis industry.”

More Information:

ASA Analysis- Why Regulations Are Good for Patients in California

Assembly Bill 243 Text

Assembly Bill 266 Text

Senate Bill 643 Text

_______________________________

ACTION ALERT: Sign the Kettle Falls Pardon Petition

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Urge President Obama to pardon the three remaining Kettle Falls Five defendants today by signing the petition.

Congress told the DOJ to stop interfering in state medical cannabis programs, but three of the patients charged in the Kettle Falls Five case are facing federal prison terms and fines. Even though they were convicted of a single charge for their family medical garden, they will each go to prison for more than a year at an enormous cost to taxpayers.

Take action today to to ask President Obama to issue immediate orders of commutation and remission of jail time and fines for Rolland Gregg (sentenced to 2 years, 9 months; 3 years supervised release; $7,500 fine), his wife Michelle Gregg (1 year, 1 day; 3 years supervised release), and his mother Rhonda Firestack-Harvey (1 year, 1 day; 3 years supervised release). Rhonda, Rolland, and Michelle deserve to get on with their lives and return to being the productive members of society.

Take a minute now to sign the White House petition. SafeAccessNow.org/pardon_the_kettle_falls_five

___________________

Get the PDF Version to Print and Distribute

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

November 11, 2015

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The Senate approves a bill to ease medical marijuana access for vets, medical marijuana sales begin in Illinois, New Jersey's governor signs a medical marijuana school access bill, and more.

National

On Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill allowing veterans access to medical marijuana. The Senate Tuesday passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill, which includes language that will allow vets to access medical marijuana in states where it is legal. The Veterans Administration had barred VA doctors from issuing medical marijuana recommendations to vets, but this bill will block the VA from spending money to punish vets who use medical marijuana and allow VA doctors to recommend it where it is legal. The language was first approved as an amendment in May; that amendment must now be approved by the House.

Also on Tuesday, calls to fire the DEA head for calling medical marijuana "a joke" grew louder. Led by Tom Angell at Marijuana Majority, medical marijuana supporters are calling on President Obama to fire DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg in the wake of his recent comments calling medical marijuana "a joke." "My mom is a legal patient in Rhode Island, and she uses medical marijuana to deal with the severe pain she experiences from multiple sclerosis," said Angell. "Medical cannabis is no joke to my family or the millions of other American families who have seen its real benefits." Angell has organized a Change.org petition that anyone can sign.

California

On Tuesday, the Newport Beach city council approved a ban on medical marijuana activities in the city. The unanimous vote was on a first reading of the ordinance, which would ban cultivation, as well as dispensaries and delivery services.

Illinois

On Monday, medical marijuana retail sales began in the state. The state's first dispensaries opened for business today after state regulators last week gave the go-ahead to producers to start shipping product to them. Up to eight dispensaries were expected to be open today, including several in the Chicago area. But some patients were turned away because their customer registrations with individual dispensaries had not yet been processed.

Minnesota

On Tuesday, pain patients called for access to medical marijuana. Pain patients pleaded with Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger to override a panel of health experts who rejected allowing medical marijuana for chronic pain and allow them to use it. For more than three hours, the commissioner heard from a cavalcade of people who said they wake in pain, spend their days in pain, and spend sleepless nights because of pain. "All of this has been very helpful. It’s not going to be an easy task weighing the data, weighing the input, weighing the pros and cons, weighing the risks and benefits," he said. "But that’s the job I signed up for. I take it very seriously, both as a physician, as health commissioner and as a person who lives in this state." He has until the end of December to make a decision.

Michigan

Last Thursday, fired medical marijuana patients learned they can get unemployment benefits. The state Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from the Unemployment Insurance Agency in a case involving people who won unemployment benefits after being fired for medical marijuana use. That means that people who are registered patients who got fired after failing drug tests for marijuana will continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

New Hampshire

Last Wednesday, a lung cancer patient sued to get a medical marijuana card. Linda Horan, who suffers from late stage lung cancer, has filed a lawsuit against the state health commissioner in a bid to get a medical marijuana card before dispensaries open next year. The state passed a medical marijuana law two years ago, but won't issue patient ID cards until dispensaries are authorized to start selling medical marijuana next year. Horan wants her card issued now so she can obtain medical marijuana in Maine, which will serve patients from other states.

New Jersey

On Monday, the governor signed a medical marijuana school access bill. Gov. Chris Christie ®, a GOP presidential contender, signed into law Assembly Bill 4587, which requires schools providing services for the developmentally disabled to adopt policies that allow for the administration of medical marijuana to qualified patients.

New York

On Tuesday, medical marijuana patients demanded the governor sign an emergency access bill. Patients, families, and advocates rallied outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Manhattan office to urge him to sign a bill that would expedite access to medical marijuana for critically ill patients. In June, with overwhelming bipartisan support, both houses of the legislature passed A.7060 (Gottfried) / S.5086 (Griffo), directing the state to establish a program to help critically ill patients obtain emergency access to medical marijuana as soon as possible. The bill was delivered to Governor on October 30th. He has until tomorow to sign or veto the bill; if he does neither, it will become law.

On Wednesday, Cuomo signed the bill.

South Dakota

On Monday, medical marijuana petitioners handed in signatures. Petitioners with New Approach South Dakota turned in some 16,000 raw signatures Monday, the deadline for initiatives hoping to qualify for the 2016 general election. They need 13,871 valid signatures to qualify, so there is very little room for invalidated signatures if the effort is to make it.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith, November 19, 2015

A petition calling on President Obama to fire the DEA head keeps getting more signatures, the Florida medical marijuana initiative is halfway home on signature gathering, a New Jersey school becomes the first in the country to allow medical marijuana on campus, and more.

National

Last Friday, a petition to fire the DEA head for calling medical marijuana "a joke" had 16,000 signatures. People so inclined can add theirs here. Actually, the petition now has some 27,000 signatures, having gained 11,000 more since the linked story was published yesterday.

By Monday, the petition had more than 80,000 signatures. Uh, make that 83,044 signatures at latest count. DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg is still getting heat over his statement that medical marijuana is "a joke." It's just his latest comment suggesting the nation's top drug cop is not that well-informed in his subject area.

California

Last Tuesday, the Newport Beach city council gave first approval to a medical marijuana ban. The council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the ordinance, which will ban the cultivation, processing, distribution, and even delivery of medical marijuana. The city is acting to avoid losing licensing and regulatory authority under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which was signed into law last month. The law says that if localities fail to enact rules or bans by year's end, the state will have sole licensing and regulatory authority there.

Florida

Last Friday, the state Supreme Court canceled its medical marijuana initiative hearing. Backers of a 2016 medical marijuana initiative have just seen one obstacle removed from their path. After Attorney General Pam Bondi ® announced she would ask the high court to block the initiative, the state Supreme Court has canceled a hearing on it set for December 8. The initiative from United for Care is already well-advanced in the signature gathering process. A similar initiative failed last year with 58% of the vote—60% was needed because it was a constitutional amendment.

As of Monday, the medical marijuana initiative had nearly half the necessary signatures. The initiative from United for Care has already gathered 342,582 valid voter signatures. That puts it half-way to the 683,179 valid voter signatures to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot. Petitioners have until February to get the rest of the signatures.

Illinois

By Monday, more than $200,000 worth of medical marijuana had been sold in the state's first week of sales. Only a handful of dispensaries are open in the state, but they took in $211,000 in sales after opening last Monday. The medi-weed was selling for around $450 an ounce, or $16 a gram.

Maryland

Large Number of Applicants Will Delay Maryland Program. Nearly 900 people have applied to grow or sell medical marijuana in the state, and that is going to delay the program's rollout, Hannah Byron, the executive director of the state's medical marijuana commission said Thursday. She said the commission will extend the application period and revise the timeline, which had originally anticipated the first stage of the application review would be done by January.

Missouri

As of last Friday, Kansas City hospitals were denying cannabis oil to epileptic patients. That's Kansas City, Missouri. The state passed a law last year allowing for such use, but no hospitals in the Kansas City area will allow their doctors to write a recommendation. The hospitals cite lack of standardized dosages for children and concerns about side-effects and interactions with other medications. Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City will start a study on cannabis oil for epileptic patients next year, but has no plans to widely recommend it. On the other side of the state, the Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center in St. Louis does allow doctors to write recommendations.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday,a Garden State school became the first in the nation to permit medical marijuana on campus. The Larc School in Bellmawr Wednesday night adopted a policy allowing a teenage girl with autism and epilepsy to consume medical marijuana edibles while at school. The move comes just two days after Gov. Chris Christie ® signed into law a bill requiring school districts to adopt such policies.

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ASA Activist Newsletter - Dec 2015

William Dolphin

December 05, 2015

In this issue:

•International Patient Coalition Seeks UN Action

•Advocates Urge Obama to Fire DEA Chief

•Senate Votes to Let VA Doctors Recommend

•Minnesota Adds Pain to Qualifying Conditions

•New York Enacts Emergency Measure

•Florida Selects Five Nurseries to Cultivate Cannabis

•More than 1,000 Apply for Maryland Licenses

•Rally in Pennsylvania Urges Lawmakers to Act

•Action Alert: Support the CARERS Act

________________________

International Patient Coalition Addresses World Health Organization

icon_closerlook.jpgOn November 16, ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer joined patient advocates representing 27 countries who travelled to Geneva to address the World Health Organization (WHO). They urged the WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence to reshape policies that affect the health and safety of millions of patients using cannabis and cannabis products worldwide. That committee is an important advisor to the United Nation’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which sets international drug policies. The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS 2016) is set for April 2016 in New York.

“The current international policies on cannabis are outdated and are having a detrimental impact on patients in the United States and worldwide,” says ASA’s Sherer, ASA executive director and a representative of the International Medical Cannabis Patients Coalition. “New policies should take into account new clinical research, product safety protocols and global patient needs.”

IMCPC.jpg

UNGASS 2016 was scheduled in September 2012 at the request of the presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico, co-sponsored by 95 other countries. The special session will include a review of the treaties that drive international drug policy: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

Today over two-thirds of the population of the United States live where medical cannabis is legal locally, and over 2.5 million Americans are using it under a doctor’s supervision. Canada, Israel, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Croatia, Mexico, Uruguay, Romania, Germany, Jamaica, Australia, and Switzerland all have national medical cannabis programs and dozens of other countries are reviewing legislation. These laws are all arguably in conflict with international treaties such as the UN Single Convention.

“This is the first time in our lifetime for science to trump ideology and pave the way for more consistent patient access to this medicine worldwide,” said Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

The International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition (IMCPC) was established in March this year at a conference in Prague, where representatives of medical cannabis patient organizations from 13 countries came together. Many countries that might fully integrate cannabis into medical treatment are constrained by UN treaties, creating conflicts and contradictions similar to those in the U.S.

“The French paradox of medical cannabis is giving patients hope but with no legal access this leads them to buy unsafe products on the black market,” said IMCPC representative Sébastien Béguerie, founder of l'Union Francophone pour les Cannabinoides en Médecines. “It is making medical cannabis patients criminals, suffering not only from their ailments, but also their illegal status.”

More information:

Background on the United Nations General Assembly Special Session

International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition (IMCPC) Declaration

World Health Organization Open Session Agenda

________________________

Advocates and Members of Congress Urge Firing of DEA Chief

icon_federaladvocacy.jpgPressure is mounting on DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg. On November 20, medical cannabis advocates delivered a petition with more than 100,000 signatures calling for his ouster. The petition was started a mere two weeks earlier, after Rosenberg publicly called medical cannabis “a joke.”

rosenberg.jpg

The petition was organized by Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, whose mother is a patient, and was supported by Americans for Safe Access and other advocacy groups. Angell and other advocates held a press conference in front of DEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia as they delivered the boxes of signatures.

Medical cannabis patients of all ages were present to deliver the petition, along with parents who testified to its life-saving properties for their children with intractable seizure disorders and veterans who rely on it to stave off the symptoms associated with their PTSD.

“There’s nothing funny about suicidal thoughts, and those are something my family and I lived with day-to-day die to my military-related PTSD,” said Navy veteran T.J. Thompson, who helped found the ASA chapter in Virginia. “Using medical marijuana not only helps with my condition, but it has also had the added effect of making me a better father and husband.”

Rosenberg had expressed his discomfort with the idea of patients finding therapeutic relief from cannabis, saying “don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.” That statement was not his first on cannabis since becoming acting head of the DEA. Shortly after he was named to the position, he admitted that he was “not an expert” on cannabis and could not say whether it is more or less dangerous than heroin. Rosenberg clarified his position a few weeks later, but the stage was set for the calls for his removal.

“We join the more than 100,000 concerned Americans who are urging President Obama to fire Chuck Rosenberg immediately and appoint someone who understands the science,” said Mike Liszewski, ASA Government Affairs Director. “With NIDA, the National Cancer Institute, and other federal agencies coming around to the medical value of cannabis, the DEA is one of the last bastions of Reefer Madness mentality.”

The petition followed on the heels of an angry Congressional letter to President Obama that condemned Rosenberg’s remarks for “trivializing” the issue. The bipartisan group of lawmakers urged the President to fire him because “[c]avalier statements like these fly in the face of state policy and the experience of millions of patients.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the lead author of the letter, also spoke out on the floor of the House. The other six members who signed the letter are Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Despite hundreds of clinical studies and case reports that indicate the medical efficacy of cannabis, the federal government insists that this ancient botanical medicine satisfy the expensive, protracted large-scale clinical trials required to market new, synthetic pharmaceutical drugs. A recent report by the Brookings Institution details how cannabis faces unique barriers to that research, including the DEA-mandated NIDA-monopoly on research and its Schedule I status, which the DEA has stridently defended for decades.

More Information:

Petition urging Rosenberg be fired

Letter from Congress Calling Rosenberg Unfit

________________________

Senate Votes to Let VA Doctors Recommend

icon_federaladvocacy.jpgThe Department of Veterans Affairs may be forced to end its ban on their doctors providing the recommendations veterans need to participate in state medical cannabis programs. The day before Veterans Day, the Senate passed an amendment to the VA budget to allow it. The Daines/Merkley amendment to the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in May before moving to the Senate floor. The House narrowly rejected a similar measure in the spring, so the fate of the amendment hinges on how lawmakers reconcile the two versions of the VA budget bill.

The amendment would prevent the Justice Department from spending funds to restrict doctors or penalize veterans who use medical cannabis in states that allow it.

________________________

Minnesota Adds Pain to Qualifying Conditions

icon_minnesota.jpgMinnesota officials last month opened up their medical cannabis program to patients suffering from intractable pain, the most common condition for which patients seek relief with cannabis.

Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger announced the decision, which he called the “right and compassionate choice,” and urged health care providers to do more to help patients manage pain.

“This gives new options for clinicians and new hope for suffering patients,” Ehlinger said in a statement. “With Minnesota’s cautious and well-designed program, we can safely and responsibly give patients and providers the option of adding medical cannabis as a tool to treat intractable pain.”

Beginning July 1, doctors will be able to certify intractable pain patients for Minnesota’s program. Certified patients will be able to access medical cannabis on August 1.

Originally, Minnesota’s medical cannabis program included only nine qualifying conditions, but the health commissioner was directed to evaluate other conditions to add, beginning with intractable pain.

Intractable pain is defined in the law as a condition “in which the cause of the pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated with the consent of the patient and in which, in the generally accepted course of medical practice, no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible, or none has been found after reasonable efforts.”

More information:

MDH on Medical Cannabis for Intractable Pain.

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New York Enacts Emergency Measure

icon_new_york.jpgGovernor Andrew Cuomo bowed to pressure in early November and signed an emergency measure designed to speed up the roll out of New York’s medical cannabis program. The move came less than two months before New York’s Compassionate Care Act of 2014 is scheduled to go into full effect.

Patient advocates and state lawmakers have been concerned by setbacks in the program’s implementation, prompting the legislature to pass a pair of bills (A. 7060, S. 5086) that create “an expedited pathway” for patients. The new law does not immediately put medicine in patients’ hands but allows special certification for legal use of cannabis by “patients for whom delay in the patient’s certified medical use of marihuana poses a serious risk to the patient’s life or health.” It also allows the Health Department to expedite registration of production and dispensing companies.

The five medical cannabis companies licensed by the state so far say most of the 20 dispensaries they are authorized to open will be serving qualified patients by the original law’s mid-January deadline.

Lawmakers are also concerned New York officials have not recruited enough physicians to complete the required four-hour course to issue recommendations, and the limited number of qualified patients will make medicine prices excessive. New York state officials will set retail prices for cannabis products based on reported production costs.

The sponsor of the Assembly bill, Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), said in a statement that the emergency action was needed because “for the most seriously ill patients, even minor delays — a day, a week, a month — are life-changing.”

More Information:

Text of New York's emergency bill

New York State Medical Marijuana Program website

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Florida Selects Five Nurseries to Cultivate Cannabis

Florida state officials announced the five companies that will be licensed to produce medical cannabis for the CBD extracts that will be the only legally available products. The CBD extracts are supposed to be available to patients with seizure disorders and cancer by June 2016.

The five cultivators were selected from 28 applicants by a panel of three state reviewers, based on rules set by a panel that included representatives from five commercial nurseries.

The 2014 law originally established a lottery system, but that was changed in response to lobbying by state nurseries, leading to accusations of cronyism. To be considered, applicants had to have been in business in Florida for 30 years and growing at least 400,000 plants.

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More than 1,000 Apply for Maryland Licenses

icon_maryland.jpgA flood of applicants for medical cannabis business licenses in Maryland have delayed the state’s decision. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission received more than 1,000 applications. The vast majority, 811, were from groups seeking to open dispensaries. Two will be granted for each of the state’s 47 senate district, but three of those districts had considerably more than 100 applicants apiece. Fifteen cultivation applicants will be selected from the 146 who have applied. Regulators will decide how many of the 124 processor applications to approve, but the law sets no limit.

Initial license approvals were expected by the start of 2016, but that will be delayed by the deluge of applicants.

Complicating matters is the resignation of the head of the commission responsible for licensing decisions. Hannah Byron, who has had the post for a year, announced she will step down as executive director of the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission on January 27.

More Information:

Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission

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Rally in Pennsylvania Urges Lawmakers to Act

icon_pennsylvania.jpgMedical cannabis advocates rallied in Pennsylvania on December 5 to urge state lawmakers to take immediate action on a bill that has been stalled in the House. The state Senate passed a medical cannabis bill in May.

The House Rules Committee voted to put the measure to a vote in mid-November, but the bill has been saddled with more than 100 restrictive amendments. Among them is a limit of 10% on THC content and a provision that would end the program after two years though it will take 18 months to get started.

Another amendment would create an advisory board for regulating the program that would include the state police commissioner and the presidents of the District Attorneys Association and the State Police Chiefs Association, who have publicly opposed the program, but only one patient.

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ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to Pass the CARERS Act

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Take action today! Tell your Senators and Representative they need to take comprehensive action on medical cannabis with the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act. The CARERS Act would resolve the conflicts between compassionate state laws and outdated federal policies. CARERS would also reschedule cannabis, permit VA doctors to discuss medical cannabis with veterans, and allow cannabis businesses to have bank accounts.

Sign the Petition to support the CARERS Act at Sign the Petition ________________________

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

December 16, 2015

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The specter of state regulation is prompting California cities and counties to regulate or ban medical marijuana activities, including several more this week; Florida's already delayed medical marijuana program faces more delays, Chicago sees its first dispensary, and more.

National

On Tuesday, Congress agreed to continue blocking DEA interference with medical marijuana states. Lawmakers have extended a ban on funding for the DEA and Justice Department to go after medical marijuana in states where it is legal. They also extended protections for hemp research, but failed to include provisions that would have allowed pot businesses to use the financial system and would have allowed Veterans Administration doctors to recommend medical marijuana.

California

On Monday, the Dana Point city council voted unanimously to ban cultivation, sales and deliveries. The move comes as the county seeks to maintain regulatory authority by acting before March 1, when the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act shifts control to the state if localities have not acted.

On Tuesday, Contra Costa County supervisors unanimously supported a cultivation and delivery ban for unincorporated areas of the county. Supervisors said it was to maintain local control ahead of the new medical marijuana law, but local activists say they don't trust local officials to regulate -- instead of ban -- such activities.

Also on Tuesday, Ventura County supervisors voted unanimously to formalize bans on commercial cultivation and sales ahead of the new state law. All 10 cities in the county also have similar bans, and the cities that don't have formal bans are working to enact them.

Florida

As of Monday, the state is being challenged over its medical marijuana grower licensing scheme. Eleven companies are challenging the way the state issued licenses for the nascent industry. The challenges will be heard by the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. This means another round of court proceedings and further delays in getting medicine to patients. The program is already a year behind schedule, and now the earliest that medicines could be available is next spring or summer.

On Tuesday, the medical marijuana initiative campaign had 900,000 signatures. The United for Care initiative campaign says it already has 900,000 signatures, but is aiming for more than one million. These are raw signatures. The initiative will need 683,149 valid voter signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot. A similar initiative won 58% of the vote last year, but failed because, as a constitutional amendment, it needed 60% to pass.

Georgia

Last Friday, the state's medical marijuana commission rejected in-state growing. The Commission on Medical Cannabis voted 9-5 against allowing medical marijuana to be grown in the state, but the main proponent of expanding the program, Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) said he was still optimistic he can get in-state cultivation approved. "I think we can still make a compelling argument to the governor," Peake said. "I think we can address the fears of law enforcement. I think we can address the issue of potential demand. I'm absolutely certain we can provide legislation that both maximizes the benefit for our citizens and minimizes the risk to public health in our state."

On Monday a new poll found strong support for medical marijuana. Under current Georgia law, people with certain illnesses are allowed to use medical marijuana, but it can't be grown or produced in the state. A new poll has 84.5% of respondents supporting expanding that law to allow for in-state cultivation with strict regulation. Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) has sponsored legislation that would do just that.

Illinois

Last Wednesday, the first dispensary in the Second City opened for businesss. Chicago's first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Uptown. Dispensary 33 opened on North Clark Street. Some 150 patients are registered to use it.

Last Friday, the state told patients they couldn't be gun owners, then retreated. Illinois state police sent letters to a handful of patients saying their firearms cards were being revoked, but now say the letters were sent in error. Patients remain skeptical.

On Wednesday, the state said it will allow residents to petition to add more qualifying conditions. State residents hoping to add a new disease or medical condition to the state's list of qualifying conditions will be able to do so during the month of January, state health officials said Wednesday. They can submit petitions to the state Department of Public Health through January 31.

Michigan

Last Tuesday, there were fireworks at a Senate medical marijuana hearing. A hearing on a package of bills to regulate dispensaries grew heated as Marine Corp veteran Dakota Serna, who uses medical marijuana for PTSD, lashed out at changes in the bill that would tax patients and send some of the revenues to law enforcement. "This bill not only takes more money from them, it taxes their medicine -- you're going to give some of that medicine to the sheriff's department, the jackboots, the thugs that comes into people's homes and kick in the door," said Serna. That led to an angry exchange with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), who then ordered Serna to leave the hearing. The National Patients' Rights Association, which had supported the bill, said it is withdrawing its support after the changes, which would treat medical marijuana much like the state treats alcohol.

Last Thursday, activists managed to kill those dispensary bills Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) has given up on moving his medical marijuana dispensary bills in the face of strong opposition by activists. The link has all the juicy details.

Missouri

Last Thursday,a medical marijuana initiative was approved for circulation. Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) has approved a medical marijuana initiative for signature-gathering. Read the initiative here.

Utah

On Monday, a new poll had strong support for medical marijuana. Some 61% of Utahns support legalizing medical marijuana, according to a new poll from Dan Jones and Associates. The poll comes as Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs) says he will reintroduce a medical marijuana in the coming session. His bill last session failed by one vote in the Senate.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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ASA Activist Newsletter - 2015 Year in Review

William Dolphin

January 02, 2016 

In this issue

•Federal Legislation and Legal Action

•New Medical Cannabis Jurisdictions

•Changes to State Programs

•Research Developments

•International Developments

•ACTION ALERT: Renew Today and Recruit a Friend

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FEDERAL LEGISLATION AND LEGAL ACTION

Congress Renews Amendment to Protect State Medical Cannabis Laws

icon_federaladvocacy.jpgThe federal “cease fire” in the 20-year war on state medical marijuana programs was extend in December. That’s when Congress passed and President Obama signed the FY 2016 omnibus appropriations bill, which contains the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment prohibiting the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering with state medical cannabis laws (Sec. 542, page 223). Congress passed the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment for the first time in December 2014 for fiscal year 2015. The updated version for 2016 names the additional states that have passed medical cannabis laws since then. It passed the House by an even wider margin than last year (242-186) and has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee (21-9).Thanks to the dedication of House sponsors Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), Senate sponsor Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and the thousands of patient advocates who urged their representatives to support this measure, legal medical cannabis patients and their providers will enjoy these protections for another year.

While the intent of Congress to stop all prosecutions of state-qualified medical cannabis patients and providers, the DOJ has taken a narrower interpretation. While the amendment was being debated in 2014, DOJ officials sent a memo to members of Congress saying its passage would prevent all marijuana prosecutions, as the measure's authors maintain, but the DOJ now claims it only prevents them from bringing direct legal challenges to state laws.

The legal effect of the amendment is still being decided by the courts. Federal judges have disagreed on its applicability to criminal cases. In the case of the Kettle Falls Five in Washington State, the court rejected a motion to dismiss based on the amendment.

Breyer-Charles-Article-201505141846.jpg

By contrast, a senior district judge in California, Charles Breyer, lifted a federal order that had shut a dispensary, ruling in October that a “plain reading of [the Amendment] forbids the Department of Justice (DOJ) from enforcing this injunction."

More Info:

U.S. vs. MAMM Injunction Ruling

ASA memorandum to DOJ on Application of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment

Senate Reaffirms Support to End of Federal Interference In Medical Marijuana Programs

House Reps Demand Investigation of DOJ for Crackdown on Medical Marijuana

Historic Bipartisan Medical Cannabis Bills in Congress

Congress took an historic step March 10 with comprehensive bipartisan medical cannabis legislation in both houses. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act (S. 683). A bipartisan companion bill (HR 1583) was introduced in the House on March 24 by Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) and Don Young (R-AK). The CARERS Act is now up to 15 bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate and 29 in the House.

CARERS.jpg

Senators Booker, Paul and Gillibrand at the press conference introducing the CARERS ActThe new legislation would allow states to set their own medical cannabis policies without violating federal law. The bill would also change federal law to allow banks to provide financial services to licensed medical cannabis businesses, allow Veteran Affairs physicians to recommend medical cannabis to their patients, and enable the cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD) to be imported to states that have legalized its use. In addition, the CARERS Act would reclassify marijuana from its current Schedule I status as a highly dangerous drug with no medical value to Schedule II, recognizing it as a medicine, as well as removing bureaucratic barriers to research and allowing for more production of research cannabis.

The CARERS Act is endorsed by several advocacy groups, including Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which helped the Senate authors develop the legislation.

More info:

Text of the Senate bill: www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/683

Text of the House bill: www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1538

Sen. Paul at the press conference introducing the bill: https://youtu.be/c_9wmpC6DYg

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Kettle Falls Five Defendants Sentenced to Prison

icon_washington.jpgFederal prison sentences were handed down Oct. 2 for the three remaining defendants in the widely watched trial of the Kettle Falls Five in which all evidence of medical need and compliance with Washington state law was barred. The case received national attention as an example of federal interference with state-qualified medical cannabis patients, and lobbying by Larry Harvey, a defendant in the case who died in August from cancer, was instrumental in getting Congress to restrict Department of Justice enforcement in states with medical cannabis laws.

KF5_protest.jpg?1425479699

Larry Harvey’s widow, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, and her daughter-in-law Michelle Gregg were each sentenced to one year and a day. Rhonda’s son, Rolland Gregg, received a sentence of 33 months. All three were released pending appeal. In the week before trial started, prosecutors dismissed charges against Larry Harvey, 71, who had at the time been recently diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. Family friend Jason Zucker agreed to testify against the Harvey family in exchange for a recommended sentence of 16 months in prison. He had faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, if convicted.

They were each charged with multiple federal felonies that carried stiff mandatory minimum sentences after a 2012 raid on the family’s personal cannabis garden in rural Washington State, even though there was no evidence of distribution and the garden was clearly marked as medical. The defendants were barred from raising a medical necessity defense, despite being qualified patients in Washington State. The jury acquitted them of all the government’s primary charges but found them guilty of “manufacturing” fewer than 100 plants.

More info:

Dismissal of Larry Harvey's charges

Congressional measure restricting DOJ enforcement in medical marijuana states

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NEW MEDICAL CANNABIS JURISDICTIONS

Virginia

In February, Virginia passed a limited medical cannabis bill restricted to extracts rich in cannabidiol (CBD), the second most prevalent cannabinoid in the plant. The new law provides an affirmative defense only for patients with severe forms of epilepsy who use oils with CBD and THC-A, the non-psychoactive version of THC. The medicine remains illegal, but patients with written permission from their doctors can present that as a defense if charged. The law makes no provision for producing or distributing the cannabis extracts, and transport remains illegal.

Georgia

With the passage of HB1 in Georgia in April, the state became the 36th with some form of medical cannabis protections. The act was approved by both the Georgia House and Senate at the end of March and was swiftly signed by Gov. Nathan Deal. While the new law does provide legal protections for possession and use for therapeutic purposes by patients, there is no legal means for patients to purchase or grow their own medicine, Georgia patients must travel out of state to acquire their medicine, limiting access to faraway places such as Colorado or Maine. Under HB1, patients are not allowed to inhale cannabis either through combustion or vaporization and may not possess or use cannabis with more than 5% THC.

Texas

Texas has approved the medical use of a cannabis extract for limited conditions. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ® signed a bill June 1 that will allow legal use of CBD medicines by those with severe forms of epilepsy that have not responded to other treatments. The bill directs the Texas Department of Public Safety to license at least three dispensaries in the state by September 2017. To qualify, patients must have tried at least two conventional treatments unsuccessfully and have recommendations from two doctors who are either neurologists or epilepsy specialists.

Louisiana

A limited medical cannabis bill was signed in June by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Under the bill (SB 143), qualified patients can register to obtain limited forms of cannabis medicines from one of 10 dispensaries that would be established in the state alongside existing pharmacies. Qualifying conditions are restricted to glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia and side effects of chemotherapy, but the state medical board is directed to recommend other qualifying conditions to be added in the next legislative session. The new law gives three state agencies responsibility for establishing regulations. The Louisiana Legislature legalized cannabis for medical use in 1978 and again in 1991 but created no mechanism for distribution. The new measure has a five-year “sunset provision” that means it will have to be reauthorized in 2020.

Puerto Rico

Officials in Puerto Rico are working on rules for a medical cannabis program in the U.S. territory. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla issued an executive order early in May that authorizes Health Department Secretary Ana Rius to allow the medical use of “some or all controlled substances or components of the cannabis plant” and to report within three months on a program to do so. The University of Puerto Rico is a likely participant in a medical cannabis program. The executive order comes after a series of public hearings on the island. Puerto Rico would become the second U.S. Territory that allows medical cannabis use. Guam established safe access by voter initiative in November 2014.

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CHANGES TO STATE PROGRAMS

Medical Cannabis Laws Modified in Washington State

icon_washington.jpgIn July, several medical cannabis bills were passed by the Washington State legislature or went into effect in an attempt to harmonize the state’s existing medical cannabis program with the new law that allows anyone who is at least 21 years of age to purchase and use cannabis. Of the bills, the most wide-reaching is SB 5052, which brings much of the state’s largely unregulated medical cannabis operations under the umbrella of the new adult-use regulations while allowing qualified patients to continue personal cultivation and possess larger quantities than non-medical consumers. Households will now be limited to the cultivation of 15 plants. To qualify for the additional amounts and protections, qualifying patients must register in the state’s new voluntary database, which law enforcement will be able to access to confirm registrations. This bill also expanded the qualifying medical conditions but creates restrictions that will shut down many of the state’s existing medical cannabis businesses. The bill also specifies that qualifying patients between the ages of 18 and 21 will be able to purchase cannabis at retail locations with a medical endorsement.

Maryland Taps ASA to Train Cannabis Compliance Inspectors

icon_maryland.jpgMaryland officials tasked with watching over the state’s emerging medical cannabis program will be trained by the Patient Focused Certification (PFC) program, a project of Americans for Safe Access Foundation. The announcement of the decision by Maryland's Natalie M. laPrade Medical Cannabis Commission came shortly after they finalized state regulations in late August. The PFC-trained auditors will ensure medical cannabis businesses operating in Maryland comply with those regulations.

Maryland has adopted seed-to-consumption quality control measures for medical cannabis products and laboratory testing, including the American Herbal Product Association’s (AHPA) Recommendations to Regulators and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s (AHP) cannabis monograph. Elements of the AHP cannabis monograph and the AHPA cannabis guidelines have been included in regulations in 13 states.

The PFC program was developed following a long-term collaboration between ASA, AHPA and the AHP to address product safety and quality control standards for the medical cannabis industry. PFC has trained thousands of employees of the medical cannabis industry and is currently under contract with the District of Columbia to train all medical cannabis staff on regulatory compliance.

More Info:

Patient Focused Certification Website

AHPA Guidelines

APH Cannabis Monograph

Maryland Regulations

California Enacts Medical Cannabis Regulation Bill

icon_california.jpgMedical cannabis in California will become a commercial business like any other once the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act is fully implemented. Since 1996, distributors and cultivators have existed as not-for-profit collectives and cooperatives, but lack of clarity in how to operate legally has generated years of litigation. On October 9, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the trio of interconnected bills that will establish commercial regulation of medical cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and transportation, as well as a state-level licensing system. After years of wrangling, the California legislature passed Assembly Bills 243 and 266 and Senate Bill 643 on September 11, with overwhelming support in both the Assembly and the Senate.

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Assemblymember Bonta's press conference urgin signatures on the medical cannabis bills with Don Duncan at right

Americans for Safe Access lobbied to make the Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act as effective and inclusive as possible, successfully advocating to exempt patients’ personal cultivation rights from commercial regulatory rules and to move oversight from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, where it was to be housed, to a newly created Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the Department of Consumer Affairs. ASA also successfully opposed a state-wide production tax on commercial cannabis cultivation.

More Info:

ASA Analysis- Why Regulations Are Good for Patients in California

Assembly Bill 243 Text

Assembly Bill 266 Text

Senate Bill 643 Text

California Bars Discrimination for Transplants

An ASA-sponsored bill to prevent medical cannabis patients from being denied life-saving organ transplants was enacted this summer. On June 22, the California Senate approved AB 258, the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act, by a vote of 33 to 1 after 200 patients and advocates visited Senate offices in support of it as part of ASA’s California Citizen Lobby Day. The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), passed the state Assembly on April 30 by a vote of 64 to 12. Medical cannabis patients in California have been routinely removed from the organ transplant waiting list if they test positive for cannabis use, even when that use was recommended by their doctor. Many transplant centers define all cannabis use as drug abuse, making qualified patients ineligible for transplants. Those policies have cost several Californians their lives. The first medical cannabis patient to make use of the protections of the law was added back to a transplant list in December.

More Info:

Background on AB 258

Action Alert urging Gov. Brown to sign AB 258

ASA Dispensary Report Details Benefits of Regulated Local Approach

ASA released a new white paper on medical cannabis dispensaries that details the benefits of local regulations for managing the impacts on patient access, teen use, crime rates and community concerns. The report “Where Will Patients Obtain Their Medicine?” covers the experiences of local officials and communities that have grappled with this contentious issue since dispensaries emerged in California in 1996. ASA’s report finds no basis for concerns that medical cannabis dispensaries will worsen crime rates or otherwise undermine the communities that host them. Empirical research conducted by law enforcement, academics and journalists shows that dispensaries bring economic development and are not associated with increased levels of crime or other social ills.

More Info:

ASA Report: Where Will Patients Obtain Their Medicine?

ASA Report: Medical Marijuana Access in The U.S.

ASA Analysis: Maryland County to Choose Between Sensible Zoning and Anti-Patient Restrictions

___________________________

RESEARCH DEVELOPMENTS

White House Scraps Barrier to Cannabis Research

A bureaucratic barrier to medical cannabis research fell in June. The Obama Administration dropped a review requirement that researchers working with no other drug faced. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced that new cannabis research will no longer have to pass review by the Public Health Service (PHS) as well as the Food and Drug Administration. In May, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) had sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services calling for an end to the additional PHS review requirement. For the past 16 years, research studies on cannabis have been the only ones for which the government has required the extra step.

More Info:

ASA Action Alert: Ask your Congressperson to Allow Medical Cannabis Research

Department of Health and Human Services Guidance On Procedures For The Provision of Marijuana Medical Research

The ONDCP statement on policy change

ASA Partners in Launch of International Research Center

ASA played a key role in creating a new research center in the Czech Republic, the International Cannabis and Cannabinoid Institute (ICCI), which will apply a scientific approach to exploring the therapeutic uses of cannabis-based medicines. The new ceter was announced in December in a joint press conference with representatives from ASA, KOPAC and Dioscorides Global Holdings (DGH), and the Minister of Health for the Czech Republic, Svatopluk Němeček. ICCI will identify, coordinate and support global research priorities for the advancement of cannabis and cannabinoid treatments through a multidisciplinary evidence based approach that incorporates innovative tools and approaches.

National Doctors Groups Call for Federal Changes to Allow Research

In January, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a professional organization representing more than 62,000 pediatricians in the US, endorsed the use of cannabis for some seriously ill children and called on the federal government to conduct more research and change the classification of the drug to recognize its medical uses. The group noted that “some children who may benefit from cannabinoids cannot wait for a meticulous and lengthy research process.” For that reason, “the Academy recognizes some exceptions should be made for compassionate use in children." The AAP also recommends that cannabis be changed from a Schedule 1 controlled substance -- defined as having "no currently accepted medical use in the United States" -- to Schedule II, where it would be classified with drugs such as oxycodone that may be used in treatment under a doctor’s supervision. That change, the AAP notes, would enable more research and development of pharmaceutical cannabinoids.

In September, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), one of the largest US medical organizations with more than 120,000 members, called for changing the federal classification of cannabis to a drug with medical uses. The Statement on Medical Cannabis adopted at the AAFP’s annual meeting says, “Drug Enforcement Administration scheduling of marijuana as a Schedule I drug prevents funding and legalization of research on the pharmacological properties of cannabinoids.” The doctors group says “reclassifying marijuana … will facilitate further research on the potential medical uses of pharmaceutical cannabinoids.” Cannabis is currently classified as among the most highly dangerous drugs with no currently accepted medical uses.

Scientific Society Launches Cannabis Research and Testing Group

Cannabis research and testing standards are the focus of a new initiative by the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific group. The ACS, which is 139 years old and has 150,000 members, voted last month to establish a Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision within the society’s Division of Chemical Health and Safety (CHAS). Comprised of experts with over 100 years of collective experience in cannabis chemistry, research and industry regulation, the subdivision will provide a symposium for research and facilitate the development and use of best practices. Since 2011, the number of cannabis testing laboratories has grown from two to more than two dozen, some of which provide product testing required by state law.

CS0oT1_UAAA97xg.jpg

“The American Chemical Society recognizes the need for scientific leadership on cannabis,” said Jahan Marcu, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) senior scientist and CANN subdivision vice chair.

More Info:

CANN Subdivision Video Announcement

CANNDCHASCANN Facebook Page

AHPA Guidelines

APH Cannabis Monograph

Think Tank Says Government Stifles Cannabis Research

A respected think tank issued a scathing report criticizing the U.S. federal government for actively undermining important research on the therapeutic potential of cannabis. The Brookings Institution report “Ending-the-US-governments-war-on-medical-marijuana-research.pdf?la=en]Ending the U.S. government's war on medical marijuana research” explains the various barriers that have “paralyzed science” that could lead to a better understanding of the medical uses of cannabis. The authors, Brookings fellow John Hudak and senior research assistant Grace Wallack, note that “of all the controlled substances that the federal government regulates, cannabis is treated in a unique manner in ways that specifically impede research.”

___________________________

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS

International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition Lobbies UN

Medical cannabis patients from 13 countries established the International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition (IMCPC) last month while at a conference in Prague. IMCPC member countries include Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States, represented by ASA’s executive director, Steph Sherer. The first action of the IMCPC was to ratify a declaration urging the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs to reclassify cannabis for medical use, convene a UN Special Convention on Cannabis, or simply exclude cannabis from the UN Single Convention on Narcotics. The IMCPC declaration was delivered to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna by Pavel Bem, the Czech representative for the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

More Info:

International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition

IMCPC Declaration

Italy’s Army Now Cultivating Medical Cannabis

The Italian army is currently growing medical cannabis in a military pharmaceutical facility in Florence, with plans to make100 kilos of medicine available to patients by the end of 2015. Medical cannabis has been legal in Italy since 2007, but the country currently imports from the Netherlands about 50 kilos of medical cannabis each year for distribution through Italian pharmacies. Italians with cancer, multiple sclerosis or chronic pain may obtain a prescription for cannabis from a physician.

Israel to Expand Program, Provide Cannabis in Pharmacies

Long a leader in cannabis research, Israel will soon make medical cannabis available through pharmacies in the country and expand the number of physicians who are authorized to prescribe it. The announcement was made in the Knesset by Israel’s deputy health minister, Yaakov Litzman, head of an ultra-orthodox party. The 22,000 Israelis who are authorized to use medical cannabis must acquire it directly from government-authorized farms. Allowing more physicians to prescribe the medicine is intended to eliminate the wait list that is currently a barrier to access. Israel has more medical users per capita than any other country.

___________________________

ACTION ALERT: Renew Today and Recruit a Friend

We achieved so much in 2015, our goal of safe and legal access to medical cannabis for everyone who needs it is close at hand. We know what we need to do, but we need the resources to do it. You can help make 2016 the year in which the final barriers fall, and this safe, effective medicine becomes accessible to all Americans.

Renew your membership and recruit a friend to join today. ASA is the largest medical cannabis patient advocacy group because of the grassroots support of people like you. www.safeaccessnow.org/membership

___________________________

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'Cannabis for kids' legislation filed

Seth Slabaugh

January 5, 2016

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(Photo: USA Today)

MUNCIE — State Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, expects her medical marijuana bill to be assigned to the "graveyard committee" again by the speaker of the House.

But a marijuana-related bill introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Jean Leising, a Republican whose district includes southern Henry County, stands a much better chance of being enacted.

Errington is calling Leising's Senate Bill 72 "a good step."

Leising chaired an interim study committee that addressed whether cannabidiol (CBD) oil should be made legal for the purposes of treating seizures in children. The committee voted 10-0 in favor of proposed legislation (SB 72) aimed at providing immunity from prosecution to Hoosier doctors conducting trials on the effectiveness of CBD oil for treating seizures.

Interest in the therapeutic effects of CBD has been growing, partially in response to media attention surrounding the use of CBD oil in young children with intractable seizure disorders, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In a documentary headlined "Cannabis for Kids," National Geographic, for example, reported on parents of sick children turning to medical marijuana as a last resort.

CBD oil is illegal under federal law because it is derived from the plant cannabis sativa, the same plant as marijuana, according to Leising. But during committee hearings, Leising learned that an Indianapolis doctor has received permission from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration to conduct a trial with child patients who have severe cases of epilepsy.

While federal authorities have approved the trial, Leising has expressed concern that, technically speaking, an overzealous prosecutor could go after doctors conducting such trials.

The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council told the committee that CBD oil is produced in the same way as illegal hash oil, and that legalizing CBD oil would effectively legalize hash oil, leading to an explosion in "hash oil" labs.

Errington calls SB 72 "a good step," saying "maybe these little pilots, if her bill passes, that could be another step." But she added: "I think it's just a first step, because there are a lot of other conditions that could be helped. I mean the pain of cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Crohn's disease, Alzheimer's, PTSD. Veterans organizations have really come out strong for their medical marijuana bill because of the implications for treating PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)."

Marijuana is a controlled substance because of the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, according to the DEA. Because CBD contains less than 1 percent THC and has shown some potential medicinal value, there is great interest in studying it for medical applications.

About two dozen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing marijuana to be used for a variety of medical conditions. More than a dozen additional states have enacted laws intended to allow access to CBD oil and/or high-CBD strains of marijuana, NIDA reports.

The Republican-controlled Indiana General Assembly has not given Errington's past medical marijuana legislation a hearing. "I think it's important to keep the issue in front of the Legislature and the public because there is popular support for it," she said. Her surveys of constituents found more support for marijuana than for Sunday alcohol sales.

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

January 06, 2016

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An Oklahoma medical marijuana initiative is dead, state legislatures are gearing up with more medical marijuana bills, New York gets kosher medical marijuana, and more.

California

Last Monday, a federal judge threw out a monopoly lawsuit against Berkeley dispensaries. Plaintiff Christopher Smith had sued the city and its existing dispensaries, arguing that the city's cap of three dispensaries allowed them to operate as for-profit businesses. But US District Court Judge William Allsup dismissed the lawsuit, saying "this court will not lend aid to Smith's efforts to operate an illegal business."

Georgia

On Wednesday, a medical marijuana cultivation bill was filed. State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) has filed House Bill 722 (not yet available on the legislative website), which would allow the state to issue up to six licenses for medical marijuana growers. The legislature last year passed a bill allowing for the use of high-CBD marijuana, but included no provisions for growing it in the state.

Illinois

On Monday, the state reported nearly $1.7 million in medical marijuana sales in less than two months. Sales began on November 9 and totaled nearly $1.7 million by year's end. The state said 2,815 patients had been served. The state has collected about $107,000 in taxes so far.

Indiana

On Tuesday, a CBD for kids bill was filed. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) has filed Senate Bill 72, which would grant immunity from prosecution to doctors conducting trials on the medical efficacy of cannabidiol (CBD). The bill has already been approved by an interim committee and is expected to have good prospects of passage.

Michigan

Last Friday, a bill to prevent employers from firing patients was filed. Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) have filed House Bill 5161 to protect the employment rights of medical marijuana patients. The bill would protect patients with registration cards, but they could still be fired if their marijuana use interferes with their job performance.

New York

Last Thursday, online registration for patients began. The state Health Department launched its online registration for patients to obtain non-smokable medical marijuana when it becomes available later this week. Registration information is here.

Last Friday, New York got its first kosher medical marijuana operation. Vireo Health, a provider of non-smokable medical marijuana products, has been certified kosher by the Othrodox Union. The Union said it awarded the certificate after inspecting the company's facilities to ensure that the marijuana was being grown and processed according to kosher standards. Vireo said it was the first time a medical marijuana producer had been demanded kosher.

North Dakota

Last Monday, the medical marijuana initiative was off to a fast signature gathering start. The North Dakota Committee for Medical Marijuana said that it had gathered between 700 and 800 signatures during its first three weeks of petitioning for its initiative. The group needs 13,452 valid voter signatures by July 11 to appear on the November ballot. It says its goal is to gather at least 15,000 signatures.

Oklahoma

Last Friday, the medical marijuana initiative petition drive fell short. There will be no vote on a medical marijuana initiative this year. An all-volunteer signature gathering campaign by Green the Vote only managed to obtain 70,266 signatures. They needed 123,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Oregon

On December 24, a Lane County employee was fired for medical marijuan use. Medical marijuana is legal in Oregon. Heck, marijuana is legal in Oregon. But Lane County has fired a county employee suffering from cancer who uses medical marijuana because he violated the county's drug-free workplace policy. The fired worker, Eugene resident Michael Hirsch, now has the backing of the county's largest labor union. AFSCME Local 2831 said it plans to file a grievance and fight to get Hirsch's job back. "It’s outrageous to me that the county did this," said union rep Jim Steiner. "We have fought the county’s termination decisions before and won, but among the terminations, this one just doesn’t make sense."

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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Less is more? Discover medical cannabis micro-dosing.

By: Gregory Frye

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Chris holding a small cannabis bud

Is micro-dosing for you? Only one way to find out.

The world of cannabis dosing can be really confusing. Newcomers have no idea where to start and even the experienced cannabis consumer might very well be taking in more cannabis than their body actually needs.

I mean, what even constitutes a dose anyway? How do we factor in the natural variables that come with different strains and cannabinoid profiles? And how does THC tolerance play into all of this? Is it possible that many of us are in fact overdosing?

This is what I love about the concept of micro-dosing with cannabis. As a daily consumer of medical marijuana, it gets me asking important questions and thinking about my regimen in a whole new way.

Sure I enjoy the psychoactive experience but is my current level of dosage working for me – or against me? Can I address my medical needs with smaller amounts of cannabis? And if so, would I be even more productive? I know I would save more money!

What is micro-dosing?

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The “one-hitter” pipe was perfectly designed for micro-dosing.

At its most basic, micro-dosing involves ingesting a much smaller quantity of cannabis then you might expect. For example, if you’re smoking or vaping, maybe this would be a single puff. Or if you’re eating a cannabis-infused edible, you might shoot for half if not less than the recommended amount on the label.

The idea here is to metabolize such a small amount of cannabis that you notice hardly any side effects when medicating.

Depending on why you use cannabis, such a low-level dose may or may not address your needs. The only way to find out is to experiment.

For some of us, micro-dosing might require a lot of self-control at first, but physicians and patients alike have indeed claimed fewer side effects and better results with drastically lower doses of cannabis.

What are the physicians saying?

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Several physicians have made extremely interesting observations with cannabis patients who are on a micro-dosing regimen.

Dr. Dustin Sulak, medical director of Interg8 Health out of Maine, has found that many patients indeed achieve enhanced, more sustainable results with micro-dosing while others still find it better to consume higher doses (i.e. a whole joint).

“I discovered that most people have a certain threshold dosage of cannabis, below which they’ll actually experience a gradual increase in health benefits over time, and above which they’ll start building tolerance, experiencing diminishing benefits, and more side effects,” he told United Patients Group last March.

Meanwhile, Dr. Allan Frankel, who runs GreenBridge Medical Services out of Santa Monica, in that same article, revealed some interesting insights of his own. He talked about how he has seen cancer patients respond positively to significantly lower than recommended doses of Rick Simpson oil, whereas heavier doses seemed to make the situation worse.

But Dr. Frankel also points out that as of yet there is no exact science for cannabis and cancer treatments, which could really include a variety of strains and doses.

In other words, while it’s important to experiment with different doses and strains and methods of delivery, we still have a long way to go for doctors to learn how to reach repeatable standards. Not easy with whole-plant cannabis.

This is why it’s important, at this stage, to approach medical cannabis with an open mind and willingness to experiment.

Experimenting with Your Regimen

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How detailed do you get with the nuances of your cannabis regimen? Is your current approach working for you?

Experimenting with your cannabis regimen and finding what works for you and what doesn’t is a huge aspect of responsible and effective use.

My colleague Max Simon, CEO of Green Flower Media, is a good example of this. He’s been using cannabis for decades to treat a very intense case of ADHD.

Along the way he’s maintained a productive lifestyle and has constantly monitored the efficacy of his cannabis dosing.

“What I’ve realized about myself is that I am strongly affected by cannabis if I take too much,” he says. “Sure that can be an enjoyable psychoactive experience, but in terms of using it medicinally I realized that taking much smaller doses than anybody else talks about is more ideal for me.”

Max has found that just a few micro-hits from his vaporizer a couple times per day is more than enough to help him settle down and focus.

It can be tempting for Max to take a heavier dose, and like some people he can certainly work through intense psychoactive states with cannabis, but he also knows that’s not the optimal approach for his specific needs.

How do you find your optimal approach?

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A finally-tuned cannabis regimen will often be much more effective. For a lot of patients, the regimen is constantly evolving.

How to establish a regimen is one of the biggest questions I hear from people. Again, it’s confusing, especially for people who are slightly intimidated or unsure about cannabis.

Here are a few specifics to consider if you want to give micro-dosing a try or want to stay on top of your regimen generally.

#1) Start small.

If you happen to enjoy certain side effects of cannabis, it is quite easy to consume more than you actually need. If a little bit feels good, why not a little bit more, right?

But what if you can get by on less? What if less is actually better for you and your health in the long run?

Remember with micro-dosing the purpose is not to get “stoned.” You want to give your body just enough cannabis to work with, but not enough to saturate those cannabinoid receptors.

Plus, if you’re already dosing quite heavily, micro-dosing could prove to be an interesting contrast in your relationship with cannabis.

It might take a week or two to notice any measurable results, but try cutting your dosages drastically and see what happens.

#2) Experiment with different delivery systems.

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Smaller doses can completely change how you react to different methods. Each method has its own advantages.

Smoking, vaping, edibles – the three most popular methods of cannabis consumption – all have their respective advantages and disadvantages, and most people have a preference.

Whether you want to micro-dose or tinker with your regimen generally, it’s useful to have more than one option.

You might find that certain delivery systems work best for different needs or different times of the day.

With micro-dosing specifically, you might also experience completely new results with methods of delivery that had not worked so well for you in the past.

#3) Experiment with different strains and products.

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The availability at a good dispensary is absolutely amazing compared to black-market mystery bags. Down with prohibition, right?

This option is a lot more feasible if you live in an area with sensible cannabis regulations. A good dispensary, for instance, will have a wide variety of options – an almost mind-boggling range of different strains and concentrates.

If you want your regimen to be as optimal as possible, then over time you’ll want to experiment with these different options in addition to dosage levels.

You might consult with a budtender or spend some time on strain review sites like Leafly.com. But also be aware that any two people can react to a given strain in completely different ways. All the more reason to patiently experiment and scrutinize the results.

#4) Pay very close attention to any effects.

Staying on top of your cannabis regimen involves constant consideration of how the plant is affecting you.

You can keep track of things like appetite, energy levels, relationships, or work performance.

With cannabis, if something isn’t working quite right – you have countless options and combinations to try.

Some people even keep spreadsheets to record how they react to all the different strains and dosage levels.

#5) Be mindful about what works and what doesn’t.

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Smoking that whole bud right now would be way too much for me. Since I’ve started micro-dosing my tolerance has been extremely low.

If you enjoy your medicine, it’s easy to overdo it.

Cannabis has the potential to help with a lot of different things, physically, mentally, and spiritually. But if you take more than your body requires, it can have a negative effect on your life.

Because we all have different needs, what constitutes a regular dose for one person could typify substance abuse for the next.

If we want to use cannabis effectively, we have to exercise discipline and discernment.

Without that self-control, this plant might take from you more than it’ll give. So it goes with anything in life.

Will micro-dosing really help me?

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We still have so much to learn about this plant. It is for this precise reason that we must keep an open mind and really stay on top of how we’re using it.

We all have our different reactions and relationships with this plant. Some people cultivate incredibly complex regimens after becoming extra-familiar with how their body reacts and what they need, depending on the time of day and their specific intention.

Other people might approach the plant a little more haphazardly, smoking however much because they know it feels good.

In either case, you just might be a prime candidate for micro-dosing, even if you’re the type who has no trouble whatsoever managing intense, cannabis-induced psychoactive states.

Then again, you might in fact REQUIRE larger doses for your specific medical situation.

In the end, the only person who can decide this is you. This is a responsibility that lies with each individual patient, and it’s this same lack of standardization that keeps a lot of doctors from jumping on the medical cannabis bandwagon.

But even with standardization technologies on the cannabis horizon, perhaps the process of trial and error will always be a key part of finding your ideal regimen. This is the case with pretty much all medications – cannabis just happens to be more enjoyable.

Micro-dosing, however, is worth a shot. If it turns out to be advantageous given your situation, you’ll save money, you’ll save on overloading your endocannabinoid system, and there will be more medicine to go around for other patients.

What do you think about cannabis micro-dosing? Worth a try? Let us know in the comments.

If you like this article, don’t hesitate to SIGN UP for Green Flower to receive updates on new content and upcoming cannabis courses.

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

January 13, 2016

MMJ%20leaf%20and%20stethoscope%20KY%20OD

A handful of dispensaries open in New York, dispensary applications are now available in Hawaii, it looks like Florida will get another chance to vote for medical marijuana, and more.

Florida

On Monday, the medical marijuana initiative campaign handed in signatures. United for Care, the group leading the campaign, handed in more than one million raw signatures to state officials. The group needs only 683,149 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. In 2014, United for Care's initiative failed even though it won 58% of the vote. Becausei t was a constitutional amendment, it needed 60% to pass.

Hawaii

On Tuesday, dispensary applications became available online. Applications must be submitted online and will only be accepted during the application period of Jan. 12, 2016, 8 a.m., Hawaii Standard Time (HST) to Jan. 29, 2016, 4:30 p.m. HST. Get the online application here. There's a $5,000 application fee. Read about dispensary license requirements here.

Missouri

Last Thursday, a medical marijuana initiative was approved for signature gathering. An initiative from New Approach Missouri has been approved for circulation by the secretary of state's office. The group is seeking 250,000 raw signatures to ensure it meets the requirement of 160,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. The campaign estimates it will cost $800,000 for paid signature gathering and is trying to raise funds now.

New York

Last Thursday, the state's first dispensaries opened for business. Eight dispensaries opened in the state, a slow start to a medical marijuana program in a state with nearly 20 million people. The state has authorized another 12 to open later this month.

On Monday, the state failed to approve PTSD and other health conditions for medical marijuana use. The state Health Commissioner determined there is not yet enough evidence of effectiveness to approve the use of medical marijuana to treat PTSD, Alzheimer's disease, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, and rheumatoid arthritis. The commissioner can, however, add qualifying conditions at any time and will be meeting with specialists to evaluate new scientific evidence as it becomes available.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

January 23, 2016

MMJ%20leaf%20and%20stethoscope%20KY%20OD

A handful of dispensaries open in New York, dispensary applications are now available in Hawaii, it looks like Florida will get another chance to vote for medical marijuana, and more.

National

Last Friday, a federal court okayed firing an employee for medical marijuana use. A federal district court in New Mexico has held that an employer is not obligated to accommodate an employee's use of medical marijuana, even when the drug had been supplied to the employee by a state-legal medical marijuana program. The ruling came in the case of an AIDS patient whose job offer was yanked after he tested positive for marijuana metabolites during a pre-employment drug test. The court noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Arizona

As of Wednesday, Arizona GOP legislators are trying to chip away at medical marijuana access. Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) has filed House Bill 2061, which would bar pregnant women from qualifying for the medical marijuana program, and Rep. Jay Lawrence (R-Scottsdale) has filed House Concurrent Resolution 2019, which removes homeopaths and naturopaths from the list doctors who can issue medical marijuana recommendations.

California

As of Wednesday, a fix was in the works for the state's medical marijuana regulation deadline. Legislators are working to fix a provision of the medical marijuana regulation law that requires localities to pass their own rules by March 1 or face loss of regulatory control to the state. The provision has caused a stampede of cities and counties seeking to get measures in place by that date, with most of them resorting to simple bans. The Senate Finance Committee last week passed a bill to remove the date.

Florida

Last Monday, the medical marijuana initiative campaign handed in signatures. United for Care, the group leading the campaign, handed in more than one million raw signatures to state officials. The group needs only 683,149 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. In 2014, United for Care's initiative failed even though it won 58% of the vote. Because it was a constitutional amendment, it needed 60% to pass.

Hawaii

Last Tuesday, dispensary applications became available online. Applications must be submitted online and will only be accepted during the application period of Jan. 12, 2016, 8:00am Hawaii Standard Time (HST) to Jan. 29, 2016, 4:30pm HST. Get the online application here. There's a $5,000 application fee. Read about dispensary license requirements here.

Missouri

On January 7, a medical marijuana initiative was approved for signature gathering. An initiative from New Approach Missouri has been approved for circulation by the secretary of state's office. The group is seeking 250,000 raw signatures to ensure it meets the requirement of 160,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. The campaign estimates it will cost $800,000 for paid signature gathering and is trying to raise funds now.

New Hampshire

Last Friday, the state approved its first medical marijuana production facility. The Department of Health and Human Services said last Friday that it has approved the first of three locations to grow medical marijuana and started mailing out ID cards. Some 176 Granite Staters have qualified to use medical marijuana so far.

New York

On January 7, the state's first dispensaries opened for business. Eight dispensaries opened in the state, a slow start to a medical marijuana program in a state with nearly 20 million people. The state has authorized another 12 to open later this month.

Last Monday, the state failed to approve PTSD and other health conditions for medical marijuana use. The state Health Commissioner determined there is not yet enough evidence of effectiveness to approve the use of medical marijuana to treat PTSD, Alzheimer's disease, muscular dystrophy, dystonia, and rheumatoid arthritis. The commissioner can, however, add qualifying conditions at any time and will be meeting with specialists to evaluate new scientific evidence as it becomes available.

Ohio

Last Thursday, lawmakers formed a medical marijuana task force. Ohio House Republicans unveiled details on a new task force on medical marijuana. In November, voters rejected Issue 3, which would have included medical marijuana in a broader legalization initiative, but there is broad popular support for medical marijuana in the state. Recent public opinion polls show 85% support medical marijuana.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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See how one company is using brain scans to pick the best pot strains for medical marijuana users

BY Keri Blakinger NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

January 19, 2016

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BrainBot uses existing EEG technology for a 420-friendly purpose.

Courtesy of PotBotics

One marijuana tech company is looking into the future of pot-smoking — by peering inside tokers’ brains to figure out the best strain for each person.

PotBotics, cofounded by David and Baruch Goldstein in 2014, has figured out a way to combine existing electroencephalogram (EEG) technology with information about the chemical makeup of different pot strains to make marijuana recommendations tailored to specific users’ medical conditions.

EEG technology, developed in the early 20th century, uses electrodes placed on the scalp to detect fluctuations and abnormalities in the brain’s electrical activity.

Typically, EEGs are used to evaluate brain problems like epilepsy, tumors and narcolepsy — but David Goldstein and his researchers came up with a more 420-minded use for that technology.

The PotBotics system uses two tools, BrainBot and PotBot. BrainBot is the EEG portion of the system, the headcap and electrodes used to gather and generate brain data.

After BrainBot culls and interprets the electrical signals, the findings are sent to PotBot, which is a recommendation engine based on cannabinoid content.

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PotBotics co-fouders David Goldstein, left, and Baruch Goldstein, right, pose for a photo.

Courtesy of PotBotics

Cannabinoids are a class of compounds including tetrahydrocannabinol — more commonly known as THC. Pot contains THC, but each strain contains different amounts of other cannabinoids, which is why some strains have noticeably different effects.

What BrainBot does is measure the patient’s reaction to different levels of cannabinoids. Then, PotBot takes that data and figures out what strain has the best combo of cannabinoids for the patient in question.

The process involves a little bit of trial and error; in order to test different combinations of cannabinoid levels, patients have to come for data collection a few separate times.

“Usually it takes between three and four visits to get the range that is best for a patient,” David Goldsein explained. “You can give only one medicinal dose to a patient in one setting.”

The tools are intended for use in any general practitioner’s office — but that doesn’t mean patients will be toking up at the GP.

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PotBotics products use an EEG to measure people's reactions to different cannabinoid levels to figure out the user's best strain of pot.

Courtesy of PotBotics

“The device we use doesn’t involve smoking — it’s non-combustion inhalers based on concentrates,” he said. In other words, it’s a little bit like an asthma inhaler.

Right now, the product isn’t available in your friendly neighborhood doctor’s office — but Goldstein said they’ll be ready for commercial use in May. By the end of the year, the company aims to have a version available for personal use at home.

Although Goldstein said PotBotics is looking at California as a primary market, he’s also optimistic about the company’s future in New York.

“We really like New York’s cannabis program and that it’s really medical-focused,” he said.

“We see the future of cannabis as being not what strain is best for you but what cannabinoids are best for you.”

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Study: CBD Oil ‘Highly Promising’ In Pediatric Epilepsy Treatment

Posted by Johnny Green

January 28, 2016

cannabidiol-cbd-cannabis-marijuana.jpg

cannabidiol

By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

The administration of cannabis oil extracts high in cannabidiol reduces seizure frequency in children with intractable epilepsy, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the journal Seizure.

Israeli researchers retrospectively evaluated the effects of CBD oil in a multicenter cohort of 74 patients with intractable epilepsy. Participants in the trial were resistant to conventional epilepsy treatment and were treated with CBD extracts for a period of at least three months. Extracts in the study were provided by a pair of Israeli-licensed growers and were standardized to possess a CBD to THC ratio of 20 to 1.

Investigators reported: “CBD treatment yielded a significant positive effect on seizure load. Most of the children (89 percent) reported reduction in seizure frequency. … In addition, we observed improvement in behavior and alertness, language, communication, motor skills and sleep.”

They concluded, “The results of this multicenter study on CBD treatment for intractable epilepsy in a population of children and adolescents are highly promising. Further prospective, well-designed clinical trials using enriched CBD medical cannabis are warranted.”

Previously published retrospective studies and surveys, such as those here and here and here, have also reported CBD administration to be efficacious in reducing seizure frequency.

In 2013, the United States Food and Drug Administration granted orphan drug status to imported, pharmaceutically standardized CBD (aka Epidiolex) extracts for use in experimental pediatric treatment. Open-label safety trial data published online in December 2015 in the journal Lancet Neurology reported a median reduction in seizures in adolescent patient treated with Epidiolex that approached 40 percent. Authors concluded, “Our findings suggest that cannabidiol might reduce seizure frequency and might have an adequate safety profile in children and young adults with highly treatment-resistant epilepsy.”

An abstract of the study, “CBD-enriched medical cannabis for intractable pediatric epilepsy: The current Israeli experience,” appears online here.

Source: NORML

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Medical Marijuana Update

by psmith,

February 03, 2016

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No new qualifying conditions for Illinois, Puerto Rico adopts medical marijuana regs, a New York state senator files a medical marijuana expansion bill, and more.

Illinois

Last Friday, the state refused to expand the list of qualifying medical conditions. The administration of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner will not allow patients suffering from eight conditions to use medical marijuana. The Department of Public Health announced last Friday that no new conditions would be added despite pleas from patients, advocates, and medical marijuana business owners. The Medical Cannabis Alliance of Illinois issued a statement calling the decision "a gross injustice to patients."

New Hampshire

On Monday, a patient who sued the state over medical marijuana access died. Linda Horan, who sued the state in November to issue her a medical marijuana card so she could get her medicine in Maine because New Hampshire dispensaries hadn't opened, died Monday at age 64. The ailing labor leader won her lawsuit and was able to procure medical marijuana out of state, but succumbed to cancer. The court ruling applied only to Horan, but days after the ruling, the states began sending out ID cards to patients.

New York

Last Friday, a medical marijuana expansion bill was filed. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), chair of the Assembly Health Committee, last Friday filed a bill that would double the number of medical marijuana manufacturers and dispensaries in the state. The bill is not yet available on the legislative website.

Puerto Rico

Last Thursday, the commonwealth adopted medical marijuana regulations. The island dependency's Health Department has adopted a regulation to allow for the cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of medical marijuana. The regulation does not allow smoking it. The department said it will implement a seed-to-sale tracking system and award licenses to doctors and companies that want to grow and manufacture medical marijuana projects. The system should be in place by year's end.

Rhode Island

On Wednesday, the governor announced a plan to impose hefty plant taxes on patients and caregivers. Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) has introduced a medical marijuana reform plan that would impose a $150 per plant tax on plants grown by patients and a $350 per plant tax on plants grown by caregivers. The governor says this will help the state raise $8.4 million in new tax revenues. But that tax is based on the administration's position that each plant is worth $17,000, which is nowhere near the case. Patient advocates are not happy.

Wyoming

On Monday, activists said the medical marijuana initiative won't make the ballot. A spokesman for Wyoming NORML, which organized the campaign, said Monday that the group had only managed to gather some 7,000 raw signatures ahead of next week's deadline and will fall far short of the more than 25,000 valid voter signatures required to make the ballot. The group will try again in 2018, it said.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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ASA Activist Newsletter - Feb 2016

William Dolphin

February 04, 2016 | 

In this issue

•Annual ASA Report on Safe Access Finds States Improving

•Bipartisan Congressional Letter Urges VA to End Medical Cannabis Ban

•Puerto Rico to Implement Limited Medical Cannabis Program

•Voters in Florida Get Another Chance at Initiative

•CBD Found Effective in State Seizure Study

•Georgia Rep Says He Broke State Law to Bring Cannabis to Patients

•California Fixes Error that Triggered Dozens of Local Bans

•Former Chicago NFL Star Speaks Out, Governor Rejects Expansion

•ACTION ALERT: Join Us to Lobby Congress

___________________________

Annual ASA Report on Safe Access Finds States Improving

Americans for Safe Access has issued its annual report on the status of safe access, “Medical Marijuana Access in the US: A Patient-Focused Analysis of the Patchwork of State Laws.” This year’s report uses a retooled rubric for evaluating state medical cannabis programs from the patients’ perspective and provides policy makers with model legislation and regulations. The new grading criteria put additional emphasis on quality assurance and product safety regulations that protect vulnerable consumers from pesticides and other potential risks.

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“Our report provides state lawmakers with timely tools to ensure their medical cannabis programs truly meet the needs of the patients they are meant to serve,” said Mike Liszewski, ASA’s Policy Director. “The range of approaches states have taken has given us substantial evidence of what works and what doesn’t.”

Nineteen states introduced legislation to legalize medical cannabis in 2015. More than a dozen of the 23 states with robust programs passed legislation or created new regulations to expand or improve them, including California, which adopted a comprehensive regulatory approach and added civil protections for patients.

“Too often, patients are denied life-saving treatments solely because they are using medical cannabis,” said California Assembly member Marc Levine, champion of the state’s Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act (AB 258), which ended the widespread practice of denying patients transplants on the basis of cannabis use. “It is imperative for state lawmakers to take advantage of vital resources like ASA’s report to improve their state programs.”

The report evaluates each state medical cannabis law on: 1) patients' rights and protection from discrimination, 2) access to medicine, 3) ease of navigation, 4) functionality, and 5) product safety protocols. The report finds that, while many states have important elements helpful to patients, no state has yet established an ideal program.

The most notable state trend in 2015 was the spread of comprehensive product safety rules, many based on the Recommendations to Regulators from the American Herbal Product Association (AHPA). Maryland’s medical marijuana program, for example, which is projected to begin serving patients in 2017, received the highest report grade for product safety by creating stringent safety and quality control measures that incorporate AHPA guidelines in the areas of cultivation, distribution and manufacturing. ASA worked closely with state officials to achieve that, and ASA’s Patient Focused Certification program will be training state auditors responsible for compliance.

“The tools provided by Americans for Safe Access and the Patient Focused Certification program have been tremendously helpful in creating product safety regulations that will ensure Maryland patients are receiving the highest quality products and medicine possible” said Hannah Byron, executive director of the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

Maryland is not alone. New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Washington have also adopted regulations that reflect the AHPA standards and score better on ASA’s new report as a result.

"The report highlights how best practice guidance such as the Cannabis Committee's Recommendations to Regulators can assist states in establishing regulations that ensure the quality and safety of cannabis products," says Michael McGuffin, AHPA President.

Letter-grades for all 23 states and the District of Columbia: Alaska (D-), Arizona (B-), California (B+), Colorado (B), Connecticut (C+), Delaware ©, District of Columbia ©, Hawaii (B), Illinois (B+), Maine (B-), Maryland (B), Massachusetts (B), Michigan (D+), Minnesota ©, Montana (D-), Nevada (B), New Hampshire ©, New Jersey ©, New Mexico (B+), New York ©, Oregon (B), Rhode Island (C-), Vermont (D+), and Washington (B).

More Information:

ASA’s 2016 State of the States Report: Medical Marijuana Access in the U.S.

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Bipartisan Congressional Letter Urges VA to End Medical Cannabis Ban

icon_federaladvocacy.jpgA bipartisan group of 21 members from the House and Senate in January urged the Veterans Administration to revise its medical cannabis policy. Current VA policy prohibits their doctors from providing documentation veterans need to participate in state medical cannabis programs. VA policy even prohibits physicians from discussing potential benefits of medical cannabis with their patients.

The Congressional letter points out that in November the Senate approved, 93-0, a new policy that would allow veterans and their VA doctors to fully participate in state medical cannabis programs. The policy change was narrowly defeated in a House appropriations vote in April, but the 213-210 tally was an increase of 15 aye votes from last year’s attempt.

Riders such as these to funding bills must be passed each year. The bipartisan CARERS Act, currently pending in both houses of Congress, would permanently solve the issue without the need for annual reauthorization.

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Veterans suffer from disproportionate rates of serious medical conditions for which cannabis has proven therapeutic potential, including difficult to treat problems such as neuropathic pain and PTSD. Combining cannabis with opioids in pain treatment can increase the effectiveness of lower doses of opioids and help prevent overdose fatalities. A 75 percent reduction in severity of PTSD symptoms was demonstrated in one study, though more clinical research is needed.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY), one of the members who signed the letter, also held a news conference to urge a change in VA policy (pictured at right). Other signatories of the letter include Rep. Joe Heck (R, NV), a physician and Army Reserve brigadier general who chairs the House Armed Services personnel panel.

More Information:

Bi-partisan Congressional letter to the VA

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Puerto Rico to Implement Limited Medical Cannabis Program

Following a May 4 executive order from Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, Puerto Rico's health department issued regulations in January for the cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of medical cannabis. Health officials are limiting access to topical and edible medical cannabis products. Personal cultivation will remain illegal, as will inhalation as a route of administration.

A seed-to-sale inventory tracking system is planned, with the Puerto Rico Health Department issuing licenses for commercial cultivation of cannabis and manufacture of products for distribution. Independent labs will test products for THC content and contaminants. The program is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

Puerto Rico is not the first U.S. territory to approve a medical cannabis program. Guam passed a voter initiative in 2014 for which draft regulations were issued last summer.

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Voters in Florida Get Another Chance at Initiative

Patient advocates in Florida announced at the end of January that they have again qualified a medical cannabis initiative for the state ballot. The measure, again known as Amendment 2, would amend the state constitution to allow patients with a broad range of serious medical conditions to use medical cannabis and obtain it from state-licensed dispensaries.

A similar initiative in 2014, also sponsored by United for Care, received 58% support, but 60% is required for constitutional amendments in Florida. Current state law, passed by the legislature in 2014, allows only high-CBD, low-THC cannabis extracts for a limited number of qualifying conditions. Implementation is underway, with cultivators having been selected, but no medicine is yet available for any patients.

A Quinnipiac University poll last March found 84 percent of Florida voters support legal access to medical cannabis when a physician recommends it. State lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow individuals with terminal conditions to use whole-plant medical cannabis, not just low-THC extracts.

More Information:

Text of Amendment 2

United for Care

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CBD Found Effective in State Seizure Study

icon_alabama.jpgEarly results of a study in Alabama indicate most patients whose seizures resist other treatments show significant improvement using cannabidiol (CBD) extracts. Researchers report that at least 50% of patients in the study have had a reduction in seizures of more than 50%. Some who were experiencing multiple seizures every day have been seizure-free since starting the CBD extract. 90% of patients enrolled in the study have shown improvement, according to Dr. Jerzy Szaflarski, the lead investigator.

When state legislators passed a narrow medical cannabis bill known as Carly's Law, allowing cannabidiol (CBD) extracts of cannabis with less than 1% THC to be used by people with severe seizure disorders, they also directed the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study the treatment’s effectiveness. UAB researchers plan to present their findings next month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

Theirs is not the only study of CBD and seizures underway in the U.S. Epidiolex, a dose-controlled sublingual CBD extract manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, is currently in FDA trials with pediatric seizure patients in a handful of U.S. research hospitals.

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Georgia Rep Says He Broke State Law to Bring Cannabis to Patients

Allen Peake, the Republican state representative who authored Georgia’s medical cannabis measure, Haleigh’s Hope Act (HB1), says he broke the law to provide cannabis oil extracts to at least one patient. Rep. Peake admitted to his crime in an interview with to WSB-TV Atlanta, saying, “at some point there is a need for civil disobedience” and that he would do it again if he had to.

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Georgia law makes no provision for obtaining any medical cannabis products but allows registered patients with certain medical conditions to legally use low-THC extracts containing primarily cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa). As a result, qualified patients and their caregivers may only access medical cannabis in one of the few states that recognize out-of-state registry cards and then bring it back to Georgia in violation of federal law.

Rep. Peake introduced HB 722 this year to allow production and distribution of the extracts in Georgia. If enacted, the bill would also expand the list of qualifying conditions to include HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, intractable pain, and 14 other conditions.

A November 2015 poll found that more than 84% percent of likely 2016 Georgia primary voters support such a measure. Governor Nathan Deal opposes it.

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California Fixes Error that Triggered Dozens of Local Bans

icon_california.jpgOn Feb. 3, California Governor Jerry Brown signed an emergency medical cannabis bill that fixes a legislative mistake that had triggered a flurry of local bans.

AB21 removes the March 1 deadline for local governments to regulate medical cannabis operations under the comprehensive regulations the legislature passed in September. That trio of bills, passed in the waning hours of the legislative session, inadvertently included language giving the state sole authority over medical cannabis operations in cities and counties that did not have regulations as of March 1. As a result, dozens of California cities took action in January to ban all cultivation and dispensaries.

The bill to fix that was introduced by Assembly member Jim Wood (D, Healdsburg), the author of the original legislation. He said the date was a drafting error. AB21 cleared the Assembly on a vote of 66-0 at the end of January. It took effect upon being signed by the governor.

“I am not advocating for or against a particular position on medical cannabis,” said Assembly member Wood (pictured at right with Gov. Brown signing the bill). “I am advocating for local elected officials to take the time to engage in a process that results good public policy, not knee jerk reactions.”

ASA is also calling on California lawmakers to remove licensing requirements from the new medical cannabis law that apply to some personal non-commercial cultivation of medical cannabis. The new law will require a state and local license for individual patients who cultivate more than 100 square feet of medical cannabis or for primary caregivers who cultivate medical cannabis in more than 500 square feet (for up to five patients). Those restrictions were not vetted or approved by any of the legislature's policy committees that reviewed the bills and may burden individuals with expensive and complicated licensing.

“Many patients grow their own medicine for economic reasons or to maintain access to a specific strain they need that is not available in the commercial marketplace,” said ASA California Director Don Duncan. “We cannot know how many personal medical cultivators will be affected, but it is unfair to require them to obtain licenses if they are not part of the commercial market. And possibly illegal.”

In 2010, the California Supreme Court ruled in People v. Kelly that the limits the legislature established in 2003 on how much cannabis patients can cultivate and possess were unconstitutional changes to a voter initiative.

More Information:

ASA’s petition calling for an amendment to new California cultivation limits

ASA’s 2016 medical cannabis legislation tracking page.

ASA’s Local Access Project,

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Former Chicago NFL Star Speaks Out, Governor Rejects Expansion

icon_illinois.jpgAnother professional football player is speaking out on the effectiveness of medical cannabis. NFL great Jim McMahon, 56, went public last month about how it has helped him manage the painful legacy of his 15-year football career.

The former Chicago Bears quarterback says he has been able to substitute medical cannabis for prescription narcotics he took for years. Before getting his medical cannabis card in Arizona, where he now lives, he was taking 100 Percocet pills a month.

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"They were doing more harm than good," he told the media. "This medical marijuana has been a godsend. It relieves me of the pain."

McMahon returned to Illinois last month to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his team’s Super Bowl championship. The timing happened to coincide with Governor Bruce Rauner considering an expansion of the state’s qualifying conditions list. The state advisory board recommended adding eight new conditions, including intractable pain, and patient advocates had submitted a petition with 25,000 signatures urging the governor to expand the program. Nonetheless, the governor rejected the recommendation of those experts late last month.

The head of the advisory board, Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple, told reporters she was “deeply disappointed" by the decision but will try again this spring. Only about 4,000 patients have registered with the Illinois pilot program, far below projections.

More information:

ASA blog “Why the NFL should Embrace Medical Cannabis

Illinois Pilot Program

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ACTION ALERT: Join Us to Lobby Congress

Register today to join us in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on the most comprehensive federal legislation on medical cannabis ever introduced.

On Tuesday, March 22, following our 2016 National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference, ASA staff and hundreds of patient advocates will hit Capitol Hill to urge our elected representatives to bring the CARERS Act to a vote. The CARERS Act would lift the threat of federal prosecution for anyone in compliance with state medical cannabis laws, remove barriers to research, and fix a host of other problems that are preventing the full implementation of state programs.

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The Lobby Day follows three days of informative panels on best practices and other developments in the medical cannabis industry, as well as fun networking events with other patients, providers, activists, and medical and legal professionals from around the country. Register Now!

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Get the PDF Version to Print and Distribute

Download a printable copy of this Newsletter

ASA

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Elizabeth Warren To The CDC: Look Into Medical Marijuana To Fight Opioid Addiction

Posted by Johnny Green

February 10, 2016

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elizabeth warren marijuana

(image via Wikipedia)

Marijuana is a fantastic pain reliever. I was diagnosed with arthritis in my foot last year, and nothing helps me deal with the pain in my foot as well as cannabis. My doctor tried to get me on prescription drugs to help fight the pain, which isn’t constant but there are definitely those days. I explained to my doctor that I would prefer to treat it with cannabis, both smoking and vaping as well as using topicals. My primary doctor is not the most supportive doctor when it comes to medical marijuana, but he has seen over the years how I’ve used it to treat various aches and pains, and haven’t had to ever get prescription painkillers. He keeps trying to act skeptical towards medical marijuana, but he always bows down to the fact that I’ve never needed anything for pain in all the years he’s been my doctor (over 20 years).

I know that my experience is not unique. There are countless other testimonials out there of people using medical marijuana to treat their pain with great success. All of them will be quick to point out that had they used pharmaceutical painkillers to treat their pain, or continued to use them in the cases where they were already using them prior to using cannabis, their health would be worse than it is now because of the side effects that go along with pharmaceuticals.

More and more people are pointing towards marijuana reform as a way to combat the growing opioid addiction in America. The latest of which is Senator Elizabeth Warren. Per Think Progress:

Now, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has thrown her clout into that push for solutions – and in a way that underscores the injustices of the War on Drugs over the past several decades.

Warren is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research how medical and recreational marijuana might help alleviate the opioid epidemic. In a letter sent Monday to CDC head Dr. Thomas Friedan, Warren urged the agency to finalize its guidance to physicians on the dos and don’ts of prescribing oxycodone, fentanyl, and other popular drugs in this category.

But she also went further, asking Friedan “to explore every opportunity and tool available to work with states and other federal agencies on ways to tackle the opioid epidemic and collect information about alternative pain relief options.” Those alternatives should include pot, Warren wrote. She went on the ask Friedan to collaborate with other federal health agencies to investigate how medical marijuana is or isn’t working to reduce reliance on highly addictive prescription pills, and to research “the impact of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana on opioid overdose deaths.”

I don’t mean to villanize opioid addiction in America, and fully believe that it should not be a criminal justice issue in America whatsoever. But I think that in addition to reforming drug laws in America, we also need to research, and make people aware of, harm reduction. Medical marijuana can help a lot with that if given a chance when it comes to painkillers and other substances. If, and it’s a very big if, the CDC follows Elizabeth Warren’s advice, I think the impact would be very significant.

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