Marijuana Rescheduling No-Decision Met With Challenge From Congress


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Earlier this year, the DEA had announced that they hope to have a decision regarding the rescheduling of marijuana within the first half of 2016. That time has now come and gone with the DEA failing to deliver.

A bipartisan coalition of Senators and Representatives has signed a letter to head of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, urging the federal agency to remove marijuana and THC from Schedule I, its current status under the Controlled Substances Act.  Schedule I is the most restrictive drug classification that, according to the DEA, is reserved for substances that have a high potential for abuse and no known medical benefits.

“We ask that you clarify this policy immediately, and issue a public statement informing the research community that the DEA, in compliance with international obligations, will accept new applications to bulk manufacture cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, to be approved on merit-based criteria,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter, drafted by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), also calls for the DEA to loosen restrictions surrounding medical marijuana research and to grant more licenses for the production of research-grade marijuana.  Currently, the only federally approved source of marijuana is the University of Mississippi, whose supply is notoriously difficult for researchers to obtain and frequently alleged to be of sub-research grade quality.

The letter was signed by Sen. Gillibrand as well as Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR); and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

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Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Maine Will Appear as ‘Question 1’ on November Ballot


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10985909_566442143496233_947244275936798915_nOn Monday, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap announced that the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol will appear as Question 1 on the November ballot.

Question 1 will read:

“Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is supporting Question 1, issued the following statement from campaign manager David Boyer:

“The wording of our ballot question is far more important than the order in which it will appear. It conveys to voters that the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adult use will be subject to regulation, taxation, and local control. We are pleased, as those themes comprise the core of our initiative and help explain the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition. Residents of Maine will be hearing a lot more about regulation, taxation, and local control as we spend the next four months encouraging them to vote ‘yes’ on Question 1.”

MPP is supporting the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and its efforts to encourage voters to vote “Yes” on Question 1 in November.

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DNC Calls for Reform of Marijuana Laws


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Over the weekend, the Democratic National Committee’s Platform Drafting Committee established a party platform calling for states’ rights to decide their ownjzH0I1Ka marijuana laws, allowing for greater research on the medical properties of cannabis, and protecting the rights of legally established marijuana businesses:

“We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research to be done on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African-Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites despite similar usage rates.”

An earlier proposed measure called for the total removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, but that measure did not make it to the draft that was unanimously approved by the drafting committee.

Click here for more information on the DNC’s new marijuana plank.

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Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Moves Forward in Chile


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The BBC reports that Chileans may soon be able to legally grow up to six marijuana plants thanks to a bill that was passed by a lower house of congress. Previously, those who possessed or cultivated the plant risked 15 years imprisonment.chile flag Last October, the country began its first medical marijuana trial program.

The new bill will go before a health commission and then the Senate for approval.
Members of the lower house approved the bill by a wide margin, with 68 in favour and 39 against.

Several other countries have eased restrictions for medical or personal use of marijuana in recent years. In the US, more than 20 states allow some form of medical marijuana and Colorado and Washington have legalised it for personal use. Uruguay became the first country to create a legal marijuana market in 2013 and earlier this year Jamaica decriminalised personal use of the drug.

As more and more U.S. states consider ending marijuana prohibition, countries around that world that were pressured into mimicking U.S. marijuana policy are starting to re-examine their laws as well.

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Eric Holder Reigns in DEA Chief Michele Leonhart for Undermining Obama’s Position on Marijuana Sentencing


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Left, Michelle Leonhart; right, Eric Holder
Left, Michele Leonhart; right, Eric Holder

In recent talks with Attorney General Eric Holder, DEA Chief Michele Leonhart was encouraged to tone down the Drug War propaganda she has been advancing since the Obama administration did not sue the state of Colorado for legalizing marijuana. Since then, she has taken several public stands against the administration’s rhetoric on marijuana legalization and, more recently, lessening the punishment of people who commit federal drug crimes.

According to Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly and Ryan Grim, Leonhart was “called in” by Holder for a “one [on] one chat about her recent insubordination.” As a 34-year bureaucrat of the DEA, Leonhart is having a hard time shifting her tone away from the DEA’s aggressive stance against illegal drugs.

Since the talks, Leonhart has said she “supports the Attorney General’s sentencing reform initiative to ensure those sentences are imposed appropriately” through legislation like the Smarter Sentencing Act. This type of legislation would save taxpayers billions of dollars and keep thousands of people out of jail for certain types of nonviolent crimes, like marijuana use, by eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing.

Michele Leonhart’s alignment with the Obama administration’s stance on drug sentencing and marijuana policy creates cautious optimism for change in the prosecution of unnecessary federal arrests.

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NY Senate Has the Votes to Pass Medical Marijuana Bill


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Sen. Diane Savino
Sen. Diane Savino

New York Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) claims she has rallied enough votes to pass SB 4406, which legalizes medical marijuana. Thirty-nine senators, seven more than what is needed to pass the bill, have pledged their support.

However, gathering this support has come at a price. Three significant changes differentiate the current bill from the original.

First, physicians are limited to recommending medical marijuana for only 20 conditions. Secondly, the bill would create an advisory committee to recommend additions to the list of qualifying conditions. This board could also hear appeals for individual patients who fall outside of the list. Lastly, people under 21 would not be permitted to smoke marijuana as a treatment; they would be restricted to ingesting or vaporizing.

Other details of the bill include required medical marijuana cards for patients, a limit of up to 2.5 ounces per 30-day supply, and the dispensaries would have to pay taxes to the state.

According to the New York Daily News, it looks like the Senate’s Health Committee will take up the bill at noon on Tuesday.

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Wisconsin Girl Dies Waiting for Implementation of Cannabis Oil Legislation


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Lydia Schaeffer
Lydia Schaeffer

Tragically, Lydia Schaeffer (aged 7) passed away on Mother’s Day from a rare genetic disorder called Kleefstra syndrome, which causes terrible seizures and other complications. Her plight inspired lawmakers in Wisconsin to legalize a marijuana extract to treat her condition, despite their opposition to a broader medical marijuana reform.

Sally Schaeffer, Lydia’s mother, lobbied the state legislature to legalize the cannabidiol (CBD) extract from the marijuana stain known as Charlotte’s Web for use on children with seizure disorders. Even though lawmakers moved to pass the limited CBD-only bill in record time, determining the implications of the law stalled it from going into effect. Additionally, CBD-only bills leave behind 98% of the patients who can benefit from medical marijuana, so Wisconsin still has a long way to go before patients have legal access to this much-needed medicine.

In Lydia’s honor, Sally plans to continue spreading the word on CBD oil. She said she was contacted by Sen. Robert Wirch’s office this week and told they would try to have the bill she championed called Lydia’s Law. Wirch’s sympathy toward the Schaeffer family is welcomed, but his and other politicians’ compassion for the vast majority of other patients in need is currently lacking.

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NFL Is Rethinking Its Drug Policy, Reducing Marijuana Punishments


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NFLAn inside source told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the NFL is in the process of renegotiating its drug policy and may institute changes specific to how athletes who use marijuana are handled.

Since 2011, the NFL has been internally debating its drug policy, which includes testing for human growth hormones. If the current revisions to the drug policy are approved, the threshold for a positive marijuana test will be significantly increased, and punishments for violating the policy will be reduced.

The delay in these changes to the NFL policy stems from a “continued standoff over arbitration of discipline,” according to ESPN. “In cases of non-analytical positives (i.e., an Alex Rodriguez-type case in which a player is found to be in violation of the drug policy by some method other than a failed test) or in cases of violations of law (i.e., a player getting caught trying to smuggle prescription drugs across the Canadian border), the NFLPA has asked that discipline appeals be heard by an independent arbitrator.”

However, the NFL insists that the commissioner (Roger Goodell) has final say over disciplinary matters. Once this power struggle over the administration of discipline is resolved, the changes to the NFL’s drug policy should go into effect.

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Alzheimer’s Prevention Starts with Marijuana, According to British Journal


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Alzheimer's Disease includes reduced brain activity and function (red areas above), the result of years of accumulated damage. THC and CBD in marijuana seem to prevent this damage.
Alzheimer’s Disease includes reduced brain activity and function (red areas above), the result of years of accumulated damage. THC and CBD in marijuana seem to prevent this damage.

A paper published by the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests that the chemical compounds in marijuana likely prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and age-related dementia.

Chronic brain inflammation, oxidative stress, and intra-cellular dysfunction are the primary reasons why people develop these debilitating neurological diseases. The study found that both THC and CBD (the primary chemical compounds found in marijuana) positively affect nerve cell function in consumers, significantly reducing these harmful neurological conditions.

THC and CBD (called cannabinoids) tap into a primal, chemical signaling system in cells called “the endocannabinoid system.” The paper shows cannabinoids dampen inflammation, protect cells from oxidative damage, and promote cell health on a number of levels.

This paper echoes claims made in January by Gary Wenk, professor of neuroscience, immunology, and medical genetics at Ohio State University, that “if you do anything, such as smoke a bunch of marijuana in your 20s and 30s, you may wipe out all of the inflammation in your brain and then things start over again. And you simply die of old age before inflammation becomes an issue for you,”

The implications of marijuana’s medicinal effects on our brains are monumental, from not just a health perspective, but a financial one as well, for more than five million Americans with Alzheimer’s. One in three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation, costing the country about $203 billion in 2013.

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Nobel Prize-Winning Economists Want the War on Drugs to End


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In a recently released report titled “Ending the Drug Wars,” five previous winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics have endorsed the London School of Economics’ IDEAS center’s findings. The report looked at “the high costs and unintended consequences of drug prohibitions on public health and safety, national security and law enforcement,” according to the Huffington Post.

“The pursuit of a militarized and enforcement-led global ‘war on drugs’ strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage,” says the 82-page report. “These include mass incarceration in the US, highly repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political destabilization in Afghanistan and West Africa, immense violence in Latin America…and the propagation of systematic human rights abuses around the world.”

In short, the report implores world leaders to rework their drug policies to center on treatment and harm reduction rather than prosecution and prison sentencing.

Later on in the report, it calls on the United Nations General Assembly to look beyond its one-size-fits-all approach to drug policy during its special session coming in 2016.

“The UN must recognize its role is to assist states as they pursue best-practice policies based on scientific evidence, not undermine or counteract them,” said Danny Quah, a contributor to the report. “If this alignment occurs, a new and effective international regime can emerge that effectively tackles the global drug problem.”

Nobel Prize Winners in Economics:
Kenneth Arrow (1972)
Sir Christopher Pissarides (2010)
Thomas Schelling (2005)
Vernon Smith (2002)
Oliver Williamson (2009)

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