General

MPP Launches New Billboards Urging Adults to Be Responsible With Marijuana Products

November 25th, 2014 1 Comment Morgan Fox

The Marijuana Policy Project  is launching billboards this week in Denver and Seattle that encourage parents to keep marijuana out of reach of children. The ads are part of a broader public education campaign urging adults to “consume responsibly” in states where marijuana is legal.

The billboards feature a child looking at what could be a glass of grape juice or a stemless glass of wine and a few cookies that might or might not be infused with marijuana. It reads, “Some juices and cookies are not meant for kids,” and urges them to, “Keep ‘adult snacks’ locked up and out of reach.”

The “Consume Responsibly” campaign made national headlines when it launched in September with a billboard that alluded to columnist Maureen Dowd’s infamous marijuana edibles experience and urged adults to exercise caution when consuming them.

“Now that states are taking a smarter approach to marijuana policy, it’s time for a smarter approach to marijuana education,” said MPP’s Mason Tvert. “Issues such as over-consumption and accidental ingestion are not unique to marijuana, and a lot can be learned from how we handle other legal products. These problems can be addressed by raising awareness and informing adults about steps that should be taken to prevent them.”

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Medical Marijuana

Federal Bill Introduced to Increase Veterans’ Access to Medical Marijuana

November 25th, 2014 11 Comments Morgan Fox

Last week, a bipartisan bill that would allow doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana for certain patients was introduced in Congress.

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Under current policy, doctors and other specialists working with the VA are prohibited from recommending medical marijuana to any patient, despite growing evidence that it is useful in treating pain, traumatic brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress, even if a patient lives in one of the 23 states, Guam, or the District of Columbia where medical marijuana is legal.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) with the support of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access, said they “are very proud to stand by Congressman Blumenauer and support the Veterans Equal Access Act.”

“The Veterans Health Administration has made it very clear that, as federal employees, they lack the free speech necessary to write the recommendations for Veterans to comply with state programs,” said Krawitz. “This legislation is needed to correct that legal situation and repair this VA doctor patient relationship.”

The status quo has numerous harmful effects, said Blumenauer. “It forces veterans into the black market to self-medicate,” he said. “It prevents doctors from giving their best and honest advice and recommendations. And it pushes both doctors and their patients toward drugs that are potentially more harmful and more addictive. It’s insane, and it has to stop.”

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Prohibition

Arkansas Governor Pardons High-Profile Marijuana Offender

November 20th, 2014 8 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe recently announced he intends to pardon a young man convicted of a marijuana-related felony. The governor emphasized the importance of having a chance to get one’s life back on track following such a conviction, especially for young people. Local press covering the pardon emphasized another aspect to this story: The young man is the governor’s son, Kyle Beebe. Kyle was convicted of “possession with intent to deliver marijuana” in 2003.

In 2012, over 5,700 people were either arrested or cited for marijuana possession. Another 555 people just like Kyle were charged with felonies related to marijuana. Only a fraction will have an opportunity like the one Kyle has. Instead, most will face a lifetime of discrimination: A criminal record that can hurt job prospects, housing, and educational opportunities – long after the court sentence is over.

Arkansas needs a better approach. Like 19 other states, it can remove possible jail time for simple possession, bringing relief to thousands. If you are an Arkansas resident, click here to ask your legislators to support imposing a civil fine — not a criminal conviction — for simple possession.

Even better, Arkansas should implement a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adults who choose a substance that is safer than alcohol — just like Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. Why continue the reefer madness when there is now a better way?

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Medical Marijuana, Research

Iowa Board of Pharmacy Delays Decision on the Reclassification of Medical Marijuana

November 20th, 2014 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

After some members expressed reservations, the Iowa Pharmacy Board decided on Wednesday to delay its decision on marijuana’s drug classification until January.

A board subcommittee initially recommended that the entire board consider reclassifying the substance from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug. The recommendation was based on marijuana’s use for medical purposes, bolstered by a new law in Iowa that made the use of CBD oil, which is derived from the marijuana plant, legal for the treatment of children with epilepsy.

An Iowa Pharmacy Board member and pharmacist from Monona, Edward Maier, read the subcommittee’s recommendation:

“While the board believes that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, in 2014 the Iowa General Assembly passed the Medical Cannabinoid Act. The act permits the use of cannanbidiol for patients suffering from intractable epilepsy. The passage of this act is an affirmative recognition by the Iowa General Assembly that there is a medical use for marijuana. Continued placement for marijuana in Schedule I is not consistent with that act,” Maier said, reading directly from the recommendation.

Maier also emphasized that even if the Iowa Pharmacy Board decided to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II substance, the decision would not necessarily mean the de facto implementation of a medical marijuana law in Iowa. The move would also necessitate legislative and regulatory action.

In the end, however, the entire board voted unanimously to delay the decision until they are scheduled to meet again the first week of January.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Iowa Board of Pharmacy to Consider the Reclassification of Medical Marijuana

November 18th, 2014 5 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy is considering renewing its recommendation that the state reclassify marijuana in a way that would make it easier to use the substance legally for medical purposes, following a hearing in the state’s capital yesterday where patients, medical professionals, and drug-abuse prevention specialists testified about whether Iowa should relax its strict ban on the use of medical marijuana.

“We’re in a bit of a predicament,” board Chairman Edward Maier told several dozen people who gathered for the Des Moines hearing, noting that Iowa law currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

A similar proposal failed to gain traction in 2009 when the board recommended that state legislators reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which would make the substance legal with a physician’s recommendation.

Edward Hertko, a retired Des Moines physician and longtime proponent for making marijuana legal, said opponents have falsely characterized marijuana as addictive and as a gateway to harder drugs.

“Its hazards pale when compared with alcohol and tobacco,” he told the pharmacy board. “In fact, marijuana is less deadly than sugar, which causes thousands of deaths each year from obesity and diabetes,” he said.

In addition, Lori Tassin, a cancer patient also from Des Moines, said she believes the substance can shrink tumors and provide other medical benefits.

“It should be my choice,” she told the board. “It should be between my doctor and me.”

The entire Iowa Board of Pharmacy will further discuss the issue Wednesday. Moreover, Maier, a Mapleton pharmacist, noted that the board does not have the authority to make medical marijuana legal. However, he did state that the board could advise Iowa state legislators on the issue.

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Prohibition, Research

Vermont Legislators Will Begin 2015 Session with Report on Marijuana Legalization

November 18th, 2014 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

In January, Vermont’s lawmakers will receive a detailed report analyzing many of the issues surrounding the possibility of making marijuana legal in the state.

The report will not make any recommendations either for or against making marijuana legal in Vermont. It will, however, provide data that will help policymakers understand the issue, and it will prepare legislators for the vigorous debate over marijuana regulation that is expected during the 2015 session.

Beau Kilmer
Beau Kilmer (Photo courtesy of the RAND Corporation)

The co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corporation, Beau Kilmer, is working with Vermont’s Secretary of Administration to prepare the report. In a recent presentation, Kilmer said the first section of the report would be an examination of what he called “Vermont’s marijuana landscape.” In other words, how many people currently use marijuana in Vermont?

“And so we’re able to kind of cobble together information from surveys what we know about misreporting, information we have about total amount consumed, we’re able to put that together to come up with a range,” said Kilmer. “So I’m optimistic about the future of marijuana market studies.”

In addition to determining how many people use marijuana in Vermont, Kilmer said the report will analyze health and safety issues, various potential regulatory models, and projections of the expected impacts of reform, including tax revenue.

The Secretary of Administration is expected to present the finished report to the legislature by January 15.

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Prohibition

Speaker of the New York City Council Supports Making Marijuana Legal

November 14th, 2014 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki
Melissa Mark-Viverito

Just days ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio overhauled the city’s marijuana policy by instructing law enforcement officers to issue tickets for marijuana possession instead of arresting offenders. Now, the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is going a step further and calling for making the substance legal.

“It’s not something we can just do randomly, but with a thought process, and looking how it’s being implemented in other areas. But I do support the legalization of marijuana,” she said at City Hall.

Mark-Viverito’s stance makes her the highest-ranking city official to support adopting such a policy, although it puts her at odds with Mayor de Blasio who does not support making marijuana legal in New York.

“States are speaking,” Mark-Viverito said. “Based on the conversations that we see happening nationally, and how people feel about it, I think that it’s just something that is appropriate at this time.”

The Drug Policy Alliance, a leading advocacy group based in New York City, praised the city council speaker’s stance:

“Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito’s announcement further proves that marijuana legalization is a mainstream issue,” said Kassandra Frederique, the group’s New York policy manager. “It is especially important that elected officials of color lead and frame this conversation as the harms of marijuana prohibition and criminalization overwhelmingly affect their communities,” she added.

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Medical Marijuana

State Lawmakers Reveal New Medical Marijuana Bill in Augusta, Georgia

November 13th, 2014 7 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Georgia state lawmakers revealed what the state’s new medical marijuana bill will look like after last year’s proposed bill failed.

Medical marijuana cultivation centers and immunity from prosecution for the families of patients who legally obtain it from other states and bring it back to Georgia are two elements of the new medical marijuana bill that state lawmakers will debate in January.

Rep. Allen Peake

State Rep. Allen Peake, the bill sponsor, said that Georgia’s lawmakers have learned a lot over the past year and hope to pass a better bill this year that would allow private entities to grow medical marijuana in the state.

Peake also said that the medical marijuana grown in Georgia would contain very low THC so that patients would not be able to get high from it.

“If what we’re going to do is legalize a product that is so low in THC that there’s no way to get high off of it, why not provide it as an alternative for other diagnoses — cancer, glaucoma, ALS?” Peake stated.

However, low or no THC medical marijuana laws leave most patients behind. While THC does cause the “high” associated with the substance, patients use medical marijuana for relief, not for euphoria. It has also been shown to have many medical qualities itself.

Georgia’s medical marijuana legislation should not be so restrictive as to leave behind patients who could benefit from access to a variety of medical marijuana strains with different chemical compositions.

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Prohibition

UN Official Criticizes U.S. for Breaking the Marijuana Laws That it’s Forced the World to Live By

November 13th, 2014 9 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Marijuana is now legal for adult use in Colorado and Washington and will be joined by Alaska and Oregon, in addition to Washington, D.C. — but it turns out that the four states and nation’s capital are all breaking international law.

Yury Fedotov

According to the executive director of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov:

“I don’t see how (the new laws) can be compatible with existing convention.”

Apparently, he has a point; by allowing legal marijuana sales within its borders, the U.S. is technically in violation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The major UN convention, which was signed by the U.S., prohibits countries from creating regulated markets for the cultivation, sale, purchase, distribution, and possession of marijuana.

Historically, the U.S. has pressured other countries in the convention to adopt measures that enforced American-style prohibition, which has led some to criticize the federal government for being hypocritical by allowing implementation of state marijuana regulations to proceed.

According to Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“The United States has largely dictated international drug laws for decades, and now that it’s becoming clear that Americans will no longer stand with these failed drug policies, we see other countries moving ahead as well.”

“Fedotov’s statements may make it awkward for the federal government, but they won’t stop the momentum toward ending marijuana prohibition.”

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Tax and Regulate

The Initiative Petition to Make Marijuana Legal in Nevada Makes Its Deadline

November 13th, 2014 5 Comments Kate Zawidzki

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, an initiative petition that would make the adult use of marijuana legal in Nevada could come to fruition if signatures presented to county offices are valid.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Nevada have “unloaded much more than the 101,667 registered voter signatures needed to qualify the petition,” said Joe Brezny, spokesman for the coalition.

The deadline to submit signatures for the petition was Wednesday. In Clark County alone, more than 145,000 signatures were submitted.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Nevada is now working to present signatures to county offices in rural Nevada and Washoe.

If county officials deem the signatures valid, the Nevada State Legislature could possibly pass the initiative as early as the spring. Approval would take a two-thirds vote in both chambers, due to the petition’s tax component. The petition would also need the signature of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to become law. Rejection within the Nevada State Legislature, however, would set it up for a popular vote in 2016.

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