Earlier this week, the Utah House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation that would allow individuals suffering from intractable epilepsy to possess and use certain marijuana extracts if their neurologist recommends its use. Patients would only be able to obtain and use marijuana extracts that contain no more than 0.3% THC and more than 15% CBD. Although this law leaves the vast majority of patients behind, it is certainly an improvement on the status quo.
If it becomes law, H.B. 105 would only provide protection for cardholders who use and possess extracts that have been analyzed for cannabinoid content by labs approved by the Department of Health. Minors would only be approved for the program if their parent or guardian has oversight. Passage of this legislation could bring relief to many families grappling with severe epilepsy.
Although the bill does not cover patients suffering from MS, ALS, cancer, HIV, and a host of other serious conditions that respond well to marijuana, it would be a positive step forward.
More good news for medical marijuana patients: a recent study found that marijuana use is not linked with the progression of liver disease in patients co-infected with hepatitis C and HIV.
The study, published in the July edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases, examined the effect of regular marijuana smoking on liver disease progression among subjects who were infected with both hepatitis C and HIV. Previous research had produced mixed results, with some studies claiming a “strong link” between marijuana consumption and liver disease. In contrast, this study found “no evidence for an association.” Researchers speculated that associations observed in previous studies were due to “reverse causation;” in other words, patients who already suffered from liver disease used increasing amounts of marijuana to cope with the pain as the symptoms worsened.
These findings debunk the long-held belief that marijuana use exacerbates liver damage, which gives us even more evidence that marijuana is objectively safer than alcohol, in addition to being a relatively benign medicine.
Last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, an international organization consisting of high level current and former heads of state and policy experts, released a report suggesting world governments give up the war on drugs and consider more rational harm-reduction policies, including removing all criminal penalties for the possession and use of marijuana. The Commission, which included former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, among many others, urged leaders to consider alternatives to incarceration for drug use to shift their focus toward treatment of drug abusers, rather than punishment and interdiction for recreational users.
"These prominent world leaders recognize an undeniable reality. The use of marijuana, which is objectively less harmful than alcohol, is widespread and will never be eliminated,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “They acknowledge that there are only two choices moving forward. We can maintain marijuana's status as a wholly illegal substance and steer billions of dollars toward drug cartels and other criminal actors. Or, we can encourage nations to make the adult use of marijuana legal and have it sold in regulated stores by legitimate, taxpaying business people. At long last, we have world leaders embracing the more rational choice and advocating for legal, regulated markets for marijuana. We praise these world leaders for their willingness to advocate for this sensible approach to marijuana policy."
This study comes as Portugal enjoys the tenth year of its experiment with decriminalizing all drugs. Since making the bold policy move in 2001, Portugal has seen crime, use rates, addiction rates, overdose deaths, and blood-borne disease all decrease significantly. The study released last week suggests that a similar model could be adopted successfully elsewhere. It also stresses the damage that prohibition policies do to society, including massive government expenditure, enrichment of criminal organizations, and interference with treatment and prevention of diseases like HIV/AIDS.
Today, reports issued by several Senate subcommittees stated that America's massive spending to fight the drug war in Latin America has not stopped narcotics from entering the U.S., nor has it affected use rates.
So what exactly is the justification for this continued insanity?
UPDATE: The Marijuana Policy Project's Robert Capecchi talks about the Global Commision on Drug Policy report on FOX9 in the Twin Cities.
Today, Gov. Jack Markell signed SB 17 into law, making it legal for Delaware residents with certain serious medical conditions to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. The bill had bipartisan sponsors and support in the legislature. This makes Delaware the 16th state, along with the District of Columbia, to pass an effective medical marijuana law.
The law goes into effect on July 1 and will permit people diagnosed with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, decompensated cirrhosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), agitation of Alzheimer's disease, PTSD, intractable nausea, severe seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms, wasting syndrome, and severe debilitating pain that has not responded to other treatments or for which other treatments produced serious side effects to possess up to six ounces of marijuana without fear of arrest. Qualified patients will not be able to cultivate their own medicine, but they will be able to obtain medical marijuana from state-licensed compassion centers regulated by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, which will also issue medical marijuana ID cards to patients who receive a recommendation from their doctor. Public use of marijuana and driving under the influence are prohibited.
“There are so many people in Delaware who are suffering unimaginable pain that this will help, and we want to be able to do what we can to provide much-needed relief for those citizens,” said Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington East, who sponsored the legislation. “I am very grateful that so many of my colleagues were able to look past the myths surrounding marijuana and into the eyes and hearts of those who were crying out for our help. Needless to say, I am profoundly grateful to Gov. Markell for his support of this important legislation.”
“Today is an amazing victory for seriously ill Delaware patients, who have been waiting a very long time for the chance to use the medicine they need without fear,” said Noah Mamber, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, who lobbied and mobilized patients, professionals, and grassroots activists in support of the bill. “SB17 is the most comprehensive, tightly-written medical marijuana bill in the country, and with this vote, the Delaware Legislature proved that compassion is not a red or a blue issue. It’s a human issue.”
Chris McNeely, a Dagsboro National Guard veteran and chronic pain patient with severe wasting syndrome, said, “Until this law was passed, I was afraid to use medical marijuana, even though it helped me in the past, because if I was arrested and put in jail, they could not properly care for me, and I could actually die. I am so happy I will be able to get legal relief soon.”
With this victory, we are well on our way to accomplishing MPP's goal of 27 medical marijuana states by 2014. Keep up the good work, everybody!