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DEA Fails to Reschedule Marijuana, but Opens Path for More Research

August 23rd, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has decided that marijuana will remain classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The decision to keep marijuana in the category reserved for drugs with no accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse was, according to the DEA, based on consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services. According to DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg, “If the scientific understanding about marijuana changes — and it could change — then the decision could change…. But we will remain tethered to science, as we must, and as the statute demands. It certainly would be odd to rely on science when it suits us and ignore it otherwise.”2000px-US-DrugEnforcementAdministration-Seal.svg

The fact that the DEA has maintained its position that marijuana has no accepted medical value may come as a surprise to many, especially given the thousands, if not millions, of seriously ill patients who currently use marijuana to treat a number of symptoms and conditions.

In a more positive development, it was also announced that the federal government will be removing major obstacles to marijuana research. The only source of federally approved research-grade marijuana has been the University of Mississippi, and it has been so difficult for researchers to obtain that it has effectively created a research monopoly held by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Now, universities may apply for federal approval to grown their own supply of marijuana, creating fewer roadblocks for researchers in the future.

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State Legislators Urge Federal Government to Reform Failed Marijuana Policies

August 10th, 2016 3 Comments Rory McPeak

capitolAt their annual summit in Chicago, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) approved a policy resolution calling for marijuana policy reform at the federal level. The NCSL has adopted a resolution advocating for the Controlled Substances Act to be amended in order to remove marijuana from Schedule I and to allow banking for marijuana businesses in states where they may legally operate.

Even in states in which marijuana is legally sold in a taxed and regulated market, businesses that sell either medical or retail marijuana face significant financial and regulatory burdens due to marijuana’s Schedule I status. Perhaps the most significant of those burdens is restriction from banking services of any kind, forcing such businesses to carry vast sums of cash and making them particularly vulnerable to theft.

As Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project told Marijuana.com,

The resolution adopted this year recognizes that outdated federal marijuana laws are presenting the states with some serious public safety issues. …There is an immediate need for access to banking and other financial services for state-legal marijuana businesses. Like most Americans, state lawmakers are tired of waiting for Congress to catch up on this issue.

This is the second year in a row that the NCSL adopted a policy position urging federal marijuana policy reform; last year, the conference passed a resolution supporting a state’s ability to reform its own marijuana laws without fear of federal interference. Both of these resolutions required 75% support from member states present; both passed on voice vote.

While the resolutions have no binding power over federal law, they reflect the nation’s widespread frustration with federal marijuana policy, especially its interference with state marijuana laws. State-legal businesses must be allowed to protect their own finances; state legislators recognize this, but we continue to wait for federal legislators to do the same.

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Federal Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Oregon Teen Caught with Gram of Marijuana

August 9th, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

Federal prosecutors have agreed to dismiss charges against Oregon teen Devontre Thomas, sparing him a potential yearlong prison sentence after being caught with a single gram of marijuana.

Thomas made nSeal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Justice.svgational headlines when federal prosecutors charged him with misdemeanor possession. This offense carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, a revelation that sparked widespread outrage, especially in the state of Oregon, which had already voted to end marijuana prohibition.

The case caught the attention of Oregon state representatives and other elected officials who have called for marijuana to be taxed and regulated. U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley wrote to Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy Williams about the case.

Thomas’ attorney stated in a court filing that prosecutors have agreed to drop the case as long as the teen works or attends school and abides by all laws in the next two months.

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License Pre-Approvals for 15 Growers, Processors in Maryland

August 8th, 2016 1 Comment Rory McPeak

On Friday, August 5, Maryland’s medical marijuana commission voted to grant preliminary approval to 15 growers and 15 processors who applied earlier in the year. The decision regarding which applicants would be approved was based on a scoring system provided by the Towson University Regional Economic Studies Institute, which processed tmaryland state sealhe applications.

When the names of the approved growers and processors are released on August 15, the applicants will have to proceed with financial and background checks before obtaining licenses. The commission was only permitted to give preliminary approval to 15 growers; there was no limit to the number of processors they could approve, but they opted to only approve 15 to maintain consistency.

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Chronic Pain Added as Qualifying Condition in Minnesota

August 1st, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

Pain patients in Minnesota can now find hope, as they are now able to access the state’s year-old medical marijuana program. Supporters of this move believe it will provide thousands of patients with a safer alternative to prescription opioids and allow them to prevent or overcome dependency on prescription-based painkillers.

Minnesota legalized meSeal_of_Minnesota-altdical marijuana in 2014, allowing smoke-free forms of the substance to be consumed by those with doctors’ recommendations. The medical marijuana program took effect in 2015, and starting July 2016, patients with incurable pain could register for the program, though they could not legally purchase the medicine until Monday, August 1.

The patient advocacy group Sensible Minnesota has praised this decision. The group’s leader, Maren Schroeder, has campaigned for state legislators to add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions next year.

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Northern Mariana Islands May Vote to End Marijuana Prohibition

July 28th, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

2000px-Seal_of_the_Northern_Mariana_Islands.svgSixto Igisomar, a senator serving in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CMNI), a territory of the United States, has pre-filed a measure that would allow residents in CMNI to vote to end marijuana prohibition on November 8. If the referendum is successful, it would establish a law similar to those in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — implementing a taxed and regulated market for recreational marijuana consumers 21 and older and a medical marijuana program for patients with doctors’ recommendations. It would also allow people to grow up to six mature marijuana plants and 25 immature plants.

The revenue from marijuana industry and sales taxes would go to building schools, drug education, treatment programs, and CMNI’s pension program. Should the measure pass, CMNI’s government will be expected to accept license applications by April 2017.

In 2010, the CMNI House of Representatives approved a proposal to end marijuana prohibition, but it failed to pass the Senate. A 2015 medical marijuana bill stalled in the legislature.

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DNC Approves Marijuana Platform

July 27th, 2016 6 Comments Rory McPeak

This week at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the Democratic Party approved a platform that would dismantle marijuana prohibition. Calling for “a reasoned pathway for future legalizat6262125702_a086dd49f1_bion,” the Democrats’ platform endorses the removal of marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs, a category reserved for substances with a high potential for abuse and without medical benefit. It also calls for states to decide their own marijuana laws and for medical marijuana states to provide safe access for patients without federal interference.

According to Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, “It’s not particularly surprising that the platform calls for rolling back the failed policy of marijuana prohibition, seeing as the vast majority of Democrats – and a majority of Americans – support making marijuana legal for adults.”

Advocates for marijuana policy reform were present and active at the DNC and held a series of protests outside the convention on Monday to bring attention to the issue, while MPP representatives talked with policy leaders and lawmakers inside the convention throughout the week.

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Can Marijuana Treat Alzheimer’s?

July 26th, 2016 3 Comments Rory McPeak

 

recent study conducted at Salk Institute for Biological Studies showed that medical marijuana might be a potentially effective treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. According to the study, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) “stimulates the removal of toxic plaque in the brain, a common

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feature of the disease” and treats inflammation, preventing neuron damage in the brain.

While Keith Fargo of the Alzheimer’s Association has expressed optimism about the study, referring to marijuana as a “legitimate avenue of research,” other researchers advise caution. Dr. Donovan Maust, who has studied marijuana’s effects on dementia, has said that there are still too many unknowns to start treating Alzheimer’s patients with medical marijuana.

These results correspond with earlier findings, such as a 2014 Dutch study showing that THC can treat symptoms of dementia, and a 2016 study that found “THC helped decrease symptoms of delusions, agitation or aggression, irritability, apathy and sleep in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”

While these fascinating discoveries hold a great deal of exciting potential, medical marijuana researchers continue to face enormous obstacles due to federal restrictions that come with marijuana’s Schedule I status.

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New Study: Alcohol Increases Aggression, Marijuana Doesn’t

July 20th, 2016 3 Comments Rory McPeak

The results of a recent study in the Netherlands confirmed the long-held claim by supporters of marijuana policy reform that marijuana is much safer than alcohol, specifically as itNMBarScene relates to violent behavior. According to the findings, alcohol users demonstrated more aggressive tendencies while intoxicated than while sober, while marijuana users became less aggressive while under the influence.

The Washington Post reports:

They found, first of all, that “alcohol intoxication increased subjective aggression in the alcohol group.” The alcohol users, in other words, acted more aggressive when they were drunk than they did when they were sober. By contrast, the smokers became less aggressive when they were high.

These findings held through both the self-assessments — alcohol users rated themselves as more aggressive when drunk — and through the responses to the tests: The drinkers tried harder to undermine their computer opponents when they were drunk. But the smokers actually acted less aggressive toward their computer opponents when they were high.

“The results in the present study support the hypothesis that acute alcohol intoxication increases feelings of aggression and that acute cannabis intoxication reduces feelings of aggression,” the researchers conclude.

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Poll: Majority of NH Voters Support Regulating Marijuana

July 20th, 2016 No Comments Rory McPeak

Seal_of_New_Hampshire.svgThe findings of the latest WMUR Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center show that a majority of likely New Hampshire voters support making marijuana legal and regulated for adults. According to the survey, “61% support legalizing marijuana for recreational use (39% strongly and 22% somewhat), 32% oppose (22% strongly and 10% somewhat), and 7% are neutral or unsure.” If marijuana were legalized in New Hampshire, 69% said they would support taxing and regulating it like alcohol, while 26% said they would oppose, 2% are neutral, and 2% are unsure. When asked what type of legislation they would prefer regarding marijuana, 48% said they want marijuana legalized and taxed like alcohol, 24% supported decriminalization, 24% supported maintaining current marijuana laws, and 3% were unsure.

Recent attempts to decriminalize marijuana or regulate it like alcohol have stalled in the legislature. Advocates are hopeful that lawmakers will heed the voices of their constituents and move forward with sensible marijuana policy reforms in the next session.

UPDATE: MPP’s New Hampshire primary election voter guide is now available. Find out where lawmakers stand on marijuana policy issues and how you can help us achieve sensible reforms in the legislature next session!

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