On March 13, members of the Florida state House of Representatives voted 101 to 11 to approve legislation (Senate Bill 182) to re-legalize the inhalation of herbal cannabis formulations for medical purposes.
The bill was unanimously approved by the state Senate last week, and will now be transmitted to Governor Ron DeSantis.
Seventy-one percent of Floridians voted in 2016 to amend the state’s constitution to allow for the use of medical marijuana. These provisions explicitly protected the rights of patients to access herbal cannabis and placed no restrictions with regard to how they chose to consume it.
Under this proposal, patients would be permitted to possess up to four ounces of herbal cannabis. Patients under 18 will only be allowed to access herbal medical cannabis if they are terminally ill and receive approval by two doctors.
NORML has long argued against regulations that limit or restrict patients’ access to whole plant herbal cannabis. Many patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms do not benefit from cannabis-infused pills, tinctures, or edibles because they possess delayed onset compared to inhaled cannabis and are far more variable in their effects.
The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act (HR 1687) is bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Don Young (R-AK) to explicitly bar federal agencies from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a cannabis consumer, or due to testing positive for marijuana use on a workplace drug test.
Enacted in 1986, the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program made it a condition for employment that all civilian employees at executive branch agencies be prohibited from using federally illegal substances on or off duty.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 31 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, and 46 states have some form of medical marijuana law; however, it remains illegal under federal law. Therefore, federal employees can be denied employment or terminated due to testing positive for marijuana metabolites, even if their use is in compliance with state law.
A recent American Legion poll found that one in five veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition.
“For our veterans’, cannabis has been shown to address chronic pain and PTSD, often replacing addictive and harmful opioids. At the same time, the federal government is the largest employer of our veterans’ community. This conflict, between medical care and maintaining employment, needs to be resolved,” said Congressman Crist. “For federal employees complying with state cannabis law, they shouldn’t have to choose between a proven treatment and their job.”
“I’m pleased to join Representative Crist in introducing this legislation today. I truly believe that this Congress we will see real reform of our nation’s cannabis laws – reform based on a states’ right approach,” said Congressman Don Young. “This bill would protect federal workers, including veterans, from discrimination should they be participating in activities compliant with state-level cannabis laws on their personal time. The last thing we need is to drive talented workers away from these employment opportunities. As a Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus I remain committed to promoting this bill as well as other legislation to protect individuals and reform our federal cannabis laws.”
“The discriminatory practice of pre-employment drug testing for cannabis disproportionately hurts the ability for veterans and medical patients to achieve economic security and a feeling of self-worth,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “In order to protect the individual liberties of would-be employees and best position the federal government to attract top talent, the harmful ‘Green Box’ must be destroyed. The bipartisan nature of this effort and the bill’s sponsors underscore the absurdity of the status quo and we appreciate the leadership of Congressmen Charlie Crist and Don Young.”
Changes in the legal status of marijuana at the state level have not negatively impacted workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that the legalization of medical marijuana access is associated with greater workforce participation and with fewer workplace absences. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences just-released marijuana and health report found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.
Microdosing — ingesting very small doses of psychedelic drugs — has emerged as a popular pastime among Silicon Valley types and harried executives on both coasts, who have claimed anecdotally that it boosts creativity and helps them function more effectively.
Now, for the first time, comes some hard scientific evidence that microdosing really can be beneficial. In a new, peer-reviewed study in the journal Chemical Neuroscience, researchers at the University of California — Davis fed small doses of the psychedelics to lab rats and found that microdosing can have positive impacts on mental health.
“This is the first time anyone has demonstrated in animals that psychedelic microdosing might actually have some beneficial effects, particularly for depression or anxiety,” David Olson, assistant professor in the UC Davis departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who led the research team said in a press release.
In the study, the researchers used the powerful hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which they said was appropriate because its “molecular structure is embedded within the structures of popular microdosing drugs such as LSD and psilocybin.” Every three days for three weeks, hey gave the rats one-tenth of the dose that would bring on a psychedelic trip. At the end of the three weeks, researchers found that the animals overcame their “fear response” in a test measuring anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and also seemed to be less immobile in a test measuring antidepressant effects.
“Prior to our study, essentially nothing was known about the effects of psychedelic microdosing on animal behaviors,” Olson said. “Our study demonstrates that psychedelics can produce beneficial behavioral effects without drastically altering perception, which is a critical step towards producing viable medicines inspired by these compounds.”
In other words, you don’t have to trip to get the benefits of psychedelics.
It wasn’t all good news, though. Researchers found some potential problems: Male rats who microdosed showed significant increases in body weight, while females showed signs of neuronal atrophy.
“It’s exciting, but the potentially adverse changes in neuronal structure and metabolism that we observe emphasize the need for additional studies,” Olson said. The changes in female neuronal structure were particularly puzzling, he said, because those changes did not occur when female rats took larger doses. That could suggest that acute hallucinogenic doses and repeated microdoses produced different biochemical and structural phenotypes, he said.
The study suggests there is indeed a biochemical basis for some of the positive effects of microdosing reported in less scientifically rigorous studies of humans, such as the study by Canadian researchers who found microdosers scored higher on measures of mental health and well-being.
“We found that microdosers scored higher on measures of wisdom, open-mindedness and creativity,” reported researchers Thomas Anderson of the University of Toronto and Rotem Petranker of York University. “Microdosers also scored lower on measures of dysfunctional attitudes and negative emotionality, which is very promising.”
That study recruited microdosers from Reddit communities, but did not include trials with placebos, so more research to validate the results is needed, the researchers conceded.
“As promising as they seem, we don’t know whether microdosing actually caused any of these differences,” they reported. “Maybe people with better mental health were more likely to experiment with microdosing, or perhaps there is some unknown cause that made people both more likely to microdose and to be creative.”
But this month’s UC-Davis rat study strongly suggests that it is the microdosing — and not other variables — that accounts for the difference.
Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of this bill would lift this prohibition.
“For too long, our veterans have been denied access to highly effective medical marijuana treatment for conditions like chronic pain and PTSD,” Rep. Blumenauer said at the time of the bill’s introduction.
“Medical marijuana has shown proven benefits for treating these conditions denying our veterans access to them is shameful. This simple bill would align veterans VA treatment with their very popular state laws, usually approved by the voters. This legislation would guarantee our veterans fair and equal treatment, along with the ability to consult with their own physician on all treatment options. It’s past time we provide them with the care they need and deserve,” Blumenauer added.
In the 114th Congress, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote.
Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction CAPS (Clinician Administered Post-traumatic Scale) symptom scores following cannabis therapy.
A recently released poll conducted by The American Legion showed that nearly 1 in 4 veterans self-reported using marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition.
Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.
Under federal law, banks and other financial institutions are discouraged from entering into relationships with marijuana-specific businesses. This has led to the industry operating on a largely ‘cash-only’ basis.
Last month, members of the US House, Consumer Protection and Financial Institution Subcommittee heard testimony in favor of federal banking reform.
NORML submitted testimony to the Committee, opining: “In short, no industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions and it is self-evident that this industry, and those consumers that are served by it, will remain severely hampered without better access to credit and financing. Ultimately, Congress must amend federal policy so that these growing numbers of state-compliant businesses, and those millions of Americans who patronize them, are no longer subject to policies that needlessly place them in harm’s way.”
Investigators purchased CBD-infused products online and at local convenience stores and submitted the products to third-party independent testing. They reported, “Less than half the samples that were tested actually had the stated amount of THC inside the product.” Some products contained no CBD at all.
Other products tested positive for elevated levels of lead and pesticides.
While CBD products manufactured as part of state-specific cannabis access programs are subject to lab testing, commercially available products are entirely unregulated.
The NBC New York findings are consistent with those of prior reports — such as those here, here, here, here, here, here, and here — which similarly determined that many commercially available CBD-infused products are of variable potency and may contain adulterants.
In February, a separate investigation conducted by KCTV Channel 5 (CBS) in St. Louis reported that none of the CBD-infused products they purchased over the counter at local retailers contained the amount of CBD listed on their labels.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Minor marijuana possession offenders will no longer be criminally prosecuted in Hennepin County, Minnesota, according to a new policy announced Thursday by County Attorney Mike Freeman.
An estimated 1.2 million people live in the County, which includes the city of Minneapolis.
“The Hennepin County Attorney is to be commended for taking this proactive stance. Branding individuals — many of whom are at an age when they are just beginning their professional careers — as lifelong criminals, and in some cases felons, for minor marijuana possession offenses results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, professional licensing, and student aid, and serves no legitimate societal purpose,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano.
“This change is a recognition that marijuana criminalization is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern. But it should not be a criminal justice matter,” Armentano added.
Under the policy, prosecutors will not criminally charge anyone for marijuana offenses involving the possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis. Rather, defendants will be ordered to complete a diversion program or partake in community service.
Under state law, marijuana possession offenses involving over 42.5 grams are classified as felony offenses – punishable by up to a five-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.
Under special circumstances, such as if the defendant possessed a firearm or is a habitual offender, prosecutors may still file criminal charges.
Freeman said the policy change was necessary because he believes that the state law is overly punitive and produces racial disparities in incarceration rates.
“My job is to determine if people are charged and how to spend my resources,” Freeman said. “Spending resources on these cases is just wrong.”
The County Attorney for Ramsey County (population 500,000), which includes the city of St. Paul, enacted a similar policy earlier this year.
The new legislation codifies a new regulatory bureau, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, within the State Department of Health, establishes a registry for qualified patients and their caregivers, and establishes a revolving fund to address oversight matters.
It strengthens patient protections by explicitly stipulating that registered cannabis consumers may not be denied public assistance, access to firearms, or employment solely based on their patient status.
It further states, “No employer may refuse to hire, discipline, discharge or otherwise penalize an applicant or employee solely on the basis of a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites.”
The bill seeks facilitate standards for banks who wish to partner with medical cannabis businesses, and prohibits local governments enacting “guidelines which restrict or interfere with the rights of a licensed patient or caregiver to possess, purchase, cultivate or transport medical marijuana.”
Members of the House voted 93 to 5 in favor of the legislation. Senate members voted in favor of the bill by a margin of 43 to 5.
An estimated 55,000 Oklahomans are registered with the state to access medical cannabis.
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