Veterans-Focused Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in US Senate

Approximately 8 million adults suffer from PTSD, including many military veterans. (WikiMedia Commons/USMC)

WASHINGTON, DC — US Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) have introduced legislation, The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, to expand and facilitate medical cannabis access to military veterans suffering from chronic pain, PTSD, and other serious medical conditions.

Under existing regulations, VA doctors are not permitted to fill out the mandatory paperwork necessary to recommend cannabis therapy in those 31 states that regulate it.

Passage of The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act ends this discrimination against veterans and prevents sanctions against VA doctors who wish to recommend medical cannabis treatment to their patients.

“The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act would provide crucial medical and civil protections for the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve this country. It is unconscionable that these brave individuals who protect our nation’s freedoms would be treated as criminals when they return home just for treating their medical ailments with a safe and effective option,” said Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director. “We applaud and appreciate the leadership by Senators Schatz and Nelson in putting forward this legislation.”

“Historically, veteran and military communities have long been at the forefront of American social change, catalyzing the widespread acceptance of evolving cultural norms and perceptions surrounding racial, gender, and sexual equality. The therapeutic use of cannabis by veterans follows this trend and members of Congress should follow their lead and pass the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act,” Strekal concluded.

“Federal law prohibits VA doctors from prescribing or recommending medical marijuana to veterans,” said Senator Bill Nelson. “This legislation will allow veterans in Florida and elsewhere the same access to legitimately prescribed medication, just as any other patient in those 31 states would have.”

“In the 31 states where medical marijuana is legal, patients and doctors are able to see if marijuana helps with pain management. Our veterans deserve to have that same chance,” Senator Schatz said. “This bill does right by our veterans, and it can also shed light on how medical marijuana can help with the nation’s opioid epidemic.”

You can read NORML’s Fact Sheet on Marijuana and Veterans Issues HERE.

A recent American Legion poll found that nearly one in four veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition. A 2017 review of over 10,000 studies by the National Academy of Sciences concluded, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis and cannabinoids are effective for the treatment for chronic pain in adults.”

Similar legislation, The Veterans Equal Access Act (HR 1820) is pending in the House.

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NORML Endorses Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Amendment 2

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has announced their endorsement of Missouri’s Amendment 2, which permits patients, at the discretion of a physician, to obtain cannabis and cannabis-infused products from licensed facilities.

The amendment is one of three competing ballot measures that seek to regulate medical cannabis use in Missouri. Of the three, NORML believes that Amendment 2 is written in a manner that best provides for the needs of patients and their physicians, and is the measure most likely to withstand scrutiny from lawmakers.

“This is a patient-centered proposal that puts power in the hands of state-licensed physicians and their patients, not politicians or bureaucrats. Passage of Amendment 2 will create a robust statewide system for production and sale of medical cannabis,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “Of the three proposals on the ballot this fall, we believe that Amendment 2 is the clear choice for voters.”

“The Amendment 2 campaign appreciates NORML’s endorsement, as well as many others we have received, including from the Missouri Epilepsy Foundation and Senator Claire McCaskill,” said Dan Viets, Board President of New Approach Missouri – the grassroots group that is sponsoring Amendment 2, and a member of NORML’s Board of Directors.

Amendment 2 is certified to appear on the November 2018 ballot.  If passed by voters this fall, Missouri would become the 32nd state to legalize and regulate patients’ access to medical marijuana.

Follow New Approach Missouri on: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Please consider making a contribution to support Question 2 by clicking here. 

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Series of “Listening Sessions” on Legalization Begins

Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will hold a series of “listening sessions” to gather input on marijuana legalization from community members and stakeholders.

Input will assist in drafting legislation to tax and regulate marijuana for adults’ use.

If you’re a New York resident, don’t miss this opportunity to make your voice heard. Sign up to attend a listening session here.

Fifteen listening sessions will be carried out throughout the state in the following locations: Albany, Glens Falls, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Long Island, Newburgh, Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, and Watertown.

The first listening session is scheduled for Wednesday, September 5 in Albany. Find the full list of listening sessions here.

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Experts Criticize Canada’s Proposed Cannabis Edibles Regulations • High Times

Critics of Canada’s proposed cannabis edibles regulations say the rules would result in unappetizing and over-packaged products, according to media reports. When marijuana was legalized in Canada last year, initial regulations only allowed cannabis flower and oil to be sold. Since then, regulators have been creating rules for cannabis edibles, extracts, beverages, and topicals.

Health Canada released the draft regulations in December and has been accepting feedback during a consultation period that ended on Wednesday. The federal health agency expects to have the final version of regulations in place by October 17, the first anniversary of legalization.

But provisions in the draft regulations require that products not be appealing to children and prohibit packages from advertising dessert or confectionary flavors. They also must be shelf-stable and not “encourage overconsumption.” Although Health Canada has confirmed that ingredients such as chocolate and sugar will be allowed, edibles must not feature ingredients, shapes, colors, flavors, packaging, or labeling that would appeal to children. Jessika Villano, the owner of Buddha Barn dispensary in Vancouver, fears that the rules will mean tasty products won’t be permitted.

“They’re proposing that we sell sand,” Villano said. “I think a lot of adults would like to have cannabis sugar in their tea.”

‘Environmental Nightmare’

Additional proposed rules stipulate that no more than 10 milligrams of THC are allowed per edible serving and that each serving must be sold separately in child-resistant packaging. With some medical marijuana patients taking doses of 500 or even 1,000 milligrams of THC daily, Villano fears that the cost and all of the packaging will become overwhelming.

“I feel that Health Canada is creating an environmental nightmare,” Villano said.

Andrew Grieve, the CEO of cannabis edibles manufacturer Zenabis Global Inc. said that his company had plans to produce multi-serving packages in an effort to reduce packaging.

“We’ve been working really hard to reduce our packaging overall,” Grieve said. “We’ve been making progress on that point. From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, we think it is very important to reduce packaging wherever possible.”

Tammy Jarbeau, a spokeswoman for the health department, said in a statement that the rules were intended to prevent accidental consumption and lessen the appeal to youth and challenged the industry to devise compliant packaging.

“Health Canada welcomes licensed processors to use innovative and environmentally sound packaging approaches, provided the requirements in the regulations are satisfied,” she said.

Yannick Craigwell of edibles company Treatsandtreats offers products for medical cannabis patients with up to 220 milligrams of THC. He fears that the over-regulation of cannabis will enable the illicit market to continue to survive.

“If there’s a need, people are going to fill that need. If there’s a financial reward for filling that need, that’s the whole premise of the black market,” Craigwell said.

Bruce Linton, the CEO of Canopy Growth Corp., said that despite the criticism, “in the context of how governments normally work, this is astounding. The government of Canada has come up with how you can drink and eat and vape cannabis and are regulating it at a federal level and are selling it through provincially controlled stores. Are you sure we’re not making all this stuff up?”

While Vilano has made her concerns known during the consultation period, she isn’t convinced that regulators will take them into account.

“I don’t feel like anybody’s been listening. I feel a little bit deflated, actually,” she said.

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In Delaware, Some Past Marijuana Convictions Can Now Be Expunged

Last week, Delaware Gov. John Carney signed into law a bill that allows hundreds of Delawareans to clear their records of marijuana possession convictions.

The new law applies to individuals who have a single conviction on their record. A second conviction, whether it’s marijuana-related or otherwise, would disqualify the individual.

Delaware decriminalized simple possession of marijuana back in 2015, but records from old marijuana charges can shut the door on opportunities.

Now, individuals with a single conviction for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana automatically qualify to clear their record.

To receive an expungement, individuals first request their certified records from the State Bureau of Identification. Then, they pay a fee and fill out a form to apply for mandatory expungement.

The expungement forms are on the Courts website, under the Superior Court heading, and are listed by county.

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New York State District Attorney Dismisses 35 Marijuana Possession Warrants

The district attorney’s office of New York’s Erie County will be dismissing 35 outstanding bench warrants for low-level charges of possession of marijuana, it was announced Friday. The decision was compelled by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s announcement that the city’s police department would no longer be enforcing low-level cannabis-related crimes.

“As legalization discussions continue in Albany, I am relieving a burden on those individuals who may have these charges hanging over their heads in the interest of justice,” District Attorney John Flynn said at a Friday press conference. “I do not believe people should find themselves in the criminal justice system and unable to apply for employment, student loans, or other services because of a low-level marijuana charge.”

Flynn said his next step will be his office staff going to “every town and village court” in Erie County to get their list of outstanding low-level cannabis bench warrants in order to dismiss them.

Though the district attorney told reporters he was unwilling to voice an opinion on marijuana legalization, he was appreciative of the fact that there is a “social justice component” to ending cannabis prohibition.

“The evidence is clear and the numbers are there,” he said. “You can’t hide facts that there is a disproportionate number of minorities who are arrested for low-level marijuana offenses. The facts show that both whites and non-whites use marijuana equally, so there’s a problem there.”

Of the 35 bench warrants that were dismissed, he continued, 28 involved defendants of color.

Also during the press conference, Flynn name-checked Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who announced in December that his office would be letting Brooklynites file a motion to get their minor pot charges dropped. At the time, Gonzalez also cited the racial disparities of the justice system as a prime motivator for the policy change. “I do not believe that pursuing those cases makes us safer, and because I recognize that the racial disparities in enforcement with respect to these offenses remained intractable.”

When making decisions on cannabis policing, New York law enforcement is clearly cognizant of the fact that regulation change seems to be on its way. In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo included key points on a plan to legalize marijuanacomplete with potential tax rates, in his State of the State address.

Of all the reasons to legalize marijuana, Governor Cuomo seems to be most attracted to the green in the green. He also shared the fact that up to $300 million a year could be expected in taxes by legalizing recreational cannabis to adults over the age of 21. This week, documents surfaced revealing that Cuomo is being lobbied by at least one cannabis business association to ban home grows, though there is no proof that the governor himself is in favor of the money grab for the commercial industry.

Cuomo made recreational cannabis a goal for the 100 days of his current term, famously changed his mind on cannabis legalization last year during actress Cynthia Nixon’s primary challenge. Hopes are high that a cannabis regulatory program budget could be approved by New York’s congress by the start of the fiscal year.

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Cannabis Lozenge Associated With Reduced Opioid Use

HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA — Patients who consume plant-derived cannabis extracts in the form of an oral lozenge report reductions in chronic pain and opioid use, according to clinical data published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

Investigators from the United States, the Netherlands, and Spain assessed the safety and efficacy of the Trokie brand lozenge in a cohort of medical cannabis patients in California. The lozenges contained standardized quantities of THC and/or CBD.

Researchers reported: “[T]he use of Trokie® lozenges is associated with a self-reported pain reduction in chronic, non-cancer pain patients. … [T]he proportion of participants reducing or discontinuing opiate analgesics was … 84 percent, similar to what has been previously found in a study based on patient self-reports. … [T]he findings support the need for conducting a phase 1 clinical trial to formally characterize the pharmacokinetic profile of Trokie® lozenges in humans.”

Several prior studies have similarly reported that chronic pain patients enrolled in state-sponsored medical cannabis access programs reduce or eliminate their use of opioids over time.

Full text of the study, “Self-reported effectiveness and safety of Trokie® lozenges: A standardized formulation for the buccal delivery of cannabis extracts,” appears in Frontiers in Neuroscience.

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Almost Three Million Wisconsin Voters to Consider Legalization Questions on Election Day

This November, ballot measures in 15 counties and two cities will allow voters to weigh in on marijuana policies in Wisconsin. The results could serve as a springboard for reform.

The non-binding, advisory questions vary by jurisdiction — with some concerning medical cannabis and some focusing on legalizing marijuana for adults’ use.

Voters will consider ballot measures in the cities of Racine and Waukesha, as well as the following counties: Brown, Clark, Dane, Eau Claire, Forest, Kenosha, La Crosse, Langlade, Marathon, Marquette, Milwaukee, Portage, Racine, Rock, and Sauk.

Here’s the full list of confirmed county ballot questions, as compiled by Marijuana Moment:

  • Brown CountyShould cannabis be legalized in Wisconsin for medicinal purposes, and regulated in the same manner as other prescription drugs?
  • Clark County: Should the State of Wisconsin legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes and regulate its use in the same manner as other prescription drugs?
  • Dane CountyShould marijuana be legalized, taxed and regulated in the same manner as alcohol for adults 21 years of age or older?
  • Eau Claire CountyShould cannabis:
    (a) Be legal for adult, 21years of age and older, recreational or medical use, taxed and regulated like alcohol, with the proceeds from the taxes used for education, healthcare, and infrastructure in Wisconsin?
    (b) Be legal for medical purposes only and available only by prescription through a medical dispensary?
    (c) Remain a criminally illegal drug as provided under current law?
  • Forest County: Should the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
  • Kenosha County: Should the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
  • La Crosse CountyShould the State of Wisconsin legalize the use of marijuana by adults 21 years or older, to be taxed and regulated in the same manner that alcohol is regulated in the State of Wisconsin, with proceeds from taxes used for education, healthcare, and infrastructure?
  • Langlade County: Should the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
  • Lincoln County: Should the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
  • Marathon CountyShould the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
  • Marquette CountyResolved, that “We the People” of Marquette County, Wisconsin support the right of its citizens to acquire, possess and use medical cannabis upon the recommendation of a licensed physician, and;
    Be It Further Resolved, that we strongly support a statewide referendum Wisconsin to join the thirty-two (32) states that have already approved the use of medical cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain, several debilitating diseases and disabling symptoms.
  • Milwaukee CountyDo you favor allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana, while also regulating commercial marijuana-related activities, and imposing a tax on the sale of marijuana?
  • Portage CountyShould the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical [treatment] purposes, if those individuals have a written [treatment] recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
  • Racine CountyQuestion No. 1: “Should marijuana be legalized for medicinal use?
    Question No. 2: Should marijuana be legalized, taxed, and regulated in the same manner as alcohol for adults 21 years of age or older?
    Question No. 3: Should proceeds from marijuana taxes be used to fund education, health care, and infrastructure?”
  • Rock CountyShould cannabis be legalized for adult use, taxed and regulated like alcohol, with the proceeds from the Taxes used for education, healthcare, and infrastructure?
  • Sauk County: Should the state of Wisconsin legalize medical marijuana so that people with debilitating medical conditions may access medical marijuana if they have a prescription from a licenses Wisconsin physician?

These cities will vote on marijuana advisory questions:

  • Racine: Should cannabis be legalized for adult recreational use in Wisconsin?
    Should cannabis be legalized for medical use in Wisconsin?
    Should cannabis sales be taxed and the revenue from such taxes be used for public education, health care, and infrastructure in Wisconsin?
    Should cannabis be decriminalize in the State of Wisconsin?
  • Waukesha: Should cannabis be legalized in Wisconsin for medicinal purposes, and regulated in the same manner as other prescription drugs

If you are not already registered to vote, you can register here. For more information on registration deadlines, visit this page.

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Another Former House Republican is Joining the Cannabis Industry • High Times

Former House of Representatives member Rob Curbelo, a Republican from Florida, has signed on as a senior advisor with the Cannabis Trade Federation, it was announced on Thursday. Curbelo said in a press release that his experience as a legislator with the non-profit cannabis industry advocacy group led to him joining its executive team.

“During my time in Congress, I worked closely with the Cannabis Trade Federation,” Curbelo said. “Today, I am joining CTF’s team because I know that they are the most effective cannabis industry lobby and that they have the resources, talent, and professional acumen needed to pass game-changing reform at the federal level.”

Curbelo served two terms in the House representing Florida’s 26th congressional district, until losing his bid for re-election in last year’s midterm contests to Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. During his tenure as a representative, Curbelo supported cannabis policy reform, including an unsuccessful attempt to exempt cannabis companies with state licenses from tax code section 280E, which denies firms deductions common in most industries. He was also a co-sponsor of the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would protect states with cannabis regulation from interference by the federal government.

“In my home state of Florida, 71 percent voted in favor of legalizing medical cannabis, and voters in 33 states and D.C. have also decided to legalize cannabis in some capacity. This is a states’ rights issue. That’s why I was an original co-sponsor of the STATES Act and why I continue to support the goals of this legislation today.”

Neal Levine, the CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation, believes Curbelo was a commanding advocate for cannabis reform during his time in Congress. “As a member of our Executive Team, he will continue to be the voice of states’ cannabis rights and will be an essential part of our organization’s strategic growth,” Levine added.

Former Republican House Speaker Also Now Cannabis Advocate

Curbelo isn’t the first former House Republican to find a role in the country’s nascent cannabis industry. Ohio Republican and former Speaker of the House John Boehner is a member of the board of directors of cannabis firm Acreage Holdings. The company, which began as High Street Capital Partners in 2014, went public in the Canadian over the counter markets last year. Acreage Holdings has a market capitalization of approximately $2.4 billion, making it one of the largest cannabis companies in the United States.

Boehner has also signed on to an industry trade group. Earlier this month, he was named as the honorary chairman of the National Cannabis Roundtable, a group lobbying for marijuana policy reform. He will not serve as a registered lobbyist but will act as an adviser to the group.

“As the cannabis industry grows and matures, it’s vital that we work together for a common-sense legal framework for cannabis policy,” Boehner said in a press release.

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