Trump Says He Will Probably Support Marijuana Legalization Bill

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE)

 

Trump Defies Sessions by Saying He Will ‘Probably’ Support Marijuana Bill

The president appears to be joining a group of lawmakers pushing back on the attorney general’s marijuana policy

Could Trump really support a bill that would end federal marijuana prohibition? Evan Vucci/AP/REX Shutterstock

Before heading on a trip abroad that will take him to the G-7 summit in Canada on Friday, and then to Singapore to meet with Kim Jong-un early next Tuesday, President Trump hinted that he is likely to support a bill introduced Thursday that would protect state marijuana laws from federal interference. “I really do,” Trump said when asked outside the White House on Friday whether supports the bill, which was co-authored by Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado. “I support Senator Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting it, yes.”

Though over half of all states have passed some form of legislation legalizing marijuana, the drug is still illegal under federal law, which classifies it as a Schedule I narcotic along with heroin, LSD and other drugs the government deem to have “no currently accepted medical use.” Marijuana business is growing rapidly in states where it is legal, but federal restrictions have led to a number of complications. Most banks, for instance, refuse to have relationships with marijuana-related companies, for fear prosecution from federal law enforcement.

“There are federal laws about not being able to put your money into banks if the money comes from illegal activities,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, who co-authored the bill with Gardner, explained Thursday morning on MSNBC. “So long as the sale of marijuana is illegal at the federal level, that means that marijuana stores that are perfectly legal in Colorado or Massachusetts or other states have to do an all-cash business. It’s dangerous and it’s dumb.”

The STATES – or Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States – Act would remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances in states where it is legal, and allow financial institutions to deal with marijuana businesses as long as those business are legal under state law. The Tenth Amendment reserves that states are in control of all “powers” not outlined in the Constitution. “Our founders intended the states to be laboratories of democracy and many states right now find themselves deep in the heart of that laboratory, but its created significant conflict between state law [and] federal law,” Gardner said alongside Warren as they introduced the bill on Thursday.

Though the bill would largely strip away federal influence from how states are able to enforce their marijuana laws, there are a few caveats. The bill holds that employees of marijuana businesses must be 18 years or older, and that recreational marijuana may only be sold to people 21 and over. It also stipulates that dispensaries may not be set up at rest stops along interstate highways.

Though the president has in the past voiced a desire to leave marijuana legalization up to the states, many have wondered if this latest expression of support may be a result of his intensifying feud with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who is a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization and has used his position as the government’s chief legal authority to crack down on convictions related to the drug. In January, Sessions put an end to an Obama administration policy that limited the degree to which federal authorities could enforce marijuana law in states where the drug was legal. Gardner, whose home state of Colorado has legalized recreational use of marijuana, criticized the move immediately.

Cory Gardner

@SenCoryGardner

This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.

Cory Gardner

@SenCoryGardner

I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.

Gardner isn’t the only lawmaker pushing back against Sessions’s draconian stance on the drug, and those supporting reform have stressed the bipartisan nature of their efforts. In April, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and California Democrat Kamala Harris wrote a letter to the attorney general asking him to cease blocking research in to marijuana’s medicinal properties. As Gardner and Warren introduced the STATES bill on Friday, Representatives Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, and David Joyce, a Republican from Ohio, introduced a companion bill in the House. At a news conference Thursday, Warren said, “lining them up like Noah’s Ark as they come on two-by-two,” in reference to her and Gardner’s desire to match each of the bill’s co-sponsors with one from the other party.

Despite the attorney general’s vigilant opposition to any form of legalized pot Gardner has said he’s received multiple assurances from President Trump that he would support a bill giving power back to the states, and the president’s comments Friday morning reinforce the belief that he will ultimately endorse the bill. Trump has in recent months made good on several controversial campaign promises, including removing American from the Iran deal and relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Marijuana reform could soon be added to the list.

“In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” Trump told the Washington Post while campaigning back in 2015. “Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen – right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”

Brooking’s Institute looks at the human side of medical cannabis policy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

FIXGOV

In a new documentary short, Brooking’s looks at the human side of medical cannabis policy

John Hudak and George Burroughs

Medical cannabis is an increasingly available, alternative medicine that tens of thousands of Americans are turning to in an effort to get relief from their symptoms. Jennifer Collins is one such patient. On Wednesday, Brookings released “The Life She Deserves,” a documentary short profiling Jennifer’s struggle with an epilepsy disorder and with the public policies that have stood between her and the medical intervention her doctors recommended. In Brookings’s first use of this medium, the film tells both a personal and a policy story, highlighting the human side of a public policy failure.

Jennifer’s Story

At a young age, Jennifer was diagnosed with Jeavons Syndrome, an epilepsy disorder characterized by frequent seizures that often present as a fluttering of the eyes. During these seizures, Jennifer loses awareness of her surroundings. Those smaller seizures—which can number in the hundreds per day—can also cluster into a more serious and dangerous grand mal seizure, of which Jennifer has suffered many.

With the diagnosis, Jennifer’s doctors began a standard pharmaceutical regimen that ultimately culminated in more than a dozen pills daily and maximum adult doses of powerful anti-seizure medications. Those medicines came with side effects that included mania and suicidal ideation. Ultimately, pharmaceuticals were unable to help with Jennifer’s seizures and the side effects became overwhelming. Desperate for a solution, Jennifer’s parents read online about children moving to Colorado to access non-intoxicating, cannabis-based medicines to treat conditions like hers.

“The Life She Deserves” profiles the difficult choices the Collins family faced and explores what many patients and families sacrifice in order to get medical relief. Whether it is for a child with epilepsy, a young woman battling breast cancer, an Iraq War veteran with PTSD, or an elderly woman with chronic arthritis, accessing medical cannabis often requires weighing steep costs against the benefits.

Jennifer is a unique individual who has bravely fought both a chronic condition and a dysfunctional public policy system from a young age. Her story tells us as much about a strong young woman from Virginia facing a significant, ongoing health challenge as it does about a system of laws in which federal policy contradicts both itself and numerous state laws. Her story is one that is relatable to patients and the family members, friends, and colleagues of patients who see what Jennifer and her family have seen: cannabis-based medicines can provide relief in some patients. However, Jennifer’s story is not a unique one.

“The Life She Deserves” shows the overwhelming challenges that government can pose when it comes between doctors and patients, researchers and science. The film also highlights what has become a new normal in this country: the medical cannabis industry. Cannabis growers and sellers are not a group of sinister drug peddlers, operating in the shadows. The film highlights how a husband-wife duo responsibly cultivate cannabis in a heavily regulated system. And the seller is a rabbi who, inspired by his father-in-law’s decades-long battle with MS, opened a family business where he dispenses cannabis to a wide variety of patients—just a stone’s throw from the same institutions of government that label him a narco-trafficker.

Remarkably, in 2018, the idea of medical cannabis has become normal and mainstream. But as we explore in “The Life She Deserves,” the health challenges that draw people to it are devastating and the failure to implement effective policies forces them to make major sacrifices in order to access treatment they need.

A new format for Brookings analysis

It was clear that Brookings needed to explore a new medium beyond the white paper in order to peel back the stigma that continually cloaks medical cannabis. By producing a documentary, we were able to sit across the kitchen table from Beth and Pat Collins, at their home as they shared their difficult journey. We learned what the viewers of this film quickly learn: they’re just two parents who want to give their daughter a normal life. Because of this medium’s ability to create intimacy, the viewer gets see how government policy and the human experience collide to tell a compelling story. And Brookings is in a unique position for storytelling. The institution delivers in-depth analysis that can be presented with the human experience, positive or negative. What Brookings needed was a vehicle for such work. The documentary is precisely that vehicle.

In addition to home videos of Jen’s childhood and footage of Beth Collins testifying at the state legislature, maybe the most poignant moments in the film are of silence. In “The Life She Deserves” Jen reflects on the long road she’s traveled and where she is headed. When she pauses to collect her thoughts, in that silence we can see the severity of what she has been through—an emotion that words could not capture. At that moment we get a rigorously honest look at the pain she has experienced and the strength and courage it took to survive and talk about it. This is the power of storytelling and this is the power of the documentary. We live in a time when many in our country—on both sides of the aisle—see many areas of public policy as broken. Like Jen, millions of Americans feel the effects of those policy failures every day. The opportunity for effective policy storytelling has never been greater, and at Brookings we’re looking forward to telling many more.

Medical Cannabis: A Broken Policy

Authors

To those familiar with the world of medical cannabis, it is no secret that public policy in this area is broken. We have written extensively at Brookings about the numerous policy problems including banking, taxes, interstate access, and others. “The Life She Deserves” focuses on some of the most glaring issues facing patients themselves—an often-overlooked area. And the main issue that impacts patients, even more than access, is how little is known about how to maximize the benefits of cannabis to treat different conditions effectively. The U.S. government has made expanding that knowledge extraordinarily difficult.

Beyond the U.S. government declaring that the cannabis is illegal, federal policy also adds layers of bureaucracy that make research into the medical value of cannabis much harder. In fact, researching cannabis is more bureaucratically challenging than researching any other substance designated Schedule I—the nation’s highest level of drug control.

There is no excuse for a government that makes research more difficult to conduct. Those efforts are anti-science and ensure that politics influences the pursuit of scientific answers. Compounding the problem is that as more states pass reforms that label cannabis as medicine, there is increased demand for answers about the substance’s medical value. There is an ever-present and growing need to ask more questions about cannabis, not fewer. As more patients use this substance in an effort to relieve symptoms, the federal government should be committed to helping understand this area of science.

After all, what could the federal government fear from more research? In fact, no one in the nation—regardless of views on cannabis—should oppose expanded research. As we have written before, if you are an avowed opponent of cannabis and believe it is dangerous, it has no medical value, is highly addicting, and is a gateway drug, you should encourage more research that will demonstrate those findings. Those findings would be a wakeup call to many patients and, more importantly, to policy makers at the state level. For those who support medical cannabis and believe it is a miracle drug that can cure everything from a cough to cancer, you, too, should demand more research to demonstrate not simply medical value, but the precise ways in which cannabis interacts with bodily systems to provide relief and cures. Finally, if you don’t really care about cannabis, the current policy should bother you. Federal government intervention in science should terrify you.

When government impedes researchers from asking the questions they believe are important and conducting research in ways that their expertise and medical literature suggest are critical, the substance should not matter. The principle matters. In a time of an unpopular president, an embarrassingly unpopular Congress, and trust in government at near-historic lows, who should you trust to steer the ship of science: a physician and medical researcher from Michigan or a guy who happens to represent Kalamazoo in Congress?

As Patrick and Beth Collins note in “The Life She Deserves,” one of the biggest challenges facing medical cannabis patients is a lack of understanding about exactly which cannabis-based products assist with which conditions. There is also a deficit of information about dosing, interactions, side effects, and a host of other characteristics that patients are used to knowing about medicines that they take. Part of the blame rests with states moving forward to bring to market cannabis-based medicines without their enduring the normal regulatory processes we expect in the United States. However, much of the blame rests with a federal government that has allowed a racially-motivated, institutionally perpetuated policy overwhelm a commonsense approach that would remove unnecessary bureaucracy from blocking research.

Many patients will tell you that there is no question that cannabis helps them (although there are a number of patients who will also say that it does little for them). The biggest question that remains, however, is whether the federal government will stop politicizing research and help facilitate answers to the questions that patients are demanding.

The human cost of leaving patients and families to fend for themselves is clear, in Jen’s case as we see in “The Life She Deserves,” and in countless other households.

Veterans Overwhelmingly Favor Medical Marijuana

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK & PURPOSE’)

 

Veterans Overwhelmingly Favor Medical Marijuana. When Will VA And Lawmakers Get On Board?

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An overwhelming majority of U.S. military veterans and veteran caregivers support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, according to a new national poll by Five Corner Strategies conducted on behalf of the American Legion — and veterans aren’t going to stop until the Department of Veterans Affairs starts taking medical marijuana research seriously.

The poll found that while 82% of respondents supported the legalization of medical cannabis, a whopping 92% supported expanded research into the medical benefits of the drug. And that attitude cuts across political boundaries: 88% of respondents who self-identified as “conservative” and 90% of self-identified “liberals” supported a federal legalization effort.

Medical cannabis is currently only legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia; yet, it is unlawful for VA doctors to prescribe it since marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance — forcing vets to use medical cannabis at their own risk or not at all. Further, shortfalls in funding, restrictive eligibility criteria for a recently approved federal study specific to vets, and little support from the VA has prevented any policies from moving forward in Washington, despite a growing acceptance of marijuana to mitigate pain and mental-health issues.

RELATED: LAWMAKERS ARE URGING THE VA TO TAKE MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR VETERANS SERIOUSLY »

According to the American Legion’s new poll, one in five veterans surveyed consume marijuana “to alleviate a medical or physical condition.” Ironically, the majority of those using medicinal pot are over the age of 60, despite support for the practice declining among older respondents, where 100% of 18-30-year-old respondents favored federally legalized medical marijuana, only 79% of sexagenarians agreed.

Following the release of the poll, conducted by national PulsePoint IVR on 802 self-identified veterans (513 respondents) and veteran caregivers (289) between Oct. 8 and Oct. 10, 2017, on Capitol Hill on Nov. 2, the American Legion, in conjunction with members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, called upon Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to push for new research despite an increasingly obstinate approach to legalization by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“In order to keep veterans safe, we need to listen then,” Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat from California and vice ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, told the assembled crowd. “When a majority of veterans say medical cannabis has the potential to provide relief, we need to listen to them … If the VA’s research confirms that medical cannabis can be effective, it can have a transformative effect of veterans care while preventing veterans from lipping into the trap of opioid addiction.”

veterans medical marijuana research

The poll is the culmination of a growing push to change the federal government’s approach to veterans and medical marijuana. In a Oct. 26 letter to Shulkin, lawmakers on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs called on the VA to initiate renewed research into the medical benefits of legal cannabis, citing both a rising chorus of veterans advocacy organizations like the American Legion and the opioid epidemic that the Trump administration declared a national health emergency the same day.

While the VA has done little to move the needle on medical marijuana research, Shulkin has personally said he’s open to exploring alternative therapies, including medicinal weed, if they benefit veterans and their care.

“We are acutely aware of the work that’s going on around the country, particularly in states that have legalized medical marijuana,” Shulkin toldTask & Purpose in a June 12 interview. “And we are observing very closely work that’s being done that may be helping veterans, and we are open to any ideas and therapies that may be effective.”

VA Secretary David Shulkin on Medical Marijuana For Vets
In an exclusive sit-down interview with Task & Purpose June 12, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin made clear his department would pursue any emerging therapy with promise for disabled or troubled veterans — including medical marijuana. Here’s what he said.

National attitudes toward marijuana legalization have come a long way in recent years: According to an Oct. 25 Gallup poll conducted around the same time as the American Legion survey, a majority of registered Republicans are in support of marijuana legalization for the first time in a half-century. But even with public support for recreational marijuana legalization at an all-time high, only 64% are in favor of ending the federal prohibition on the substance — well below the levels of support detailed among veterans and military families in recent surveys.

While many veterans and doctors are already working to circumvent the VA’s existing medical marijuana policies, as Task & Purpose reported in October, it’s those changing attitudes among military and VA officials that will shape the course of medical marijuana research.

RELATED: HOW VETS AND THEIR DOCTORS ARE GETTING AROUND THE VA’S MEDICAL MARIJUANA POLICY »

“As we researched, we came across veterans who said that the only reason they were alive today and didn’t commit suicide was because they found medical cannabis,” Lou Celli, the American Legion’s national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation, said on Nov. 2. “But you and I know we can’t change policy based on anecdotes. We need facts in order to have a meaningful discussion. And in order to get evidence and facts, we must do clinical research.”

WATCH NEXT:

VA Secretary Shulkin: ‘I’ll Have The Veterans’ Backs’
In an exclusive interview with Task & Purpose June 12, VA Secretary David M. Shulkin emphasized the importance of keeping a strong VA — and not privatizing all its services — to foster deeper trust between service members and the nation they serve.

 

Jared Keller is a senior editor at Task & Purpose and contributing editor at Pacific Standard. Follow Jared Keller on Twitter @JaredBKeller
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How Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Use; Saves Lives, Money

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘INSURANCE JOURNAL’)

(SIMPLY PUT: JEFF SESSIONS AND DONALD TRUMP ARE IDIOTS AND MORONS ON POWER TRIPS)

How Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Use; Saves Lives, Money

By  | April 3, 2018

Medical marijuana laws could be a boon to those battling the opioid epidemic, according to researchers who have identified a link between increased access to medical marijuana and a reduction in opioid prescriptions.

The studies suggest medical marijuana laws (MMLs) have helped save and could continue to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars now being lost to opioid addiction.

There is a downside: The promise of MMLs in reducing opioid use shows up thus far in urban areas, but not in rural America.

The marijuana laws have an effect similar to when any replacement for a drug is introduced, say researchers. In this case, marijuana appears to be a substitute for opioids as a pain medication in many cases.

This week the JAMA’s Journal of Internal Medicine published two studies that conclude that medical marijuana (or medical cannabis) laws have the potential to reduce opioid prescriptions. One study looked at Medicare Part D patient data and the other at Medicaid enrollee data.

The Medicare study (Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population by Ashley C. Bradford, BA; W. David Bradford, PhD; Amanda Abraham, PhD; and Grace Bagwell Adams, PhD, at the University of Georgia) found that opioid prescriptions fell in states that permit medical marijuana. Prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state instituted any medical cannabis law. Prescriptions for all opioids decreased by 3.742 million daily doses per year when medical cannabis dispensaries opened.

A second JAMA Journal study (Association of Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws With Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees, by Hefei Wen, PhD, and Jason M. Hockenberry, PhD, Department of Health Management & Policy, University of Kentucky College of Public Health) found that “medical and adult-use marijuana laws have the potential to reduce opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a segment of population with disproportionately high risk for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose.” Using Medicaid prescription data for 2011 to 2016, the researchers found lower opioid prescribing rates where there were medical marijuana laws (5.88 percent lower) and adult-use marijuana laws (6.38 percent lower).

One of the MML researchers, Dr. W. David Bradford, discussed his past and recent research into medical marijuana and opioid prescriptions as well as other research at the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) annual symposium last week in Boston.

Among Bradford’s observations: the effect of MMLs on lowering opioid prescribing, while encouraging, is not fairly distributed.

“All of this is happening in urban areas. We can find no benefit, in this or any of our studies in rural America. As is often the case, people in rural sections of the country are getting a little left out from innovations,” Bradford said.

Bradford is the George D. Busbee Chair in Public Policy at the University of Georgia and former director and founder of the Center for Health Economic Policy Studies at the Medical University of South Carolina. He has been a visiting faculty member at Yale Medical School, and a tenured faculty member in the Department of Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Bradford has over 70 publications.

Bradford and his fellow researchers, including his daughter who is also a professor, looked at whether medical marijuana is being used as a substitute for other pain medications including opioids, as well as the effect this usage has on spending and on opioid mortality.

“We wanted to compare changes in pain medication use for people in states that don’t have medical cannabis and how those changes compare to the changes for people in states with medical cannabis laws,” he said of their first foray into the field.

They considered whether the state allows home cultivation or requires dispensaries. With dispensary-based distribution, it’s a lot easier to have “surety of the supply, a lot easier to get very finely defined hybrids that have the particular mix of cannabinoids,” according to Bradford.

They reviewed Medicare Part D enrollee data from 2010 to 2014 and then later updated this to include 2015 data. The number of states with an MML grew from 15 in 2010 to 24 over these years. They compared physician prescriptions in states with and without an MML for nine drug groupings: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity.

In their analysis, they found that the use of prescription pain drugs fell significantly after a medical marijuana law went into effect. There were 1,230 fewer annual doses for all pain medications for these conditions per physician under all medical marijuana laws. They found 2,338 fewer daily doses per year for dispensary-based laws and 1,193 fewer daily doses per year for home-cultivation-only laws.

In their recent follow-up research, they focused specifically on opioid prescriptions. They found about a nine percent reduction in opioid prescriptions under any MML – but a higher 14 percent reduction in states with dispensaries. There was about a seven percent reduction in home cultivation states.

As Bradford puts it, when MMLs are implemented, use of prescription drugs falls “just as would happen if any effective new drug were approved by the FDA [Federal Drug Administration].”

Bradford and his colleagues did similar research using Medicaid data and came to the same conclusion that MMLs reduce use of prescriptions and opioids.

However, one troubling finding is that nearly all of the effect is happening in counties with more than 50,000 residents. “There was no benefit for rural counties,” he said.

They also calculated the financial impact. The combined 2014 savings to Medicare and Medicaid were $1.04 billion for states that had MMLs. Bradford said this could have been savings of $3.4 billion if all states had an MML.

“So these are nontrivial savings to Medicaid and Medicare – about one and a half percent of prescription spending is possibly diverted away from the programs,” he said, noting that the enrollees are the ones paying for the marijuana, not the payers.

Opioid-Related Deaths

They also have conducted research that is under review on the effect of MMLs on opioid-related deaths, using data on all non-heroin opiate related deaths for all 3,144 counties in the U.S. from 2000 to 2015. For all prescription opioid related deaths, they found: statistically significant reductions in mortality associated with any MML for all years from 2010 to 2015 in all counties together and no statistically significant effects in rural counties. For only non-synthetic opioid related deaths (i.e., no fentanyl) they found statistically significant reductions in mortality associated with any MML and with dispensary-based laws for all years from 2010 to 2015 in all counties together.

“We’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of a 20 to 30 percent reduction in mortality over what it would be,” Bradford said.

Bradford referred to a 2014 study by researchers at Albert Einstein Medical School in New York that also found a connection between MML states and a reduction in opioid deaths. This study (Study on the relationship between medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose deaths) reviewed 1999-2010 data from 23 states with MMLs. The authors compared opioid overdose death rates in states with medical cannabis programs to overdose deaths rates in states with no cannabis laws. They found about a 25 percent reduction, which translated to an estimated 1,729 fewer deaths than expected. The authors excluded opioid deaths from suicide and included overdose deaths related to heroin, since heroin and prescription opioid use are interrelated for some individuals.

“It looks like access to cannabis, when you design the policies appropriately, can save both lives and money,” Bradford told the WCRI audience.

“But again, in rural counties, there is zero estimated effect. We’re not finding any benefit in terms of mortality for the rural counties,” he reiterated.

Federal Marijuana Policy

Currently cannabis is listed in the Controlled Substances Act under Schedule 1, which means that it is a drug along with LSD, peyote heroin and others that have been “deemed to have no medically recognized uses and a high potential for abuse and therefore completely illegal.” It’s the most restrictive category. Physicians cannot prescribe cannabis, people cannot possess it, no one can sell it under federal law.

The view that marijuana has no medically recognized uses was challenged in January of 2017, when the National Academy of Scientific Engineering and Medicine published what Bradford considers a landmark study. The NAS reviewed more than 10,000 peer-reviewed clinical publications to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to draw conclusions regarding the medical application of cannabis.

“What they concluded is that there is indeed conclusive evidence that there are benefits to cannabis for chronic pain in adults, for nausea associated with chemotherapy and for spasticity and seizures. There is moderate evidence for many other conditions,” Bradford said.

The 2017 NAS report is “quite good evidence that cannabis is useful and, of course, what this implies is that a fine reading of the Controlled Substances Act would reschedule cannabis away from Schedule 1 and then to probably a 3 or a 4. That would be a level that physicians could prescribe it and could get involved.”

The Trump Administration has taken a harder line against legalized marijuana than did the Obama Administration, thereby complicating how medical marijuana laws and usage may play out. Currently 29 states and D.C., representing two-thirds of the U.S. population, have some form of medical cannabis law that runs counter to federal policy.

Public opinion on the subject has largely been supportive of legalizing marijuana for medical use. A January Quinnipiac Poll found that 91 percent of Americans support allowing people with their doctor’s assistance to get access to cannabis. The same poll found voters oppose 70 to 23 percent enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

Workers’ Comp Reimbursement

The workers’ compensation industry has generally been focused on the impact of medical marijuana on employees and safety in the workplace. As Bradford noted, patients, not insurers, are typically the ones now paying for their medical marijuana, even where it is a replacement for an opioid prescription.

There have been several court decisions approving reimbursement by health insurers or self-insured employers but for the most part states have remained silent on the matter of if and when reimbursement by an insurer or workers’ compensation carrier is allowed or required.

However, even in this uncertain legal environment, medical marijuana is gaining traction as an accepted treatment paid for by workers’ compensation, at least anecdotally, according to experts in a recent Claims Journal interview.

Brian Allen, vice president of government affairs for Mitchell, and Mark Pew, senior vice president of PRIUM, a division of Genex Services, said there is some reimbursement for medical marijuana being done on a voluntary basis when it is deemed a reasonable and necessary treatment. “The decision is really based on whether that patient is achieving benefit from it,” Pew said.

Pew said that carriers paying for medical marijuana treatment are not necessarily making it public.

When such cases reach courts, Allen thinks judges will be reluctant to get in the middle of a doctor-patient relationship. “I think the courts are going to defer to the doctors every time,” said Allen.

Pew agrees. “I think any court is probably going to lean towards the anecdotal story of the individual patient and if it’s helping with their pain and it’s reasonable and necessary based on the advice of doctors in that state,” he told Claims Journal. “I would assume that most states are going to come to that same conclusion.”

While marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, the Trump Administration has indicated that marijuana enforcement will be at the discretion of local assistant U.S. attorneys. Allen believes it’s unlikely they will pursue a medical marijuana case, unless there is some “egregious abuse.”

Both agree that for marijuana to become a more widely accepted alternative to opioids, researchers will have to shed light on the drug’s side effects. “They talk about the pluses. We really don’t hear a lot about the minuses, and we know there are some out there,” Allen said.

Pew believes more research needs to be done into the many chemicals within marijuana. “Just saying we’re going to reclassify marijuana or make it legal — it’s much more complicated,” Pew said.

Related:

Veterans Overwhelmingly Favor Medical Marijuana

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK & PURPOSE’)

 

Veterans Overwhelmingly Favor Medical Marijuana. When Will VA And Lawmakers Get On Board?

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An overwhelming majority of U.S. military veterans and veteran caregivers support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, according to a new national poll by Five Corner Strategies conducted on behalf of the American Legion — and veterans aren’t going to stop until the Department of Veterans Affairs starts taking medical marijuana research seriously.

The poll found that while 82% of respondents supported the legalization of medical cannabis, a whopping 92% supported expanded research into the medical benefits of the drug. And that attitude cuts across political boundaries: 88% of respondents who self-identified as “conservative” and 90% of self-identified “liberals” supported a federal legalization effort.

Medical cannabis is currently only legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia; yet, it is unlawful for VA doctors to prescribe it since marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance — forcing vets to use medical cannabis at their own risk or not at all. Further, shortfalls in funding, restrictive eligibility criteria for a recently approved federal study specific to vets, and little support from the VA has prevented any policies from moving forward in Washington, despite a growing acceptance of marijuana to mitigate pain and mental-health issues.

RELATED: LAWMAKERS ARE URGING THE VA TO TAKE MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR VETERANS SERIOUSLY »

According to the American Legion’s new poll, one in five veterans surveyed consume marijuana “to alleviate a medical or physical condition.” Ironically, the majority of those using medicinal pot are over the age of 60, despite support for the practice declining among older respondents, where 100% of 18-30-year-old respondents favored federally legalized medical marijuana, only 79% of sexagenarians agreed.

Following the release of the poll, conducted by national PulsePoint IVR on 802 self-identified veterans (513 respondents) and veteran caregivers (289) between Oct. 8 and Oct. 10, 2017, on Capitol Hill on Nov. 2, the American Legion, in conjunction with members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, called upon Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to push for new research despite an increasingly obstinate approach to legalization by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“In order to keep veterans safe, we need to listen then,” Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat from California and vice ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, told the assembled crowd. “When a majority of veterans say medical cannabis has the potential to provide relief, we need to listen to them … If the VA’s research confirms that medical cannabis can be effective, it can have a transformative effect of veterans care while preventing veterans from lipping into the trap of opioid addiction.”

veterans medical marijuana research

The poll is the culmination of a growing push to change the federal government’s approach to veterans and medical marijuana. In a Oct. 26 letter to Shulkin, lawmakers on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs called on the VA to initiate renewed research into the medical benefits of legal cannabis, citing both a rising chorus of veterans advocacy organizations like the American Legion and the opioid epidemic that the Trump administration declared a national health emergency the same day.

While the VA has done little to move the needle on medical marijuana research, Shulkin has personally said he’s open to exploring alternative therapies, including medicinal weed, if they benefit veterans and their care.

“We are acutely aware of the work that’s going on around the country, particularly in states that have legalized medical marijuana,” Shulkin toldTask & Purpose in a June 12 interview. “And we are observing very closely work that’s being done that may be helping veterans, and we are open to any ideas and therapies that may be effective.”

VA Secretary David Shulkin on Medical Marijuana For Vets
In an exclusive sit-down interview with Task & Purpose June 12, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin made clear his department would pursue any emerging therapy with promise for disabled or troubled veterans — including medical marijuana. Here’s what he said.

National attitudes toward marijuana legalization have come a long way in recent years: According to an Oct. 25 Gallup poll conducted around the same time as the American Legion survey, a majority of registered Republicans are in support of marijuana legalization for the first time in a half-century. But even with public support for recreational marijuana legalization at an all-time high, only 64% are in favor of ending the federal prohibition on the substance — well below the levels of support detailed among veterans and military families in recent surveys.

While many veterans and doctors are already working to circumvent the VA’s existing medical marijuana policies, as Task & Purpose reported in October, it’s those changing attitudes among military and VA officials that will shape the course of medical marijuana research.

RELATED: HOW VETS AND THEIR DOCTORS ARE GETTING AROUND THE VA’S MEDICAL MARIJUANA POLICY »

“As we researched, we came across veterans who said that the only reason they were alive today and didn’t commit suicide was because they found medical cannabis,” Lou Celli, the American Legion’s national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation, said on Nov. 2. “But you and I know we can’t change policy based on anecdotes. We need facts in order to have a meaningful discussion. And in order to get evidence and facts, we must do clinical research.”

WATCH NEXT:

VA Secretary Shulkin: ‘I’ll Have The Veterans’ Backs’
In an exclusive interview with Task & Purpose June 12, VA Secretary David M. Shulkin emphasized the importance of keeping a strong VA — and not privatizing all its services — to foster deeper trust between service members and the nation they serve.

 

Jared Keller is a senior editor at Task & Purpose and contributing editor at Pacific Standard. Follow Jared Keller on Twitter @JaredBKeller
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Arizona Marijuana: Everything to Know About Marijuana Law in AZ

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FACEBOOK.COM)

 

Arizona Marijuana: Everything to Know About Marijuana Law in AZ

 6

Brandi Atkins, an Arizona resident and former dancer, was diagnosed in late 2015 with a rare autoimmune disease that made her joints and muscles swell, causing chronic pain. She popped in and out of the hospital with a cornucopia of prescription medications handed out to alleviate her pain, ease her symptoms, and navigate around her type 1 diabetes. These medications would often clash with her disease and cause her blood sugar to soar. In desperation, she turned to medical marijuana.

Almost immediately, Adkins noticed an improvement in balance, palatable reduction in pain, and (most importantly) hope for her future. The dispensary she visited took the time to understand her specific concerns, her goals, and the particulars of her health conditions. Thanks to medical marijuana, Adkins feels like she can dance again.

This hopeful scenario plays out in dispensaries across Arizona, where more than 100,000 patients suffering everything from epilepsy to chronic pain find relief through medical marijuana.

It’s an interesting situation: legalized medical marijuana and dispensaries in one of the United States’ most conservative territories. How do these conflicting events coexist? Have you ever wondered what exactly is the state of medical marijuana affairs in Arizona? Here’s our in-depth explanation of everything you always wanted to know about Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Laws (but were too afraid to ask).

The road to marijuana legalization in Arizona

When the federal government originally passed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, the predecessor to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, all American states had criminalized cannabis in one way or another. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Arizona state legislators began listening to decades-long calls for marijuana law reform.

In 1996, Arizona passed Proposition 200, allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana (specifically, controlled substances) to treat diseases or relieve pain in seriously/terminally ill patients. In order for a patient to use medical marijuana, a doctor had to provide scientific evidence to prove marijuana’s usefulness along with a second doctor’s opinion to the Arizona Department of Health Services. This caused conflict between supporters and opponents of medical marijuana, and started a lengthy battle over the law’s lack of specificity in addition to the language “prescribe.” For a doctor to prescribe medicine, the substance must first undergo FDA trials and doctors must specify the exact dosage and consumption methods to be used. Unfortunately, this rendered Prop 200 illegal on a federal scope and a medical marijuana program never materialized. It did, however, protect first-time drug offenders from prison sentences, which was a step towards decriminalization.

Arizona tried once more to legalize medical marijuana in 2002 with Proposition 203, but the initiative failed, receiving 42.7% of the vote. A viable solution was not presented and approved until nearly a decade later.

In 2010, Arizonans voted to approve a much-revised version of Proposition 203, an initiative to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana. Proposition 203 authorized doctors to recommend cannabis as a therapeutic option, as opposed to prescribing a specific dosage of cannabis with strict consumption or application methods. This law also tasked the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) to regulate the “Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.”

Arizona’s current marijuana policy

The ADHS had until April 2012 to establish a registration application system for patients and nonprofit marijuana dispensaries, as well as a web-based verification platform for use by law officials and dispensaries to verify a patient’s status as such. It also specified patients’ rights, qualifying medical conditions, and allowed out-of-state medical marijuana patients to maintain their patient status (though not to purchase cannabis).

On December 6, 2012, Arizona’s first licensed medical marijuana dispensary opened in Glendale.

In 2012, Arizona legislators amended the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act to include college and university campuses in their non-consumption list, even if the cardholder was over 21 years old. However, in April 2017, this ruling was overturned by the Arizona Court of Appeals, and though colleges can privately prohibit medical marijuana on campus, lawmakers cannot make campus cannabis use illegal.

The people of Arizona took advantage of the Department of Health’s qualifying condition appeal process in 2013 when they petitioned to include PTSD, migraines, and depression among the list of qualifying medical conditions. Following due process, the Director of the ADHS denied the petition.

prop 205 arizona

While it seemed like the Arizona population was becoming more tolerant of cannabis, it proved too soon to jump to recreational legalization. In 2016, Arizonans narrowly voted no on Prop 205 by a margin of 48:52, which would have legalized the adult use of marijuana. Ballotpedia attributes this loss to heavy early campaigning by opponents of recreational marijuana years before the election process. Opponents such as Insys, the creators of Fentanyl, lobbied heavily against recreational cannabis — their CBD medicine passed the first phases of FDA trials earlier in 2016. This loss resulted in a significant surge in new medical marijuana patients, many of whom were waiting to get their card only if the recreational law failed to pass.

Despite various lawmakers’ attempts to place limitations on Arizona’s medical marijuana law, the program is growing larger each year. As of late June 2017, there were 132,487 Arizona marijuana patients, 155 dispensary licenses (up from 124 at the law’s passage), and 881 patient caregivers.

The “Arizona Medical Marijuana Act”

The “Arizona Medical Marijuana Act,” or AMMA, empowers Arizona doctors to recommend medical marijuana as a viable treatment option for Arizona patients diagnosed with at least one qualifying medical condition. With this recommendation, a patient may apply for an Arizona Medical Marijuana Card, a card that allows patients to possess, purchase, and use medical marijuana.

2.5 oz of cannabis, up to 12 plants, deliveries of marijuana, 25 miles from a dispensary

Arizona marijuana patients or caregivers may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at any given time, and obtain 2.5 ounces in a 14-day period from an Arizona medical marijuana dispensary. Patients can also be authorized to grow up to 12 marijuana plants for their own use, or otherwise, find a caregiver to grow cannabis for them if they reside more than 25 miles from the nearest medical marijuana dispensary.

Living as a medical marijuana patient

chronic pain, alzheimers, cachxia, cancer, crohn's disease, glaucoma, hepatitis c, muscle spasms, nausea, ptsd, sclerosis, seizures, two or more conditions

For Arizonans like Brandi Atkins — mentioned at the beginning of this article — who think medical marijuana might be right for them, patients must receive a recommendation to use medical marijuana from a licensed Arizona physician. The patient must have one of the below qualifying medical conditions, and their physician must determine that the patient indeed has a qualifying condition. The written certification would state the doctor believes, in their professional opinion, the patient would likely receive therapeutic benefit from medical marijuana use.

Arizona’s list of debilitating qualifying conditions

ALS, alzheimer's disease, cancer, glaucoma, hiv/aids, hepatitis c, cachexia/wasting syndrome, muscle spasms, nausea, seizures, severe and chronic pain

Once a patient has received their written certification from an Arizona doctor, they may apply to the ADHS for a Registry Identification Card, a card that grants patients and caregivers the authority to possess, purchase, and use medical marijuana legally.

To apply for a Registry Identification Card, patients must submit their written certification, the application fee, their personal information, and a statement declaring they won’t use their medical marijuana for nefarious purposes (i.e. sell it to kids). If a minor wants to be a medical marijuana patient, there are stricter rules to follow before they can qualify for their card. The ADHS website explains the application process in more detail.

The most “caring” of the bunch

Some patients in critical need of cannabis are unable to travel easily to purchase or even consume cannabis without some assistance. Arizona included regulations to cover the people who would take care of these patients, known as Caregivers, allowing them to assist patients (up to five) in the medical use of marijuana.

Whether taking care of a child or an elderly parent, this endeavor is a huge responsibility. Caregivers need to educate themselves on the different aspects of marijuana, like different strains, consumption methods, and their patients’ specific health needs. Arizona caregivers must follow all the same regulations as patients, including registering with the ADHS and carrying an ID card.

Don’t worry, the law protects you!

As federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug (without medicinal value), Prop 203 and other medical cannabis laws were designed to protect citizens’ rights. Arizona medical marijuana patients are supposed to be treated like every other resident. The AMMA’s regulations protect the rights of patients and caregivers in certain circumstances:

  • A school or landlord may not refuse to enroll/lease to a qualifying patient unless failing to do so would incur ramifications under federal law.
  • Medical facilities cannot deny treatment to patients based on their status as a medical marijuana user.
  • Parental rights cannot be denied based on a parent’s status as an Arizona medical marijuana patient.

While these protections are essential, they do not provide for every eventuality. Employers may not discriminate against employees who are medical marijuana patients, and may not penalize them for a positive drug test. However, employees cannot use or possess marijuana during the hours of work. Employers may lawfully discipline and even terminate any employee who tests positive for marijuana if they used or possessed during work hours, even if the employee is a registered patient.

Despite nearly 20 years of progress toward decriminalization and regulation, Arizona is still one of the toughest states in the nation when it comes to marijuana. Even minor possession is a felony for those who aren’t medical marijuana patients, with a max sentence of 3.75 years and a $150,000 fine.

I’m a physician, what part do I play in medical marijuana?

“I have found in my study of these patients that Cannabis is really a safe, effective and non-toxic alternative to many standard medications.” -Philip Denney, MD, Testimony to the Arkansas legislature in support of House Bill 1303, “An Act to Permit the Medical Use of Marijuana,” Nov. 17, 2005.

Doctors are the gatekeepers to medical marijuana. In all medically legal states, doctors must fully evaluate their patients and determine whether cannabis is a fit for their medical needs and whether they have a qualifying condition. This places a lot of responsibility on doctors’ shoulders, which most Arizona doctors bear with professionalism and true concern for their patients. The physician must be a doctor of medicine, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, a naturopathic physician, or a homeopathic physician who holds a valid license to practice in Arizona.

medical marijuana doctors in arizona

Physicians meet patients, either in person or via telemedicine services, to determine if the patient has a qualifying condition before signing a written certification stating that, in their professional opinion, the patient has a qualifying condition and would likely receive therapeutic benefits from medical marijuana use.

However, Arizona courts have cracked down on some physicians who have turned their practices into “certification mills” due to their being no additional requirements for marijuana recommendations other than holding a valid license to practice medicine in Arizona.

Visiting from out of state?

Arizona allows non-Arizona medical marijuana patients the same rights and protections as Arizona citizens. This caveat makes sense … sort of.

The law states a Registry Identification Card, or its equivalent, issued by another state is valid in Arizona, except in that a visiting qualifying patient may not obtain marijuana from an Arizona marijuana dispensary.

This is a bit paradoxical. How is an out-of-state patient to access medical marijuana without purchasing from a dispensary or bringing it over state lines, which is federally illegal? Here’s how:

Another registered Arizona patient or designated caregiver can offer and provide medical marijuana so long as nothing of value is given in return, and the recipient doesn’t end up possessing more than 2.5 oz. of marijuana. This works, though it may be simpler to become a resident of Arizona.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary basics, keeping patients safe, obeying laws

inside a dispensary

All Arizona marijuana dispensaries are nonprofit organizations, a philosophy similar to out-of-state patients: “nothing of value may be exchanged for the transfer of medical marijuana.” While medical marijuana isn’t free, dispensaries may charge for medical marijuana as part of the expenses incurred during business operations. Patients can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks, either as flower or an equivalent amount in concentrate, edibles, or other cannabis product forms.

As marijuana is still federally illegal (and valuable), security remains a  top priority. Dispensaries are required to use the ADHS online verification system to confirm each Arizona marijuana patient’s status as a patient and the amount of marijuana purchased over the last 60 days. This system is password protected and will not allow any access through an unencrypted internet connection. This online system does not include patients’ addresses or other personal information.

Dispensaries are also required to have a strong security system for their facility, including a single secure entrance. Medicating on the premises is forbidden. These heavy requirements go hand-in-hand with Arizona officials’ concern that marijuana products will encourage theft, violence, or negligent/illegal use.

Don’t be afraid to ask about the future

Though Arizona’s medical marijuana laws are full of sticky, complicated red tape, the program’s existence is still a huge step forward in the crusade for national legalization. Suffering patients in Arizona can find medical relief with our favorite plant and still enjoy protection from the law. Hopefully, after reading our guide, you now understand the nuts and bolts of how medical marijuana regulations work in Arizona.

Still want more information? Check out the Arizona Department of Health Services website at www.azdhs.gov.


Sources:

https://azmarijuana.com/links/legal/

https://azmarijuana.com/news/proposition-203-arizona-medical-marijuana-act/

http://norml.org/legal/item/arizona-medical-marijuana

http://www.azdhs.gov/licensing/medical-marijuana/index.php

http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881#Arizona

http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona/2017/04/06/ruling-overturns-law-banning-medical-marijuana-arizona-college-campuses/100145648/

http://blog.norml.org/2011/05/16/alternet-the-five-worst-states-to-get-busted-with-pot/

http://www.azdhs.gov/documents/licensing/medical-marijuana/debilitating/2013-july/medical-marijuana-debilitating-medical-condition-decision-form-jan-2014.pdf

https://ballotpedia.org/Arizona_Marijuana_Legalization,_Proposition_205_(2016)

https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/arizona-ballot-measure-205-legalize-marijuana

http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2017/01/24/lawmakers-act-to-change-medical-marijuana-rules/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/09/a-maker-of-deadly-painkillers-is-bankrolling-the-opposition-to-legal-marijuana-in-arizona/?utm_term=.7428039f5547

https://www.forbes.com/sites/theemploymentbeat/2014/12/02/medical-marijuana-and-the-workplace-what-employers-need-to-know-now/#3ff5578b66b8

http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.source.php?sourceID=000593

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/arizonas-week-in-weed-pot-docs-cant-lie-on-forms-az-supreme-court-says-8277359

https://www.marijuana.com/news/2014/07/arizona-court-rules-that-medical-marijuana-patients-can-sell-weed-to-other-patients/

http://www.azdhs.gov/documents/licensing/medical-marijuana/reports/2016/2016-apr-monthly-report.pdf

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New York Health Dept. Proposes Medical Marijuana Improvements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MPP WEBSITE)

 

New York Health Dept. Proposes Medical Marijuana Improvements

 Aug 10, 2017  


The New York Department of Health proposed additional changes to the state’s medical marijuana program today. While the official proposed regulations will not be released until August 23, the changes appear to be very positive. Once the rules are released, the public will have 30 days to comment.
New forms of medicine would be allowed, including topicals and chewable lozenges, as well as “[c]ertain non-smokable forms of ground plant material,” which will hopefully be clarified in the full text of the regulations. Having whole plant cannabis available for vaporization could dramatically reduce prices for patients, and we will seek to make sure it’s permitted.
Other changes would reduce burdens on medical professionals, hopefully encouraging more of them to participate. For more information and the complete list of proposed changes, you can read the Department of Health’s full announcement.

West Virginia Becomes the 29th Medical Marijuana State

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MPP WEBSITE)

West Virginia Becomes the 29th Medical Marijuana State

Apr 19, 2017 , , , , , , , ,, ,


Today, West Virginia officially became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation!

Gov. Jim Justice signed the law today after the bipartisan bill passed both the Senate and House earlier this month.

While the law isn’t perfect, it’s a great start toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. A summary is available here.

This achievement didn’t happen overnight. In fact, MPP, along with many other advocates, has been working tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed for years.

MPP released the following in a press release:

“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs. Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.”

Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.

“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states. More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”

Apr 19, 2017 , , , , , , , ,, ,


Today, West Virginia officially became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation!

Gov. Jim Justice signed the law today after the bipartisan bill passed both the Senate and House earlier this month.

While the law isn’t perfect, it’s a great start toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. A summary is available here.

This achievement didn’t happen overnight. In fact, MPP, along with many other advocates, has been working tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed for years.

MPP released the following in a press release:

“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs. Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.”

Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.

“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states. More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”

Where Marijuana Is Legal: Opioid Deaths And Alcohol Sales Are Way Down

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF HIGH TIMES MAGAZINE)

For many years, the biggest threat to marijuana legalization and fledgling legal cannabis businesses was the police.

Fears of DEA agents breaking down the front door at dawn, prosecutions in federal court with its accompanying mandatory minimums or warrantless visits from helicopter-riding police who merely cut down plant and leave—such things happen and are legal—was what kept people involved in cannabis up at night.

But now, with legalization sweeping the country and a vast majority of Americans in support of medical marijuana, the real enemy is revealing itself.

And as recent events in Arizona demonstrated, it’s Big Pharma.

In 2015, U.S.-based companies made up 40 percent of the global pharmaceutical trade, a market share worth $413 billion. These companies are well aware that cannabis is becoming an accepted treatment for chronic pain and many of the other lifelong afflictions now treated by highly profitable trademarked drugs—and some have proven willing and able to take steps to make sure marijuana stays out of the hands of law-abiding Americans in order to protect that enormous bottom line.

“Pharmaceuticals are going to run me down,” Dr. Gina Berman, medical director of the Giving Tree Wellness Center, a Phoenix, Arizona-based cannabis dispensary, told the Guardian. “We have a small business, and we can’t afford to fight Big Pharma.”

The most egregious case to date is Insys Therapeutics. Insys, is an Arizona-based drug manufacturer of pain drugs that contain fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that’s been fingered in many fatal opiate overdoses (including the death of Prince).

Arizona was the lone state where a marijuana legalization initiative failed at the ballot in November—and one of the leading donors to the anti-legalization campaign, with a $500,000 check, was Insys. (Another was Trump-supporting casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Here are the Vegas nightlife spots to boycott, forever.)

As the Intercept reported this fall, Insys executives openly recognized the threat to its market posed by marijuana. And in a devious twist, Insys identified marijuana as an existential threat and moved to keep it illegal, while developing a new drug based on synthetic THC.

On March 23, the DEA ruled that Insys’s new drug, called “Syndros,” could be marketed and sold as a Schedule II drug—meaning it could be prescribed to patients as soon as this fall.

So far, the FDA has approved Syndros for AIDS-related weight loss and vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy—two of the original applications for medical marijuana.

“It’s pretty absurd that federal law considers marijuana to have no medical value, but allows for the development of synthetic versions of the same substance,” Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which sponsored Arizona’s legalization measure, told the Guardian.

But what about Insys Therapeutics? It’s a company straight out of a Superman comic. 

In December, Justice Department prosecutors took the “unusual” step of charging six former Insys executives, including former CEO Michael L. Babich, with racketeering for its “aggressive” marketing of a fentanyl-based pain drug called Subsys, the New York Times reported. Prosecutors alleged that in order to sell more Subsys, the company arranged lavish dinners and other events for doctors who prescribed “lots of” the drug, and when that didn’t work, the company resorted to kickbacks. 

One Connecticut nurse pleaded guilty in 2015 to accepting $83,000 in kickbacks from the company. Families of dead patients, prescribed Subsys despite prescriptions for other drugs that are fatal when combined, and despite no cancer diagnosis—the drug is only FDA-approved from cancer-related pain—have also sued the company.

In a statement, Carmen Ortiz, the-then U.S. attorney for Massachusetts (before she and many others were summarily fired by Trump administration officials earlier this year), pinned part of the blame for the country’s opiate epidemic squarely on “corporate greed.”

In January, Insys founder John Kapoor stepped down as chairman, a role he took over from the indicted Babich in late 2015. Kapoor’s exit came after Insys’s sales plummeted 40 percent, as Forbes reported. (Wonder if the alleged kickbacks had anything to do with the inflated numbers?)

It’s all very ominous, but in a real way, marijuana activists should let Insys try—and then fail, spectacularly, as they are primed to do.

Insys’s proposed product, called Syndros, is a solution of “oral dronabinol.” Dronabinol is the generic name for another synthetic version of THC that’s been on the market for quite some time, called Marinol—and if you know anyone who has used Marinol, you know what they think of it. Namely, it kind of sucks.

For many patients, fake weed simply doesn’t work. As one patient prescribed Marinol told CBS News, “It might as well have been M&M’s.”

This is almost certainly because as synthetic THC only, Marinol and Syndros both lack cannabidiol, or CBD, as well as dozens of others cannabinoids. And as per the “entourage effect” theory, proffered by luminaries like CNN’s Sanjay Gupta and many more, your body and brain need all of cannabis’s component parts in order for its medical “magic” to work.

But let’s say Insys strikes out with Subsys. It won’t end there.

This is a company accused, with enough evidence to indict in a federal court, of being willing to see people die in order to sell more drugs. And it won’t end with this company.

Big Pharma is scared of weed—terrified—and as any animal scientist will tell you, a cornered and frightened animal is the most dangerous. And that applies to humans.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

West Virginia Legislature Votes To Legalize Medical Marijuana ‘As Soon As Possible’

 

MPP Blog


WV Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 12:34 PM PDT

 West Virginia is on the verge of becoming the next state with an effective medical marijuana law!

The bill received final approval in the West Virginia Legislature on Thursday and is headed to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice. He has publicly expressed support for legal access to medical marijuana and is expected to sign the bill into law, making West Virginia the 29th state to adopt an effective medical marijuana law.

SB 386, titled the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, charges the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries. Patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions will be allowed to use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but not marijuana in flower or leaf form. This differs from the original version of the bill and the medical marijuana programs in most other states. A summary of SB 386 is available at http://bit.ly/2nbUAq3.

MPP issued the following statement in a press release:

“Some of the House amendments to the bill are concerning, but it still has the potential to provide relief to thousands of seriously ill WestVirginians,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “We commend the Legislature for passing this compassionate and much-needed legislation, and we encourage Gov. Justice to sign it into law.

“This will be an important and, in some cases, life-saving program,” Simon said. “It is critical that the state implement it promptly. We are committed to working with officials to make sure the program is as effective as possible and to get it up and running in a timely fashion. Many patients cannot afford to wait much longer.

The post WV Legislature Approves Medical Marijuana Bill appeared first on MPP Blog.

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