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Fri, 13 Jan 2017 10:00:00 -0500The last time the National Academy of Sciences issued a report on marijuana, three states allowed medical use of the drug. Eighteen years later, there are 28 states that recognize marijuana as a medicine, and eight of them also allow recreational use. But as a new NAS report published yesterday shows, there are still big gaps in our knowledge of marijuana's risks and benefits. The 1999 report, commissioned by a drug czar who insisted there was no evidence that marijuana is medically useful, refuted that claim but highlighted the paucity of relevant research. "The accumulated data indicate a potential therapeutic value for cannabinoid drugs, particularly for symptoms such as pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation," it concluded. The new report, which takes into account studies conducted during the last two decades, is less tentative but still finds the evidence for most medical applications inconclusive. "We found conclusive or substantial evidence...for benefit from cannabis or cannabinoids for chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and patient-reported symptoms of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis," the authors say. "For these conditions the effects of cannabinoids are modest; for all other conditions evaluated there is inadequate information to assess their effects." The report notes that investigation of marijuana's medical utility has been constrained by legal and bureaucratic barriers, including continued federal prohibition and the Drug Enforcement Administration's refusal to license more than one producer of cannabis for research. "There are specific regulatory barriers, including the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance, that impede the advancement of cannabis and cannabinoid research," the authors say. "It is often difficult for researchers to gain access to the quantity, quality, and type of cannabis product necessary to address specific research questions." Last August the DEA once again refused to reclassify marijuana but agreed to start accepting applications from additional marijuana producers. As state-legal marijuana products proliferate across the country, federal prohibition prevents scientists from investigating their properties: Cannabis concentrate sales doubled in Colorado from 2015 to 2016, reaching $60.5 million in the first quarter of 2016, and yet current federal law prevents chemists from examining the composition of those products as it may relate to safety, neuroscientists from testing the effects of those products on the brain or physiology in animal models, and clinical scientists from conducting research on how these products may help or harm patients. And while between 498,170 and 721,599 units of medical and recreational cannabis edibles were sold per month in Colorado in 2015, federal law also prohibits scientists from testing those products for contaminants, understanding the effects of these products in animal models, or investigating the effects in patient populations. Regarding the potential dangers of these products, the report is mostly reassuring, finding little or no evidence that marijuana impairs the immune system or increases the risk of heart attacks, lung cancer, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (contrary to the claims of anti-pot activists). Regular pot smoking seems to worsen bronchitis symptoms, and marijuana consumption by pregnant women is associated with lower birth weight, although there is little evidence of a link to pregnancy complications or postnatal health problems. Marijuana use is associated with schizophrenia, suicide, poor academic performance, and abuse of other drugs, but the causal relationships remain murky. The report says "there is limited evidence of a statistical association between sustained abstinence from cannabis use and impairments in the cognitive domains of learning, memory, and attention"—i.e., effects that persist long after people have stopped using marijuana, which remains a subject of much controversy. The report notes that marijuana legalization has [...]
Tue, 10 Jan 2017 17:52:00 -0500Senators on both sides of the aisle pressed their colleague Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) on Tuesday to flesh out his views on state-level marijuana laws, but president-elect Donald Trump's pick to be the next attorney general downplayed his history of being a hardline drug warrior. Instead, we got vague and unconvincing answers about how Sessions views the relationship between the states and the federal government. "I think one obvious concern is that the United States Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state and the distribution of it an illegal act," Sessions said when questioned by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). "If that's something that's not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule. It is not much the attorney general's job to decide what laws to enforce. We should do our job and enforce laws effectively as we are able." As a matter of basic civics, yes, Sessions is right about all that. Congress should be the ones to decide when marijuana is legal or illegal at the federal level and the Justice Department is supposed to enforce the laws, not make them. That's hardly a controversial or revealing statement. Practically, though, Sessions would have tremendous power as attorney general to decide exactly what "enforce laws effectively as we are able" means. Without needing approval from Congress, Sessions could send federal agents to arrest growers, shut down dispensaries, and freeze the bank accounts of marijuana businesses. In the past, Sessions has encouraged the federal government to take a more activist approach to enforcing marijuana prohibition. In an April hearing about recreational marijuana laws in the states, Sessions observed that "good people don't smoke marijuana" and longed for the days when the federal government was more aggressive in going after drug dealers and users. If Sessions brings that approach to the executive branch, his decisions on marijuana policy could have huge implications for individuals and businesses in states where forms of marijuana have been legalized and could change the landscape for further state-level marijuana policy changes in coming years. As Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) pointed out during Tuesday's confirmation hearing, even Sessions' home state of Alabama has legalized a marijuana derivative known as cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, for the treatment of some medical conditions. Leahy asked whether Sessions, as attorney general, would allow such laws to stand. "I won't commit to never enforcing federal law," Session said. "But absolutely it's a problem of resources for the federal government." Again, this is not an informative answer. "We are no closer to clarity in regards to Sessions' plans for how to treat state marijuana laws than we were yesterday," said Erik Altieri, executive director for NORML, which lobbies for marijuana reform at the state and federal level. "If Sessions wants to be attorney general for all Americans, he must bring his views in line with the majority of the population and support allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without fear of federal intervention." Sean Spicer, Trump's spokesman, was asked about Sessions' views on marijuana legalization during a Tuesday appearence on Fox News, but offered more vaguries. Some have pointed to this exchange as an indication Sessions won't go after state-legal cannabis. That's not what it says. It's a nonanswer. pic.twitter.com/hKHDg7FeqN — Ben Adlin (@badlin) January 10, 2017 During the Obama administration, eight states legalized recreational marijuana and dozens of state-level medical marijuana laws were passed. Marijuana remains completely illegal at the federal level. It is included on the federal Schedule I list, a set of drugs considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration to have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," including heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. More states are likely to approve marijuana for recreational and medicinal use in the coming years, but the federal government would have the p[...]
Sat, 07 Jan 2017 09:02:00 -0500In November, my first feature story for Reason profiled a young man from Idaho who suffers from intractable seizures and asked why Butch Otter, the state's governor, did not help him when he had the chance. That young man is Josh Phillips, and he has been suffering from uncontrollable seizures since he was 10 years old. He's tried dozens of different drugs, but none have helped him. Out of other options, Josh and his family believe a marijuana-derived substance called Cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, might offer some relief. It's worked for some people suffering from similar ailments in states where CBD is legal, including 17 states that don't have medical marijuana laws but have passed narrower CBD oil bills. Otter had a chance to sign a CBD oil bill for Idaho in April 2015, but he vetoed it. He is still the only governor in the country to veto such a bill. It's possible that the state legislature will give Otter another chance to sign a CBD oil bill this year, but the governor on Friday reiterated his opposition. During a press conference in Boise, Otter told reporters that there had been no change in his view on the subject. src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/301269762&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> The real change is between Otter's view today and the view he held for most of his political career. As my story noted, Otter had been a proponent of marijuana legalization for decades—from way back when he first broke into politics in the 1970s, through his successful run for governor in 2006. There's a few different reasons why Otter seems to have changed his mind—lobbyists for law enforcement groups and pharmaceutical companies seem to have played a significant role, Reason's investigation found—but the most important consequence of his decision is that people in Idaho suffering from intractable seizures are left with fewer choices when it comes to treatment. Otter had, after vetoing the CBD oil bill, issued an executive order creating a clinical trial for a drug called Epidiolex, which is produced by a British pharmaceutical company trying to gain FDA approval to sell the drug in the United States. The drug is basically a synthetic version of CBD, but Otter's team preferred the clinical trial because it was more standardized and controlled than CBD oil. On Friday, Otter said the clinical trial is showing that there is "sufficient relief in many cases." That's good news for the children who got into the Epidiolex trials—the program was capped at 25 kids (the Otter administration later lifted the cap to 38 children)—but does nothing to help anyone who unable to get into the trial or anyone who was over 18, like Josh Phillips, who will turn 20 next month. It also doesn't help Katie Donahue, an Idaho resident who says she literally has prayed for death because she can't find a way to treat her seizures. "I am deeply saddened at the freedom Butch Otter continues to deny extremely ill Idahoans," Donahue said in a statement provided to Reason on Friday. "I am devastated for the children who will continue forced suffering from diseases as well as stigma. I am sickened to think of families from other states having success with cannabinoid therapy not being able to experience the beauty of Idaho because freedom has been replaced with fascism." While we're picking apart Otter's comments, there's one more thing he said Friday that deserves some scrutiny, because it speaks to his administration's overall approach to medical marijuana. Without being asked, Otter launched into an explanation of why he opposes medical marijuana (around the 1:30 mark of the audio file above). Like his spokesman did in responding to questions from Reason two months ago, Otter referenced a conversation with a governor of another state (without giving a name) who supposedly told Otter that medical marijuana was "a disaster." "Almost anybody [...]
Wed, 14 Dec 2016 07:00:00 -0500
At a Senate hearing last April, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump's choice for attorney general, worried about the message that marijuana legalization sends to the youth of America. "I can't tell you how concerning it is for me, emotionally and personally, to see the possibility that we will reverse the progress that we've made," he said. "Colorado was one of the leading states that started the movement to suggest that marijuana is not dangerous. And we're going to find it, in my opinion, ripple through the entire American citizenry, and we're going to see more marijuana use." We have been hearing similar warnings from drug warriors for two decades. When teenagers see that states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana for adults, prohibitionists predicted, they will be more inclined to smoke pot. But as survey data released yesterday confirmed once again, there is no evidence that is happening.
According to the Monitoring the Future Study, marijuana use by eighth- and 10th-graders fell this year. It rose slightly among 12th-graders but was still less common than in 2012, the year Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and about the same as in 2014, when two more states and the District of Columbia joined them. The 2016 legalization campaigns, four of which were successful, likewise did not seem to spur much new interest in pot among teenagers. Nor did the legalization of medical marijuana in 28 states, starting with California in 1996. This is not the pattern you would expect to see if loosening state marijuana laws encouraged underage consumption by improving the drug's reputation among teenagers:
(image) "I don't have an explanation," said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which sponsors the survey. "This is somewhat surprising. We had predicted based on the changes in legalization [and] culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [use] would go up. But it hasn't gone up."
Wed, 30 Nov 2016 00:01:00 -0500If you want to buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer, you have to fill out Form 4473, which is aimed at determining whether you are legally allowed to own a firearm. A recent revision to the form by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) underlines how blithely the federal government strips Americans of their Second Amendment rights. "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?" asks Question 11(e). In the latest version of Form 4473, which dealers are required to start using on January 16, that question is followed by a warning in bold type: "The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside." If you are one of the 68 million Americans who live in a state that has decided to allow recreational use of marijuana, or one of the 186 million who live in a state that recognizes marijuana as a medicine, you may have been under the impression that legalization makes cannabis consumption lawful. The ATF wants to disabuse you of that notion; hence the warning. "We were concerned that some buyers who use marijuana may read the 2012 language asking if they were an 'unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana' and erroneously say no because in that particular state, marijuana has been legalized," an ATF spokeswoman told The Denver Post last week. "Most dealers recognize that marijuana use prohibits people from purchasing firearms under federal law, but many members of the general public may not be as familiar with the Gun Control Act." Under that law, a cannabis consumer who possesses a gun (no matter where he got it) is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Likewise anyone who sells him a gun if has reason to know the buyer is a cannabis consumer. Falsely denying marijuana use on Form 4473 can get you up to five years. The rationale for this rule is risible. Last August the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that banning gun sales to people who have medical marijuana cards is consistent with the Second Amendment because "empirical data and legislative determinations support a strong link between drug use and violence." The court did not actually cite any such evidence, but it did observe that "illegal drug users, including marijuana users, are likely as a consequence of that use to experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgment and that can lead to irrational or unpredictable behavior." The same could be said of drinkers, but it seems unlikely that the 9th Circuit would uphold a law that restricted the Second Amendment to teetotalers. The appeals court also argued that cannabis consumers are "more likely to have negative interactions with law enforcement officers because they engage in criminal activity." It added that "they frequently make their purchases through black market sources who themselves frequently resort to violence." Both of those risks are byproducts of prohibition, and they do not apply to people who grow, buy, or consume marijuana in accordance with state law. The fact that those activities are still prohibited by the federal government does not mean the average cannabis consumer is apt to get into a shootout with DEA agents, let alone with the state-licensed retailer who sells him marijuana. The idea that marijuana makes people violent is a relic of the 1930s that has no relevance in determining who deserves to exercise the fundamental right of armed self-defense—a point the president-elect should recognize. Donald Trump's choice for attorney general may believe that "good people don't smoke marijuana," but Trump himself has repeatedly expressed a devotion to the Second Amendment that is inconsistent with disarming Americans based on such frivolous falsehoods. © Copyright 2016 by[...]
Mon, 28 Nov 2016 08:00:00 -0500The strangers who supposedly were trying to get your kids high by passing out cannabis candy on Halloween apparently have moved online. Or so claims WANE, the CBS affiliate in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The headline over the WANE story—which was reposted by WRIC, the ABC station in Richmond, Virginia—warns that "dealers [are] using THC-laced 'edibles' to attract young people." Reporter Angelica Robinson claims "marijuana dealers are targeting young people," that "much of it is done online," and that "buyers order the candies online and use them to get high discreetly." Jerri Lerch of the Allen County Drug and Alcohol Consortium tells Robinson that drug dealers "tweet targeted young people about the availability of attractive marijuana products." But neither Lerch nor Robinson presents any evidence of such online commerce in cannabis candies for kids. The genesis of the story was an incident that the Noble County Sheriff's Department last week described on Facebook as "a transaction involving suspicious lollipops" at West Noble High School in Ligonier. The post was accompanied by photographs of two cherry lollipops and the package from which they apparently came, which indicates they were made by 2 Baked Gerrls, an edible manufacturer that serves patients in Michigan, a neighboring state that allows medical use of marijuana. The statement from the sheriff's department says nothing about online sales, an idea that seems to have sprung from the combined imaginations of Lerch and Robinson. "They're getting them through some sort of black market," Lerch tells WANE. "That could be online or on the web, or some sort of physical transaction of some kind." It is no stretch to suggest that medical marijuana products from Michigan are sold "through some sort of black market" when they are purchased in Indiana, where marijuana is not legal for any purpose. But the rest, including the teenager-targeting tweets and the websites selling THC-infused treats to high school students, sounds like speculative fiction rather than news. Robinson compounds the deception with some bizarre scaremongering about marijuana edibles. "The small suckers could pack a big punch," she says. "Typically, edibles can contain anywhere between 70 and 100 percent of THC. Marijuana has just 17 to 30 percent." These numbers are nonsensical. A lollipop that was 100 percent THC would not be a lollipop; it would be pure THC. Even a product that was 70 percent THC would not have the taste, consistency, or appearance of a lollipop, which consists mostly of sugar. And if it were possible to create such a thing, a seven-gram lollipop that was 70 percent THC would contain 4,900 milligrams of marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient. The label on the 2 Baked Gerrls package indicates that it contains 50 milligrams of THC, or 25 milligrams per lollipop (assuming both pictured lollipops came from the same package). Such impossible claims about the THC content of marijuana edibles are more common than you might think. In an op-ed piece published last year, Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska, Sheriff Mark Overman averred that "'edibles,' in the form of candy, baked goods, and drinks, have [THC] levels as high as 90 percent." Now that Robinson has upped Overman's ante, we may soon see warnings that the THC content of some edibles exceeds 100 percent. [Via Dank Space; thanks to Joshua Hotchkin for the tip.][...]
Wed, 23 Nov 2016 00:01:00 -0500On the same day Donald Trump was elected president, four states legalized marijuana for recreational use, while four others legalized or expanded access to medical marijuana. As a result of those ballot initiatives, most states now recognize marijuana as a medicine, and one in five Americans lives in a state that has decided to tolerate cannabis consumption without a doctor's note. During his campaign Trump said he supports medical marijuana but has concerns about broader legalization, a policy he nevertheless said states should be free to adopt. Trump's recently announced choice for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, casts doubt on those commitments. The Alabama Republican, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general, is an old-fashioned drug warrior who pines for the days when Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaign helped "create a hostility to drug use." He was outraged when President Obama conceded that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, and he recently claimed that "good people don't smoke marijuana." Sessions has repeatedly criticized the Obama administration's policy of tolerating state-authorized marijuana suppliers. During a 2009 Senate hearing, he complained that "Attorney General Holder has said federal authorities will no longer raid medical marijuana facilities in California, which is against U.S. law" and "contrary to the position taken by the Drug Enforcement Administration." At a hearing last April, Sessions bemoaned the message sent by marijuana legalization, which he said implies that "marijuana is not dangerous" and encourages teenagers to use it. "We need grownups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing to be legalized," he said. "The Department of Justice needs to be clear, and the president needs to assert some leadership." Now that Trump has picked Sessions to head the Justice Department, we may get a clearer idea of how far Sessions wants to go in pressing the point that "marijuana is not the kind of thing to be legalized." While medical marijuana suppliers are protected from the feds by a spending rider that is likely to be renewed, if given free rein Sessions could easily wreak havoc in the recreational industry. Every state-licensed marijuana business remains a criminal enterprise under federal law, subjecting its owners to the risk of prosecution and forfeiture. An anti-pot crusader at the helm of the Justice Department could make that risk salient again by raiding growers, manufacturers, and retailers, or just by threatening to do so. Sessions also could challenge state legalization in federal court, although he might not like the results even if he wins. While the DOJ might prevail in arguing that state licensing and regulation of cannabusinesses conflicts with federal law, it cannot force states to recriminalize what those businesses do, so the upshot of a successful lawsuit could be less government oversight of the industry. Any such interference by the DOJ would contradict Trump's commitment to marijuana federalism. "I really believe you should leave it up to the states," he said at a rally in Reno last year. "It should be a state situation…In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state." Most Americans agree with that approach. Recent national polls indicate that most Americans (60 percent, according to Gallup) think marijuana should be legal, while most Republicans continue to oppose legalization. But even among Republicans, most—70 percent, according to a CBS News poll conducted last April—think the feds should not try to override state decisions in this area. In other words, marijuana legalization is considerably more popular than Trump, who received less than 47 percent of the vote. Marijuana federalism is more popular still, and it is firmly rooted in conservative constitutional principles. Many conservatives are skeptical of Trump,[...]
Mon, 21 Nov 2016 12:05:00 -0500In December 2014, Josh Phillips' mother answered the phone to news no parent wants to hear. Her son, an epileptic high school senior and champion wrestler, was in the hospital. The whole Salmon High School wrestling team was waiting at Steele Memorial Medical Center when Jeanette and Gary Phillips got there. The team had been on its way home from a match at West Jefferson High, more than an hour away and out of cellphone range in the rugged backcountry of northeastern Idaho, when Josh Phillips suffered the worst seizure of his life. As the bus raced back to Salmon, Josh went in and out of consciousness. He stopped breathing at least once. "We thought we were going to lose him," recalls Jason Bruce, the team's coach. Josh had been diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 10 years old, but he'd been wrestling since he was much younger, following in the footsteps of his father and older brother. Josh was the best of the bunch. He'd never been pinned during his four years at Salmon High, and Bruce says Josh was a clear favorite to win the state championship at the end of his senior season. He never got the chance. After a frantic drive through the mountains, Bruce was finally able to call an ambulance to meet the bus and Josh made it to the hospital where he was stabilized. But the incident on the bus forced the school's hand, and the decision was made that Josh would no longer be allowed to travel with the team. It was too dangerous. Now, instead of dreaming of a championship, Josh is just hoping for a normal life. He's tried more than a dozen different medications and even underwent brain surgery. But the seizures that denied him a shot at a state title now prevent him from pursuing even the most mundane goals of the average 19-year-old. He can't go to college and probably won't be able to move out of his parents' house. He's not allowed to drive a car, and won't get permission until he can show doctors that he's having less than one seizure per month. With pharmaceutical and surgical treatments unsuccessful, the Phillips family and others in Idaho placed their hopes in the legalization of cannabidiol oil, or CBD, a form of medical marijuana. Though not guaranteed to work for everyone, CBD has been shown to be effective in controlling seizures in some epileptic patients. For that reason, it's been legalized in dozens of states as a medical treatment, including many states where more widespread uses of medical marijuana remain banned. In Idaho, a bill to allow people like Josh Phillips to access CBD oil was passed by the state legislature in 2015, only to be defeated by a group of powerful special interests—including cops, prosecutors, and pharmaceutical companies—with direct access to policy makers in Boise. Emails obtained by Reason reveal a behind-the-scenes effort organized by the state's Office of Drug Policy to derail the CBD legislation and, after it passed against the wishes of Gov. Butch Otter and his administration, to use executive authority to replace the bill with an alternative treatment program that has done nothing to help Josh Phillips or many other Idahoans suffering from seizures. In the middle of it all was a governor who had for years professed support for ending drug prohibition, only to turn his back when the opportunity came. Butch Otter: A History Of Supporting Pot Legalization Nearly 20 years before Josh Phillips was born, Clement Leroy "Butch" Otter was already pushing for marijuana to be legalized in Idaho. In 1978, the future governor was a 35-year-old two-term state lawmaker who was running as something of a radical upstart in the state's gubernatorial election. "If a person, of his own free will, wants to use marijuana, I question whether the government has any propriety in telling him he can't." —Butch Otter "If a person, of his own free will, wants to use marijuana, I question whether the government ha[...]
Mon, 21 Nov 2016 12:05:00 -0500
In 17 states where recreational and medical marijuana is still illegal, a marijuana-derived substance called cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, is available for use as a medical treatment. Only one governor in the country, Idaho's Butch Otter, has blocked the passage of a CBD oil bill.
In a new Reason web feature, Eric Boehm takes a look at Otter's decison to veto Idaho's CBD oil bill in March 2015. The bill would have provided a small measure of hope for Idahoans suffering from chronic, untreatable seizures—people like Josh Phillips, a star high school wrestler who had to give up his dream of a state championship when his seizures became too severe to control.
With pharmaceutical and surgical treatments unsuccessful, the Phillips family and others in Idaho placed their hopes in the legalization of cannabidiol oil, or CBD, a form of medical marijuana. Though not guaranteed to work for everyone, CBD has been shown to be effective in controlling seizures in some epileptic patients. For that reason, it's been legalized in dozens of states as a medical treatment, including many states where more widespread uses of medical marijuana remain banned.
In Idaho, a bill to allow people like Josh Phillips to access CBD oil was passed by the state legislature in 2015, only to be defeated by a group of powerful special interests—including cops, prosecutors, and pharmaceutical companies—with direct access to policy makers in Boise. Emails obtained by Reason reveal a behind-the-scenes effort organized by the state's Office of Drug Policy to derail the CBD legislation and, after it passed against the wishes of Gov. Butch Otter and his administration, to use executive authority to replace the bill with an alternative treatment program that has done nothing to help Josh Phillips or many other Idahoans suffering from seizures.
With the threat of another veto hanging over Boise, even lawmakers who supported the CBD bill in 2015 are reluctant to take up the issue again when the legislature reconvenes in early 2017. More than half the country (including every state that borders Idaho) has some form of medical or recreational marijuana laws, but the drug warriors are still running the show in Boise.
Wed, 09 Nov 2016 06:30:00 -0500Donald Trump's defeat of Hillary Clinton was not the only big surprise produced by yesterday's elections. Even those of us who were rooting for the nine marijuana initiatives on state ballots this year did not expect so many of them to pass. Yesterday voters made marijuana legal for recreational use in four states (California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada) and approved or expanded medical access in four more (Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota). The only loss was in Arizona, where voters who very narrowly approved medical use in 2010 declined to take the further step of making marijuana legal just for fun. The margins of victory were also surprising. After falling short just two years ago, a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana got 71 percent of the vote in Florida, 11 points more than the supermajority it needed. In California, where legalization lost by seven points in 2010, the yeas beat the nays by almost 12 points. The difference in Nevada was more than eight points, which was especially delightful in the home state of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who provided 97 percent of the $3.5 million raised by the opposition campaign and spent another $140 million on the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a longtime opponent of marijuana prohibition that switched sides under its new ownership. In North Dakota, where the last known survey on the question found that 47 percent of likely voters thought marijuana should be legal for medical use, an initiative allowing patients with "debilitating medical conditions" to obtain cannabis from "compassion centers" seemed like a good idea to 64 percent of the electorate. The consequences of this nearly complete sweep were dramatic. Prior to yesterday, four states with a combined population of 17 million (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) were willing to allow cannabis consumption without a doctor's note. Now the number of pot-tolerant states has doubled, while their population has nearly quadrupled and includes one in five Americans. The long overdue conversion of California, which by itself accounts for 12 percent of the country's population and 15 percent of its economic output, carries special political and cultural weight. We now have a continuous weed-friendly zone on the West Coast and the first two oases of tolerance in the East. Yesterday's elections also gave us the first two medical marijuana states in the South and increased the number of states with such laws from 25 to 28, meaning states that refuse to let patients have whatever relief cannabis can give them are now in the minority. These changes reflect growing popular support for legalizing marijuana, which according to Gallup hit a record level of 60 percent this year. That trend, in turn, reflects wide and growing familiarity with a plant that Americans generally have found to be much less scary than their government portrayed it. The next step is for that government to go beyond the uncertain forbearance the Obama administration has offered by actively accommodating states that have rejected marijuana prohibition. Among other things, that means changing federal law so that it no longer threatens or obstructs state-legal marijuana businesses, as legislators such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) have been urging for years. President-Elect Trump (God help us) has suggested he is open to such accommodation. While personally frowning on legal pot (and disavowing his previous support for legalizing all drugs), Trump says marijuana policy "should be a state issue," which also happens to be what the Constitution requires. "Trump has clearly and repeatedly pledged to respect state marijuana laws," says Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell, "and we fully expect him to follow through on those promises, not only because it is the right thing to do but[...]
Wed, 09 Nov 2016 01:43:00 -0500
(image) Yesterday Montana voters approved a ballot initiative aimed at expanding patients' access to medical marijuana, which the state legislature sharply restricted in 2011. With almost all ballots counted, the medical marijuana measure, I-182, was favored by 55 percent of voters.
Montana voters approved medical marijuana in 2004 by a wide margin. But in 2011 the legislature cracked down on medical marijuana suppliers, limiting them to three patients each, banning medical marijuana ads, and requiring state review of doctors who recommend marijuana to more than 25 patients in a given year.
I-182 allows production and distribution of marijuana by state-licensed providers for treatment of specified medical conditions and others subsequently added by the legislature. It eliminates the caps of three patients per provider and 25 per doctor, adds post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions, and eliminates the requirement of a second doctor's opinion for patients seeking marijuana for relief of chronic pain.
"This win happened because Montanans have seen medical marijuana in action for years, and they know it works," says Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell. "Hopefully the politicians who foolishly tried to eliminate the medical cannabis providers that serve so many patients will hear the message voters just sent."
Tue, 08 Nov 2016 23:31:00 -0500
(image) Today voters in Arkansas said yes to medical marijuana, approving an initiative that doubles the number of Southern states allowing patients to use the drug for symptom relief. With 62 percent of precincts reporting, the medical marijuana initiative, Issue 6, was favored by 52 percent of voters.
Issue 6, which raises the total number of medical marijuana states to 28, allows the use of cannabis by patients with any of 12 specified diseases or with severe nausea, wasting syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, intractable pain, seizures, or muscles spasms caused by "a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment." The initiative authorizes the Arkansas Department of Health to add other medical conditions to the list. Unlike a dueling initiative that was disqualified from the ballot late last month, Issue 6 does not allow home cultivation by patients or caregivers.
Arkansas voters narrowly rejected an earlier medical marijuana initiative in 2012. Issue 6 was opposed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (a former DEA administrator), Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, all Republicans. Supporters of the initiative raised nearly four times as much as opponents.
Tue, 08 Nov 2016 22:40:00 -0500
(image) Today voters in North Dakota approved a ballot initiative that allows medical use of marijuana, raising the number of states with such laws to 27. With more than 60 percent of precincts reporting, Initiated Statutory Measure 5 was favored by 64 percent of voters.
Measure 5 allows the use of marijuana for treatment of specified "debilitating medical conditions" and others added by the North Dakota Department of Health. It authorizes production and distribution of medical marijuana by state-registered, nonprofit "compassion centers." The initiative allows patients located more than 40 miles from the nearest licensed supplier to grow up to eight plants in "an enclosed, locked facility."
Before today's vote, the most recent relevant polling in North Dakota came from 2014, when a survey of likely voters found that 47 percent thought marijuana should be legal for medical use.
"Measure 5 is going to improve the quality of life for many North Dakotans," said Anita Morgan of North Dakota Compassionate Care, the committee that promoted the initiative. "There is no longer any doubt that cannabis is effective in the treatment of several debilitating medical conditions. It can alleviate the nausea that cancer patients experience as they undergo chemotherapy. It can dramatically reduce or even eliminate seizures in patients suffering from epilepsy. And it can serve as a much safer alternative to prescription drugs that are often prescribed to patients who are dealing with severe and chronic pain."
Tue, 08 Nov 2016 20:28:00 -0500It looks like voters have made Florida the 26th state and the first in the South to allow medical use of marijuana. With more than 70 percent of precincts reporting, Florida's medical marijuana initiative, Amendment 2, was favored by 71 percent of voters, 11 points more than needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Amendment 2 recognizes marijuana as a treatment for 10 specified conditions: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It also allows doctors to recommend marijuana for patients with "other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated." The amendment takes effect on January 3, after which the Florida Department of Health has six months to issue regulations for patients, caregivers (who help patients obtain and use marijuana), and medical marijuana treatment centers (which produce and dispense the drug). Home cultivation is not permitted, and the department is charged with setting presumptive possession limits for patients. It is supposed to start issuing identification cards to qualifying patients and caregivers within nine months, and if it fails to do so a doctor's certification will authorize access to medical marijuana. In 2014 a similar initiative, also known as Amendment 2, fell about two points short of the 60 percent supermajority it needed. This year's version has a narrower definition of "debilitating medical condition" and clarifies the requirement for obtaining consent from parents of patients younger than 18. As in 2014, the top financial supporter of Amendment 2 was Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, a major Democratic donor, while the top financial supporter the opposition campaign was casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major Republican donor and ardent pot prohibitionist who hopes to expand his business into Florida. But while opponents of medical marijuana spent almost as much as supporters in 2014, they were outspent almost 2 to 1 this year. A law that took effect at the beginning of last year allows the use of low-THC, noncombusted marijuana by Florida residents with cancer or "a physical medical condition that chronically products symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms." Amendment 2 applies to a wider range of conditions, give patients access to high-THC marijuana, and lets them smoke it. Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell calls passage of Amendment 2 "a major tipping point," noting that "a majority of states in the U.S. now have laws allowing patients to find relief with medical marijuana, and these protections and programs are no longer concentrated in certain regions of the country like the West and Northeast." He adds that "it looks like medical cannabis will get more votes [in Florida] tonight than whoever ends up winning the presidential and U.S. Senate races, and that shows just how mainstream this issue has become."[...]
Mon, 07 Nov 2016 08:30:00 -0500Voters in five states will decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use, while four states could legalize or expand access to medical marijuana. Polling is strongest in California, where general legalization is on the ballot, and Florida, which seems to be on the verge of becoming the first state in the Southeast to allow medical use. The latest survey indicates that Proposition 64, California's legalization initiative, is supported by 58 percent of likely voters. One of them is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who revealed her preference on Friday. In 2010—when, according to Gallup, 46 percent of Americans thought marijuana should be legal, compared to 60 percent today—Pelosi declined to take a position on Proposition 19, the last attempt to legalize marijuana in California. At least six other members of California's congressional delegation, including two Republicans, support this year's initiative. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who opposed legalization in 2010, says she is inclined to vote for it this year. Not so Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a diehard prohibitionist who warns that Proposition 64 will cause increases in underage consumption and traffic accidents. Feinstein seems to be the only member of Congress from California who has come out against the initiative. In contrast with 2010, newspaper editorials are also leaning in favor of legalization—15 to 10, by Ballotpedia's count. In addition to California, where Proposition 64 has received majority support in every poll taken this year, legalization looks likely in Massachusetts, where the latest poll puts support at 62 percent, raising the average for October from 52 percent to 55 percent. Legalization looks iffier in Maine, where the latest survey puts support at 50 percent, down from about 53 percent in two earlier polls. Support for legalization also hovers around 50 percent in Arizona and Nevada. Among the four states with medical marijuana on their ballots tomorrow, passage still looks likely in Florida, where 71 percent of voters favored Amendment 2 (which needs 60 percent to pass) in the most recent poll. In Arkansas, where one of two medical marijuana inititiatives was disqualified late last month, the remaining measure, Issue 6, was supported by 50 percent of voters in the latest survey. A Montana measure aimed at expanding patients' access to marijuana was favored by just 44 percent of voters in a survey last month, while there are still no polling data on North Dakota's medical marijuana measure.[...]