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Medical Marijuana

All articles with the "Medical Marijuana" tag.

Published: Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2018 22:34:39 -0400


Will Hawaiians Who Use Medical Pot Lose Their Right to Own a Gun?

Thu, 01 Mar 2018 12:00:00 -0500

Hawaii is one of 29 states that allow medical use of marijuana. It's also the only state that requires registration of all firearms. If you are familiar with the criteria that bar people from owning guns under federal law, you can probably surmise what the conjunction of these two facts means for patients who use cannabis as a medicine, which Hawaii allows them to do only if they register with the state.

"Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition," Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said in a November 13 letter received by about 30 people on Oahu. "If you currently own or have any firearms, you have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to voluntarily surrender your firearms, permit, and ammunition to the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) or otherwise transfer ownership."

Hawaii legalized medical marijuana in 2000. It's not clear what prompted the letters now, but the opening of the state's first dispensary last August may have had something to do with it. Ballard cited a state law that says "no person who is…prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law shall own, possess, or control any firearm or ammunition." Federal law forbids possession of firearms by any "unlawful user" of a controlled substance and, unlike Hawaii law, does not recognize any legitimate reason for consuming cannabis.

In 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which includes Hawaii, upheld a ban on gun sales to people with medical marijuana cards, even if they do not consume cannabis. The appeals court reasoned that possessing such a card is a good if imperfect indicator of illegal drug use, which it said is associated with violence, "impaired mental states," and "negative interactions with law enforcement officers." The court concluded that there is a "reasonable fit" between the ban and a substantial government objective, which means it passes "intermediate scrutiny" and is therefore consistent with the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Disarming medical marijuana patients nevertheless proved controversial in Hawaii, where local criticism led Ballard to backpedal in December. Although the HPD will continue to reject gun permit applications from patients on the state's registry, she said, for the time being it will not try to take firearms away from those who already own them.

"This is a new area of concern for cities across the country, and we in Honolulu want to develop a policy that's legally sound and serves our community," the police chief said in a press release. "Formulating the policy will take time, but we want to do it right."

To Placate Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Blocks Medical Marijuana Exports

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 14:00:00 -0500

Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocked plans to allow the export of medical marijuana, citing objections from Donald Trump. "I spoke with Trump," Netanyahu reportedly told members of his cabinet, "and he told me about his general opposition to the legalization of cannabis, and I'm not sure Israel should be the export pioneer." This development, which was originally reported by Hadashot news, is doubly puzzling. Trump has repeatedly expressed support for medical marijuana, and in any case Israeli exports to countries other than the United States would not implicate U.S. law. Trump has said he opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use, although he also has said the decision should be left to the states. On medical use he has gone further, saying patients who can benefit from marijuana should be able to obtain it. "I think medical marijuana, 100 percent," he said at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference. "I think medical should happen, right?" he said at a rally latter that year. "Don't we agree? I mean I think so…I know people that are very, very sick, and for whatever reason, the marijuana really helps them." He reiterated that position at a 2016 rally: "Medical I agree with. Medical I like...Medical is OK." After Trump took office, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated that he still supported medical use of marijuana. "The president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them," Spicer said at a February 2017 press briefing, noting that Congress had passed a spending rider aimed at protecting state-licensed medical marijuana suppliers. "There is a big difference between that and recreational marijuana." If so, why would Trump urge Netanyahu to nix exports of medical marijuana, which has been legal in Israel for more than a decade? According to Hadashot, Netanyahu "ordered the freeze after receiving a call about the issue of exporting marijuana from Trump." That does not sound like something Trump would do on his own initiative, so maybe Attorney General Jeff Sessions or another pot prohibitionist in the administration suggested it. Shipping cannabis to the U.S., even for patients in the 29 states that allow medical use, would violate federal law, which does not recognize any legitimate use for marijuana. But medical marijuana is legal in several other countries, and Canada already exports it. The Israeli government estimates that exports could generate about $1 billion a year. "Israel can become an exporter of medical cannabis with an income worth 4 billion (!) shekels a year," Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted last Thursday after visiting a cannabis farm in northern Israel. "We must not miss the train. Today we are the locomotive; if we hesitate, we will become the cars." Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who accompanied Shaked on the trip, agreed, saying, "There is a potential here for billions of dollars that Israel will gain and the world will gain." Shaked said she will try to change Netanyahu's mind. "I am sure that when we sit with the prime minister and we lay out for him all the details," she said, "the correct decision will be taken."[...]

Renewed War on Marijuana Spurs Congress to Defend Federalism

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 12:45:00 -0500

Those who advocate a safe, regulated and legal climate for marijuana sales and use were unquestionably alarmed by the elevation of anti-marijuana crusader Jeff Sessions to attorney general. Public opinion polls show strong and growing nationwide support for legalization. In California, medical marijuana has been legal for 21 years and remains about as controversial as any other form of prescription medication. During a Senate hearing in 2016, Sessions, then a Republican senator from Alabama, said, "We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it's in fact a very real danger." His follow-up comment—that government officials need to send the message "that good people don't smoke marijuana"—has often been quoted as Sessions, now the U.S. attorney general, attempts to put his views into action. Most significantly, Sessions revoked the Obama-era Cole Memorandum—a 2013 missive penned by former Deputy Attorney General James Cole that provided guidance for federal prosecutors in light of state legalization laws. The nonbinding memo provided some assurance that the feds wouldn't crack down on states if their laws met a few standards, such as preventing distribution to minors and keeping revenues from funding drug cartels. But a funny thing happened on the way back to a 1980s "War on Drugs" approach to marijuana this time around: Congress got its hackles up. Marijuana businesses complained loudly, of course. But "Capitol Hill screamed just as loudly," reported Politico. "And it wasn't just the Democratic members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. It was Republican senators, too." Congress has been dealing with the issue in a temporary and inadequate way since 2001. That's when a representative from New York first introduced a bill to stop the Justice Department from using funds to prevent states from legalizing medicinal marijuana. Ultimately, the similar Rohrabacher-Farr amendment—now known as Rohrabacher-Blumenauer, following the retirement of Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.)—became law in 2014. It halted the Justice Department from trying to prevent 33 states and the District of Columbia from implementing laws that "authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." Because it is attached to spending bills, the measure needs to be reauthorized every year. This year's reauthorization became a flashpoint in budget negotiations before the short-lived federal government shutdown. Congress approved the amendment, but the protections only last until Feb. 8—the deadline for the next budget vote to avoid another shutdown. Indeed, real threats often lead to more substantive solutions. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican who co-authored the amendment, hopes its passage will buy time to come up with a permanent fix. He has introduced H.R. 975, which he tells Leafly "would be putting into law the idea that the states will be the ones that will make the decision" and would make clear to "everybody, not just the Department of Justice, but everybody, like the banking regulators and other regulators," that they must treat cannabis like "any other commodity throughout the states that have designated it that way." The legislation has one sentence: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana." Archaic spelling aside, the bill offers protections to the eight states plus the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana for recreation and the 29 states that allow it as medicine. Marijuana advocates have debated a variety of approaches to keep the feds from prosecuting businesses and individuals who sell and consume marijuana. The Obama administration's effort to provide sensible guidelines to U.S. attorneys, al[...]

Victory in the 'Kettle Falls Five' Case

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 15:29:00 -0500

(image) A federal judge has vacated the convictions of three people sentenced to prison for growing state-legal medical marijuana in Washington. Judge Thomas O. Rice's decision yesterday followed prosecutors' admission that "the United States was not authorized to spend money on the prosecution of the defendants...because the defendants strictly complied with the Washington State medical marijuana laws."

The prosecutors were alluding to the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment, a provision included in every federal budget since 2014. The amendment states that "none of the funds made available in [the federal budget] to the Department of Justice may be prevent...States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." The Department of Justice had originally interpreted the amendment as prohibiting only the prosecution of state officials, thus allowing it to prosecute the trio; the Ninth Circuit repudiated that interpretation of the law in 2016.

The three defendants—Rhonda Lee Firestack-Harvey, Michelle Lynn Gregg, and Roland Mark Gregg—were indicted in 2013. Along with two other defendants, they were widely known as the "Kettle Falls Five." For the last five years, the government has relentlessly sought to send the three to prison on a host of drug trafficking charges. (The other two defendants, Jason Zucker and Lee Harvey, were no longer parties to the case by the time of the trial. Prosecutors dropped charges against Harvey due to his terminal pancreatic cancer, and Zucker took an 11th-hour plea deal and testified against his former co-defendants.)

In March 2015, a jury acquitted the three of all but one of the charges they faced. They were convicted of producing 74 cannabis plants. (In accordance with the judge's pretrial ruling, the jury had not been told that the plants were intended for medicinal use.) The trio was subsequently sentenced to prison terms ranging from 12 to 33 months. In October 2015, the three filed an appeal arguing, among other things, that the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment barred their prosecution. The government ultimately agreed and asked the judge to dismiss the case. The growers' attorney, Phil Telfeyan, says prosecutors told him they were unable to adequately counter his legal arguments.

The defendants are not entirely out of the woods yet. Despite the defense's request that the court prevent the government from reopening the case for any reason, the dismissal was granted "without prejudice." That means the feds can recharge them within six months if the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment is repealed.

Jeff Sessions Is Set to Give Prosecutors Free Rein to Enforce Federal Marijuana Ban

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 11:00:00 -0500

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is planning to free federal prosecutors to decide for themselves how and whether to go after marijuana providers and users in states where consumption is legal. The Associated Press is reporting this change in advance a formal announcement that's supposed to come later today. Sessions' decision would rescind guidance under the previous administration to limit enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where consumption is legal to certain situations to keep it from being trafficked to other states and out of the hands of children and keeping the proceeds out of the hands of gangs. This guidance, known as the Cole memo (after former Deputy Attorney General James Cole), is being rescinded by Sessions, the Associated Press reports. It's not entirely clear what will happen when the memo from 2013 is rescinded, but it's possibly a great big shot across the bow of a growing industry. California just legalized recreational marijuana sales and consumption at the start of the new year. New Hampshire is considering a bill right now. Despite popular opinion in favor of legalization, Sessions subscribes to the old school "gateway drug" nonsense. From the A.P.'s report this morning: Sessions and some law enforcement officials in states such as Colorado blame legalization for a number of problems, including drug traffickers that have taken advantage of lax marijuana laws to hide in plain sight, illegally growing and shipping the drug across state lines, where it can sell for much more. The decision was a win for pot opponents who had been urging Sessions to take action. "There is no more safe haven with regard to the federal government and marijuana, but it's also the beginning of the story and not the end," said Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who was among several anti-marijuana advocates who met with Sessions last month. "This is a victory. It's going to dry up a lot of the institutional investment that has gone toward marijuana in the last five years." Threats of a federal crackdown have united liberals who object to the human costs of a war on pot with conservatives who see it as a states' rights issue. Some in law enforcement support a tougher approach, but a bipartisan group of senators in March urged Sessions to uphold existing marijuana policy. Others in Congress have been seeking ways to protect and promote legal pot businesses. What about the law by Congress preventing the Justice Department from spending money to try to fight marijuana use in states that had legalized it? The good news is that the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment is still intact. The bad news is that it expires on Jan. 19 if it's not renewed. It was extended briefly as part of the year-end spending bill to keep the government going. The worse news is that the amendment only forbids the Justice Department from meddling in legalized medical marijuana use. It doesn't stop the Justice Department from going into states that have legalized recreational use. The Cole memo didn't focus on recreational vs. medical use but was about prioritizing certain enforcement goals to protect public safety in a world where marijuana use was becoming accepted and permitted. As it stood, even with the Cole memo, we saw federal prosecutors in the Obama administration target medical marijuana producers who were operating legally under state laws. Nobody can actually say for sure what will happen if the Cole amendment is rescinded, itself a serious problem. Whether or not a marijuana grower ends up in the crosshairs of a prosecutor depends on that prosecutor's own goals and discretion, not a consistent, predictable application of law. Reason's Jacob Sullum has previously predicted that Sessions would not start an organized crackdown on state-level legalized medical marijuana use. It would be extremely unpopular and would create massive political headaches. But tossing that memo could result in an unpredictable,[...]

New Policy Lets V.A. Docs Talk to Veterans About Medical Marijuana Use

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 08:30:00 -0500

(image) Under new Department of Veterans Affairs guidelines, doctors still cannot prescribe medical marijuana, but it looks as though they can stop pretending that it doesn't actually help patients.

Veterans have been turning to marijuana as a treatment for pain and for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This use should be seen as good news, given that studies show that when chronic pain patients turn to marijuana, they reduce their use of opioids. The V.A. has been looking for ways to reduce dependency on opioids among patients, but simply cutting veterans off exposes them to pain which can potentially drive them to the black market for relief.

Even though marijuana is proving to be an effective treatment for some veterans' ailments, V.A. doctors are forbidden from prescribing it or helping patients get it even in states that have legalized medical use. The V.A. blames marijuana's continued status a forbidden Schedule 1 controlled substance.

The ban against prescribing or recommending marijuana (or even helping veterans fill out forms related to getting medical marijuana) is not going to change, unfortunately. And the V.A. still will not pay for medical marijuana as a treatment.

But this new directive will allow health care providers and pharmacists to actually discuss marijuana use with veterans who are in state-approved programs, in particular "how the use of marijuana may impact other aspects of the overall care of the veteran, such as pain management, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or substance abuse disorder treatment." And they're not permitted to turn away vets solely on the basis of their participating in a state-legal medical marijuana program.

V.A. healthcare providers are authorized by the new directive to make appropriate changes to a veterans' health care to account for marijuana use and to document it in patients' records as a "Non-VA/Herbal/Over the Counter" treatment.

Marijuana-focused journalist Tom Angell took note Tuesday of this directive, released earlier in the month. He's got a three-page guidance brief posted at Forbes here. It's an extremely modest change, but it's not nothing. The American Legion has been calling for marijuana to be reclassified by the federal government to acknowledge the reality that it does have valid medical purposes. It's tough to see that happening in the current administration, but at least there's some improvement.

Ben Carson Admits War on Drugs Conflicts with War on Poverty

Tue, 19 Dec 2017 16:10:00 -0500

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was a typical modern Republican drug warrior during his presidential run in 2016. As Tom Angell at the Marijuana Moment site reminds us, the former neurosurgeon supported medical marijuana but was quick to discuss the alleged IQ damage the drug can cause, believed it could be a "gateway drug" to more harmful practices, and insisted he would, if elected president, enforce federal anti-pot laws even in states that had legalized.

In a speech last week at the Manhattan Institute, Carson showed he recognizes the drug war causes direct, unwarranted harm to America's poor, encouraging those of us who like to believe even politicians can be persuaded by arguments spread by libertarians (and others) about the deleterious effects of the drug war on America.

In a talk lamenting that "in many communities there are more black males incarcerated than there are in college," Carson acknowledged "the war on poverty sometimes conflicted with the war on drugs, which often dealt harshly with non-violent offenders, taking men away from their families, and disproportionately affecting minority communities."

Carson does not, alas, have direct authority to help end government law enforcement policies regarding marijuana and other drugs that have those bad effects. But it is heartening to see the truth seep through the higher levels of the Trump administration. Let's hope Jeff Sessions might be listening.

Video of the speech, given last week at the Manhattan Institute at a symposium called "Prospects for Black America." The relevant line, in the context of a critique of aspects of post-Great Society policy, starts around 12:40.

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Even Without the Rider That Protects Medical Marijuana, a Pot Crackdown Is Unlikely

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:00:00 -0500

As we approach the end of 2017, it's not clear whether Congress will renew the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which prohibits the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. James Higdon, writing in Politico Magazine, argues that the demise of the spending rider would be "a major boost" for Attorney General Jeff Sessions' "yearning to battle legal marijuana," leaving him "free to unleash federal drug agents" on state-licensed growers and distributors. That gloss overestimates the amendment's significance and underestimates the factors that have deterred Sessions from cracking down on state-legal marijuana, notwithstanding his well-known fear and loathing of the plant. The medical marijuana amendment, which was first enacted in December 2014 and has been renewed each year since then, has proven a significant barrier to DOJ harassment of patients and providers. A federal appeals court has ruled that the amendment bars prosecution of medical marijuana growers and suppliers whose actions comply with state law, including continued pursuit of cases initiated before the amendment took effect. Sessions himself concedes that the rider ties his hands in those respects. The protection also extends to civil actions aimed at shutting down dispensaries. Sessions, not surprisingly, resents the restraint, and in May he urged Congress to let the amendment expire. Yet the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment does not apply to state-licensed businesses that supply the recreational market, which Sessions nevertheless has refrained from targeting. Sessions says he is sticking to the Obama administration policy of going after state-legal cannabusinesses only if they impinge on "federal law enforcement priorities" such as preventing interstate smuggling and sales to minors. While that policy leaves a lot of wiggle room for an attorney general inclined to enforce the federal ban on marijuana more aggressively, Sessions so far has not taken advantage of it. There are several good reasons for his reticence: 1. Most Americans think marijuana should be legal, and an even larger majority, including most Republicans, says the decision should be left to the states. 2. Sessions' boss, who is already irked at him because of the Russia investigation, has repeatedly said states should be free to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use (although he is less enthusiastic about the latter option). 3. Marijuana is legal for recreational use in eight states, home to one in five Americans. Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states. A cannabis crackdown would anger officials from those states, creating political headaches that neither Sessions nor Donald Trump needs. 4. While the DOJ could close down conspicuous cannabusinesses easily enough, maybe just by sending some threatening letters, it does not have the resources to prevent home cultivation, which is legal in seven of the eight states that allow recreational use. A crackdown would shift the supply from a few visible and regulated sources to myriad uncontrollable growers. Whatever happens with the Rohrabacher-Bluemenauer amendment, these factors would continue to discourage Sessions from giving his anti-pot prejudices full rein.[...]

PharmaCann Challenges "Racial Quotas" for Ohio Medical Marijuana Licenses

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 21:50:00 -0500 reports that PharmaCann Ohio, LLC, has filed a constitutional challenge against the states minority set-aside requirement for the issuance of marijuana cultivation licenses. The firm claims that it was denied a license in favor of other, lower scoring firms because state law requires that a minimum proportion of licenses are awarded to members of racial minority groups.

From the report:

PharmaCann Ohio, LLC wants the court to order the Ohio Department of Commerce to award licenses to the top-scoring applicants, including PharmaCann, and is seeking a temporary order to stop the department from issuing provisional licenses to the two minority-owned companies.

The lawsuit was the first filed challenging the results of a months-long, expensive process of applying for a limited number of grow licenses. At least one other losing applicant has said it plans to sue the state. . . .

PharmaCann scored 158.56 points in a competitive application scoring process, ranking 12th of eligible applicants. Parma Wellness Center, LLC and Harvest Grows, LLC scored less than PharmaCann, ranking 14th and 23rd, respectively.

The provision at issue in the Ohio Revised Code provides:

The department shall issue not less than fifteen per cent of cultivator, processor, or laboratory licenses to entities that are owned and controlled by United States citizens who are residents of this state and are members of one of the following economically disadvantaged groups: Blacks or African Americans. American Indians. Hispanics or Latinos, and Asians.

Qualifying licensees must meet other specified requirements, but need not be among the highest scoring applicants.

According to PharmaCann's complaint, this provision operates as an impermissible "racial quota" in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

Don’t Register Anything

Tue, 05 Dec 2017 00:01:00 -0500

If we needed yet another demonstration that getting yourself on the government's radar is just a bad idea, Hawaii handed it to us in spades last week. That's when we learned that the Honolulu Police Department was putting the screws to people so honest—and trusting—as to comply with state laws requiring registration of certain goods and activities. They shouldn't have been so honest and trusting. Like too many jurisdictions, Hawaii requires gun owners to register their firearms. Also like an excess of other control-freaky places, the state requires medical marijuana users to register themselves with the state Department of Health. As it turns out, those who dutifully abide by both requirements find themselves in trouble. Hawaii may allow the use of marijuana for medicinal uses, and even require registration of its users, but the state continues to regard the practice as a violation of federal law. As a result, Honolulu residents who legally complied with requirements that they enter themselves in both registries have received threatening letters signed by officials including Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard. These letters read, in part: "Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition. If you currently own or have any firearms, you have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to voluntarily surrender your firearms, permit and ammunition to the Honolulu Police Department or otherwise transfer ownership." Federal law restricts the possession of firearms by anybody who is an "unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance," and marijuana remains a controlled substance according to the folks in D.C. That's enough of an excuse for Honolulu police officials to try to disarm locals who've done their best to abide by state gun and marijuana laws. But it's not just a Hawaii problem. As Jacob Sullum previously noted, "Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which includes Hawaii, upheld the ATF's policy of banning gun sales to people who are known to have medical marijuana cards, even if they do not currently consume cannabis." So putting your name on a medical marijuana registry anywhere has the potential to make it more difficult to legally buy a firearm. Actually, entering your information into a medical marijuana registry can put a red flag next to your name in so many ways. Colorado marijuana patients have been surprised during traffic stops to discover that cops knew they were registered users. Cops are supposed to have access to the registry only under limited circumstances, but the data has obviously been shared more widely than many people envisioned. Even so, the state's Board of Health rejected a petition to block sharing of registry information with law enforcement, with the head of the board insisting, "We don't know that we are doing anything wrong." The same issue developed in Oregon, where a 2012 news report noted that "Law enforcement ran more than 20,000 queries on potential patients and grow sites from March through October of this year." Unlike Colorado, Oregon deliberately gave police open access to the medical marijuana registry, and they apparently browsed it at will—at least until the courts gave them a slap. In 2010, a state judge told cops to stop running concealed carry permit applicants' names through the system, saying "the statute does not authorize the use of database information for purposes of helping to determine whether an individual uses, or may use, marijuana." Complaints about police in Colorado and Oregon browsing marijuana registries for excuses to hassle people seem to have subsided in recent years, perhaps because both states have legalized recreational use, which does not require people to put their names on lists that officials can easily peruse. On the other hand, states inclu[...]

Hawaii, Which Registers Guns and Medical Marijuana Users, Starts Disarming Patients

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 09:35:00 -0500

Hawaii is one of 29 states that allow medical use of marijuana, but it is the only state that requires registration of all firearms. If you are familiar with the criteria that bar people from owning guns under federal law, you can probably surmise what the conjunction of these two facts means for patients who use cannabis as a medicine, which Hawaii allows them to do only if they register with the state. Some of them recently received a letter from Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, instructing them to turn in their guns. "Your medical marijuana use disqualifies you from ownership of firearms and ammunition," Ballard says in the November 13 letter, which Leafly obtained this week after Russ Belville noted it in his Marijuana Agenda podcast. "If you currently own or have any firearms, you have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to voluntarily surrender your firearms, permit, and ammunition to the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) or otherwise transfer ownership. A medical doctor's clearance letter is required for any future firearms applications or return of firearms from HPD evidence." Although medical marijuana states typically register patients and/or issue them ID cards, Hawaii is unusual in making its registry both mandatory and accessible for purposes other than confirming eligibility, which is how Ballard knew where to send her warning. The letter, which comes just three months after Hawaii's first medical marijuana dispensary opened, does not say what will happen to gun owners who fail to "voluntarily" give up their weapons. But if police decide to pay them a visit, it should be easy enough to locate them by comparing the state's list of patients with its list of gun owners. As authority for disarming medical marijuana users, Ballard cites Section 134-7(a) of Hawaii's Revised Statutes, which says "no person who is a fugitive from justice or is a person prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law shall own, possess, or control any firearm or ammunition." The relevant federal provision prohibits possession of firearms by anyone who is "an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance." Since federal law does not recognize any legitimate reason for consuming cannabis, all use is unlawful use, as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives makes clear in a boldfaced warning on the form that must be completed by anyone buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer: "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." Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which includes Hawaii, upheld the ATF's policy of banning gun sales to people who are known to have medical marijuana cards, even if they do not currently consume cannabis. The appeals court reasoned that possessing a medical marijuana card is a good if imperfect indicator of illegal drug use, which is in turn associated with violence, "impaired mental states," and "negative interactions with law enforcement officers." The 9th Circuit concluded that there is a "reasonable fit" between the ATF's policy and a substantial government objective, which means it passes "intermediate scrutiny" and is consistent with the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Most people probably do not realize how casually the federal government strips Americans of their Second Amendment rights, because enforcement of these longstanding rules is spotty and haphazard. Federal law notionally bars gun ownership by all of America's 38 million or so cannabis consumers, along with millions of other unlawful users of controlled substances, including anyone who takes a medication prescribed for someone else or u[...]

New Mexico Study Suggests Medical Cannabis Helps Chronic Pain Patients Reduce Opioid Use

Tue, 28 Nov 2017 17:20:00 -0500

Chronic pain patients who enroll in New Mexico's Medical Cannabis Program while using prescription opioids are likely to reduce their dosage of opioids and even to cease using opioids altogether, according to a new study from researchers at the University of New Mexico. Participants in the program also reported "improvements in pain reduction, quality of life, social life, activity levels, and concentration, and few side effects from using cannabis one year after enrollment in the MCP." Published earlier this month in the open access journal PLOS One, the study had a small sample size: 37 of the surveyed patients enrolled in the marijuana program, while 29 used opioids alone. The study also relied on a cohort model rather than a randomized control trial. That means investigators had no say over who ended up in the comparison group versus the Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) group. The UNM researchers concluded the "clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions and improved quality of life warrants further investigations." That finding dovetails neatly with a growing body of research that medical marijuana works as well as some prescription drugs for the treatment of pain, while imposing fewer side effects on users. Researchers at the University of Michigan, for instance, reported in 2016 that chronic pain patients participating in Michigan's medical marijuana program reported a large reduction in opioid use and improved quality of life. Other studies have found that doctors in medical marijuana states prescribe fewer prescription drugs, and that states with legal medical marijuana have experienced a smaller increase in opioid overdose rates compared to states where medical marijuana is not legal. Albert Einstein College of Medicine announced earlier this year it had received a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of Health to conduct a five-year study on medical marijuana's potential to reduce opioid use in patients with chronic pain. The more of these studies I see, the more I'm reminded of something psychiatrist Scott Alexander noted about the renaissance in psychedelic research: "There's a morality tale to be told here about how the War on Drugs choked off vital research on some of the most powerful psychiatric compounds and cost us fifty years in exploring these effects and treating patients." Marijuana's schedule I status precluded it from competing with prescription opioids in the early 1990s as a treatment for chronic pain. That it remains in schedule I, despite a procession of state-level reforms, precludes today's medical professionals and patients from using it the way they use far more potent drugs. I'm not convinced we need marijuana to be a perfect substitute for prescription opioids, but it seems pretty obvious that chronic pain patients—like PTSD and anxiety patients who want to try MDMA, or depression patients who wish to try psilocybin—would benefit from a wider range of legal drug options than they currently have.[...]

Former NFL Players Say League Should Allow Players to Use Marijuana to Treat Pain, Injuries

Sun, 22 Oct 2017 12:30:00 -0400

Medical marijuana has been legalized in 29 states, but it remains illegal for professional football players to use as a treatment for injuries and chronic pain. That doesn't mean players in the National Football League aren't using the drug. Quite the opposite. Eben Britton, who retired in 2014 after seven years in the NFL and who has admitted to playing games while high on marijuana and painkillers, estimates that more than half of the players in NFL locker rooms are using marijuana recreationally, or to treat injuries and control pain. During a discussion hosted by, a marijuana culture website, Britton talked about his experience using marijuana versus using opioids and other pain-killers. "I would take these pills and I would feel insane," Britton says. The opioids made him feel "more depressed, more helpless, more pissed off." Britton's assessment of widespread marijuana use in the NFL is supported by other players' experience. In a survey conducted earlier this year by, an online medical marijuana marketplace, 68 percent of the current and former players polled said they had used marijuana (either for recreational or medical purposes) during their career, while 87 percent said they would use it if the league allowed it (and 89 percent said they believed it would be an effective treatment for pain and other ailments). That tracks pretty closely with how the rest of the country feels about medical marijuana. A Quinnipiac University Poll conducted in February found support for medical marijuana at 93 percent nationwide, with large majorities cutting across all demographics. According to Gallup's latest polling, support for legalizing recreational marijuana is at 60 percent, the highest percentage recorded in the polling firm's 47 years of tracking that question. As Steve Chapman wrote earlier today here at Reason, legal marijuana is becoming the norm. The NFL has never allowed players to use marijuana for any reason—though league officials and the head of the NFL's players' union have begun discussing the possibility of allowing players to use the drug for medical purposes. But there is a well-documented history of teams handing out pharmaceutical pain-killers by the handful. Several former players are suing the NFL, alleging that official team doctors ignored federal laws for prescription drugs and disregarding medical guidance by handing out piles of opioids and other painkillers before, during, and after games. "I've seen plenty of guys leave the game addicted to pain pills. I've never seen anyone leave the game addicted to marijuana," says Marvin Washington, who played 11 seasons in the league and participated in the discussion. src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> The NFL's position on marijuana could soon change. Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys' owner and possibly the most powerful billionaire in the NFL's inner circle of powerful billionaires, has floated the idea of loosening the NFL's ban on marijuana. And Allen Sills, the league's new chief medical officer, is interested in researching how marijuana could be used to help players manage their pain. "Certainly the research about marijuana and really more particularly cannabinoid compounds as they may relate to the treatment of both acute and chronic pain, that is an area of research that we need a lot more information on and we need to further develop," Sills, a Vanderbilt University neurosurgeon, said in an interview with The Washington Post. Despite overwhelming public support, and evidence the NFL's ban is no preventative, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has remained unmoved. Goodell suspended Buffalo Bills offensive ta[...]

Legal Marijuana Is Becoming the Norm

Sun, 22 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

The war on drugs has been going on since 1971, and we have a winner: marijuana. Back then, possession of pot carried heavy penalties in many states—even life imprisonment. Today, 29 states sanction medical use of cannabis, and eight allow recreational use. Legal weed has become about as controversial as Powerball. One sign of the shift came in Wednesday's debate among the Democrats running for governor of Illinois. The state didn't get its first medical marijuana dispensary until 2015, and it decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot only last year. But most of the candidates endorsed legalization of recreational weed, and one supported "full decriminalization." Those positions are not politically risky, in Illinois or in most places. They're mainstream. In 2016, Gallup Poll found that 60 percent of Americans supported full legalization—up from 36 percent in 2005. Given the choice, voters generally favor it. Nine states had cannabis initiatives on the ballot last year. Medical marijuana won in four states, and recreational pot won in another four. Only Arizona's recreational pot measure failed. Next year should further erode pot prohibition. "Campaigns are underway in at least five states to legalize either medical or recreational cannabis," reports Marijuana Business Daily. It also notes that New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont could get recreational cannabis through legislative action. All this progress has occurred even though federal law bars possession and use—impeding normal commerce in states that permit dispensaries. Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department chose to defer to states that allowed cannabis. But banks generally are leery of doing business with pot dispensaries, forcing many to operate on cash alone. As a candidate, Donald Trump indicated he would follow more or less the same course as Obama. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, however, has been an implacable opponent of liberalization. He once joked—well, I assume he was joking—that he had no problem with the Ku Klux Klan until he "found out they smoked pot." He appointed a task force on crime, hoping it would confirm his preposterous claim that Obama's laissez-faire policy was to blame for rising violence. But the panel report, which has not been made public, recommended sticking with that approach. The case for full legalization becomes stronger all the time. One reason is that the disproportionate impact on African-Americans has gained more attention. Blacks are nearly four times likelier to be arrested for pot possession than whites even though there is no racial difference in usage. Drug enforcement has been a major motive for stop-and-frisk tactics that have fostered resentment of cops among black men. Treating cannabis like beer or cigarettes would greatly curtail such encounters. For years, opponents said legalization would lead to disaster. But as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. noted, "A page of history is worth a volume of logic." We no longer have to rely on ominous forecasts. We now have actual experience in states that have taken the leap, and the results refute the fears. Studies show that after Colorado permitted recreational pot, there was no increase in adolescent use or traffic fatalities. In Washington, which voted for legalization in 2012, crime rates proceeded to decline. California found that when medical dispensaries closed, neighborhood crime didn't fall; it rose. This year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found "substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults." That helps explains why states that allow cannabis have far lower rates of opioid overdoses. The simple rea[...]

Feds Admit Their Prosecution of Medical Marijuana Users in Washington Was Illegal

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 14:05:00 -0400

Since 2012 federal prosecutors have been trying to imprison three medical marijuana users in Washington, arguing that they grew cannabis for profit rather than relief of their symptoms. In a startling shift this week, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Spokane finally conceded what the defendants—Rhonda Firestack-Harvey; her son, Rolland Gregg; and his wife, Michelle Gregg—have been saying all along: that they grew marijuana in compliance with Washington's law allowing medical use of the plant. The government also admitted in a brief filed on Monday night that its pursuit of the case has therefore been illegal since December 2014, when Congress first passed a spending rider that prohibits the Justice Department from prosecuting people for conduct permitted by state medical marijuana laws. "This filing is a victory for the family and lawful medical marijuana users all across the country," says Phil Telfeyan, the defendants' attorney. "Our government should not use federal money to prosecute people abiding by state laws. This filing will have far-reaching effects that should help end the federal prosecution of marijuana users in states where it's legal." The Greggs and Firestack-Harvey, who received sentences ranging from one year to 33 months in October 2015, are the remaining defendants in what was dubbed the Kettle Falls Five case. The other two defendants were Jason Zucker, a family friend who pleaded guilty in exchange for a 16-month sentence just before the trial started in February 2015, and Firestack-Harvey's husband, Larry Harvey, who died of pancreatic cancer in August 2015. The Justice Department is now admitting that whole ordeal was illegal, because "the United States was not authorized to spend money on the prosecution of the defendants after December of 2014." The Greggs and Firestack-Harvey plan to seek dismissal of the case on that basis. Beginning in 2012, federal prosectors argued that the Kettle Falls Five, whose combined plant total was less than the limit set by Washington's medical marijuana law, were growing too much cannabis for their own use and must have been selling it. But there was never much evidence to support that theory, and the weakness of the government's case was reflected in the March 2015 verdict. The jury convicted the Greggs and Firestack-Harvey of growing marijuana but acquitted them of distribution and a related conspiracy charge. It also rejected the government's attempt to count plants grown in previous years, which would have triggered a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, and the allegation that the defendants possessed firearms "in furtherance of" a drug trafficking crime, a charge that carries an additional five-year mandatory minimum. The jury was not allowed to hear testimony about the medical use of marijuana, which the prosecution argued was irrelevant under federal law. But that was not actually true, since Congress had by the time of the trial barred the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. In 2016 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which includes Washington, ruled that the restriction made it illegal to prosecute people for actions that comply with such laws. Last June the 9th Circuit made it clear that the Justice Department was also barred from continuing to pursue cases initiated prior to the ban on interference. Before the Kettle Falls Five trial, Telfeyan argued that the case should be dismissed in light of the spending rider. U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice disagreed, noting that the prosecution was arguing that the defendants had not complied with state law. What has changed since then is not just the 9th Circuit's ru[...]