The United States Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a pair of administrative petitions that sought to initiate rulemaking proceedings to reschedule marijuana under federal law.
Although the DEA’s ruling continues to classify marijuana in the same category as heroin, the agency also announced in a separate decision that it is adopting policy changes designed to expand the production of research-grade cannabis for FDA-approved clinical studies.
Presently, any clinical trial involving cannabis must access source material cultivated at the University of Mississippi — a prohibition that is not in place for other controlled substances. Today, the agency announced for the first time that it will be seeking applications from multiple parties, including potentially from private entities, to produce marijuana for FDA-approved research protocols as well as for “commercial product development.” This change was initially recommended by the DEA’s own administrative law judge in 2007, but her decision was ultimately rejected by the agency in 2011.
Below is a statement from NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano regarding the DEA’s decisions:
For far too long, federal regulations have made clinical investigations involving cannabis needlessly onerous and have placed unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions on marijuana that do not exist for other controlled substances, including some other schedule I controlled substances.
While this announcement is a significant step toward better facilitating and expanding clinical investigations into cannabis’ therapeutic efficacy, ample scientific evidence already exists to remove cannabis from its schedule I classification and to acknowledge its relative safety compared to other scheduled substances, like opioids, and unscheduled substances, such as alcohol. Ultimately, the federal government ought to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act altogether in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco, thus providing states the power to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal intrusion.
Since the DEA has failed to take such action, then it is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend cannabis’ criminal status in a way that comports with both public and scientific opinion. Failure to do so continues the federal government’s ‘Flat Earth’ position; it willfully ignores the well-established therapeutic properties associated with the plant and it ignores the laws in 26 states recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic efficacy.
Under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the cannabis plant and its organic cannabinoids are classified as Schedule I prohibited substances — the most restrictive category available under the law. By definition, substances in this category must meet three specific inclusion criteria:
The substance must possess “a high potential for abuse”; it must have “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States; and, the substance must lack “accepted safety for use … under medical supervision.”
Substances that do not meet these criteria must, by law, be categorized in less restrictive federal schedules (Schedules II through V) and are legally regulated accordingly. Alcohol and tobacco, two substances widely acknowledged to possess far greater dangers to health than does cannabis, are not classified under the Controlled Substances Act.
A recent review of FDA-approved clinical studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of herbal cannabis concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that Information on safety is lacking.”
Added Armentano: “The DEA’s decision is strictly a political one. There is nothing scientific about willful ignorance.”
The DEA has previously rejected several other rescheduling petitions, including a 2002 petition filed by a coalition of marijuana law reform and health advocacy organizations, and a 1972 petition filed by NORML. The petitions that triggered this latest DEA action were filed in 2009 by a nurse practitioner and in 2011 by then-Govs. Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.
Senate Bill 2228 reduces the penalties for the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (formerly punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine) to a civil fine of no more than $200 — no arrest and no criminal record.
It also decriminalizes related offenses involving the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
Senate Bill 2228 also amends the state’s zero tolerance per se traffic safety law, stating that the presence of THC in blood at levels below 5ng/ml “shall not give rise to any presumption that the person was or was not under the influence of cannabis.”
The full text of the measure is available here.
According to the ACLU, Illinois police arrest some 50,000 individuals annually for marijuana possession offenses — ranking #5 in the nation in per capita marijuana possession arrests.
Illinois becomes the third largest state to decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses.
The Secretary of State’s office has confirmed that initiative proponents, The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, submitted a sufficient number of signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot.
Question 4, The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, permits adults to possess (up to ten ounces) and to cultivate (up to six plants) personal use quantities of cannabis and establishes licensing for its commercial production and retail sale. Commercial for-profit sales of cannabis will be subject to taxation, while non-commercial exchanges of marijuana will not be taxed.
State voters have previously approved ballot measures decriminalizing marijuana possession penalties and legalizing the use and dispensing of medicinal cannabis.
Voters in Arizona, California, Maine, and Nevada will also decide on adult use measures this November. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, and Montana will decide on medical use initiatives this fall.
A summary of 2016 statewide ballot measures is online here.
The DEA announced that they will amend their quotas for 2017 regarding the cultivation of research-grade marijuana and hemp legalization bills in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have been signed into law! We also have updates from Illinois, Florida, and Ohio. Keep reading to learn the latest in marijuana law reform news from around the country and to find out how you can #TakeAction!
In a notice published in the Federal Register, Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg proposed amending the amount of marijuana that may be produced under federal license in 2017 to approximately 1,041 pounds. The agency alleges that this quantity will be sufficient to provide for the “estimated medical, scientific, research and industrial needs of the United States.”
The US Drug Enforcement Administration is also preparing to respond to an administrative petition calling for the reclassification of marijuana as a schedule I prohibited substance. Their determination was originally expected in the first half of 2016 but it has yet to be released.
Florida: Next Tuesday, the state’s first state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary will open to the public. Trulieve, a licensed cannabis cultivator and distributor, will provide a high CBD, low THC strain of the plant to patients that are registered with the state. However, as of today not a single eligible patient is registered with the state to legally access the product. This is because Florida’s law, initially passed in 2014, is among the strictest in the country. Under the law, patients diagnosed with cancer, seizures, or intractable muscle spasms are eligible for CBD-dominant cannabis, while those diagnosed with a terminal illness are eligible for THC-dominant cannabis. To date, however, only 15 physicians in the state are participating in the program.
Illinois: Two months ago lawmakers voted in favor of Senate Bill 2228, legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But Governor Bruce Rauner has yet to sign the measure into law. The bill makes the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100-$200 — no arrest and no criminal record. Currently, those caught possessing that amount could face up to six months of jail time and fines of up to $1,500. The bill also amends the state’s zero tolerance per se traffic safety law.
#TakeAction and contact Governor Rauner to urge him to sign this legislation into law.
Ohio: Governor John Kasich has signed legislation so that certain drug offenses are no longer punishable by a mandatory loss of one’s driver’s license. Under previous law, any drug conviction carried a mandatory driver’s license suspension of at least six months, even in cases where the possession offense did not take place in a vehicle. Senate Bill 204 makes such suspensions discretionary rather than mandatory. The law will take effect September 13th, 2016.
Pennsylvania: On Wednesday, July 20th, Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation, House Bill 967, to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp.” The new law took immediate effect. Twenty-eight states have now enacted similar legislation.
Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo has signed legislation, H8232, to establish rules for the commercial, licensed cultivation of hemp in the state. The legislation creates the “Hemp Growth Act” to treat hemp as an agricultural product that may be legally produced, possessed, distributed and commercially traded. The Department of Business Regulation will be responsible for establishing rules and regulations for the licensing and regulation of hemp growers and processors.
Members of Congress this week heard testimony on the state of marijuana research, and leading members of the U.S. Senate introduced legislation to potentially reclassify CBD. A medical marijuana initiative in Montana qualified for the November ballot and Governors in three states signed marijuana related bills into law. Keep reading below to get this week’s latest marijuana news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.
On Wednesday, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a hearing titled, “Researching Marijuana’s Potential Medical Benefits and Risks”. Testimony was provided by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who are co-sponsors of the CARERS Act, as well as by officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While several witnesses were asked by the committee whether or not they expected the DEA to reschedule cannabis, none provided a direct answer. An archive of the hearing is available online here.
Today, US Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Leahy (D-VT), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced legislation, the “Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.” The Act requires the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be reclassified under the Controlled Substances Act and would expand research on the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and other marijuana components. You can voice your support for this measure, as well as other pending federal legislation, by clicking here.
Hawaii: On Tuesday, Governor David Ige signed legislation, House Bill 2707, to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.
The measure expands the pool of practitioners who may legally recommend cannabis therapy to include advanced nurse practitioners. Separate provisions in the bill remove the prohibition on Sunday dispensary sales and on the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia by qualified patients. Other language in the bill permits the transportation of medical marijuana across islands for the purposes of laboratory testing, but maintains existing prohibitions banning individual patients from engaging in inter-island travel with their medicine.
Full text of the bill is available here.
Missouri: Governor Jay Nixon signed legislation into law today making it easier for those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.
The legislative measure expands the number of offenses eligible for expungement from roughly a half dozen to more than 100 non-violent and non-sexual crimes. It also allows people to expunge their records sooner, shortening the waiting period to three years for misdemeanors and to seven years following a felony offense. However, the law does not take effect until January 1, 2018.
Missouri’s NORML coordinator Dan Viets said, “This law will allow many thousands of people who have a marijuana conviction on their public records to escape the lifelong disabilities such a conviction has caused in the past.”
For more information, contact Missouri NORML here.
Montana: On Wednesday, a statewide initiative to expand and restore the state’s medical marijuana program qualified for the November ballot. The initiative is seeking to reverse several amendments to the program that were initially passed by lawmakers in 2011.
If approved by voters, I-182 allows a single treating physician to certify medical marijuana for a patient diagnosed with chronic pain and includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a “debilitating medical condition” for which a physician may certify medical marijuana, among other changes. You can read the initiative language here.
Pennsylvania: On Monday, legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp” was sent to Governor Wolf for his signature.
This measures allows state-approved applicants to research and cultivate industrial hemp as part of an authorized pilot program. This proposal is compliant with Section 7606 of the omnibus federal farm bill, authorizing states to sponsor hemp cultivation pilot programs absent federal reclassification of the plant. More than two dozen states have enacted similar legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with this statute. #TakeAction
Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo signed legislation, House Bill 7142, this week to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers previously overwhelmingly approved the measure. Full text of the bill is available here. The new law went into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.