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NORML Blog

  • by NORML April 18, 2018

    Cannabis exposure in adolescents and young adults is not associated with any significant long-term detrimental effects on cognitive performance, according to a systematic literature review published today in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

    Investigators affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine and with the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania reviewed data from 69 separate studies published between 1973 and 2017 involving 8,727 subjects (2,152 frequent or heavy users and 6,575 controls). Researchers reported no significant long-term deficits in memory, attention, or other aspects of cognitive functioning that could be independently attributed to cannabis use, regardless of subjects age of initiation. These findings are in contrast to similar studies assessing the impact of alcohol use and other controlled substances on cognition, which “have shown medium to large effect sizes.”

    Authors concluded: “Associations between cannabis use and cognitive functioning in cross-sectional studies of adolescents and young adults are small and may be of questionable clinical importance for most individuals. Furthermore, abstinence of longer than 72 hours diminishes cognitive deficits associated with cannabis use. [R]esults indicate that previous studies of cannabis youth may have overstated the magnitude and persistence of cognitive deficits associated with marijuana use.”

    Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These conclusions are consistent with those of prior studies – in particular, recent longitudinal twin studies reporting that cannabis use is not independently associated with any residual change in intelligence quotient or executive function. These findings, combined with other recent studies reporting that cannabis exposure appears to have minimal adverse impact on brain morphology — particularly when compared to the dramatic effects of alcohol —dispute the long-standing ‘stoner-stupid’ stereotype. These findings should help to assuage fears that cannabis’ acute effects on behavior may persist long after drug ingestion, or that they may pose greater potential risks to the developing brain.”

    Presently, the medical use and dispensing of cannabis is regulated in 30 states. Eight states also regulate the retail sale of cannabis to adults. According to numerous peer-reviewed studies, neither the enactment of medicalization or adult use legalization has been linked to increased marijuana use or access by young people.

    Full text of the new study, “Association of cannabis with cognitive functioning in adolescents and young adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” appears in JAMA Psychiatry.

  • by Patrick Nightingale, Esq, Executive Director, Pittsburgh NORML April 17, 2018

    Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law created an Advisory Board to make recommendations to the Department of Health. The Board is comprised of medical professionals, law enforcement representatives, patient advocates and appointees from the majority and minority parties. Pursuant to section 1201(f) the Board “shall have the power to prescribe, amend and repeal bylaws, rules and regulations governing the manner in which the business of the advisory board is conducted and the manner in which the duties granted to it are fulfilled. The advisory board may delegate supervision of the administration of advisory board activities to an administrative secretary and other employees of the department as the secretary shall appoint.”

    The Advisory Board submitted its first recommendations to the Department of Health. The recommendations included allowing “dry leaf or flower” to be cultivated and sold at Pennsylvania’s licensed dispensaries. The law previously defined “medical marijuana products” as processed oils (including concentrates), tinctures, pills, and topicals. While smoking cannabis is specifically prohibited by the law, a form that can be “vaporized or nebulized” is permitted, thus opening the door to flower. The Board also recommended adding four qualifying conditions – Neurodegenerative Diseases, Dyskinetic and Spastic Movement Disorders, Addiction substitute therapy – opioid reduction and Terminally ill. Further, it recommended cancer in remission as qualifying as well as simplifying the definition of “chronic or intractable” pain.

    The Department of Health had up to one year to act on the recommendations of the Board. In a move that excited patients and advocates, Dr. Rachel Levine on behalf of the Department acted quickly adopting all of the recommendations above. Her rapid reaction is significant for a number of reasons: 1. It demonstrates the importance of the support of the Executive Branch. During the efforts to pass medical cannabis reform activist and legislators ran in to a brick wall in former Governor Tom Corbett (R). The former Governor refused to meet with patients and dismissed medical cannabis as a “gateway drug.” When Governor Tom Wolf took office in 2015 he made it clear that he fully supported the program. 2. The Advisory Board does not exist in name only. It clearly took its responsibilities seriously and acted quickly to address some important patient concerns; 3. Adding dry leaf/flower as a “medical cannabis product” give patients greater ability to find products that effectively treat their condition. Equally important is affordability. Processed oil products have been expensive as PA waits for its licensed cultivation facilities to be come full operational. Providing access to the plant itself at a lower price point than processed products is critical for patients on fixed incomes as medical insurance does not cover medical cannabis products.

    As more cultivation facilities become licensed and operational patients will have increased abilities to find the strain or product that most effectively treats their condition. By adding cancer “in remission” and streamlining the definition of “chronic pain” more patients will have access to medical cannabis. The four added conditions bring the number of defined qualifying conditions up to 21 from 17. Adding “addiction substitute therapy” is especially critical as Pennsylvania, like the rest of the nation, struggles to cope with the opioid crisis and the consequences of over-prescribing addictive narcotics. Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program may have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, but patients can feel confident that the Advisory Board takes its role seriously and is committed to improving the program.

    Patrick Nightingale is the Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML. You can follow their work on Facebook and Twitter. Visit their website at http://www.pittsburghnorml.org/ and make a contribution to support their work by clicking here. 

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 13, 2018

    Republican Senator Cory Gardner (CO) says that he has received a verbal commitment from President Donald Trump specifying that the administration will not take action to disrupt marijuana markets in states that legally regulate the substance.

    “Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” Gardner told the Associated Press. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry.”

    He added: “Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all. Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees.”

    In January, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidelines directing federal prosecutors not to take action against those who were compliant with state-sanctioned cannabis regulations. In response to that decision, Rep. Gardner had vowed to block all nominees for Justice Department jobs.

    On Friday, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said, Trump “does respect Colorado’s right to decide for themselves how to best approach this issue.” At a separate press conference, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that the President and Sen. Gardner had spoken about the issue and that the senator’s account is “accurate.”

    In response to the administration’s pledge, NORML Director Erik Altieri stated: “We applaud this commitment from President Trump, who promised during his campaign to take a federalist approach with regard to marijuana policy. That campaign promise was not reflected by Trump’s appointment of longtime marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of Attorney General or any of the actions that Sessions has taken since becoming the nation’s top law enforcement officer.”

    “With the President now reiterating this commitment, it is time for Congress to do its part and swiftly move forward bipartisan legislation that explicitly provides states with the authority and autonomy to set their own marijuana policies absent the fear of federal incursion. Doing so would not only follow through one of Trump’s campaign promises, but it would codify the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans.”

    Senator Gardner reiterated that he and his colleagues “are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution (to the state/federal conflict) that can pass Congress and head to the President’s desk.”

    Thirty states have enacted statutes regulating the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Nine states have passed laws regulating marijuana use by adults. By contrast, federal law defines the marijuana plant as a ‘Schedule I’ prohibited substance that lacks “currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML Political Associate

    Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!Legalize Marijuana

    I first want to bring your attention to some key developments happening at the federal level. United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, introduced legislation to remove low THC hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and amend federal regulations to better facilitate industrial hemp production, research, and commerce. Identical companion language, HR 5485, was also introduced in the House.

    Additionally, the United Nations World Health Organization is due to review the current international classification of marijuana, THC, cannabidiol, and other related compounds and preparations this year. In the lead-up, the WHO is asking member nations to submit feedback. Between now and April 23rd, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeking public comment from “interested persons” (I.E. you) regarding the international Schedule 1 Status of marijuana under international agreements. Over 8,500 NORML members have already sent in their comments.

    At the state level, Governor Bill Walker of Alaska signed SB 6 into law, to establish an agricultural pilot program to permit the cultivation, production, and sale of industrial hemp by registered providers. The Pennsylvania Department of Health Medical Marijuana Advisory Board recommended adding flower (to be vaped) as a form of medication, and a Florida judge ruled that a medical cannabis patient has the right to grow his own marijuana.

    South Carolina and Maryland state legislatures adjourned this week, effectively killing a SC medical marijuana bill, and a MD decriminalization expansion bill.

    At a more local level, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed a bill into law Thursday decriminalizing the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana in the city.

    Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

    The “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

    Click here to e-mail your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

    Rhode Island

    Legalization
    House Bill 7883 seeks to place a non-binding marijuana legalization question on the state’s November ballot.

    The proposal question would read: “Do you support the legalization of possession and use of marijuana by persons who are at least 21 years of age, subject to regulation and taxation that is similar to the regulation and taxation of tobacco and alcohol?”

    Update: The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HB 7883 on 4/10.

    RI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of letting the voters weigh in

    Employment Protections
    H 7899 seeks to protect state-registered medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination.

    Update: The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HB 7899 on 4/12. The Committee recommended the bill be held for further study, effectively killing it for this year.

    New Jersey

    Legislation is pending, S2426 and A3740, to further expand the state’s medical marijuana law.

    The measures provide doctors the discretion to recommend medical marijuana to any patient for whom they believe it will provide a benefit. A third proposal, S2373, is also pending to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any condition.

    NJ resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of letting doctors decide

    Louisiana

    House Bill 579 seeks to expand the state’s nascent medical cannabis program.

    The measure would expand the pool of patients eligible for medical cannabis by permitting physicians to authorize cannabis therapy to those suffering from chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder, severe muscle spasms or glaucoma.

    Update: HB 579 was approved by the House 60-39 on 4/12, and now heads to the Senate. As amended by the House, the bill also adds Parkinson’s disease to the list of conditions eligible for cannabis therapy.

    LA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical expansion

    New Hampshire

    Home Cultivation
    House Bill 1476 is pending, which seeks to permit qualifying patients to cultivate small quantities of cannabis for their own therapeutic use.

    Update: The Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a public hearing on HB 1476 on 4/12. The committee’s vote is expected as soon as next week.

    NH resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of home cultivation rights

    Expungement
    House Bill 1477 would permit those convicted of past marijuana convictions to seek expungement.

    If passed, HB 1477 would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting that the court annul any past marijuana violations involving the possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana. The bill already passed the full House earlier this year.

    Update: HB 1477 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on 4/10. The bill is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate on 4/19.

    NH resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expungement

    Medical Expansion
    Senate Bill 388 seeks to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

    The bill would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a second dispensary location in the geographic area that includes Carroll, Coos, and Grafton counties for therapeutic cannabis. It already passed the full Senate last month.

    Update: The Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee held a public hearing on AB 388 on 4/11. and there will be an Executive Session on the bill at 10 am on 4/17 in LOB 205.

    NH resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical expansion

    California

    Assembly Bill 2069 seeks to strengthen employment rights for medical cannabis patients. The bill would explicitly bar employers from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a medical cannabis patient, or due to testing positive for medical marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

    Update: The Assembly’s Labor And Employment Committee will hold a hearing on AB 2069 on 4/25 at 1:30pm, rescheduled from 4/18.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of employment rights for patients

     

    Additional Actions to Take

    Hawaii

    House Bill 2729 seeks to allow for out-of-state medical marijuana cardholders to access medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii. Other provisions in the bill prohibit employers from either discriminating against or taking punitive actions against employees solely based on their medical cannabis use or patient status. It already passed the full House last month.

    Update: HB 2729 passed the full Senate unanimously on 4/10, but the House disagreed with the proposed amendments.

    HI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of reciprocity

    Maine

    Lawmakers are moving forward with a proposal to amend a key provision of the state’s voter-initiated adult use marijuana law. Under existing law, adults may legally cultivate as many as six mature marijuana plants on their property. Lawmakers are suggesting halving this amount. The bill already passed the full House earlier this month.

    NORML opposes this law change.

    Update: Members of the Senate voted 24-10 in favor of the measure. The legislation, which would implement retail marijuana sales, in addition to making numerous other changes with regard to taxes, social clubs, and home cultivation, has enough support to override a potential veto from Gov. LePage — who opposes marijuana sales.

    ME resident? Click here to email Governor LePage and urge him to veto this bill

    Oklahoma

    Senate Bill 1120 seeks to preemptively challenge provisions in State Question 788. SQ 788 is written in a manner to be patient-centric. The changes proposed by SB 1120 are unduly restrictive and are not in the best interest of physicians or their patients. The bill already passed the full Senate last month.

    NORML endorses State Question 788 and opposes SB 1120.

    Update: SB 1120 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on 4/11 by a 11-5 vote.

    OK resident? Click here to email your elected officials in opposition to this effort

    Illinois

    Senate Bill 2298 provides for the ability for individuals to cultivate hemp with a state license even if they are not part of the state’s Agriculture Department pilot program. That program only permits hemp cultivation as part of a state-sponsored research program.

    Update: SB 2298 was heard in the Senate Agriculture Committee on 4/12, and was then approved by the Committee.

    IL resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of hemp cultivation

    California

    Assembly Bill 3157 seeks to temporarily reduce tax rates imposed on the retail sale and commercial cultivation of cannabis.

    Update: AB 3157 will be heard by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee on 4/23.

    CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of temporary tax reductions

    That’s all for this week, check back next Friday for more legislative updates!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 12, 2018

    United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced legislation today to remove low THC hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and amend federal regulations to better facilitate industrial hemp production, research, and commerce.

    The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 allows states, not the federal government, to regulate hemp production and allocates grant funding to federally subsidize industrial hemp cultivation. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established agricultural crop.

    Senator McConnell said: “Today, with my colleagues, I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which will build upon the success of the hemp pilot programs and spur innovation and growth within the industry. By legalizing hemp and empowering states to conduct their own oversight plans, we can give the hemp industry the tools necessary to create jobs and new opportunities for farmers and manufacturers around the county.”

    Senator McConnell previously shepherded federal reforms (Section 7606 of the Farm Bill) in 2014 permitting states to legally authorize hemp cultivation as part of academic research pilot programs. Over two-dozen states have established regulations permitting limited hemp cultivation under this provision. In 2017, state-licensed producers grew over 39,000 acres of hemp, up from roughly 16,000 acres in 2016.

    Separate legislation, HR 3530, is currently pending in the US House of Representatives to exclude low-THC strains of cannabis grown for industrial purposes from the federal definition of marijuana. That measure has 43 co-sponsors.

    To contact your members of Congress in support of this legislation, please click here!

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