This week was a busy one for marijuana law reform around the country. There were several election day measures and a new bill was introduced in the Senate. Let’s take a closer look at this week’s marijuana happenings:
The controversial ResponsibleOhio measure failed to garner enough support in Ohio to become law. You can read more on what was learned from the campaign here. The measure was defeated 65 to 35 percent so it’s clear the initiative had some qualities that were less than desirable by Ohio residents. Those living in the city of Logan, OH also had the chance to vote on a local depenalization measure but voters rejected that measure 57 to 43 percent.
On the successful end of things, residents in two Michigan cities approved local measures to reduce the penalties associated with the possession, use, transfer and transportation of small amounts of marijuana.
Following election day, Vermont Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders introduced legislation, S 2237, to remove marijuana from the US Federal Controlled Substances Act. The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 would deschedule cannabis from the CSA, as is alcohol and tobacco. This legislation provides states the power to establish their own marijuana policies and banking policies free from federal interference.
What’s notable about this legislation is that it is the first ever bill introduced in the Senate that has called for the end of marijuana prohibition at the federal level. And it’s only the fourth marijuana law reform bill to have ever been introduced in the Senate. You can take action on this legislation, here.
While not necessarily legislative news, a couple other important events took place this week:
Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in a 4-1 decision that the prohibition of marijuana is unconstitutional. The ruling declares that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use.
While this is definitely a step in the right direction for a country that is almost crippled with drug cartel problems, what happens next remains to be seen. The ruling does not strike down current drug laws and it only applies to the four plaintiffs involved in the case. It could however, pave the way for more substantive policy changes to be made later on.
Disappointingly, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chief, Chuck Rosenberg said this week he doesn’t believe smoking marijuana is actually medicinal and called the entire premise a “joke”.
He said, “What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not. We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine. That is a joke.”
“There are pieces of marijuana — extracts or constituents or component parts — that have great promise” medicinally,” he said. “But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana, which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana, it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”
To have a top official, largely responsible for our country’s drug policy, refuse to acknowledge the therapeutic effects of the whole marijuana plant is disappointing and very misleading. To learn more about medical marijuana and it’s scientifically proven medical efficacy, click here.
Thanks for catching up on what happened in marijuana law reform this week and keep following our blog for more updates as they happen!
Newly appointed head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Chuck Rosenberg, says that marijuana is “probably” not as dangerous as heroin.
Rosenberg’s comments, issued Tuesday, are seemingly in conflict with marijuana’s Schedule I classification under federal law, which places it in the same category as heroin and is a lesser category than cocaine. The law defines cannabis and its dozens of distinct cannabinoids as possessing “a high potential for abuse … no currently accepted medical use, … [and] a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug … under medical supervision.”
Predictably, Rosenberg did emphasize that he believed cannabis posed potential harms, stating:“If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is. Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert.”
However, Rosenberg acknowledged that he has asked DEA offices “to focus their efforts and the resources of the DEA on the most important cases in their jurisdictions, and by and large what they are telling [him] is that the most important cases in their jurisdictions are opioids and heroin.”
Rosenberg’s predecessor, Michelle Leonhart vigorously defended marijuana’s Schedule I classification. She oversaw dozens of raids on medical marijuana providers, criticized the President on his remarks of marijuana’s safety in relation to alcohol, and rejected an administrative petition calling for marijuana rescheduling hearings. NORML is pleased that although the new DEA administrator, by his own admission is not “an expert” on cannabis, he apparently possesses a better grasp on marijuana and it’s evident differences compared to other schedule 1 substances.
Rosenberg’s comments, coupled with those of NIDA Director Nora Volkow publically espousing the safety of CBD indicate that it may no longer be a question of if the federal government will move to reclassify cannabis but when.
Members of the US Senate at a hearing yesterday expressed skepticism in regard to federal policies limiting the ability of investigators to engage in clinical studies of marijuana’s health benefits.
Senators heard from representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), University of Mississippi Medical Center, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center and Project SAM on a variety of issues
The hearing’s most noteworthy moment came when Nora Volkow, director of NIDA, acknowledged that the monopoly on marijuana cultivation for research purposes ought to be amended. Currently, NIDA contracts strictly with the University of Mississippi to grow marijuana for use in research studies. This has led to a cannabis supply that is often delayed significantly and lacking in quality.
Dr. Volkow was supported in her acknowledgement by Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, Deputy Director for the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research with the FDA who answered, “Yes, I think there are advantages to a broad supply of varied marijuana.”
When questioned on whether or not other drugs in the Schedule 1 classification experience this same monopoly, Dr. Volkow said no and there was no scientific reason to treat them differently.
This acknowledgement by Dr. Volkow falls in line with a previous ruling by a DEA administrative law judge in 2007 which was later set aside by former DEA Director, Michele Leonhart.
Other topics discussed at the hearing included expanded access programs which have currently authorized treatment for 400 patients in the U.S. using Epidiolex. Epidiolex is a formulated product containing cannabidiol (CBD) that possesses orphan drug status from the FDA to treat pediatric epilepsy.
While it is clear that Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Booker (D-NJ) are making strides to reform federal medical marijuana law, it remains to be seen if Senator Grassley (R-IA), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) will also take action.
There are thousands of licensed cannabis-related businesses these days in states like Colorado, Washington and California; and soon enough too in Alaska and Oregon. Medical cannabis-related businesses also dot the national landscape as well.
When Californians were the first in 1996 to cast votes in favor of allowing medical access to cannabis, with a near singular message of ‘compassion’ for patients that need therapeutic access to the plant. Advocates for the passage of Prop. 215 (including NORML) didn’t envisage that the initiative did more than two primary things:
-exempt from criminal arrest and prosecution medical patients who possess physician’s recommendation to use cannabis as a therapeutic
-allow for ‘compassionate’ access through collectives that, ideally, were to be not for profit
Well…culture, custom, commerce and the free market–not too surprisingly–largely came to trump compassion as a primary impetus for a medical cannabis collective’s being. The hundreds of medical cannabis businesses that currently exist in California labor under laws originally meant for lending legal protections for ‘self-preservation’ and ‘collectivism’ regarding how medical cannabis was to be a distributed to the sick, dying and sense-threatened.
However, one genuine cannabis patient collective has managed to survive for 20 years, the Santa Cruz-based WAMM.
Headed by NORML Advisory board member and MS patient Valerie Corral, WAMM has been a remarkable leader in legal challenges to federal encroachment, medical and botanical research. WAMM provides a comfortable, nurturing and inviting environment–physically and emotionally–to women and men who need therapeutic access to cannabis, in safe environs and who want to be part of a community that cultivates and shares the cannabis grown amongst the collective’s members.
If possible, please make a timely donation to Save WAMM!
It is hardly a secret to any long observing advocate for cannabis law reform to recognize early on in their efforts to end cannabis prohibition that if it were not for government–federal, state and local governments–spending, there would be relatively few examples of private money being employed in the last forty-five years to try to maintain the status quo of cannabis prohibition.
The tens of billions spent annually to keep the Reefer Madness going in America largely is taxpayer-funded bureaucracies such as the so-called drug czar’s office, DEA, NIDA, SAMHSA, DARE, PDFA…blah–blah–blah.
Even in the face of this tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars annually, still, a majority of the US public rejects the policy of cannabis prohibition.
Unbelievably, the drug czar’s office actually mandates that the office must use tax funding to publicly oppose cannabis legalization efforts–even though such is no longer a popularly supported public policy.
Add one more prime example of cannabis prohibitionists in government not yielding to the will of voters, and worse, rather than pool their own private funding to advance their no-longer-popular-views, they want the taxpayers to pick up the bill of their anti-cannabis advocacy.
Arizona voters approved a medical cannabis initiative in 2010. Many in the law enforcement community in the state, including prosecutors, have consistently opposed implementing the change of policies and/or still harass medical cannabis producers or patients.
They’re sore losers.
Now, consistent with large swaths of the country, Arizona voters are organizing once again in the state to place a full cannabis legalization initiative on the ballot for 2016.
What is the reaction from some in the law enforcement community in Arizona to the prospects of citizens again instructing their workers what public policies they want them to enforce?
Sure, law enforcement personnel are citizens too, and their opinions are as meaningful as any other citizens’, however, law enforcement personnel who oppose the public’s will on changes of public policy should never employ taxpayer funding to try to sway the populace or propagandize–on matters ranging from police wearing body cameras, to forfeiture reform to cannabis legalization.
Well that is not at all happening currently in Yavapai County Arizona, where the local prosecutor Shelia Polk thinks it wise and prudent to steer forfeiture money derived from the criminal justice system (with most of the proceeds coming to law enforcement from currently illegal drug profits seized in previous criminal filings) to propagandize to voters that they should not vote to end cannabis prohibition in the state.
Ever hear law enforcement roll out the tired ol’ line of “we don’t make the laws, we only enforce them?”
It’s largely a lie (I mean…prevarication).
Police and prosecutors (aided and abetted by fellow pot prohibitionists wearing white coats at NIDA, for example) regularly, using taxpayers’ money, actively seek to influence the outcome of public policy legislation, court cases and voter initiatives that seek to reform cannabis laws.
It is pretty simple at this point in the now five-decade-old public effort to end cannabis prohibition, if police and prosecutors want to defend the status quo of a failed and unpopular public policy, then, if they really cared about the issue, they’d put their own skin in the game by organizing as private citizens.
If prosecutors, cops, narcs, sheriffs and chiefs of police want to pony up their own money to try to stave off cannabis prohibition ending in their lifetimes–go for it.
Reformers will more than match them dollar-for-dollar and are always spoiling for a good debate about wisdom for rationale continuing cannabis prohibition…and we’ve got the public on our side, they no longer do.
What can not and should not happen anymore in the modern public policy debate about whether America should or should not continue another nearly eighty-years with cannabis prohibition enforcement are government officials and law enforcement personnel using their power of the purse and bully pulpit to try to persuade voters on ANY matters of public policy–let alone on policies where conflicts of interest are as obvious as prosecutors using government money to oppose the will of local voters who’re seeking to reform unpopular laws.
Cannabis law reformers can and will win a fair fight on cannabis legalization, but, the impending political victory will be delayed if government officials are permitted to continue to use taxpayer funding to oppose the very will of the voters.
Government for and by the people? Not when government officials are sore losers and want to use government funding to try to tip the scales of public opinion.
When government stops spending taxpayer dollars to keep cannabis prohibition going, the unpopular policy will die an ignominious and swift death.
Editor’s note: Thankfully, late yesterday AZ’s Attorney General came to reconsider this blundering policy of allowing government funding to be used to campaign against cannabis legalization efforts in the state.