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  • by NORML August 2, 2018

    The Oklahoma Board of Health reversed course this week and revoked their previous set of proposed rules that went against the intent of SQ 788, which voters approved in the June special election. The measure, which legalized medical marijuana in the state, was approved with support from 57% of voters.

    After SQ 788’s passage, the board initially attempted to meddle with its implementation, passing rules that would have banned or severely restricted key components of the ballot question – including a ban on the retail sale of herbal cannabis, a requirement that dictated that dispensaries hire state-licensed pharmacists, and an arbitrary limit on the THC content of medical cannabis products. These former proposed rules have all been reversed.

    “The actions taken by an unelected group of health officials in Oklahoma were egregiously undemocratic. We are heartened to see them now reverse course, but they should have never attempted to meddle with a voter approved measure in the first place. It is our hope that state officials take heed at the nearly unanimous backlash they faced due to these actions and move to swiftly enact SQ 788 in the patient-centric manner the ballot language called for,” commented NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri.

    This reversal comes shortly after the state’s Attorney General warned health officials that they “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788. These new rules now go to Governor Fallin’s desk, she has 45 days to approve or reject them.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 3, 2018

    Proponents of a proposed 2018 medicalization initiative have gathered an estimated 160,000 signatures and appear poised to place the measure on the November ballot.

    Last week, a representative from the Lt. Governor’s Office said that officials have already validated 117,000 signatures from registered voters — more than than the 113,000 necessary to qualify for the state ballot. Proponents of the measure, the Utah Patients Coalition, still have approximately two more weeks to collect additional signatures.

    The Utah Medical Cannabis Act permits qualified patients to obtain either herbal cannabis or cannabis-infused products from a limited number state-licensed dispensaries.

    In recent days, both the Utah Medical Association and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert have publicly opined against the measure. Nonetheless, public support in favor of the initiative remains strong, with 77 percent of Utahns either “strongly” or “somewhat” endorsing the plan, according to a March UtahPolicy.com poll.

    In 2014, Utah became the first non-medical cannabis state to explicitly permit qualified patients to possess CBD-infused products. However, that law provided no legal in-state supply source or distribution for the products. This legislative session, lawmakers approved separate legislation permitting the Department of Agriculture and Food to contract with a third party to cultivate cannabis for the purpose of manufacturing marijuana-infused oils and other related products, but only for those patients who are terminally ill.

    Utah is one of at least four states where voters are anticipated to decide later this year on marijuana-related ballot proposals. Oklahoma voters will decide on June 26 whether or not to approve State Question 788 — a broad-based initiative that permits physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients at their sole discretion. NORML endorsed State Question 788 in January. In Michigan, proponents of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act have turned in more than 360,000 signatures in an effort to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot. State officials must certify a total of 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters. According to a March 2018 EPIC-MRA poll, and commissioned by Michigan NORML, 61 percent of voters say that they would vote ‘yes’ on the measure “if the election were held today.” In Missouri, backers of a voter initiated effort to legalize and regulate the therapeutic use and distribution of cannabis statewide have surpassed well over 200,000 signatures. Advocates must collect a total of 160,000 qualified signatures in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts by May 6, 2018 in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 electoral ballot.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director March 20, 2018

    One development in our federal government that got a bit lost in the flurry of other headlines this week is that House and Senate leaders are putting the last minute touches on an omnibus appropriations package that would fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year.

    Something that many in the marijuana policy space have grown to take for granted is the continuation of a rider that was part of last year’s package known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which strips away funding from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the rest of the Department of Justice to prosecute state-lawful medical marijuana programs.

    Tell your federal officials to maintain this common sense protection for the 30 state medical marijuana programs and the 2,000,000 plus registered patients nationwide.

    AG Sessions wants nothing more than to see these protections go away. In a letter he sent to Congressional leadership last year, he wrote: “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of a historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”

    In the past month, NORML has worked with Representatives Rohrabacher and Blumenauer in recruiting 60 additional members of Congress to cosign a letter of their own to Congressional leadership, which states, “We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws. We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people.”

    Given the immense dysfunction in Washington, it is absolutely crucial that Congress not give AG Sessions another inch in his powers to roll back our progress. Further, with ballot initiatives expected in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah later this year, we cannot give our opponents another reason to sow doubt. Send a message now to maintain these protections this week in order to ensure that we’re well positioned to win further victories in the days and weeks to come.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 24, 2018

    Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Tuesday calling on state regulators to review the state’s eight-year-old medical cannabis access program and to recommend ways to increase participation from patients and physicians.

    “Our goal is to modernize the program in New Jersey, bring it up to current standards, and put patients first,” he said.

    The Governor’s order mandates state Department of Health and the Board of Medical Examiners to submit recommendations within 60 days on ways to improve the program.

    Presently, only five dispensaries statewide are licensed to service an estimated 15,000 patients. Compared to other medical cannabis access states, New Jersey possesses among the lowest rates of participation among eligible patients and doctors. Retail costs for medical cannabis products are also among the highest in the nation.

    If you reside in New Jersey, you can urge regulators to take actions to improve the state’s medical cannabis law by clicking here.

    Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie routinely voiced his disapproval for the program, which was signed into law by his predecessor Jon Corzine, and he pushed for various rules and regulations to both delay and limit its implementation.

    While campaigning for Governor, Murphy pledged to reform the state’s marijuana policies, and spoke in favor of legalizing adult marijuana use.

    Again, if you live in New Jersey, take time today to tell regulators to put the interests of New Jersey’s patients first!

  • by NORML January 12, 2017

    for_painThe National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive report today acknowledging that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, and sharply criticized longstanding federal regulatory barriers to marijuana research – in particular “the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance” under federal law.

    Authors of the report also addressed various aspects of marijuana’s effect on health and safety, acknowledging that the substance may pose certain potential risks for adolescents, pregnant women, and for those who may be driving shortly after ingesting cannabis. In each of these cases, these risks may be mitigated via marijuana regulation and the imposition of age restrictions in the marketplace.

    Commenting on the report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said:

    “The National Academy of Science’s conclusions that marijuana possesses established therapeutic utility for certain patients and that it possesses an acceptable safety profile when compared to those of other medications or recreational intoxicants are not surprising. This evidence has been available for some time, yet for decades marijuana policy in this country has largely been driven by rhetoric and emotion, not science and evidence.

    “A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term ‘marijuana’ yields over 24,000 scientific papers referencing the plant or its biologically active constituents — a far greater body of literature than exists for commonly consumed conventional drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or hydrocodone. Further, unlike modern pharmaceuticals, cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy.

    “Today, 29 states and Washington, DC permit physicians to recommend marijuana therapy. Some of these state-sanctioned programs have now been in place for nearly two decades. Eight states also permit the regulated use and sale of cannabis by adults. At a minimum, we know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to regulate its consumption by adults, end its longstanding criminalization, and to remove it from its Schedule I prohibitive under federal law.”

    The report marks the first time since 1999 that the National Academy of Sciences has addressed issues surrounding marijuana and health. Authors reviewed over 10,000 scientific abstracts in their preparation of the new report.

    You can read the full report here.

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