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  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate July 16, 2015

    Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with seven other Senators, has directed a letter tmj_researcho the Obama administration demanding regulators answer questions specific to the facilitation of research into the medical benefits of marijuana.

    Senators acknowledged the need for unbiased research. They wrote, “While the federal government has emphasized research on the potential harms associated with the use of marijuana, there is still very limited research on the potential health benefits of marijuana — despite the fact that millions of Americans are now eligible
    by state law to use the drug for medical purposes.”

    The Senators applauded a recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate the HHS Public Health Service review process. But they also acknowledged the drawbacks of NIDA’s monopoly on supply of marijuana for research purposes and the need for alternative providers.

    Senators also questioned marijuana’s current classification as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law and its classification under international treaties and if the FDA is prepared to call for the reclassification of cannabidiol.

    Addressed to the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the letter signals to many that medical marijuana is becoming an even more important issue in the political sphere not only to voters but also to their elected officials.

    Co-signing the letter with Senator Warren  were Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). The Senators are seeking a reply to their questions from the administration by August 31.

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel June 17, 2014

    Most of us were caught off-guard by the rush of states this year that approved the limited use of CBD-only marijuana extracts because these traditionally conservative states had heretofore rejected the medical use of marijuana. So it seems worth a moment to consider how this occurred, and what it means on a grander scale.

    But first, a little recent history.

    Throughout this year’s state legislative season, a total of 10 states enacted laws seeking to provide limited access to medical marijuana products that contain high levels of CBD and virtually no THC for qualified, typically pediatric patients suffering from severe and disabling seizures: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.

    On one level, this unexpected embrace of the medicinal qualities of marijuana by states that previously rejected the concept must be seen as a favorable development. These serendipitous adoptions reflect a degree of compassion not obvious in the previous legislative debates in those states.

    But it is far from certain that these laws will actually help the young patients they are intended to help.

    First, such products are primarily only available in a handful of states like California and Colorado and none of these new state laws create a viable in-state supply source for such products. Further, even if a patient from out-of-state could find these products in California or Colorado, it would be a violation of federal law (and also likely state law) to take the medicine back to their home state.

    And while some of these laws attempt to establish CBD research projects at their major universities or research hospitals, recent experience demonstrates that few universities or research hospitals are willing to enter this confusing field while marijuana remains a federal crime, and those that may be willing to take the bait will face a steep and long learning curve before the first patient will have high-CBD extracts available.

    This legislative rush to CBD-only extracts also suggests (1) the degree to which elected officials are influenced by popular media, (2) their willingness to pick and choose the science they like (while ignoring the science they do not), and (3) the strong puritanical impulse that remains a factor with many elected officials.

    And it all relates to the “Gupta Effect”. When CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s report highlighting how high-CBD marijuana products control debilitating seizures among children suffering from Dravet’s syndrome (the most severe form of childhood epilepsy) went public, few Americans had even heard of cannabidiol. Most people were familiar with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that principally accounts for the “high” that marijuana smokers enjoy, but had zero idea that CBD even existed.

    Dr. Gupta, who had previously uncritically accepted the federal government’s consistent claim that marijuana had no legitimate medical use, when confronted with actual children whose lives had been transformed following their use of high-CBD marijuana extracts, understandably felt misled by the government’s anti-marijuana propaganda, and went public with two special programs introducing the importance of high-CBD extracts in reducing or eliminating seizures in these children.

    In the second program Dr. Gupta made it clear that while CBD appeared to be the primary therapeutic ingredient for this class of patients, he also made the point that some level of THC was also required, because of what he termed the “entourage effect.” Without the THC, the CBD would either be less effective, or in some instances ineffective.

    It’s embarrassing that so many of our elected officials would get their scientific understanding of the medical properties of marijuana from a popular television doctor, instead of conducting their own research into the available science, before moving legislation forward. But better they be motivated by a celebrity doctor than continue to ignore the benefits of medical marijuana altogether.

    Of which there are a myriad.

    The marijuana plant is one of the most studied biologically active substances of modern times. A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term “marijuana” yields nearly 20,000 scientific papers referencing the plant and/or its constituents, nearly half of which have been published just within the past decade. In addition, more than 100 controlled trials, involving thousands of subjects, have evaluated the safety and efficacy of cannabis and/or individual cannabinoids.

    Most recently, a review of FDA-approved marijuana plant trials conducted by various California universities concluded, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification (for cannabis) is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.” The best summary of this research can be found in the publication Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids, available on the NORML website. So the basic research is available for all who care to learn.

    But few elected officials appear to be aware of this considerable body of science. Rather, the common refrain is to claim they cannot support the medical use of marijuana because the only evidence is “anecdotal”. These officials prefer to remain ignorant because it reinforces their preconceived notion that medical marijuana is a hoax perpetuated by those who simply wish to get “high”.

    So what this latest rush to approve CBD-only marijuana products demonstrates, more than anything else, is the degree to which our public policy can frequently be influenced by a strong strain of puritanism that remains alive among our elected officials. If it feels good, it must be bad!

    These many state legislators were willing to show some compassion by allowing the medical use of marijuana by these poor children suffering from multiple, disabling seizures, so long as the marijuana did not make them feel “high” (i.e., feel better!). These legislators are against pleasure, and if the use medical marijuana includes the feeling of pleasure, then it cannot be approved.

    Excuse me, but is that not the purpose of using medicine when one is ill – to feel better?

    Admittedly, for some of these puritans, the association of the word “high” with the use of marijuana may lie at the heart of the problem for them. Marijuana has long been demonized by conservatives, law enforcement, and many in the medical community, and that has spilled-over to the marijuana “high”.

    If they understood that the marijuana “high” makes the user feel better, and that seriously ill patients almost always want (and need) to feel better, perhaps they could overcome their fear of medical marijuana. But for now at least, it is clear that in their view the marijuana “high”, like marijuana itself, is something to be avoided by responsible Americans, even if that precludes the use of medical marijuana by seriously ill patients.

    It is time we moved beyond the notion that pleasure is bad, and stopped treating the marijuana “high” as something to be avoided, when it makes patient feel better. For them, feeling better and feeling high is often the same.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director August 18, 2012

    This Week in Weed

    Click here to subscribe to NORMLtv and receive alerts whenever new content is added.

    The latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

    This week: A new study confirms marijuana’s medical efficacy, NORML and the Women’s Alliance join the Peace Caravan, and Seattle Hempfest begins in Washington State.

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8TZTDVuadM[/youtube]

    Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv every week to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 1, 2012

    This Week in Weed

    Click here to subscribe to NORMLtv and receive alerts whenever new content is added.

    The latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

    This week: A new study shows cannabis use decreases mortality rate in patients with schizophrenia and related ailments and Rhode Island’s Governor signs a bill allowing for “Compassion Centers.”

    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze14eG39at0[/youtube]

    Also, check out this latest NORML PSA, featuring some great rhyming on the problems of prohibition, submitted to us from artist Will Brennan:
    [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYN-qqbLq0M[/youtube]

    Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv every week to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director June 22, 2010

    In another affirmation of cannabis law reform’s political momentum in America, the organizers at VoterPower of Oregon have very likely qualified for the ballot what will be ‘Initiative-28’ this November.

    Enough signatures have been gathered, but, in an effort to make sure that enough signatures legally qualify the measure for the ballot it is necessary and politically prudent to turn in the maximum number of signatures to survive scrutiny from the Secretary of State’s office or opponents of cannabis law reform.

    Oregon, by all measurement, is one of the best states in the country on cannabis!

    The state was the first to decriminalize possession in 1973, the state has had numerous voter initiatives to reform cannabis laws—including the 1998 initiative votes to keep cannabis possession decriminalized (blessedly, an eye-popping 68% of Oregon voters rejected an effort to re-criminalize the possession of cannabis) and Oregon became the 4th state to pass a voter initiative that allows for the medical use of cannabis by qualifying patients who possess a physician’s recommendation.

    Now, in 2010, Initiative-28 seeks to create a state-sanctioned medical cannabis dispensary system where patients can have retail access to cannabis products.

    Below is a recent alert from VoterPower director (and former NORML board member) John Sajo letting all concerned cannabis consumers—from Oregon and beyond—know about the politically important opportunity to help get another pro-cannabis law voter state initiative on this fall’s ballot.

    If we can all help Oregon get over the top to qualify for the ballot, the state will join Arizona and South Dakota on medical cannabis-related initiatives, as well as California regarding an outright legalization initiative.**

    Please contact VoterPower and lend them your help and financial support to make sure that the citizens of Oregon once again have the chance to lead the way on substantive cannabis law reform measures.

    Thanks and kind regards,

    Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director

    NORML / NORML Foundation, Washington, DC, norml.org

    **BTW, Washington State may also qualify a legalization ballot initiative for this year as well. They too are up against tight deadlines and financial restrictions, but might become the fifth state this election cycle to have a major pro-cannabis law reform measure placed directly in front of the voters. To help the effort in Washington State click here.

    Friends

    We need your help to push Initiative 28 over the top.  This initiative will create a dispensary system where qualified patients can obtain high quality medical marijuana. Patients will have more choices and much better access.

    We have already collected over 110,000 signatures, but this isn’t quite enough.  We are waiting to hear from the Secretary of State, who checks to see how many of the signatures are valid registered voters.  We may need another 10,000 signatures.

    We have street crews out petitioning who we expect to collect about half of what we need.

    We need volunteers like you to help by getting a petition and filling up a sheet or two: One sheet is just ten signatures!

    You can collect signatures from your Oregon friends and family or just by asking a few people out in public.

    I-28 is going to be an important improvement to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act and it will help make better marijuana laws more likely in the future.  Qualifying for and winning this election are within our grasp.  Please help at this critical time.

    If you need a petition we will mail you one, just email me at johns@voterpower.org or stop by our offices in Portland, Medford, or Eugene.

    Or, call us at 503-224-3051 or 541-245-6634.

    Thank you for helping!!

    John Sajo Director, Voter Power

    P.S. Contact me to find out other ways you can help the campaign!