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NORML Blog

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 18, 2018

    United States Rep. Timothy Waltz (D-MN), along with over 30 bipartisan co-sponsors, has introduced legislation, HR 5520: The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018, to facilitate federally-sponsored clinical research into the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis among veterans.

    The legislation states: “In carrying out the responsibilities of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, … the Secretary may conduct and support research relating to the efficacy and safety of forms of cannabis … on the health outcomes of covered veterans diagnosed with chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions the Secretary determines appropriate.”

    According to nationwide survey data compiled by The American Legion, 39 percent of respondents affirmed that they “know a veteran” who is using the plant medicinally. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they themselves “use cannabis to treat a mental or physical condition.” Yet, VA Secretary David Shulkin has consistently rejected calls from veterans groups and lawmakers to study the use of cannabis among military veterans.

    Passage of HR 5520 explicitly authorizes “the Secretary to conduct and support research on the efficacy and safety of medicinal cannabis.”

    Representative Walz, who is the ranking member of the House VA committee, said: “While we know cannabis can have life-saving effects on veterans suffering from chronic pain or PTSD, there has been a severe lack of research studying the full effect of medicinal cannabis on these veterans. Simply put, there is no department or organization better suited to conduct this critically important research than VA, and there will never be a better time to act.”

    Please click here to urge your federal lawmakers to support HR 5520: The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018.

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director

    Following tradition, marijuana consumers and advocates from around the globe are organizing rallies, marches and other acts of political expression or civil disobedience in advance of this year’s celebration of 4/20, an annual protest against the prohibition of marijuana. While these public events are often effective at generating some buzz and raising public awareness, they are rarely organized to directly influence or appeal to those elected officials who continue to oppose common sense marijuana law reform efforts.

    To increase the political effectiveness of these events, NORML chapters are planning to combine these traditional events with a robust presence on social media that includes a call-to-action urging federal lawmakers to support HR 1227: The Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act. If passed by Congress, this legislation will eliminate federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing marijuana, give states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference, and remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which would allow for more marijuana research both recreationally and medicinally.

    NORML Chapters will continue to use these public events to demonstrate that our culture is a growing part of the broader community, and to raise awareness and support for marijuana law reform efforts.

    A couple examples of which are:

    Members of Chicago NORML have a lot to celebrate after voters in Cook County, Illinois voted to approve, “the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older,” through a non binding referendum earlier this year. Organizers are planning a 4/20 celebration that will help fund educational & outreach efforts in their community.

    In South Carolina, members of Lowcountry NORML are hosting a 4/20 rally in downtown Charleston to raise awareness about marijuana’s proven medicinal benefits, its hundreds of industrial uses, and the obvious need to end the mass arrest, stigmatization, and incarceration of nonviolent marijuana consumers. To help spread the word, supporters will be wearing t-shirts, holding signs, sharing stories, and asking others to join the fight to end marijuana prohibition.

    Below is a list of events that are taking place around the country:

    Alabama

    Alabama NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/144416092932869/

    California

    Humboldt NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/176073716520697/

    Monterey County NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/150183702470495/

    Colorado

    Denver NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/2137082429854938/

    Southern Colorado NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/165225564129646/

    Delaware

    Delaware NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/420211771762876/

    Florida

    Northeast Florida NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/2049355575350535/

    Illinois

    Chicago NORML – https://chicagonorml.z2systems.com/np/clients/chicagonorml/eventRegistration.jsp?event=503&

    Indiana

    Indiana NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1964672153792901/

    Purdue NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/353749958430389/

    Iowa

    Iowa NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1173742189395622/

    Kentucky

    Kentucky NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/155608048425043/

    Minnesota

    Minnesota NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/582709222121912/

    Minnesota NORML Women’s Coalition – https://www.facebook.com/events/121504848551480/

    New Mexico

    New Mexico NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1546743615424372/

    New York

    Western New York NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1983972578530607/

    North Carolina

    North Carolina NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1568205869881130/

    Charlotte NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/296119900919588/

    NC NORML of the Triangle – https://www.facebook.com/events/457312888018481/

    South Carolina

    Aiken NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/146375166036064/

    Lowcountry NORML – https://normlsc.org/pages/420-rally

    Tennessee

    Memphis NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1673604129371656/

    Texas

    DFW NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/185597428714345/

    El Paso NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1779571042339535/

    Houston NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/556580421390187/

    Hub City NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1893685727608368/

    Hub City NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/576627839344019/

    Southeast Texas NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/221071241791222/

    Texas NORML – http://www.austinreggaefest.com/

    Virginia

    Hampton Roads NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/217136348839688/

    Roanoke NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/158436751510406/

    Wisconsin

    Southeastern Wisconsin NORML – https://www.facebook.com/events/1894312693920769/

  • by NORML

    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.”

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