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Medical Marijuana

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 17, 2019

    Marijuana CBD OilRepublican Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation into law today to facilitate regulations governing the licensed production and distribution of oils and other products containing limited amounts of plant-derived THC.

    House Bill 324 (aka Georgia’s Hope Act) establishes a regulatory commission to oversee the eventual “production, manufacturing, and dispensing” of products possessing specified quantities of plant-derived THC to qualified patients. The law allows for the licensing of up to six cultivation operations, and seeks collaboration with the University of Georgia in the manufacturing of THC-infused extracts and oils.

    Under a 2015 state law, qualified patients are exempt from criminal prosecution for the possession of oil extracts containing not more than 5 percent THC and an amount of CBD equal to or greater than the amount of THC. However, the law failed to provide any mechanism for patients to obtain low-THC products from a state-regulated producer or provider.

    Approximately 9,500 patients are currently registered with the state to possess medical cannabis products.

    For additional information on pending state legislation, visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ Center here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 15, 2019

    Marijuana FieldMarijuana grown by the University of Mississippi for clinical research purposes is genetically divergent from strains of cannabis commercially available in retail markets, according to an analysis prepared by researchers at the University of Northern Colorado. Since 1968, the University of Mississippi farm, which is governed by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, has held the only available federal license to legally cultivate cannabis for FDA-approved research.

    Authors reported that samples available via the U-Miss program shared genetics typically associated with industrial hemp, not commercially available cannabis. They concluded: “NIDA research grade marijuana was found to genetically group with hemp samples along with a small subset of commercial drug-type cannabis. A majority of commercially available drug-type cannabis was genetically very distinct from NIDA samples. These results suggest that subjects consuming NIDA research grade marijuana may experience different effects than average consumers.”

    A separate study published in 2017 reported that U-Miss samples contain far lower levels of both THC and CBD than do commercially available cannabis. Clinicians wishing to conduct FDA-approved clinical trials on cannabis have long complained that federally-provided samples are of inferior quality.

    According to the program’s current marijuana menu, no available samples contain more than seven percent THC and all samples contain less than one percent CBD.

    In 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Administration publicly announced that it would, for the first time, begin accepting applications from private entities wishing to grow research-grade cannabis. However, since that time, neither the agency nor the Justice Department have taken any action to move this application process forward.

    Full text of the study, “Research grade marijuana supplied by the National Institute on Drug Abuse is genetically divergent from commercially available Cannabis,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 5, 2019

    House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, House Bill 324, to regulate the production and dispensing of low-THC oil extracts to qualified patients. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has stated that he intends to sign the bill into law.

    The measure amends existing law to provide for the licensed in-state “production, manufacturing, and dispensing” of products possessing specified quantities of plant-derived THC. Under the law, low-THC formulations may include oils (in quantities not to exceed 20 fluid ounces), tinctures, or capsules, but may not include THC-infused foods. Commercial cultivation and production licenses may be provided to both private entities and universities. Qualified patients will be required to possess a state-issued registration card in order to legally access low-THC products.

    The measure creates a ‘Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission’ to establish rules governing to licensed distribution of approved THC products.

    The legislation resolves, “Low THC oil can offer significant medical benefits to patients.”

    Under existing law, qualified patients are exempt from criminal prosecution for the possession of oil extracts containing not more than 5 percent THC and an amount of CBD equal to or greater than the amount of THC. Over 8,000 patients are currently registered with the state to possess medical cannabis products.

    To learn more about this legislation or other pending reform efforts, visit NORML’s Legislative Action Center here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 18, 2019

    Marijuana FieldState lawmakers have approved a series of bills reducing penalties for marijuana possession offenses and strengthening and expanding legal protections for medical cannabis patients. The measures now await action from Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is supportive of the changes.

    DECRIMINALIZATION

    Senate Bill 323 amends minor marijuana possession penalties. The measure reduces first-time penalties for the possession of up to one-half ounce of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor — punishable by up to 15 days in jail — to a ‘penalty assessment,’ punishable by a $50 fine. Subsequent offenses, or in instances where the defendant possesses greater amounts of marijuana, remain punishable by the possibility of jail time.

    Once signed into law, the reduced penalties take effect on July 1, 2019.

    MEDICAL CANNABIS

    Senate Bill 406 expands medical cannabis access and provides important new patient protections. It expands the pool of patients eligible for cannabis therapy to include those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, severe chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, sleep apnea, and neuropathy, among other newly specified conditions. It also enacts explicit legal protections prohibiting employers, social service workers, and hospitals from arbitrarily discriminating against patients solely for their medical cannabis status and/or for their failure to pass a drug test. The measure prohibits regulators from placing limits on the percentage of THC or other cannabinoids in therapeutic products and it establishes reciprocity with other states’ medical cannabis programs.

    Separate legislation, Senate Bill 204 establishes regulations and procedures for the storage and administration of certain medical cannabis products to students in school settings.

    INDUSTRIAL HEMP

    House Bill 581 regulates the commercial production of industrial hemp and hemp-extract products in a manner that comports with provisions in the 2018 federal Farm Act. Under the legislation, “The department of environment shall issue permits … to extract, process or engage in other manufacturing activities regarding hemp, including manufacturing intermediate hemp-derived products and hemp finished products.” The effective date of the Act is July 1, 2019.

    LEGALIZATION

    House-backed legislation that sought to legalize the possession of marijuana by adults and regulate its commercial production and sale stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, after the Chair failed to call the bill for a vote. Nonetheless, Gov. Lujan Grisham has announced that she will add the issue to the agenda of the 2020 legislative session.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 15, 2019

    Marijuana HempRepublican Gov. Ken Stitt signed legislation yesterday, HB 2612, clarifying regulations and patient protections specific to the medical use of cannabis. A majority of voters last June approved a statewide initiative authorizing the plant’s use, cultivation, and dispensing.

    The new legislation codifies a new regulatory bureau, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, within the State Department of Health, establishes a registry for qualified patients and their caregivers, and establishes a revolving fund to address oversight matters.

    It strengthens patient protections by explicitly stipulating that registered cannabis consumers may not be denied public assistance, access to firearms, or employment solely based on their patient status. It further states, “No employer may refuse to hire, discipline, discharge or otherwise penalize an applicant or employee solely on the basis of a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites.”

    The bill seeks facilitate standards for banks who wish to partner with medical cannabis businesses, and prohibits local governments enacting “guidelines which restrict or interfere with the rights of a licensed patient or caregiver to possess, purchase, cultivate or transport medical marijuana.”

    Members of the House voted 93 to 5 in favor of the legislation. Senate members voted in favor of the bill by a margin of 43 to 5.

    An estimated 55,000 Oklahomans are registered with the state to access medical cannabis.

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