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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 1, 2019

    Patients authorized to legally use medical cannabis frequently substitute it in place of benzodiazepines, according to a pair of new studies published this week. Benzodiazepines are class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety. According to data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control, the drug was attributed to over 11,500 overdose deaths in 2017.

    In the first study, Canadian researchers assessed the relationship between cannabis and benzodiazepines in a cohort of 146 patients enrolled in the nation’s medical marijuana access program. They reported that 30 percent of participants discontinued their use of anti-anxiety medications within two-months of initiating cannabis therapy, and that 45 percent did so by six-months. “Patients initiated on medical cannabis therapy showed significant benzodiazepine discontinuation rates after their first follow-up visit to their medical cannabis prescriber, and continued to show significant discontinuation rates thereafter,” authors concluded.

    In the second study, investigators at the University of Michigan surveyed over 1,300 state-registered medical cannabis patients with regard to their use of opioids and benzodiazepines. They reported that 53 percent of respondents acknowledged substituting marijuana for opioids, and 22 percent did so for benzodiazepines.

    These findings are consistent with numerous other papers — such as those here, here, here, and here — documenting patients’ use of cannabis in place of a variety of prescription drugs, particularly opioids and anti-anxiety medications.

    Full text of the study, “Reduction of benzodiazepine use in patients prescribed medical cannabis,” appears in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research here.

    An abstract of the study, “Pills to pot: Observational analyses of cannabis substitution among medical cannabis users with chronic pain,” appears in The Journal of Pain here.

    Additional information is available in NORML’s fact-sheet, “Relationship between marijuana and opioids,” here.

  • by NORML January 31, 2019

    Seventy-five percent of military veterans say that they would consider using either "cannabis or cannabinoid products as a treatment option," according to member survey data compiled by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). The organization represents over 400,000 veterans nationwide.

    Under existing federal regulations, physicians affiliated with the Department of Veteran Affairs are forbidden from providing medical cannabis recommendations, even in jurisdictions that legally permit private practitioners to do so.

    “Federal lawmakers must stop discriminating against veterans with regard to matters of marijuana and health," said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. "These men and women put on the uniform to defend this nation’s freedoms and it is the height of hypocrisy for the federal government to deny them rights afforded to the millions of other Americans who reside in states where access to medical cannabis is legally recognized.”

    Overall, 83 percent of respondents expressed support for legalizing medical cannabis access, and 68 percent believe that the Department of Veterans Affairs "should allow for research into cannabis as a treatment option." Proposed federal legislation to direct the agency to conduct clinical trials on the use of cannabis for PTSD and for other conditions is currently pending in the US House and Senate.

    Twenty percent of those surveyed acknowledged having previously used cannabis for medical purposes. Other studies have estimated that as many as 41 percent of veterans acknowledge having consumed cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Available data documents that cannabis is effective in the treatment of chronic pain and may potentially mitigate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, along with other conditions commonly facing veterans.

    Additional information is available from the NORML fact-sheet, "Marijuana and Veterans Issues," here.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator January 25, 2019

    Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    U.S. Representatives Lou Correa (D-CA) and Clay Higgins (R-LA) and Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced legislation this week, HR 712 / S. 179: The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2019 to facilitate federally-sponsored clinical research into the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis among veterans.

    At the state level this week, activists gathered in Denver in conjunction with Colorado and Denver NORML chapters to lobby their state lawmakers in favor of workplace drug testing reforms, social consumption, parental protections and expanding access to the state’s medical cannabis program.

    Opioid dependency was added to New Jersey’s list of conditions for medical cannabis eligibility.

    And a North Dakota bill to permit qualifying patients to cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis for therapeutic purposes was defeated in a Senate committee this week.

    Following are the bills that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check NORML’s Action Center for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list, and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and U.S. Congress. Another great way to stay up to date is Marijuana Moment’s daily newsletter, which you can subscribe to HERE.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Actions to Take

    Federal

    Regulate Nationally: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2019 — (HR 420) seeks to deschedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, thus permitting state governments to regulate these activities as they see fit.

    Click here to email your Representative and urge them to support this important legislation

    Arkansas

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 1150, to expand the state’s nascent medical cannabis access law.

    The measure expands the pool of applicants eligible for medical cannabis by allowing physicians to recommend it to those with a wide array of conditions, including asthma, ADHD, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury, among other diagnoses.

    Update: HB 115 was heard by the House Rules Committee on 1/23, but no action was taken on the bill.

    AR resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical expansion

    Florida

    Democratic State Senator Bill Montford re-introduced Senate Bill 384, which would allow qualified patients to use medical cannabis while in school.

    FL resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of allowing medical cannabis at school

    Hawaii

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 708, to legalize the use, possession, cultivation, and retail sale of small amounts of marijuana for adults.

    The measure would allow adults 21 and over to purchase one ounce of cannabis and grow up to six cannabis plants in their own home.

    HI resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of legalization

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 673, to expand medical cannabis access.

    The proposed changes:

    • Expands the pool of medical professionals who are eligible to recommend medical cannabis by permitting physician assistants to issue recommendations to their patients;
    • Allows licensed dispensaries to possess up to two additional manufacturing or processing facilities separate from their production facilities; and
    • Allows licensed dispensaries to sell edible cannabis and cannabidiol products

    HI resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical expansion

    House Bill 698 would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

    HI resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical cannabis for autism

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 131 / Senate Bill 1335, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    HI resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of industrial hemp

    Colorado

    House Bill 19-1028 would permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

    Update: The House Committee on Health & Insurance referred the bill unamended to the Committee of the Whole, meaning the bill will now be considered by the full House.

    CO resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical cannabis for autism

    Iowa

    Legislation is pending, Senate File 71, to allow medical cannabidiol (CBD) to be administered to patients at school.

    IA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of allowing medical CBD at school

    Legislation is pending, SF 77, to expand access to certain medical cannabis products in Iowa.

    The proposed changes:

    • Allow physicians to recommend low-THC medical cannabis oil to any patient whom they believe will benefit from its therapeutic use; and
    • Raises the cap on THC limits from three percent to 13 percent.

    IA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical expansion

    Minnesota

    Legislation is pending, HF 265, to permit a public vote on the question of legalizing adult marijuana use.

    The measure proposes the following question on the 2020 ballot to voters:

    “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to allow a person who is 21 years of age or older to personally possess, use, and grow cannabis and to possess cannabis-infused products, and to require the legislature to prescribe by law a manner to license and regulate the commercial sale of cannabis and cannabis-infused products?”

    MN resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of letting the voters weigh in on legalization

    Missouri

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 551, to legalize the use, possession, and retail sale of marijuana for adults 21 and over.

    MO resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of legalization

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 261, to protect medical cannabis patients who require Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.

    Under this proposed measure, “applicants or recipients who test positive for marijuana consumed lawfully pursuant to the Missouri Constitution shall not be declared ineligible for TANF benefits on the basis of that consumption.”

    MO resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of protections for needy patients

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 567, to protect the rights of prospective parents looking to adopt children.

    The measure would prohibit the government from denying prospective parents the opportunity to adopt a child based solely on their status as a medical cannabis patient or as an employee in the medical cannabis industry.

    MO resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of protecting prospective parents

    North Dakota

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 1417, to expand patients’ access to medical cannabis in North Dakota.

    The proposed changes:

    • Expands the pool of eligible patients by permitting providers to recommend medical cannabis to those diagnosed with neuropathy; opioid use disorder; opioid withdrawal; migraine; rheumatoid arthritis; and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome;
    • Allows physicians to explicitly authorize select patients to legally possess greater quantities of cannabis than are generally allowed under the law.

    Update: HB 1417 was heard by the Human Services Committee on 1/23, but no action was taken on the bill.

    ND resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical expansion

    Nebraska

    Legislation is pending, LB 657, to amend the state’s existing industrial hemp law to be in compliance with the new federal hemp regulations.

    NE resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of industrial hemp

    New Hampshire

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 481, to allow for the use, possession, and retail sale of marijuana by adults.

    The pending measure permits adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and/or up to five grams of concentrate, and to grow up to six marijuana plants.

    Update: The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is holding a hearing on HB 481 on 2/5.

    NH resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of legalization

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 399, to permit those convicted of past marijuana offenses to seek an expungement of their criminal records.

    If passed, HB 399 would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting that the court annul any past marijuana violations involving the possession of up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana.

    Update: The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee approved HB 399 by a 18-2 vote on 1/22.

    NH resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of expungement

    New Mexico

    Legislation is pending, House Bill 356, to permit the use, possession, and retail sale of cannabis for adults 21 and over.

    NM resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of legalization

    Virginia

    Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 1557, to expand the state’s low-THC medical cannabis oil program.

    The measure would allow Virginia’s licensed practitioners to recommend and pharmaceutical processors to dispense full therapeutic-strength medical cannabis oil.

    Update: SB 1557 was unanimously approved by the Senate Health and Eduction Committee on 1/24, and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

    VA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical expansion

    Senator Glen Sturtevant filed SB 1632 and Delegate Chris Hurst filed HB 1720, which seek to permit any student who is a registered Virginia medical cannabis patient to use Virginia-allowed medical cannabis oil on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity.

    Update: SB 1632 was unanimously approved by the Senate Health and Eduction Committee on 1/24, and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

    VA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of allowing medical cannabis at school

    Washington

    Legislation is pending in the House and Senate, HB 1131/SB 5155, to allow adults to cultivate up to six marijuana plants in their home.

    Update: The House Committee on Commerce & Gaming heard HB 1131 on 1/21, but no action was taken on the bill. Separately, SB 5155 is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce at 8:00 AM on 1/31.

    WA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of home cultivation rights

    That’s all for this week! Check back next Friday for more legislative updates.

  • by NORML December 27, 2018

    2018 NORML's Top TenRead the ten biggest stories that shaped marijuana policy in 2018.

    #1: Public Support in Favor of Adult Use Legalization at Historic Highs
    More adults than ever before believe that marijuana use by adults ought to be legal. An October poll conducted by Gallup reported that 66 percent of adults – including majorities of Democrats, Independents, Republicans, and those over the age of 55 – back legalization. The percentage is the highest level of support ever reported by the polling firm. A 2018 Pew poll similarly reported greater public support for legalization than ever before, while a June poll by the Center for American Progress reported that 68 percent of voters nationwide endorse legalization – the highest level of national support ever recorded in a scientific survey.

    #2: Marijuana Initiatives Win at the Ballot Box
    Voters in four states – Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah – passed voter initiated measures in 2018 regulating the use of marijuana. Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah became the 31st, 32nd, and 33rd states to enact medical cannabis access laws, while Michigan became the tenth state to permit adult marijuana use. In January, Vermont legislatively enacted provisions permitting adults to grow and possess marijuana for their own personal use.

    #3: Congress Amends CSA to Lift Ban on Commercial Hemp Production
    Hemp-specific provisions included in the 2018 Farm Bill (aka The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) for the first time amend the federal classification of marijuana to distinguish between cannabis and hemp. Under the new law, which takes effect on January 1, 2019, hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance. The Act also broadens the definition of ‘hemp’ (Section 297A) to include “any part of the plant, including …. extracts [or] cannabinoids” that do not possess greater than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis. The Act also for the first time in decades permits for the licensed commercial cultivation of hemp under a partnership of state and federal regulations.

    #4 Canada Legalizes Adult Marijuana Use and Retail Sales
    Canadian lawmakers this summer approved federal legislation permitting the use of marijuana by those ages 18 and older, and regulating adult use cannabis production and sales. Retailers began selling cannabis in compliance with the new law in October. In November, justices for Mexico’s Supreme Court also struck down the nation’s marijuana ban – finding that laws criminalizing the private use and cultivation of cannabis by adults are unconstitutional.

    #5: Governors Campaign, Win On Marijuana Legalization Platforms
    Candidates for Governor in numerous state races campaigned and won in 2018 on a pledge to legalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis. Specifically, incoming governors in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Illinois explicitly pledged to enact legalization. Re-elected Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo has also pledged to enact adult use legalization in early 2019, as has New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

    #6: Incoming House Rules Chair to Allow Floor Votes on Marijuana-Related Measures
    Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern said in November that he will permit federal lawmakers to debate and vote on marijuana-related amendments when he assumes control of the House Rules Committee in 2019. Representative McGovern replaces outgoing Rules Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX), who lost his re-election bid. Representative Sessions used his position as Chairman of the House Rules Committee to block House floor members from voting on over three-dozen marijuana-related amendments during his leadership tenure. “Unlike my predecessor, I’m not going to block amendments for marijuana,” McGovern said. “Citizens are passing ballot initiatives, legislatures are passing laws, and we need to respect that. Federal laws and statutes are way behind.”

    #7: Legal Marijuana Access is Associated with Reduced Opioid Abuse
    Over a dozen peer-reviewed studies were published in 2018 finding that regulated marijuana access is associated with lower rates of opioid use, abuse, and mortality. Among patients enrolled in medical cannabis access programs, use of opioids frequently decreases or is eliminated altogether.

    #8: FBI: Marijuana Arrests Spike for Second Straight Year
    The total number of persons arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws rose for the second consecutive year, according to data released in September by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made 659,700 arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2017. As in previous years, marijuana possession arrests were least likely to occur in the western region of the United States, where possessing the plant has largely been either legalized or decriminalized. By contrast, in Midwestern states, marijuana-related arrests comprised over 53 percent of all drug arrests.

    #9: FDA Approves First Ever Plant-Derived Cannabis Medicine
    Regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration in June for the first time granted market approval to a plant-derived cannabis medicine, Epidiolex. The medicine contains a standardized formulation of plant-derived cannabidiol for the explicit treatment of two rare forms of severe epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. In September, the US Drug Enforcement Administration classified Epidiolex to Schedule V — the lowest restriction categorization available under federal law.

    #10: States, Localities Move to Expunge Past Marijuana Convictions
    California became the first state to automatically review and expunge past marijuana-related convictions, under legislation enacted in October. Delaware enacted a similar law calling for the mandatory expungement of certain marijuana-related offenses, joining several other states that permit those with past records to petition to have those records sealed. Local officials in various cities in 2018, including Denver, Philadelphia, and Seattle, announced the facilitation of similar policies.

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator December 21, 2018

    Legalize MarijuanaWelcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

    History has been made at the federal level this week! President Donald Trump signed The Farm Bill into law on Thursday that includes language lifting the United States’ decades-long prohibition on domestic, commercial hemp production. Specifically, the 2018 Act amends the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 so that hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

    On the other hand, Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) blocked lawmakers from considering an amendment on the floor of the U.S. Senate that sought to permanently remove the threat of federal intervention in states that regulate marijuana sales.

    At the state level, Vermont’s Marijuana Advisory Commission delivered its final report to Governor Scott, which outlines recommendations on how a legal adult use market should be implemented. Recommendations include a 26% tax on cannabis sales, and that a consistent way to test for impairment among drivers is needed before the state moves forward.

    At a more local level, Mayor DeBlasio of New York City officially announced his support for legalization; this came soon after Governor Cuomo also endorsed legalizing adult use marijuana. Also, prosecutors in Brooklyn, NY began to expunge records for minor marijuana offenses.

    Following are the bills that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

    Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level. Another great way to stay up to date is Marijuana Moment’s daily newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.

    Your Highness,
    Carly

    Priority Alerts

    Federal

    Penalize States that Maintain Criminalization: The Marijuana Justice Act would (1) remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the federal criminalization of cannabis; (2) incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities in state-level marijuana arrests; (3) expunge federal convictions specific to marijuana possession; (4) allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing; (5) and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

    Click here to email your federal lawmakers and urge them to support this important legislation

    Indiana

    Legislation has been pre-filed by Senator Tallian (D), Senate Bill 213, to allow adults to possess up to two ounces of marijuana.

    IN resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of depenalization

    State Senator Karen Tallian also plans to introduce a bill in 2019 that would allow qualified patients to use and possess physician-authorized medical marijuana.

    IN resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical marijuana access

    North Dakota

    Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (R) plans to introduce legislation during the 2019 legislative session to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

    The measure would impose a civil penalty of $200 for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as for the cultivation of up to two marijuana plants.

    ND resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of decriminalization

    South Carolina

    Legislation is pending, H. 3276, to decriminalize the possession of certain controlled substances, including marijuana.

    The measure would impose a civil penalty for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, resulting in a fine only, between $100-$200 for the first offense, and between $200-$1,000 for the second offense.

    SC resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of decriminalization

    Legislation has been pre-filed to permit physician-authorized access to medical marijuana for qualified patients.

    H. 3272: The Put Patients First Act allows registered patients to use, possess, and cultivate specified quantities of medical marijuana.

    A separate measure, H. 3081: The Medical Use of Marijuana Act, also seeks to regulate medical cannabis distribution and access, but does not permit patients to home-cultivate the plant.

    SC resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of medical marijuana access

    Other Actions to Take

    Missouri

    Two pieces of legislation are pending that would allow Missourians with certain prior cannabis convictions to get their records expunged.

    House Bill 292 requires the court to expunge the records for those previously convicted of the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana possession.

    House Bill 341 would allow registered medical marijuana patients to have their records expunged if they were convicted of a possession offense that occurred prior to their participation in the state’s cannabis access program.

    MO resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of expungement

    Oregon

    Legislation is pending, LC 2152, to protect responsible adult cannabis consumers from employment discrimination.

    The measure would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees who legally consume marijuana off-the-job in accordance with state law.

    OR resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of employment protections for consumers

    Maryland

    Legislation has been pre-filed, HB 33, to permit physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to those struggling with opioid abuse or dependence.

    MD resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of cannabis as an alternative to opioids

    Virginia

    Delegate Chris Hurst has filed HB 1720, which seeks to permit any student who is a registered Virginia medical cannabis patient to possess and use Virginia-allowed medical cannabis oil on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity.

    If passed, this bill would prohibit a school board from suspending or expelling from school attendance any such student who possesses or uses Virginia-allowed medical cannabis oil on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity.

    VA resident? Click here to email your lawmakers in support of protections for student patients

    That’s all for this week, happy holidays everyone!

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