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  • 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 NORML July 25, 2018

    Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) led a group of bipartisan lawmakers in introducing The Marijuana Data Collection Act. The act calls upon the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to collect and synthesize relevant data and to generate a formal report to Congress quantifying the impact of statewide marijuana legalization on matters specific to public health, safety, the economy, and criminal justice, among other issues.

    Numerous published peer-reviewed studies have assessed the impact of state-regulated marijuana legalization on these issues, but despite the publication of these reports, a lack of consensus and acceptance of this data continue, particularly amongst members of Congress and the Department of Justice.

    Speaking about the new bill on the House floor, Congresswoman Gabbard stated, “For decades, bad data and misinformation have fueled the failed war on drugs that’s wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, incarcerating Americans for nonviolent marijuana charges. Our outdated marijuana policies have turned  everyday Americans into criminals, strained our criminal justice system, cost taxpayers tremendously and torn families apart.”

    You can watch the press conference announcing the legislation featuring the bill’s lead GOP cosponsor Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), lead Democrat cosponsor Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), we well as former U.S. Attorneys Barry Grissom (KS) and Bill Nettles (SC) below:

    Commenting on the legislation, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said, “This report will ensure that federal discussions and policies specific to this issue are based upon the best and most reliable evidence available. The data collected and compiled by the National Academy of Sciences will help to guide future marijuana legislation at federal, state, and local levels. This is not a marijuana bill, it is an information bill. No member of Congress can intellectually justify opposition to this legislation. Our public policy needs to be based on sound data and science, not gut feelings or fear-mongering. Approving the Marijuana Data Collection Act would provide legislators with reliable and fact-based information to help them decide what direction is most beneficial to society when it comes to marijuana policy.”

    This bill requires data collection and study with regard to the impact of state-regulated marijuana legalization on public health, safety, the economy, and criminal justice, among other issues. Specifically, this bill requires the Secretary of HHS to coordinate with the DOJ, DOL, and States (to the greatest extent possible) and direct the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to publish a biannual study on the health, safety, and economic effects of state legalized marijuana programs. The report would also outline best practices for state-led data collection, as well as recommendations to overcome any barriers preventing data collection and gaps in data.

    Thirty-one states, Washington, DC and the US territories of Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation specific to the physician-authorized use of cannabis, while an estimated 63 million Americans now reside in jurisdictions where anyone over the age of 21 may possess cannabis legally. Voters overwhelmingly support these policy changes. According to a 2018 CAP poll, 68 percent of Americans support full marijuana legalization and according to Quinnipiac University, 71 percent believe that states, not the federal government, should set marijuana policy.

    To date, these statewide regulatory programs are operating largely as voters and politicians intended. The enactment of these policies have not negatively impacted workplace safetycrime ratestraffic safety, or youth use patterns. They have stimulated economic development and created hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Specifically, a 2017 report estimates that 123,000 Americans are now working full-time in the cannabis industry. Tax revenues from states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington now exceed initial projections. Further, numerous studies have identified an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid use, abusehospitalizations, and mortality.

    CLICK HERE TO QUICKLY AND EASILY WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IN FAVOR OF THIS IMPORTANT LEGISLATION.

  • by NORML June 20, 2018

    Local Marijuana DecriminalizationEven though recreational marijuana remains criminalized in a majority of US states, more and more municipalities are moving ahead with local laws decriminalizing the possession of cannabis within city limits. For the first time, NORML has released a comprehensive breakdown of these citywide and countywide decriminalization policies.

    Efforts to liberalize municipal marijuana possession penalties in states where cannabis remains criminalized have become increasingly popular in recent years. Since 2012, over 50 localities, such as Albuquerque, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis in a dozen states — including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have enacted municipal laws or resolutions either fully or partially decriminalizing minor cannabis possession offenses. Today, over 10.5 million Americans reside in these localities. (Please note: This total does not include cities or counties in states that have either legalized or decriminalized marijuana statewide).

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri: “Local politicians see firsthand the punitive and disproportionately adverse effects that statewide marijuana criminalization has on their communities and upon their constituents. That is why they are exercising their local legislative powers to protect citizens in their community when state politicians are either unwilling or lack the political courage to do so.”

    DECRIMINALIZATION EXPLAINED

    Under full decriminalization, minor offenses are defined by statute as either non-criminal violations or infractions. Violators are not subject to arrest. Instead, they are cited and mandated to pay a small fine. Violators are not subject to a court appearance nor are they saddled with a criminal conviction or record.  Under partial decriminalization policies, minor marijuana offenses may remain classified as misdemeanor offenses. However, violators are issued a summons in lieu of a criminal arrest.

    Beginning with Oregon in 1973, 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted versions of marijuana decriminalization. (Eight of these states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Vermont — have since replaced their decriminalization statutes with statewide adult use legalization legislation.)

    Today, nine states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island — have fully decriminalized activities specific to the private possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults. Four additional states — Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio — have partially decriminalized marijuana possession offenses. In these latter jurisdictions, cannabis remains classified as a misdemeanor under state law, but the offense does not carry the penalty of jail time. In New York, marijuana possession ‘in public view’ remains punishable as a criminal misdemeanor.

    Click here to see the full breakdown of localities that have decriminalized marijuana

    NORML Political Director Justin Strekal: “As public support in favor of marijuana law reform has grown, so too have local efforts by legislators and voters to address the issue at the municipal level. In many regions of the country, local lawmakers are moving to shield their local citizens from state prohibitions — one city at a time.”

  • 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 Danielle Keane, NORML Associate July 15, 2016

    US_capitolMembers of Congress this week heard testimony on the state of marijuana research, and leading members of the U.S. Senate introduced legislation to potentially reclassify CBD. A medical marijuana initiative in Montana qualified for the November ballot and Governors in three states signed marijuana related bills into law. Keep reading below to get this week’s latest marijuana news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.

    Federal:
    On Wednesday, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a hearing titled, “Researching Marijuana’s Potential Medical Benefits and Risks”. Testimony was provided by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who are co-sponsors of the CARERS Act, as well as by officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While several witnesses were asked by the committee whether or not they expected the DEA to reschedule cannabis, none provided a direct answer. An archive of the hearing is available online here.

    Today, US Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Leahy (D-VT), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced legislation, the “Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.” The Act requires the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be reclassified under the Controlled Substances Act and would expand research on the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and other marijuana components. You can voice your support for this measure, as well as other pending federal legislation, by clicking here.

    State:

    Hawaii: On Tuesday, Governor David Ige signed legislation, House Bill 2707, to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

    The measure expands the pool of practitioners who may legally recommend cannabis therapy to include advanced nurse practitioners. Separate provisions in the bill remove the prohibition on Sunday dispensary sales and on the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia by qualified patients. Other language in the bill permits the transportation of medical marijuana across islands for the purposes of laboratory testing, but maintains existing prohibitions banning individual patients from engaging in inter-island travel with their medicine.

    Full text of the bill is available here.

    Missouri: Governor Jay Nixon signed legislation into law today making it easier for those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.

    The legislative measure expands the number of offenses eligible for expungement from roughly a half dozen to more than 100 non-violent and non-sexual crimes. It also allows people to expunge their records sooner, shortening the waiting period to three years for misdemeanors and to seven years following a felony offense. However, the law does not take effect until January 1, 2018.

    Missouri’s NORML coordinator Dan Viets said, “This law will allow many thousands of people who have a marijuana conviction on their public records to escape the lifelong disabilities such a conviction has caused in the past.”

    For more information, contact Missouri NORML here.

    pills_v_potMontana: On Wednesday, a statewide initiative to expand and restore the state’s medical marijuana program qualified for the November ballot. The initiative is seeking to reverse several amendments to the program that were initially passed by lawmakers in 2011.

    If approved by voters, I-182 allows a single treating physician to certify medical marijuana for a patient diagnosed with chronic pain and includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a “debilitating medical condition” for which a physician may certify medical marijuana, among other changes. You can read the initiative language here.

    Pennsylvania: On Monday, legislation to establish “a pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of industrial hemp” was sent to Governor Wolf for his signature.

    This measures allows state-approved applicants to research and cultivate industrial hemp as part of an authorized pilot program. This proposal is compliant with Section 7606 of the omnibus federal farm bill, authorizing states to sponsor hemp cultivation pilot programs absent federal reclassification of the plant. More than two dozen states have enacted similar legislation permitting licensed hemp cultivation in a manner that is compliant with this statute. #TakeAction

    Rhode Island: Governor Gina Raimondo signed legislation, House Bill 7142, this week to make post-traumatic stress patients eligible for medical cannabis treatment and to accelerate access to those patients in hospice care. Members of both chambers previously overwhelmingly approved the measure. Full text of the bill is available here. The new law went into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.

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