Oklahoma: Attorney General Warns Regulators Acted Improperly When Amending Voter-Initiated Marijuana Measure

Generic 18 July 2018 | 0 Comments

Oklahoma’s Attorney General warns that members of the state Board of Health “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788 – the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis access law.

In a letter issued on Wednesday to the Interim Commissioner of Health, Attorney General Mike Hunter states that the Board “overstepped its authority” by imposing new rules prohibiting the sale of herbal forms of cannabis, and mandating on-site pharmacists at licensed dispensaries.

“This is a wise move by the Attorney General, both from a policy and a political standpoint,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “When the will of the people is to ensure that patients have the ability to have access to physician-recommended therapeutic treatments, the will of the people deserves to be honored. Absent a majority vote of the legislature, the decision of the voters in this matter ought to remain sacrosanct.”

To date, two separate lawsuits have been filed against the state health department in response to the new rules, which Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law last week.

“I have no doubt that the board in good faith sought to regulate marijuana in a manner it believed would best promote the health and safety of Oklahomans,” the AG said. “However, in so doing, the board made policy judgments not authorized by statute. Such policy decisions are the exclusive prerogative of the legislature and the people. … [T]he people of the state have spoken and I have a legal duty to honor the decision made by the electorate.”

He concluded, “It is therefore my judgement that the Board reconvene to reconsider the rules … in a manner consistent with the advice of this letter.”

Reform advocates in the state claim to be just several thousand signatures shy of those necessary to place a broader adult use initiative on the November ballot. However, Oklahoma’s Secretary of State has claimed that a vote on the issue will likely be delayed until 2020 even if activists meet the signature requirements.

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House Rules Committee Blocks FY19 Marijuana Amendments

Generic 17 July 2018 | 0 Comments

Late Monday night, the House Rules Committee led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked two amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer protections from Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to cannabis.

The amendments included allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales program, originally passed by voters in 2014, and protections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses.

In a release sent out earlier today containing the testimony by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the Congresswoman stated:

My first amendment, cosponsored by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Barbara Lee and Earl Blumenauer, strikes the rider that prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds to commercialize recreational marijuana.  Nine states have legalized recreational marijuana, and eight of those states have approved commercialization.

In February 2015, D.C. legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use, after two independent studies found dramatic racial disparities in marijuana arrests in D.C.  A rider to block recreational use failed due to faulty drafting, and possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for recreational use is legal in D.C., but Congress has prohibited D.C. from spending its local funds to tax and regulate recreational marijuana.  This rider has unintentionally benefited violent drug gangs.  For that reason, some refer to it as the “Drug Dealer Protection Act.”  As one marijuana dealer told the Washington Post, the rider is “a license for me to print money.”  Regulating marijuana like alcohol would allow D.C., instead of drug dealers, to control production, distribution, sales and revenues.

 

The banking amendment was introduced by Rep Denny Heck (D-WA), who Marijuana Moment first reported as testifying:

“Our federal laws are outdated. The people in this country want the law to treat marijuana as we do alcohol. These large sums of cash make dispensaries an obvious target for robberies.”

 

Earlier in the year, the Senate included existing protections for medical marijuana programs from the Department of Justice for the FY19 Appropriations Bill to restrict federal funds from being used for enforcement actions. The House Appropriations Committee passed identical language offered by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) meaning that maintaining these protections will be considered in the annual conference committee and likely stay in effect.

This was not the first time the Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, who is known to steer the Rules Committee with an iron fist, blocked marijuana-related amendments.

He is currently being challenged by attorney, former NFL player, and former Special Assistant in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of General Counsel Colin Allred. You can find out more about Allred’s campaign here.

Send a message to your federally elected officials in support of comprehensive reform legislation in our Action Center: http://norml.org/act

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How cannabis affects appetite: Brain changes

Did you know that? 17 July 2018 | 0 Comments

New research on how cannabis use alters eating behavior could lead to treatments for appetite loss in chronic illness, according to experts. Using a new procedure to dose lab rats with cannabis vapor, the researchers found how the drug triggers hunger hormones. They also identified specific brain regions that shift to ‘hungry’ mode while under the influence.

Kentucky NORML: Seniors and Cannabis

Generic 16 July 2018 | 0 Comments

There are approximately 700,000 senior citizens in our state. The Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville found people age 65 have grown 23 percent since the 2010 census, while the number of people younger than 65 has declined and they account for over 15 percent of our population and growing.

In the past few years researchers have been looking into how cannabis therapy is both safe and effective among elderly patients diagnosed with chronic pain, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, “[a]fter six months of treatment, 93.7% of the respondents reported improvement in their condition and the reported pain levelwas reduced from a median of 8 on a scale of 0-10 to a median of 4.”

Investigators with the Alcohol Research Group assessed trends in marijuana use between the years 1984 and 2015. Authors reported that, compared with older Americans 30 years ago, older respondents today are some 20 times more likely to acknowledge using cannabis. This suggests the stigma of cannabis from drug war propaganda has been eroded and education is reaching seniors.

“We found that rates of use among older groups increased quite significantly since the 1980s, especially for men in their fifties and sixties,” the study’s lead author stated in a press release. Their finding is consistent with those of other studies reporting upticks in cannabis use by seniors.

Separate data presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society finds that as many as 65 percent of older adults reduce their use of prescription painkillers after initiating medical cannabis therapy – a finding that is consistent with those of numerous other studies assessing marijuana substitution patterns in various patient populations.

Seniors, with the benefit of life experience, professional knowledge, and 20/20 hindsight, are potentially our strongest allies in the fight to end Marijuana prohibition. We urge our Commonwealth’s seniors and their loved ones to take action and contact their state representatives by calling 1-800-372-7181 and letting them know they support cannabis reform in Kentucky.

High Regards,
Matthew Bratcher
Executive Director, KY NORML

To support KY NORML you can DONATE HERE and follow us on Facebook and Twitter! Your donations help pay the bills and allow us to function and continue to make a difference in our state! Can you kick in $5, $10 or $20 to help us keep going?

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New York: State-Commissioned Study Calls For Legalizing Adult Marijuana Use

Generic 14 July 2018 | 0 Comments

Legalize MarijuanaA state-commissioned study released today by the New York Department of Health recommends replacing cannabis criminalization with a policy of adult use legalization.

The 74-page study, entitled “Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State,” acknowledges the following:

“Regulating marijuana can reduce opioid use;”

“Regulating marijuana may lead to a reduction in the use of synthetic cannabinoids;”

“Legalizing marijuana will reduce disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of racial and ethnic minority communities;”

“Regulating marijuana will create jobs;”

“Marijuana regulation could generate long-term cost savings.”

The study’s authors conclude: “A regulated marijuana program enjoys broad support and would have significant health, social justice, and economic benefits. … Regulating marijuana enables public health officials to minimize the potential risks of marijuana use through outreach, education, quantity limits at point of sale, quality control, and consumer protection. … The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The Department of Health ought to be praised for taking a sober look at the available evidence and issuing sensible policy recommendations. Criminalizing adults who use cannabis is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern — but it should not be a criminal justice matter.”

He added: “Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, marijuana is here to stay. Our laws should reflect this reality, not deny it, and lawmakers should govern and regulate the marijuana market accordingly.”

This announcement comes in the midst of an opioid and heroin overdose epidemic in the United States.  New York City experienced 937 overdose deaths in 2015, 1,374 in 2016, and approximately 1,000 in 2017, once all numbers are finalized and verified.  Statewide, New York saw 8,444 hospitalizations from all opioid overdoses in 2016, up from 2,185 in 2015.

Legalization will also lessen the racial disparities in arrest among white people and people of color.  This change in policy will let those who self-medicate with marijuana to receive a medical card and will less their fear of being arrested for marijuana possession.  In the first three months of 2018, 89% of those arrested in New York City for marijuana possession were black or Hispanic, despite survey evidence that people of several races smoke cannabis at similar rates.  Over the last three years in New York City, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at a rate eight times that of white people.  In Manhattan, this ratio surges to fifteen.  Despite a similar number of calls to 911 and 311 (an NYC helpline), marijuana arrests are higher in those city precincts whose populations are predominantly people of color.

The full text of the study is available online here. The executive summary is online here.

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