Suits to Resurrect MILegalize 2016 Initiative Failing, Attention Turns to 2018

Suits to Resurrect MILegalize 2016 Initiative Failing, Attention Turns to 2018

Suits to Resurrect MILegalize 2016 Initiative Failing, Attention Turns to 2018

We have previously reported on twin court battles challenging a now-rescinded state policy on “rehabilitation” of petition signatures that kept MILegalize from making Michigan’s 2016 ballot. Coverage can be found at the links below:

MI Legalize Petition Signers Head to Federal Court, but Are Unlikely to Find Early Relief

No Marijuana Measure on November Ballot—Federal Judge Rejects Bid to Halt Michigan Election Process

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court closed the door on one of these challenges, rejecting without comment a petition for certiorari that asked the Court to hear a challenge to the decisions of Michigan’s appellate courts.

The other litigation effort to belatedly save the 2016 MILegalize initiative appears to be languishing before Judge Parker in the U.S. Eastern District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The State of Michigan filed a motion to dismiss that case back in October, and briefing on the motion was complete on December 9, 2016. No further action has been taken by the court in that case.

With efforts to salvage the 2016 initiative apparently stalled, MILegalize has joined with the Marijuana Policy Project in preparing a draft of an initiative for 2018. As we wrote last week, anyone with comments on that draft has been asked to submit comments by this Saturday, February 25. In the meantime, MILegalize has scheduled a $500 per ticket fund raising event in Detroit for March 23.

(Why?)

Published at Wed, 22 Feb 2017 17:00:00 +0000

Ready to roll: The Cannabist hires Alex Pasquariello as editor

Ready to roll: The Cannabist hires Alex Pasquariello as editor

After a two-month national search, The Denver Post has selected Denver native and freelance writer/editor Alex Pasquariello as editor of The Cannabist.

“At least 200 people applied for a job that must be one of the most fascinating in journalism right now. We didn’t expect to get — and weren’t looking for — a clone of the one-of-a-kind Ricardo Baca, who helped bring The Cannabist international attention,” Denver Post editor Lee Ann Colacioppo said. “What we wanted was an editor with the vision and experience to push this special site to the next level. We found that person in Alex and I can’t wait to see all that he has in store for us.”

There will be a more formal meet-and-greet with Alex when he arrives in April, but in the meantime, The Cannabist sat down with him for a quick Q & A:

Q: Your Twitter bio currently says, “My Instagram is better.” (We’d agree, BTW, because there’s a sloth in your profile pic.) Give us your 30-second bio.

A: I grew up in Denver’s south suburbs, graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and built my career in Colorado as a reporter at community newspapers and an editor at national ski titles. I took off for the East Coast in Fall 2006, landing in Condé Nast Traveler’s news department before jetting to digital travel startup Jetsetter. Along the way, I earned assignments around the globe, Moscow to the Amazon (where I met that sloth), and my five-year plan became a decade, complete with wife and kids. I’m elated to move my career and young family back to my hometown for this incredible opportunity to lead The Cannabist.

Q: What did you miss most about Denver or Colorado while you were out East?

A: Denver Nuggets basketball. I modeled my game on Dikembe Mutombo and rooted for the 1998 squad. I thought Carmelo Anthony was our Chosen One, celebrated his first game as a Nugget in October 2003 and booed Melo as a Knick at Madison Square Garden in Spring 2011. I’m all in on Nikola Jokic and can’t wait to catch him at The Can as we make our playoff push.

Q: What excites you the most about taking over the leadership role on The Cannabist?

A: Legal cannabis is a boom commodity unlike any we’ve seen before. The plant is simultaneously life-saving medicine and the life of the party, a spiritual sacrament and a federal offense. It adds up to one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing beats in journalism as legalization spreads from the Mile High City to Maine. Back in 2013, The Denver Post had the foresight to carve The Cannabist a digital space for covering cannabis’ Big Bang, and founding editor Ricardo Baca grew it into a marijuana media powerhouse. He leaves the The Cannabist positioned for editorial expansion keeping pace with the impressive growth rate and increasing complexity of legal cannabis itself.

Q: What do you think will be the biggest story for the legal cannabis industry?

A: Other than the defining battle of federalism vs. states’ rights? My reading of The Federalist Papers aside, I think one of the most important industry trends is the emerging cannabis hospitality movement, broadly encompassing social consumption at licensed clubs, events and hotels. The evolution of “420 Friendly” is going to be big business, further pressing the need for regulatory reform, fully wrapping the marijuana industry within the banking system. And as Americans enjoy increased access to social consumption while traveling in the West, their viewpoints may swing away from prohibition and criminalization at home. Denver remains a legalization laboratory, and the city’s implementation of a four-year Initiative 300 pilot program allowing licensed consumption areas may come to define a profitable new hospitality sector.

Q: A personality quiz question we ask on “The Cannabist Show” is: “Flower, concentrates or edibles?” What’s your preference?

A: I’m a flower guy, sativa, preferably après-ski, definitely not on federal land.

(Why?)

Published at Wed, 08 Mar 2017 16:40:07 +0000

Federal marijuana law enforcement: What you need to know

Federal marijuana law enforcement: What you need to know

No official federal policy change toward marijuana has been made — yet.

Under the specter of a potential crackdown, officials in recreational marijuana states have been proactive in recent days, including Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman inviting Department of Justice head Jeff Sessions to take a firsthand look at America’s longest-operating recreational market, and Oregon lawmakers introducing a bill to protect consumers’ privacy.

What’s the next step for the feds? The Cannabist talked with several law and drug policy experts, industry observers and state officials about what changes in federal enforcement could look like — from the threat of raids on cannabis businesses and seizure of state-collected pot taxes to court issues and the ways Colorado regulations have developed.


Marijuana in the age of Trump: A Cannabist special report

Part 1 | ‘Something’s going to have to give’: An untenable conflict between feds, states


If the Justice Department wanted to send a message that the federal prohibition of marijuana is going to be enforced, raids are an option, but all the agency has to do is write letters, said Jonathan Caulkins, professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and former co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center.

Putting ink to paper and telling operators in recreational marijuana that they have to shut down within 30 days or face criminal prosecution and asset seizure, could be viewed as a credible enough threat that the government could effectively shut down the industry without many arrests and little to no incarceration, he said.

“It’s very hard to shut down a black market,” Caulkins said. “It’s easy to shut down a legal company with a fixed address and fixed assets.”

It’s practically a “slam-dunk,” he said.

Demonstrators march in November 2011 to protest the federal government's crackdown on California medical marijuana dispensaries during a rally in Sacramento, Calif., at the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse. (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press file)
Demonstrators march in November 2011 to protest the federal government’s crackdown on California medical marijuana dispensaries during a rally in Sacramento, Calif., at the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse. (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated Press file)

Such a tactic was employed in 2011-12 in a federal crackdown in California that led to the closure of hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries.

The door would be open for the feds to seize money collected by state and local governments in their oversight of legal marijuana operations, said Zachary Bolitho, a former federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee and now a professor at the Campbell University School of Law in Raleigh, N.C.

“Technically speaking, the money that is being derived from (marijuana regulatory systems) is criminal proceeds,” he said. “And, technically speaking, there’s an argument that’s forfeitable.”

What may be a legal possibility could be different from a political reality.

The actuality of the federal government disgorging Colorado of funds that since have been allocated elsewhere is not likely, he said.

Who will prosecute pot cases?

Others suggest that some limited, concerted actions could be more than enough to stifle a bustling industry.

Seeing a sledgehammer can drastically affect people’s behavior, said Sam Kamin, the Vicente Sederberg professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.

“Can they arrest every person? Of course not,” Kamin said. “Can they make life very unpleasant for a few high-profile actors? Would it have a chilling effect? Yes.”

Given the industry’s rapid development in just a few years and legalization’s increasing popularity among the public as a whole, attacking the marijuana industry “would seem like an odd fight to pick at this particular political moment,” Kamin said.

In making direct enforcement actions, the federal government could be wading into uncharted territory, he said, noting that the the Justice Department likely would have to do so without the full cooperation of state and local law enforcement.

If those prosecutions occur and come to trial, the chances of success may be lower, Bolitho said. They would go before a jury pool in locales where public opinion weighed heavily in favor of legalization, he said.

And then there’s the matter of immediately finding willing U.S. attorneys to initiate those prosecutions, said Robert Mikos, a Vanderbilt Law School professor who specializes in the topics of federalism and drug law.

The Trump administration has not yet replaced the U.S. attorneys from the 94 different districts across the nation, he said.

For the time being, there are holdovers — mostly from the prior administration — who may not share Sessions’ antipathy toward marijuana and be resistant toward any edicts from his office, Mikos said. Attorneys who clamp down on marijuana in their state might not be too popular when their turn in office is over, he added.

It’s possible that the Department of Justice could have a new marijuana policy in place by summer, newly appointed U.S. attorneys by fall, and then initiate prosecutions, which could be months-long processes, Mikos speculated.

“And all the industry has to do is keep those actions going for a few months,” he said.

This sign hangs is on display at A Cut Above, a Denver medical-only shop in the
This sign hangs is on display at A Cut Above, a Denver medical-only shop in the “Green Mile” a stretch of marijuana shops on Broadway, in April 2016. (Vince Chandler, Denver Post file)

There would be a high practical cost to enforcement, Mikos said, adding that the actions would consume a lot of resources from an agency without a wealth of them. And there’s the question of delineating between medical marijuana and recreational and where that would leave a state such as Colorado, where those operations are often intertwined, he said.

“All it may ultimately succeed in doing is driving the industry underground for a short time until we get a new president or until we get a new Congress in less than two years,” he said.

“A tightening” of Obama-era guidelines

Bolitho suggested that the Trump administration might not be entirely heavy-handed.

“I don’t think you’re going to see a return to the aggressive enforcement that existed prior to (President Barack) Obama,” he said. “My suspicion, or guess, is you’re going to see a modification of the Obama administration’s policy — a tightening.”

In 2013, the Justice Department set forth eight guidelines – a.k.a. the Cole Memo – to address voter-approved legalization of adult-use marijuana in Colorado and Washington and prioritize federal enforcement in the following areas:

  • Prevent distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • Prevent marijuana revenue from funding criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels;
  • Prevent marijuana from moving out of states where it is legal;
  • Prevent use of state-legal marijuana sales as a cover for illegal activity;
  • Prevent violence and use of firearms in growing or distributing marijuana;
  • Prevent drugged driving or exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • Prevent growing marijuana on public lands;
  • Prevent marijuana possession or use on federal property.

Following the recent statements by White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Sessions regarding recreational marijuana, industry groups and politicians alike shot out a flurry of prepared statements and press releases supporting regulated legal marijuana. Amid that fray were voices of dissension.

“We’re hopeful that the Trump administration will pursue a smart approach to enforcement that prioritizes public health and safety over political ideology,” Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana said in a statement.

Officials for the Centennial Institute, a conservative think tank overseen by Colorado Christian University, expressed their support for greater enforcement on recreational marijuana. Calling for the Trump administration to use “every federal resource available to limit the spread of recreational marijuana,” the organization made six recommendations:

  • Use federal agencies to stop the black-market cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado and the illegal transfer of marijuana to other states;
  • Increase penalties for illegal marijuana operations on federal land;
  • Fund public anti-marijuana awareness campaigns along the lines of anti-smoking campaigns to reduce marijuana use especially among youth;
  • Fund federal research on the impact of marijuana especially as it relates to psychological and prenatal development;
  • Maintain DEA classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance and prohibit banks and credit unions from taking marijuana money;
  • Withhold federal education money from schools with drug use above the national average.

Those actions would allow the government to act within the bounds of current state laws, as the “recriminalization” of recreational marijuana is a states’ rights issue that ultimately rests with the citizens of Colorado, Centennial Institute director Jeff Hunt told The Cannabist.

The Centennial Institute cited data from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area that showed highway patrol seizures of marijuana from Colorado increased 37 percent to 394 in 2015 from 288 in 2013.

“We wanted to make sure that the Trump administration saw that there was support from people in Colorado” for enforcement of federal law, he said, and later added: “You’re going to see the Centennial Institute take a far more proactive role in highlighting what’s happening with Colorado in the legalization of recreational marijuana.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman at the State Supreme Court Chambers at the Colorado State Judicial Building in Denver on Oct. 22, 2015. (Denver Post file)
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman at the State Supreme Court Chambers at the Colorado State Judicial Building in Denver on Oct. 22, 2015. (Denver Post file)

Coffman, Colorado’s top law official who has previously stated she would uphold her state’s marijuana laws, said she believes that the Trump administration is still figuring out its approach to legal marijuana.

Her gleaning of Sessions’ marijuana-related statements was that the state would see increased federal enforcement at its borders to prevent diversion out of state, Colorado Public Radio reported.

Colorado regulation evolution

Coffman, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Mark Bolton, marijuana adviser to Hickenlooper, have said their state’s first-of-its-kind regulations could withstand federal action.

“The primary safeguard I think we have is a strong regulatory system,” Bolton told The Cannabist. “I think we recognize that the federal government can come in and enforce the Controlled Substances Act — to the extent they have the resources.”

The state’s priorities have been to build a regulatory system that protects public safety, protects public health, keeps marijuana out of the hands of children, and supports law enforcement in its resources and efforts, Bolton said. The system was created to both align with the Cole Memo, and also serve as an example for and beyond those 2013 federal guidelines for marijuana enforcement, he added.

Bolton was quick to remind that Colorado has been creating guidance, boundaries and rules for something that had never been regulated before. Where there have been shortcomings, the state has tried to quickly adjust, he said.

“We’re sort of building this airplane as we’re flying it…” he said, quoting former Colorado marijuana czar Andrew Freedman. “There have been challenges that have come up throughout this process, and I think we’ve had to respond. We’ve been reactive and we’ve done that.”

Colorado officials want to collaborate with the federal government to address any concerns, Bolton said.

“We’re hopeful that we can continue this experiment,” he said, noting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ remarks in 1932 that states are the “laboratories of democracy.”

“We think the time and effort and work into building this system is paying off,” Bolton said.

(Why?)

Published at Tue, 07 Mar 2017 16:20:15 +0000

U.S. attorney snuffs pot fans’ plan for festival

U.S. attorney snuffs pot fans’ plan for festival

The Columbian / Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal prosecutor has snuffed out plans by pot fans to celebrate Nevada’s new recreational marijuana law by lighting up on a Native American reservation near Las Vegas.

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden took a hard line in a letter to organizers of a cannabis festival this weekend, saying federal law applies and pot smokers could be prosecuted.

Bogden’s warning raised concerns about a possible Trump administration crackdown on marijuana.

Bogden said a 2013 Obama administration directive that was seen as relaxing enforcement on tribal lands in states where pot is legal might have been misinterpreted. He said pot is still illegal on tribal lands and on federal land.

Organizers of the High Times Cannabis Cup festival said there will still be music, T-shirts and souvenirs at the event at a Moapa Band of Paiutes festival site.

But spokesman Joe Brezny said it’ll essentially be just a concert this year.

(Why?)

Published at Sat, 04 Mar 2017 06:20:05 +0000

Republican Congressman introduces bill to end federal pot prohibition

Republican Congressman introduces bill to end federal pot prohibition

A rookie Republican representative from Virginia has tabled legislation that would put a stop to U.S. federal prohibition of cannabis use and allow states to set their own policies.

The bill seeks to remove pot from the federal Controlled Substances Act and solve the current conflict between federal and state laws over medical or recreational use. If passed, the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” would take cannabis off the banned substances list along with alcohol and tobacco.

Originally introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2015, this bill is meant to create a level playing field across the country.

“I have long believed justice that isn’t blind, isn’t justice,” said 5th District Congressman Tom Garrett in a prepared statement. “Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California.”

Currently neither the recreational or medical uses of cannabis are allowed in Virginia.

The bill does specify that transporting pot into states where it is not legal would remain a federal crime.

Cannabis is currently a Schedule 1 controlled substance at the federal level, meaning the federal government considers the drug to have a “high potential for abuse” and “no medically accepted use.” But more than half the states have set their own policies allowing either medical or recreational use.

Canadians and Americans spent a combined $75 billion ($56.4 billion USD) on pot products in 2016, and a whopping 88 % of that sales were illegal, according to a report by ArcView Market Research. Legal spending made up $9.81billion ($6.9 billion USD) of last year’s total, which is up 34 per cent from 2015.

The Trump administration has been skeptical of the benefits of making cannabis legally available. Newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said he is  “not a fan of expanded use of marijuana,” and White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested the administration may crack down on weed in some states where it’s now legal.

In introducing the bill, Garrett’s tackled that apprehension directly:

“In recent weeks, the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to crack down on federal marijuana crimes,” said Garrett. “During his confirmation, then-Senator Sessions pointed out that if legislators did not like this approach, they should change the laws accordingly.”

Garrett hopes to have bipartisan support as his bill makes its way to the various committees of jurisdiction. Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D) is serving as the lead original co-sponsor on this bipartisan legislation.

(Why?)

Published at Fri, 03 Mar 2017 21:08:04 +0000

Canada’s Prime Minister Says Marijuana Legalization Law to be Ready by Summer

Canada’s Prime Minister Says Marijuana Legalization Law to be Ready by Summer

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says legislation to legalize marijuana should be ready by the summer.

The comments came yesterday at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt during the start of a two-day trip for Trudeau to Victoria and Vancouver. Trudeau – who made it a campaign promise to legalize marijuana – says that until the upcoming proposal becomes law, Canadians must follow existing policies regarding cannabis.

“Until we have a framework to control and regulate marijuana, the current laws apply,” he said.

In December Canada’s Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recommended that the nation legalize the plant for everyone 18 and older, while setting a limit of 30 grams (just over an ounce).

According to a report released in October, Canada’s legal marijuana industry is expected to be worth $23 billion annually, surpassing the total market for beer, wine and spirits.

A Nanos survey released in July found that 69% of those in Canada who are 18 and older support legalizing cannabis, with just 26% opposed.

About Anthony Martinelli

Anthony, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheJointBlog, has worked closely with numerous elected officials who support cannabis law reform, including as the former Campaign Manager for Washington State Representative Dave Upthegrove. He has also been published by multiple media outlets, including the Seattle Times. He can be reached at TheJointBlog@TheJointBlog.com.

(Why?)

Published at Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:18:00 +0000

AG Jeff Sessions Met with Russian Ambassador Twice in 2016, Something He Lied About

AG Jeff Sessions Met with Russian Ambassador Twice in 2016, Something He Lied About

In a bombshell piece The Washington Post has reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions twice met with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. last year, something he lied about during his confirmation hearing.

(Photo: AP)

According to the Post, Sessions had a private phone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in Session’s office. The call was made “at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.”

At the time of the conversation Sessions was not only a senior member of the Armed Services Committee; he was one of then-candidate Trump’s top foreign policy advisers.

During Session’s confirmation hearing in the Judiciary Committee on January 10th, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked him what actions he would take if he was presented evidence that someone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” said Sessions. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Recently President Trump fired Michael Flynn, his pick for National Security Advisor, over his failure to properly disclose contacts with Russia. This precedent could very well lead to Trump also firing Sessions, something cannabis advocates would clearly applaud given his recent and past derogatory statements regarding the plant and laws that legalize it.

About Anthony Martinelli

Anthony, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheJointBlog, has worked closely with numerous elected officials who support cannabis law reform, including as the former Campaign Manager for Washington State Representative Dave Upthegrove. He has also been published by multiple media outlets, including the Seattle Times. He can be reached at TheJointBlog@TheJointBlog.com.

(Why?)

Published at Thu, 02 Mar 2017 03:45:16 +0000

Dear Jeff Sessions: Here's that science on marijuana and opioids you were asking for

Dear Jeff Sessions: Here's that science on marijuana and opioids you were asking for

Speaking Tuesday morning before the National Association of Attorneys General, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed doubt that marijuana could help mitigate the opioid abuse epidemic.

“I see a line in The Washington Post today [Monday] that I remember from the ’80s,” Sessions said. “‘Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.’ Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just – almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”

The stakes are pretty high here. After all, opioids killed 33,000 people in 2015, up from around 8,000 in 1999. As the head of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Sessions oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration, which just last year reaffirmed its belief that marijuana has no medical value and hence should remain illegal (which makes it substantially more difficult for researchers to conduct studies).

Here’s a run-down of where the evidence on marijuana and opiates stands.

Marijuana is great at treating chronic pain.

This is the big finding, and the one from which all the others spring. Surveying the entire known universe of studies about the medical efficacies of cannabis, the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering found “strong evidence” showing marijuana is effective at dealing with chronic pain in adults, relative to a placebo. The National Academies study is the most thorough review of the literature on marijuana to date, conducted by some of the nation’s leading substance use researchers.

Across numerous trials and experiments, the report found, people treated for pain with marijuana were “more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms” compared to a placebo or doing nothing at all.

This is huge news, considering the annual opiate overdose numbers cited above. Americans consume roughly 80 percent of the world’s opiate painkiller supply. The drugs are often prescribed for long-term treatment of chronic pain, a practice that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now trying to discourage. Prescription painkillers and other opioids are highly addictive, and taking too much of them can easily kill you.

Marijuana is habit-forming too, but not nearly as much as opiate drugs like heroin. It also has no known lethal dose – you basically can’t consume large enough quantities of marijuana at a fast enough pace for overdose death to become a concern the way it is with say, OxyContin or fentanyl – or alcohol for that matter.

There’s been a lot of research done into this question in recent years. Here’s what it says:

States with medical marijuana laws see fewer opiate deaths.

According to a 2014 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, states with medical marijuana laws between 1999 and 2010 saw, on average, about 25 percent fewer opiate overdose deaths than states without such laws. What’s more, the effect of a medical marijuana law appeared to grow over time – more lives were saved each additional year after the laws’ implementation, suggesting an effect from more people taking advantage of the programs.

This, of course, is just an observational study. It looks at the correlation between medical marijuana uptake and opiate deaths, but it isn’t able to say that the former definitively caused the decline in the latter. But these findings were soon borne out by other research.

Access to medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with less prescription painkiller abuse, and fewer overdose deaths.

A 2015 working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries in a state was linked to a 15 to 35 percent decrease in admissions to substance abuse treatment centers, along with a similar decline in overdose deaths.

This study was somewhat more rigorous than the previous paper, drawing on a larger data set that stood up to greater statistical scrutiny. As one of the authors told me at the time, “If this is for real, it means that there are other ways that are less dangerous [than prescription painkillers] for people to deal with chronic pain.”

Medical marijuana is associated with fewer opiate-induced car crashes.

A 2016 Columbia University paper zeroed in on a different facet of the substance abuse problem – auto accidents. The researchers found that after a state passes a medical marijuana law, fewer drivers in those states test positive for opioids after fatal car crashes.

The take-home here is pretty simple: “in states with medical marijuana laws, fewer individuals are using opioids,” the authors conclude.

Painkiller prescriptions fall sharply after medical marijuana laws are introduced.

A novel study conducted last year looked at what happened to Medicare Part D painkiller prescriptions after states passed medical marijuana laws.

It found that the typical physician in a medical marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer painkiller doses for Medicare patients in a given year. Why? Some seniors don’t need painkillers if they have access to medical pot (related: seniors and people in late middle age are among the fastest growing marijuana use demographics).

Among chronic pain patients, marijuana use is associated with less opiate use.

A study published last year in the Journal of Pain found chronic pain patients who reported marijuana use were 64 percent less likely to report opiate use, more likely to report good quality of life, and less likely to report negative side effects from their medication.

“This study suggests that many chronic pain patients are essentially substituting medical cannabis for opioids and other medications for chronic pain treatment, and finding the benefit and side effect profile of cannabis to be greater than these other classes of medications,” the authors conclude. “More research is needed to validate this finding.”

“More research is needed.” Researchers universally say they need to do more studies to tease out the nature of the relationships seen in the studies above. In particular, what’s sorely lacking are controlled experiments that allow doctors to treat either chronic pain or opiate dependency with medical marijuana.

But as of right now that research is incredibly difficult to do because of how marijuana is classified by the federal government. As a Schedule 1 controlled substance, the government has deemed that marijuana has “no medically accepted use.”

Researchers can still work with it, but it requires jumping through an onerous system of legal hoops that can sometimes take years to navigate. It took nearly a decade for one researcher trying to use marijuana to treat PTSD in military veterans to obtain all the approvals necessary.

Those roadblocks have a chilling effect on marijuana research, as outlined in a 2015 Brookings Institution report. Meanwhile, while researchers fight red tape, tens of thousands of opiate users are dying.

The scientific evidence available so far indicates marijuana holds great promise for mitigating the effects of the opiate epidemic. Researchers desperately want to know more, but as long as the Drug Enforcement Administration considers marijuana a Schedule 1 controlled substance, they’ll have a hard time getting more answers.

(Why?)

Published at Wed, 01 Mar 2017 14:38:12 +0000

Trump won't “turn his back” on Colorado pot laws, GOP lawmaker says

Trump won't “turn his back” on Colorado pot laws, GOP lawmaker says

A top Republican lawmaker in Colorado is casting doubt on whether Donald Trump’s administration will crack down on the legalization of marijuana, saying the new president wouldn’t “turn his back” on state’s rights.

Colorado Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican and a Trump supporter, reacted after the statement from White House spokesman Sean Spicer that recreational pot will face “greater enforcement.”

“I’m not sure I’d put too much thought or too much credit into what he was saying,” Sonnenberg told reporters Monday morning. “This president has been all about federalism and giving the states more authority, this just flies in the face of that. So I would anticipate not much coming from that.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper downplayed the suggestion a day earlier in a “Meet the Press” interview, affirming that he didn’t believe the federal government would target states like Colorado that legalized weed.

Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has suggested a change in federal policy toward states on marijuana is unlikely, but Sonnenberg’s comments are the most forceful Republican push back against the White House on the issue since the announcement Thursday.

“Colorado has been the leader when it comes to marijuana and the regulation,” he said. “People look to us for leadership, and I don’t think our new president will turn his back on allowing states to do what they need to do, whether (marijuana) or anything else.”

In the TV interview Sunday, Hickenlooper suggested that even though he opposed Amendment 64, he is moving closer to supporting legalized pot. But Sonnenberg disputed that there is a shift in public opinion on the issue — even though Republican lawmakers are sponsoring various bills related to easing marijuana rules in Colorado.

“The vast majority of the people who supported marijuana continue to support it and the vast majority of the those that hated it in the beginning, still hate it,” he said.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com

(Why?)

Published at Mon, 27 Feb 2017 18:07:39 +0000

LP shares drop over possible Trump crackdown on weed

LP shares drop over possible Trump crackdown on weed

Shares of North American cannabis producers dropped yesterday after the Trump administration suggested a crackdown on recreational marijuana could be expected.

A majority of Canada’s publicly traded LPs dipped after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Thursday that the Justice Department will be looking more closely at the issue, saying “there is a big difference” between medical and recreational use.

Shares of Ontario-based Canopy Growth Corp, which bills itself as the world’s largest cannabis company and trades as “WEED” on the Toronto Stock Exchange, dropped 4.64 per cent on open Friday.

cANOPY-GROWTH-STOCK-570

Canopy became the country’s first cannabis “unicorn” in 2016, with a market value of $1 billion or more, after voters in four U.S. states voted to legalize recreational use.

More than 20 % of U.S. residents live in a state where recreational use is now legal.


(Why?)

Published at Sat, 25 Feb 2017 22:20:01 +0000