Cannabis Marijuana legalization

Imagine that. An American politician speaking clearly and reasonably and sensibly about cannabis, or about anything for that matter.

Representative Curbelo makes a very good point. From both a business and a legal standpoint, it makes no sense to prohibit legal marijuana businesses from doing business properly and at the same time denying them the same tax deductions as other businesses.

It is unfair and wrong and it must and will change.

 

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Cultivation Classic 2017, the “world’s only cannabis competition exclusively for ethically-grown product free of pesticides, defining craft and celebrating community.” Producers from around Oregon, including several of our clients, came together in a friendly competition to celebrate Oregon’s unique cannabis culture and ethos. Alongside the competition, the organizers put together a series of panels discussing a range of social, political, and legal issues facing the Oregon cannabis industry. The first panel featured the launch of a new industry group devoted to defining and supporting Oregon’s craft cannabis community.

This Craft Cannabis Alliance is an association of cannabis and cannabis-related businesses dedicated to creating an Oregon craft cannabis industry to rival Oregon’s renowned craft beer industry. Alliance Executive Director Adam Smith, a founder of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, took the stage to explain what “craft” means to these industry leaders:

Pictured left to right: Adam Smith, Cannabis Craft Alliance; Ashley Preece, Ethical Cannabis Alliance; Jodi Haines, Alter Farms
Pictured left to right: Adam Smith, Craft Cannabis Alliance; Ashley Preece, Ethical Cannabis Alliance; Jodi Haines, Alter Farms

These industry leaders are working to ensure that sustainable, ethical craft cannabis growers retain a seat at the table as Oregon’s cannabis industry matures. Gabriel Cross, CEO of Odyssey Distribution, LLC, expressed a sentiment shared by many of his fellow founding members.

“As a values-driven company, how we do things is as important to us as the bottom line. The CCA shares many of our values, and more importantly will bring together values-driven cannabis companies under one roof. We have a rare opportunity right now to define how an entire industry operates.”

One of the thorniest issues the CCA will face is the task of defining what “local control” means within the context of Oregon’s craft cannabis culture. Long-time readers of this blog will recall that Oregon originally implemented strict and confusing control and ownership residency requirements on recreational cannabis businesses. This created a host of problems, and the Oregon legislature responded by swinging the pendulum in the other direction, opening Oregon’s cannabis industry to unrestricted foreign investment and control. Over the coming months, the CCA will be working to find a balance its members believe will allow Oregonians to share in the profits of the state’s newest state-sanctioned “crop” without choking off the supply of vital capital that residents from other states can bring.

montel

Montel Williams provides a good reminder here. The cannabis industry is taking off in a big way and that includes both medical and recreational cannabis. But in the midst of the excitement so many of us feel about the positive changes we are seeing, we should not forget those who have been fighting this fight for decades, and as Williams states, many of these cannabis leaders have been patients who need medicine. Though we are of the strong view that recreational needs make no apologies, we believe with equal strength that it is important to give patients access to medical-grade cannabis at accessible costs.

In addition to building a cannabis industry that maintains accessibility for patients, we also need to keep pushing until medical cannabis is federally legal. As of April 2017, twenty-nine of the United States have legalized some form of medical marijuana, and many states have medical programs in the works. Though this means more than half the country has some sort of medical program, many of those programs are quite limited in terms of access and reach and it also means there are still many with no legal access at all. What kind of country denies medicine to someone based on the crazy notion that the government should be able to deny access to something as harmless as cannabis?

What more can we all do to open up the cannabis industry even further? Please tell us.

Cannabis politicians

We are indeed in the midst of an opiate-related public health crisis, but aside from that, Chris Christie is full of “baloney.” First those in favor of cannabis legalization are not exclusively liberals by any means. And the liberals who favor legalization are not crazy, and their reasons for supporting cannabis have nothing to do with “wanting “to say everything’s OK.” They simply see the benefits, such as increased tax revenue, decreased unemployment, disempowering of the drug cartels, and — most importantly — the end of people (far too often the disenfranchised) being arrested for consuming something that has never killed anyone.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: cannabis is NOT a partisan issue. It’s an everyone issue and those like Chris Christie who state otherwise are simply throwing around empty rhetoric to serve their own means. It’s classic divide and conquer. We need our authorities and our politicians to look at the evidence because regardless of whether you personally want to use cannabis and regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, cannabis legalization makes sense. There’s just no way around it.

What do you think?

joycelyne

This sensible, respectful quote from Former Surgeon General Elders is the exact type of statement we should be able to expect from those in positions of power. Her statement is based on scientific evidence showing cannabis can and does relieve the symptoms of multiple diseases such as those Elders describes above. Statements such as these and the evidence that supports them is the exact reason over half of the states have legalized medical marijuana and why well over half the population believes in its legalization.

Because it’s medicine. Medicine that works. Not for everyone and not for everything, sure. But certainly enough so that people ought to be able to decide for themselves whether to consume or not. Let’s keep fighting, not only for cannabis, but for responsible evidence-based statements from our authorities as well.

Cannabis researchA few months ago, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a study of studies, reporting on the cumulative research to date on marijuana in a paper titled “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids.” There was some initial buzz, but only recently has the media really dug into the report — including a well-written summary by Vox’s German Lopez as part of his 4/20 reporting.

The report examined both positive and negative health claims related to cannabis. First, here’s a look at some of the baseline conclusions:

  • Potential Negative Effects of Using Marijuana:
    • Research does not show cannabis increases the risk of cancer, except for one subtype of testicular cancer for which there is moderate evidence of increased risk.
    • No clear answer if cannabis has any effect on the cardiometabolic system (heart attacks, strokes, diabetes).
    • Smoking cannabis is associated with chronic coughs, but not clear if it leads to asthma or harms lung functioning.
    • Limited evidence regarding cannabis effects on the immune system.
    • Cannabis does increase the risk of automobile accidents.
    • Cannabis use by pregnant women is associated with lower birth weights in offspring.
    • Cannabis use by adolescents is related to lower level academic achievement and decreased future income.
    • Cannabis use likely slightly increases the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses, but it does not increase the risk of developing depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
  • Potential Therapeutic Effects of Using Marijuana
    • Cannabis is effective as an antiemetic (anti-nausea) for people undergoing chemotherapy.
    • Patients with chronic pain consistently report a reduction in symptoms.
    • Patients with multiple sclerosis report a decrease in spasticity symptoms.

The report examined a bevy of other claimed therapeutic uses for marijuana, but the research did not generate sufficient information to back up those claims. For example, some of the primary data indicates cannabis use may decrease the size of certain brain and spine tumors called glioma, but with only one limited study to go on, the National Academies team didn’t have nearly sufficient evidence to show this was proven.

The overwhelming takeaway from the report was that significantly more research is needed to further understand cannabis’s effects on the human body. We have previously written about obstacles to cannabis research. There are reputational worries, where many universities still wring their hands over the politics of engaging in marijuana research. In 2014, the University of Arizona fired Suzanne Sisley, a psychiatrist studying cannabis use for PTSD, and Sisley has consistently maintained that her firing was simply because her research involved marijuana. Even when researchers have sufficient institutional backing to perform their work, the logistics of getting cannabis to study are extremely challenging. The marijuana available from the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s facility at the University of Mississippi sometimes does not even resemble marijuana as much as old dried out cooking herbs. Even though the DEA under President Obama took steps to allow other facilities to grow cannabis for research purposes, no other facilities have been approved.

All told, just about every reasonable person agrees more systematic cannabis research would be reasonable and helpful. On Saturday April 22scientists marched in Washington, DC and elsewhere in support of “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.” March participants rallied for many topics, including marijuana research. The cannabis industry should continue to support these efforts — good science is always beneficial.

Cannabis attorneys

This past week — in the grand tradition of Trump Administration flip-flopping — DHS Secretary John Kelly changed his mind on pot. Kelly initially stood out as moderate on cannabis when he earlier in the week declared that “marijuana is not a factor in the drug war.” This statement led us to believe he had a somewhat more realistic view on cannabis than the rest of his cannabis hating colleagues. Give his quote above, that is no longer the case and it appears Kelly’s views mimic the Reefer Madness and D.A.R.E. ideologies we have come to expect from so many in the Trump Administration.

What do you see the Trump Administration actually doing about cannabis, beyond just voicing stupid opinions on it?

 

Donald Trump is expected to announce Representative Tom Marino (R-Pa.) as our country’s next director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, colloquially known as the US drug czar. As drug czar, Marino would evaluate and coordinate domestic and international our country’s anti-drug efforts and advise the President on U.S. anti-drug efforts. The whole drug czar “thing” is bad news and Marino himself is even worse. He is “just another anti-marijuana, pro-pharma” extremist.

Tom_Marino_Official_Portrait,_112th_Congress

Marino began his professional career as a prosecutor who sought to do his part on in the “war on drugs” by prosecuting drug offenders. Since 2010, Marino has served in the U.S. House of Representatives and consistently opposed measures to reform federal cannabis law.

Marino voted against the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment which prohibits the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prevent states from implementing medical marijuana laws. He also voted against a measure allowing Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical cannabis to their patients and he opposed measures to ease federal restrictions on hemp and CBD. When asked about marijuana legalization, Marino stated he would consider legalizing cannabis only “if we had a really in depth-medical scientific study,” and if medical cannabis were available only in “pill form.” In other words, if it has anything to do with liberalizing our cannabis laws, Marino is against it.

 

According to the “Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998” the drug czar “shall ensure that no Federal funds … shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I” of the Controlled Substances Act and “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” listed in Schedule I. Cannabis is still a Schedule I substance and therefore subject to this blanket prohibition on legalization and research.

Marino is no friend of cannabis legalization and Trump’s having has tapped someone with such outdated views is concerning. But even more concerning is the mandate that any drug czar must oppose all marijuana legalization efforts. More than half the states  have legalized medical marijuana and eight states have legalized recreational cannabis, with more to come. With legalization, the evidence that it works better than prohibition is piling up. This country’s director of drug policy should have the discretion to consider this evidence and draw his her own conclusions on cannabis prohibition. As things now stand, the role of our drug czar is not so much to craft policies based on changing realities, but to ensure that our drug policies remain stuck in another era. This is bad policy and it makes no sense and it needs to change.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration considered cutting the Office of National Drug Control Policy entirely. Unfortunately, the President’s tapping Marino as the next drug czar indicates he is now heading in a very different direction. Who needs a drug czar anyway? Trump had it right initially. This office should be eliminated and fast.

Cannabis lawyers and marijuana lawyers

Sherrilyn Ifill made the above comment earlier this week in response to Jeff Sessions’ recently praising drug enforcement policies of the 80s and 90s. According to Sessions, the drug prevention campaigns from those eras deserve applause for “telling the terrible truth about drugs.” But as has become absolutely typical for Mr. Sessions, he ignores the facts. Sessions fails to acknowledge that these abstinence-focused campaigns were both dreadfully expensive and a complete failure. Not surprisingly, Sessions also fails to mention how they increased imprisonment for drug-related crimes and disproportionately targeted people of color and the poor. Sessions’ also sloppily but deliberately lumps cannabis in with drugs like heroin, willfully ignoring that cannabis can be used medicinally and is not chemically addictive and is therefore — at least for anyone who looks at things at all objectively — very different.

Sessions wants to turn back time and employ ineffective and outdated drug enforcement policies and his reasons for wanting to start a new war on drugs are probably no different from Richard Nixon, who started that war to increase racial divides and thus scare white people into voting for him and his cronies (remember, Sessions was at one time deemed too racist to be a federal judge). No matter what the reason for Jeff Sessions’ by now perpetual hatred for marijuana and his aversion to telling the truth about it, our job as citizens is to resist. We probably already are at the point where Sessions’ statements will have little more impact than coyotes howling at the moon, but the more states that legalize, the more we can be sure that will be the case. We must continue pushing forward until cannabis is legalized all across the country and then we can merely laugh or ignore comments from people like Sessions.

Cannabis lawyers

John Oliver, comedian and host of Last Week Tonight, has the right idea here. Marijuana laws do have a big impact, including on environmental regulations and international treaties. Marijuana laws also can empower or disempower drug cartels, increase or lessen the opioid addiction crisis, improve or worsen racial politics, create or reduce jobs, and increase or reduce access to cannabis by minors.

Oliver recognizes that marijuana legislation and regulation is “a lot of work,” but legalizing cannabis IS worth it.

Oliver raises another good point when he states that the records of people convicted of previous marijuana offenses need to be expunged. Justice essentially requires this. Is it just that someone be deemed a criminal for having done what is now fully legal? And don’t even get us started about how cannabis arrests fall disproportionately on persons of color and on the poor and the dispossessed.

Though Olivers says “we should really start right now,” the truth is that we have already started. But we need to keep pushing until cannabis is federally legal.