While it will be at least two months before the majority of New York medical marijuana patients have access to medicine, those who qualify as critically ill will now be able to receive it sooner. Governor Andrew Cuomo approved two bills establishing an “emergency medical marijuana” program in the Empire State. This program permits the Department of Health to accelerate the accessibility of medical cannabis products to the states’ critically ill patients.
Now, in cases where delaying the use of cannabis may pose serious health risks and patients suffering from progressive or degenerative conditions will be able to obtain to a state license granting them immediate access to medical marijuana before the state’s medical cannabis program officially launches in 2016. Governor Cuomo, included a statement with his signature approving the emergency program,
“I deeply sympathized with New Yorkers suffering from serious illness, and I appreciate that medical marijuana may alleviate their chronic pain and debilitating symptoms.”
The Health Department will now be permitted to register additional medical cannabis producers who may be able to provide products more quickly or “as soon as practicable.” The programs’ partial goal will be to give preference to those already operating in other legal states that may be able to provide medical cannabis products “in a more expeditious manner.”
While the approval of the emergency program is a great news for many, it is bittersweet for at least one New York family. Sarah Newton and her husband lost their daughter Olivia, while waiting for the program to be implemented so that they could treat her with legal medical marijuana.
“We’re elated that this has passed and at the same time we’re heartbroken, we’re absolutely heartbroken,”
Newton said, explaining that she wishes action could have been taken sooner.
The government of the South American country of Colombia has announced plans to legalize marijuana for medical and scientific purposes only. The cultivation and sale of marijuana will no longer be prohibited, as President Juan Manuel Santos will soon be signing an executive decree into law which establishes regulations for everything from licensing cultivators to eventual international product exports.
The legalization of medical marijuana in Colombia comes as surprise considering Colombia has, until now, supported a War on Drugs like the one in the United States. Colombia’s medical marijuana policy reform sets the country among others, like Chile and Uruguay, that have admitted that the War on Drugs is a failure.
Colombia has now decriminalized possession of small, personal use amounts of marijuana, but the country has no plans to completely legalize the plant for recreational use.
“Nobody is talking about legalizing anything except for these two purposes,”
Justice Minister Yesid Reyes stated.
Columbia has received international recognition since the 1970s as a cultivator of some of the worlds strongest marijuana strains, such as Santa Marta Gold. Colombian Health Minister, Alejandro Gaviria, shared with Blu Radio that he envisions his country as a heavy global influence in the increasing market of cannabis products.
The Georgian Constitutional Court has ruled that implementing prison time as a punishment for possessing or purchasing up to 70 grams of cannabis, for personal use, is unconstitutional. The court clarified that this decision does not decriminalize marijuana, and it does not apply to cases where the obvious purpose of possession, regardless of its amount, is to sell it.
Previously, possession of 70 grams of cannabis in the European nation of Georgia was punishable by jail time. The application that withdrew prison time as a punishment was filed by Beka Tsikarishvili, a man facing charges for a possession of 69 grams of marijuana.
After reviewing the application, Georgia’s Constitutional Court repealed imprisonment as punishment in such cases, deeming it “inhuman and cruel treatment that infringes upon human dignity.” Any punishment defined as such conflicts with the second part of article 17 of the country’s constitution.
“For those, who have already been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment in similar cases, the Constitutional Court’s ruling represents a legal basis for appealing common court for the purpose of reviewing their cases,”
Stated the Tbilisi-based Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center which provided legal counsel for the case.
Democratic Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, just announced that she is now in favor of loosening the federal restrictions on marijuana. Clinton softened her stance during a speech in South Carolina, where she expressed support for reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule II substance in order to encourage more research on the plant’s medicinal value and efficacy.
Clinton now believes that cannabis should be lowered one tier from it’s current Schedule I status, where it is lumped among heroin and methaqualone (Quaalude), to Schedule II. The Schedule I classification, deemed the “most dangerous,” is supposed to be reserved for substances labeled as having the highest potential for abuse and dependence with no recognized medical value in the United States. There are many barriers which make it extremely difficult for researchers to gain access to Schedule I substances for studies.
Considering that nearly half of the United States have legalized the use and sale of cannabis for medicinal purposes, the majority of Americans find it difficult to rationalize cannabis remaining a Schedule I substance, so Clinton had to soften her stance on cannabis law reform in order to remain competitive.
Schedule II substances, like oxycodone (OxyContin), cocaine, and Adderall, are described as being dangerous with less potential for abuse and dependance than Schedule I substances, and they can be prescribed by a physician. There are fewer restrictions preventing scientists from being able to research Schedule II substances, so a reclassification would potentially open doors for more cannabis research.
“What I do want is for us to support research into medical marijuana because a lot more states have passed medical marijuana than have legalized marijuana, so we’ve got two different experiences or even experiments going on right now,”
Clinton stated after being asked about marijuana prohibition.
“And the problem with medical marijuana is there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about how well it works for certain conditions, but we haven’t done any research. Why? Because it’s considered what’s called a Schedule I drug and you can’t even do research in it.”
This is a new position for Clinton, who in the past has said she supported further medical marijuana research but has never actively stated she believed cannabis should be rescheduled. Clinton also stated that reforming marijuana laws would positively affect the criminal justice system, keeping low-level drug offenders out of prison.
While Clinton was willing to take a more progressive stance on medical marijuana research, her stance on legalization remains the same. She wants to see how legalization works in states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon before forming an opinion on federal legalization.
Unlike Clinton, candidate Bernie Sanders has made it clear that he believes it is time to end cannabis prohibition on the federal level, and rescheduling cannabis to level II will not be enough. Sanders recently introduced a bill to the United States Senate which would strike cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, thereby unscheduling it.
“The rescheduling of marijuana is a step in the right direction, but only going down to Schedule II is mostly a symbolic move,”
pointed out Tom Angell, veteran activist and founder of The Marijuana Majority.
“It may make research slightly easier, but on its own wouldn’t do anything to protect seriously ill people who are using marijuana in accordance with state laws from being harassed by the DEA. Only changing the federal criminal statutes can effectively do that.”
Just a few short months ago, the acting chief administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Chuck Rosenberg, shocked the American people by admitting that heroin is obviously more dangerous than cannabis — something his predecessor of eight years, Michele Leonhart (who resigned following a sex party scandal), refused to acknowledge.
Now, however, much to the dismay of those who thought the acting chief was perhaps turning over a new leaf for the DEA, Rosenberg has declared that the medicinal use of marijuana is in fact a ‘joke’ and that it “never has been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”
All anecdotal and scientific evidence aside, perhaps Rosenberg does not realize that the US government holds a patent regarding marijuana as medicine.
As the American people continue to demand that federal marijuana laws be reformed, Rosenberg indicates that people should not fuse the arguments of legalizing recreational marijuana with medicinal marijuana.
“What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not,”
Rosenberg said in a briefing to reporters.
“We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.”
As a result of this recent statement from Rosenberg, more than 8,000 Americans (and growing) are petitioning for his resignation (click here to find the petition).
As it stands, 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation allowing patients the opportunity to legally utilize the medicinal value and efficacy of cannabis. In addition, 17 states have approved “CBD-only” laws, meaning that qualifying patients are permitted to consume low-THC, high-CBD cannabis concentrates (most often in the form of oil).
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis which has gained national recognition for it’s powerful efficacy in the treatment of conditions like epilepsy, pain, cancer, arthritis and more. Experts argue, however, that all cannabinoids working together in a process called the entourage effect provide significantly more medicinal value than single cannabinoid therapies, so CBD-only legislation is not widely supported.
Nearly 80 percent of states have approved the use of medical marijuana, yet it will continue to be illegal under federal law as long as the plant remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Those classified as Schedule I substances, like heroin, are defined as having no recognized medicinal value in the United States. Recognizing that cannabis does not deserve such a classification, Sen. Bernie Sanders recently introduced legislation that would strike cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, thereby unscheduling it, and ending federal prohibition.