What do a rabbi and pastor and marijuana have in common? They both want to grow marijuana, obviously.
While we’ve all heard any number of pastor and rabbi jokes over the years, this one is actually real. Just over the border from the District of Columbia, Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn and Pastor Gareth E. Murray have applied for one of the up to 15 licenses in the state of Maryland to legally grow marijuana for medical purposes.
Kahn is pushing for the license after having already been an important figure in D.C.’s medical marijuana community helping out at the Takoma Wellness Center, but is constantly turning away Maryland residents who live just minutes away across the border who aren’t allowed to utilize the program in D.C.
Rosebud Organics, a prospective Maryland growery Kahn has invested in, would be where the medical marijuana would come from and he also has plans to open a second shop in Takoma Park itself for Maryland residents to use.
Kahn has since left his role as an active rabbi to focus on the medical marijuana dispensary in D.C. and initially became interested in the medical marijuana community after seeing his congregants use it to manage symptoms brought forth by AIDS. Reform Judaism was one of the first religious denominations to embrace the use of medical marijuana in 2003.
“In the first chapter of the Bible, God creates plants and tells us that they are very good, and they are for our use,” Kahn told The Washington Post. “God has created these things for our benefit.”
His partner, Murray, is an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring and was a Democratic state lawmaker between 2003 and 2007. While he is new to the world of medical marijuana, he does believe there is true medicinal value of marijuana. He joined a farmer from Southern Maryland to acquire a cultivation license on the condition that it would solely be used for medicinal purposes.
“People look at medical marijuana a lot of times as the guy standing in the corner smoking a joint or getting high,” Murray told The Washington Post. “We need to educate people about the facts. And it’s not about getting high; it’s medical.”
The company, PhytaGenesis, split with the members on the team who wanted to expand to recreational sales if Maryland ever legalizes recreational use to focus on the medicinal value of the marijuana grown. Murray has set up several meetings with state lawmakers since he is the director of government and community affairs with PhytaGenesis and has stayed active in politics.
“You got all these big folks coming in from out of state,” Murray told The Washington Post. “I want to help the small-business owners.”
Rabbi Kahn and Pastor Murray will hope they can help serve the Maryland medical marijuana community soon and ensure they don’t have to be turned away anymore despite living mere minutes away from the D.C. dispensaries.
Derrick Morgan, outside linebacker for the Tennessee Titans wants the National Football League (NFL) to start researching the health benefits of marijuana use for players in the league.
He joins free agent offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, most recently with the Baltimore Ravens last season, as advocates for the use of marijuana by players with the goal of benefitting them in the long-term. The two believe it could be used as an alternative to pain medicine and other forms of pain management currently allowed by the league.
“What I noticed was that former players would openly speak about their experiences being addicted to opioids that they were prescribed by their team doctors,” Monroe told Yahoo Global News.
With the growing concern over chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease potentially caused by concussions, any sort of research into preventing or treating this is important for the league. The compound cannabidiol (CBD) found in marijuana has been shown to be an effective form of treatment for some epilepsy patients and is classified as a neuroprotectant by the United States government.
“I feel like the NFL has a responsibility to look into it, to delegate time and money to research this for its players,” Morgan told Yahoo Global News. “Given how much influence that the NFL has on society, I think it would help the greater good. There’s a lot of people suffering and a lot of people that can benefit from cannabis as a medical treatment.”
The NFL’s substance and abuse policy is currently collective bargained between the NFL and the NFL Players Association and says it is “guided by medical advisers” who have “not indicated a need to change.” Earlier this month the NFL set up a conference call between its top doctors and marijuana advocates, so there might be some progress being made. Regardless, for the league to still doubt the benefits of marijuana use confuses Morgan.
“I think for the NFL to say that cannabis does not benefit the long-term health of its players without actually having gone and done the research – I don’t think that’s an accurate statement,” Morgan told Yahoo Global News.
Monroe came out originally as an advocate for the league to implement marijuana use after he went through personal issues saying he was “fearful of … becoming addicted” to pills.
“I know continuing my career, I’ll deal with a great deal of pain pushing through the injuries I’ve already had, which are numerous,” Monroe told Yahoo Global News. “I have a family. I want to be there for them when I’m done playing this game.”
If the NFL is to begin research on the health benefits of marijuana use by its players, it could dramatically increase the overall quality of life for the thousands of former, current and future members of the league. Director of McLean Hospital’s MIND program and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School Staci Gruber believes research into its use is something to be hopeful about.
“There’s been some extraordinarily compelling, preclinical work that has demonstrated that CBD is incredibly effective at helping to limit the extent of brain injury, which is really very intriguing and promising,” Gruber told Yahoo Global News.
Monroe has teamed up with a nonprofit medical marijuana advocacy group in Colorado, Realm of Caring, to fund two research studies looking into the effects marijuana usage has on the health of former and current players.
“In thinking about the benefits that will come from spreading the awareness and the knowledge about this substance, I think greatly outweighs any backlash or ramifications that might come about it,” Morgan told Yahoo Global News. “It’s about not only us, but former players, future players and more so society as a whole.”
Congress’ “top legal pot advocate,” dubbed by Rolling Stone, is working with the most vocal opponent of marijuana in Congress to lead a bill that would significantly overhaul the federal marijuana policy currently in effect.
The goal of the act is to make it easier for scientists to conduct research into the various medical uses of marijuana. At the moment there are several hurdles making it difficult for researchers to gain access to marijuana and subsequently use it in clinical trials. In addition to that, approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and sometimes even the National Institutes on Health (NIH) is needed.
“This bill is about helping people,” Rep. Sam Farr, a Democrat from California who is part of the group introducing the bill alongside Blumenauer, Harris and Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (R – Va.), said in a press release. “As more states pass their own medical marijuana laws, it’s time for Congress to reexamine federal policy. This bill does just that by supporting research so policy decisions about the role of medical marijuana are based on science and facts instead of rhetoric.”
Harris, who is a doctor, has a long history of opposing marijuana including vehemently debating against its medicinal use on the House of Representatives floor on May 29, 2014. When the District of Columbia legalized the use of marijuana on private property, among other things, Harris came out and said he thought D.C. “made a bad decision about its own rule” and hoped they may revisit the ruling a few years down the road.
Now, he’s advocating for the passing of the bill because several researchers have told him they can’t do their jobs due to federal restrictions. When scientists wanting to initially conduct research into using marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, it took them seven years to get full approval from the federal government. Currently, the only marijuana available for use in legal clinical research comes from the University of Mississippi due to a contract the school has with the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
“As a physician who has conducted NIH sponsored research, I can’t stress enough how critical legislation is to the scientific community,” Dr. Harris said in the press release. “Our drug policy was never intended to act as an impediment to conducting legitimate medical research. We need empirical scientific evidence to clearly determine whether marijuana has medicinal benefits and, if so, how it would be used most effectively. This legislation is crucial to that effort, because it removes the unnecessary administrative barriers that deter qualified researchers from rigorously studying medical marijuana.”
The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2016 would do two things. One, it would create a new, less cumbersome registration process specifically for marijuana which would reduce approval wait times, costly security measures and unnecessary layers of protocol review. Two, it would make it easier for researchers to obtain the marijuana needed for studies through reforms in both production and distribution regulations.
In a recent Quinnipiac University National Poll, 89 percent of Americans were in favor of allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes and just nine percent of voters opposed it for qualified patients.
“Despite the fact that over 200 million Americans now have legal access to some form of medical marijuana, federal policy is blocking science. It’s outrageous,” Rep. Blumenauer said in the press release. “We owe it to patients and their families to allow for the research physicians need to understand marijuana’s benefits and risks and determine proper use and dosage.
“The federal government should get out of the way to allow for this long overdue research.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California announced on June 14 it would be endorsing the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). The goal of the act is to control, regulate and tax the adult use, sale and cultivation of marijuana in California and is expected to be on the state ballot for the November general election.
In 2010, Proposition 19 was on the ballot in California and was the last time the state had a chance to vote on the legalization of marijuana and it led to then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession and widen the access to medical marijuana. Now, in 2016, Californians will have another chance at legalizing it and becoming the fifth state to fully legalize the use and sale of marijuana.
The announcement came after a study conducted by the ACLU California showed that despite the decriminalization of marijuana in the state, minorities were still being targeted and issued tickets. People under the age of 20 accounted for 73 percent of all misdemeanor marijuana arrests between 2011 and 2014 and nearly 70 percent of all marijuana arrests were of people of color.
“The disastrous war on marijuana in California continues to ensnare thousands of people – particularly young people of color – in the criminal justice system every year,” Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, criminal justice and drug policy director of the ACLU California chapter, said. “It is time to move from prohibition to regulation. AUMA will establish a controlled and regulated market for adults, significantly reduce the harm done to young people under current marijuana laws, and generate substantial revenue for drug education and for the communities most devastated by the war on drugs.”
According to the ACLU, if AUMA passes, it would:
Allow adults 21 and over to possess, transport, purchase, consume and share up to one ounce of marijuana for non-medicinal purposes, as well as cultivate up to six plants at home outside of public view
Reduce some criminal penalties and allow people previously convicted of marijuana crimes to petition a court for penalty reductions or have them expunged from their record
Limit criminal penalties for juveniles and young adults, in most cases to infractions with fines and with evidence-based drug education as an alternative to a fine
Create a state regulatory structure for nonmedical marijuana that builds on the recently adopted medical marijuana regulations
Protect the state’s medical marijuana patients by including privacy protections and exemptions from the six-plant cultivation limit and sales tax on medicinal marijuana purchases
Direct tax revenue to youth substance abuse education, prevention and treatment, state and local law enforcement, and environmental restoration and water protection; estimated revenue of between several hundreds of millions to $1 billion
“In November, California voters will have the opportunity to get regulation right,” Abdi Soltani, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California, said. “AUMA is a comprehensive proposal that incorporates consensus findings based on extensive research and discussion. Most importantly, it includes measures that will protect young people, maintain public safety, and establish workable taxation and regulation. This comprehensive measure lays out a strong framework for implementation.”
AUMA has become the most endorsed legislation initiative in state history after the ACLU California joined the likes of the California Council of Land Trusts, California Medical Association, California National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, California Cannabis Industry Association, and many others.
For the first time in 18 years, the United Nations will convene a summit to discuss the global drug policy and where its future lies. The United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS), which is when all members meet to evaluate international drug control, is scheduled to last from April 19-21 in New York.
The United Nations wants there to be a shared international responsibility on stopping the suffering caused worldwide due to illicit drugs. Addressing the 59th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria, Yury Fedotov – Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime – expressed the goal of the summit’s preparations.
“[We] can help to take further crucial steps forward to promote a healthier, safer and more prosperous future for all,” Fedotov said in his address.
In a public statement made by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, they say they want big changes to be made at this upcoming summit. In the statement, the Commission wants UNGASS to end the criminalization and incarceration of drug users, abolish capital punishment for drug-related offenses, empower the World Health Organization to review the scheduling system of drugs based on the basis of scientific evidence, ensure a broad spectrum of treatments for dependent people and services designed to reduce the hard of drugs, and allow governments to apply different approaches to drug regulation in order to maximize public health and disempower organized crime, amongst other things.
“There is widespread acknowledgment that the current system is not working, but also recognition that change is both necessary and achievable,” Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil and Chair of the Global Commission, said in the statement. “We are convinced that the 2016 UNGASS is a historic opportunity to discuss the shortcomings of the drug control regime and identify workable alternatives.”
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group and philanthropist, has very strong opinions on the summit and wrote about them in a blog post on the Virgin website. He feels the UN needs to take this summit very seriously because it presents an unprecedented opportunity for change.
“Communities around the world have been ravaged by decades of a brutal, repressive and completely ineffective war on drugs. The consequences of these strategies include soaring violence, overcrowded prisons, and pervasive corruption. Presented as an investment in a better future, the war on drugs has been an epic, costly failure. We need a new course of action.”
“There is still time to get the UNGASS process back on track. This will only happen if world leaders assume the responsibility to lay the foundation for a more effective and humane global drug control system. The current weak and unambitious draft of the UNGASS outcome document should not be signed off this week in Vienna but should now be discussed in New York, with the inclusion of all UN member states. Champions of reform need to stand up and be counted. Member states that have suffered the failings of the war on drugs for too long need to say enough is enough and refuse to support another bland and hollow declaration of success that re-states business as usual. Anything less would be a profound betrayal of everything the UN stands for. “
With the future of international drug relations set to be discussed in a mere month, something major must be done and the potential of ending the war on drugs certainly isn’t it.