Thousands Respond To FDA’s Marijuana Rescheduling Comment Request

Thousands Respond To FDA’s Marijuana Rescheduling Comment Request

It’s not every day that the federal government requests public input on international marijuana laws, but that’s exactly what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did last week. And the comments are pouring in.

So far, the agency says it has received more than 2,100 comments—a small fraction of which have been published. The comments range from personal anecdotes about how cannabis has helped patients to arguments about the economic benefits of legalization. Others put the issue more bluntly:

“Just legalize it already.” —Anonymous

The comment period is fairly open-ended, so there’s not necessarily a “right” way to express your views. What the agency requested is input on the “abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use” of cannabis and several other substances.

The comments will be considered as the United States responds to the United Nations World Health Organization. That response will help inform the international group on “whether to recommend that certain international restrictions be placed on these drugs” or whether that should be reclassified under international drug treaties.

For reference, here are a few other comments to FDA that stand out:

“I am a 25-year old male working in finance in NYC, please legalize marijuana — it is one of the few answers to budget deficits across the nation in the form of billions in tax revenue, and it is a scientifically “safer” drug than both alcohol and nicotine, the latter two of which are currently legal and causing billions of dollars in healthcare related costs.”

“The benefits of Cannabis Plant and Resin far outweigh its health risks. All forms of THC and CBD should be made completely legal for medicinal and recreational use immediately, and taxed accordingly.”

“I am writing to voice my support for full cannabis descheduling. It is clear that the current policy is a failure in controlling a substance that is dramatically less harmful than currently legal products. This injustice to the American people has gone on for far too long. “

“Marijuana has been legalized for medical use in 31 states. Additionally, it is legal for recreational use in 9 states with more voting on it this mid-term election. Canada is also legalizing marijuana federally on October 17th. The United States needs to get its head out of the sand and take a more progressive approach to marijuana use and research.”

“I am a combat veteran of the Iraq war, and I am ASHAMED of the way that the United States Government is treating veterans like myself who know firsthand the positive effect that cannabis can have for people suffering from PTSD. I know that it has helped me. Stop standing in the way of our potential happiness.”

The FDA isn’t just asking about marijuana—there are 16 substances included in this comment period—but it’s clear that cannabis is the primary subject of interest, at least in the submissions that have been published so far. The comments overwhelmingly support de-scheduling or legalizing cannabis, with rare exceptions.

For example, one anonymous commenter who claimed to be representing a “major corporate client” lamented reportedly declining property values in a Massachusetts jurisdiction where a marijuana dispensary operates. The losses, the commenter claimed, amounted to more than $29 million.

Another reform critic who identified himself as Eric R. Eliason from Utah said he “took two puffs of a joint” in college and suffered academically.

“I usually get As in math but the next semester I got Fs in all my classes (except an A in tennis where I cheated). Marijuana impairs judgment and stays in your system for a very long time. Drugs are bad for you. We need critical thinkers for our economy.”

Eric R. Eliason is also the name of a U.S. House candidate in Utah, running as a United Utah Party member. The candidate denied having written the comment in a tweet, noting that he knows several other individuals with the same name.

“LOL. I’ve never had an F, never had a tennis class, and never had a toke,” Eliason wrote on Twitter. “Based on writing style, I would nix the professor and the gastro surgeon as well.”

For those who are supportive of changing international treaties to free up countries to set their own marijuana policies—but perhaps aren’t sure how to articulate their views to the FDA—NORML launched an online tool on Tuesday that offers editable, pre-written letters that the organization will submit to the FDA.

“In April, in response to a similar FDA request, NORML collected and hand-delivered over 10,000 comments to the agency calling on it to recommend a lifting of international restrictions criminalizing the plant,” the organization wrote.

“It is imperative that rational, evidence-based policies are what our policy makers review, and the FDA public comment period provides a terrific opportunity for citizens to make their voices heard,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment.

“Here at NORML, we made it easy with a pre-written letter with recent studies, which commenters can easily edit as they see fit to include additional context. In April, during the first round of public comment, over 60 percent of all submissions came from NORML members and we hope to continue to dominate the discussion in October.”

For those who want to submit comments to the FDA through the official government channel, Marijuana Policy Project general counsel Kate Bell shared some advice with Marijuana Moment.

“1. Submit something. Don’t worry about whether others might submit similar comments or make them in a more compelling fashion. The sheer volume of comments makes a statement.
2. Explain your expertise. It’s okay if you’re not a policy expert or medical researcher. For example, if you are a medical cannabis patient or you have a marijuana-related conviction on your record, let them know how marijuana’s current classification has personally affected you.
3. Make sure you address the questions that are being asked. In this case, review the issues that the WHO is considering, which are listed in the FDA’s request for comment.”

Whatever your individual stance is, and whatever method you choose to submit your comment, there’s one date to keep in mind: October 31 is the deadline to make your voice heard.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Thousands Respond To FDA’s Marijuana Rescheduling Comment Request

Religious Leaders in Pennsylvania Demand Legal Medical Marijuana

Religious Leaders in Pennsylvania Demand Legal Medical Marijuana

Several religious leaders gathered this week at the Pennsylvania state capital to show support for the legalization of medical marijuana.

The church leaders have demanded a legislative bill be passed allowing the option for medical marijuana in the treatment of debilitating conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and muscular dystrophy. The clergy members pointed out that refusing cannabis, an effective treatment for several tough-to-treat illnesses, is unjustifiably inhumane.

The religious leaders request that lawmakers adopt sensible and comprehensive medical marijuana legislation to allow those suffering from debilitating conditions to have the option of using cannabis. The clergymen released a statement, which read:

“Across Pennsylvania, there are patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, ALS, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and other debilitating conditions for which medical cannabis has been found to provide significant medical benefits.”

Pennsylvania religious leaders

A bill to legalize medical marijuana passed overwhelmingly at the state Senate in May, but is now awaiting a vote in the House. Leaders from several different religions, across Pennsylvania, are united in showing their support.

A Quinnipiac University poll, released earlier this month found 87 percent of Pennsylvania voters support the legal use of medicinal marijuana, showing the church members that their opinions are backed by the majority of residents in the Keystone State.

“I will speak until this cycle of abuse is ended, I will speak until compassion triumphs over-inactions, and I will speak until the voiceless win and this legislation becomes the law,”

said Rev. Theodore Cockley of Williamsport.

Pennsylvania religious leaders2

Photo credit: ABC27

Louisiana Senate Passes Bill to Reduce Marijuana Penalties

Louisiana Senate Passes Bill to Reduce Marijuana Penalties

Following a 27-12 vote on May 25th, the Louisiana Senate was in favor of advancing legislation that will reduce penalties for non-violent marijuana possession arrests in the Pelican State.

The current law in Louisiana allows first time offenders to be sentenced to up to 6 months in prison with a maximum fine of $500. A second offense can lead to a sentence of up to 5 years in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. A person arrested for a third marijuana possession charge can be sentenced to 20 years in prison with a fine of up $5,000.

The max penalty for marijuana possession is under one year of jail time in most of the United States. This bill, SB 241, would lower Louisiana’s maximum prison sentence from 20 years to 8 years — reducing it from 20 times the normal sentence to just 8 times.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. J.P. Morrell (photo below), D-New Orleans, says that this bill will bring Louisiana state marijuana laws closer to other states “in a way that is more humane.” It has been estimate that if this legislation passes, it could save the sate $17 million in just 5 years.

Sen. J.P. Morrell

The bill will not impact the current punishment for first-time marijuana offenders caught in possession of amounts between 14 grams and 2.5 pounds.

If made into law, this legislation will make possession of 14 grams or less punishable by a maximum sentence of up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine. A second offense will lead to a misdemeanor charge with punishments of up to $1,000 in fines and 6 months in prison. Third time offenders will face a felony charge with up to $2,500 in fines and two years in prison. A fourth or subsequent marijuana possession charges will result in felony charges, a $5,000 fine and 8 years of incarceration.

Sen. Morrell believes the support of this bill has increased significantly compared to past years, largely because the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and the Louisiana District Attorney Association are not opposing the legislation. Morrell has worked with these groups to design the bill to be a compromise on which all sides can agree. The negotiations must have been successful because this year’s bill has advanced without any opposition from the panel of lawmakers.

SB 241 will now be presented to the House for consideration.

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