Trump Plans To Back Legal Medical Marijuana After Midterms, GOP Congressman Says

Trump Plans To Back Legal Medical Marijuana After Midterms, GOP Congressman Says

Marijuana reform will likely be on the Trump administration’s agenda after the midterm elections, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said on Thursday.

In an interview with Fox Business, Rohrabacher said he’s been “talking to people inside the White House” and members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle about ending cannabis prohibition. The congressman said he’s been “reassured that the president intends on keeping his campaign promise” to protect local marijuana policies from federal interference.

Though Rohrabacher didn’t point to specific legislation that the president is reportedly interested in advancing, he said that details would likely begin to take shape after November 6.

“I would expect after the election we will sit down and we’ll start hammering out something that is specific and real.”

Trump has previously voiced support for a bipartisan bill, introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect states that legalize cannabis from federal interference. He also embraced medical cannabis during his presidential campaign, saying that he knows people who have benefited from using it.

Rohrabacher, in the new interview published Thursday, laid out a vague timeline for anticipated congressional action on marijuana reform.

“It could be as early as spring of 2019, but definitely in the next legislative session,” he said.

What remains to be seen is which party will ultimately take the lead on marijuana after the midterms. Though Democrats are generally more supportive of cannabis reform and multiple bills have been introduced to achieve that end, a top House Democrat recently conceded that the party hasn’t been actively discussing plans to pass marijuana legislation.

Asked last month whether Democrats would bring cannabis legislation to the floor if the party retakes the House in November, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) admitted “[w]e haven’t talked about that.”

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is expected to seek the speakership again if Democrats win control of the chamber in the midterms, indicated that the prospects for marijuana legislation would depend on support from the president.

“I don’t know where the president is on any of this,” she said. “So any decision about how we go forward would have to reflect where we can get the result.”

Based on polling, either party stands to benefit from taking on a marijuana friendly agenda. Fewer Republican voters support full legalization, compared to Democrats, but when it comes to medical cannabis, there’s sizable majority support on both sides of the aisle.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Trump Plans To Back Legal Medical Marijuana After Midterms, GOP Congressman Says

Michigan Marijuana Legalization Measure Approved For Ballot

Michigan Marijuana Legalization Measure Approved For Ballot

State elections officials in Michigan have certified that activists have enough support to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the November ballot.

On Thursday, the Board of State Canvassers voted 4-0 to approve the validity of the more than 250,000 signatures turned in by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

Earlier this week, Marijuana Moment first reported that staff with the Bureau of Elections estimated that organizers collected 277,370 valid signatures, exceeding the 252,523 needed to qualify for ballot access.

Thursday’s action by the Board of State Canvassers certifies the count.

Now, the Republican-controlled legislature has has 40 days to enact the measure into law as-is, place it before voters on the ballot or come up with an alternate legalization question to appear alongside the activist-supported one.

Reports have circulated in recent weeks that GOP legislative leaders were considering simply passing a legalization bill instead of letting the question go to the ballot because they fear it will drive voter turnout among young people and other constituencies that tend to support Democrats.

But House Speaker Tom Leonard (R) reportedly said on Thursday that his chamber would not be voting on legalization this year

“With polls showing nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters supporting legalization, it’s clear that the public is way ahead of the politicians on this issue,” Jeffrey Hank, executive director of MILegalize, said in a press release. “The people are tired of the failed policies of the past and understand that creating reasonable, responsible regulations is the way forward to tens of thousands of new jobs and opportunities in Michigan. This November the people will make their voice heard!”

The proposed Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act would allow adults over 21 to possess, grow and use small amounts of marijuana legally. Specifically, they could grow up to 12 total marijuana plants in a single residence, possess 2.5 ounces outside their homes and store 10 ounces at home (in addition to what they grow legally).

State regulators would grant business licenses for cultivators, processors, testing facilities, secure transporters, retail stores and microbusinesses (i.e. small businesses cultivating a low number of plants from which they would sell product directly to consumers). Municipalities would be empowered to regulate or ban cannabis businesses.

Retail sales would be subject to a 10 percent excise tax in addition to the state’s regular six percent sales tax. Revenues would cover the cost of regulation and additionally fund schools, roads, local governments and FDA-approved research on medical marijuana’s role in helping military veterans struggling with PTSD and other conditions

Some law enforcement veterans are supporting the legalization measure.

“This is an important reform that will help end thousands of unnecessary arrests and redirect law enforcement resources to real needs – like combating violent crime and fighting the opioid epidemic – while also generating hundreds of millions of new tax dollars for our schools, roads and local governments,” former Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon said.

Elsewhere, Utah activists collected enough signatures to qualify a medical cannabis measure for that state’s November ballot, county officials determined last week.

And in Oklahoma, voters will see a medical marijuana question on their June 26 primary ballot, while proposed cannabis measures are still pending in several other states.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Michigan Marijuana Legalization Measure Approved For Ballot

Sessions Admits There ‘May Well Be Some Benefits From Medical Marijuana’

Sessions Admits There ‘May Well Be Some Benefits From Medical Marijuana’

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged before a key Senate panel on Wednesday that “there may well be some benefits from medical marijuana” and that it is “perfectly appropriate to study” cannabis.

But Sessions was also quick to dismiss a mounting body of evidence that legal marijuana access is associated with reduced opioid issues.

Acknowledging that he has seen some research indicating lower overdose deaths in states that allow cannabis in some form and that “science is very important,” the attorney general said he doesn’t “believe that will be sustained in the long run.”

Sessions also indicated that the federal government would soon take steps to license more entities to legally grow marijuana for research.

“We are moving forward and we will add fairly soon, I believe, the paperwork and reviews will be completed and we will add additional suppliers of marijuana under the controlled circumstances,” he said during an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee.

In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration enacted a new policy intended to license more research cultivators, and he agency has reportedly since received at least 25 applications to participate in the new program. But it has not yet acted on any of them and, according to the Washington Post, that is because top Justice Department officials have stepped in to prevent DEA from approving any proposals.

In his answers, Sessions indicated that he thought opening up research could put the U.S. at risk of violating international drug treaties.

The “treaty requires certain controls in that process,” he said, adding that in his view, the “previous proposal violated that treaty.”

Sessions was responding to a line of questioning from U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), who said that “we’re all evolving on this issue, some quicker than others.”

There are “good civil rights reasons for decriminalizing and pursing a federalist approach around this,” the senator added.

Sessions did not offer a specific timeline for releasing a revised research cultivation approval process.

And despite acknowledging cannabis’s medical potential, he said he takes issue with the way it is currently consumed.

“Medical marijuana, as one physician told me, ‘whoever heard of taking a medicine when you have no idea how much medicine you’re taking and ingesting it in the fashion that it is, which is in itself unhealthy?’” Sessions said.

Advocates welcomed Session’s admission that marijuana can help patients, but said that the Justice Department needed to act on allowing research as well as make broader policy changes sooner rather than later.

“Over two million registered medical marijuana patients throughout the legal markets can attest to the attorney general’s newfound revelation,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment in an interview. “What we need is better research on consumer grade marijuana and lawful protections for legal markets, not further deliberation from the DoJ.”

Later in the Senate hearing, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) cited a resolution approved by Alaska state lawmakers urging the federal government to respect local marijuana laws. She also attempted to elicit a commitment from the attorney general not to oppose congressional efforts to reform federal cannabis laws.

“I can’t make a commitment about what position we would take at this time, until we know what’s exactly involved,” he replied.

Sessions said, however, that “our priorities are fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine. People are dying by massive amounts as a result of those drugs. We have very few, almost zero, virtually zero small marijuana cases. But if they are a big deal and illegally acting, and violating federal law, our agents may work that case.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Sessions Admits There ‘May Well Be Some Benefits From Medical Marijuana’

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Save Lives, Study Finds

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Save Lives, Study Finds

States where people can legally access marijuana through dispensaries see dramatically reduced opioid overdose death rates, new federally funded research shows.

“In short, our findings that legally protected and operating medical marijuana dispensaries reduce opioid-related harms suggests that some individuals may be substituting towards marijuana, reducing the quantity of opioids they consume or forgoing initiation of opiates altogether,” the study concludes. “Marijuana is a far less addictive substance than opioids and the potential for overdosing is nearly zero.”

While previous research has shown that medical marijuana laws are associated with lower opioid overdose rates, the new analysis distinguished between states where medical cannabis is simply legal and states that actually allow streamlined patient access to marijuana through active dispensaries.

“Because legal protection of retail dispensaries does not mean dispensaries are operational, we construct our policy measure to identify the state/year in which dispensaries are both legally protected and open for business,” researchers from the RAND Corporation, the National Bureau of Economic Research and the University of California, Irvine wrote. “Dispensaries – retail outlets that sell marijuana to qualified patients – contribute to the decline in opioid overdose death rates.”

To be more specific:

“Using data from just the early period of these laws 1999–2010, dispensaries reduce opioid mortality rates by about 40%, above and beyond the reduction from marijuana laws alone. The total effect is estimated to be even larger. When we consider the full time period (1999–2013), the estimates imply that dispensaries reduce opioid mortality rates by about 20% while the main effect of having a law is relatively small in magnitude, implying declines of about 5%, and not statistically distinguishable from zero. Importantly, together – a marijuana law with a legal, operational dispensary provision – the estimates imply a statistically significant (at the 5% level) decline in overdose death rates of about 25%.”

“It is clear that operational dispensaries are critical,” the study, published online over the weekend by the Journal of Health Economics, concluded. “This evidence is consistent with the need for a clear and legal supply chain for medical marijuana policy to have an effect.”

Going a step further, the study, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that examining data from after 2010, “a period when states began opening more tightly regulated medical marijuana retail systems,” apparently in response to federal enforcement guidance, weakens the effect.

“The effect of medical marijuana policies on opioid related harm diminishes over time, particularly after 2010, which might be due to the regulatory tightening of medical marijuana dispensaries, the major marijuana policy feature behind the reduced harm in the earlier period,” the data suggests.

Nonetheless, the researchers concluded that “our results suggest a potential overlooked positive effect of medical marijuana laws that support meaningful retail sales.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Save Lives, Study Finds

Legal Marijuana States Have Lower Opioid Use, New Studies Show

Legal Marijuana States Have Lower Opioid Use, New Studies Show

Letting people legally access marijuana appears to reduce reliance on addictive opioids, two new studies published by the American Medical Association find.

“Medical cannabis laws are associated with significant reductions in opioid prescribing in the Medicare Part D population,” concludes one paper from researchers at the University of Georgia, Athens. “This finding was particularly strong in states that permit dispensaries, and for reductions in hydrocodone and morphine prescriptions.”

The second study, from scientists at the University of Kentucky and Emory University, noted that “marijuana is one of the potential nonopioid alternatives that can relieve pain at a relatively lower risk of addiction and virtually no risk of overdose.” It found that laws allowing medical cannabis or recreational marijuana “have the potential to lower opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a high-risk population for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose.”

“Marijuana liberalization may serve as a component of a comprehensive package to tackle the opioid epidemic,” the researchers conclude.

The two papers, released Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine, a publication of the AMA, looked at use of opioids such as fentanyl by people enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, with both examinations finding that states with legal marijuana access saw lower reliance on the pharmaceutical drugs.

And the easier the access to legal marijuana, the lower the rate of opioid prescribing.

“States with active dispensaries saw 3.742 million fewer daily doses filled; states with home cultivation only [laws] saw 1.792 million fewer filled daily doses,” one of the studies, which focused on medical cannabis laws, found.

The other new paper shows that while medical marijuana is associated with reduced opioid prescriptions, recreational laws have an even greater effect.

“State implementation of medical marijuana laws was associated with a 5.88% lower rate of opioid prescribing,” the authors wrote. “Moreover, the implementation of adult-use marijuana laws, which all occurred in states with existing medical marijuana laws, was associated with a 6.38% lower rate of opioid prescribing.”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently suggested that pharmaceutical companies oppose marijuana legalization for selfish reasons.

“To them it’s competition for chronic pain, and that’s outrageous because we don’t have the crisis in people who take marijuana for chronic pain having overdose issues,” she said. “It’s not the same thing. It’s not as highly addictive as opioids are.”

The results of the new studies add to a growing body of research indicating that legal marijuana access is associated with reduced opioid issues.

In 2014, for example, a previous JAMA study showed that states with medical cannabis laws have roughly 25 percent lower opioid overdose rates.

A separate analysis published in February concluded that “legally protected and operating medical marijuana dispensaries reduce opioid-related harms,” suggesting that “some individuals may be substituting towards marijuana, reducing the quantity of opioids they consume or forgoing initiation of opiates altogether.”

And previous work by Ashley and David Bradford of the University of Georgia, who authored one of the new studies released on Monday, showed broad reductions in Medicare and Medicaid pain prescriptions when state medical cannabis laws went into effect. Their new paper builds on that by zeroing in on opioid painkillers and showing that the type of state marijuana law has an effect on the reduction in prescriptions.

“The type of [medical cannabis law] matters,” David Bradford said in an email. “Dispensaries have the biggest effect.”

The other paper, by the Kentucky and Emory researchers, tabulated reductions in opioid prescriptions associated with changes in laws, finding that medical cannabis policies lead to 39.41 fewer opioid prescriptions per 1,000 enrollees annually and that the effect for recreational legalization was even larger.

“Furthermore, the implementation of adult-use marijuana laws was associated with a 9.78% lower Medicaid spending on prescription opioids, equivalent to an annual saving of $1,815 Medicaid spending per 1,000 enrollees,” the study found. “The implementation of medical and adult-use marijuana laws was also associated with a lower rate of Medicaid-covered prescriptions for nonopioid pain medications of 8.36% and 8.69%, respectively.”

The research teams behind both new studies said that medical cannabis shows promise as a partial solution to opioid issues.

“Combined with previously published studies suggesting cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid mortality, these findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids,” the Bradfords’ Georgia team wrote. “Furthermore, a growing consensus suggests that cannabis can be used to effectively manage pain in some patients. If initial licit prescriptions for opioids can be reduced, then there is a plausible theoretical pathway to anticipate that opioid misuse and abuse could also fall.”

When legal marijuana is available, some patients appear to be more likely to choose it instead of prescription pain pills that can lead to addiction or overdose.

“Most opioid use disorder and overdose cases occurred in patients with legitimate prescriptions from health care professionals for pain management. Marijuana liberalization, therefore, may have benefited these patients by providing them with legal protection and access to marijuana as an alternative relief from their pain conditions,” the Kentucky and Emory team wrote. “The widespread public support will bring medical marijuana laws to more and more states for years to come, which may help decrease the use of prescription opioids in pain management and the adverse consequences, such as opioid use disorder and overdose.”

Those researchers also noted that “marijuana may help ease opioid withdrawal symptoms.”

“Thus, marijuana liberalization potentially reduced prescription opioid use on 2 fronts, serving as a substitute for opioid pain medications, and as a complement to opioid use disorder treatment,” the wrote. “The potential of adult-use marijuana laws to reduce the use and consequences of addictive opioids deserves consideration, especially in states that have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Legal Marijuana States Have Lower Opioid Use, New Studies Show

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