By Steve Elliott
A three-page bill introduced on Monday in the U.S. House of Representatives would amend the Controlled Substances Act, which criminalizes marijuana, to exempt cannabis plants with extremely low levels of THC, the substance that makes people high, but contain higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD), which has shown promise in fighting seizures.
If passed, it would be the first time since 1937 that federal law officially allows any medical marijuana use. A handful of patients have, for years, been allowed to use federal medical marijuana in the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program, which began in the 1970s.
"No one should face a choice of having their child suffer or moving to Colorado and splitting up the family," said bill sponsor Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pennsylvania). "We live in America, and if there's something that would make my child better, and they can't get it because of the government, that's not right."
Eleven states this year have passed laws loosening regulation of high-CBD, low-THC marijuana strains. Perry said that once Congress members and their staffs are educated, he expects the bill to attract "overwhelming" support. "In a time of inevitability in Washington, D.C., this is something where we can show some progress," he said.
By Steve Elliott
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) on Thursday filed an amendment to Senate Bill 2569, the "Bring Jobs Home Act," that would explicitly allow states to pass medical marijuana laws despite the federal Controlled Substances Act. The amendment would also bar prosecutions of patients and doctors involved in medical marijuana when they are in compliance with state laws.
Amendment 3630 allows states to "enact and implement laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use" without federal prosecution," reports Phillip Smith at StoptheDrugWar.org.
The amendment then lists 33 states and the District of Columbia that have medical marijuana laws at variance with the federal Controlled Substances Act, including 10 states that allow only for the use of CBD oil (cannabidiol), which, unlike THC, isn't psychoactive, reports Matt Ferner at the Huffington Post.
"What we're trying to do is look at the law and allow states that have changed their laws and have allowed medical marijuana to do so, for doctors to be able to prescribe and for people to be able to get those prescriptions without being worried about the federal government coming in and arresting them," said Brian Darling, Sen. Paul's communications director.
By Steve Elliott
If officials at Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital get their wish, authorized medical marijuana patients could one day buy their cannabis at a hospital dispensary, just like patients buying antibiotics or pain relievers at the hospital's pharmacy.
"We have professionals who very much would like to prescribe these drugs, we have the system in place to manage it and we have the patient population that needs it," said Marcia Jimenez, director of intergovernmental affairs at Swedish Covenant Hospital, reports Becky Schlikerman at the Chicago Sun Times. "It just made a lot of sense."
The hospital would like to be the first in Illinois to take advantage of the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes in the state. Illinois has agreed to issue 60 permits to sell medical marijuana, 13 of which will be in Chicago.
Swedish Covenant would really like one of those, but is hamstrung by federal law, under which marijuana is illegal for any purpose, classified as a dangerous Schedule I controlled substance with no medical uses.
"If the hospital were to become a dispensary at this point, we would be violating the federal law and jeopardizing reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid, Jimenez said. Hospital administrators are also worried they could be targeted for "criminal activity" and get in tax trouble with the Internal Revenue Service.
By Steve Elliott
The British tabloid media doesn't mind telling some tall tales. After all, it was U.K. tabloids which encouraged the absurd "Skunk Weed" scare a few years back -- and that took such root in British society that they rolled back their progressive cannabis laws, making marijuana, once again, an arrestable offense.
After The Sun, a U.K. tabloid, ran a false June 16 story claiming that Lake Havasu City, Arizona's iconic London Bridge could be "bulldozed" to make room for "drug tourism," the Convention & Visitors Bureau sprang into action. As a result, The Sun ran a page two correction on July 21. It reads:
"In an article 'London Bridge IS Falling Down' (16 June) we stated that the iconic bridge, now a tourist attraction in Arizona, was falling into disrepair and could soon be bulldozed. We also stated that there were plans to turn the area into a centre for drug tourism. We have been assured by Lake Havasu City that there are no plans to knock down the bridge or to build a centre for drug tourism. We regret any misunderstanding and are happy to set the record straight.
"A Lake Havasu spokesman also assures us there are plans to revitalise the English Village on the east side of the bridge and that they are committed to looking after the monument."
Death Fuels Demand for Emergency Access to Medical Marijuana for Critically Ill Patients in New York
Anna Conte, a nine-year-old from Orchard Park, New York, who died last week after falling into a coma following a severe seizure, was laid to rest on Wednesday. Anna suffered from Dravet syndrome, a life-threatening seizure disorder that has been treated with medical marijuana in states where it is legal. Medical marijuana has dramatically reduced the number of seizures in many children with similar seizure disorders.
In an effort to help their daughter, the Conte family joined the successful fight to pass a medical marijuana bill in New York. The Contes travelled repeatedly to Albany, persuading several powerful New York senators to support the bill and generating thousands of phone calls and emails to Albany leadership. Advocates around the state came to know and love Anna and her family and admire their selfless advocacy which was always accompanied with a sense of humor.
Tragically, Anna Conte did not live long enough to benefit from the law that her family helped pass. Governor Cuomo, who signed the bill into law just days before Anna’s passing, has said that it will take 18 months or longer for New York to implement the law and develop the full medical marijuana patient access system.
Families and advocates are urgently calling upon Governor Cuomo to take immediate action establishing expedited access to medical marijuana for those patients and families, like the Conte’s, who cannot wait until the full system is up and running.
Botanical medicine standards released as Colorado medical marijuana business sees first product recall in U.S.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) on Tuesday released its long-awaited medical marijuana manufacturing guidelines, completing its compendium of industry standards which include regulatory recommendations for cannabis from seed to sale. The AHPA manufacturing guidelines come as licensed Colorado business "At Home Baked" sees the country's first medical marijuana product recall.
A new nationwide program called Patient Focused Certification (PFC), a project of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), aims to bring greater standardization to the medical marijuana industry. The PFC program uses the recently completed AHPA guidelines in combination with standards set by American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) for the plant's identity, purity, quality and botanical properties. Together, these standards have the means to bring greater accountability to the industry and increased safety for patients, according to the group.
"Although medical marijuana is one of the safest medicines used today, it's important for patients to have industry standards that ensure the highest product quality and reliability," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "The AHPA guidelines issued today not only provide a blueprint for product recalls, like the one in Denver, but also establishes sound manufacturing procedures that will help avoid such recalls in the future."
On Wednesday — the first anniversary of Gov. Hassan’s signing of H.B. 573 — Rep. Donald ‘Ted’ Wright will join patients and advocates at a demonstration in front of the State House
One year after New Hampshire adopted a law intended to allow seriously ill people to use medical marijuana, patients are still facing criminal penalties for marijuana possession.
On Wednesday — the first anniversary of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s signing of H.B. 573 — Rep. Donald “Ted” Wright (R-Tuftonboro) will join patients and advocates at a demonstration in front of the New Hampshire State House to discuss a list of grievances and requests to the governor. Patients will then deliver the list to Gov. Hassan’s office.
The list of grievances and requests is pasted below and available online at http://mpp.org/NHgrievances.
“Patients have nothing to celebrate on the first anniversary of New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law,” said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Implementation of the program has been beset by needless delays, and people with debilitating conditions still face criminal penalties for possessing any amount of marijuana. This situation is unacceptable.
“We’re fed up with state officials’ stonewalling,” Simon said. “It’s time to start listening to the seriously ill people the medical marijuana law was intended to help.”
New law allows people suffering from seizure disorders to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it; it also allows minors to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program if they receive parental consent
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday signed a bill into law that will expand access to the state’s medical marijuana program.
SB 2636, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), expands the qualifying conditions of the program to include seizure disorders, such as epilepsy and those associated with brain injuries. Illinois is now one of 23 states with workable medical marijuana programs that allow the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of seizure disorders.
“Medical marijuana is an effective treatment option for people suffering from seizure disorders,” Lindsey said. “As more elected officials become familiar with its medical benefits, more states will adopt laws that allow it.”
SB 2636 will also allow the health department to develop rules so that minors may participate in the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program if they receive parental consent in addition to recommendations from their physicians. Illinois was one of three states with workable medical marijuana programs that prohibit minors from participating.
Advocates have come together with medical, public policy, labor and New York government affairs experts to create the Medical Cannabis Industry Alliance of New York (MCIA), which says it is designed to help State regulators create the safest and most effective medical marijuana program in the nation.
“This new association will work to bring the best practices from around the country and meld them with the unique needs of New York State’s diverse communities, so we have the safest and most effective program possible,” said Melissa Hilt, a founding board member of MCIA. “We recognize the enormous challenge, and workload, the State regulators face in the coming months.
"We hope to be a resource that allows that work to proceed efficiently so we can ensure this program is up and running as soon as possible so patients can get the relief they so desperately need,” she said.
Individual companies seeking to enter New York's medical marijuana market are not allowed to talk with regulators, according to Health Department officials, reports Benjamin Oreskes at the Albany Times Union. The state agency said it was trying to determine the legality of its personnel holding discussions with a trade group like the MCIA, but remained open to the possibility.
By Steve Elliott
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Monday signed legislation into law that allows the use of cannabidiol oil extracted from marijuana to treat epileptic seizures that can't be effectively treated by pharmaceuticals.
The legislation was sponsored by state Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-St. Louis County), whose 9-year-old son has epilepsy, reports the Associated Press.
Patients and parents who want to use CBD oil will be required to register with the Missouri Department of Health, and also have a neurologist verify that the patient's epilepsy hasn't responded to at least three other treatments. (Why on earth would they only use the most effective and least toxic option when all the others have been exhausted?)
When asked what all the Missouri families who had moved to Colorado for legal access to CBD oil should do, Gov. Nixon replied, "Move back to Missouri."
When pressed on the question of whether such families would be prosecuted, Gov. Nixon said, "It would be better to talk to the attorney general's office about that. All I know is the measure I signed today will help us move forward to make sure Missouri can provide these therapies to families in need."
The Truth About CBD
Now that medical marijuana has come to Illinois, how can qualified patients get authorized to legally use it? That can be a problem when physicians willing to certify patients for the state's Medical Cannabis Pilot Program are problematically scarce, according to a new study.
In a week-long study conducted by De Paul University students, 294 physician offices were contacted from a list provided on the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation's physician profile search, and asked whether or not their practitioners would be certifying patients for the medical use of marijuana in Illinois.
The offices ranged from small family practices with only one physician, to large hospitals with hundreds of physicians practicing in one field. The offices were located throughout Illinois including the counties: Cook, Kane, Will, DuPage, Kankakee, Peoria, Sangamon, Winnebago, McHenry, Effingham, Marion, Kendall and Union.
Half of the physicians contacted were primary care physicians, while half were specialists in the fields of gastroenterology, ophthalmology, oncology, neurology, pain management, infectious disease and rheumatology.
Despite the broad variety of physicians contacted as part of the study, the results yielded an overwhelming answer of "NO" to patients seeking medical marijuana recommendations.
By Steve Elliott
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said he will seek on Tuesday to shut down medical marijuana farmers market that launched in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles two weeks ago. Feuer said he will seek a restraining order blocking the operation of what he called the "so-called farmers market."
The city attorney claimed the market violates Proposition D, the voter-approved ordinance that restricts the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed to operate in Los Angeles, reports KPCC. Feuer also claimed the event constitutes "a nuisance" to the residents of the neighborhood.
"It also fails, we allege, to comply with basic city land use laws," Feuer claimed. "And they couldn't get a permit if they tried. So for many reasons -- from the violation of Prop D to the impact on the community to the failure to comply with city land use law -- we allege that this isn't a use that should be allowed to continue and we're going to seek a court order to put a halt to it."
The three-day launch of the market, which only allowed medical marijuana patients with doctor's authorizations, took place over the July 4th weekend. Thousands of patients came to a warehouse, drawn by the promise of lower prices and farmer-to-consumer cannabis sales. About 25 vendors offered marijuana products and supplies; the line of attendees stretched for blocks.
By Steve Elliott
Patients in Illinois who qualify under the state's Medical Cannabis Pilot Program could be able to start legally using marijuana early next year, according to program coordinator Bob Morgan, who is a lawyer for the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"Right now, we think it's a good time for patients to be having that conversation with their physicians and their caregivers if they have any interest in participating in the program," Morgan said.
The powerful Joint Committee on Administrative Rules plan to meet in Chicago on Tuesday to discuss the rules to implement the state's medical marijuana program, reports Becky Schlikerman at the Chicago Sun-Times.
If the committee agrees on the rules, the process to register patients, dispensers and growers can begin.
Patients who are approved by the state as having debilitating medical conditions qualifying for medical marijuana will be able to get identification cards beginning in September, according to Morgan, but the application process will be staggered.
Applications for those who want to sell or grow marijuana will be out around the same time, Morgan said.
By Steve Elliott
Legislation which changes Rhode Island's medical marijuana law, has been signed by Governor Lincoln Chafee. The law lowers the amounts of marijuana that can be grown patient cooperatives and establishes new regulatory mechanisms.
H. 7610 SubA is a substitute bill, based on a more far reaching proposal that was introduced by law enforcement, and largely concerns cooperatives where patients join together to grow medical marijuana, reports Mark Reynolds at the Providence Journal.
It limits the amount of medical marijuana grow in patient cooperatives in non-residential settings to 10 ounces, 48 mature plants, and 24 seedlings. It also requires that coops in non-residential settings comply with municipal codes, including building codes.
Cooperatives in residential settings will be allowed 24 mature plants and 12 seedlings.
The changes do not affect plant counts for individuals who are growing on their own, even if that individual is both a patient and a caregiver, according to Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC).
The law also calls for both types of cooperatives, both non-residential and residential, to report their presence to state police.
By Steve Elliott
The unthinkable has happened in Iowa, where a dying cancer patient -- along with his wife and son -- has been convicted for growing marijuana.
Benton Mackenzie, 48, faces a probable prison sentence after his Wednesday conviction on drug charges, which he views as a "death sentence," reports Grant Rodgers at The Des Moines Register. "I knew that's what they were going to do," Mackenzie said as his wife pushed him in a wheelchair leaving the courthouse, reports Brian Wellner at the Quad-City Times.
The unbelievable guilty verdict on four felony drug charges was delivered by Scott County jurors; Mackenzie's wife and son were also convicted alongside him.
Mackenzie said he used the plants to extract cannabis oil to treat a painful tumor on his buttock caused by angiosarcoma, a rare, aggressive form of cancer. The tumor has grown to the size of a grapefruit.
The case has drawn national attention to the barbarity of arresting cancer patients for treating themselves with cannabis. This year, Iowa legislators passed one of those "CBD-only" bills, narrowly crafted to allow parents with epileptic children to use cannabis oil as treatment, but that won't help the Mackenzies.