Medical Marijuana

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Chronicle AM: NJ Firm Can Drug Test MedMJ Patient, Egypt Bans "Synthetic Hashish," More... (8/17/18)

A federal judge sides with a New Jersey company against a medical marijuana-using worker, Egypt bans "synthetic hashish," a Mexican state advances a bill to decriminalize opium production, and more.

Bolivian President Evo Morales says he wants to return to coca farming, but the people demand him. (Creative Commons)
Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Business Can Drug Test Medical Marijuana Patient, Federal Court Rules. A federal district court judge has ruled that a New Jersey business does not have to waive its requirement for mandatory drug testing to accommodate a worker who uses medical marijuana. The worker had sued the company after it wouldn't allow him to return to work unless he submitted to drug testing. "New Jersey law does not require private employers to waive drug tests for users of medical marijuana," Judge Robert Kugler wrote in his decision. He also noted that "unless expressly provided for by statute, most courts have concluded that the decriminalization of medical marijuana does not shield employees from adverse employment actions."

International

Bolivia President Says He Wants to Return to Coca Farming, But Country Wants Him. President Evo Morales said Thursday he will seek a fourth term in office, citing broad popular support. "The people ask me to return, I do not want to... I want to return to my region to harvest coca, that's the great desire I have, but it is not easy to reject it when the people push you," Morales said. Morales has led the country since 2006, during which period poverty levels have fallen by 3.5%.

Egypt "Synthetic Hashish" Ban. The Health Ministry this week officially banned six forms of "synthetic hashish," or synthetic cannabinoids. The ministry said the ban applied to six "extremely addictive" substances, but it did not provide the technical names for the banned substances.

Mexican State Moving to Legalize Opium Production for Pharmaceutical Purposes. A legislative committee in the state of Guerrero, Mexico's opium production epicenter, has approved a draft bill to decriminalize the production and sale of opium for pharmaceutical purposes. If the bill is approved by the state legislature, it would then be sent to the federal congress for approval. The law is designed to reduce the impact of federal law enforcement on local producers, but critics worry such a law could be used fraudulently by drug cartels supplying heroin to the US.

Chronicle AM: Overdose Deaths at Record High, DEA Cuts Opioid Production Quotas, More... (8/16/18)

Drug overdose deaths hit another record high last year, the DEA is cutting prescription opioid quotas again, California pot tax revenues are not meeting expectations, and more.

According to the CDC, more than 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

California Pot Tax Revenues Still Sluggish. The state has taken in $82 million in marijuana tax revenues in the first six months of 2018, finance officials reported. That's less than half the $185 million anticipated. Politicians and industry figures say that's because illicit sales still flourish and because many localities in the state don't allow retail marijuana sales. At a meeting with state regulators Tuesday, fingers were also pointed at a shaky supply chain, a shortage of licenses, testing problems and restrictions on retail sales and deliveries.

Medical Marijuana

Utah Medical Marijuana Foes Try Hail Mary Court Challenge to Block Initiative. Opponents of the Proposition 2 medical marijuana initiative filed a lawsuit in state court Wednesday seeking to remove the measure from the ballot. The opponents claim the initiative would tread on their freedom of religion because it violates the religious beliefs of a Mormon foe. "In the United States of America, members of all religions, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have a constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs," the complaint reads. "This includes the right not to consort with, be around, or do business with people engaging in activities which their religion finds repugnant." Proponents of the initiative called the move "a wacky attempt" by foes to derail medical marijuana.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

DEA Proposes Big Cuts in Opioid Manufacturing Next Year. The DEA has proposed decreasing the manufacturing quotas for the "six most frequently abused" opioids for next by 10%. That would be the third straight year of reductions. The move is described as part of President Trump's Safe Prescribing Plan, which seeks to "cut nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years." Neither this proposed cut nor the plan address whether bluntly tightening production quotas could lead to shortages for patients needing them for chronic pain.

Overdose Deaths At Record High Last Year, Driven By Opioids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Wednesday that preliminary figures showed that more than 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, up 7% over 2016. Opioids, which include prescription painkillers along with heroin and other illegal synthetic opioid drugs, contributed 49,068 to the total number of overdose deaths, the report indicates. From 2002 to 2017, the CDC estimates a 4.1-fold increase in the total number of deaths due to all types of opioid drugs.

This Surprising State Could Be the Next to Legalize Marijuana [FEATURE]

Much attention this year has been focused on marijuana legalization efforts in state legislatures, particularly in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states, but unless Albany and Annapolis and Trenton get their acts together in a hurry, they could be upstaged by a prairie upstart: North Dakota.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota (GoodFreePhotos.com)
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced Monday that a marijuana legalization initiative sponsored by the grassroots group Legalize ND has qualified for the November ballot. The group had handed in more than 17,000 raw signatures last month and needed 13,452 valid voter signatures to qualify. On Monday, Jaeger reported 14,637 signatures were valid.

"The Legalize ND campaign was able to successfully channel the grassroots enthusiasm for recreational marijuana," said Legalize ND chairman David Owen.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana since 2012, but all of those states have been in the West or the Northeast. This year, with marijuana legalization on the ballot in Michigan as well as North Dakota, legal weed could make a heartland breakthrough.

The North Dakota initiative has some unique features. Here's what it would and wouldn't do:

  • It would legalize marijuana -- in all its forms -- for people 21 and over by removing marijuana, THC, and hashish from the state's controlled substances schedules.
  • It would provide for the expungement of criminal convictions for anyone convicted of a marijuana-related crime that would be legal under the measure.
  • It does not set any limits on how much marijuana people could possess or how many plants they could grow.
  • It does not create a framework for regulated marijuana sales nor does it set any taxes. Creating a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce would be up to the state legislature.

It's only been two years since North Dakota voters approved a medical marijuana initiative, and the state Health Department is still in the process of setting up a system for producing and distributing the drug. That same year, marijuana legalization supporters came up short on signatures to get on the ballot, but they persevered, and here we are.

North Dakota is a deep red state -- Donald Trump got more than twice as many votes as Hillary Clinton in 2016 -- but the only poll done so far has the initiative leading. The June poll, commissioned by Legalize ND and conducted by the Florida-based Kitchen Group, had the initiative winning 46 percent to 39 percent, with 15 percent undecided.

That's good but not great news for Legalize ND. Yes, the initiative is leading, but the conventional wisdom among initiative and referendum watchers is that campaigns should be starting off with at least 60 percent support -- the assumption being that inevitable organized opposition is going to eat away at support levels in the final weeks of the campaign.

And there will be organized opposition. The North Dakota Sheriffs and Deputies Association passed a resolution in May opposing legalization and, now that the initiative has made the ballot, is meeting this week to plot strategy to defeat it.

Association president Pat Rummel, the Billings County sheriff, told the Associated Press this week law enforcement worried about potential problems such as impaired driving, more domestic disputes, and more strain on mental health and addiction treatment facilities.

"We don't have enough facilities to take care of these people," he said. "That's going to be a huge impact, too. Where do we put all these people that need to be into treatment?"

The national anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana will also join the effort to defeat the initiative, the group's leader, Kevin Sabet, told the AP. "Our nation is dealing with a five-alarm fire of addiction right now; the last thing we need is more states to throw gasoline on it by promoting more drug use," he said.

That's the tenor of the opposition arguments so far. The question is whether North Dakota voters will still be swayed by such arguments. We'll find out in November.

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Medical Marijuana Update

A new bill in Guam would allow home cultivation, Oklahoma officials still have issues with the voter-approved medical marijuana initiative, and more.

Guam

Guam Bill Would Allow Home Cultivation. Five years after the US territory legalized medical marijuana, access issues have prompted Sen. Louis Muna to file a bill that would allow patients to grow their own at home. The bill got a public hearing Tuesday night, with mostly positive testimony. No word yet on it will get a committee vote.

Michigan

Michigan Lawmakers Call on Governor to Prevent Shutdown of Unlicensed Dispensaries. Temporarily operating dispensaries have permission to stay open until September 15 as they try to obtain state licenses, but a group of state legislators says the state is moving too slowly with licensing and are asking Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to prevent the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation from sending out cease and desist orders to unlicensed businesses on September 16. More than 637 businesses have applied for licenses, but only 16 have been issued so far, and there is only one more licensing board meeting before the deadline. The legislators are calling for the deadline to be extended so patients aren't left in the lurch.

Ohio

Ohio Deadline for Getting Program Up and Running Goes Up in Smoke. The state's medical marijuana program is supposed to be up and running by September 8, but that isn't going to happen. The state Department of Commerce is still selecting businesses that will be issued cultivation licenses. The department says it can issue up to 18 of those licenses before September 8, but that means the first crops won't be ready until November.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Agencies Still Have "Concerns" Over Legal Medical Marijuana. Interim health commissioner Tom Bates told lawmakers last Wednesday that the Health Board still had concerns about how medical marijuana will be implemented and that a special session of the legislature may be needed to see the program properly implemented. The board wants lawmakers to amend the law so that, among other changes, commercial grows are indoor only, patient home grows are prohibited or require a special license, smokable marijuana is prohibited, THC levels are limited to 12% or less, a pharmacist is required on-site at dispensaries, and that a list of qualifying conditions for patients be created. Some of the changes are among those recommended in the Health Board's first try at setting interim rules, which were retracted in the face of loud public opposition. Any effort to re-adopt them is certain to lead to renewed clamor.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: ND Governor Opposes Pot Initiative, Ohio MedMJ Delays, More... (8/15/18)

The dog days of summer continue with little going on in the world of drug policy. But North Dakota's Republican governor comes out against the legalization initiative, the Ohio medical marijuana program is behind schedule, and more.

A bill filed in Guam would allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own. (pixabay.com)
Marijuana Policy

North Dakota Governor Comes Out Against Legalization Initiative. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has come out in opposition to the Legalize ND marijuana legalization initiative, saying he is against "the full, unfettered legalization of recreational marijuana." He told local media, "I encourage voters to educate themselves on the specific wording and far-reaching implications of all ballot measures. My personal stance against full, unfettered legalization of recreational marijuana has not changed."

Medical Marijuana

Guam Bill Would Allow Home Cultivation. Five years after the US territory legalized medical marijuana, access issues have prompted Sen. Louis Muna to file a bill that would allow patients to grow their own at home. The bill got a public hearing Tuesday night, with mostly positive testimony. No word yet on it will get a committee vote.

Ohio Deadline for Getting Program Up and Running Goes Up in Smoke. The state's medical marijuana program is supposed to be up and running by September 8, but that isn't going to happen. The state Department of Commerce is still selecting businesses that will be issued cultivation licenses. The department says it can issue up to 18 of those licenses before September 8, but that means the first crops won't be ready until November.

Chronicle AM: MPP Gets New Director, Ontario Pot Shops to Be Private Not State-Run, More... (8/14/18)

The Marijuana Policy Project picks a veteran criminal justice advocate as its new head, Canada's most populous province makes a last-minute switch from state-run to privately-run pot shops, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Policy Project Names New Head. The nation's most well-funded marijuana advocacy group has named Steve Hawkins as its new executive director. Hawkins previously served as the executive director of Amnesty International USA, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and executive vice president of the NAACP. "Steve has a strong track record in the field of criminal justice reform, and he knows how to build a movement toward meaningful social change," said Troy Dayton, the chair of MPP's board of directors. "We were not only impressed by his expertise and experience, but also his strong convictions regarding the injustice of marijuana prohibition." Hawkins replaces Rob Kampia, who had led the group since its founding in 1995. Kampia resigned late last year and now runst a consulting group called the Marijuana Leadership Campaign.

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Lawmakers Call on Governor to Prevent Shutdown of Unlicensed Dispensaries. Temporarily operating dispensaries have permission to stay open until September 15 as they try to obtain state licenses, but a group of state legislators says the state is moving too slowly with licensing and are asking Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to prevent the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation from sending out cease and desist orders to unlicensed businesses on September 16. More than 637 businesses have applied for licenses, but only 16 have been issued so far, and there is only one more licensing board meeting before the deadline. The legislators are calling for the deadline to be extended so patients aren't left in the lurch.

International

Ontario Suddenly Switches from State-Run Marijuana Stores to Private Ones. Canada's most populous province has at the last minute discarded plans for state-run pot shops in favor of allowing private businesses to run the stores and allowing consumers to purchase marijuana online for delivery. The late switch means people in Ontario will not be able to go to pot shops when they become legal nationwide on October 17, but will now have to wait for the province's new target date of April 1, 2019. But online sales will begin on day one.

Chronicle AM: PA Gov Says State Not Ready for Legal Pot, New FDA Guidelines on MATS, More... (8/9/18)

The FDA has issued new draft guidance aimed at expanding the use of medication-assisted treatments (MATs) for opioid addiction, Pennsylvania's governor says the state isn't ready for legal weed, the Oklahoma medical marijuana fight isn't over yet, and more.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) isn't on the same page as his counterparts in New York and New Jersey. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Pennsylvania Governor Says State Not Ready for Marijuana Legalization. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said during a radio interview on Tuesday that he doesn't think the state is ready to legalize marijuana. "There are, what, six states that have legalized recreational marijuana in the United States," Wolf said. (The actual number is nine.). "I don't think the citizens of Pennsylvania are ready for it, and so the answer I would say is no… I don't think Pennsylvania's actually ready for recreational marijuana." The position puts Wolf at odds with two neighboring Democratic governors, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, who is strongly pushing legalization, and Andrew Cuomo of New York, who just signed off on the notion.

Los Angeles Won't Vote on Raising Pot Tax in November. The city council has reversed a decision to place a 1% marijuana tax increase on the November ballot. The city estimated it would raise approximately $30 million per year from the tax increase, but faced immediate blowback from industry groups who said pot taxes were already too high and are driving consumers to the black market.

Medical Marijuana

Oklahoma Agencies Still Have "Concerns" Over Legal Medical Marijuana. Interim health commissioner Tom Bates told lawmakers Wednesday that the Health Board still has concerns about how medical marijuana will be implemented and that a special session of the legislature may be needed to see the program properly implemented. The board wants lawmakers to amend the law so that, among other changes, commercial grows are indoor only, patient home grows are prohibited or require a special license, smokable marijuana is prohibited, THC levels are limited to 12% or less, a pharmacist is required on-site at dispensaries, and that a list of qualifying conditions for patients be created. Some of the changes are among those recommended in the Health Board's first try at setting interim rules, which were retracted in the face of loud public opposition. Any effort to re-adopt them is certain to lead to renewed clamor.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

FDA Seeks to Expand Use of Medication-Assisted Therapies for Addiction. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday released new draft guidance aimed at promoting the creation and more widespread use of medication-assisted therapies (MATs) for opioid use disorder. The guidance adjusts how FDA evaluates new treatments for opioid addiction. Instead of only determining whether a treatment lowers opioid use, the agency will now assess whether the medication could help lower overdose rates and limit the spread of infectious disease. "We must consider new ways to gauge success beyond simply whether a patient in recovery has stopped using opioids, such as reducing relapse overdoses and infectious disease transmission," said Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner.

WATCH: Michigan Cop Jails 80-Year-Old Grandma Over Expired Medical Marijuana Card

A Clare County, Michigan, sheriff's deputy arrested an 80-year-old grandmother for small-time medical marijuana possession after going to her home on an unrelated matter and smelling it. The grandma, Delores Saltzman, is a patient whose card had expired. She spent a night in jail and had to deal with a court case because the deputy's zero-tolerance approach to marijuana precluded a sensible resolution to the matter.

As local TV station Fox 17 reported, on the evening of June 13, Deputy Ashley Gruno knocked on Saltzman's door. She was trying to find Saltzman's granddaughter to return a lost phone and ID. Things went haywire when Deputy Gruno smelled marijuana from the front porch.

The deputy asked who the marijuana belonged to, and Saltzman explained it was hers and that she was a medical marijuana patient. Deputy Gruno then searched the house, seizing several pipes, four joints, and a purple jar with a small amount of marijuana. Saltzman said the total amount of marijuana seized was less than an eighth of an ounce.

Deputy Gruno then handcuffed Saltzman, place her in a patrol car, and took her to jail, where the arthritic grandmother spent a long night.

"That''s ridiculous what they do to people, they don't need to make you that cold," she said. "Old Arthur was screaming at me" -- a reference to arthritis, her son Mark clarified. Saltzman also suffers from diverticulitis and muscle and bone aches.

Saltzman and her son credit marijuana with saving her life. It helped her appetite when she was sick, helped her heal after surgeries, and eases her pain from health conditions, they said.

"After I smoke, I go down to a one, pain-wise," she said. "Before I smoke, I would say I'm an eight right now. Marijuana saved my life because I had a bad bleed about four years ago, and Mark took care of me," she explained, adding that when doctors prescribed her opioids, she suffered stomach pains and vomiting.

Saltzman said she went public with her story in the hope it will help others. "That's what I want people to do: Don't be ashamed of something that's going to make you feel better."

The deputy was overzealous, said Mark Saltzman. "I just thought it was absolutely ridiculous to put her through this like that. They could have just given her a ticket, and [said] just show us your card later. Reapply for your [medical marijuana] card, show us this, and then drop the charges."

Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis largely agreed with Saltzman. While she said a possession of marijuana charge was justified because of the expired card, she added: "However, our goal is to ensure that individuals who utilize medical marijuana are doing so legally. As such, Mrs. Saltzman was encouraged to obtain her medical marijuana card and if she did so, the case would be dismissed. She did obtain her medical marijuana card, and the case was dismissed."

Clare County Sheriff John Wilson didn't comment on whether his deputy should have arrested Saltzman and said he agreed with the prosecutor's decision to dismiss the case after she renewed her medical marijuana card, but stuck to his guns on Saltzman's criminality: "This person was illegally in possession of marijuana," he said.

Michigan will vote on legalizing marijuana in November. If advocates had managed to get it on the ballot in 2016, Saltzman and others like her would not have been subject to arrest. She is calling on her fellow Michiganders to vote to legalize it.

"I'm hoping that we all learn a lesson from this and that we make amends, and people will get out and vote for it," Saltzman said. "We are the ones that have to stand up. We are the people, and we just have to fight for our rights."

One can hope that most Michigan police officers and even Deputy Gruno now would be more discriminating than this. But they might not. Until the people do fight -- and win -- Michigan will see more pointless arrests under the prohibition laws.

Watch Saltzman tell her story here:

This article was produced by Drug Reporter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Medical Marijuana Update

Show Me State voters will vote on three different medical marijuana initiatives, Oklahoma finally gets some livable temporary medical marijuana rules, and more.

Illinois

Illinois Governor Signs Bill Allowing Medical Marijuana Administration in Schools. Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has signed into law a bill that requires public schools to allow the parents of sick children to administer medical marijuana to them at school. The law allows parents to administer "cannabis-infused products" if both the child and the parents have been approved under the state's medical marijuana law.

Missouri

Missouri Will Vote on Not One, Not Two, But Three Medical Marijuana Initiatives. The secretary of state's office last Thursday certified three different medical marijuana initiatives for the November ballot. There is a constitutional amendment from New Approach Missouri, as well as a constitutional amendment from Find the Cures and an easier to amend statutory initiative from Lowell Pearson, a Jefferson City attorney.

Ohio

Ohio Awards First Medical Marijuana Processing Licenses. The state Department of Commerce last Friday issued seven provisional licenses to aspiring medical marijuana processors. This is just the first round of licensing for processors; the state could license up to 40 such operations.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Health Board Approves New Medical Marijuana Rules. The Board of Health last Wednesday adopted new rules to govern the state's medical marijuana system. The new rules amend or totally revoke the original proposed rules, which included a ban on the sale of smokeable marijuana, a requirement that a pharmacist be present at dispensaries, and a requirement that women of childbearing age take a pregnancy test before using medical marijuana. Also gone are guidelines that limited THC levels.

Oklahoma Governor Signs Revised Emergency Rules for Medical Marijuana. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Monday signed a revised set of emergency regulations to govern medical marijuana use in the state. The first attempt at emergency rules blew up in Fallin's and the state Health Department's face, being widely criticized for provisions banning the sale of medical marijuana, requiring a pharmacist to be present in dispensaries, and requiring that women "of child-bearing age" undergo a pregnancy test. None of those provisions remain in the new rules, which Fallin called "very basic" and a good basis for developing a comprehensive regulatory regime.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Dispensaries Now Offering Buds. For the first time since state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries opened their doors in the state, patients can buy dried flowers from plants grown under the legal system. At least 16 dispensaries in the state were offering buds as of last Wednesday, with more certain to follow as harvest season looms. But under state law, the buds cannot be smoked -- only vaped.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: Colombia's New President Vows Drug Crackdown, ND Pot Init Lives, More... (8/8/18)

The Northern Mariana Islands could be the first US territory to legalize weed, a North Dakota legalization initiative looks like it will probably make the ballot, Colombia's new president vows to resort to old prohibitionist drug war policies, and more.

Newly installed Colombian President Ivan Duque vows a drug crackdown. (Flickr)
Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes Northern Mariana Islands House. The Northern Marianas Islands House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 20-178, on an 18-1-1 vote. The bill legalizes the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but also for adult use. People can possess up to an ounce and grow a limited number of plants, and the bill creates a regime for legal, regulated, and taxed production and sales. It now goes before the territory's Senate. If it passes, the Northern Marianas would be the first US territory to legalize marijuana.

North Dakota Legalization Initiative Likely to Make Ballot, State Officials Say. State election officials have told Marijuana Moment that the organizers of a marijuana legalization initiative have very likely come up with enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The group, LegalizeND, submitted about 18,700 raw signatures; it needs 13,452 valid voter signatures to qualify. The elections office is currently finishing the signature verification process and will announce on August 13 whether the measure qualified.

Congressional Bar on DC Regulated Sales Leading to Distribution Arrest Surge, Report Finds. More than 900 people were arrested for marijuana offenses in the nation's capital last year, a jump of 37% over 2016 figures, according to new data from the DC Metro Police. Pot arrests bottomed out at 323 in 2015, the first full year of legalization. Prior to legalization, the vast majority of arrests were for possession, but since then, distribution and possession with intent to distribute account for the majority of pot arrests. Analysts pointed to the congressional bar against the District allowing legal, regulated sales as being behind both the overall jump in arrests and the increasing percentage of sales and possession with intent arrests.

International

Colombia's New President Takes Office, Vows Drug Crackdown. Ivan Duque, a conservative ally of former President Alvaro Uribe, was installed as president Tuesday. He immediately pointed to the expansion of coca production, corruption, and the violence of drug trafficking groups as problems he will address. "The time has come for us to unite to confront all illegalities," including drug trafficking and production, he said. "We will be effective in the eradication and substitution of illegal crops, accompanied by productive opportunities" for farmers and a crackdown on drug traffickers, Duque promised. "Building peace, Colombians, means to defeat the drug cartels," he said.

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