By Steve Elliott
Tennessee's weirdly Puritan attitude towards cannabis is being highlighted this week by a medical marijuana bill being drawn up by Republican state lawmakers.
Those drafting the legislation said the measure would allow the cannabis to be eaten or applied externally through topical oil, but not smoked, reports Chris Bundgaard at WKRN.
"It would likely be the most conservative medical marijuana bill in the country, and if passed, the nation's most carefully controlled law," bragged Capitol Hill lobbyist David McMahan, who failed to explain what's so damned attractive about "the most conservative medical marijuana bill" rather than "the medical marijuana bill most helpful to patients." McMahan's lobbying firm has been hired to help guide the bill through the GOP-dominated Tennessee Legislature.
McMahan told News 2 he has been hired by a group called Tenncangrow, which is listed as a Murfreesboro LLC and headed by estate planning lawyer David B. Laroche.
The two GOP bill sponsors, Rep. Ryan Williams of Putnam County and Sen. Steve Dickerson, MD of Nashville, said the bill would be "limited" in scope.
McMahan called it a "carefully controlled measure with a limited delivery method." It really is starting to sound as if these folks believe that the fewer patients helped, the better a medical marijuana bill is.
By Steve Elliott
A Louisiana lawmaker has proposed putting marijuana legalization on the Presidential election ballot next year for a statewide vote.
Rep. Dalton Honore (D-Baton Rouge) has filed a bill, HB 117, to put possession, distribution and dispensing of cannabis and its derivatives on the Louisiana ballot November 8, 2016, reports Julia O'Donoghue at The Times-Picayune. Voters would be deciding not just the Presidential race, but also Congressional seats that day.
In a Louisiana State University survey last year, 79 percent of Louisianans indicated support for some form of marijuana legalization. If Honore's initiative got on the ballot and passed, people 21 and older would be able to possess and buy cannabis without criminal charges.
"If I can get it to the people, it will pass with flying colors," Honore said.
According to Honore, criminal charges for marijuana have already ruined too many lives in Louisiana. As of June 2013, 1,372 Louisianans were serving prison sentences for simple cannabis possession. The average marijuana sentence in Louisiana is 8.4 years; more than 78 percent of these offenders are African American.
By Steve Elliott
Massachusetts legislators are working on a marijuana legalization proposal, partly to counteract an expected 2016 ballot initiative push.
Cannabis advocates have long planned an initiative petition drive to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults, and political analysts have expected the measure to pass in 2016, reports Joshua Miller at the Boston Globe.
But some lawmakers are reluctant to let activists write a legalization law through ballot initiative. The legislators would rather write the law themselves, and have final say on the details. That's why 13 bipartisan sponsors introduced House Bill 1561, which would legalize marijuana for adults and establish a system of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce, reports Phillip Smith at AlterNet.
"Wouldn't it be a good idea for the Legislature to look at it ahead of time, listen to every point of view, anticipate every problem that we would, and try to do it right?" said Senator Patricia D. Jehlen (D-Somerville), a lead sponsor of a bill to legalize, tax and regulate recreational cannabis.
"I think it's better, if we're going to do this, to do it in the Legislature than on the ballot," agreed Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, who claimed he doesn't have a strong opinion on legalization. Rosenberg isn't listed as a cosponsor, but later said, "I believe if the Legislature doesn't act on it, it will be done on the ballot."
By Steve Elliott
Israeli farmers in Galilee want to grow medical marijuana, but Israel's government, so far, hasn't budged in forbidding such a practice.
At present, only eight farmers in Israel have permission to grow cannabis, reports Idan Cohen at Jerusalem Online. The government opposes increasing the number of cannabis licenses, but disappointed farmers want to increase their profits.
Galilee farmers are especially interested in exporting marijuana overseas. "The State of Israel is preventing the export of Israeli cannabis, which could bring millions of dollars to the state and the farmers; I am not sure why they delay it," said Dubi Amitay, president of the Israeli Farmers Association.
Negev farmers, in January, also asked permission to grow medical marijuana. Several farmers from the Eshkol Regional Council, near Gaza, asked the government to let them grow cannabis for medicinal purposes, and to give them priority due to their losses during Operation Protective Edge, when Israeli forces attacked the Gaza Strip.
Despite their request, and raising public awareness to their cause, the farmers were not successful. The government not only refuses to expand the licensing program; it also refuses to reveal the exact location of its existing licensed cannabis farms.
Photo of Israeli medical cannabis: Channel 2 News
In yet another sign that the cannabis industry is going mainstream, marijuana extraction expert and Evolab CEO Alex Cahoj will give a presentation at the American Chemical Society’s 249th Annual National Meeting on Monday, March 23, evolab announced on Monday. ACS is the world’s largest scientific society.
The ACS invited Alex to educate their membership on his methods, bringing together an old-line, mainstream science society and a cutting-edge cannabis producer.
Evolab is a pioneer in the use of chromatography and CO2 to produce pharmaceutical-grade cannabis extracts. Cahoj, who has overseen more than 2,000 cannabis extractions, has been invited to give a presentation titled “Safety and Health Standards of Cannabis Extractions with an Emphasis on CO2.”
“People have been concentrating cannabis for thousands of years,” said Alex Cahoj, founder and CEO of evolab. “We’re building on that tradition using the latest technology.
"Unfortunately, not all of the new methods in use today are safe – for workers, consumers or the environment," Cahoj said. "At my company we are committed to producing cannabis extracts that are pure, raw and potent – in a manner that is completely integral – using only CO2.
"We never use hydrocarbons like butane or additives and cutting agents," Cahoj said. "We’re dedicated to developing healthier, more efficient technology for extracting cannabis – and I’m grateful that a prestigious scientific organization like the American Chemical Society is interested in learning about our methods.”
By Steve Elliott
All cannabis legalization measures aren't created equally. Some of them, in fact, are written downright sloppily; the beleaguered medical marijuana patients in Washington state, for instance, could testify to that fact, with the problem-plagued implementation of I-502 seemingly headed toward shutting down safe access in that state.
The reason is that capitalism is beginning to eclipse activism in the race to legalize weed nationwide, as pointed out by David Downs on SF Gate.
The Ohio Ballot Board on Friday unanimously approved Responsible Ohio's amendment; Attorney General Mike DeWine certified the ballot petition's wording last week. That means the group can start collecting the 305,000 signatures it needs to quality for this November's ballot.
The amendment would legalize the sale of cannabis for recreational and medical purposes, and set up grow sites around the state. It would allow adults 21 and over to grow up to four plants per household, give medical cannabis to patients at cost, and create 1,000 retail and manufacturing licenses available to the general public.
Unfortunately, that's not all the proposal would do. Just 10 companies who funded the initiative -- the 10 firms in question have thrown in $36 million so far -- would be allowed to cultivate and extract cannabis in Ohio.
By Steve Elliott
Those who enjoy the smell of marijuana along with their beer might be interested in a new offering from the District of Columbia's DC Brau brewery. "Smells of Freedom" is the brewery's newest seasonal India pale ale, and it doesn't contain any actual cannabis; the smell and taste were created with a combination of three hops, according to the company.
The beer, fermenting since last fall, is only available in the District of Columbia, and Skall said he expected the 120 barrels of Smells Like Freedom to sell out quickly. DC Brau and Longmont, Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewery, both of which can their beer rather than bottling it, had been thinking for more than a year of teaming up on a project.
Skall last fall laid out the case for doing a beer together based around D.C.'s legalization fight; Oskar executives liked the idea, and brewers there took to their lab, Skall said. They found three experimental hops that, when combined, smelled a lot like cannabis.
The New York City Council this week called for the state of New York to pass historic legislation to both decriminalize and to tax and regulate marijuana.
As part of the Council’s State Budget and Legislative Agenda for the 2015-2016 legislative session, the New York City Council urged the Legislature to pass two historic marijuana policy reforms – the Fairness and Equity Act and the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act (MRTA). The Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito had previously announced her support for marijuana legalization in November, but this marks the first time that marijuana decriminalization and legalization have been part of the Council’s official legislative agenda.
The Fairness and Equity Act -- sponsored by Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Robert Rodriquez -- would finally fix New York’s decriminalization law regarding possession of small amounts of marijuana, ending racially biased marijuana arrests. The Council noted that the Act would “end the unnecessary and disproportionate arrests of Black and Latino New Yorkers by ensuring that possession or sharing of small amounts of marijuana can never result in a criminal penalty.”
The proposal includes additional provisions to meaningfully address the devastating collateral consequences and historic legacy of these arrests and reduce institutional racial bias across New York’s criminal justice system.
By Steve Elliott
From time to time, a particular arrest serves to highlight the absurd nature of cannabis prohibition.
Such an arrest took place on Monday in North Carolina, where a 94-year-old man was charged with felony possession of marijuana, reports Elisabeth Arriero at The Charlotte Observer.
Douglas Floyd Ponischil, 94, was arrested at 6:36 a.m. on Monday by the Mecklenberg County Sheriff's Office, according to arrest records.
Ponischil -- a World War II veteran, according to Hempyreum -- doesn't appear to have much of a criminal history in the state; a background check revealed only minor traffic violations.
By Steve Elliott
Popular TV physician Dr. Oz on Friday ran a positive story on medicinal cannabis. "Cannabis is a natural medicine which is less addictive and ultimately safer than opiates that are currently the standard of treatment," said Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is a cardiothoracic surgeon. "And as a physician, I'd opt for the safer choice, given that option."
Those with severe chronic pain have learned that our choices are limited, reports Devi E. Nampiaparampil, MD on DoctorOz.com. Medical marijuana is increasingly seen as an alternative to harsh, addictive pharmaceutical opioids which carry the threat of overdose.
Another problem with opioid painkillers is the phenomenon of tolerance, wherein the drugs become less effective over time, making larger doses necessary -- and, once again, bringing up the danger of overdose, since taking too large a dose of opioids can depress the portion of the brain which controls breathing.
Cannabis, on the other hand, has never caused any lethal drug overdoses -- and the number of opioid deaths appears to have decreased in states with laws allowing medical marijuana. It may be that the addition of cannabis is effectively replacing opioids for some people, and according to some studies it might also be boosting the pain relief patients get from the same dose of painkillers.
By Steve Elliott
It's funny what a difference a week makes. Last Tuesday, when a federal medical marijuana bill was introduced by three Senators, many political observers dismissed its chances out of hand. But now the push to legalize medicinal cannabis at the federal level is gaining momentum in the Senate, drawing co-sponsors from both parties.
The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, provide access to banking services for cannabis businesses, and potentially fuel more medical research into the herb, reports Jake Miller at CBS News.
"The time has come for the federal government to stop impeding the doctor-patient relationship in states that have decided their own medical marijuana policies," said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada), as he signed onto the proposal last week.
"This bipartisan legislation puts Americans who are suffering first by allowing Nevada's medical marijuana patients, providers, and businesses that are in compliance with state law, to no longer be in violation of federal law and vulnerable to federal prosecution," Sen. Heller said.
By Steve Elliott
Former two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, now CEO of a marijuana company, on Sunday told an audience of cannabis industry representatives that voters, not politicians, are behind the legalization movement, and he called Washington state's troubled implementation of legalization Initiative 502 a "worst-case scenario."
Johnson, a vocal advocate of legalization and former Presidential candidate who plans to run again next year, gave the keynote speech at the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. About 750 people attended the conference, according to organizers.
Johnson, CEO of Cannabis Sativa, a publicly traded company producing marijuana-infused products.
When it comes to Washington's botched implementation of flawed legalization Initiative 502, Johnson was very critical of the over-taxation of cannabis in that model.
"How are they going to regulate it and make it a legal product? They have screwed it up as bad as they possibly can," Johnson said. "They have taxed it to the level where if you are a prior user of marijuana, prior to it being legal in Washington, you are still consuming it on the black market because of how expensive it is. It's the worst-case scenario and they have it playing out in Washington state."
"Pay attention to how you are taxing it," Johnson said. "You are moving the entire industry from a black market.
By Steve Elliott
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's cold-hearted refusal to allow sick children in his state safe access to medical marijuana was the subject of a blistering editorial inMonday's Star-Ledger.
"The issue of edible marijuana in New Jersey comes down to an irrefutable premise: The governor of this state has had numerous chances to liberate children from suffering over the last 18 months, yet he has chosen not to do it," wrote the Star-Ledger Editorial Board.
"Chris Christie seems content to live with this disgrace," the board wrote. "At one time, he summoned the audacity by looking into the faces of inconsolable parents and chirping the dim-bulb refrain, 'It's complicated,' and now he merely dismisses a law that he signed himself and hopes that nobody notices."
The op-ed unsparingly points out that two years after Vivian Wilson's parents were forced to move to Colorado for the sake of their toddler's health, there is still no workable edible marijuana program for New Jersey's needlessly suffering children -- "because Christie's administration doesn't prioritize compassion."
"Bay State Repeal, the ballot-initiative committee aiming to draft the least restrictive citizen initiative repealing marijuana prohibition in 2016, is pleased 15 legislators are seriously considering marijuana law reform," the organization announced in a Wednesday press release.
"We are also pleased the bill permits home cultivation in any amount as long as minors have no access to the cultivation site and there is no intent to sell," the statement reads. "For Bay State Repeal, the right to grow cannabis at home is a key provision of any meaningful reform, both as a matter of civil rights and protection from overzealous law enforcement and as a check on excessive prices.
"We are less pleased to see that the proposed law creates a 'Cannabis Commission' to regulate cultivation and commerce in marijuana for profit," the release reads. "A new bureaucracy is a waste of taxpayer dollars and a mandate for overregulation. A better solution is to assign any needed licensing authority to the Department of Revenue. In addition, the proposed tax on recreational cannabis is excessive and becomes more so over the first four years.
By Steve Elliott
A Nevada lawmaker on Tuesday proposed a bill in the Legislature that would grant ailing pets legal access to medical marijuana.
The bill, put forward by Democrat Tick Segerblom, would let pet owners obtain cannabis for their animals if a veterinarian confirmed it "may mitigate the symptoms or effects" of a chronic or debilitating medical condition, reports Curtis Skinner at Reuters.
Contrary to scare stories and misinformation in the mainstream press, cannabis is non-toxic to pets, and in fact to all mammals.
The bill also includes new rules for human patients, including regulations for medicla marijuana dispensaries. It also drops penalties for motorists found driving with marijuana in their system.
Photo: Dallas Observer