By Steve Elliott
Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday took one step towards legalizing a marijuana extract that doesn't produce a high, but can be used medically.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved by a 6-3 vote a bill known as Carly's Law which would allow people with certain illnesses to possess concentrated cannabis oil containing cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, reports The Associated Press.
The oil contains only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of marijuana which gets you high.
Parents of children with seizure disorders including severe epileptic conditions such as Dravet syndrome are supporting the legislation. Anecdotal evidence from Colorado and elsewhere suggests that CBD oil can greatly reduce the incidence and severity of epileptic seizures.
Carly's Law, named after Carly Chandler, a child in Hoover, Alabama who could benefit from its passage, would give patients and parents a defense should they be charged with marijuana possession because of the CBD oil.
Carly's father is championing the bill in hopes that he can treat his daughter's severe seizures -- due to the rare disorder CDKL5 -- with CBD. "It's truly a medicine and it can help thousands of children and people in Alabama," Dustin Chandler said.
By Steve Elliott
Uruguay's President Jose "Pepe" Mujica has been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Price. According to advocates, President Mujica's legalization of marijuana in his country is "a tool for peace and understanding."
The Drugs Peace Institute, which has supported Mujica's legalization drive since 2012, has endorsed his candidacy, reports RT.com. Also endorsing Mujica for the award are members of his left wing political party, the Frente Amplio, the PlantaTuPlanta (a collective of Uruguayan cannabis growers), and the Latin American Coalition of Cannabis Activists (CLAC).
In late December Uruguay became the first nation in the modern world to fully legalize the production and sale of cannabis. Under the new law, which comes into effect in April, Uruguayans will be able to buy marijuana at the drug store, or will be allowed to grow their own.
Mujica's stand against the UN-led War On Drugs is a "symbol of a hand outstretched, of a new era in a divided world," according to the Drugs Peace Institute.
"It is a promise to bridge the gap between defiant marijuana consumers and the prohibiting society. Hopefully, the start of the acceptance of this consumption by society and the concomitant development of understanding of its use as a natural medicine, historically used for spiritual liberation, might initiate a process of healing in a world, very confused and deeply divided, over its religious legacy," reads the Dutch nongovernmental organization's website.
By Steve Elliott
A bill has been introduced in the Oklahoma State Senate to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes for adults age 21 and older.
Senator Connie Johnson introduced Senate Bill 2116, which would legalize, tax and regulate cannabis similarly to alcohol, reports The Huffington Post.
"By taxing and regulating marijuana we can take the lucrative market out of the hands of criminals and drug cartels and put it in the hands of tax-paying, law-abiding businesses," Senator Johnson said.
Johnson pointed out that marijuana prohibition diverts the attention of law enforcement away from more serious crimes.
"More importantly, we can stop arresting adults simply for using a substance less harmful than alcohol and focus our law enforcement resources on violent crimes and real threats to public safety, Sen. Johnson said.
"As taxpayers, we're spending over $30 million each year policing, jailing and incarcerating our citizens on marijuana-related offenses," she said. "Yet marijuana is almost universally available. It's time for a smarter approach."
This is Senator Johnson's fourth try to introduce the legislation, but she thinks it could have a better chance this time, due to social media, reports KSWO 7 News.
By Steve Elliott
The first cannabis college in Florida opened on Tuesday, starting classes in an old cigar factory in Tampa.
The school, named Medical Marijuana Tampa, offers a four-week course for $499 including the e-textbook, videos and articles, according to the college's website, reports Adrienne Cutway at the Orlando Sentinel.
Included on the syllabus are classes on the history of cannabis, types of marijuana, cultivation, making bubble hash and edibles, and building the grower network.
"It will cover the historical, legal, botanical aspects of medicinal marijuana, plus what's going to happen in the marketplace in Florida in 2015 based on our analysis of the ballot language," Jeremy Bufford, the proprietor, told Deirdra Funcheon at Broward Palm Beach New Times.
"We can make educated guesses and prepare our students for careers or opportunity that's going to develop in that space," Bufford said.
"We do know according to the language that we'll be able to cultivate and w'ell be able to procure that medicine on behalf of our patients," he said, reports Jason Beisel at ABC Action News. "
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana could be a major factor in Pennsylvania's gubernatorial race this year, with a Penn Law grad in the race adopting a pro-legalization stance.
John Hanger's position on cannabis has come to define his candidacy, reports Joel Mathis at Philly Mag. While he embraces that, he also says he has a lot more plans for the state beyond pot legalization.
The Hanger campaign has put up billboards in a couple of Pennsylvania towns urging voters to legalize and tax marijuana. "This issue involves the lives of two million Pennsylvanians," Hanger said.
"Some folks say marijuana is not a voting issue, it's not important. Tell that to the 500,000 Pennsylvanians who have conditions that are treated with cannabis in 20 states," he said. "Tell that to the moms I was with this morning, who have children who are suffering from Dravet Syndrome, whose lives are hanging in the balance. They want marijuana for their children and for them it is not the only issue," Hanger said.
"This is also a very important issue for all taxpayers. We are spending $300 million, approximately, chasing down and arresting people who are possessing small amounts of marijuana," he said. "If we get it out of the underground economy and start taxing it, instead of spending that $300 million we will raise $200 million of new revenue. That's a big deal for taxpayers."
By Steve Elliott
Moriah Barnhart's determination to help her 2-year-old daughter, Dahlia, fight a cancerous brain tumor led them to become part of a new social phenomenon: medical marijuana refugees.
Within weeks of Dahlia being diagnosed, Barnhart packed the family's bags to move from Tampa, Florida, to Memphis, Tennessee, where the toddler could undergo treatment at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, reports Kelli Grant at CNBC. While in Memphis, Barnhart learned through her research that medical marijuana was a worthy treatment, and might mitigate the harsh effects of chemotherapy.
"It just was the safest and most viable, effective option," Barnhart said. "But it was illegal in Tennessee and Florida."
Thus the Barnharts joined the ranks of marijuana refugees who have relocated or are planning to move in order to gain safe access to medicinal cannabis. Twenty states and the District of Columbia currently allow the medical use of marijuana for certain conditions, and several other states have such laws being considered this year.
Advocates say they hear from plenty of families who move for safe access. "As soon as we have the intake form up, we're swamped with requests," said Lindsey Rinehart, cofounder of the Undergreen Railroad, organized to help patients and their families defray the expenses of moving to medical marijuana states.
Rinehart herself had to move from Idaho to Oregon last summer to treat her multiple sclerosis with cannabis.
By Steve Elliott
"North To The Future" is Alaska's state motto, and the future is cannabis legalization, according to the polls. State voters will get a chance to have their say at the ballot box on August 19 after supporters collected enough signatures to qualify an initiative for the ballot.
"They have hit the magic numbers," said Alaska elections director Gail Fenumiai on Tuesday, reports Michelle Theriault Boots at the Anchorage Daily News. The totals are still unofficial.
The signature threshold was reached on Tuesday morning by Alaska's Campaign to Regulate Marijuana. Totals posted on the Alaska Division of Elections' website showed 31,593 valid voter signatures had been counted.
Tim Hinterberger and fellow Campaign to Regulate Marijuana backers submitted more than 46,000 signatures on January 8. Alaska law requires 30,000 valid signatures to qualify. Initiative backers also met the requirement to gather signatures from at least 30 of the state's 40 House districts. The effort is co-sponsored by Hinterberger; Bill Parker, a former deputy commissioner in the Alaska Department of Corrections; and Mary Reff.
Bill Would Reduce Enormous Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice System
Last-Minute Amendments Weaken Bill; Advocates Warn That “Public Consumption” Provision Will Perpetuate Unfair and Costly Arrests
The D.C. Council on Tuesday took a major step to decriminalizing marijuana in the nation’s capital by voting 11-1 in favor of a bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and treat possession as a civil offense.
The Council takes a final vote on the bill in early March; it is expected to pass and to be signed into law by the mayor. It is viewed by both council members and advocates as a model for other jurisdictions looking to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
“This is a major victory for advancing the cause of racial justice in D.C.,” said Grant Smith, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The war on marijuana is largely a war on people of color and the D.C. Council is saying enough is enough.”
The “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 (Council Bill 20-409)” would eliminate the threat of arrest for possessing marijuana and ensure that people are no longer saddled with life-long convictions that make it difficult to obtain employment and housing. Instead of arresting people the bill would impose a $25 civil fine for possession as well as forfeiture of the marijuana and any paraphernalia used to consume or carry it.
By Steve Elliott
Archaeological excavations in Turkey have revealed a 9,000-year-old hemp-linen fabric in the ground at the site of a burned house. The fabric was wrapped around the skeleton of a baby.
The dig, in the central Anatolian province of Konya at the settlement of Çatalhöyük, is being called one of the most important finds of 2013, reports the Hurriyet Daily News. More than 120 people from 22 countries worked on the excavations.
"The fire warmed up the ground and platforms of the building and created a kiln drying effect," said Professor Ian Hodder of Stanford University. "Therefore the pieces and this piece of cloth underground have been so far protected."
"Examinations in the laboratory show that this piece of cloth is linen weaved with hemp," Professor Hodder said. "This is a first in the world and one of the best preserved examples."
"This piece of linen, which is weaved very thin, most probably came from the eastern Mediterranean from the central Anatolia," Hodder said. "It is already known that obsidians and sea shells had been exchanged in long-distance trade in the Middle East during the Neolithic era. But this fabric may have revealed another side of the trade."
A report on the Çatalhöyük excavations is available at www.catalhoyuk.com.
By Steve Elliott
A former law enforcement officer is helping the push to legalize marijuana in Maryland.
"We've been at this forever," said retired drug cop Neill Franklin of the war on drugs. "It never worked."
"When he talks about the Drug War, he knows what he's talking about," said Sara Love, public policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, who calls Franklin a "linchpin" of the movement, reports Erin Cox at The Baltimore Sun. "He's been out on the street, he's arrested people -- and realized at the end that those arrests haven't helped anybody."
Advocates across Maryland and the nation often turn to Franklin, 55, for an intelligent voice in drug policy reform. Four years ago, he took a $40,000 pay cut to become executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an international organization of former police officers, judges, prosecutors and corrections officers who now advocate drug legalization.
Until this year, most of Franklin's work has been out of state or in Washington, D.C., but with the legalization effort ramping up in Maryland, he's been staying a bit closer to home lately.
In Annapolis, he focuses his message on why Maryland should legalize marijuana: It is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco; the black market fuels violence and finances cartels; unfair enforcement sends twice as many blacks as whites to jail for pot possession.
By Steve Elliott
GOP Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has once again blasted President Obama for not enforcing federal marijuana laws in states which have legalized cannabis.
Sen. Cruz said he supported an "intelligent conversation" about drug policy in a new interview with the libertarian magazine Reason, reports Eric W. Dolan at The Raw Story. But Cruz certainly didn't provide any intelligent conversation, himself.
"I will say one thing that's been dismaying about the Obama Administration," Cruz said. "The Obama Administration's approach to drug policy is to simply announce that across the country, it is going to stop enforcing certain drug laws.
"Now, that may or may not be a good policy, but I would suggest that should concern anyone -- it should even concern libertarians who support that policy outcome -- because the idea that the President simply says criminal laws that are on the books, we're going to ignore," Cruz said. "That is a very dangerous precedent."
Cruz claimed Obama overstepped his authority by declining to arrest marijuana users and sellers in Colorado and Washington. Only Congress could enact such a policy, he said.
By Steve Elliott
New York's medical marijuana program will be functioning within a year, according to the state's top health official. However, it remains to be seen if his far-fetched predictions of a federal supply of cannabis will come true.
Health Commissioner Nirav Shah was grilled by legislators on Monday as part of a budget hearing on Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to use a little-known 1980 state law to allow a limited number of hospitals to provide marijuana to chronically ill patients, reports Jon Campbell at Lohud.com.
"My goal is to get this up and running as soon as possible, and using federal sources for product, we can get it up and running within a year," Shah said.
The plan has faced skepticism from lawmakers and activists who support medical marijuana, including Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) and Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), who sponsor a bill that would legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes and create a network for its distribution.
The 1980 law Gov. Cuomo plans to utilize allows New York to permit medical marijuana on a limited basis "for research purposes" and for it to be distributed through 20 hospitals.
Assemblyman Gottfried pressed Shah on the specifics of the research plan, which Shah claimed will focus on the therapeutic effects of cannabis on patients, and not on ways to grow or distribute marijuana.
By Steve Elliott
Supporters of marijuana legalization in California now have not just one, but two initiatives cleared to collect signatures to try to qualify for the November ballot.
The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act (MCLR) has been given the green light to start collecting signatures, joining the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative (CCHI), which received clearance back last September from the California Secretary of State to circulate petitions. CCHI's deadline for more than 500,000 signatures is just three weeks away, on February 24, while MCLR has until June 30.
If passed, the MCLR, like the CCHI, would legalize recreational cannabis use for adults 21 and older. It would also strengthen existing medical marijuana laws and legalize hemp production, according to supporters, reports Ashley Bailey at KPCC.
"It stops putting 20,000 people a year in California for low level offenses and it creates a diversion program," said Silicon Valley businessman John Lee, who leads the nonprofit Americans for Policy Reform, one of the groups behind the measure. The law would also open up possibilities for medical research, as well as generating revenue from a variety of cannabis sources, according to Lee.
By Steve Elliott
One entrepreneur is warning that few Colorado farmers will plant hemp this spring if a federal ban on shipping hemp seeds across state lines and national borders isn't changed soon.
Hundreds of Colorado farmers have contacted her in recent months asking where to get hemp seeds for the coming season, said Barbara Filippone, whose Glenwood Springs-based company, EnvironTextiles, imports and sells hemp and other natural fibers, reports Nelson Harvey at the Aspen Daily News.
"I have a notebook with contacts for at least 100 interested farmers, and three to five more calling me every day," Filippone said.
Filippone said she recently heard from an eastern Colorado farmer who got a mysterious shoebox full of seeds in the mail from someone called "The Hemp Stork" who didn't list a return address. The farmer planted some of the seeds, Filippone said, before realizing it was illegal to ship hemp.
"He was terrified," Filipone said, adding that the seeds probably came from a hemp activist "who was not considering things like federal regulations, federal subsidies or crop insurance."
Sourcing hemp seeds from inside the state is next to impossible, since only one Colorado farmer, Ryan Loflin of Springfield, harvested a major hemp crop last year. Under federal law, which regards hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance just like marijuana, shipping unsterilized hemp seeds in from other states or countries is illegal.
Eight of 13 council members are sponsoring measure that would replace criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with a $25 civil fine similar to a parking ticket
A bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the District of Columbia is expected to advance Tuesday at a meeting of the Washington, DC Council, according to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). If approved, it will be on the agenda for final passage at the council's next legislative session.
The measure would remove criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replace them with a civil fine of $25, similar to a parking ticket. The fine increases to $100 for public smoking of marijuana.
Individuals under the age of 18 who commit a violation would also have their parents notified. It also removes penalties for possession of paraphernalia in conjunction with small amounts and specifies that individuals cannot be searched or detained based solely on an officer’s suspicion of marijuana possession.
Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The bill is sponsored by Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells and supported by eight of the council's 13 members, as well as by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
At-large Council Member David Grosso has introduced separate legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.