Colorado Attorney General says ‘suit is without merit and [his office] will vigorously defend against it’
By Steve Elliott
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning on Thursday announced that he has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning Colorado’s laws that legalize, regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. He said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is also joining the lawsuit, which alleges the state constitutional amendment approved by Colorado voters and the implementing legislation approved by state lawmakers is unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“We agree with the Colorado Attorney General’s opinion that this suit is without merit," said Mason Tvert, the Denver-based communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) who co-directed the 2012 Colorado marijuana initiative campaign. "This is a classic case of a solution in search of a problem."
"They are wasting Nebraska and Oklahoma taxpayers’ dollars by filing this suit, and they’re forcing Coloradans to pick up the bill for defending ourselves against it," Tvert ssaid. "Colorado's top law enforcement officials have better things to do, and you’d think their counterparts in Nebraska and Oklahoma would as well.
“These guys are on the wrong side of history," Tvert said. "They will be remembered similarly to how we think of state officials who fought to maintain alcohol prohibition years after other states ended it.
Friday: One Week After Death of Eight Year Old Donella Nocero, Patients and Caregivers Rally Outside Governor Cuomo’s NYC Office to Demand Emergency Access to Medical Marijuana
Critically Ill Patients and Their Families Ask Cuomo to Grant Their Holiday Wish -- Access to Lifesaving Medication Before More Children Die
The NY Department of Health on Thursday released the draft regulations for the medical marijuana program. While full analysis of the regulations is still underway, an initial review suggests New York will be one of the more restrictive programs in the country, which could inhibit patients from obtaining the relief they need.
For instance, the draft regulations restrict the number of brands of medical marijuana to five initially without any clear rationale. There are dozens of therapeutic strains of medical cannabis, each having benefits for particular conditions.
Had such a restriction been in place in a state like Colorado, it very well may have prevented the development of marijuana strains beneficial to some children with epilepsy. Such a provision could prove to be a deterrent to industry groups. Patients and doctors deserve the flexibility to find which medicine works best.
Absent from the draft regulations is any provision for emergency access to marijuana for those patients who cannot wait for the system to come online in January 2016. Patients, family members and activists will gather outside Governor Cuomo’s New York City Office tomorrow to urge the Governor to establish an emergency access program for medical marijuana.
President Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses. Deputy Attorney General James Cole released a statement saying that the eight individuals "were sentenced under outdated and unfair laws," and "their punishments did not fit their crime."
Half of the eight whose sentences were commuted had been sentenced to life imprisonment, reports NPR.
The step could lead to a vast expansion of presidential clemency during Obama's last two years in office, reports Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press.
The eight new commutations include Barbara Scrivner, who was sentenced to 30 years in 1995, when she was 27 years old, for a minor rule in her husband's methamphetamine ring. The President ordered Scrivner's sentence to expire on June 12, while the others will expire April 15.
The President commuted the sentences of at least four people who were serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses, reports the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyperson Crystal Peoples-Stokes on Wednesday sponsored a public forum about the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
Under the proposal, those over 21 would be able to purchase small amounts of marijuana from a state-regulated store. The bill would rectify the many problems associated with marijuana prohibition, including the arrests of tens of thousands of primarily young people of color.
“There is no question that New York’s marijuana policies are broken,” said Kassandra Frederique, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Each year, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are swept into the maze of the criminal justice system for nothing more than possessing small amounts of marijuana.
"Enforcement of these policies is focused almost entirely focused on young people, primarily young people of color, such that our laws are now applied differently to different people based on the color of their skin and their income level – this must stop,” Frederique said.
The hearing comes amidst a wave of marijuana policy reform nationally. Four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize marijuana for adult use.
At the federal level, Congress has just passed and President Obama on Tuesday signed the omnibus bill that contained an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to interfere with states that have passed medical marijuana laws.
By Steve Elliott
South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), author of a bill which made it legal for parents to possess the marijuana derivative cannabidiol (CBD) oil to control their children's seizures, plans to introduce another bill on January 13, the first day of the upcoming legislative session, to allow low-THC marijuana to be grown in the state. But state law enforcement has already expressed opposition to the plan.
Davis said he first heard about CBD oil from a constituent whose granddaughter in Charleston was having 80 to 90 seizures an hour, reports Steve Jones at The State. Within two weeks of his constituent's granddaughter getting CBD oil, Davis said, the seizures were reduced by 80 percent.
After researching, Sen. Davis learned that CBD oil had helped people in other states, so he introduced a bill which passed and was signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley last summer. The new law made legal the possession of CBD oil to treat children with uncontrollable epileptic seizures, as long as it was authorized by a physician.
The bill limits the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that can be in the oil (THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana). It is limited by the bill to just 0.09 percent, far below what is needed to produce a high.
By Steve Elliott
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission on Tuesday announced that Tom Burns, a former pharmaceutical lobbyist who now works at the Oregon Health Authority as director of pharmacy programs and ran the state's medical cannabis dispensary program, will oversee the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.
Before working for the state of Oregon, Burns served as top administrator in the California Senate and was a lobbyist for GlaxoSmithKline, a Big Pharma giant, reports Nigel Jaquiss at Willamette Week.
The OLCC has been in charge of distributing and regulating liquor in Oregon since alcohol Prohibition ended, and now that the voters have approved Measure 91, it is now in the position of implementing marijuana legalization.
"Tom has navigated these waters before on the medical side," said OLCC Executive Director Steven Marks. "In line with Chairman Rob Patridge's direction, Tom will lead the implementation of Oregon's recreational marijuana law with a measured approach that protects children, promotes safety, and brings the marijuana industry into the regulated market."
Photo of Tom Burns: Willamette Week
A national survey released on Tuesday found teen marijuana usage rates decreased from 2013 to 2014 — a period marked by heightened national debate regarding marijuana policy and implementation of the nation’s first marijuana legalization laws.
According to the annual Monitoring the Future Survey, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), rates of annual, monthly, and daily marijuana use dropped among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. More details are available in the researchers’ press release at http://www.monitoringthefuture.org//pressreleases/14drugpr_complete.pdf.
Teens’ perception of ‘great risk’ in marijuana use also decreased among students in all three grades, contradicting the often-heard claim that public dialogue about the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition — including discussion of the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and other substances — will result in more teens using marijuana.
In August, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among the state’s high school students has dropped since marijuana became legal for adults. More information is available at http://mppne.ws/1BSbM17.
“The survey’s findings and recent polls demonstrate that Americans of all ages are wising up when it comes to marijuana," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Support for ending marijuana prohibition is growing among adults, and marijuana use is dropping among teens.
A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found evidence that physician dispensing encouraged some physicians to unnecessarily prescribe strong opioids. The study analyzed the prescribing behavior after Florida banned physician dispensing of strong opioids.
The authors of the study, "The Impact of Physician Dispensing on Opioid Use," expected little change in the percentage of patients getting strong opioids — only a change from physician-dispensed to pharmacy-dispensed. Instead of finding an increase in pharmacy-dispensed strong opioids, the study found no material change.
Rather, there was an increase in the percentage of patients receiving physician-dispensed weaker pain medications—specifically, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., ibuprofen)—from 24.1 percent to 25.8 percent, and the percentage receiving weaker (not banned) opioids increased from 9.1 percent to 10.1 percent.
The study found there was a high level of compliance with the ban by physician-dispensers. Prior to the reforms, 3.9 percent of injured workers received strong opioids dispensed by physicians during the first six months after their injuries. After the ban, only 0.5 percent of patients with new injuries received physician-dispensed strong opioids.
Patient advocate Patrick McClellan of Minnesotans for Compassionate Care on Tuesday at 10 a.m. CT, will deliver a Change.org petition with close to 9,000 signatures to Lac qui Parle County Attorney Rick Stulz, calling on him to drop child endangerment charges against Angela Brown.
Brown is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday to face charges of child endangerment for treating her son, who suffers from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), with medical marijuana oil.
In May, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a medical marijuana bill into law that allows Minnesota residents suffering from certain conditions to access medical marijuana oil if their doctors recommend it. The law does not take effect until July 2015.
“The charges that have been brought against Angela Brown are not just serious, but outrageous,” McClellan said. “This is a mother who is being punished for treating her son with a product that is now recognized as medicine in the State of Minnesota. Ironically, helping her son has led to child endangerment charges that are hurting her son and their family.
“An overwhelming majority of Minnesotans support laws that allow access to medical marijuana. Our legislature approved one, and the governor signed it,” McClellan said. “The County Attorney Office’s actions are unnecessary, unreasonable, and out of touch with Minnesota values.”
WHAT: Patient advocate to deliver Change.org petition urging Lac qui Parle County Attorney Rick Stulz to drop child endangerment charges against Angela Brown for treating her son’s brain injury with medical marijuana oil
Spending Bill Allows Legalization of Marijuana Possession in Washington, D.C. to Move Forward, but Prevents Taxing and Regulating Marijuana like Alcohol
Momentum Builds Nationally to End the Failed War on Drugs
The final “cromnibus” federal spending bill that Congress passed over the weekend contains historic language prohibiting the U.S. Justice Department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws.
The spending bill also includes a bipartisan amendment that prohibits the DEA from blocking implementation of a federal law passed last year by Congress that allows hemp cultivation for academic and agricultural research purposes in states that allow it. It also contains an amendment allowing Washington, D.C.’s voter-approved initiative legalizing marijuana possession and home cultivation for personal use to move forward, but prohibits D.C. policymakers from using any local or federal 2015 funding to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
“For the first time, Congress is letting states set their own medical marijuana and hemp policies, a huge step forward for sensible drug policy," said Bill Piper, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “States will continue to reform their marijuana laws and Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed."
"Now that we are in a 'ceasefire,' patients are ready to work with Congress on comprehensive medical marijuana legislation."
~Steph Sherer, executive director, Americans for Safe Access (ASA)
Advocates say restriction on enforcement will end federal prosecutions, asset forfeiture litigation, and imprisonment of patients
With Saturday night's U.S. Senate vote, both houses of Congress have now approved an omnibus spending bill, which includes a measure prohibiting the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws.
Patient advocates argue, with concurrence from law enforcement, that this historic measure, if signed into law by President Obama as expected, will dramatically impact DOJ enforcement, including ending federal medical marijuana raids, arrests, criminal prosecutions, and civil asset forfeiture lawsuits, as well as providing prisoners with a way to petition for their release.
By Steve Elliott
President Obama supports legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Washington, D.C., as approved by voters of the District of Columbia last month, a White House spokesman said on Friday.
But the President also reluctantly supports and would sign the "cromnibus" government funding bill including a rider which would block the measure, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, reports Devin Dwyer at ABC News. Republican Congressional negotiations quietly sneaked into the $1.1 trillion spending bill a provision which blocks the district from spending any money to enact marijuana legalization.
"We do not believe that Congress should spend a lot of time interfering with the ability of the citizens of the District of Columbia to make decisions related to how they should govern their community," Earnest told ABC's Jonathan Karl.
But despite those concerns, "the President supports the passage of this compromise proposal and would sign it if it arrives on his desk," Earnest said.
D.C. voters approved a referendum last month by an almost 2-to-1 margin to legalize possession of up to two ounces of cannabis and up to three plants for personal use.
District leaders have denounced the anti-marijuana rider in the spending bill as interference in the democratic process. Residents of D.C. do not have voting representation in Congress.
Family’s Pleas for Relief for Little Donella Nocera Went Unheeded
Families, Advocates Call Upon Governor Cuomo to Immediately Help Suffering New Yorkers
Eight-year-old Donella Nocera of Niagra Falls died on Thursday while waiting for emergency access to medical marijuana to ease her end-of-life suffering.
Donella was fighting Stage 4 brain cancer. Her father, Nate, joined Compassionate Care NY from Donella’s bedside, fighting for emergency access for his daughter and pleading with Governor Cuomo to take action. This October, the Times-Union published Nate’s powerful op-ed about his fight to ease his daughter’s pain.
“More than five months after Governor Cuomo signed a bill into law that was meant to bring vital treatment to our family, my daughter Donella is dead," said Nate Nocera. "Governor Cuomo, I know you cannot turn back time to get us the medical marijuana that could have slowed the aggressive growth of the tumor in her brain.
"I know you cannot give us back the days, turned into weeks, turned into months that we lost Donella to a narcotic-induced sleep," Nocera said. "But you have the power to end the needless suffering of so many New York families, and I urge you to use it.
Congressional Leaders Agree that Legislative Intent of DC Rider in Spending Bill Allows Initiative 71 to Move Forward
Tax and Regulate Legislation Blocked By Congress
Republicans were successful in including language in the “cromnibus” federal spending bill that interferes with the right of Washington, D.C., to set its own marijuana policies. The language, however, was not what they originally wanted because they had to compromise with Democrats.
The D.C. marijuana rider inserted in the bill allows D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law (passed earlier this year) to stand, while prohibiting D.C. from taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol (a D.C. Council committee recently approved tax-and-regulate legislation and it is widely believed that the Council will legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana next year if it can).
Because the language was poorly drafted there has been disagreement over whether or not the spending bill rider would overturn Initiative 71, an initiative approved by 70 percent of D.C. voters in November that legalizes marijuana possession and home cultivation for personal use. Based on statements by members of Congress, including members who were part of the funding bill negotiations, it is clear that the legislative intent of the rider was to allow both decrim and Initiative 71 to stand, while blocking D.C. from carrying out more sweeping reform in the future.
By Steve Elliott
The federal Food and Drug Administration has given the University of Alabama at Birmingham the go-ahead to study the use of cannabidiol, a marijuana derivative, to treat seizures.
The university on Wednesday received FDA letters authorizing two studies, one for children and one for adults, according to UAB spokesman Bob Shepard, reports Kim Chandler at the Associated Press.
Parents of children with severe seizure disorders convinced the Alabama Legislature last year to pass a bill authorizing UAB's Department of Neurology to perform a study of cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive component of marijuana.
Shepard said the FDA had requested some changes in the studies; those will go before a university review board next month, he said.
"It's hard to put in words the feelings you have as a dad with a daughter that could benefit from this," said Dustin Chandler. The legislation had become known as "Carly's Law" after Chandler's three-year-old daughter, who started having seizures at just eight weeks old.
Carly was eventually diagnosed with the rare genetic disorder CDKL5. Chandler, a police officer in Pelham, frequently appeared before the Legislature to advocate for the bill.