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Michigan: Legalization Coalition Effort Reaches Signature Milestone

Michigan: Legalization Coalition Effort Reaches Signature Milestone

    Michigan: Legalization Coalition Effort Reaches Signature Milestone

Proponents of Michigan voter initiative effort to legalize and regulate the personal use and retail sale of cannabis statewide has gathered over 100,000 signatures in the past six weeks. Advocates must collect a total of 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters by mid-November in order to qualify the measure — the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act — for the 2018 electoral ballot.
The initiative permits those over the age of 21 to possess and grow personal use quantities of cannabis and related concentrates, while also licensing activities related to the commercial marijuana production and retail marijuana sales.
The coalition behind the effort, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, is partnership between the Marijuana Policy Project, the ACLU of Michigan, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association, Michigan NORML, MI Legalize, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, and lawyers from the State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section.
Proponents sought to place a similar measure on the Michigan ballot in 2016. That effort was ultimately turned back when lawmakers imposed and the courts upheld new rules limiting the time frame during which signatures could be collected.
Marijuana law reform advocates are also presently gathering signatures for voter-initiated efforts in Missouri and Utah. A statewide initiative legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Oklahoma has already qualified for the 2018 electoral ballot.

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Tell the Senate to Expand Veterans’ Access to Medical Cannabis

    Tell the Senate to Expand Veterans’ Access to Medical Cannabis

This Wednesday, July 12th, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee will convene to discuss the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. This legislative debate provides lawmakers with the opportunity to expand much needed medical marijuana access to our nation’s veterans.
Presently, V.A. doctors in states where cannabis therapy is permitted are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a medical cannabis recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. This issue can be solved by the approval of the Veterans Access Amendment, which ends these cruel and unnecessary restrictions on V.A. doctors and their patients.
Send a message to your Senators NOW demanding equal access for veterans.
Last year, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during a concurrence vote. We must not allow a similar outcome again this year.
Veterans are increasingly turning to medical cannabis as an effective alternative to opioids and other conventional medications to treat conditions like chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. A retrospective review of patients’ symptoms published in 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a greater than 75 percent reduction on a scale of post-traumatic symptom scores following cannabis therapy. This is why, in recent months, two of the largest veterans’ rights groups — AMVETS and the American Legion — have resolved in favor of patients’ access to cannabis therapy.
Our veterans deserve the option to legally access a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical drugs it could replace.
Write your Senator RIGHT NOW and urge them to support the Veterans Equal Access Amendment!
Thanks for all you do,The NORML Team
P.S. Have you gotten your ticket for the 2017 NORML D.C. Conference and Lobby yet? Click here to register and come to Washington, DC September 10th-12th.

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Study: No Increase In Problematic Cannabis Use By Young People Following Changes In Marijuana’s Legal Status

    Study: No Increase In Problematic Cannabis Use By Young People Following Changes In Marijuana’s Legal Status

Yet another study has once again affirmed that the regulation of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes is not associated with increases in problematic cannabis use by young people.
Writing in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, federal investigators from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration evaluated marijuana use rates among young people (ages 12 to 17) between the years 2002 and 2014.
Researchers reported that the prevalence of past-year cannabis use by youth fell 17 percent during this time period. The prevalence of problematic use by young people fell by 25 percent – with a downward trend starting in 2011.
“In the United States, compared to 2002, even after adjusting for covariates, cannabis use decreased among youth during 2005-2014, and cannabis use disorder declined among youth cannabis users during 2013-2014,” authors concluded.
The study’s findings are consistent with those of numerous other papers reporting no uptick in youth marijuana use or abuse following the enactment of marijuana regulation, including those here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
An abstract of the study, “Cannabis use and cannabis use disorders in the United States, 2002-2014,” appears online here.

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Study: Alcohol Use, But Not Cannabis, Associated With Changes In Brain Structure

    Study: Alcohol Use, But Not Cannabis, Associated With Changes In Brain Structure

Alcohol consumption is associated with negative changes in gray matter volume and in white matter integrity, while cannabis use is not, according to data published online ahead of print in the journal Addiction.
Investigators from the University of Colorado, Boulder and the Oregon Health & Science University evaluated neuroimaging data among adults (ages 18 to 55) and adolescents (ages 14 to 18). Authors identified an association between alcohol use and negative changes in brain structure, but identified no such association with cannabis.
“Alcohol use severity is associated with widespread lower gray matter volume and white matter integrity in adults, and with lower gray matter volume in adolescents,” they concluded. By contrast, “No associations were observed between structural measures and past 30-day cannabis use in adults or adolescents.”
Researchers acknowledged that their findings were similar to those of prior studies “suggesting that regionally specific differences between cannabis users and non-users are often inconsistent across studies and that some of the observed associations may actually be related to comorbid alcohol use.”
A 2015 brain imaging study published in The Journal of Neuroscience similarly reported that cannabis use was not positively associated with adverse changes in the brain, but that alcohol “has been unequivocally associated with deleterious effects on brain morphology and cognition in both adults and adolescents.”
Longitudinal data published in June in the British Medical Journal reported, “Alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels, is associated with adverse brain outcomes including hippocampal atrophy.”
An abstract of the study, “Structural Neuroimaging Correlates of Alcohol and Cannabis Use in Adolescents and Adults,” appears online here.

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DEA Reaffirms Stance That CBD Meets Schedule I Criteria — Reality Says Otherwise

    DEA Reaffirms Stance That CBD Meets Schedule I Criteria — Reality Says Otherwise

The US Drug Enforcement Administration has publicly reiterated its position that cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic cannabinoid, is properly categorized under federal law as a schedule I controlled substance — meaning that, by definition, it possesses “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and lacks “accepted safety … under medical supervision.”
The agency has long contended that CBD, along with all organic cannabinoids, is — by default — a schedule I controlled substance because it is a naturally occurring component of the cannabis plant. (This position is similarly held by both the NIDA and the FDA.) Nonetheless, a growing body of science undermines the notion that CBD meets any of the criteria necessary for such classification.
Specifically, clinical trial data finds that CBD is “safe,” “non-toxic,” and “well tolerated” in human volunteers. Even the director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse acknowledges that CBD is “not mind-altering” and that it “appears to be a safe drug with no addictive effects.”
Recently conducted controlled studies also acknowledge its therapeutic efficacy, particularly the ability of CBD dosing to mitigate treatment-resistant seizures, hypertension, and psychotic symptoms in humans. Other peer-reviewed data shows that CBD therapy holds promise for the treatment of “Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral ischemia, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, other inflammatory diseases, nausea and cancer.”
That is why in addition to the thirty states that presently recognize medical cannabis, an additional 16 states also explicitly recognize the use of CBD as a viable medical treatment.
Nonetheless, it remains unlikely that the DEA is going to amend its position any time soon. Further, police in recent months have begun initiating raids of CBD retailers, such as those reported here, here, and here. That is why it is critical that members of Congress move forward with legislation to remove the cannabis plant from the Controlled Substances Act.
Presently, several pieces of federal legislation are pending to amend the federal classification of CBD as a schedule I substance. These include:
HR 2020: Passage of this act would exclude CBD from the federal definition of ‘marihuana.’
S. 1374/HR 2920: Passage of these Acts would exempt from federal prosecution those who are engaged in state-sanctioned medical cannabis activities; it would also remove CBD from the federal definition of ‘marihuana.’
HR 2273/S. 1008: Passage of these Acts would exclude CBD and CBD-rich cannabis plants from the federal definition of ‘marihuana.’
You can contact your members of Congress in support of these bills and other pending legislation by visiting NORML’s Take Action Center here.

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Register for the 2017 NORML Conference

    Register for the 2017 NORML Conference

NORML’s 2017 Conference at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, DC and Congressional Lobby Day at the United States Capitol is scheduled for September 10th-12th. Hundreds of marijuana consumers, activists, patients and business owners are expected to attend a day-long training and informational conference on Monday and re-convene on The Hill Tuesday to personally lobby their elected members of the House of Representatives and Senate.
Whether you’re a longtime activist, college student, medical marijuana patient, or simply a NORML supporter, consider taking this all important step to directly lobby your members of Congress in support of common sense marijuana law reform. During your stay, you will meet and network with like minded activists from across the country, and your time on Capitol Hill will ensure that our message is brought face-to-face to those in Congress who need to hear it the most.
Click here to sign up now
We will be lobbying for expanded protections for those states that have reformed their laws, and to protect the progress that we have made from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his rogue Justice Department. Time and time again, AG Sessions has made it clear that he thinks those of us who consume cannabis are “not good people.” We will be in the halls of Congress to set the record straight.
The DMV NORML Social, benefiting DC, Virginia, and Maryland Chapters of NORML, will be held on Sunday, September 10, at The Dew Drop Inn, located at 2801 8th St NE, Washington, DC 20017 — a five minute walk from the Brookland-CUA Redline Metro Stop.
The Conference portion of the event will be held Monday, September 11th at the Capitol Hilton which is located at 1001 16th St NW. It is walking distance from the Farragut West, Farragut North, and McPherson Square Metro Stations, and the Hilton is easily accessible from the Red, Blue, Orange, or Silver Metro Lines.
The NORML Monday Night Party location details will be given to registered attendees in the weeks leading up to the event.
Get your tickets now!
See you in September,The NORML Team

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Florida: Lawsuit Filed Challenging Medical Cannabis Smoking Ban

    Florida: Lawsuit Filed Challenging Medical Cannabis Smoking Ban

Representatives of Florida for Care filed litigation today challenging a statewide ban on medical cannabis smoking. The suit was expected after lawmakers approved legislation (SB 8A) in June amending Amendment 2 — a voter initiated constitutional amendment permitting the use and distribution of medical cannabis. Seventy-one percent of voters approved the amendment in November.
Senate Bill 8A amends the definition of medical cannabis in a manner that prohibits “marijuana in a form for smoking” and that bars the personal possession of herbal cannabis flowers, except in instances where they are contained “in a sealed, tamper-proof receptacle for vaping.” The Florida for Care suit argues that these changes inconsistent with the constitutional definition of marijuana, as passed by voters, and therefore should not be implemented.
The lawsuit argues, “Inhalation is a medically effective and efficient way to deliver tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and other cannabinoids, to the bloodstream. … By redefining the constitutionally defined term ‘medical use’ to exclude smoking, the Legislature substitutes its medical judgment for that of ‘a licensed Florida physician’ and is in direct conflict with the specifically articulated Constitutional process.”
Under the revised law, patients diagnosed with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or multiple sclerosis — or who suffer from chronic pain related to any of these diseases — are eligible to receive a 70-day supply of cannabis-infused oils or edible products from a limited number of state-licensed dispensing facilities.
NORML has long argued against regulations that limit or prohibit patients’ access to whole-plant cannabis in lieu of cannabis-derived extracts or pills. Cannabis inhalation is not associated with increased instances of lung cancer, COPD, or other tobacco-related adverse effects on pulmonary function. Inhaled cannabis is fast acting and permits patients to accurately self-regulate their dose. By contrast, non-herbal forms of cannabis possess delayed onset and their effects can often be far less predictable than those of herbal cannabis. Many patients seeking rapid relief of symptoms do not benefit from pills, tinctures, or edibles, and such restrictions unnecessarily limit patients’ choices.
If the court invalidates SB 8A, the task of writing the rules for implementing the initiative — which must be operational by October — will fall to the Florida Department of Health.

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Two New Virginia Laws Foreshadow Larger Cannabis Policy Changes

    Two New Virginia Laws Foreshadow Larger Cannabis Policy Changes

A common cliché for overcoming a difficult obstacle asks, “how do you eat an elephant?” The answer is, “one bite at a time.” In Virginia politics, the tough question facing cannabis policy reform advocates is, “how do you change the minds of political Elephants?” The answer is, “one law at a time.” Although progress in cannabis reform has been slow in Virginia, two recent bills signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe are significant signs that change is coming, and quicker than ever before.
Ending Automatic Driver’s License Suspension for Cannabis Possession
In May 2017, Gov. McAuliffe had a signing ceremony for Senator Adam Ebbin’s Senate bill 784 and Delegate Les Adams’ House bill 2051. These companion bills ended the absolute requirement that Virginians convicted of marijuana possession lose their driver’s license. Until this change, which takes effect July 1, the judge had no option but to suspend, even if the offense was totally unrelated to a vehicle. A driver’s license is necessary in commuter-based economies such as Virginia, where most residents work, attend school, receive medical treatment, or worship outside of their home city, and the public transportation is less then reliable.
Virginia NORML led the lobbying for this bill, and helped sway lawmakers in the General Assembly who were wary of the proposed changes. The legislators were convinced by explaining the law in detail, and highlighting the positive results from allowing individuals to maintain their license for work and education – no extreme rhetoric or exaggeration needed. Ryan Johnson, membership coordinator for Virginia NORML, testified for both pieces of legislation was congratulated by many thankful legislators at the ceremony.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (VA-D) and Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson with Delegate Les Adams (R-16)
“With Virginia NORML’s guidance, I was able to craft impactful testimony, helping pass meaningful legislation that will make a difference for thousands of Virginians,” said Ryan Johnson at Gov. McAuliffe’s ceremony. “I was humbled by how many legislators thanked me for stepping outside of my comfort zone and sharing my story in the 2017 General Assembly.”

Del. Paul Krizek (D-44), Del. Les Adams (R-16) ,Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), Ryan Johnson, Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30)
Watch the video
The new law is a significant step for cannabis policy reform in Virginia for two reasons. First, this is one of the very few marijuana-related criminal justice reforms that advocates have successfully pushed through the difficult, Republican-controlled House subcommittees. Those subcommittees are the sticking point for most criminal justice reform legislation, the bottle neck that prevents bills from proceeding to a full House vote. Second, this is important because it allows judges discretion to apply the standard first-offender’s program and community service to an adult discovered possessing cannabis somewhere completely removed from any vehicles. Admittedly, this is a small step. However, every step, even the very small ones, put Virginia closer to a more sensible criminal justice system that does not criminalize marijuana possession or consumption.
Welcome to the Medical Cannabis States Club, Virginia
In June 2017, Gov. McAuliffe had another bill signing ceremony, this one for Senator Marsden’s Senate bill 701. This bill is significant because it officially makes Virginia a medical cannabis state. Medical cannabis dispensaries will be called “pharmaceutical processors,” and will become medical cannabis patients’ legal source of the cannabis oil permitted under Virginia law. The processors will be vertically integrated facilities. That means the plants will be grown, cured, and trimmed onsite; all extraction, distillation, and synthesis of custom biopharmaceutical medicines will be done in the on-site laboratory; and, finally, patients will interact with and receive medication from a pharmacist. Unlike the medical cannabis dispensaries in Colorado, this will more closely resemble a traditional pharmacy.
Virginia families were instrumental in getting this landmark legislation passed. However, despite the great success, the law has serious shortcomings. There will only be five (5) pharmaceutical processors. This places a huge burden on applicants, financially and logistically, and could result in the exclusion of start-up ventures owned by minorities, women, and veterans without access to large capital resources. Second, the related laws allowing patient access to medical cannabis is very short: one (1). Only one patient group, those with intractable epilepsy, can possess medical cannabis oil. The major legislative goal for the 2018 session is the “Let Doctors Decide” bill, which would end the eugenics-style creation of state-permitted patient groups and instead allow trained medical professionals to decide if cannabis would be effective for the individual patient’s treatment plan. Jenn Michelle Pedini was at the ceremony representing Virginia NORML, and spoke to the families of several epilepsy patients and lawmakers who had supported the bill.

Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) and many families watch as Gov. McAuliffe signs historic medical cannabis legislation. Photo courtesy Michaele White, Governor’s Office.

“It was an exciting day for the families who spent hours at the General Assembly gaining support for this bill which passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. We are looking forward to continuing this path next year and expanding the current law to include all patients for whom medical cannabis would provide relief,” said Beth Collins, Senior Director Government Relations and External Affairs at Americans for Safe Access, and mother of a child with intractable epilepsy.
These landmark bills are significant signs of the change coming in Virginia’s cannabis policy. Decriminalization is being studied by the State Crime Commission, following a request by Senate Majority leader Tommy Norment. The Driver’s License bill may be the first overly punitive prohibition measure to fall, and like dominoes, the changes to criminal justice reform will gain momentum and culminate in decriminalization of adult cannabis possession within the next couple years. The pharmaceutical processor bill is a huge hurdle for both patients seeking legal access to medical cannabis medications, and for individuals interested in the regulated cannabis industry. Although Virginia’s cannabis industry will fall under heavy regulation and oversight by the Commonwealth, the new industry presents new opportunities, jobs, and tax revenue.

Virginia NORML is the leading cannabis law reform organization in Virginia, but we can only continue our success in changing outdated laws with your help! The Summer of Change Campaign is currently underway, and we are trying to raise $42,000 to support our efforts in the 2018 session and the push for “Let Doctors Decide.” Virginia has a major election this year, and the outcome could determine the success – or failure – of our efforts. Donate today to the Summer of Change campaign! With your help, Virginia NORML will continue its track record of success in Richmond bringing marijuana policy reform.

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Study: Crimes Spike Following Closing of Dispensaries

    Study: Crimes Spike Following Closing of Dispensaries

The closure of medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with an increase in larceny, property crimes, and other criminal activities, according to data published in the Journal of Urban Economics.
Researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Irvine assessed the impact of dispensary closures on neighborhood crimes rates in the city of Los Angeles. Investigators analyzed crime data in the days immediately prior to and then immediately after the city ordered several hundred operators to be closed. Authors reported an immediate increase in criminal activity – particularly property crime, larceny, and auto break ins – in the areas where dispensary operations were forced to close as compared to those neighborhoods were dispensaries remained open.
“[W]e find no evidence that closures decreased crime,” authors wrote. “Instead, we find a significant relative increase in crime around closed dispensaries.” Specifically, researchers estimated that “an open dispensary provides over $30,000 per year in social benefit in terms of larcenies prevented.”
They concluded, “Contrary to popular wisdom, we find an immediate increase in crime around dispensaries ordered to close relative to those allowed to remain open. The increase is specific to the type of crime most plausibly deterred by bystanders, and is correlated with neighborhood walkability. … A likely … mechanism is that ‘eyes upon the street’ deter some types of crime.”
The findings are consistent with those of prior studies determining that dispensary operations are not associated with ‘spillover effects’ in local communities, such as increased teen use or increased criminality.
An abstract of the study, “Going to pot? The impact of dispensary closures on crime,” appears online here.

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Study: Cannabinoids Reduce Migraine Frequency

    Study: Cannabinoids Reduce Migraine Frequency

The prolonged daily administration of cannabinoids is associated with a reduction in migraine headache frequency, according to clinical trial data presented at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology.
Italian researchers compared the efficacy of oral cannabinoid treatments versus amitriptyline – a depressant commonly prescribed for migraines – in 79 chronic migraine patients over a period of three months. Subjects treated daily with a 200mg dose of a combination of THC and CBD achieved a 40 percent reduction in migraine frequency – a result that was similar to the efficacy of amitriptyline therapy.
Subjects also reported that cannabinoid therapy significantly reduced acute migraine pain, but only when taken at doses above 100mg. Oral cannabinoid treatment was less effective among patients suffering from cluster headaches.
“We were able to demonstrate that cannabinoids are an alternative to established treatments in migraine prevention,” researchers concluded.
Some five million Americans are estimated to experience at least one migraine attack per month, and the condition is the 19th leading cause of disability worldwide.
According to retrospective data published last year in the journal Pharmacotherapy, medical cannabis consumption is often associated with a significant decrease in migraine frequency, and may even abort migraine onset in some patients.
A just published review of several studies and case-reports specific to the use of cannabis and cannabinoids in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research concludes: “[I]t appears likely that cannabis will emerge as a potential treatment for some headache sufferers.”
An abstract of the study, “Cannabinoids suitable for migraine prevention,” appears online here.

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