A bipartisan trio of senators today introduced historic legislation to legalize medical marijuana at the federal level. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rand Paul (R-KY) filed the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would end the federal prohibition on medical marijuana and allow states to set their own policies.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]"We need policies that empower states to legalize medical marijuana if they so choose-recognizing that there are Americans who can realize real medical benefits if this treatment option is brought out of the shadows," said Sen. Booker. "Doctors and patients deserve federal laws that are fair and compassionate, and states should be able to set their own medical marijuana policies without federal interference. I am thankful to Senators Gillibrand and Paul as well as the Drug Policy Alliance for their hard work on this common-sense bill to make medical marijuana accessible to the millions of Americans who could benefit from it."
The bill would reclassify marijuana for medical use, allow veterans to have access to medical marijuana, overhaul banking laws to allow licensed medical marijuana businesses to use financial services, and open up more research possibilities for medical marijuana.
In addition to the Drug Policy Alliance, the senators also consulted with the Marijuana Policy Project, Americans for Safe Access, and other voices for patients in drafting the bill. Although nearly half the states have passed medical marijuana laws (and a dozen more have passed limited CBD cannabis oil laws), marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That means patients and providers in medical marijuana states are still at risk of federal prosecution and families and patients in non-medical marijuana states must relocate or travel long distances to get treatment, facing the risk of prosecution in non-medical marijuana states along the way.
"I am so happy to support this bill. As the mother of a child with a severe seizure disorder, anxiously waiting to get access to a medication that is already helping thousands of others is unbearable," said Kate Hintz, a New York resident who has advocated for CBD to treat her daughter and others to treat epilepsy and seizures. "After persistent advocacy in my home state of New York, we finally saw a medical marijuana law passed last summer. Yet individual state's laws, including New York's, will not succeed until we lift the current federal restrictions surrounding this plant," she added.
"I applaud Sens. Gillibrand, Booker and Paul for taking this bold step forward and insisting the federal government take action. Let's end the fear and stigma associated with marijuana, and instead allow this bill to provide research, medicine, and long needed relief to so many. It cannot come fast enough, especially for my daughter," Hintz concluded.
[image:2 align:right caption:true]"For far too long, the government has enforced unnecessary laws that have restricted the ability of the medical community to determine the medicinal value of marijuana and have prohibited Americans from receiving essential care that would alleviate their chronic pain and suffering. I am proud today to stand with Sens. Gillibrand and Booker to introduce a bill that will fundamentally change our nation's drug policies and have a positive impact on the lives of our Veterans and children," said Sen. Paul.
While the Obama administration has, in recent years, largely taken a laissez-faire approach to medical marijuana in states that have approved it, that approach is both uneven and dependent on the whim of the administration in power. Just last week, federal prosecutors in Washington state took a family of five medical marijuana patients--the Kettle Falls Five--to trial, threatening them with lengthy, mandatory minimum prison sentences for growing medical marijuana legally under state law (in a state where even recreational marijuana is legal!).
Fortunately for the Kettle Falls Five, a federal jury acquitted them of most charges, including the most serious ones. But under the current state of federal marijuana prohibition, such prosecutions could continue.
Similarly, the Obama administration's recent restraint on medical marijuana is derived from Justice Department guidance to federal prosecutors about which cases raise the level of federal concern high enough to warrant prosecution. That guidance was crafted by a deputy attorney general answerable to Attorney General Holder and the president. Absent protections provided by this bill or similar legislation, a new administration could easily return to the bad old days of DEA raids and patients and providers being hauled off to federal prison.
[image:3 align:left caption:true]"As the parents of severely ill children who could be helped by medical cannabis, we are dedicated to advancing safe, legal and viable access," said Maria De Gregorio, a parent leader of the Kentucky-based Parents Coalition for Rescheduling Medical Cannabis. "Rescheduling efforts must also guarantee access to whole plant extracts that have proven therapeutic benefits. We feel it is crucial to support state rights in all current and future medical marijuana programs. Thus, we strongly endorse this bill as it is written."
"Almost half the states have legalized marijuana for medical use; it's long past time to end the federal ban," said Michael Collins, Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This bipartisan legislation allows states to set their own medical marijuana policies and ends the criminalization of patients, their families, and the caregivers and dispensary owners and employees who provide them their medicine."
"With studies showing that medical cannabis access decreases suicide and addiction rates, the CARERS Act is absolutely necessary to help fix a broken healthcare system for veterans, which deals with suicides and addiction at catastrophic rates," said TJ Thompson, a retired U.S. Navy Third Class Petty Officer. "Now, I'm considered a criminal because of the medication that helps me. I take it illegally to treat my PTSD."
"This comprehensive proposal would effectively end the war on medical marijuana and let states compassionately provide care for seriously ill people without the federal government standing in the way," said Tom Angell, director of Marijuana Majority. "The fact that two young Democrats with likely long political futures have teamed up with a probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate shows how medical marijuana is a nonpartisan, noncontroversial issue that draws support from across the spectrum. With polls showing an overwhelming majority of American voters backing marijuana reform, you’d think taking up this proposal would be a no-brainer for legislative leaders who want to show that Congress can still get things done."
We shall see. The bill text is not yet available on the congressional website, and it has not yet been assigned to a committee. That's the next step in a long process.
Chronicle AM: NH Decrim Bill Advances, Fallout from Florida SWAT Killing, Bolivia Top Narc Busted, More (3/6/15)
Decrim is moving in New Hampshire, Georgia families rally for medical marijuana, Louisianans will rally for Bernard Noble (13 years for two joints), roommates of a Florida man killed in a SWAT pot raid cry "murder," and more.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Northern California Counties Seek Unified Position on Pot Policy. As the state legislature again grapples with regulating medical marijuana, and with an almost certain legalization initiative in 2016 looming on the horizon, policymakers from Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Sonoma, and Trinity counties gathered in Santa Rosa (Sonoma County) Thursday to begin trying to reach a unified position on possible reforms. Click on the link for more detail.
New Hampshire Decriminalization Bill Moves. The legislature's Committee on Criminal Justice voted overwhelmingly yesterday to approve a bill that would decriminalize the possession of a half-ounce of pot or less. The measure is House Bill 0618. Although recent polling shows 71% of Granite Staters want either decriminalization or full legalization, the bill still faces opposition as it heads for House and Senate floor votes.
Georgia Families Swarm State Capitol in Support of Strong Medical Marijuana Bill. Dozens of Georgia families streamed into the state capitol in Atlanta yesterday to crank up the pressure on the Senate to pass a medical marijuana bill. House Bill 1has already passed the House, but the Senate is now considering an alternate bill, Senate Bill 185, which would only set up a limited trial program for children with epilepsy. The families want House Bill 1.
Rally Saturday in New Orleans for Bernard Noble, Doing 13 Years for Two Joints. Supporters of Bernard Noble, who is serving 13 years without parole in state prison, are holding a rally in New Orleans Saturday to call for clemency for the non-violent offender and family man. Click on the link for event details and more information.
Roommates of Unarmed Florida Man Killed By SWAT Team in Pot Raid Call it Murder. Roommates of Derek Cruice, the 26-year-old Deltona man shot in the face and killed by a Volusia County deputy during a drug raid, described his killing as "murder" and strongly challenged the police version of events. See them describe what happened here. Supporters of Cruice held a rally this morning to decry his killing. A memorial event for Cruice is set for tomorrow morning at a local park. Click the title link for event details.
Bolivia's Former Top Narc Arrested for Drug Links. General Oscar Nina, head of the national police in 2010 and 2011, has been arrested by Bolivian authorities on suspicion of illegal enrichment and links to drug trafficking. His wife, daughter, and son were also arrested on similar charges. Another former Bolivian top narc, General Rene Sanabria, is doing a 15-year sentence in the US for drug trafficking. President Evo Morales has vowed to wipe out "the cancer of corruption," but it seems to be a perpetual problem.
Chronicle AM: CO Pot Law Challenged Again, RI Legalization Bill Filed, Global Pain Med Crisis, More (2/5/15)
Sheriffs from three states are suing Colorado over its pot law, legalization bills get filed in Rhode Island, new research scoffs at links between psychedelics and psychosis, heroin OD deaths are up, there's a big problem with global access to opioid pain medications, and more.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Sheriffs From Three States Sue Colorado Over Legalization. Sheriffs from Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska are the latest bunch to try to overturn the will of Colorado voters via a federal lawsuit. A lawsuit filed in federal court in Denver today asks the court to strike down Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana, and to order the closure of the state's more than 330 pot shops. The sheriffs claim Colorado's legalization creates "a crisis of conscience" for them and forces them to violate their oath to uphold the US Constitution.
Rhode Island Legalization Bills Filed. Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) and House Finance Committee member Scott A. Slater (D-Providence) have introduced legislation to make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and to establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. The bills are House Bill 5777 and Senate Bill 510. The state has been tagged as one of the more likely ones to legalize it through the legislature.
Idaho CBD Cannabis Oil Bill on Hold. A bill that would allow access to CBD cannabis oil to treat epilepsy seizure disorders is alive, but on hold after the Senate State Affairs Committee decided it needed to be amended to address law enforcement concerns. The bill is Senate Bill 1106. Supporters are supposed to come up with amendments to address those concerns by next week.
Researchers find No Link Between Psychedelics and Psychosis. Users of LSD and other psychedelics are no more likely to have mental health conditions than those who don’t, according to data from population surveys. The researchers said anecdotes about "acid casualties" dating back to the 1960s were precisely that—anecdotes. "We are not claiming that no individuals have ever been harmed by psychedelics," says the author of one of the two studies cited, Matthew Johnson, an associate professor in the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. "Anecdotes about acid casualties can be very powerful — but these instances are rare," he says. At the population level, he says, the data suggest that the harms of psychedelics "have been overstated."
Rate of Heroin Overdose Tripled Between 2010 and 2013, CDC Says. More than 8,200 Americans died of heroin overdoses in 2013, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That's an average of 23 people a day. The rate of heroin overdose deaths nearly tripled, from just under one per hundred thousand to just under three per hundred thousand. Who is dying has also changed. In 2000, the highest overdose rates were among middle-aged black, but by 2013, whites between 18 and 44 had the highest rates.
Florida Governor Gives Up the Ghost on Welfare Drug Testing. This week was the deadline for Gov. Rick Scott (R) to ask the Supreme Court to overturn lower court rulings that found his suspicionless welfare drug testing law unconstitutional. He didn't act. "We chose not to appeal this case," a spokesman said.
INCB Report Says 75% of World Population Still Doesn't Have Access to Pain Relief Meds. In its annual report released this week, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said about 5.5 billion people on the planet are in danger of suffering pain if they become chronically or terminally ill because they don't have access to opioid pain relief medications. Click on the link for more and to read the INCB report.
New Uruguay President Postpones Allowing Pharmacy Pot Sales. New President Tabare Vasquez, who took office Sunday, has decided to postpone implementing public sales of marijuana. His chief drug regulator, Milton Romani, said yesterday he was in "no rush" to start pharmacy sales. "I want this project to be successful," he said. "If we make a mistake by rushing, we fail." For those really interested in getting their weed right now, there are now 15 cannabis clubs in operation and more than 2,000 grows.
Hispanic American Historical Review Has Special Issue on Drugs in Latin America. Lots of good stuff in there for those with an interest in the topic. Here's the table of contents for the issue.