Senator Ron Wyden has introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 3240, the Senate version of this year’s federal farm bill, that requires the federal government to respect state laws allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp. Hemp is a distinct variety of the plant species cannabis sativa that contains only trace (less than one percent) amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis.
The amendment language mimics the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013,” which remains pending as stand-alone legislation in both the House and Senate but has yet to receive a legislative hearing. Senator Wyden’s provision to the Senate’s Farm Bill amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The measure grants state legislatures the authority to license and regulate the commercial production of hemp as an industrial and agricultural commodity.
“For me, what’s important is that people see, particularly in our state, there’s someone buying it at Costco in Oregon,” Senator Wyden previously stated in support of this Act, “I adopted what I think is a modest position, which is if you can buy it at a store in Oregon, our farmers ought to be able to make some money growing it.”
Eight states – Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – have enacted statutory changes defining industrial hemp as distinct agricultural product and allowing for its regulated commercial production. Passage of this amendment would remove existing federal barriers and allow these states and others the authority to do so without running afoul of federal anti-drug laws.
Senator Wyden’s amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has also expressed his support for this proposal.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, “The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop.”
Click here to quickly and easily contact your Senator in support of industrial hemp.
Members of the New Hampshire Senate voted 18 to 6 today in favor of an amended version of House Bill 573, which allows for the physician-authorized use and state-licensed dispensing of cannabis to qualified patients. House lawmakers had previously voted 286 to 64 in March in favor of a broader version of the bill.
As amended by the Senate, HB 573 would establish up to four state-sanctioned marijuana dispensing facilities. (The House version allowed for up to five facilities.) State-qualified patients would be allowed to possess up to two ounces of cannabis, but they would only be legally able to obtain it from a state-licensed dispensary. (The House version of the bill provided provisions for home cultivation.) Under the amended bill, patients lacking a state-issued identification card would not be permitted to raise an affirmative defense, meaning that patients who could benefit immediately from the therapeutic use of cannabis will be forced to wait several months until after the bill’s passage in order to obtain the necessary paperwork to receive any legal protection under the law. The Senate also voted to eliminate post-traumatic stress from the list of authorized conditions for which a physician could legally recommend marijuana therapy.
The measure also stipulates that qualified patients must possess a preexisting relationship with their physician (of at least 90 days) and that they have previously pursued conventional remedies to treat their condition.
Newly-elected Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan had voiced her opposition to several elements of the House version, which spurred the Senate to adopt several changes.
The Senate version of the bill now goes back to the House, whose members will either sign off on or, more likely, reject the Senate’s amendments. The latter action would create the need for a “committee of conference,” at which time a special committee of House representatives and senators will compromise on a final version of the bill. That language will then be forwarded to the governor’s desk.
If you reside in New Hampshire, there is still time to contact the Governor’s office and urge her to rethink her position on these controversial Senate amendments. Tell her that these Senate provisions will hurt, not help, patients in New Hampshire. Implore her that seriously ill patients can not wait years for for dispensaries to become available and that they require a home grow alternative. You can call the Governor’s office or use NORML’s ‘Act’ page here.
Finally, House Bill 573 co-sponsor, Rep. Donald “Ted” Wright, has launched a Change.org petition urging Gov. Hassan to amend her position. Whether or not you reside in New Hampshire, please sign the petition and share it with your friends and colleagues.
For information on how you can support pending marijuana law reform legislation in other states, please visit here.
A Michigan traffic safety law that prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle by persons who possess any presence of THC in their blood, regardless of whether or not they are behaviorally impaired by the substance, may not be strictly applied to state-qualified medical cannabis patients. So decided the Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday in the case People v Koon.
In a unanimous opinion, the Court determined that legal protections extended to state-qualified patients under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, enacted by voters in 2008, supersede the state’s zero tolerance, internal possession law. As a result, the Court determined that state prosecutors must establish that authorized patients charged under the statute are actually impaired by their cannabis use in order to gain a DUI criminal conviction.
According to the syllabus of the Opinion:
“The MMMA [Michigan Medical Marihuana Act] does not define what it means to be ‘under the influence,’ but the phrase clearly contemplates something more than having any amount of marijuana in one’s system and requires some effect on the person. Thus, the MMMA’s protections extend to a registered patient who internally possesses marijuana while operating a vehicle unless the patient is under the influence of marijuana. The immunity from prosecution provided under the MMMA to a registered patient who drives with indications of marijuana in his or her system but is not otherwise under the influence of marijuana inescapably conflicts with MCL 257.625(8) [the state's zero tolerance per se DUI law], which prohibits a person from driving with any amount of marijuana in her or system.”
The state’s zero tolerance per se drug law remains applicable to non-patients. Under such laws, motorists are guilty per se (in fact) of a criminal traffic safety violation if they engage in the act of driving while detectable levels of certain controlled substances or, in some cases, their inert metabolites (byproducts) are present in the defendants’ blood or urine. Proof of actual impairment is not a requirement for a conviction under the law.
To date, ten states — Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin — have enacted legislation imposing zero tolerance per se thresholds for the presence of cannabinoids and/or their metabolites. (State-authorized medical cannabis patients in Arizona and Rhode Island are exempt from prosecution under these per se statutes unless the state can provide additional evidence of psychomotor impairment.)
Five additional states impose non-zero-tolerant per se thresholds for cannabinoids in blood: Montana (5ng/ml — law takes effect on October 1, 2013), Pennsylvania (1ng/ml), Ohio (2ng/ml), Nevada (2ng/ml) and Washington (5ng/ml). Most recently, Colorado lawmakers approved legislation stating that the presence of THC/blood levels above 5ng/ml “gives rise to permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence.” State-qualified patients in Colorado, Montana, and Nevada are not provided legal exemptions from these statutes, although legislation is presently pending in Nevada to do so.
Such caution is similarly expressed by the United States National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, which acknowledges: “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”
A 2013 review of per se drugged driving laws and their impact on road safety found “no evidence that per se drugged driving laws reduce traffic fatalities.”
Join NORML and our friends at the Marijuana Majority in our efforts to build support for marijuana law reform at the local level by contacting your mayor and urging their support for rational marijuana policies.
Mayors are on the front lines of the war on cannabis and can see the devastation it is causing at the local level. It is time our local politicans take a stand and say enough is enough, it is time to stop wasting precious law enforcement resources, stop allowing the revenue from marijuana sales to flow into the hands of criminal elements, and stop enforcing a prohibition on a plant that is safer than tobacco and alcohol. Please take a moment of your time today to click the link below and encourage your mayor to join the majority of Americans who want to see marijuana legalized.
We are at a pivotal moment.
Support for legalization is the highest it’s ever been and it’s still growing.
Now, Washington and Colorado have taken the first step toward ending prohibition for good.
But the feds still have reefer madness and are threatening to stand in the way of these states.
Thankfully, mayors across our nation are taking action.
They see the harm of these laws first-hand, and they are calling for change.
Is your mayor one of them?
Want to see what politicians, celebrities, academics, and more have already spoken out against marijuana prohibition? Click here to check out Marijuana Majority’s webpage.
Brain imaging research published this month in the journal Molecular Psychiatry provides physiological evidence as to why cannabis may mitigate certain symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress syndrome is an anxiety disorder that is estimated to impact some eight million Americans annually. Yet, to date, there are no pharmaceutical treatments specifically designed or approved to target symptoms of PTSD.
Investigators at the New York University School of Medicine and the New York University Langone Medical Center, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury reported that subjects diagnosed with PTSD typically possess elevated quantities of endogenous cannabinoid receptors in regions of the brain associated with fear and anxiety. Investigators also determined that many of these subjects experience a decrease in their natural production of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter, resulting in an imbalanced endocannibinoid regulatory system.
Researchers speculated that an increase in the body’s production of cannabinoids would likely restore subjects’ natural brain chemistry and psychological balance. They affirmed, “[Our] findings substantiate, at least in part, emerging evidence that … plant-derived cannabinoids such as marijuana may possess some benefits in individuals with PTSD by helping relieve haunting nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD.”
They concluded: “The data reported herein are the first of which we are aware of to demonstrate the critical role of CB1 (cannabinoid) receptors and endocannabinoids in the etiology of PTSD in humans. As such, they provide a foundation upon which to develop and validate informative biomarkers of PTSD vulnerability, as well as to guide the rational development of the next generation of evidence-based treatments for PTSD.”
Anecdotal evidence and case study reports have increasingly indicated that cannabis may mitigate traumatic memories and anxiety. However, clinical trial data remains unavailable, in large part because US federal officials have blocked investigators’ efforts to study cannabis in PTSD subjects. In 2011 federal administrators halted efforts by investigators at the University of Arizona to complete an FDA-approved, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the use of cannabis in 50 veterans with treatment-resistant PTSD.
PTSD is also seldom identified as a qualifying condition in states that allow for the physician authorized use of cannabis therapy. (To date, only New Mexico explicitly cites PTSD as a qualifying condition for cannabis treatment, although a handful of other states, like California, allow doctors the discretion to legally recommend marijuana for post-trauma subjects.) In Oregon, lawmakers in the House are considering Senate-approved legislation, SB 281, that would allow PTSD patients to legally consume cannabis under the state’s nearly 15-year-old medical marijuana program.