Tag: Politics

Is GOP Leadership Out of Touch With Voters on Cannabis?

A new poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University has revealed some remarkable trends in support for cannabis legalization. One of the most pertinent takeaways, coming the same day that the White House vowed “greater enforcement” against legal states: A majority of voters, both Republican and Democrat, oppose the government interfering with state-legal cannabis operations.

A full 71 percent of those surveyed said they are against the federal government taking action against states that have legalized cannabis for medical or adult use. Majorities in both parties—80 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans—said they are against a federal crackdown on cannabis in legal states.

Or, as Quinnipiac put it: “REPUBLICANS OUT OF STEP WITH U.S. VOTERS ON KEY ISSUES … MOST VOTERS SUPPORT LEGALIZED MARIJUANA”

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The overwhelming support for respecting state laws, however, didn’t quite translate to full-throated support of  legalization outright. The poll found that 72 percent of Democrats were favored federal, adult-use legalization, while nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Republicans were opposed.

On the issue of medical marijuana, voters in both parties came out out firmly in favor. A whopping 96 percent of Democratic respondents and 85 percent of Republicans said they support allowing adults using cannabis to treat medical conditions with a doctor’s recommendation.

The responses reflect similar trends toward bipartisan support of legalization that emerged during the November’s presidential election. While cannabis reform has largely been seen as a liberal issue, denigrated as a movement of hippies and freeloaders, it’s no longer a liberal issue. Voters in eight states, including Florida, Arkansas, and North Dakota, approved legalizing cannabis in some capacity last election.

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A recent poll out of Texas also showed a spike in cannabis support over the past two years. According to a poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, 83 percent of Texans support legalizing cannabis in some form, and 53 percent believe cannabis should be available for adult use, not just medicinal purposes.

The polls showing bipartisan support of state-by-state legalization, however, come as GOP leadership—and the White House—in particular, move to ramp up scrutiny of state cannabis programs.

After months of speculation about the implications of a Trump presidency and the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lent fuel to the industry’s worst fears during a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Answering a question regarding adult-use cannabis specifically, Spicer replied, “I think you’ll see greater enforcement on that.”

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Spicer indicated that the Trump administration does recognize the distinction between medical and adult-use marijuana, suggesting the enforcement actions would focus on nonmedical programs.

While Republicans are more likely to support medical cannabis than adult-use measures, Thursday’s poll suggests GOP elders might do well to take a long, hard look at the growing support among Americans of all backgrounds for legal, regulated cannabis before taking action against states.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Breaking: White House Plans ‘Greater Enforcement’ Against Legal Cannabis

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer sent a jolt through the cannabis world on Thursday, suggesting at a media briefing that the Trump administration could take actions to crack down on state-legal cannabis programs.

“I think you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, according to The Hill. He added that precisely what that means will be “a question for the Department of Justice.”

Spicer, answering questions from reporters, drew a distinction between medical and nonmedical cannabis programs, expressing some support for the very sick who find relief through cannabis.

Trump “understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them,” he said, according to Politico, also noting previous action by Congress not to fund the Justice Department “go[ing] after those folks.”

“The last thing we should be doing is encouraging people.”

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary

As for “recreational marijuana, that’s a very, very different subject,” Spicer said.

“When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” he said.

Patients, consumers, business owners, and government officials in legal states have been parsing cannabis-related language out of the Trump camp since the presidential campaign. Today’s message from Spicer is the latest sign that the White House could take actions to stymie adult-use programs already up and running in a handful of states across the country.

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Trump’s nomination of Jeff Sessions to head the Department of Justice has also cast a cloud of uncertainty over state cannabis programs. In April of last year, Sessions famously said that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He was cagey in Senate confirmation hearings when asked about his how he’d handle cannabis as US attorney general, pledging to “review and evaluate” existing policies under which the DOJ has allowed state programs to operate.

“Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state, and the distribution of it, an illegal act,” he told senators. “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule.”

Trump himself has stressed his frustration with the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis and has vowed to go after international drug cartels. Until now, however, he’s been mostly quiet on state-legal cannabis. He has expressed support for medical marijuana and states’ rights, but has also surrounded himself with numerous legalization opponents, from billionaire political donors to Cabinet-level officials. In addition to Sessions, Georgia Republican Tom Price, Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary, has come out strongly against legalization.

This story is developing and will be updated as information is available.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Trump Considers Eliminating the Drug Czar Position

After President Trump’s new budget director was sworn in last week, the White House Office of Management and Budget immediately set to work, proposing the government cut nine popular government programs, including the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The move took many by surprise, especially following statements by the president decrying international drug cartels and the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis. Key responsibilities of the ONDCP, after all, include reducing substance use and drug trafficking.

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On Tuesday, Chuck Canterbury, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed Trump’s campaign bid, sent a letter to the White House urging the administration to reconsider.

“You made very clear on the campaign trail and in your time in office that you recognize the threat posed by drug trafficking and abuse,” he wrote. “Our nation is currently facing an epidemic of opioid-related deaths. The ONDCP plays a vital role in coordinating a national strategy to fight drug trafficking and reduce illegal drug use.”

The White House budget has been delayed for several weeks while awaiting Senate confirmation of Trump’s newly appointed budget director, former US Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a Republican from South Carolina. But as soon as the Senate confirmed his appointment 51–49, Mulvaney drafted a list of proposed agencies to get the axe. Most run on less than $500 million a year, which analysts point out is a drop in the bucket in terms of government spending. In other words, the targeted list could also indicate the administration’s political priorities.

Trump has reportedly been considering former Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH), as well as Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, for the position of Drug Czar, overseeing the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Now that the agency itself hangs in the balance, there’s no indication of whether the position will still exist under the new administration.

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Also on the chopping block were the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds programs such as Americorps.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy dispenses grants to reduce drug use and trafficking, and the office was allotted $30.6 billion in funding for fiscal year 2016. The office was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 in order to help establish and maintain a drug-free workplace through drug assistance and rehabilitation programs, drug counseling, and drug-free awareness educational programs.

Cutting the Office of National Drug Control Policy could have devastating effects on law enforcement agencies around the country as well as on the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. As Canterbury notes in his letter, one of the office’s key initiatives, The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program, would be directly affected. The program provides critical support for cooperation between state, local, and federal law enforcement. It’s seen as particularly crucial along the US–Mexico border, across which cartels often attempt to smuggle illegal drugs.

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Though impacts of the cuts appear unlikely to affect state-legal cannabis operations, cutting the ONDCP could have dire and far-reaching consequences on at-risk populations. Without coordinated efforts across state lines, drug trafficking is likely to rise and the opioid epidemic in America, already at devastating levels, could languish.

In 2013, 120 Americans died each day due to a drug overdose. There has been a noticeable decline in opioid overdoses and deaths in states that have legalized the use of medicinal cannabis

The Trump administration has so far remained mum on any federal changes or enforcement efforts related to state-legal cannabis operations, leaving many in the cannabis industry wondering what the next four years could have in store.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Australia Loosens Cannabis Import Rules to Speed Patient Access

Australian medical cannabis patients and advocates notched a big win this week as the federal government loosened strings on the country’s cannabis-importation laws. The changes will allow overseas suppliers of medicinal cannabis to import into Australia in bulk, store a surplus, and ship directly to patients as doctors prescribe.

Despite progress made in licensing and local cultivation—which became legal in October 2016—patients and doctors have nevertheless found it frustratingly difficult to get a hold of legal cannabis. This is mainly due to the fact that the only products that currently meet quality standards are made overseas and classified in Australia as “unapproved medicines.” In other  words, they have not yet completed rigorous pharmaceutical trials and been approved by government regultors. Instead, medicine must be obtained through complex regulatory pathways such as the Special Access Scheme, which requires individual approvals at both the state and federal levels.

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These pathways are not only convoluted from a regulatory perspective, they are expensive. Until now, under the Special Access Scheme, cannabis products were shipped directly from an overseas manufacturer to the patient on a case-by-case basis—a process that entails thousands of dollars in shipping costs alone. Under the changes announced Wednesday, patients will no longer have to have products shipped directly directly from overseas.

According to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, the new policy will ensure that there will be sufficient interim supply for “all of the medical demand” among approved patients.

Medical cannabis advocate Lucy Haslam is only cautiously optimistic.

Many see the announcement as long overdue. On local radio last month, even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull seemed to acknowledge supply issues when he urged doctors to apply for access to imported medicinal cannabis for seriously ill patients until Australia is in a position to cultivate enough of its own.

Medical cannabis advocate Lucy Haslam, however, is only cautiously optimistic. Halsam, who lost her son to bowel cancer nearly two years ago, says it remains to be seen how quickly patients will be able to get the product in their hands, especially as the application for access can be difficult. Because qualified doctors aren’t allowed to advertise, even finding an authorized prescriber presents a challenge.

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For now, the immediate beneficiaries of the change include the existing three foreign suppliers to the Australian market, GW Pharma, Tilray, and Bedrocan, which will now be able to supply medicinal cannabis more efficiently by warehousing it in the country. Also likely to benefit are the existing companies involved in pharmaceutical logistics, stacking the odds even further against local start-ups trying to break into the nascent market. (Editor’s note: Tilray and Leafly are both owned by parent company Privateer Holdings.)

The Australian stock market welcomed the announcement, with Australian-listed cannabis companies such as AusCann (ASX:TWH), MMJ Phytotech (ASX:MMJ) and others posting double-digit gains despite the local businesses not having products currently available for import.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

GW Pharma Responds: ‘Not Creating a Monopoly’

British drug manufacturer GW Pharma and its American subsidiary, Greenwich BioSciences, have responded to Leafly’s report last week about the company’s attempts to move proprietary cannabidiol (CBD) bills through at least two state legislatures.

GW/Greenwich says it is not opposing medical marijuana or CBD access.

That report noted that the company’s lobbyists were moving in anticipation of the FDA’s expected approval of Epidiolex, a CBD-based drug that’s currently in Phase III trials. GW/Greenwich is pushing bills through legislatures in South Dakota and Nebraska, where all forms of cannabis medicine remain illegal. The bills would specifically make only FDA-approved forms of CBD legal under state law.

As Leafly reported, the effect of such a law would be to give GW/Greenwich a virtual monopoly on legal CBD sales—at least temporarily. The original story also noted that the company has recently hired local political lobbyists in at least nine states.

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Steven Schultz, director of investor relations for GW/Greenwich, issued a response to the story to Alan Brochstein at New Cannabis Ventures. Schultz said he believed the story contained “significant factual errors,” although he did not offer evidence of error.

Here is the company’s statement to Brochstein in full:

GW expects to submit a NDA for Epidiolex in mid-2017 and wishes to ensure that, subject to FDA approval, Epidiolex can be made available to patients in as timely a manner as possible. One of the necessary steps to achieve this goal includes being proactive at the state level so that, once Epidiolex is approved by FDA and rescheduled by DEA, patients will be able to have access to the product in their states. This two-step process, both the DEA and local state rescheduling, is required to achieve full rescheduling and make our medicine available to appropriate patients with a doctor’s prescription.

It is important to stress that none of GW’s work involves opposing “medical marijuana” or “CBD access.” GW’s sole focus is on creating a pathway for our medicine, once approved by FDA. State and federal rescheduling of an FDA-approved product comprised of CBD will have no impact on existing (or future) state laws that allow the medical use of marijuana or of non-FDA approved CBD products.

Greenwich Biosciences/GW is not creating a monopoly. Rather, we are blazing a trail for any other CBD prescription medications that may follow since these regulations would not be specific to GW. In fact, it is likely new companies may be encouraged to enter the field of cannabinoid research, leading to a greater number of cannabinoid treatment options for patients, not fewer.

Unfortunately, the Leafly article does not mention the fact that GW is currently providing Epidiolex without cost to over 1,200 patients through compassionate use programs. GW’s goal is to provide an additional CBD option that meets the definition of, and has the hallmarks of, a modern medicine.

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In a separate response to Leafly this afternoon, Schultz wrote that “it is not generally understood that rescheduling involves state rescheduling along with DEA rescheduling to enable FDA approved medicines that are Schedule 1 to be made available to patients.” Schultz added that GW/Greenwich remains “focused on this task, and understand what it takes at the state level–hence the local representatives.” 

It may not be GW/Greenwich’s intention to create a monopoly on CBD products. Our original story noted that the proposed legislation “would effectively give GW/Greenwich a temporary monopoly on legal CBD products in South Dakota and Nebraska.” We stand by that statement. The company’s proprietary drug, Epidiolex, is the only CBD-based pharmaceutical nearing FDA approval. Hundreds of CBD oil manufacturers exist in medical marijuana states around the country, but the proposed legislation would make Epidiolex the one and only CBD drug legally available to epilepsy patients in states affected by the proposed  bills, at least until another CBD-based drug receives FDA approval.

Whether intended or not, that is effectively a temporary monopoly.

The company has recently hired local political lobbyists in at least 22 states.

It’s true that GW/Greenwich has not publicly opposed the spread of medical cannabis legalization laws. Neither has it worked with local medical marijuana advocates, who have struggled for years to gain legal access to medical cannabis. Some of those advocates now worry that the GW/Greenwich legislation may undermine their own legalization efforts while limiting patients to a single CBD source.

National cannabis advocacy groups are somewhat divided on the issue. Beth Collins, director of government relations for Americans for Safe Access, told Leafly that her group is “not opposed to these bills as long as they don’t derail other efforts for full-plant legislation.” Collins noted that “there have been many instances where those with intractable epilepsy and other conditions have not responded well to Epidiolex, but have done very well on natural, less purified CBD extracts, such as Haleigh’s Hope or Charlotte’s Web.”

Those same concerns have led local leaders of Students for Sensible Drug Policy to oppose the bill in Nebraska. NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano told Leafly on Wednesday that his group is discouraging support of the South Dakota bill. The clause that legalizes only FDA-approved forms of CBD, Armentano said, “essentially guts the bill.”

GW’s donation of Epidiolex to more than 1,200 patients is a truly commendable gesture. At the same time, it has no bearing on the company’s political push in American statehouses.

In our report last week, Leafly reported that GW/Greenwich had retained the services of political lobbyists in nine states. That portion of the story was, in fact, incorrect. Upon review of more recently filed state lobbying disclosure documents, we found that the company actually has contracted with lobbyists in at least 22 states for the 2017 legislative season.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

State of the Leaf: South Africa Approves MMJ Production

US News Updates

National

US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a longtime champion of cannabis reform, introduced a House resolution that would amend the Controlled Substances Act to protect state cannabis programs and businesses that comply with state and local laws. House Resolution 975 has already gained 14 co-sponsors so far and has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Rohrabacher’s name is already attached to the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, a Congressional spending measure that prohibits the Justice Department from using federal funds to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana. That measure is set to expire in April, although US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently stepped forward as lead co-sponsor to renew the amendment. Both represantatives are founding members of the newly established Congressional Cannabis Caucus, a group of federal lawmakers dedicated to promoting sensible cannabis policy at the federal level.

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Colorado

Access to Colorado cannabis is poised to expand further thanks to a handful of developments:

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Georgia

The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee will be meeting this week to discuss House Bill 65, which would expand the number of qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program. The bill has already been discussed by the Medical Marijuana Working Group, where representatives heard testimony from advocates as well pediatricians both in favor and against the bill. Another medical marijuana measure, however, Senate Bill 16, would reduce the amount of THC allowed from five percent to three percent. SB 16 has already passed through the Senate and now heads to the House floor.

Iowa

An Iowa House subcommittee has approved a bill to legalize the use of cannabis-derived oil for medicinal purposes and create a state-run program for the cultivation and distribution of the oil to patients who would qualify. Those who suffer from epileptic seizures, multiple sclerosis, and cancer would likely benefit from the program, expanding the conditions from the previously medical marijuana oil program, which was aimed solely at those who suffer from epilepsy. The Iowa Department of Public Health would be tasked with running and overseeing the program, as well as issuing registration cards for qualifying patients.

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Kentucky

A new bill from the Kentucky House of Representatives would allow medical cannabis use with a doctor’s recommendation. House Bill 411, introduced by Rep. John Sims Jr. (D-Frankfort), would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis without facing prosecution. Sims indicated that he introduced the bill after seeing studies that show cannabis can help patients in certain situations.

Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Legislature created the Committee on Marijuana Policy to help oversee and implement the state’s adult-use legalization law passed by voters last November. Two lawmakers have been tasked with rewriting the law to make “significant changes” before retail shops are scheduled to open in 2018. Rep. Mark Cusack (D-Braintree) and Sen. Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) were appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to complete a revised version of the law by June 2017, although the lawmakers have so far been mum on what changes might be in the works.

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Minnesota

A new bill in the Minnesota Legislature would legalize cannabis for personal use by adults 21 and older. Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-St. Paul) introduced S.F. 1392 a companion to H.F. 927, already introduced in the House. Both bills are aimed at legalizing and regulating the sales, possession, and use of cannabis for adults over the age of 21, but passage could be a long shot. Minnesota has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country, and so far not a single state Legislature across the country has legalized cannabis for adult use.

New Hampshire

A bill to legalize cannabis for adult use has been introduced for the first time in the New Hampshire Senate. Senate Bill 233, introduced by Sen. Jeff Woodburn (D-Dalton), would legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis sales, as well as establish a committee to study cannabis legalization. Woodburn, also the state Senate minority leader, said New Hampshire needs to be more progressive and open as the rest of New England moves toward legalization. “We do not want to become the Mississippi of the Northeast, where people have to worry about driving through the state.” Woodburn testified before the Judiciary Committee.

North Dakota

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve just over $1 million in funding to oversee the state’s new medical marijuana program over the next two years. Deputy State Officer Arvy Smith said North Dakota is not anticipating earning any revenue from the program during its first year, as the system gets off the ground. After that, user fees are expected to help fund the program. During the course of the coming two-year budget cycle between 2017 and 2019, the program is expected to cost a total of $2.9 million and raise about $1.3 million. The 81-page emergency measure to amend the bill will be considered this week by the Senate.

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Wyoming

An initiative to legalize medical marijuana won’t be on the 2018 ballot after failing to meet a key deadline. The petition was organized by NORML’s Wyoming chapter and had originally aimed to put a question on the 2016 ballot, but organizers failed to gather the 25,600 required signatures in time. Setting its sights on 2018, the group continued gathering signatures. Once again, however, it has failed to submit enough signatures to the Secretary of State’s office before a last week’s Feb. 14 deadline. A poll conducted in October 2016 found that support for the legalizing medical cannabis is at an all-time high, with 81 percent of Wyoming respondents in favor.

Texas

Houston is getting a newly revamped cannabis decriminalization policy. The city has suffered from a high crime rate for years, and state Attorney General Kim Ogg campaigned on a platform that promised to deprioritize low-level cannabis offenses in order to divert funds to fight violent crime in Harris County. The Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, designed to spare offenders from criminal penalties, would allow those who are caught with two ounces of cannabis or less to take a four-hour educational class rather than face a misdemeanor charge. Ogg’s office believes such diversion programs could spare up to 12,000 people from jail time and save Harris County around $26 million per year in enforcement costs.

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Virginia

During the first gubernatorial primary debate, two of the four Republican candidates indicated support for relaxing criminal penalties around cannabis. Denver Riggleman, a populist candidate, described his brother’s struggle to reintegrate into normal life after spending nine months in jail on cannabis-related charges. Another candidate, Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart joined Riggleman in calling for decriminalization, saying “It’s absolutely atrocious that we are jailing people simply because they are in possession of marijuana.” Front-runner Ed Gillespie has said he does not support decriminalization but instead wants a state commission to review whether the penalties for marijuana offenses are in line with the severity of the crime. Rounding out the GOP field, state Sen. Frank Wagner supports diverting drug offenders to therapy programs rather than jailing them. The two Democratic Party candidates, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former US Rep. Tom Perriello, have both come forward in favor of decriminalization.

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International News Updates

Australia

Health Minister Greg Hunt has officially given the go-ahead for the legal sales of medical cannabis products to begin. Companies will now be permitted to distribute cannabis oils and medications locally, establishing a legal cannabis trade within the country. Parliament passed laws last year allowing patients with chronic illnesses to qualify medicinal cannabis, but without a legal market, products were only available only via import or through the black market. The move is meant to ensure Australia is able to maintain a safe, secure, and reputable source of cannabis-based medicines. Domestic production will continue until the supply is enough to meet patient demand.

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South Africa

The Medical Control Council, in a long-awaited decision, announced it will for the first time publish guidelines on medical cannabis production. Member of Parliament Narend Singh, of the South African Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), hailed the announcement as the result of tireless work from former IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, who fought for cannabis legalization and made a direct plea to South African President Jacob Zuma to decriminalize cannabis. Oriani-Ambrosini died of lung cancer in 2014, before the government made any policy changes, but the IFP has since called its approval of medicinal cannabis production a tribute to the late MP.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Houston is Getting a New Cannabis Decriminalization Policy

A new marijuana policy from Harris County could set the tone for Texas to pass more widespread decriminalization at a state level.

Newly elected District Attorney Kim Ogg ran on a campaign platform of reducing penalties for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses, and she is sticking to her word. She announced the new policy during a press conference Thursday with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Policer Chief Art Acevedo, and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

“Every time they arrest someone in possession of marijuana, police are off the streets for an average of four hours.”

Kim Ogg, Harris County district attorney

The Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program takes effect on March 1, 2017, and will mean that anyone caught with up to four ounces of cannabis will no longer face criminal or civil charges. Instead, offenders will be diverted from the court system if they agree to take a four-hour drug education class. Repeat offenders could continue to take the class, regardless of any past criminal history.

If the suspect does not agree to take the class, officials will file charges and issue an arrest warrant, which means an offender could face up to a $4,000 fine and up to one year in jail if convicted of the Class A misdemeanor.

Ogg has faced criticism for the new policy, most notably from Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon who accused the new DA of trying to legalize cannabis.

“Despite a rise in violent crime rates in Harris County, Ms. Ogg chooses to focus her attention on the issue of legalization of marijuana,” Ligon stated in a press release.

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It’s true that there has been a rise in violent crime in Houston over the past year, and, in fact, the violent crime rate over the last five years has consistently been more than twice the national average. Ogg acknowledged these statistics during her campaign as playing a large part in the reason for her newly revamped marijuana policy.

“Gangs and organized crime are running rampant in Harris County, and I want law enforcement to have the time and money necessary to dismantle those operations,” Ogg said in a statement on her campaign site. “Every time they arrest someone in possession of marijuana, police are off the streets for an average of four hours.”

Cannabis prosecution in Texas is costly, time-consuming, and offers almost no return on investment.

Harris County by the numbers

  • The county spent $13,187,000 incarcerating cannabis offenders
    • Offenders spent an average of six days in jail
  • $4,780,000 was spent by the district attorney’s office to prosecute these offenses
    • There were approximately 10,000 cannabis-related cases
  • $2,970,000 in total court costs
  • $2,552,00 was spent on defendant’s lawyer fees
  • $1,790,000 was spent by state crime labs testing cannabis
  • $1,384,000 was spent on law enforcement costs

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It’s not the first time a marijuana diversion program has been enacted in Harris County.

Former Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced the First Chance Intervention Program on October 1, 2014, but it had a rocky start. It was not until January 1, 2016 that it became mandatory for law enforcement to offer suspects the option of community service rather than jail time.

The two programs differ notably, but carry the same end-goal: lower cannabis arrests and law enforcement costs.

The First Chance program required that offenders have no criminal history, no outstanding warrants, or be out on bond or on probation, and they must complete eight hours of community service or attend an eight-hour class. Offenders must also stay out of trouble for the next 60 to 90 days and pay a $100 fee.

The Misdemeanor Marijuana Program, on the other hand, allows repeat offenders the option of taking a four-hour class, but also requires that offenders not be out on bond or on probation. Offenders must pay a $150 fee for the class, but this fee may be waived if they are unable to afford it.

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The First Chance program was fairly successful, sparing 2,270 participants from potential jail time and the rate of reoffenders was low, between six and seven percent.

Under the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, the county could save millions of dollars and prevent up to 12,000 people from facing jail time. Ogg estimated that the county has spent an average of $25 million per year for the last decade prosecuting cannabis cases.

“We have spent in excess of $250 million, over a quarter-billion dollars, prosecuting a crime that has produced no tangible evidence of improved public safety,” said Ogg. “We have disqualified, unnecessarily, thousands of people from greater job, housing and educational opportunities by giving them a criminal record for what is, in effect, a minor law violation.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Texas Has a Medical Cannabis ‘Prescription’ Problem

This coming Thursday, February 23, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will start accepting applications from companies to grow and process cannabis under Texas’s new Compassionate Use Program, which regulates the production and sale of low-THC, high-CBD medical cannabis. The agency is scheduled to conditionally approve at least three dispensaries by May. But because of a quirk in the bill’s language, medical marijuana advocates worry that there may not be any patients to purchase the dispensaries’ products.

Texas starts taking license applications this week. But there may not be any patients.

The Texas Compassionate Use Act, signed by Governor Greg Abbott in 2015, allows physicians to “prescribe” low-THC, high-CBD cannabis to patients with epilepsy. Groups like Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) say that’s impossible. The DEA, which licenses physicians to prescribe scheduled drugs, still treats marijuana as a Schedule I drug — a category reserved for “drugs with no currently accepted medical use.” And a DEA manual makes it clear that doctors can’t prescribe Schedule I substances.

Defenders of the law say the Texas DPS, the agency tasked with running the program, has defined the word “prescription” in a way that resolves the problem. But it’s not entirely clear how that works.

With the application deadline approaching, and the Texas DPS still unwilling or unable to answer basic questions about this issue, the Compassionate Use Act is beginning to look like the latest in a long line of flawed Southern cannabis programs.

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In every state with a workable medical marijuana program, doctors “recommend” or “certify” patients for cannabis use. The do not “prescribe.” In a 2002 court case, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government couldn’t punish doctors for recommending cannabis so long as they weren’t helping patients obtain it. (The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, so the ruling stands.)

A prescription doesn’t give doctors the same legal protection as a recommendation.

Because a prescription is, essentially, an order for controlled drugs, it doesn’t provide doctors with the same protections as they enjoy for a recommendation or a certification. In 1978, Louisiana became one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana, for glaucoma and cancer patients. That law required a prescription, but the state Health Department never created a system for doctors to legally prescribe, or for patients to legally access their medicine. So the law never served a single patient.

Officials with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and NORML insist the prescription language will effectively kill Texas’ efforts to create a low-THC medical cannabis program. In 2015, when the Compassionate Use Act passed the Texas Senate, MPP lobbied to fix this wording, according to Heather Fazio, a Texas spokesperson MPP. But Kevin Eltife, the Senate sponsor for the bill, refused to consider any amendments, Fazio said.

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Some companies may take the risk

One of the companies applying for a Texas DPS license is AcquiFlow. Founded in 2014 by Patrick Moran, a Texas native turned pot entrepreneur, the business touts itself as “the first open, transparent and legal Texas based cannabis company,” according to its website.

Despite the prescription problem, Moran is optimistic about the Compassionate Use Act. He argues that programs with the “recommend” language, like California’s, have too often created a gray market. He believes the Texas bill will be functional because State Representative Stephanie Klick, who co-sponsored the bill, works in the medical profession herself. (Klick is a medical-business consultant and a registered nurse.)

More significantly, Moran notes that the Texas DPS has defined a marijuana prescription as “an entry in the compassionate-use registry.” Since this definition “remains in the state framework,” he said, “the DEA has no authority.”

That’s Moran’s claim—but it may not be so in the eyes of the DEA. Since California passed the nation’s first workable medical marijuana law in 1996, the DEA has considered all variations of medical cannabis to be illegal and subject to federal enforcement.

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State officials: Nobody knows how it works

It’s true that the DPS defines a marijuana “prescription” in relation to the Compassionate Use Act. But does this mean doctors don’t have to follow the usual rules around prescriptions? Would this wording protect them in the same way the “recommend” language does? For at least two weeks, I’ve asked these simple questions to a number of state organizations, including the Texas DPS. The answers — or lack thereof — do not inspire confidence.

I asked DPS officials if doctors would be legally allowed to prescribe–rather than recommend–marijuana, and if they would risk any penalties for doing so. Tom Vinger, a DPS spokesperson, told me via email that these questions weren’t “on point.” When asked for clarification, Vinger said the Compassionate Use Act “does not affect federal law or require the DEA to alter its enforcement practices.” He referred me to the DEA.

The Texas law ‘does not affect federal law or require the DEA to alter its practices.’

Texas Dept. of Public Safety spokesman

When asked the same questions, Jarrett Schneider, a spokesperson for the Texas Medical Board, said via email that, as far as he knew, the Compassionate Use program was “still being developed.”

“Schedule I drugs are illegal,” Schneider added. For more information, he referred me back to the DPS.

I contacted the Texas State Board of Pharmacy (TSBP), which regulates the distribution of pharmaceutical drugs in Texas. Gay Dodson, Executive Director of the TSBP, told me in a voicemail that the Compassionate Use Act was “not administered by this agency.” She also directed me to the DPS.

I reached out to the offices of State Representative Stephanie Klick, who co-sponsored the bill. A spokesperson told me Bryan Shufelt, Klick’s Chief of Staff, could answer my questions. Shufelt later called to say he couldn’t do a phone interview before my deadline. When I emailed my question instead, Shufelt didn’t respond.

Brent Annear, a spokesperson for the Texas Medical Association, said he doesn’t know of any Texas physicians who have registered with the DPS to become marijuana prescribers. “Apparently no formal rules are in place to make that possible yet,” he said in an email. “Federal law prohibits writing a prescription for a Schedule One drug anyway.”

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The DPS seems to recognize the problem. In audio from a December 2015 meeting, RenEarl Bowie, Assistant Director of Regulatory Licensing at the Texas DPS, said the prescription issue was “something that will have to be addressed by the Texas legislature.”

Texas State Senator José Menéndez is trying to do just that. In December 2016, he introduced a revised medical marijuana bill that would replace the word “prescribe” with “recommend.” It’s been referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, which has yet to decide whether to give the bill a hearing, according to Heather Fazio, the Texas MPP spokesperson.

One complication: Menéndez’s bill doesn’t just change the language around prescriptions. It also removes caps on THC. It’s not clear how that bigger change will sit with conservative lawmakers. If Menendez insists on removing the THC limits — for instance, by not allowing amendments — efforts to fix the prescription language may once again fail.

One more twist in the Southern CBD saga

The American South is known for dysfunctional marijuana laws. In much of the South, cannabidiol programs don’t even allow patients to purchase their medicine in state. When Texas bucked that trend in 2015 with its Compassionate Use Act–which established licenses for the production of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis–it created a buzz in the Southern medical marijuana community.

The Texas program seems increasingly mired in problems of its own making.

Now, almost two years later, the Texas program increasingly seems mired in problems of its own making. After all, even Southern states like Alabama and Georgia — not exactly models of workable medical CBD programs — use the “recommend” language in their laws.

“The other low-THC laws aren’t that foolish,” said Karen O’Keefe, Director of State Policies at MPP.

The prescription language isn’t the only part of the Compassionate Use Act to generate controversy. Although the law originally set licensing fees at $6,000, the DPS tried to raise licensing and renewal fees to around $1.3 million in November. After an uproar, the costs were lowered slightly, to $488,520. That’s still by far the highest licensing fee in the nation, for what may be the country’s smallest and tightest market.

A couple weeks ago I called Patrick Moran, the AcquiFlow founder, to see if he was still feeling optimistic. He said he didn’t have much time to talk. In the tiny north Texas town of Gunter, the city council had approved Moran’s plan to turn a former cotton gin into a grow operation. He’d already broken ground, he said.

With the program’s rollout just on the horizon, Moran admits there’s still disagreement around the prescription issue. He thinks that concern is misguided, though. Besides, if all else fails, Moran told me he has a contingency plan. Using his hydroponic cultivation setup in Gunter, he said, he could grow herbs like basil instead.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Colorado’s First Drive-Through Cannabis Shop Will Open Next Month

The western Colorado town of Parachute is getting a drive-through cannabis shop, believed to be the first in the state.

The Parachute Board of Trustees approved a business license for Tumbleweed Express last week, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported Saturday.

“As far as I can tell, we are not aware of this business model ever coming up before,” said Robert Goulding, spokesman for the state Marijuana Enforcement Division.

The business is expected to open in March in a former car wash.

Cannabis accounted for nearly 30 percent of the community’s 2016 sales tax revenue.

Tumbleweed Express also had to get approval from the Marijuana Enforcement Division, which said the store cannot allow anyone younger than 21 on the premises, even in the back seat of a car.

The business must also have security and surveillance, and cannabis may not be visible from outside the dispensary.

The car wash building will allow the goods to be screened from outside view.

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“We think the drive-through is a very creative and innovative idea,” Parachute Town Manager Stuart McArthur said.

Cannabis accounted for nearly 30 percent of the community’s 2016 sales tax revenue of just over $1 million, McArthur said. “The really good news is that other businesses are benefiting from it,” he said.

Travelers stopping to buy marijuana in Parachute are more likely to stop at restaurants and other shops, he said, helping an economy that was hit hard by a downturn in natural gas production.

Parachute Mayor Roy McClung said the town’s economy would have been in serious trouble without legalized recreational cannabis.

Statewide, cannabis sales brought in close to $200 million in taxes and fees last year, the Colorado Department of Revenue said.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Dutch Lawmakers Extend Tolerance to Cannabis Cultivation

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch lawmakers on Tuesday voted in favor of tolerating the cultivation of cannabis, a move that could bring to an end a key paradox of the relaxed Dutch policy on marijuana and hashish.

Buying small amounts of cannabis at so-called coffeeshops has long been tolerated in the Netherlands, but cultivating and selling the drug to the coffeeshops themselves has remained illegal.

That hasn’t stopped coffeeshops flourishing since liberalization of drug laws in the 1970s, and becoming a major tourist draw card, particularly in Amsterdam, where tourists often visit the cafes to light up a joint.

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A narrow majority in the lower house of the Dutch Parliament voted in favor of the new law that would extend tolerance to growers as well as smokers. However, the bill still has to be approved in the upper house, known as the First Chamber, where it is not clear if it can find a majority.

If the votes in the upper house go along the same party lines as in the lower house, the bill would be rejected, Dutch broadcaster NOS reported. That means that the issue could become a bargaining chip in discussions to form a new coalition after the Netherlands’ March 15 lower house election.

Despite that uncertainty, weed sellers welcomed the vote.

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“It is good news for the coffeeshop industry because it will finally — if it passes the First Chamber — put an end to a lot of stuff we can’t organize in a normal and transparent way,” said Joachim Helms, chairman of the Coffee Shop Union.

Ahead of the vote, Alexander Pechtold, leader of the D66 party that drew up the legislation, said it would allow quality checks on cannabis crops, free up police and allow authorities to levy taxes on the huge pot-growing industry.

Afterward, he called the vote “a historic breakthrough.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.