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The Senate on Tuesday passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill, which includes language to allow Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. The language was included as an amendment in the Senate Appropriations committee in May.
“Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It makes no sense that a veteran can’t use medical marijuana if it helps them and it is legal in their state.”
The Veterans Equal Access Amendment was sponsored by Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. It passed the Committee 18-12 in a bipartisan vote. The funding bill will now be negotiated with the House’s version as part of an omnibus spending bill.
“On this eve of Veterans/Armistice Day where we remember those who served in the military and the treaty agreement to reach peace concluding WWI, we see this victory as a step toward a peace treaty with the government we volunteered to defend with our lives and as a step toward restoring our first amendment rights and dignity as citizens of the United States,” said TJ Thompson, a disabled Navy veteran.
Last week, acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the Drug Enforcement Administration called medical marijuana “a joke” while talking with reporters. Medicinal cannabis patients are now calling for Rosenberg’s resignation, with an online petition getting more than 16,000 signatures on Change.org.
“What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not,” Rosenberg said in a Q&A with reporters, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. “We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.”
“There are pieces of marijuana — extracts or constituents or component parts — that have great promise” medicinally, he said, obeying his masters in Big Pharma who seem to want to market individual cannabinoids, but not the whole, organic plant itself. “But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana — which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana — it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”
Rosenberg’s argument that smoking marijuana “has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine” has been contradicted by numerous scientific studies. A meta-analysis of 79 medical marijuana studies involving 6,462 patients, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) earlier this year, found “moderate-quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity.” There was low-quality evidence suggesting marijuana had therapeutic applications for other conditions as well, according to JAMA.
Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Agriculture have screwed up a chance to make the state a leader in the production of industrial hemp, according to Democrats in the state’s Congressional delegation.
The Congressional representatives have publicly and privately criticized the university and state agency for their apparent reluctance to embrace the potential of hemp, reports Taylor W. Anderson at The Bulletin.
The lawmakers are trying to learn why, despite a successful effort from Congress to open the doors to hemp cultivation for farmers, Oregon is failing to seize the opportunity to encourage the promising industry.
“It’s insane that we’re having this conversation today,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland), who is among the most outspoken supporters of cannabis in Congress.
In June, with overwhelming bipartisan support, both houses of the legislature passed A.7060 (Gottfried) / S.5086 (Griffo), directing the state to establish a program to help critically ill patients obtain emergency access to medical marijuana as soon as possible. The bill was delivered to Governor on October 30, and he had until Wednesday to either sign or veto the bill.
The bill instructs the state to issue patient cards to qualified, critically ill patients as soon as possible, making it clear that they are medical marijuana patients and affording them some protection from law enforcement and child protective services.
“Patients in New York have waited long enough for legal access to medical cannabis,” said Roger Volodarsky, founder and CEO of local Brooklyn-based vaporizer technology company Puffco. “It’s outrageous that they have been forced to go years without relief while politicians procrastinate, but this new law means that the day when those who need marijuana-based medicine will be able to safely obtain it from legal businesses will be here sooner rather than later.”
According to hemp expert Paul Stanford, high-THC varieties of cannabis can substantially outproduce low-THC hemp varieties when it comes to both hempseed oil production (which can be used both as fuel, and as a food source with important proteins and essential fatty acids, EFAs) and also for hemp fiber production.
Stanford, of the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH, which owns Hemp News) wants a study to quantify just how much more productive fields of high THC cannabis could be for both hempseed oil and fiber.
“I’ve been working to get a graduate student at Oregon State University to help us quantify high THC hemp production,” Stanford told Hemp News on Friday. “I talked to the student; we went to her professor; her professor ran it up the flagpole and eventually got to the President’s office at OSU. “They said you can’t do studies on industrial hemp, because it’s illegal under federal law and because that OSU could be in danger of losing its land grant college status,” Stanford said. “I was told there are only 10 or 11 federal land grant universities and colleges in the United States, and that they were afraid they’d lose that federal funding because hemp violates federal law.”
So far, a total of eight shops are approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health with seven more dispensaries expected to open later this month, bringing the total number of medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Illinois to 15. In order to be protected under state law, Illinois patients must obtain their medical marijuana from one of these licensed dispensaries.
“This is a great day for suffering patients who have been waiting to have access to this medicine,” said Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “We are grateful they will no longer have to put themselves at risk by purchasing it in an underground market.” Under the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP), patients must register and select one designated dispensary as their source of medicine. According to the Department of Public Health, 3,300 patients have registered for the medical cannabis identification cards.
“The dispensary openings mark the most significant milestone since the pilot program began nearly two and half years ago,” said Lindsey. “A limited number of patients with certain conditions will now be able to legally access medical marijuana. We hope the state can see that a program like this works and we can finally relieve the suffering of Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.”
Toke Signals Must Read of the Week
(Toke Signals)When the media talks about harsh sentencing for nonviolent drug crimes, we often hear about mandatory minimums as the culprit. While it’s true these sentences that take away the judge’s ability to “judge” are often the culprit, the biggest reason people get egregiously long sentences, even life, is usually ignored, and that is America’s conspiracy laws.
Andrew “Andy” Cox, like most people serving a life sentence for a nonviolent marijuana offense, got caught in such a conspiracy charge. The conspiracy statute holds everyone involved in the conspiracy responsible for the crimes of everyone else allegedly in on the conspiracy.
The last one in the group to “cooperate” by implicating others ends up paying the steepest price while their co-defendants get off with little to no prison time. And if, like Andy, you exercise your Constitutional right to a trial, be prepared to rot in prison for a very long time. The deck is stacked against you, and because the courts far prefer cases to be settled with a plea deal than with a trial, the sentences are always the maximum amount a judge can impose.
Not that testifying against others was ever an option in Andy Cox’s mind. Like most others serving life sentences for marijuana, he has more personal integrity than that. But sadly, prosecutors do not care about integrity.