July 24, 2017

Don Fitch, Author at MARIJUANA POLITICS

Don Fitch

Interest in cannabis liberation extends back to the 1960s for Don Fitch. Most of his career has been in high tech and preventive health care, endeavors he continues with Well-Being Skills, focused now on ebook publishing. Don has always followed and contributed to efforts for ending marijuana prohibition. An Oregonian whose vision is endangered by glaucoma, Don has benefited from his state’s 1998 medical cannabis law, and his eyesight is fully preserved. Don has been writing about cannabis and well-being since 2008 in his blog, www.YourBrainOnBliss.com. This site explores the bountiful health benefits stemming from the discovery of the endocannabinoid system and increasingly legal medical cannabis. The impact of these discoveries, and the use of marijuana in prevention and treatment, may be as important to health care as were the microelectronic discoveries Don wrote about in the early ’80s were to our on-going technological revolution. His major goal, still frustrated after decades, is to see cannabis down-scheduled from Schedule I at the federal level. For fun, Don flies paragliders and travels.

Medical Marijuana Might Just Save John McCain

American war hero and US Senator John McCain has brain cancer. His malignancy, a glioblastoma, is often quickly lethal. On the other hand, this exact type of brain cancer shows great promise for treatment by medical cannabis. Marijuana offers John McCain perhaps his best chance at beating the growing mass in his brain. Whether he will be informed of this option, though, is another question.

Cannabis offers an almost bewildering profusion of medical benefits, and its power against cancer came was noted as early as 1974. For political correctness, though, these results were hidden. And being a Schedule I drug marijuana has been defined by congress and the DEA as having no medical value, stifled nearly all research in the USA. Luckily for humankind, medical cannabis has been studied around the globe and Spanish researchers at Madrid’s Complutense University have been investigating its cancer-fighting powers for two decades. Much of their work has focused on gliomas.

Manual Guzman and others from Complutense University in 2006 published in the British Journal Of Cancer the study, A pilot clinical study of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme. Their rationale was built on several earlier studies of various anti-cancer effects of cannabis:

We have previously shown that cannabinoids inhibit the growth (Galve-Roperh et al, 2000; Sánchez et al, 2001) and angiogenesis (Blázquez et al, 2003, 2004) of gliomas in animal models. Remarkably, this antiproliferative effect seems to be selective for brain-tumour cells as the survival of normal brain cells (astrocytes (Gómez del Pulgar et al, 2002), oligodendrocytes (Molina-Holgado et al, 2002) and neurons (Mechoulam et al, 2002)) is unaffected or even favoured by cannabinoid challenge. On the basis of these preclinical findings, we have conducted a pilot clinical study aimed at assessing cannabinoid antitumoral action in patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme.

Cannabis and the cannabinoids THC and CBD exert powerful anti-cancer actions in several ways. One anti-tumor effect is the stifling of the formation of new blood vessels to support the tumors, angiogenesis. As they mention, the selectivity of cannabis is remarkable in that healthy nerve cells and other supportive brain cells are not damaged, just the cancerous cells.

Unfortunately, the stifling of research in the USA and around the planet caused by tragically flawed drug schedules and restrictions, the treatment of brain cancer with medical cannabis is still in its infancy, with key open questions about just how to administer this new medicine. Probably smoking a joint will not turn out to be the optimal medical administration (although it just might, and without doubt would provide beneficial palliative relief from cancer pain and discomfort).

Research in 2014 indicated that a combination of THC and CBD greatly enhanced the anti-tumor effects of radiation. The Medical Daily followed up on this cancer treatment with cannabinoids, interviewing one of the principals:

We think that the cannabinoids are hitting a number of cell signaling pathways, which primes them to the effects of irradiation. Pre-treatment with the cannabinoids seems to interfere with the ability of the tumour cell to repair the DNA-damaging effects of irradiation.

Being a decorated veteran, presumably the Arizona senator could make use of VA medical care to help fight the brain cancer. Idiotically, however, it may be illegal for his doctors to inform him of this powerful medical possibility. VA physicians are prohibited from discussing possible medical benefits of cannabis with their patients.

Even if John McCain became aware of the brain cancer-fighting properties of marijuana, he might refrain in disdain; when asked about marijuana in 1999, McCain’s views were restrictive.

I can’t support the legalization of marijuana. Scientific evidence indicates that the moment that it enters your body, one, it does damage, and second, it can become addictive. It is a gateway drug.

Medical marijuana could quite possibly save John McCain’s life. Sadly, the possibility that he will be aware of that fact and use cannabis is close to zero. In any case, we wish him the best.

Trump’s Ship of Fools Opioid Panel Will Surely Sink

After wasting 1,000 billion dollars, 45 years, and tens of millions of arrests the war on drugs has produced as highly lethal opioid epidemic. Having promised as a candidate to “take care” of the problem, President Donald Trump has appointed an opioid panel, AKA Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The panel hopes to provide a plan to “take care” of the highly fatal problem by September. Problem is, nearly all panel members are incapacitated by a prejudice against what is likely to be the most useful tool in this fight, medical cannabis.

Leading the president’s panel is New Jersey governor, ex-presidential candidate, and bridge operator Chris Christie. As a former prosecutor, Christie took a law-enforcement heavy approach in his state and focused on a new law monitoring physician pain prescriptions. Still, heroin use, addiction, and death haunt New Jersey.

Opioid addiction is a break down in personal autonomy and self-control. Another disqualification for Christie could be his personal gluttony. As TIME Magazine reported, Chris Christie Racked Up 300k of Food and Alcohol on Expense Account.

Joining Chris Christie on the panel is a range of “experts.”

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law assume a prominent role in the panel. Although he lacks any experience in government, he is tasked with several other important jobs this summer, including reinventing the US government and securing mid-east peace. Apparently though, the Israeli-Palestinian problem is proving difficult, so maybe he will have more time to deal with the opioid epidemic.

 

 

Kellyanne Conway brings to the panel, uh, well, probably a good communication channel to the president, something Christie lacks. However, she recently caused some stir with her remarks about addiction. In referring to those with addiction problems she revealed her recommended solution, “a four-letter word called ‘will’ ”. Senator Ed Markey was quick to respond, “Kellyanne Conway should be ashamed of herself for suggesting that those suffering from substance-use disorders should simply have more ‘will’ ”. If Conway truly views addiction in terms of personal will, perhaps she should consider the will-power of the legendarily gluttonous panel chairman. Chris Christie has spent over $1,000 a week of New Jersey taxpayer money on entertaining, food, and drink.

Patrick Kennedy, ex-congressman and former prescription drug abusing driver, and current Big Pharma flack is next up. Ill deserving of his last name, Kennedy is perhaps best remembered for playing bumper cars in the middle of the night in Washington D.C., under the influence of the psychoactive sleep drug Ambien.  He promised “to seek help for addiction.”  Since then, Kennedy has used his personal addiction issues to become an “expert” in drug abuse, especially focused on the “dangers” of cannabis with his anti-marijuana organization, SAM, Smart About Marijuana.

A couple of governors and treatment industry advocates fill out the commission. Seemingly about the only issue uniting this group is their distaste for medical marijuana. This comes at a time when it is becoming ever more clear that medical cannabis may very well be the best preventative, palliative, and treatment for opioid addiction.

In addition to pure obstinacy and malign neglect of the crucial potential of medical cannabis, the panel’s other big problem is the congressional attack on ObamaCare and medicare. The $800 billion cuts proposed by senate republicans would devastate the already inadequate access to addiction treatment.

So the panel is tasked with solving a quickly growing problem, deadly in its consequences, but with the prospect of far fewer funds for any sort of treatment options.

The only entities getting increased funding under the Trump administration are the traditional profiteers of the war on drugs, prisons, prosecutors, and police, even though our current highly fatal opioid epidemic is tragic proof of the total failure of the trillion dollar war on drugs.

Just last week, the PEW Charitable Trust reported another study showing no relationship between coercive drug laws, robust enforcement and prosecution and the use of drugs and other indicators. The study, like other before it, found:

As Pew’s letter explained, higher rates of drug imprisonment do not translate into lower rates of drug use, fewer drug arrests, or fewer overdose deaths.

An earlier report by PEW found:

Despite substantial expenditures on longer prison terms for drug offenders, taxpayers have not realized a strong public safety return. The self-reported use of illegal drugs has increased over the long term as drug prices have fallen and purity has risen

Drug using behavior is not affected by harsh enforcement. Yet the commission’s proposed solutions are likely more of the same, only with additional harshness, totally deprived of the true healing potential of medical cannabis. The panel is off to a shaky start, already missing its first report deadline.

Dumbed down by cannabigotry and soon to oversee massive treatment defunding, the Trump opioid panel ship of fools may manage little more than their own sinking. Meanwhile over 1,000 Americans a week will breathe their last breath as opioids, especially fentanyl, shut down their respiration.

Is Marijuana Policy Ahead Of The Science? Not.

The new line for federal marijuana prohibitionists seems to be, “I worry that we have gotten away from allowing science to drive our policy when it comes to marijuana.” This doorknob dumb quotation is from someone who should know better, Obama’s former surgeon general, Vivek Murthy.

Clearly, the US has never allowed science to drive marijuana policy, which has been more a witch hunt than a quest for truth.

If science determined US marijuana policy, Congress would have never over-ridden the will of the American Medical Association in 1937 when federal prohibitionist criminalized cannabis. The AMA pleaded, but to no avail:

Since the medicinal use of cannabis has not caused and is not causing addiction, the prevention of the use of the drug for medicinal purposes can accomplish no good end whatsoever. How far it may serve to deprive the public of the benefits of a drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value, it is impossible to foresee.

If science determined US marijuana policy, Richard Nixon would have accepted in 1972 the scientific findings of his own Shafer Commission (The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse). To his horror, the commission found marijuana as least no more dangerous than alcohol and recommended it be handled in the same way. Furious, Nixon instead sought to use marijuana laws to punish hippies, the counterculture, and Viet Nam war protesters:

I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana. Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, domestic council? … I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.

If science determined US marijuana policy, the Drug Enforcement Administration would have taken the findings of its own law Judge Francis Young who in 1988, now nearly 30 years ago, clarified the science of marijuana. He found marijuana to be medically useful, remarkably safe and recommended down scheduling off severe Schedule I.

Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.

In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume.

It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.

Of course, Judge Young’s findings and recommendations fell on deaf ears of DEA administrators who have continued to be unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious. The latest example was current DEA acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg, pictured above,  who made some equally dumb statements at the same Cleveland Clinic conference on opioids where Dr. Murthy spoke. Doing what DEA administrators do — lying –, he said “marijuana is not medicine.” Rosenberg continued,

If it turns out that there is something in smoked marijuana that helps people, that’s awesome. “I will be the last person to stand in the way of that. … But let’s run it through the Food and Drug Administration process, and let’s stick to the science on it.

Of course, the FDA is totally unable to assess the medical value of cannabis in a fair way, mainly because it is a medicinal plant, not a pharmaceutical drug. The central scientific fact to process is that marijuana kills no one. Marijuana kills zero people. DEA Judge Young marveled at this fact back in 1988.

Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.

The other pharmaceutical drugs “run through the FDA process” manage to kill over 100,000 Americans each year, making them a leading cause of death in the USA. Cannabis kills no one. If the DEA administrator were at all curious about the medical value of cannabis, he could check out some of the 22,000 published studies and reviews.

If science determined US marijuana policy, marijuana would have never been classified as a Schedule I drug, and would certainly not have been fossilized as such for nearly half a century, halting nearly all medical research and priming 20 million cruel and needless arrests.

The last thing we need worry about is marijuana policies getting ahead of the science. We need marijuana policies that allow science, something Schedule I does not do. From the considerable cannabis science we do have, clearly marijuana prohibition is a medical and moral crime against humanity.

 

 

 

Cannabis Entrepreneurs Endangered by Jeff Sessions’ Drug War Reboot

The idiotic reboot of the war on drugs occurring under Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a blow to freedom in America. His new guidelines, calling for the maximum prosecution of drug “crimes,” have already been proven failures. They particularly endanger all levels of cannabis entrepreneurs.

As a senator, Jeff Session last year torpedoed a bi-partisan criminal justice reform bill. Legislators from both sides of the aisle, fatigued from the decades-long, prison-filling, trillion dollar war on some drugs, sought to reform drug laws and sentencing. Alarmed, Sessions and other drug war fanatics like Tom Cotton of Arkansas prevented criminal justice reform from advancing two years ago. Now, as Attorney General, Sessions is unleashing the massive forces at his command to prosecute the drug war to a new level of zealotry.

Drug law reformers saw decades of work erased last week with AG Sessions’ draconian, lock-em-up and throw away the key approach to drug cases. His 93 US prosecutors and their 5,000 assistants federal prosecutors are instructed to seek maximum penalties for drug cases and must answer when showing any leniency.

Any possession of marijuana is illegal federally.  The few researchers able to study cannabis in the USA must keep it locked away in a heavy safe on premises as if it were among the planet’s most dangerous substances. Possession of just a few plants or pounds can is cause for a federal felony indictment; suspicion of sale enables federal minimum prison sentences. Families Against Mandatory Minimums FAMM list mandatory minimums of 5 years for possession over 100 marijuana plants, and 20 years for 1,000 plants.

All cannabis entrepreneurs and all workers in this booming industry in legal states now face new danger from Jeff Sessions’ legions. Law enforcement likes to say that its resources are limited, but the Department of Justice has vast assets, including the DEA and the IRS. The Attorney General is now focusing those assets against marijuana, a target of his keen personal hatred for four decades. He couches his tactics in terms of the opioid epidemic, a plague caused not by illegal drugs, but by pharmaceutical drugs. He cherry picks crime statistics to scare with an increase in some crimes to justify a reboot of the war on drugs, saying that illegal drug use and sales cause violent crime. They do not, but drug prohibition certainly does.

In addition to marijuana being persecuted, Sessions’ new cruel guidelines will snag and punish investigators in psychedelic drug research, an area showing great promise for treatment of PTSD and other psychological problems. Psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA, ayahuasca, even LSD are experiencing a renewal, emerging from 40 years of Schedule I repression. These psychoactive substances are helping people cope with trauma, disease, addiction, even impending death. A new survey found psychoactive mushrooms to be the safest ‘recreational’ drug.  Now, with Jeff Sessions goading his federal prosecutors to maximize prosecution and punishment, entrepreneurs helping to increase the availability of these curative substances by growing and distributing will face, if caught by police, decades in prison.

Soon a whole new set of Americans will experience the cruel wrath of a Department of Justice utterly lacking in justice.

Will Trump Defund the Drug Czar?

In a rare display of drug policy sanity, the Trump administration has recommended a nearly total defunding of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, ONDCP. The proposed 95% reduction in the drug czar’s office would eliminate some of the drug war’s most harmful programs.

The ONDCP must, by charter, oppose legalization of any scheduled drug, including marijuana. The drug czar office must necessarily be dishonest and deceitful on such issues as medical marijuana. The drug czar’s office was the brain child of Joe Biden and stretches back 35 years, to 1982. Now the organization’s budget has bloated up to over a million dollars a day. This increase in spending has paralleled not by any reduction in drug use but by an epidemic of opioid addiction and death.  The Trump cut back would still leave half its staff in place, presumably by cutting some of its major — and malevolent — programs.

In 1990 Congress introduced HIDTA, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. Theses are areas receiving special funding for cooperation between federal, state, and local law enforcement. The special zones, run by the drug czar, are rife with un-American police practices.

HIDTAs contribute to one of the drug war’s most evil tools, civil asset forfeiture. Originally conceived to seize the profits of drug lords, American police are using it to seize the money and possessions of common citizens. HIDTA training centers train police specifically on how to take cash from the public, even when not even making an arrest. Most of such lucre can be kept by local law enforcement for its own use. In the lucrative San Diego HIDTA, local laws enforcement used their ill-gotten gains for travel, facilities, and training for taking even more money from citizens. Minorities and poorer communities suffered the most; nearly half the asset seizures were inflicted upon those with Hispanic surnames.

HIDTAs are often funded by the nefarious Bryne Grants, special drug war federal expenditures for funding aggressive task forces. Such task forces did huge harm to minority communities, in many cases incarcerating most of the men and many of the women. NY Times columnist Charles M. Blow wrote an eloquent account of the damage inflicted by Bryne Grant drug war brutality in an essay entitle Smoke and Horrors. He wrote,

Financing prevention is fine. Financing a race-based arrest epidemic is not.

Byrne Grant programs were being phased out under George W. Bush as “an ineffective use of resources.” Sadly, the programs were brought back in a big way by Barack Obama. He got enormous funding for the programs, two billion dollars, as part of the 2009 stimulus package designed to save the economy. Could any worse use be put to two billion dollars than to fund jack boot drug task forces across the country? Think of what amazing health discoveries two billion dollars of funding for medical cannabis would have achieved.

Michelle Alexander wrote about Bryne Grant evils in The Nation, Obama’s Drug War: The administration is promoting failed law enforcement programs as economic stimulus.

Yet another dishonest ONDCP/HIDTA program deserving to die is the National Marijuana Initiative, another propaganda ploy to keep cannabis illegal.

Many have doubts the drug czar’s office will suffer the 95% defunding proposed by Trump. Things do seem suspicious. Both President Trump and Attorney General Sessions are huge fans of asset forfeiture. Perhaps they plan to move asset forfeiture programs like HIDTA to the Department of Justice? Trump and Sessions have indicated great enthusiasm for promoting a more aggressive drug war; removal of hundreds of millions of dollars from the ONDCP would be tough to make up, although DOJ asset forfeiture income is massive.

Another source of pushback against drug czar cuts is congressional democrats. The ONDCP is primarily a democrat invention, masterminded by Joe Biden, funded profusely by all democratic administrations. Since Trump’s announcement of the cuts, many in congress have spoken up to whine about budget cuts during the current opioid epidemic. Virginia democrat Senator Joe Manchin said “You don’t cut 90 percent of funding out of the greatest epidemic that we’ve ever had.” He did not explain how the opioid crisis developed when ONDCP, DEA, and dozens of other agencies are in full drug war mode. Even Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote Trump pleading that the drug czar office be fully funded, apparently unaware of the huge harms the office has inflicted.

Medical cannabis now appears likely to be the best prevention, treatment, and cure of opioid addiction.  Yet the country’s supposed adviser on drugs, the ONDCP, must by charter oppose medical marijuana or any form of legal marijuana. It must lie. Such a concocted mandate, totally divorced from science and from compassion, should rightly doom the ONDCP drug czar office.

Trump Praises Philippine President Duterte’s Genocidal Drug War

Shockingly, President Trump is applauding and rewarding appalling human rights abuses, especially extrajudicial killings, in the Philippines. That island country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, pictured at left with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, approving oversees an illegal and highly lethal “war on drugs.” He has said, “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts … I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

Wikipedia reports that about 9,000 people have died, around a thousand deaths a month. Duterte is quoted:

“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

Trump claims he believes in the “rule of law.” Duterte’s assertions are both dictatorial and deadly. He expressly gives his police permission to also serve as judge, jury, and executioner. He even financially rewarded extrajudicial killings by police.

Yet Trump is untroubled. Writing in the AP, Jim Gomez quotes Philippine presidential spokesman Ernie Abella:

The discussion that transpired between the presidents was warm, with President Trump expressing his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president, especially on the matter of dangerous drugs.

The discussions were so warm, in fact, President Trump invited President Duterte to the White House, further rewarding the bloody carnage in the streets of the Philippines. Trump’s benign views of Duterte’s radical, unlawful, and deadly drug war are horrifying to those believing in the rule of law and the right to life.

The Blatant Anti-Science of Trump’s Drug War Zealots

On March for Science Day, a protest against right-wing anti-science actions, blatant Department of Justice anti-science is the norm. Attorney General Jeff Sessions set the tone. The former US prosecutor has already produced a list of anti-science sentiments, focused mainly on marijuana, but more general too. Contrary to evidence, the Alabaman AG insists that the country is in the grips of a new crime wave, necessitating, of course, a major new war on crime, especially drugs and specifically marijuana. His favorite tools are asset forfeiture and mandatory minimums. Again, contrary to all evidence, Jeff Sessions claims,

Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think…

Actually, there is remarkably little violence associated with state legal cannabis, rather extraordinary for an industry denied banking services and forced into cash.

The Attorney General’s false attempts to tie legal marijuana with violent crime are seconded by his new hardline lieutenant. An ex-prosecutor (of course) Steven Cook has been spreading the authoritarian doctrine that the militant, zero-tolerance war on drugs that helped fill prisons to overflowing was a good thing. Instead of the world’s highest rate of incarceration being an intolerable blight on the so-called “land of the free,” Cook sees such mass caging as the system working as it should, and has joined Sessions in seeking to revitalize the war on drugs.

Yet another, perhaps the most anti-marijuana, anti-science extremist of the lot is the new nominee for drug czar, former congressman Tom Marino of Pennsylvania. As a legislator, Marino voted against cannabis at every opportunity. His heart of darkness was revealed on his no vote for CBD for epilepsy treatment. He has advocated that drug users be confined until they can convince their jailers that they are drug-free.

In addition to such wild anti-science cannabigotry, Tom Marino seems disturbingly tied to Big Pharma. Worried by reduced pill consumption in cannabis legal states, pharmaceutical companies are becoming prime opponents of medical marijuana.

At Philly.com, Chris Goldstein of PHILLY420 writes,

To make it all feel extra gross, Marino takes money from pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists. That has no shock value, because almost all high-level politicians in N.J. and Pa. – especially the Congressional delegations – take some form of pharma campaign cash. Thanks to superPACs, we don’t even really know how much. But again, that’s just business as usual around here.

He adds,

The basis for putting people into handcuffs, jails, courts, prisons, and drug treatment facilities over their choice to consume cannabis was never something from science.

How tied is Marino to Big Pharma? Annabelle Bamforth of Mint Press News calls him, Trump’s Drug Czar Pick Is A Pharmaceutical Industry Darling. reports of his actions as a congressman to protect the types of pill mill pharmacies and pharma companies that so much contributed to America’s current opioid epidemic.

Each of these Justice Department extremists, Sessions, Cook, and Marino have endorsed the old propaganda of marijuana being a “gateway drug.” Science has long ago disproved this doctrine, notably in the 1999 Institute of Medicine Study. But in 2010 Time Magazine called the marijuana gateway theory “the myth that will not die.” Now, seven years later, nearly the entire Trump administration again espouses this myth. This is particularly dangerous, even highly lethal, now that it is known that cannabis may well be an important part of the cure for many Americans addicted to opioids, 90 of whom die every day.

Beyond the Justice Department, the same anti-science, anti-cannabis thinking pervades the entire administration. The anti-science notions of Vice-President Mike Pence are truly ridiculous. In addition to perpetuating anti-marijuana nonsense, the vice president believes, against the findings of science, that marijuana is highly dangerous but tobacco cigarettes are safe. In truth, cigarettes still kill nearly 1,200 Americans per day; cannabis kills zero.

The science of medical cannabis is compelling. Dozens of diseases and maladies are prevented, treated, cured, or at least ameliorated with medical marijuana. The US government has done everything in can to prevent such confirming research, so much of it has been done in countries around the planet. This enormous body of research proving the safety and medical usefulness of marijuana is now clear to all but the most close-minded. Unfortunately, it is these anti-science zealots in power who are actively trying to send cannabis back to the dark ages.

Governors Assert Cannabis States Rights

Kate Brown

With the property and freedom of their constituents being threatened by the federal government, the governors of several cannabis-legal states have sent a clear hands-off message to the feds. Cannabis now has some degree of medical legalization in 28 states and is legal for full adult use in eight states and Washington DC.  But Attorney General (and marijuana-hater) Jeff Sessions has indicated that he will be increasing federal enforcement.

Along with the governors of Washington, Alaska, and Colorado, Oregon Governor Kate Brown was clear in her letter to Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Don’t junk the Obama-era Cole memo that allows cannabis possession and business in legal states.

Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences. Changes that hurt the regulated market would divert existing marijuana product into the black market and increase dangerous activity in both our states and our neighboring states.

The governors also asked for the continued guidance of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). They stated:

Likewise, without the FinCEN guidance, financial institutions will be less willing to provide services to marijuana-related businesses. This would force industry participants to be even more cash reliant, posing safety risks both to the public and to state regulators conducting enforcement activity.

The four western governors noted that now more than 60 percent of Americans live in states with some degree of legalization.

The Cole Memo and FinCEN guidance strike a reasonable balance between allowing the states to enact reasonable regulations and the federal government’s interest in controlling some of the collateral consequences of legalization.

As in other legal states, Oregon’s economy is booming, in no small part to cannabis related jobs and investment. “These are good paying jobs. It’s a pretty diverse business community. Let our people grow these jobs, ” implored Governor Brown. The state’s tax revenue from marijuana sales is substantial and far beyond initial estimates. In an AP interview, Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown elaborated:

This administration very clearly wants to grow the economy and create jobs, and the other piece that they want is to have the states be the laboratories of democracy. There is no better type of laboratory than the initiative process, and voters in Oregon and Washington and California and Alaska and Nevada, and there’s a few other states, have voted to legalize marijuana. On the West coast alone, that’s 49 million people.

In Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has the governor’s back and is ready to go to court to protect Oregonians. So far response by state leaders to the threats posed by the new administration to cannabis users and businesses in legal states has been gratifying.

But a large worry remains: even if Sessions abides totally with the Cole Memo, he could still oversee a brutal war on marijuana by focusing on violation to the memo. As reported recently, the Drug Enforcement Division of the Oregon State Police claims that most of Oregon’s medical marijuana is being diverted, much of it to other states, a key violation of the memo. Quite probably, this sets the stage fierce federal prosecutions of citizens of Oregon and other legal states. Hopefully, new federal legislation, some of it from the Oregon delegation, will help end the war on marijuana.

Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation

An Extraordinary “Path to Marijuana Reform” by Two Oregon Congressmen

Two Oregon congressional democrats, a senator and a representative, show ground-breaking leadership with their “Path to Marijuana Reform.”  Three pieces of excellent legislation showcase the effort by Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Earl Blumenauer. This proposal has excellent cannabis policy goals. It would:

  • Deschedule Marijuana Completely. No Schedule II, maybe Schedule III, categories that would leave cannabis in the clutches of the DEA. One of the Oregonians’ proposals, the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, would remove cannabis entirely from the Controlled Substance Act, freeing it from most federal control. States would be free to prohibit or legalize with their choices and their votes. As with alcohol and tobacco, marijuana products would be subject to a federal excise tax.
  • Provide Tax Equity. Although descheduling would effectively free cannabis business owners from the ruinous tax restrictions of IRS 280E, The Small Business Tax Equity Act would explicitly change the tax code to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to use normal business deductions. The act has a bi-partisan cosponsor, cannabis freedom fighter Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.
  • Enable Banking Equity. Again, descheduling would remove most of the legal objections bankers have with dealing with cannabis businesses. Even so, banking inequity along with a host of other key cannabis injustices, are addressed by the third piece of legislation, the Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act.
  • Protect Against Asset Forfeiture.  This act will provide protection against Jeff Sessions’ favorite tool, asset forfeiture for state-legal activities.
  • Promotes Medical Cannabis Research. The act removes many of the road blocks that have (so immorally) blocked most medical cannabis research in the USA.

This is the biggest and best cannabis reform ever to be introduced to the US Congress. Bernie Sanders tried to deschedule cannabis in the Senate last term, but got no cosponsors.

For this observer, a favorite provision of the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act “would require that within 60 days of enactment of this Act, the Attorney General remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances under the CSA.” I would enjoy observing Jeff Sessions having to remove marijuana from the CSA.

Oregon is blessed with some of the very finest in congress. Ron Wyden is the powerful Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member. Earl Blumenauer has consistently stood with cannabis law reform and helped create and pass some of the first true national legislation protecting Americans in legal states. Both patriots work for the rights of Oregon voters and the civil and health rights of all Americans.

Photo by Jeff Blume OregonLive

State Police Marijuana Report Targets Oregon For Federal Prosecutions

A new document out of the state police’s drug enforcement division on marijuana seems to invite federal prosecution to Oregon. The report is called A Baseline Evaluation of Cannabis Enforcement Priorities in Oregon, January 2017.  Oregonian/ Oregon Live reporter Noelle Crombie published details and conclusions of the report. The findings of the state police drug cops seem to be written to justify federal prosecutions in Oregon. They will find eager audience in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office, command center the entire US Department of Justice.

The OSP report claimed that Oregon is a major source of marijuana exported to other states. Such alleged distribution would be a clear violation of the Cole Memo, the Obama-era justice department guidance on federal prosecution of marijuana in medically-legal states. As reported by Crombie, the analysis claims Oregon marijuana production exceeds demand:

It found that Oregon has an “expansive geographic footprint” on the black market across the country. A half-dozen counties — Jackson, Multnomah, Josephine, Lane, Deschutes and Washington — “lead the way” in supplying much of what’s shipped out of state, the analysis said.

Some cannabis activists found encouragement in Session’s declaration that parts of the Cole Memo were “valid.” In reality, Jeff Sessions could enshrine the Cole Memo in his office (unlikely) and still wage a ruinous war on in legal state violations of the memo. This would include, specifically, movement of cannabis out of Oregon to other states. Sessions is champing at the bit, telling his prosecutors, before he fired them, to be aggressive. “Happy hunting.”

From the report’s Executive Summary And Purpose:

The focal points of this section are derived from the federal guidance, issued by former
DOJ Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, on –

  • Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states
  • Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity .

The report’s Strategic Findings:

  • Diverted Oregon cannabis has an expansive geographic footprint and has been detected
    outside of the United States.
  • Six Oregon counties are tied to the majority of diversion activity in the state, accounting for 76 percent of diversion seizures by weight and 81 percent of diversion incidents; these counties were also tied to the majority of destinations.
  • Oregon originated cannabis is trafficked to known distribution hubs across the Southeastern, Midwestern, and Northeastern United States. Specifically, the states of Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Florida represent statistically significant destinations.
  • There is a geographic relationship between the state-authorized Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) registrants and dominant diversion counties (originating counties of diversion activity).

Even if these allegations were true, how negative a situation does that actually make? The OSP drug cops claim eager consumers in states receiving Oregon cannabis are somehow harmed by this agricultural product.

In truth, cannabis is a non-toxic, highly medicinal substance. Residents in other states benefit from distribution to them of high quality Oregon marijuana. Medically, cannabis is often superior to pharmaceuticals for a host of conditions. People can get pain relief without the risks of opioids. Again and again, cannabis shows that it can help reduce opioid addiction and death. Like residents of legal states, citizens in these unfortunately still-illegal states can use cannabis to reduce alcohol consumption, making for safer highways. Federal denial of Oregon cannabis to these Americans reduces their freedom to buy safer products and to make their own health choices.

Were the feds truly interested in anti-drug activities for the health of Americans, they would be pulling over tractor-trailers of the cigarettes that kill 1,300 of their countrymen each day, and burning their lethal contents in Kentucky roadside bonfires. The feds would be raiding the opioid factories and the pharmaceutical companies poisoning small rural counties with 100s of millions of opioid doses. They would be fighting enormous numbers of liquor stores plaguing neighborhoods instead of persecuting relatively safe cannabis.

Unfortunately, Attorney General Jeff Session does not see it that way. He, and the massive Department of Justice he leads, are locked and loaded to undertake persecutions and prosecutions of violations of federal marijuana law. This self-serving Oregon State Police document may give him the quick opportunity to bring down a brutal new war on marijuana in this progressive state, wounding Oregon’s cannabis entrepreneurs, crimping the state’s economy, and shrinking its booming employment.

 

Jeff Sessions: Marijuana is “slightly less awful” than heroin.

Good news for the 30 million Americans who consume cannabis; your Attorney General has declared that your preference is “less awful” than a heroin habit, although “only slightly.” Jeff Session again betrays his medieval marijuana mindset in a speech given to law enforcement.

The Trump administration has already tried to link the country’s opioid epidemic with marijuana. In reality cannabis consumption has nothing to do with America’s addiction to pharmaceutical opioids, fentanyl, and heroin.

Just the opposite. Mounting evidence shows that use of safe, never-lethal cannabis can reduce, even end, use of addictive and often fatal opioids. The attorney general is aware of this fact, but defiant to the truth.

 And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.  Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life.

So, Sessions’ definition of “drugs” includes marijuana and heroin, with little difference between them. He does not appear to include the truly addictive and deadly drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Matt Novak reports how Jeff Sessions, Anti-Weed Crusader Was a Shill for Big Tobacco. Regarding alcohol, Sessions was furious when former president Obama conceded that marijuana was less dangerous than alcohol:

I have to tell you, I’m heartbroken to see what the president said just a few days ago. It’s stunning to me. I find it beyond comprehension….This is just difficult for me to conceive how the president of the United States could make such a statement as that.

Apparently, Sessions is unaware that alcohol kills tens of thousands of Americans each year while marijuana kills zero.

The attorney general focused on the real drug issue of the day in his law enforcement speech:

Our nation is in the throes of a heroin and opioid epidemic.  Overdose deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014.  According to the CDC, about 140 Americans on average now die from a drug overdose each day.  That means every three weeks, we are losing as many American lives to drug overdoses as we lost in the 9/11 attacks.

What Session’s forgot to mention here is that the epidemic of opioid addiction and high number of deaths are the end result of this country’s half-century, trillion-dollar war on drugs. The heavy-handed, lock-em-up approach the AG seeks to revive and amplify is a failed policy, clear as the inscriptions on thousands of new gravestones across the midwest.

In the meantime we can only dream for the day when we get an attorney general “slightly less awful” than Jeff Sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017 Gets More Cosponsors

H.R.1227, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017, has been introduced and is gaining cosponsors in the House of Representatives.

This bill would end decades of “unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious” federal criminalization of cannabis. The legislation was sponsored by Virginia Representative Tom Garrett, a freshman republican in the state’s 5th district. Joining from across the aisle, is Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, an original cosponsor. Another original cosponsor is Scott Taylor, also a freshman republican from Virginia.

The legislation would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act and classify it with alcohol and tobacco, essentially the same as Bernie Sander’s proposed legislation in the last congress. Although cannabis presents none of the dangers of these two deadly substances, this classification is still a good regulatory home for marijuana. Free, free at last from the clutches of the DEA.

Marijuana policies would be managed by states with their own state laws, as should have been done all along. Banking and tax issues (280E) that have hindered cannabis industry would disappear.

New cosponsors have joined up: Congressional Cannabis Caucus members Jared Polis [D-CO2], Earl Blumenauer [D-OR3], Don Young [R-AK0], along with Justin Amash, [R-MI3] are now cosigners.

The bad news is the legislation will likely be blocked by longtime anti-cannabis crusaders Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), and Rep. Greg Walden, who unfortunately head, respectively, the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. These men alone get to make the decision as to whether a bill makes it out of committee and into the full House. Without their consent, the legislation dies in their hands, the probably fate of this sensible bill.

This occurred last congress in the senate where Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley kept the cannabis rescheduling bill, CARERS, from going anywhere, despite its many cosponsors.

It is difficult to see how any cannabis law reform legislation will every make it into even a vote in congress, as long as marijuana dinosaurs like Goodlatte and Grassley control judiciary committees.

An excellent way to send your support for this timely legislation is to sign Oregon activist Russ Belville’s petition, Tell Congress to Let States Decide Their Own Marijuana Policies. The wonderfully worded petition will be sent to Rep. Tom Garrett, who could use your encouragement, and to Goodlatte and Walden, who need your prodding.

 

Wait, is Germania Holding Cannabis?

It sure looks like Germania, an important icon of Germany, is holding cannabis in this painting by Veit from 1848.  As a concept, Germania is defined in Wikipedia as,

The personification of the German nation or the Germans as a whole, most commonly associated with the Romantic Era and the Revolutions of 1848, though the figure was later used by Imperial Germany.

Germania is also the Roman name for German lands, occupied by Rome for centuries.

In this iconic painting by German Romantic painter Philipp Veit (13 February 1793 – 18 December 1877), Germania as this personification certainly appears to be holding hemp, carrying cannabis. Does she not? Click here for a closer view.

Somewhat disappointingly the Wikipedia entry for Germania omits any mention of cannabis or hemp. However, in his book, Marijuana Medicine, German anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist  Christian Rätsch captioned the Veit painting:

Germania, the personified spirit of the 1848 German Revolution, holds a hemp branch, a symbol of peace and liberation, in her right hand. (German oil painting by Philipp Veit, 1848)

Luckily, if Germania were caught today by the German police carrying cannabis, quite likely it would be legal, as of only January 2017. For in that month, the German parliament took the historical step of legalizing medical cannabis in Germany. If unaffordable, the medical cannabis will be paid by government health insurance. The downside is that use will be limited to a few medical conditions and patients will not be allowed to grow their own cannabis. Look for both these limitations to wane in the coming years.

As reported in BMJ, “Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, known by the acronym BfArM, is creating an agency to oversee the cultivation of marijuana and the subsequent production of cannabis to be used medicinally.”

To be part of Germany’s (and Europe’s) cannabis transformation, join the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) April 10-12 2017 in Berlin.

The End of The Beginning: Trump Persecution of Non-Medical Marijuana Coming Soon

The presidential administration has thrown down the gauntlet. Trump’s extraordinarily marijuana-hating cabinet, especially drug war fossil Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is champing at the bit to persecute marijuana. The recent state legalizations of adult use (aka recreational) may end, and may even be dismantled. In response, new, fortified, strengthened, and broadened medical initiatives will likely be enacted by state voters.

Spicer’s announcement that non-medical marijuana faces increased federal enforcement foretells of idiotically anti-business, pro-big government coercive action.

So far, Trump’s drug war comments and tweets have been alarming. He has praised the Rodrigo “Rody” Roa Duterte’s Philippine drug war, an obscene catastrophe that has seen thousands murdered in state sanctioned killings. Trump has spoken enthusiastically about asset seizure, even threatening the careers of state representatives opposing the hideously un-American practice of big government directly taking citizen’s property and possessions.

Jeff Session’s coming cannabis crackdown is a job-killing anti-business blunder, a direct attack on the booming legal cannabis industry, which is providing good jobs, high employment, bountiful state taxes, and invigorating entrepreneurial energy in adult-use legal states.

One of the most disturbing aspects of Spicer’s marijuana musings was his wildly bogus link to the country’s very real opioid epidemic with cannabis use. This assertion is easily refuted: Big Pharma pill mills, like those that flooded a Wet Virginia country with nearly a billion opioid doses, caused this epidemic. Indeed, medical cannabis may well be the very best way to end addiction and danger from death of opioids. Spicer’s willingness to promote such a malignant marijuana myth may indicate another drug war big lie tactic from the Trump administration.

The new focus on the evil recreational adult-use of cannabis, as opposed to the more tolerable medical use, calls for new state medical initiatives. More on this soon.

Other state actions in medical and adult-use legalized states should include specific non-cooperation between state and local LEO with federal law enforcement. This may be hard to manage, as the feds can directly bribe with their ill-gained asset forfeiture lucre. State legislation narrowing and eliminating civil asset forfeiture should be enacted, though this is doubtful as state legislatures become redder across the country.

Jury nullification on the federal level might well stifle federal prosecutions, especially as the renewed US attack on cannabis so violates public opinion on cannabis freedom. Of course, for ruinous civil asset forfeiture, the government needs no guilty verdict, not even a prosecution, nor even a criminal charge, to confiscate citizen’s real estate and other possessions.

All Americans, but especially those citizens in adult-use (recreational) at least seven legalized states, plus DC,  need be aware of this renewed federal attack on your personal freedom and financial well-being. To sign a petition requesting the president respect state laws, click here.

Big government is coming for you.

Trump’s Cannabis Crazy Cabinet: HHS Secretary Tom Price

Tom Price, Donald Trump’s selection to head the gigantic Health and Human Services Administration, is an anti-marijuana extremist.

It is as if the President is appointing cabinet members based on their anti-marijuana zealotry.

The HHS is a massive federal grouping of health care and related organizations. Decisions in many of these organizations are very important to the status of marijuana, especially medical use, in the USA and around the world. Some of the dozens of components of this federal giant most relevant to marijuana status include:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

Into the leadership of the HHS steps a clear enemy of marijuana, its users, and its legalization, Rep. Tom Price R-GA. During his long career as congressman, Price has had many opportunities to vote against marijuana reform. Among his worst offenses are repeatedly voting against the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendments that (up until next April) have ended enforcement of federal marijuana law in states where cannabis is legal medically. He also voted (three times) to prohibit VA physicians from even discussing medical marijuana for pain and PTSD.

of the Washington Post did a great job of cataloging Price’s problems with cannabis in “Donald Trump adds another marijuana opponent to his Cabinet.” Ingraham wrote,

Kevin Sabet of the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group, called the Price pick “encouraging,” saying “HHS plays a big role in drug prevention and I think that what we need is more awareness and prevention around marijuana.”

Sabet is correct about HHS’ huge role in marijuana policy in the USA. Unfortunately, Tom Price will be a key anti-cannabis propagandist as HHS Secretary. His prohibitionist views closely align with those of anti-marijuana crusader and (gasp) Attorney General Jeff Sessions, cannabis-hating Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, and all the rest of the radical right Trump cabinet.

Tom Price – Caricature | by DonkeyHotey