Federal District Court Judge Asks: Should Federal Law Classify Cannabis As One Of The Nation’s Most Dangerous Drugs?

Marijuana and the LawTestimony regarding the constitutionality of the federal statute designating marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance will be taken on Monday, October 27 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in the case of United States v. Pickard, et. al., No. 2:11-CR-0449-KJM.

Members of Congress initially categorized cannabis as a Schedule I substance, the most restrictive classification available, in 1970. Under this categorization, the plant is defined as possessing “a high potential for abuse, … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, … [and lacking] accepted safety for … use … under medical supervision.”

Expert witnesses for the defense – including Drs. Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University in New York City, retired physician Phillip Denny, and Greg Carter, Medical Director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington – will testify that the accepted science is inconsistent with the notion that cannabis meets these Schedule I criteria.

“[I]t is my considered opinion that including marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is counter to all the scientific evidence in a society that uses and values empirical evidence,” Dr. Hart declared. “After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”

The government intends to call Bertha Madras, Ph.D., Professor of Psychobiology at Harvard Medical School and the former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush.

Additional evidence has been presented by way of declarations by Marine Sgt. Ryan Begin, a veteran of the Iraq War; Jennie Stormes, the mother of a child suffering from Dravet Syndrome – a pediatric form of epilepsy that has been shown in preliminary trials to respond to specific compounds in the cannabis plant; James Nolan, Ph.D. an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at West Virginia University and a former crime analyst for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Christopher Conrad, noted cannabis author, archivist, and cultivation expert.

This is the first time in recent memory that a federal judge has granted an evidentiary hearing on a motion challenging the statute which classifies cannabis to be one of the most dangerous illicit substances in the nation. Attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke, both members of the NORML Legal Committee, contend that the federal government’s present policies facilitating the regulated distribution of cannabis in states such as Colorado and Washington can not be reconciled with the insistence that the plant is deserving of its Schedule I status under federal law.

They write: “In effect, the action taken by the Department of Justice is either irrational, or more likely proves the assertions made in Part I (B) of this Brief: marijuana does not fit the criteria of a Schedule I Controlled Substance.”

Speaking recently in a taped interview with journalist Katie Couric, United States Attorney General Eric Holder expressed the need to revisit cannabis’ Schedule I placement under federal law. Holder said, “[T]he question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that I think we need to ask ourselves, and use science as the basis for making that determination.”

The testimonial part of the evidentiary hearing in United States v. Pickard, et. al., is expected to last three days.

Florida Amendment 2: Medical Marijuana Showdown in the South

Yes on Amendment 2On November 4, Florida voters will have the opportunity to vote on an amendment to their state constitution, Amendment 2, to establish a medical marijuana program in that state. This vote is especially important as it would be the first southern state to legalize medical use, and would likely encourage other states in the region to take a serious look at the use of marijuana as a medicine for seriously ill patients.

Why A Constitutional Amendment?

Fearful that the conservative Republican state legislature would have passed legislation overriding such a change, if it were simply a state law changed by voter initiative, People United for Medical Marijuana, the sponsor of this proposal, elected to try to include the policy changes as an amendment to the state constitution. Amendment 2, the Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions initiative, must therefore receive 60 percent of votes cast to be enacted as a constitutional amendment, a high goal and a real challenge for any proposal to meet. That decision is one that may be instructive for future voter initiatives, with most polls currently showing we will win a majority of votes, but likely less than 60 percent.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS COLUMN, GO TO MARIJUANA.COM

 

 

Majority of Delawareans Support Legalizing Marijuana

cropsAccording to a poll released this morning by the University of Delaware, a strong majority of residents favor legalizing and regulating the adult use of marijuana.

The poll revealed that 56% of Delawareans support legalizing marijuana while just 39% were opposed. Individuals over the age of 60 and self-identified conservatives were the only demographic groups without majority support.

Commenting on the poll, University of Delaware political communications professor Paul Brewer stated, “I would say the numbers suggest solid support for fully legalizing marijuana in Delaware. The results also reflect what’s going on in public opinion at the national level, where the trends show a growing majority favoring legalization.”

Pro-legalization state Senator Bryan Townsend said he hopes this data helps compel the state to move forward on broad reforms.

“The poll just shows there is broad support for this,” said Sen. Townsend (D-Newark), “I hope this is a wake-up call to the General Assembly that a majority of Delawareans support us moving in this direction.”

The data coming out of Delaware is in line with the ongoing trend to support marijuana legalization at the national level. Clearly, seeing the path blazed by Washington and Colorado has only embolden residents of other states to support similar reforms.

You can read more about this poll here.

NORML PAC Endorses Senator Cory Booker for US Senate

bookerNORML PAC has endorsed Senator Cory Booker (NJ) for re-election the the United States Senate representing New Jersey.

“We endorsed Cory Booker during his election campaign in 2013 and we are honored to do so again,” stated NORML PAC manager Erik Altieri, “Senator Booker kept the promises he made to champion crucial criminal justice and marijuana reform issues in his first term. If re-elected for a full six year term this fall, he will be a strong crusader for rolling back our failed war on cannabis at the federal level. We encourage New Jersey voters to support him in his campaign.”

In an previous interview with Huffington Post, Booker laid out his view on marijuana policy and the drug war:

“Medical marijuana, heck yes. I do not understand that there are drugs that are more toxic, more dangerous and more challenging, in drugs stores around my state, yet we single out this one drug and we say you can’t even have it in a medical fashion, at a time when I see prescription drugs from Adderall to you name it being used widely across our nation…

The reason I said I want to go beyond that…is because of the drug war.

We have seen so much of our national treasure being spent in the national drug war and in my opinion have turned human life into incarceration, trapping into poverty…

What I’ve seen in Newark is a massive trap in this drug war, and its not just a trap for the individuals being arrested, it’s a trap for taxpayers, communities and towns. We’re not making our nation safer with this assault on this drug war, we are not making our state less addicted to substances. We need to change, radically change, the conversation and begin to talk about drugs, especially drugs like pot, in a different way.

This is a conversation that no matter what I do, Mayor, Governor, Senator, I want to be one of the people, hopefully, trying to lead the national conversation away from this insanity that we have now.”

During his first year in office, Sen. Booker joined forces with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to introduce an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have prohibited the federal government from spending taxpayer money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. The measure ultimately did not come up for a vote, due to political maneuvering unrelated to the marijuana issue, but it marks the first time in recent history the issue was brought up in a positive way in the upper chamber of the US Congress. We fully expect, if re-elected, that Senator Booker will continue to be one of the most prominent and effective champions for federal reform in the Senate.

You can learn more about Senator Booker’s campaign, including how to donate and volunteer, by visiting his website or Facebook page.

NORML PAC Endorses Representative Blumenauer for Congress

NORML PAC has endorsed Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) in his campaign to be re-elected to the US House of Representatives.

“Rep. Blumenauer has been a supporter and proponent of marijuana law reform since his days in the Oregon State Legislature decades ago,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “In Congress, he has introduced and championed bills that would dismantle our federal war on cannabis and we encourage voters in his district to re-elect him for another term so he can keep pursuing these important policy changes.”

As Congressman, in addition to being a primary sponsor or co-sponsor on all federal pro-marijuana law reform measures, Blumenauer published an in-depth report titled “A Path Forward: Rethinking Marijuana Policy” which calls for an end to federal prohibition and advocates for many of the reforms NORML has been fighting for all these years.

Rep. Blumenauer has also been a notable presence at the federal marijuana hearings this year being held by the Committee on Government Oversight. You can watch him call out ONDCP acting director Botticelli below:

Click here to view the embedded video.

One of Rep. Blumenauer’s re-election campaign ads focuses on marijuana law reform and calls for allowing states the freedom to set their own marijuana policies and pursue legalization:

Click here to view the embedded video.

More information on Rep. Blumenauer and his campaign, including how to volunteer or donate, can be found on his website or Facebook page.

Afroman Remakes “Because I Got High” to Support Legalization

Afroman Remakes Because I Got HighNearly fifteen years after the release of “Because I Got High”- a song well known for poking fun at overzealous reefer madness rhetoric – Afroman is ready to jump headfirst back into the marijuana limelight.  Only this time, as an advocate for legalization.

The grammy nominated artist recently teamed up with NORML and Weedmaps to launch a remake of his hit song, turning the hip hop classic into a positive legalization anthem for the 2014 elections. The remix is a new and entertaining way to drive the narrative surrounding the benefits of cannabis law reform, as well as the medical benefits of the plant itself. With election day right around the corner, his latest project is geared towards keeping up the momentum for all the marijuana law reform efforts taking place across the country, and especially upcoming ballot initiatives.

On November 4th, two states and the District of Columbia will be voting to legalize marijuana, and Florida will be voting on a medical marijuana amendment. The timing couldn’t have been better to take, and remake the canna-cult classic. The 2014 version of “Because I Got High” not only challenges old stereotypes, it also seeks to build support and enthusiasm for the three measures proposing to create a regulated pot market for adults, age 21 and over.

Through digital engagement, this song pushes an important political message to a younger, social media savvy voting block, energizing the demographic known to be the among the biggest supporters of ending marijuana prohibition. From glaucoma to funding school construction, the song highlights many of the social, medical and economic benefits of legalization in a fun and informative way.

“NORML is thrilled to have brought Weedmaps and Afroman together to create this unique cultural collaboration merging art, entertainment, and activism into a single campaign that highlights many of the positive benefits of cannabis, and raises awareness for for the legalization initiatives coming up in the 2014 November elections,” said NORML Director of Strategic Partnerships Sabrina Fendrick.

Check out the video and share with all your like-minded friends.  Together, we can #SmokeTheVote!

Israeli Researchers To Study Anti-Tumor Effects of CBD In Cancer Patients

Israeli investigators intend to evaluate the potential anti-tumoral effects of the canabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) in select cancer patients.

Researchers at the Hassadah Medical Center in Jerusalem will conduct a Phase II clinical trial to assess the impact of CBD as single treatment in cancer patients who have failed to respond to conventional therapies. Participants in the trial will receive CBD therapy for a period of eight weeks.

Data documenting the potent anti-cancer activity of various cannabinoids – including THC, CBD, and CBG – both in culture and in animals dates back to the mid-1970s. To date, however, virtually no clinical trials exist reproducing these results in human subjects.

In August, pharmaceutical provider Insys Therapeutics announced that it had received orphan drug status for its proprietary formulation of CBD for the treatment of glioblastoma, a hard-to-treat, aggressive form of brain cancer.

Organic CBD remains classified under federal law as a schedule I controlled substance.

Further details of the forthcoming Israeli trial are available online from the clinicaltrials.gov website here. Patient recruitment has yet to begin for this study.

Great Uncertainty Ahead of Alaska Measure 2 Vote

In what may be the most difficult ballot initiative to evaluate in advance of the upcoming mid-term elections, the voters in Alaska will decide on November 4 whether to approve full marijuana legalization for all adults, including retail sales.

For most of us, Alaska, the largest state in the Union by area, and the least densely populated, is an exotic location, far removed from the Lower 48 both geographically and culturally. The largest city, Anchorage, has a population of only 292,000, and the second largest, Fairbanks, has only 32,000 residents. The Alaska territory was purchased from Russia in 1867 and only became a state in 1959. The state has always leaned heavily Republican, which might suggest it would be an unlikely state for marijuana legalization to appear on the ballot; but the state is also known as the home of a lot of people who want to minimize the role of government in their lives, which would appear to bode well for legalizers.

History of Marijuana Legalization in Alaska

To read the balance of this article, go to

http://marijuana.com/news/2014/10/great-uncertainty-ahead-of-alaska-measure-2-vote/

 

 

NORML PAC Endorses Representative Beto O’Rourke for US Congress

betomemeNORML PAC is endorsing Representative Beto O’Rourke (TX-16) for re-election the the US House of Representatives.

“Rep. O’Rourke is an ardent supporter of reforming our nation’s marijuana policies,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “In just his first term, he has proven to be an intelligent and pragmatic politician with a long future in front of him. We strongly encourage voters to support his re-election campaign to keep a true reform champion in Congress.”

Representative O’Rourke issued the following statement to supporters and voters on the topic:

“Those of us who live in this region, in El Paso and Juarez, have a unique perspective on the war on drugs. We know that billions of dollars in cash, drugs, guns and arms are transited through this community. We know that billions of dollars in federal resources from the United States and Mexico are spent on law enforcement to try and stop that illicit drug trade. And we also know, all too well, the suffering that accompanies that black market trade in illegal drugs. It is because of that experience and looking back over the 40-year, failed war on drugs that I’ve come to the conclusion that at least when it comes to a drug like marijuana, we owe ourselves, and especially our kids, a much better policy.

As a rational and humane country, we can decide, as we did with alcohol that the harms in the prohibition of marijuana far outweigh any gains in security and in our efforts to keep these drugs away from our fellow citizens.

If you support my work and advocacy on this issue, I hope I can count on your help.”

For the next 24 hours, Rep. O’Rourke will be running a “Powered by People” campaign with the goal of raising $123,200 in amounts less than $200 to illustrate that everyday citizens can compete with special interests in politics and issues such as marijuana law reform drive voter engagement. If you are interested in donating to this campaign you can do so by clicking here (donations are tracked so donations made through this link will show as support for his marijuana reform stance).

Marijuana Use Is Associated With Increased Survival In Brain Injury Patients

Marijuana Use Is Associated With Increased Survival In Brain Injury PatientsTraumatic brain injury (TBI) patients with a history of cannabis use possess increased survival rates compared to non-users, according data published this month in the scientific journal The American Surgeon.

UCLA Medical Center investigators conducted a three-year retrospective review of brain trauma patients. Data from 446 separate cases of similarly injured patients was assessed. Of those patients who tested positive for the presence of marijuana, 97.6 percent survived surgery. By contrast, patients who tested negative for the presence of pot prior to surgery possessed only an 88.5 percent survival rate.

“[O]ur data suggest an important link between the presence of a positive THC screen and improved survival after TBI,” the authors concluded. “This finding has support in previous literature because the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids have been implicated in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. … With continued research, more information will be uncovered regarding the therapeutic potential of THC, and further therapeutic interventions may be established.”

The abstract of the study, “Effect of marijuana use on outcomes in traumatic brain injury,” appears online here.