UPDATE: Oklahoma Board of Health Revokes Previous Undemocratic Meddling with Medical Marijuana

The Oklahoma Board of Health reversed course this week and revoked their previous set of proposed rules that went against the intent of SQ 788, which voters approved in the June special election. The measure, which legalized medical marijuana in the state, was approved with support from 57% of voters.

After SQ 788’s passage, the board initially attempted to meddle with its implementation, passing rules that would have banned or severely restricted key components of the ballot question – including a ban on the retail sale of herbal cannabis, a requirement that dictated that dispensaries hire state-licensed pharmacists, and an arbitrary limit on the THC content of medical cannabis products. These former proposed rules have all been reversed.

“The actions taken by an unelected group of health officials in Oklahoma were egregiously undemocratic. We are heartened to see them now reverse course, but they should have never attempted to meddle with a voter approved measure in the first place. It is our hope that state officials take heed at the nearly unanimous backlash they faced due to these actions and move to swiftly enact SQ 788 in the patient-centric manner the ballot language called for,” commented NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri.

This reversal comes shortly after the state’s Attorney General warned health officials that they “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788. These new rules now go to Governor Fallin’s desk, she has 45 days to approve or reject them.

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NORML Chapter Newsletter

Everyday NORML Chapters from around the country invest countless hours in advocating for meaningful marijuana law reforms on the local, state and federal level! Below is a brief rundown of some of their most recent accomplishments.

Lehigh Valley NORML Continues Push to Decriminalize Possession of Marijuana

Members of Lehigh Valley NORML are circulating a petition with the hopes of convincing members of the Easton City Council to reconsider an ordinance that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

Read more from The Morning Call!

Follow Lehigh Valley NORML on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter today!

 

Collaboration and Education Remain a Priority for Kentucky NORML

Members of Kentucky NORML recently teamed up with the Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition (KCFC), Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana (KY4MM), the Alliance for Innovative Medicine (AIM), to host an educational forum.

Read more from NORML.org!

Follow Kentucky NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

NORML Leaders in the Media

NORML Chapter Leadership in Pennsylvania Question Police Tactics That Led to Man’s Death Over Small Marijuana Grow

“The body of a suspect in the case, Pennsylvania resident Gregory A. Longenecker, was found earlier this week under a bulldozer operated by a Pennsylvania Game Commission worker. The bulldozer was carrying a Pennsylvania state trooper in pursuit of Mr. Longenecker, who was suspected to have been cultivating ten marijuana plants in Penn Township, PA. A police helicopter was also used in the search.”

Read more from NORML.org!

Follow NORML on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and become a member today!

Mikel Weisser, Executive Director, Arizona NORML

“Exactly how many cannabis extracts Arizona patients consume isn’t known for sure, but products with extracts are among the best sellers at many dispensaries. Mikel Weisser, executive director of Arizona’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws chapter, estimated concentrates made up about 40 percent of dispensary sales.”

Read more from the Phoenix New Times!

Follow Arizona NORML on Instagram and Twitter and become a member today!

Dale Geringer, Executive Director, California NORML

But it’s still a felony to use minors to sell cannabis or to repeatedly grow large amounts of marijuana without a license, and advocates say they never expected marijuana-related arrests would drop to zero under the new law. “That’s like saying no one is arrested for alcohol anymore because alcohol is legal,” said Dale Gieringer, director of the advocacy group California NORML.

Read more from The Mercury News!

Follow California NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

Dale Geringer, Executive Director, California NORML

“Edibles are attractive to young people and pets,” said Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). “The new labeling and packaging rules mandated by Prop. 64 should alleviate the problem.”

Read more from the L.A. Times!

Follow California NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

Ellen Komp, Deputy Director, California NORML

“According to the Attorney General’s annual crime report for 2017, arrests for marijuana offenses dropped precipitously in California following the passage of Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use for adults in November 2016.”

Read more from City Watch!

Follow California NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

Cynthia Ferguson, Executive Director, Delaware NORML

Cynthia Ferguson, executive director of Delaware’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the new measure is not enough but is a step in the right direction. “It’s nice for first-timers. Expungement is a big thing. When you are charged with a cannabis crime I don’t care if it’s one time or five times, it’s ridiculous,” she said.

Read more from WHYY!

Follow Delaware NORML on Facebook and Instagram and become a member today!

David Phipps, Communications Director, Indiana NORML

“You’re going to be shocked,” says David Phipps, the communications director for the Indiana chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, when asked for a prediction. “I think we have a realistic chance, as long as we do a good job with the summer study, educating our legislators on the truth behind this. I think we can get it as early as the next General Assembly.”

Read more from the Indianapolis Monthly!

Follow Indiana NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

Abner Brown, Executive Director, North Carolina NORML

Now the head of North Carolina National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, he and others are touring the Tar Heel State, talking with residents and hoping to see cannabis legalized in 2019. Brown said the group will be working in 2018, ahead of the 2019 long General Assembly session.

Read more from WECT!

Follow North Carolina NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

Jay Selthofner, Executive Director, Northern Wisconsin NORML

“Several counties in Wisconsin could have referendums for legalizing marijuana on the ballot this fall including La Crosse, Rock, Brown, Dane, Winnebago, Racine and Marathon. Selthofner says public polling on the issue clearly indicates a shift in perception on marijuana and legalization, he says, appears inevitable.”

Read more from WIZM Talk News!

Follow Northwest Wisconsin NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

Jay Selthofner, Executive Director, Northern Wisconsin NORML

“I think once we have plants in the ground and they see it’s processed just like any agricultural crop a lot of our legislators are going to look at marijuana, medical marijuana differently,”

Read more from Fox 11 News!

Follow Northwest Wisconsin NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

Norma Sapp, Executive Director, Oklahoma NORML

Norma Sapp of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws remains optimistic. “Yes it’s going to be close. And we knew that going into it.  But it’s not impossible.  It depends on how fast they count the signatures,” Sapp said.

Read more from News 9!

Follow Oklahoma NORML on Facebook and become a member today!

Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML

“This story went worldwide. The family collected more than $ 60,000 in donations on their GoFundMe page,” said Tom McCain, executive director of Peachtree NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). “It changed their lives. Whether it has any effect on changing Georgia laws, I doubt it.”

Read more from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution!

Follow Peachtree NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

Eric Marsch, Executive Director, Southeastern Wisconsin NORML

If Wisconsinites don’t vote pro-cannabis candidates into office, Marsch says, legalization is unlikely to happen anytime soon. “When we talk to people now, they say, ‘It’s coming soon, we’re going to get there,’” Marsch says. “But we’re only going to ‘get there’ if people push for it. It’s not just going to happen on its own.”

Read more from the Shepherd Express!

Follow Southeastern Wisconsin NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

Jenn Michelle Pedini, Executive Director, Virginia NORML

Jenn Michelle Pedini, the Executive Director of the marijuana advocacy group Virginia NORML, applauded Kaine’s support for the bill. “Virginia NORML is thrilled that Senator Kaine has joined Congressmen Garrett and Taylor in calling for the end to federal marijuana prohibition. Senator Kaine is clearly listening to his constituents. He’s heard their stories, he’s seen the data, and now he’s taking action,” she said in a statement.

Read more from WHSV!

Follow Virginia NORML on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and become a member today!

Jack Porcari, Board Member, Western New York NORML

Legalizing marijuana could lower costs for the transport and sale of medical marijuana, he said. It could also legalize other ways of ingesting medical marijuana, like a gummy form of the drug, he said. “This is a big deal,” said Porcari, an organizer for the Western New York chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “It’s finally coming to fruition.”

Read more from The Buffalo News!

Follow Western New York NORML on Facebook and Twitter and become a member today!

For over 45 years NORML chapters have been leading marijuana law reform conversations and continue to be the driving force behind policy decisions on the local and state level. Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please reach out to [email protected] for help starting your own!

Ready to start a NORML chapter in your hometown? Click here to find out how!

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Study: Patients Report Herbal Cannabis Provides Insomnia Relief

The use of herbal cannabis is associated with reductions in self-perceived insomnia severity, according to data published in the online, open-access journal Medicines.

University of New Mexico researchers assessed the influence of marijuana use on self-perceived insomnia severity levels in 409 subjects. Study participants recorded real-time ratings of their symptom severity on a zero to 10-point scale using a mobile software application.

Authors reported that subjects “experienced a statistically and clinically significant improvement (-4.5 points on a zero to 10-point scale) in perceived insomnia levels. However, products made with C. sativa were associated with less symptom relief and more negative side effects than products made from C. indica or hybrid plant subtypes.” They added, “CBD potency levels were associated with greater symptom relief than were THC levels.”

Researchers concluded: “[O]ur results show that consumption of cannabis flower is associated with significant improvements in perceived insomnia with differential effectiveness and side effect profiles. The widespread apparent use of cannabis as a sleep aid underscores the importance of further medical research regarding its risk-benefit profile and the effectiveness of cannabis as a substitute for other substances, including alcohol, over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids, and scheduled medications (e.g., opioids and sedatives), many of which are used in part as sleep aids.”

Full text of the study, “Effectiveness of raw, natural medical cannabis flower for treating insomnia under naturalistic conditions,” is available online here.

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Pennsylvania: Dispensaries To Begin Selling Herbal Cannabis

Licensed dispensaries in Pennsylvania are anticipated to begin providing herbal cannabis this week to registered patients.

Nearly half of all Pennsylvania dispensaries will begin selling medical marijuana in plant form on Aug. 1, with others following suit by Aug. 8, according to a Department of Health news release.

As initially enacted by lawmakers, state law mandated that patients only have access to non-herbal cannabis preparations, such as infused oils and pills. However, in April Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine approved a unanimous recommendation by the state’s 11-member Medical Marijuana Advisory Board to permit sales of cannabis flowers.

“The dry leaf form of medical marijuana provides a cost-effective option for patients, in addition to the other forms of medication already available at dispensaries,” Dr. Levine said in a prepared statement. Retail prices for medical cannabis products in Pennsylvania are among the highest in the nation.

NORML has long argued against regulations that limit or arbitrarily restrict patients’ access to whole-plant herbal cannabis. (See NORML’s op-ed, “The case for whole-plant cannabis” here.) Many patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms experience fewer benefits from cannabis-infused pills, tinctures, or edibles because they possess delayed onset compared to inhaled cannabis and are far more variable in their effects. Furthermore, isolated formulations of individual cannabinoids lack the so-called ‘entourage effect’ associated with the concurrent administration of the plants naturally occurring compounds, oils, and terpenes.

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Harris Poll: Majority Of Americans Want Marijuana Legalized

Legalize marijuanaEighty-five percent of Americans believe that marijuana “should be legalized for medical use,” and 57 percent of respondents endorse regulating it for anyone over the age of 21, according to national survey data compiled Harris Insight & Analytics.

Among younger respondents (those ages 18 to 44), 68 percent agree that cannabis should be legal. Most respondents (57 percent) say that legalizing the plant would “help alleviate the opioid crisis.”

Data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs reports that chronic pain subjects frequently reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

“Voters believe that ending America’s failed marijuana prohibition laws is a common-sense issue, not a partisan one,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano told HealthDay, which commissioned the poll. “It’s time for their elected officials to take a similar posture, and to move expeditiously to amend federal law in a manner that comports with public and scientific consensus, as well as with marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural and legal status.”

Reasons provided by those who opposed legalization included fear of diversion and concerns that legalization could negatively impact traffic safety.

The Harris polling data is largely consistent with those of prior surveys finding that a majority of Americans back adult use legalization and that a super-majority of voters support medicinal cannabis access.

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Denver Mayor Ignores Science in Opioid Response Strategic Plan

During Denver’s State of the City Address, Mayor Michael Hancock addressed many of the biggest issues facing residents of the Mile High City — including his plan to respond to the city’s opioid epidemic. With Denver’s Office of the Medical Examiner reporting 110 overdose fatalities involving opioids in 2017 and data from Denver Needs Assessment on Opioid Use, Mayor Hancock’s response is not a moment too soon.

In the plan’s welcome letter, Mayor Hancock proudly states, “I present to you the Opioid Response Strategic Plan, the result of a collaborative effort among more than 100 government agencies and community organizations to address the opioid crisis in Denver. The work here represents a truly united effort by the Collective Impact Group, which was formed to combat opioid and other substance (mis)use in the city.”

If you’re in Denver, click here to urge Mayor Hancock to acknowledge the role that marijuana can play in combating Denver’s opioid epidemic

While we appreciate Mayor Hancock’s leadership, his decision to not highlight the role that  marijuana access can play as an alternative to opioids is concerning. Several observational studies – such as those here, here, and here – find that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many chronic pain subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

Mayor Hancock should not ignore the reality that access to marijuana can play a role in mitigating the opioid abuse crisis. Click below to urge Mayor Hancock to acknowledge the role that marijuana access can play in combating the prescription drug overdose epidemic, and promoting greater public health and safety.

If you’re in Denver, click here to urge Mayor Hancock to acknowledge the role that marijuana can play in combating Denver’s opioid epidemic

Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please reach out to [email protected] for help starting your own!

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Weekly Legislative Roundup 7/27/18

Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

We’ve got a new piece of legislation at the federal level. In conjunction with NORML’s 2018 Lobby Day, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-02) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26) introduced The Marijuana Data Collection Act. The act calls upon the National Academy of Sciences to collect and synthesize relevant data and to generate a formal report to Congress quantifying the impact of statewide marijuana legalization on matters specific to public health, safety, the economy, and criminal justice, among other issues. The report would also outline best practices for state-led data collection, as well as recommendations to overcome any barriers preventing data collection and gaps in data. Watch the press conference.

Earlier in the week, the US House Rules Committee led by prohibitionist Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) blocked two amendments related to marijuana from receiving consideration by the full House, thus ending their consideration and silencing the ability for the lower chamber to offer protections from the DOJ when it comes to cannabis. The amendments included allowing the District of Columbia to implement adult-use sales program, originally passed by voters in 2014, and protections for banks to provide services to marijuana businesses.

At the state level, New Jersey’s state Attorney General has called on county and municipal prosecutors to suspend all marijuana-related prosecutions until early September. Also, a fiscal report issued by Pennsylvania’s Auditor General estimates that taxing Pennsylvania’s existing retail cannabis market would yield $ 581 million in new annual revenue. The report estimates that just under 800,000 Pennsylvanians are currently using cannabis. On that note, Pennsylvania dispensaries are set to begin selling medical cannabis in flower form this week.

Oklahoma’s secretary of state said that proposed marijuana legalization and medical cannabis expansion initiatives are unlikely to appear on the November ballot even if they do collect enough signatures. But regulators will meet on August 1 to revisit widely criticized restrictive medical cannabis rules. The newly proposed changes eliminate several restrictive amendments enacted by the Department earlier this month, including removing the ban on the retail sale of herbal cannabis, eliminating the requirement that dispensaries hire state-licensed pharmacists, and no longer mandating that women of childbearing age undergo a pregnancy test prior to receiving a medical cannabis recommendation. No such restrictions initially appeared in the voter approved State Question 788. Meanwhile, it seems unlikely that lawmakers will go into special session to deal with medical marijuana implementation.

At a more local level, the Marathon County, Wisconsin Board voted to place a medical cannabis advisory question on the November ballot. The Ostego County, Michigan Board of Commissioners voted to oppose the state’s marijuana legalization ballot measure, and the Grand Rapids, Michigan City Commission voted to allow medical cannabis businesses in its jurisdiction.

Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

Your Highness,
Carly

Priority Alerts

Federal

End Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

Click here to e-mail your senators and urge them to support this important legislation

California

Assembly Bill 1793 seeks “to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 8/6 at 10am in the John L. Burton Hearing Room.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expungement

Kentucky

House Bill 166 seeks to allow for the physician-authorized use of marijuana for patients with specific debilitating medical conditions.

Update: Rep. Jason Nemes, one of the bill’s cosponsors, announced on Twitter that the bill will be heard in the House Judiciary Committee on 9/7.

KY resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of medical cannabis access

That’s all for this week!

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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Kentucky: Cannabis Activists Schedule Educational Forum in Henderson

There will be an educational forum on the benefits that medicinal cannabis has to offer to Kentucky and its citizens. Featuring support from state cannabis activists including members from Kentucky Cannabis Freedom Coalition (KCFC), Kentucky affiliate for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (KY NORML), Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana (KY4MM), the Alliance for Innovative Medicine (AIM), as well as Industry Expert, Ashly Taylor, and Matthew Daley, State Director for the Office of Secretary of State.

This will be a good opportunity for members of the community to come out and learn more about cannabis, how cannabis affects our bodies, how a regulated industry would look like in Kentucky, and how cannabis affects our communities.

What: Community Cannabis Educational Forum
Where: The Preston Art Center, 2660 South Green Street, Henderson, KY 42420
When: July 31st, 2018 7 pm – 9 pm. Doors Open at 6:30 pm

KY NORML‘s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to influence legislators for the expansion of our hemp industry, implementation of medicinal cannabis, and laying the foundation for responsible adult use.

To support KY NORML you can DONATE HERE! Your donations help pay the bills and allow us to function and continue to make a difference in our state! Can you kick in $ 5$ 10 or $ 20 to help us keep going?

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Oklahoma: Health Officials Reversing Course Regarding Medical Marijuana Rules

Oklahoma health officials on Wednesday will discuss a series of revised rules and regulations to govern the state’s voter-approved medical cannabis access program. The newly proposed changes eliminate several restrictive amendments enacted by the Department earlier this month. The proposed changes come just days after the state’s Attorney General warned health officials that they “acted in excess of their statutory authority” when they amended State Question 788.

Specifically, the newly proposed rules — which are available online here — remove the ban on the retail sale of herbal cannabis, eliminate the requirement that dispensaries hire state-licensed pharmacists, and no longer mandate that women of childbearing age undergo a pregnancy test prior to receiving a medical cannabis recommendation. No such restrictions initially appeared in State Question 788.

Other proposed changes would remove arbitrary limits on the THC content of medical cannabis products, and permit dispensaries to sell cannabis plants and seedlings to qualified patients.

Fifty-seven percent of voters approved State Question 788 on June 28.

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Attorney General Sessions Reiterates His Threats To Legalization

During a press conference in Boston earlier today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated his hostility to marijuana reform and doubled down yet again on his tired, fear-mongering talking point regarding it being sold at every street corner.

“Personally my view is that the American republic will not be better if there are marijuana sales on every street corner,” said Sessions.

He seems to tiptoe the line in a response to a reporter’s question, saying, “but states have a right to set their own laws and will do so,” but concluded his comments by stating “but we’ll follow the federal law,” – meaning complete prohibition and criminalization.

Send a message to your member of Congress and tell them to stop Jeff Sessions. 

Earlier this year, Sessions had rescinded an Obama-era guidance policy, known as The Cole Memo, which directed the Department of Justice’s hands-off policy towards state-legal cannabis regulatory programs, licensed businesses, and their consumers.

During a Q and A with reporters in Richmond, VA in March of 2017, Jeff Sessions said, “The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,”

Additionally in 2017, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) issued a letter to the new U.S. Attorney General and to Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin calling on them to uphold the largely ‘hands off’ policies toward marijuana legalization, as outlined in the Cole Memo. “Overhauling the Cole Memo is sure to produce unintended and harmful consequences,” the governors wrote. “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.”

Currently, medical marijuana protections are still in effect, known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment. Since 2014, members of Congress have passed annual spending bills that have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from undue prosecution by the Department of Justice. This amendment maintains that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

At a time when the majority of states now are regulating marijuana use in some form, and when over two-thirds of voters endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or moral perspective for Attorney General Sessions to take this step. It is time that members of Congress take action to comport federal law with majority public opinion and to end the needless criminalization of marijuana — a policy failure that encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Send a message to your member of Congress and tell them to stop Jeff Sessions. 

If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels, while forcing consumers to go back to the black market.

NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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