All posts by Gianna Filipetto

Texas farmers support bill to make hemp a potential cash crop

Originally Posted: 12:23 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, 2017 By Bob Sechler – American-Statesman Staff here

Hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana, has some fans among Texas farmers.

A number of them turned out Wednesday for a House committee hearing at the Capitol to support a bill defining so-called “industrial hemp” as legally distinct from marijuana. The bill, House Bill 3587,
would allow hemp to be grown and marketed in Texas under a federal pilot program in which 31 other states are participating.

“There are thousands of uses for this crop,” testified Jeff Williams, a representative of Clayton Williams Farms & Ranches in far West Texas and the son of the one-time GOP gubernatorial candidate. “And Texas has really the best climate almost anywhere in the United States and other countries” to cultivate it.

Farmers and some university researchers who spoke Wednesday during the hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock cited an abundance of uses for hemp. The plant — which has an extremely low level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the component of marijuana that produces a high — is a source of fiber for clothing and industrial parts, they said, and its seeds and oils have been used in health and food supplements.

Under existing laws, hemp-derived products can be imported into Texas and sold in the state, but the plant can’t be grown here. State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, who co-authored HB 3587, said he did so partly because of the inconsistency.

“It ought to be something that we ought to be able to grow in Texas,” Zedler said. “This will provide an economic boon to the state.”

Still, some members of the committee noted the close relationship between hemp and marijuana and questioned how advocates for hemp can overcome negative impressions about it.

“How do we get away from the perception that this is going to be abused in the way that marijuana is abused?” asked state Rep. Lynn Stuckey, R-Denton.

Laurance Armour, a south Texas rice farmer, said education is the key. He said allowing farmers to start cultivating hemp will help because the public will become more familiar with the crop and its benefits.

If legal, hemp would be an ideal crop in South Texas because of its low water requirements and tolerance for sandy soils, Armour said.

“Rice is going to go away” because of high water costs and other factors, he said. “Hemp could be the answer. Unfortunately, when everybody hears ‘hemp,’ they think it’s marijuana. It’s not the same crop.”

No action was taken on the bill after the hearing, and it remains pending in the committee.

In addition to Zedler’s industrial hemp bill, more than a dozen bills have been filed in the current session of the state Legislature dealing with various aspects of conventional marijuana, meaning marijuana with psychoactive levels of THC.

House Bill 81, which would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, has gained some traction, winning approval from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this month, although it has yet to be taken up by the full House for a vote.

Under the bill — co-authored by state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso — law enforcement officers would write tickets in such cases instead of making arrests, and culprits would pay fines of up to $250, do community service or attend substance-abuse classes, but they wouldn’t suffer the permanent stigma of having a criminal record and they wouldn’t crowd local courts and jails. The bill defines a small amount of marijuana as an ounce or less.

Some other bills would legalize medical marijuana for any doctor-corroborated debilitating health condition, such as cancer, chronic pain, autism or post-traumatic stress disorder, although the bills have yet to be scheduled for committee hearings.

Cannabis is Medicine, Claim Pro Athletes at upcoming Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo

Cannabis is Medicine, Claim Pro Athletes at upcoming Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo
Celebrities in Support of Cannabis, Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo Montell Williams, David Fowler, Marvin Washington, John Salley and many more.

Originally Published Here By Marketwired – Apr 11, 2017

FORT WORTH, TX—  NFL players and other pro athletes gather in Fort Worth at the Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo to proclaim cannabis is medicine. The event, scheduled for April 21-23, will be held at the Fort Worth Conference Center.

The future of medical marijuana is bright and opportunities abound. NFL and other pro sports are the next battleground. With Jerry Jones and Jeff Sessions acknowledging and accepting medical marijuana, the future is clear.

As de-criminalization of cannabis spreads across Texas, debates continue in governing bodies about how medical marijuana will be responsibly implemented, and if and when other adult use occurs. This is potentially an economic opportunity that hasn’t been seen since the oil boom. For three days over the weekend of April 21-23rd in the Fort Worth area, the American cannabis industry and national experts will discuss how to capitalize on this trend. Even Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones is a part of the discussion as we’ve now heard.

Texas is widely considered to be one of the most lucrative emerging cannabis markets. The Lone Star State has a burgeoning cannabis industry that’s on the cusp of becoming one of the biggest U.S. markets.

This event features a line-up of celebrities, former pro football players, medical professionals and more, all working cohesively to bring about increased cannabis awareness.

The Conference is three packed days of cannabis information, education and networking, including a major expo with 125 exhibitors. Accredited Comprehensive Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoid Medical Cannabis Training (https://swccexpo.com/texas/accredited-cannabis-education). Also, a Women & Cannabis Business Seminar entitled “Stories and Steps from Women in Business” – Getting Started Series” hosted by Genifer Murray, Cannabis Pioneer and Story Simon, former President of Overstock.com. (https://swccexpo.com/texas/women-cannabis-business-seminar)

At a special event on April 21, join Marvin Washington, Boo Williams, Darren Long and many more athletes and medical professionals on the discussion of cannabis and NFL at http://proathletesprocannabis.com.

To watch an interview with Marvin Washington on ABC, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDc3_vZnlHo

Come see what the new world of cannabis will become in the foreseeable future. Even more important is to learn about this business opportunity, which is still in its infant stages. Come to Fort Worth as the American cannabis industry spends a weekend in Texas to explore this emerging trend.

For additional information go to: http://SWCCExpo.com.
Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas
2nd Annual Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo
April 22 – 23, 2017
Fort Worth Convention Center
Fort Worth, Texas

ProAthletesProCannabis.com

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John Oliver Goes Off On America’s Most Absurd Marijuana Laws

By Rebecca Shapiro 04/03/2017 04:52 am ET

Originally Posted For Huffington Post Here

John Oliver returned on Sunday after a brief hiatus with a detailed story about America’s most counter-productive and antiquated marijuana laws.

In addition to detailing how the U.S. tax code screws marijuana businesses that operate legally within their states, Oliver showed how federal regulations put individuals who were complying with state laws at risk.

“If you have marijuana right now, even if you are acting completely legally according to your state, you may still be in serious jeopardy,” Oliver said. The “Last Week Tonight” host then went through numerous examples of how federal law interfered with people who had medical marijuana prescriptions to treat everything from epileptic seizures to PTSD.

“I know that some people will say, well hold on, the medical efficacy of marijuana needs a lot more study, and that is true,” Oliver said. “The problem is, it’s very difficult to do that because federal laws are standing in the way.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump’s administration have hintedthat the federal government may crack down on states that have legalized recreational marijuana use.

“I don’t think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot,” Sessions told reporters in February. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice, and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago, and we’re seeing real violence around that.”

Watch Oliver’s take-down, including his response to Sessions, in the video above.

Texas lawmakers weighing flurry of marijuana-related bills

Originally Posted By By Bob Sechler  11:44 a.m. Thursday, March 30, 2017 Here

Marijuana has become easy to find at the Texas Capitol — at least interms of references to the drug.

More than a dozen bills are pending in the Texas Legislature this session, aimed at lifting prohibitions on Texans who want to use marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.

But it remains to be seen if the legislative effort will result in increased availability of medical cannabis in Texas or decriminalization of all pot for low-volume possession – or if it helps establish a legal, potentially billion-dollar-plus cultivation and processing industry in the state.

Broad legalization for medical purposes, let alone adult recreational use, must overcome opposition from some conservative Texas legislators, as well as from Gov. Greg Abbott.

Still, “the discussion is happening in Texas,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national nonprofit group focused on reforming marijuana laws. “Now more than ever, (Texans) are talking about this issue in a realistic way.”

Fazio and other advocates for easing the state’s restrictions on marijuana celebrated a victory two years ago, when the Legislature passed — and Abbott signed into law — what is known as the Compassionate Use Act, legalizing oils made from cannabidiol for medical purposes. Cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, is found in marijuana plants but doesn’t produce euphoria or a high.

But the new law, which has yet to have any impact because the first Texas CBD dispensaries won’t be licensed until this summer, is restrictive, allowing the compound’s use only for certain patients suffering from a rare form of epilepsy, and only after they’ve first tried two conventional drugs that prove to be ineffective.

A number of bills filed in the current session go much farther, with some potentially legalizing medical use of all parts of the marijuana plant — including tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which does induce a high for users — for any doctor-corroborated debilitating health condition, such as cancer, chronic pain, autism or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Another bill would decriminalize possession of marijuana in small amounts, defined as an ounce or less, making it a civil, not criminal, transgression. Law enforcement officers would write tickets in such cases instead of making arrests, and culprits would pay fines of up to $250, do community service or attend substance-abuse classes, but they wouldn’t suffer the permanent stigma of having a criminal record and they wouldn’t crowd local courts and jails.

Other proposals would mandate statewide referendums letting Texas voters decide if marijuana should be legal to possess, grow and sell for medical purposes, or if it should be legal among adults for all purposes.

Aside from the profound medical and social issues involved if any of the proposals win approval, the economic impact on Texas could be huge.

Currently, 28 states and Washington, D.C., have broadly legalized marijuana for medical or adult recreational purposes. New Frontier Data, a cannabis market research firm, estimates the 2017 market for marijuana in those states at close to $8 billion, predicting it will double by 2020 and top $24 billion in 2025. The firm estimates the medical marijuana market alone at $5.3 billion now among the states that have broadly legalized it and projects the figure will climb to $13.2 billion in 2025.

The Texas legal market “would be very significant,” depending on the parameters established by state lawmakers, said John Kagia, New Frontier’s executive vice president for industry analytics. “It would unquestionably have the potential to be one of the very largest medical markets in the country, due to the size of the population.”

As things stand, Kagia said, Texas’ restrictive CBD law probably will generate some increased economic activity once it takes effect, but noted “there really is no comparison with the scale of the industry that can be generated” by broader legalization.

Still, filing bills and getting them approved are two different things. Despite the flurry of proposed legislation in Texas, advocates are far from confident they’ll have a second big victory to celebrate when the state Legislature adjourns in late May.

“All of these things are a high hurdle,” said state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, a co-author of House bill 81, the measure that would decriminalize pot possession of an ounce or less in the state. “It’s going to take time and it’s going to take effort.”

Abbott’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on the pending marijuana bills, but the governor voiced blanket opposition to legalization in 2015 at the time he signed the Compassionate Use Act, as well to what he called “conventional marijuana” for medical purposes. Some lawmakers also are opposed to loosening any more of the state’s marijuana restrictions, while some law enforcement and business groups have expressed skepticism as well.

As a result, even supporters of full legalization say Texas is unlikely to swing the door wide open any time soon.

State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who authored House Joint Resolution 46, which would let voters decide the issue, said she hopes her measure advances the debate in Texas but doesn’t expect it to do much else.

“The primary reason I filed this is so we would have that discussion,” Howard said. “But I don’t give it a big chance of actually passing in this Legislature.”

Marijuana advocacy groups generally agree. That’s why they’re mainly pinning their hopes to HB 81 and Senate Bill 170, its counterpart, as well as to HB 2107 and SB 269, two measures that would substantially increase the legality and availability of medical marijuana in the state. State Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, authored SB 269, while state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, authored SB 170.

Of the four, HB 81 — the bill to decriminalize low-volume possession — is the only marijuana-specific bill to garner a committee hearing so date. The bill has some bipartisan support, including state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, as a co-author, and a number of members of Republican organizations have testified in favor of it.

Still, some law enforcement representatives are dubious, saying among other things that low-volume pot possession can provide police with probable cause to investigate bigger crimes, and that there currently isn’t a good, on-the-spot test to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana. The Texas Association of Business also has said some employers question how workplace no-tolerance and safety rules would be affected, although the organization hasn’t taken a position on any of the marijuana-specific bills.

“Cops are going to enforce whatever laws come out of the Legislature,” said Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association. But Lawrence said his group is concerned about what he described as a lack of standardized sobriety tests for marijuana, which could put officers in a position of uncertainty if “we catch (drivers) with marijuana, and marijuana is otherwise legal but we believe they may be impaired.”

Moody, chairman of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee handling the bill, said he thinks procedures can be established for such instances. He has characterized decriminalization as smart government, because time and taxpayer money no longer would be wasted chasing around minor offenders.

“Criminal justice reform has garnered a lot of bipartisan support,” said Moody, who sponsored a similar bill two years ago that made it out of committee but was never taken up by the full House. “It’s hard to predict, but if I am able to get this onto the House floor, I think it will be a very close vote.”

Isaac, a co-author of Moody’s bill and also of HB 2107, concurred, saying members of his party have been slowly coming around to lifting some marijuana prohibitions. During the 2016 Texas Republican Party convention, delegates approved a call in the official platform for “doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to prescribed patients.”

Still, Isaac said many in the GOP oppose lifting any marijuana restrictions because they view it as a foothold for full, even recreational, legalization of the drug. As things stand, he said he’s doubtful HB 2107 — the medical marijuana bill — can win approval unless it’s modified to include a prohibition against letting patients possess marijuana plants in their homes. Currently, the bill would allow qualifying patients to cultivate or possess at least six plants, and potentially more, for their own medical use.

“Right now, (the bill) doesn’t have a chance,” said Isaac, who said he opted to help carry it in part to be in a better position to amend it. Isaac is opposed to full legalization, but said he’s a supporter of medical marijuana and decriminalization.

“Hopefully, a substitute will give (the bill) a good chance of getting out of committee” and onto the floor for a vote, he said. “We’ve got a tough, uphill challenge, but I’m optimistic.”

So are other advocates for lifting marijuana prohibitions in Texas, even as the fate of the various marijuana bills remains uncertain.

“I don’t think it’s a question of if — it’s just when,” said Wil Ralston, a vice president of SinglePoint, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based holding company that provides marketing, payment processing and other business solutions to the cannabis industry in states where it’s legal.

“It’s just kind of a no-brainer,” in terms of the number of Texas patients who could be helped by medical marijuana and the potential business opportunity, Ralston said. “The train has left the station.”

Veteran Groups Fight For Marijuana Access To Curb Opioid Abuse

Originally Published By Steve Birr 12:17 PM 04/01/2017 here

States with medical marijuana programs are beginning to open access to the drug for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, under mounting pressure from veterans groups advocating marijuana as an alternative to opioids.

“If you are a traumatized person, you will try anything,” Serge Chistov, financial partner to the Honest Marijuana Company eco-friendly cannabis growery, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “If they give you access to an M-16 at the age of 18, I think you should be able to have access to weed.”

A growing chorus of veteran groups are petitioning the government to ease restrictions on federal marijuana policy. Many are unable to get relief from painkillers or traditional treatments allowed under current federal law, leaving them at the mercy of their particular state’s policy. GOP Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill last year allowing medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD in New Jersey, which officials are currently working to implement in May. Of the 28 states with legal medical marijuana programs, 14 currently offer pot for treating PTSD, reports New Jersey Law Journal.

Christie said he was motivated to action after learning roughly 20 percent of veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. Those who do not live in a state that allows treatment are cut off from legal access, forcing veterans and other individuals to break the law and commit felonies just to find relief from their chronic pain.

“Medical marijuana can be very helpful, especially when treating chronic pain and anxiety,” Chistov told TheDCNF. “It saddens me to hear that of all people, Veterans are not allowed to receive marijuana treatment — even if it might help them more than conventional treatment options. In the long term, I believe that the trend towards state legalization and the strong voice of our nation will eventually impact federal regulations.”

It is currently a violation of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy to prescribe or even recommend marijuana to a patient, due to its status as a Schedule I drug alongside deadly narcotics. VA hospitals began weaning veterans off painkillers and limiting the number of prescriptions written for opioids last fall in the wake of spiking overdoses, but without access to medical marijuana many veterans will have limited options.

Texans For Responsible Marijuana Policy, a veterans group, recently launched an effort to legalize medical marijuana in their state to draw attention to the daily struggles facing so many veterans.

“The most evil thing in the world is a person who would knowingly allow their brother, sister, or neighbor to suffer,” Tom Lee, a veteran and marijuana activists in Arkansas, told THV 11 in March. “I’ve tried not to do that and I’ve tried to let everyone know the truth about this plant.”

Veterans suffering from PTSD are currently participating in the first clinical trial studying the efficacy of treatment with marijuana. Each participant will undergo treatment with marijuana over a 12-week period, with a required six-month follow-up. Researchers hope the results can give critical guidance to lawmakers in terms of future policy, specifically the treatment of veterans.

“Cannabis takes the amplitude of the pain signal and cuts it down by deflecting the pain and spreading it around,” Chistov told TheDCNF. “Opioids are simply temporarily blocking the transfer of any signal in between the receptors that are responsible for pain generation. The block temporarily wears off and then you need to take more to block it again.”

The study is expected to give enormous insight into the medical properties and uses of marijuana, a field with a small but growing body of research. Many health professionals in states that recently legalized marijuana are excited about the possibilities weed offers patients, particularly those who are treated primarily with addictive opioid medication.

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