The possibility of a marijuana buzz seems to be the big barrier for Sen. Kevin Eltife and Rep. Stephanie Klick in passing their medical-marijuana bills. Both Republicans, they’re out to persuade a conservative Texas Legislature to allow the plant to be used to treat epilepsy sufferers.
That’s a tough vote for a Republican, and the GOP rules the roost in Austin, so the two lawmakers crafted bill language and a pitch to account for the inevitable pushback.
The legislation is titled the “Texas Compassionate-Use Act.” They probably wanted to title it the “Don’t Worry, No One Will Get the Least Bit High Act.”
That’s because the cannabis oil that could be produced and dispensed under the bill would have to be extremely low in the THC compound that produces the high for pot users. The Eltife-Klick background materials say the “extremely low” THC levels would not be “sufficient to get the consumer ‘high,’ even in large doses.”
The bills (SB 339 and HB 892) dwell on controlled THC levels, using the term “low-THC cannabis” 51 times. The bills never use the term “marijuana.” They mention the variation “marihuana” once, by way of saying no one following the new law could be busted under current pot statutes. Current laws also use the variation “marihuana.”
All of this makes we wonder why — except for the politics of getting votes — does anyone worry about a cannabis user feeling slightly euphoric?
Typically, no one really cares if prescription pills put a smile on someone’s face.
Starting in late 2013 and continuing through the 2014 elections, in what appeared to be a sign of change on the horizon, the US saw a surprising new breed of cannabis bills passed and signed into law by many Republican Governors. The majority of these new bills were introduced by Conservative politicians in traditionally Conservative states and allow the possession and/or study of CBD extract oil devoid of therapeutic levels of THC . To date, very few patients have been helped in any of the states where these laws have passed, because none have a way to legally gain access to CBD oil, which like THC, is a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
,mmThese restrictive laws known as “CBD-only laws” are being passed at an astonishingly rate in response to pleas and lobbying efforts from parents of children stricken with seizure disorders after stories of pediatric cannabis therapy for epilepsy were highlighted on CNN’s documentary Weeds, hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Even though Dr. Gupta himself has been quoted as saying he doesn’t approve of CBD-only laws, the advocacy group “Realm of Caring” featured in the documentary has been credited for much of the parent lobbying efforts behind the limited laws that have been enacted in Florida, Alabama, Iowa, Tennessee, Utah, Kentucky, North Carolina, Wisconsin and South Carolina.
To make it easier to study and develop marijuana-based treatments, the group recommends removing marijuana from the government’s most restrictive drug category, which includes heroin, LSD and other narcotics with no accepted medical use, and switching it to the category which includes methadone and oxycodone.
The recommended switch “could help make a big difference in promoting more research,” said Dr. Seth Ammerman, the policy’s lead author and a professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Stanford University.
Citing the lifelong negative effects of a criminal record on adolescents, the AAP strongly supported reducing penalties for marijuana possession and use to misdemeanors. This policy statement, The Impact of Marijuana Policies on Youth: Clinical, Research and Legal Update is a recent revision to its previous 2004 report about the drug.
“The illegality of marijuana has resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of adolescents, with overrepresentation of minority youth,” wrote Seth D. Ammerman, MD, FAAP, of the 2014-2015 AAP Committee on Substance Abuse, and colleagues. Effects of marijuana-related felony charges include “ineligibility for college loans, housing, financial aid, and certain kinds of jobs,” they said. The report also recommended pediatricians get involved and “advocate for laws that prevent harsh criminal penalties” for possession or use of marijuana.
The authors state in an accompanying technical report that studies have not shown decriminalization results in an overall increase in marijuana use by adolescents, which is a chief concern of those opposed to decriminalizing the drug. In fact, states with decriminalization laws experience similar rates of marijuana use as those with tougher penalties. However, the authors cite “significant savings in criminal justice cost and resources” in states with decriminalization laws.
Donald Abrams, M.D. is chief of Hematology and Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital and the co-author—with Andrew Weil—of Integrative Oncology (Oxford University Press). Abrams has extensive experience working with cancer and HIV/AIDS patients and is a pioneer in the field of medical cannabis research.
The U.S. government classifies cannabis—along with heroin and LSD—as a Schedule I drug, the most tightly restricted category of drugs in the United States. According to the federal government, Schedule I drugs are unsafe and have “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
However, as medical cannabis proponents have pointed out since the Controlled Substances Act was passed by Congress in 1970, cannabis has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and there has never been a reported case of a marijuana overdose. Moreover, in recent years clinical researchers around the world have demonstrated the medicinal value of cannabis.
Reason.tv’s Paul Feine sat down with Dr. Abrams to learn more about the science of medical cannabis.
Approximately 10 minutes. Produced by Paul Feine and Alex Manning.
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Cannabis is coming to Dallas. That’s how a new company is promoting products to sell to the public that has the same chemical ingredient as marijuana.
This is not a medical marijuana firm opening in Dallas, but it is promoting the health and medicinal benefits of marijuana’s cannabis cousin hemp.
Four-year-old Harper Howard became the local example of the benefits of using cannabis hemp oil. Her seizures are decreased, according to her mother, due to the cannabis hemp oil she takes orally. That same oil is now part of a series of skin and energy products marketed in a new Dallas office.
AUSTIN — Alexis Bortell will tell you she’s a pretty normal kid.
The 9-year old from Rowlett enjoys cartoons, playing with her younger sister and playing golf. Yet in addition to the usual concerns of a kid her age, she’s also fighting a life and death battle against epilepsy.
Alexis’ father Dean Bortell, a U.S. Navy veteran, says Alexis’ first seizure happened at their Rowlett, Texas home in July 2013.
Despite raising concerns with the decriminalization of marijuana in Washington, D.C. before it was enacted, the top cop in the nation’s capital now says the policy makes police officers’ jobs easier.
Cathy Lanier, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, told NewsChannel 8 on Tuesday that decriminalization “saves us from having to charge someone for small amounts of marijuana now, because it really never was productive to begin with.”
Now that officers don’t have to spend time making arrests, “it’s a little bit easier for us,” she said.
A bipartisan coalition has formed to lobby the Legislature to revise marijuana laws and join the 28 states that have decriminalized or legalized use of small amounts. Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition is one of the groups. We posed questions about the initiative to RAMP’s political director, John Baucum, 31, who’s also president of the Houston Young Republicans and an account manager for a software company:
I’d guess some people are surprised to hear the name of your group — Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition — since the GOP typically represents the status quo on social issues. True?
Traditionally, Republicans have championed the principles of individual liberty, limited government and fiscal responsibility. From a policy perspective, marijuana prohibition flies in the face of each of these values. However, there are certainly some people surprised to see Republicans helping to lead the fight for marijuana reform. Prohibition is a big-government idea, so those supporting a limited government should outwardly reject that notion.
What do polls say in general about attitudes held by Republicans, vs. Democrats, on marijuana-related issues?
Just about every poll shows overwhelming public support for reforming marijuana laws. These numbers differ somewhat based on decriminalization or medical marijuana, but overall support remains very high. Republicans, in Texas, seem to be evenly split on medical marijuana, and a slight majority tends to support lowering the criminal penalty for possession of small amounts.
But is there a gap overall between Republicans and Democrats? And is it as strong among younger people?
There is a gap between Republicans and Democrats, but neither party is really choosing to lead on this. In Congress, some of the most outspoken on marijuana reform are Republicans, such as congressmen Dana Rohrabacher of California, Justin Amash of Michigan and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, plus Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
I don’t believe the gap is as wide among younger voters in the two parties. In our experience, young Republicans agree with RAMP, but they don’t list marijuana policy as their top priority. Most reasonable people understand that prohibition is an abject failure and marijuana is not as dangerous as they’ve been led to believe from years of “reefer madness” propaganda.
Tell me more about the “fiscal responsibility” issue you mentioned for Republicans.
Every two years, the Texas Legislature must pass a balanced budget. When bills are considered in committee, their budgetary impact is a prime indicator of whether the bill will pass through committee or not. In 2012, there were over 70,000 arrests or citations for marijuana-related offenses in Texas, and over 95 percent were for possession only. This creates a huge and expensive burden for law enforcement and our criminal justice system.
What was your reaction when Gov. Rick Perry called drug-enforcement policies “flawed” last week?
Governor Perry has been in the lead on this issue for some time. From his states-rights comments in his book Fed Up! to telling Jimmy Kimmel, “You don’t want to ruin a kid’s life for having a joint,” Perry and Texas Republicans have come together in a bipartisan way to push for smart criminal-justice reforms. We believe marijuana reform is an obvious step toward a more effective policing and public safety strategy.
How far do you think the Legislature will go this year in changing marijuana laws?
There is a great chance that the Texas Legislature will pass some type of legislation reforming our draconian marijuana policy. Never before has there been such a large coalition working together on this issue to make reform a reality. Many diverse groups have come together to create a coalition called Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. We’ve spent the past several months visiting with lawmakers and educating them on the facts about marijuana.
On the criminal justice side, we are supporting HB 507, which would lower the penalty for possession of 1 ounce or less from its current status of a Class B misdemeanor ($2,000 fine and up to six months in jail) to a civil penalty not to exceed $100.
Later this session, a comprehensive medical marijuana bill will be introduced. It will allow patients with specific qualifying conditions to access medical marijuana upon the recommendation of their physician.
As a state that prides itself on limited bureaucracy, the government of Texas should not put itself between the doctor-patient relationships and deny lifesaving medicine to suffering individuals.
You mentioned HB 507, the bill to make possession a civil penalty. The author, Rep. Joe Moody, is an ex-prosecutor, but law-enforcement people traditionally are hostile to pot reform. How do you size up the opposition?
Three of the largest cities in Texas — Houston, Dallas and Austin — are now veering from the Class B misdemeanor in some type of program. These efforts were led by prosecutors and law enforcement. When you have large cities looking at their crowded jail systems and asking the question, “Who is the easiest offender to de-prioritize?” it’s pretty obvious to pinpoint the low-risk pot offender.
Police we’ve talked to said they often, “make it a Class C in the field.” In other words, they write a ticket for marijuana paraphernalia, a Class C, and let the encounter serve as a lesson. This shows you law enforcement is already thinking about different ways to handle the marijuana offender.
1. Oregon, Alaska Plan & Prepare for Legal Marijuana
In November 2014, Oregon and Alaska followed Washington and Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana. While the right of Oregonians and Alaskans to grow marijuana at home begins early on, the commercial market and regulatory system will not begin for one to two years, due to the language in Ballot Measure 91 (OR) & Ballot Measure 2 (AK).
Each ballot measure requires the state to design and construct a commercial market within the bounds laid out in the voter-approved language. Each measure also charges the respective state legislatures and alcohol regulatory bodies to work together to design regulations governing legal marijuana. The latter is where the action will be in 2015. It will be important to watch what Oregon and Alaska decide in setting up rules to govern this new area of policy. These rules may well determine the success or failure of marijuana policy in each state, and the path taken will also offer insight into how states are learning from each other as this policy area expands.
Finally, and of particular note, Oregon will become the first state to legalize marijuana that shares a border with a state (WA) that has already approved legalization. Watching Oregon’s commercial and regulatory choices will be crucial in understanding whether and to what extent states may strive for marijuana market advantages vis-à-vis bordering states. Decisions over taxation in Oregon suggest this may be part of the political, policy, and economic calculus.