FLORIDA update – medical marijuana initiative back

Florida’s medical marijuana initiative is back and, its backers say, new and improved.

The proposed amendment, submitted Thursday to the Florida Secretary of State’s office, closely resembles the 2014 initiative that narrowly failed at the ballot box — however it was rewritten throughout in an attempt to quiet critics who said it had too many loopholes.

The amendment backers, People United for Medical Marijuana, on Monday will start gathering the 683,149 voter signatures needed to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

“I’mmmmmmmm baaaaaaaaaack,” joked John Morgan, the wealthy Orlando trial lawyer who sunk about $4 million of his own money into last year’s effort.

“Last time I did this, it was like a maze,” Morgan says. “Well, I’ve been through it once. I know how to do this. We made a lot of mistakes and we won’t make them this time.”

The new proposal specifies that parents would have to consent if their child is to receive medical marijuana. It adds extra language to clarify that only people with “debilitating medical conditions” can receive the drug. It makes sure to say that it can only be recommended by a licensed medical physician. And the Department of Health would be empowered to deny felons the ability to be so-called “caregivers” who deliver marijuana for a qualified patient.

All of those issues were brought up by opponents in 2014. But it’s not as if last year’s amendment was unpopular. It garnered 57.6 percent of the vote. However, it failed because it takes 60 percent to pass an amendment to the state Constitution.

Months before the election, the proposal was polling in the 70 percent range. However, a group called Drug Free Florida, led by Republican financier and former Ambassador Mel Sembler, outspent and out-advertised Morgan’s group in the final months of the election by a ratio of about 3 to 1.

Nearly all of Drug Free’s advertising money came from Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate and friend of Sembler’s, who contributed $5.5 million. Adelson, who opposes illegal drugs, gave the money primarily because of his friendship with Sembler, a spokesman said.

This year, though, Adelson might focus more on his home state of Nevada where proponents are trying to legalize marijuana outright. There are 23 states that allow for medical marijuana.

“He has not made any determination as to the next specific steps but the Adelsons remain committed to the cause,” spokesman Andy Aboud said.

A Sembler group affiliated with Drug Free Florida, Drug Free America, said it still has problems with the gist of any medical-marijuana ballot amendment.

“To create medicine through a ballot initiative in our state constitution we don’t think is a smart thing to do. Just the process itself we would object to,” said Drug Free America’s executive director, Calvina Fay.

Fay said the group is “very much” in favor of research and the prescribing of a marijuana derivative, called “Marinol.” But, she said, the group opposes smoked marijuana because it’s an unsafe “delivery system.”

Kentucky House speaker to file medical marijuana bill

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he will file a bill that would make it legal for people to smoke marijuana in Kentucky for medical purposes.

Stumbo said he planned to file the bill on Tuesday, the first day of the 2015 legislative session. The bill would require doctors to be trained before they could prescribe the drug to patients. And Stumbo said the state would have a strict oversight system in place to make sure prescriptions were not abused.

State lawmakers have softened their stance toward the cannabis plant in recent years. Last year, the state harvested its first hemp crop in decades and the state Legislature approved a bill allowing researchers to experiment with cannabidiol.

Stumbo said he filed the bill because he believes lawmakers need to discuss the issue.

Texas Medical Marijuana Update

SAN ANTONIO- Patients suffering from ailments like PTSD, cancer and Alzheimer’s might soon be allowed to use medical marijuana in the state of Texas.

A bill has been drafted that would allow just that and although similar bills have been shot down by lawmakers in the past, advocates are optimistic.

“I just mostly want to talk about my experience being a nurse,” said Ann Hardee. “And what I’ve seen as benefits to patient.”

Hardee lives in San Antonio, but worked for many years in the cancer unit at M.D Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. So she said she saw first hand the positive effects of marijuana on dozens of patients.

“The only thing keeping them from hanging their head in the toilet all night,” she said. “Was smoking cannabis.”

Hardee said often patients couldn’t move past it being illegal, but that some reluctantly still tried.

“They were really against it and usually it was their kids that were like ‘Mom you gotta try this’,” she said. “And then they were like ‘I’m a whole new person now!”

Federally, marijuana is classified as a schedule one narcotic; on par with heroine and morphine.

“It’s a very good substance that somehow got a bad wrap,” Hardee said.

Advocates from the Texas chapter of the marijuana policy project said their proposed bill is getting favorable reaction. The project’s Texas director said mostly because they believe the country’s opinion on marijuana has changed since the last legislative session. Hardee remembers hearing opposition at the town hall meeting on legalization she attended last year.

“The ones against it were the ones about addiction,” she said.

The drafted bill resembles those already in place in 22 other states and Washington D.C. Those states have approved medical marijuana use, not recreational.

“I hate to be negative,”said Hardee. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Not with Texas politics and not with what happened with the midterms!”

Congress Hands A Mixed Bag to Marijuana Movement

The year-end spending bill gives momentum to the marijuana movement, plus a painful setback

For the marijuana legalization movement, 2014 ends the way it began: with legal changes that showcase the movement’s momentum alongside its problems.

Tucked into the 1,603-page year-end spending bill Congress released Tuesday night were a pair of provisions that affect proponents of cannabis reform. Together they form a metaphor for the politics of legal cannabis—an issue that made major bipartisan strides this year, but whose progress is hampered by a tangle of local, state and federal statutes that have sown confusion and produced contradictory justice.

First the good news for reformers: the proposed budget would prohibit law enforcement officials from using federal funds to prosecute patients or legal dispensaries in the 32 states, plus the District of Columbia, that passed some form of medical-marijuana legalization. The provision was crafted by a bipartisan group of representatives and passed the Republican-controlled House in May for the first time in seven tries. If passed into law, it would mark a milestone for the movement, restricting raids against dispensaries and inoculating patients from being punished for an activity that is legal where they live but in violation of federal law.

“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana, and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said in a statement to TIME. The California Republican’s work on the issue reflects the strange coalition that has sprung up to support cannabis reform as the GOP’s libertarian wing gains steam and voters’ views evolve.

At the same time, the House chose to overrule Washington, D.C., on the issue. Last month voters in the District chose to liberalize its marijuana laws, passing an initiative that legalized the possession, consumption and cultivation of recreational marijuana. The move, which was supported by about 70% of the capital’s voters, paved the way for D.C. to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington State by establishing a tax-and-regulatory structure for cannabis sales in 2015.


Portland considering cap on marijuana dispensaries, but how many are there?: Portland City Hall Roundup

A city advisory group presented recommendations Tuesday morning to the Portland City Council on what to do with marijuana in the Rose City.

For months, an internal task force has studied what the city should do with both medical and recreational marijuana. The task force, which included members of a variety of city bureaus, is working under the assumption that recreational pot is coming — it’s just a matter of time.

In addition to the proposed sales tax on marijuana headed to City Council for a first hearing next week, another slightly overlooked recommendation would put a cap on the number of dispensaries across the city.

The cap would include both medical and recreational dispensaries, according to city documents.

How many retail stores and medical establishments is Portland considering? 122.

Bureaucrats settled on that number by taking Portland’s population (roughly 609,456) and imagining one retail local for every 5,000 residents. Under that scenario, Portland could handle about 122 locations.

There are already existing criteria that preclude where dispensaries may open in Portland. They must be 1,000 feet away from a school, for instance, and 1,000 feet from another dispensary. The marijuana task force, organized by Mayor Charlie Hales’ office, is considering adding more buffer zones, such as around playgrounds and libraries.

But Portland already has 68 dispensaries for strictly medical marijuana, and dozens more that have been approved. Check out this graph.

Hemp Oil Not a Source of CBD Which Could Be Used in Epilepsy Treatments

An industrial hemp official is working to clear up some confusion about the plant’s oils and extracts and their uses as Kentucky researchers work toward finding uses for potential treatments with cannabidiol, or CBD. Hemp Industries Association Executive Director Eric Steenstra says the non-profit trade group has received several calls from customers who have bought hemp oil at health stores and want to know if their purchase has CBD in them. Steenstra says CBD extracts come from cannabis flowers and leaves and are up to 150,000 parts per million, or 15 percent, CBD. Meanwhile, hemp oil is less than 25 parts per million CBD and comes from pressed hemp seeds. Hemp oil can be purchased at health food stores and be used in a variety of ways although Steenstra says it does not have the potential medicinal properties that come with higher concentrations of CBD.

“It’s a nutritional oil. It’s very nutritious and it can be used in salads and in all sorts of baking ingredients and can be used in body care products,” he said. “There’s a lot of potential uses: tanning lotions. It can even be used in industrial products, lubricants and that kind of thing. But it’s a basic plant oil. It’s not a significant source of CBD.” Some believe CBD is a potential treatment for seizures.

The Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation in April allowing research hospitals partnering with public universities to conduct research on medical uses for CBD. “[Cannabidiols have] some potential medicinal benefits and it may have other health benefits. I think there’s a lack of research on this. I think this is sort of a new, new field,” Steenstra said. Governor Steve Beshear signed the legislation allowing CBD research in April. But just a month after that, researchers including Chris Shafer who leads the University of Louisville Epilepsy Monitoring Unit said they had a long way to go before they can proceed. The head of Kosair Children’s Hospital’s pediatric epilepsy monitoring unit Karen Skjie also looked for grants to start trials after the law passed. She says one obstacle is that the law doesn’t lay any groundwork for getting CBD to patients.

Medical marijuana debated in Kentucky for PTSD


FRANKFORT, Ky. – Decades after the war, Vietnam veteran Danny Belcher tells of still waking at night with visions of dead friends and bodies hanging in trees. That’s when he reaches for his marijuana pipe.

“I realize it’s just a nightmare,” he said. “I will light that pipe up. I’ll be a criminal. I’ll go back to sleep.”
Advocates of medical marijuana, like Belcher, returned to Frankfort on Thursday, urging state lawmakers to lift legal restrictions on the drug for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

The testimony to the Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection was the latest in a series of legislative hearings this year on allowing cannabis for health conditions such as pain and cancer symptoms.

Belcher told lawmakers that he became a “down in the gutter drunk” after returning from the war and later was prescribed a myriad of powerful drugs for PTSD that did more harm than good.

He said marijuana eventually helped him break free of alcoholism and get off the prescriptions.

“If it gives us a quality of life back, why not do it instead of drugging these veterans up and destroying their liver, their lifestyle,” he said. “Let them have a quality of life where they can be productive citizens again.”

Still, clinical and psychiatric experts from the Louisville Veterans Affairs Medical Center are cautioning lawmakers over a lack of controlled drug trials and clinical evidence for treating PTSD patients with marijuana.
They testified Thursday that there are no statistics showing whether veterans who have been treated with the drug in other states are doing better than those receiving conventional medicine.

“A lot of veterans anecdotally will say that it does help with calming them down and with sleep … but research just isn’t there yet,” said Mary Sweeney, a staff psychologist and specialist in PTSD and substance use disorder for the Louisville VA.

Two bills to permit medical marijuana in Kentucky died in committee during the 2014 General Assembly session. But lawmakers enacted another measure that allows trial use of cannabis oil to treat seizures in children.

Advocates hope it’s a sign that medical marijuana will fare better in the legislature next year. But opponents have raised concerns over a lack of studies on the drug and argue that medical arguments are a veil for recreational use.

Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs reports that diagnosis of PTSD among veterans has been climbing for a decade due largely to combat trauma, grief and military sexual abuse.

More than 350,000 veterans are believed to suffer from the disorder nationwide, including about 18,500 in the network that serves most of Kentucky and Tennessee along with portions of other states.

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, who chairs the Senate veterans committee, said he maintains an open mind on the issue and called the hearing a fact-finding effort.

He also predicted that medical marijuana will eventually become legal in Kentucky even though it faces an “uphill battle” in the legislature.
But “the devil is in the details,” he said. “And I don’t know what the details are.”