First 2017 Marijuana Bill Introduced In Congress

Rick Thompson January 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

 

Image result for California Representative Barbara Lee

 

In a year which has been heralded as a time of change for federal marijuana laws and policies, the first federal bill proposing a change has been introduced in the United States Congress.

H.R. 331 was introduced January 5th and is sponsored by California Representative Barbara Lee (13th District). The official Congressional description of the bill’s purpose is, “To amend the Controlled Substances Act so as to exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.”

At the time of this writing the bill’s language was not available on the Congressional website.

The bill was simultaneously assigned to both the House Judiciary and House Energy and Commerce Committees. The Congressional website describes the Committee split in this way:

Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

The current Speaker of the House is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).

Rep. Lee has stated she will boycott the inauguration of newly-elected U.S. President Donald Trump.

Concerns are rampant within the American marijuana industry and patient population that President-elect Trump will emulate other Republicans and move to curtail or eliminate legal and medical marijuana use in the states where voters have approved it. His nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for the post of U.S. Attorney General reinforced those concerns, as Sessions has a record of attacking marijuana use in speeches and actions.

During a recent nomination hearing, Sen. Sessions did little to reassure anyone about his position. His evasive answers to questions related to his stance on cannabis use offered no insight, and by not revealing his position Sessions fueled the anti-Trump conversation nationwide.

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Health care refugees: Medical marijuana and new hope

By Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent
Video produced by John Bonifield, CNN

Updated 12:16 PM ET, Mon November 28, 2016

Paramedics transport Abby Muszynski to the air ambulance that will fly her from Florida to Colorado.

 

This is the second part of a series on health care refugees. Read the first part here.

(CNN)Rich and Kim Muszynski know when their 5-year-old daughter, Abby, is about to have a grand mal seizure because her pupils enlarge, and she’ll seem to fixate at something in the distance that only she can see.

Then it starts. Abby’s extremities shake. She gasps for air.

By the time she turned 3, Abby had tried about eight different anti-seizure medications. None of them worked very well. Panicked to see their daughter getting worse and worse, the Muszynskis drove three hours to Orlando to see Dr. Ngoc Minh Le, a board certified pediatric neurologist and epileptologist.

Le told them that chances of another anti-seizure drug working on Abby were tiny. He recommended medical marijuana. The timing was right: Just months before, Gov. Rick Scott had legalized the use of a type of non-euphoric cannabis called Charlotte’s Web.

The formulation had been a miracle for a little girl with epilepsy named Charlotte Figi. The Muszynskis had seen her story on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN documentary “Weed.”

Charlotte’s Web did help Abby, but not as much as it had helped Charlotte. She still was having about two grand mal seizures a week, each lasting about eight to 10 minutes.

Le explained to Kim and Rich that Charlotte’s Web has only tiny amounts of THC, one of the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana. Medical marijuana with higher levels of THC was Abby’s best hope, he told them.

But at this point, in 2015, high-THC marijuana wasn’t legal in Florida for Abby. To get it, the Muszynskis would have to move, leaving behind their friends and family, including two older children.

    Kim thought about Colorado, where Charlotte Figi lived. She’d checked with parents of disabled children there, and they told her the state had a fair and efficient Medicaid program.

    Getting to Colorado would be a challenge: Abby’s doctors said it wasn’t safe for her to fly on a commercial plane or to take a long car ride across the country.

    The Muszynskis began their final fight with Florida Medicaid — one that would leave Kim and Abby homeless for several days.

    Kim says that in mid-August, she started talking to Medicaid officials about getting an air ambulance to Colorado. On September 19, Rich drove the family car out to Colorado. They planned for Kim to attend the closing on their house in Boynton Beach on September 23 and leave on the air ambulance with Abby that afternoon.

    Kim had emailed and spoken with various Florida officials, and it seemed to her that everything was in order. “Please give a call today so we can finalize travel arrangements!” Mary Joyce, a senior registered nurse supervisor at Children’s Medical Services at the Florida Department of Health, wrote in an email to Kim on September 20.

    But then several days passed, and there was still no final approval for the transport.

    Their house sold, Kim and Abby were homeless. They moved in with Kim’s best friend and her husband. All of Abby’s equipment, like her bed with guardrails, was with Rich on their way to Colorado. Kim slept with Abby on the floor.

    Abby’s cries at night kept Kim’s friends awake. Kim wrote emails begging Florida officials for help. But for the first time, she added someone not previously included on the email: this CNN reporter.

    Three days later, she learned that the transport had been approved.

      A spokeswoman for Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration gave this statement:

      In this case relocation services are not covered by Medicaid, per federal Medicaid guidelines. However, thanks to Safety Net funds made available by Governor Scott and the Legislature, the state supported this family by covering the costs to provide relocation services via the air ambulance of the mother’s choice. Working with the family, the state arranged transport as quickly as possible,” wrote the spokeswoman, Mallory McManus.

      CONTINUE READING STORY HERE!

      Feds Advise Gun Dealers To Halt Sales To Possible Marijuana Users

      November 15, 2016

      Weapons for sale. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

      SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The trend toward legalized marijuana in the U.S. now has more than half the states allowing either recreational or medicinal use of pot.

      But federal laws have not changed—and anyone who acknowledges using marijuana can’t legally buy a gun.

      The Wall Street Journal reports the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has advised licensed gun dealers that if they have any reason to believe a would-be buyer is a marijuana user, it’s the gun dealer’s responsibility to halt the transaction.

      Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, with no approved medical use and a high potential for abuse, according to federal law. The DEA reaffirmed the classification in August.

      The situation has led to some unusual political alliances. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is a hunter who was surprised to find a question about marijuana use on the form she had to fill out to pick up a gift gun. And the pro-pot group NORML says people shouldn’t have to waive their Second Amendment rights to smoke marijuana.

      However, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that banning gun sales to medical marijuana users doesn’t violate their Second Amendment rights.

      The Journal reported Sen. Murkowski wrote Attorney General Loretta Lynch earlier this year urging her to reconsider the policy.  A Justice Department spokesman told the Journal the department responded but did not reveal further details of the communication.

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      Is pot as dangerous as heroin? Feds’ decision on rescheduling marijuana coming soon

      El Monte Police Lt. Christopher Williams looks over a portion of about 500 marijuana plants in various stages of growth after serving a search warrant at a home at 4300-block of Huddart Avenue in El Monte on Monday March 9, 2015.

       

      By Brooke Edwards Staggs, The Orange County Register

      Posted: 07/09/16, 8:37 PM PDT

       

      At the same time Californians are preparing to vote on the legalization of adult marijuana use, the federal government is weighing whether pot should continue to be classified as a top-tier narcotic on par with heroin.

      Within a month, the Drug Enforcement Administration is expected to release a much-anticipated decision that could alter cannabis’ ranking in the hierarchy of controlled substances — a formal listing that affects everything from medical research to taxing policy.

      Since the list was created in 1970, marijuana has been ranked in Schedule I — the most restrictive category ­alongside heroin, LSD and peyote. The designation is reserved for drugs the DEA says have no proven medical use and are highly addictive.

      What about Congress?

      Even if the Drug Enforcement and Food And Drug administrations don’t recommend changing where marijuana falls on the controlled substances list, Congress could.

      Elected officials are more likely to be influenced by growing public acceptance of marijuana — particularly if they represent one of 25 states with legal marijuana programs.

      “I think that’s probably an easier sell than the decision coming from doctors and police,” said John Hudak, a deputy director with the Brookings Institution.

      Some members of Congress support rescheduling marijuana, including Sen. Barbara Boxer. Some have even pitched descheduling it, including presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. But none of those efforts gained traction, and Paul Armentano with the advocacy group NORML isn’t optimistic Congress will act on the issue anytime soon.

      “I’m not aware of a single hearing much less a vote even in a subcommittee that has ever taken place at the Congressional level specific to the notion of reclassifying marijuana,” he said.

      “We’re bound by the science,” said Melvin Patterson, spokesman for the DEA.

      But many experts and advocates say the current classification is increasingly at odds with scientific studies on marijuana, which suggest the drug has medical value in treating chronic pain, seizures and a number of other conditions, with a lower addiction rate than alcohol.

      The DEA ranking also lags behind a growing public consensus. Roughly 80 percent of Americans believe medical marijuana should be legal, according to recent polls, while some 60 percent support legalizing the drug for all adults.

      “In 2016, this notion that cannabis possesses potential harms equal to that of heroin … simply doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.

      Medical marijuana is now legal in 25 states. Recreational use is allowed in four states plus Washington, D.C. If California green-lights recreational use this November, one in six Americans would live in a state where adults would be allowed to freely use cannabis.

      The question of how cannabis should be ranked has been hotly debated since Congress placed it in the Schedule I group when it passed the Controlled Substances Act nearly 46 years ago. The drug’s classification has been reviewed periodically, with the latest reexamination prompted by a petition filed with the DEA five years ago by the then-governors of Rhode Island and Washington.

      In April, the DEA advised Congress that it expected to announce a decision in the first half of 2016.

      Patterson said officials now “clearly anticipate something happening in the next month.”

      The agency has several options: keep cannabis as a Schedule I drug; reclassify some or all of its compounds to a lower schedule; or remove the plant from the controlled substances list altogether.

      There is a greater chance than ever that marijuana will be rescheduled, said John Hudak, who studies the topic as a deputy director with the Brookings Institution. But he still expects pot to remain a Schedule I drug.

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      “It needs to cross a threshold that says it has an accepted medical value,” Hudak said. “While there are plenty of patients and doctors who do believe it has medical value, that’s not a universal belief in the medical community.”

      Leslie Bocskor, president of Las Vegas-based cannabis advisory firm Electrum Partners, thinks the odds slightly favor a reclassification of marijuana to Schedule II. That category includes morphine and cocaine, which the DEA says are highly addictive but have some medical value. A form of cocaine, for example, is used by some dentists as a local anesthetic.

      The least restrictive of the five schedule categories, Schedule V, includes cough syrup with a bit of codeine.

      Alcohol and tobacco aren’t included on the DEA’s controlled substances list, even though federal studies have found both are associated with higher dependency rates than marijuana.

      Patterson said the DEA frequently hears from people frustrated that marijuana hasn’t been rescheduled sooner.

      “They have their mind made up on what marijuana does in the short term,” he said. “But what about different strains? What about 10 years from now or even 20 years from now? Long-term effects matter.”

      For the medical marijuana community, even reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule II drug would offer some vindication.

      “At a minimum, it would bring an end to the federal government’s longstanding intellectual dishonesty that marijuana ‘lacks accepted medical use,’ ” Armentano said.

      Such a shift by the DEA also might offer a small boost to at least half-a-dozen states with medical or recreational marijuana initiatives on the ballot this November.

      That potential to give some credence to legalization efforts is one of the reasons a few members of Congress, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and the organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, cite in arguing against reclassifying marijuana.

      “Rescheduling would simply be a symbolic victory for advocates who want to legalize marijuana,” SAM wrote in a policy paper on the issue.

      But both the California and American medical associations say rescheduling pot could lower the barriers a bit for federally sanctioned drug research.

      The DEA has never turned down a marijuana research request that met federal criteria, Patterson said. But experts say red tape related to Schedule I drug research is so formidable that it discourages applications. So while there are tens of thousands of peer-reviewed studies on marijuana, there are few costly and rigorous double-blind, placebo-controlled trials involving cannabis.

      Moreover, researchers say, marijuana studies are saddled with restrictions that don’t apply to other Schedule I drugs.

      Since 1968, for example, the federal government has said only a tightly controlled stock of high-quality marijuana grown under contract by the University of Mississippi can be used for FDA-approved studies. Armentano said that restricts the supply available for research.

      If marijuana were reclassified to at least Schedule III — alongside Tylenol with codeine and anabolic steroids — it would mean the nation’s rapidly growing number of cannabis-related businesses could begin deducting operating expenses from their federal taxes.

      Under a tax rule imposed during the Reagan Administration’s 1980s anti-drug war, businesses dealing in Schedule I or II substances are prohibited from writing off common expenses such as rent, utilities or advertising.

      Harborside Health Center, a large Oakland dispensary, has been battling the IRS over the rule for five years, after being assessed $2.4 million for illegal deductions. A decision in that case is expected soon.

      Even if cannabis was moved down the controlled substances list to the least-restrictive category, the industry would still be likely to face business and regulatory hurdles.

      Armentano likened such a change, should it come, to the first stride in a marathon.

      “Technically, it gets you closer to the finish line,” he said. “But you still have a whole hell of a long way to go.”

      Pot would remain an illegal substance under federal law. Reclassification wouldn’t necessarily open access to banking services, Hudak said. And doctors wouldn’t automatically switch to writing prescriptions, as opposed to “recommendations,” for medical marijuana, since that’s only allowed for FDA-approved drugs.

      “There are certain people who play up rescheduling as an earth-shattering reform,” Hudak said. “It is not.”

      He said sweeping changes would only come in the unlikely event that cannabis was completely descheduled, putting it on par with alcohol.

      That would allow local governments to create cannabis policies free from federal interference, Armentano said, the way they can set their own hours for when bars stop serving alcohol or make entire counties “dry.”

      Armentano isn’t optimistic the DEA will move marijuana to a less restrictive category, but he said there’s been one positive result from the current review.

      “There’s attention being paid to how they handle this situation in a way that just wasn’t there before,” he said. “If the DEA goes down the same path as it has in the past, I think they’re going to have some explaining to do.”

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      Barry Lambert: "Bad laws deserve to be broken. I am fully supportive. It is the right thing to do."

      "Bad laws deserve to be broken. I am fully supportive. It is the right thing to do," says Barry Lambert of campaigning ... 

       

      Barry Lambert is gazing out the picture window of his Sydney home at a multimillion-dollar beach view. Around him his grandchildren fiddle on their phones while his wife Joy sips tea. Lambert drinks a cappuccino he’s just bought at the local café. It’s a charming family scene – except for one thing. At the table beside him, his son Michael is committing a crime that carries a sentence of up to two years’ jail.

      Michael, 44, takes out a tube that says “Hemp Oil 20 per cent CBD”, squeezes it and smears the brown paste onto a corn chip which he then gives to his daughter Katelyn, who is draped sleepily on her mother Saowalak’s lap. Katelyn, Lambert’s four-year-old granddaughter, wakes briefly and chews on the chip.

      The oil is an extract of cannabis, a substance prohibited under the NSW Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act of 1985. It is being used to treat a dangerous form of childhood epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, although there is as yet little hard evidence to prove its effectiveness.

      Asked how he feels about the use of an illegal cannabis product to treat Katelyn, the 70-year-old Lambert, who has sat quietly as his family squawks and scraps around him, pauses a little awkwardly before answering softly but firmly.

      “Bad laws deserve to be broken. I am fully supportive. It is the right thing to do.”

      Until last year Barry Lambert was known in Australian business circles chiefly for his success in building Count Financial, a chain of accounting and financial planning shopfronts that he started 35 years ago and eventually sold to the Commonwealth Bank for more than $373 million. That 2011 sale landed him a spot on the BRW Rich 200, where he was ranked the 156th wealthiest Australian last year.

      So it was a surprise when Lambert publicly associated himself with the cause of medicinal cannabis. With little warning, he gave a press conference in August at which he announced that he and his family would donate $34 million to the University of Sydney for what is called the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics.

      Lambert’s mind-boggling donation has put him at the crossroads of some of the most difficult issues in health, ethics and business. Suffering families welcomed the boost he has given to research that could benefit thousands, if not millions, of sick people. Police and conservative politicians, however, worry that medicinal cannabis will be a Trojan horse for legalisation of recreational drugs and quack therapies. There are also doctors who will not recommend medicinal cannabis given its still unproven benefits.

      Ingrid Scheffer, professor at Melbourne University and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, is one of them. The world expert in paediatric neurology, to whom the Lamberts turned for advice, says cannabis is potentially beneficial in some cases but has been hyped. “It is not a silver bullet.” She says she is not yet able to recommend it because so far there is no hard scientific evidence of its benefits in treating epilepsy, although she is optimistic that proper clinical trials will give an answer in the very near future.

      “It worries me how often I don’t get asked about the risks of medicinal cannabis,” says Professor Scheffer. “There is good data showing a link between cannabis and psychosis and we know there are people we see through our adult epilepsy program whose epilepsy won’t come under control until they stop taking cannabis. We need to weigh up the risks and benefits but I think that medicinal cannabis will have a place in the treatment of epilepsy in the near future.”

      Read more: http://www.afr.com/brand/afr-magazine/why-millionaire-barry-lambert-invested-34-million-in-medicinal-cannabis-20160313-gni315#ixzz47EFdeRZj
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