Category Archives: Advocacy

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Rescheduling Marijuana—A Brief History of Rescheduling Efforts

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Marijuana is currently classified federally as a Schedule I controlled substance. This limits how it can be studied or used medically.

  • In order to qualify as a Schedule I controlled substance, a substance must have no accepted medical use, and must have the highest potential for abuse. Marijuana does not meet these criteria.

Although marijuana clearly does not meet the criteria for being classified as a Schedule I drug (of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act)—it was wrongfully convicted and remains locked into that “cell” while advocates work to “prove its innocence”  or at least its medicinal benefits and relative safety.

The Controlled Substances Act does provide a process for rescheduling controlled substances by petitioning the Drug Enforcement Division.  Cannabis could be also rescheduled either legislatively through Congress, or through the executive branch.  Many efforts have been tried and failed. And, there are many “criteria” for being considered a “drug” that marijuana, an herb, can never meet.

In 1972: The first petition under this process was filed to allow cannabis to be legally prescribed by physicians. The petition was denied. In 1985: The synthetic (THC) pill form was originally scheduled as a Schedule II drug and rescheduled in 1999 to a Schedule III class –which allowed doctors to prescribe it.

So, the U.S. government, while acknowledging that marijuana (cannabis) has medicinal value, does not agree with rescheduling it. Instead Federal agencies continue to stick to claims that it has no medical value, lacks safety and is highly addictive. Marijuana will continue to be an outlaw drug alongside heroin, and LSD in the failed war on drugs as long as it remains a Schedule I substance.

Multiple petitions (and the appeals) for rescheduling were denied in 2001, 2002 and 2013.

In 2008, the American College of Physicians called for a review of cannabis’s Schedule I classification in its position paper titled “Supporting Research into the Therapeutic Role of Marijuana”.

In 2014

January: a letter penned by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and signed by ten members of Congress was sent to President Obama urging him to reconsider marijuana’s status as a “Schedule I” drug.

June: the FDA conducted an analysis, at the request of the DEA, on whether marijuana should be downgraded,at a congressional hearing.  See Video here

September: World Leaders made recommendations for major changes to global drug policy. The Live-Stream conference included former Presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland.

In October (in CALIFORNIA): What started as a criminal trial led to U.S. District Court Judge, Kimberly J. Mueller agreeing to hear up-to-date evidence about marijuana’s medical usefulness and safety. To reschedule marijuana she and her colleagues must prove that the federal law is misguided and that it is entirely irrational. Decisions will be made in 2015.

Also in October (in IOWA) the Iowa Board of Pharmacy held special meetings to examine the medical value of marijuana and whether marijuana’s classification under state law should be changed. Decisions were deferred into 2015.

Recently Posted Position Statement from the American Academy of Neurolgy: The AAN, for research purposes, requests the reclassification of marijuana-based products from their current Schedule I status so as to improve access for study of marijuana or cannabinoids under IRB-approved research protocols.

And, there will be MORE TO COME in 2016!

The Road to United Nations Special Session on Drugs is scheduled for 2016. It is a special international conference to reassess the misclassification of marijuana and to examine other drug policies.

 

Upcoming Conferences in 2015

Two noteworthy conferences that will address Drug Policy issues are coming up in February and March of 2015.

The FIRST conference is: icbc_sf_logo_big

International Cannabis Business Conference

Februrary 15, 16, 2015    in San Francisco, California.

“The International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) is a business and networking event like none other. It is unique in that it brings in the top cannabis attorneys and professionals, as well as politicians, celebrities and journalists from around the U.S. and the world. The days are filled with networking and well-informed and lively speakers, and the evenings are filled with music and laughter. The ICBC is an environment expressly created for learning and networking and is a must attend for any serious Canna entrepreneur.

SPEAKERS INCLUDE:

Dr. Carl Hart, Ph.D, an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University. Author of “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-discovery that Challenges Everything you know about Drugs and Society”.

Ethan Nadelmann, founding director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), a driving force behind many successful marijuana law reform measures.

Amanda Reiman, Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA),

Dale Gieringer, the state director of California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) since 1987

Anthony Johnson, the Director of New Approach Oregon, the political action committee responsible for the successful 2014 ballot measure that legalized and regulated marijuana in Oregon.

CONGRESSMAN DANA ROHRABACHER- Currently serving his 13th term in Congress, he represents California’s scenic 48th District. He co-sponsored the amendment to the Omnibus spending bill which eliminated Federal Funding for law enforcement interference with medical marijuana programs.

 The SECOND CONFERENCE IS:

National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference

(3rd Annual), March 27-31, 2015

in Washington, DC.

http://www.nationalmedicalcannabisunityconference.org/

The speakers are not listed, however this conference is welcome to many: Medical cannabis patients, legal professional, medical professionals, advocates, caregivers, industry professionals or professionals working in any aspect of advocacy including federal, state or local government relations, public relations, public affairs, community activism, coalitions, public policy, campaigns, PAC and grassroots, politics, legislation, and communications.

March 31st is reserved for “LOBBY DAY”.  They note that:

“We know that the best outcomes happen when medical cannabis patients and advocates have a voice in the conversation about policies that affect their lives and/or the lives of loved ones.

Research shows that YOUR citizen lobbying is 6x more effective than lobbying from special interest groups.

When you register for the conference we will make an appointment for you to meet with your Representative on our Lobby Day, March 31, 2015.”

Please pass this information along to others who might wish to attend.

New resource: Changes & Clarifications to Hawaiiʻs Medical Marijuana Program

The Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii has published a “frequently asked questions” document on the new bills passed in 2013 and the recent Hawaii Supreme Court decision on patient travel within the state and medical marijuana. Visit www.mcchi.org for more details and to monitor the issue, or see the document here: (PDF, 5 pages) http://dpfhi.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/7_1mmjfaq_final.pdf

Illinois becomes 20th State with medical marijuana program

http://mcchi.org/2013/08/01/illinois-becomes-20th-state-to-legalize-medical-marijuana/

Bills to improve patient privacy and safe access to medical marijuana become law

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Advocates call measures a “significant first step” to modernize Hawaii’s thirteen year-old medical marijuana law

(Honolulu, 6/25/2013) Patient advocates celebrated the signing of two bills to improve Hawaii’s 13 year-old medical marijuana program – the first updates to pass the legislature since the program began. Approved today were measures to move program oversight away from the Department of Public Safety Narcotics Enforcement Division (“NED”) and to the Department of Health (“DOH”), and to adjust the type and amount of medical marijuana a patient can legally possess.

HB 668 CD1 moves oversight of the program to the DOH, a move welcomed by advocates as both symbolic and substantive. HB 668 will go into effect January 1, 2015, giving time for the transition between departments to occur.

SB 642 CD1 increases the amount of medical marijuana a patient or caregiver can grow and possess. Lawmakers also added a provision requiring that only a patient’s primary care physician can certify them for eligibility, but later clarified that people covered in the Federal system (e.g. military dependents at Tripler) and those seeing specialist physicians will still have access to Hawaii’s medical marijuana program. This measure will also take effect in 2015 – one day later than HB 688.

Representative Della Au Belatti, who advocated strongly for the bills, said: “Today’s bills represent a significant step forward in improving Hawaii’s medical marijuana program and aligning it with best practices of medical cannabis programs in other states.  By refocusing the program on medical matters such as the role of the primary physician and the role of the Department of Health in providing regulation and program oversight, the State can better ensure the compassionate treatment of people suffering from debilitating health conditions.”

The policy shift is part of a serious discussion on the future of marijuana law in the Islands, mirroring reforms happening around the country. Bills to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol and to remove criminal penalties for adult use garnered unprecedented public support and legislative interest and received hearings, but were ultimately shelved until 2014 with no final votes taken.

Hawaii’s medical marijuana program enjoys very strong public support. Respected local polling firm QMark Research was commissioned to conduct a statewide, statistically significant poll of 600 Hawaii voters. The poll occurred between November 19 and December 4, 2012. Among its findings:

  • 81% of Hawaii voters support access to medical marijuana by sick and dying people under a doctor’s care.
  • 78% of Hawaii voters support a dispensary system for medical marijuana.

Pam Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Action Group, said: “While Hawaii still has important work ahead in updating our medical marijuana program, these bills are a significant first step. The emergence of legislative champions for medical marijuana like Senators Will Espero and Josh Green and Representative Della Au Belatti shows that lawmakers recognize the broad public support among voters. We look forward to working with the 2014 legislature to establish state-regulated dispensaries, and to make additional patient-centered improvements to the Hawaii program.”

Vanessa Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii, added: “In 2000, Hawaii led the nation as the first state to legislatively establish our medical marijuana program. Now, a total of 18 states plus Washington, D.C. have programs. Finally, 13 years down the road, Hawaii is moving toward patient-focused policies and away from a law enforcement approach. These bills do not address every concern, but are the first real steps toward a more sensible public policy — we are encouraged and will redouble our efforts next legislative session.”

Patients, doctors and caregivers are urged to join the confidential support network “The Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii” founded by the Drug Policy Action Group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and follow the latest news at www.mcchi.org

Letter to the editor: Patients need legal pot dispensaries

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Honolulu Star Advertiser 5/28/13

Patients need legal pot dispensaries

Like the Star-Advertiser (“Medical cannabis belongs under health auspices,” Our View, May 23), we applaud the Legislature’s improvements to the state’s 13-year-old program. The measures passed this session are a promising start to a much-needed update.

You have the details backward, however, in your description of Senate Bill 642: The new law would increase the amount a patient may possess to 4 ounces, and replace the confusing “three mature, four immature plants” language with a simple seven plants total.

To further clarify, medical marijuana is not “prescribed (and) dispensed” at present. Physicians write a recommendation, not a prescription (which is not recognized under federal law), and marijuana is not legally “dispensed” by anyone.

A tightly regulated state-authorized system of distribution remains the highest priority for patients in Hawaii, especially for those, like many kupuna, who are unable to grow their own and are still forced to the black market to obtain their medicine.

Pamela Lichty
President, Drug Policy Action Group

MidWeek Magazine profiles Dr. David Barton: “Medical Cannabis Safe, Effective”

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http://www.midweek.com/medical-cannabis-safe-effective/

“Thankfully, the Hawaii State Legislature took a bold stand more than a decade ago, in the face of great political pressure, which still exists, and allowed for legal use by chronically ill and disabled people.

Chronic pain is the No. 1 medical condition in the United States, with an estimated 75 million to 100 million Americans living with it. At least 20 million to 25 million Americans live with severe pain. In Hawaii, it is conservatively estimated that more than 100,000 live with moderate to severe pain from all causes, including arthritic degeneration, trauma, metabolic conditions such as diabetes, and cancer or its treatment.”

Opinion poll on Hawaii marijuana laws shows voters open to medical dispensaries, decriminalization

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Read the reports: http://freshapproachhawaii.org/2013/01/19/opinion-poll-on-hawaii-marijuana-laws/

Respected local polling firm QMark Research was commissioned by the Drug Policy Action Group (the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii)  to conduct a statewide, statistically significant poll of 600 Hawaii voters. The poll occurred between November 19 and December 4, 2012. Among its findings:

  •  78% support a dispensary system for medical marijuana.
  • 69% think that jail time for marijuana offenses is inappropriate.
  • 57% favor legalized, taxed and regulated marijuana, 20% higher than the last poll conducted in 2005.

Independent U.H. economist David Nixon was commissioned to update a 2005 study on the state of marijuana law enforcement in Hawaii. He was asked to examine the costs of current law enforcement policies, and to predict the economic impacts if Hawaii were to decriminalize or legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. Among his findings:

  • Hawaii has seen a surge in marijuana arrests since 2004. Possession arrests have increased almost 50%, and distribution arrests have almost doubled.
  • Hawaii’s marijuana laws overly impact males under the age of 25 and people of native Hawaiian descent. These groups were arrested in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population.
  • By decriminalizing marijuana, Hawaii could redirect over $9 M annually in law enforcement costs.
  • By legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana, Hawaii could conservatively add an additional estimated $11 M in yearly revenues.

New infographic – Hawaii’s medical marijuana program by the numbers

Many statistics get thrown around when people talk about Hawaii’s medical marijuana program. Looking for a fast guide to the facts – with citations? Here it is!

http://dpfhi.wordpress.com/hawaiis-medical-marijuana-program-by-the-numbers-infographic/