“We're supposed to have religious freedom,” said church member Rey Herrera. “We believe that this was in the Bible and that we need to do this as a sacrifice.”
Church members smoked cannabis on the sidewalk surrounding the Roger William National Memorial. The church wanted to smoke at a historical well located in the park, but a federal judge told them they couldn't use cannabis on the federal land.
Anne Armstrong, one of the leaders of the Healing Church, says the well inside the park is important for the church's members.
“Even in the 70's the cannabis sensitive people knew there was something very special about this well,” Armstrong said.
About 10 uniformed park police officers watched Saturday's ceremony from the parking, at times videotaping the church's actions.
“They've made clear if we use cannabis religiously at the birthplace of religious freedom they're going to ticket us,” said Alan Gordon of the New England Cannabis Anti-Discrimination Task force.
Church leaders decided to conduct the cannabis portion of the ceremony on the public sidewalk. They circled the perimeter of the park seven times carrying religious pictures along with a cannabis plant and branch.
Armstrong hopes that Saturday's ceremony is just another step towards their religion being accepted in the eyes of the public and law. She added that the church's next legal battle is trying to get approval to give cannabis to church members currently in jail.
By ZACH PLUHACEK
The parents of a woman with intractable epilepsy who died this month in Lincoln hope their daughter's story will sway state senators who are still undecided about legalizing medical marijuana in Nebraska.
Megan Sharpnack, 27, went to bed May 2 after an uneventful evening, said her father, John Sharpnack.
She had tacos for dinner — one of her favorites — made color patterns with her Connect Four game — another favorite — and sat around and watched TV.
"She'd been doing so well lately," Sherry Sharpnack said of her daughter.
The next morning, "my husband went to wake her up, and she had left us."
The Sharpnacks haven't been given an exact cause of death, but they believe she suffocated after having a seizure while she slept.
They consider the timing highly ironic.
On Thursday, Nebraska lawmakers OK'd the state's first venture into legalized medical marijuana, approving a pilot project at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to treat patients who suffer from intractable epilepsy.
And state senators are considering whether to allow broader use of medical marijuana to treat other conditions, though not through smoking.
"It would have been nice to have had an opportunity to try it," Sherry Sharpnack said.
Megan's seizures started when she was 4 months old, a side effect of a now-outmoded whooping cough vaccine.
"It was just her hand shaking," her mother said. "And they progressed from there."
She had her first tonic-clonic, or grand mal seizure, at 18 months.
From there the seizures stunted her mental growth, locking the brain of a toddler inside the body of a physically frail but growing young woman.
Her parents changed their jobs to pay for her care and built a lifestyle around their daughter.
They tried about 10 medications. None completely stopped the seizures, and some packed powerful side effects, including acid reflux so bad it required surgery.
Medical marijuana is less risky — and in many cases more effective than pharmaceutical drugs, proponents argue.
But Gov. Pete Ricketts has called marijuana dangerous, and his administration cautioned state lawmakers against passing this year's broader medical marijuana bill (LB643), sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Tommy Garrett.
Marijuana shouldn't receive special treatment and should undergo the same examination as other drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the governor has said.
Time is tight in the Legislature, and senators have a week left to debate the bill before adjourning for the summer. Some have suggested holding off until next year.
"Do we want (more) blood on our hands?" Garrett said. "This is people's lives. ... That's what has driven me from day one."
Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford's more limited measure (LB390), which would allow the UNMC study, is already on Ricketts' desk.
Crawford says UNMC is working with an FDA-approved vendor to obtain cannabidiol, the marijuana extract doctors there would use to treat seizures.
If Ricketts doesn't veto her bill, doctors could begin treatment soon after getting their hands on the drug.
"He has no idea the pain that these families are going through," Sherry Sharpnack said. "We have lost the opportunity to try this to see if it would improve the quality of life for our daughter."
But others haven't, she said.
"I really can’t find any justification for not giving it a try," said John Sharpnack. "After all the horrible things that we have tried, this seems a slice of Doublemint gum."
Each time Megan started a new drug, her family was warned it could “possibly do really good things — and possibly kill her," her father said.
"I think it’s quite important to have the opportunity to try different medications," he said. "And if you’re going to deny someone an opportunity, you better have a really good reason.”
VIA Journal Star
AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas House gave final approval Tuesday to a limited medical marijuana bill that would give epilepsy patients access to trace amounts of cannabis oil. The next stop is Gov. Greg Abbott's desk, marking a milestone that marijuana-reform advocates say is nothing short of historic in Texas.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
The bill allows patients with intractable epilepsy, whose seizures are not controlled by usual treatments, to receive trace amounts of a marijuana plant extract to help treat their seizures. The maximum legal dosage would be so low that it wouldn't produce the high associated with other parts of marijuana.
The oil could only be obtained with a prescription and would remain off-limits to patients with other medical conditions.
WHERE ELSE IS THIS ALREADY LEGAL?
Fourteen states in the past year have passed similar low-dose cannabis oil laws. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott were among the first.
Republicans in those states have stressed that the oil would be strictly supervised and wouldn't be a precursor to legalizing recreational marijuana.
IF IT'S SO LIMITED, WHY ARE MARIJUANA SUPPORTERS EXCITED?
Even the mildest proposals to relax marijuana laws in recent years have been dead on arrival in the Texas Legislature.
Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick, the House sponsor of the latest cannabis bill, has said even she wouldn't have supported her own legislation two years ago. Klick, a nurse, said learning about the impact the oil can have on patients changed her mind.
Progress Texas, a left-leaning group that has pushed for marijuana reforms, called the measure an "important first step."
But not all marijuana reform advocates are celebrating. The Marijuana Policy Project calls the legislation "unworkable" and blasted lawmakers for not following the lead of 23 states that allow comprehensive medical marijuana.
WHAT DO OPPONENTS SAY?
Before the Texas House passed the bill by a 96-34 margin, some lawmakers shouted "It's a bad bill!" during a lengthy debate. The Sheriff's Association of Texas has also raised concerns about the oil falling into the wrong hands or being improperly used.
WILL ABBOTT SIGN IT?
Since taking office in January, Abbott -- the state's former attorney general -- has mostly limited his comments about marijuana to saying he doesn't see decriminalization happening this year.
But that's far from the issue outlined in the legislation now in front of him. He also has plenty of political cover in the form of other GOP governors and his own Republican-controlled Legislature that have supported legalizing its restricted medical use.
Despite concerns from some lawmakers that they were taking the first step toward legalizing marijuana, the Texas House tentatively approved a bill Monday that would allow epilepsy patients in Texas to use medicinal oils containing a therapeutic component found in the plant.
On a 96-34 vote, the House passed Senate Bill 339, from state Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), which would legalize oils containing CBD, a non-euphoric component of marijuana known to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions. If the House gives final passage in a follow-up vote, the measure will be Gov. Greg Abbott's to sign, veto or allow to become law without his signature. If it becomes law, the state would be able to regulate and distribute the oils to patients whose symptoms have not responded to federally approved medication.
Before the vote, state Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) the bill's House sponsor, repeatedly stressed to House members that the product she was trying to legalize should not be confused with marijuana.
"It is also not something you can get high on. It has a low risk of abuse," Klick said. "This is not something that can be smoked. It is ingested orally."
Texas is one of 16 states where marijuana is illegal for medical and recreational use. In recent years, 13 states have legalized CBD oil for certain medical conditions. Twenty-three other states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing broader medical marijuana use.
At an April hearing of the House Committee on Public Health, supporters recounted the seizures endured by children who they say could benefit from derivatives of medical marijuana. But opponents, including representatives of law enforcement agencies, expressed concerns that increased access to any component of marijuana would jeopardize public safety and lead to increased recreational use of marijuana throughout the state.
Several Republican lawmakers brought up those concerns during the House floor debate. At one point, over the shouts of House members booing, state Rep. Mark Keough (R-The Woodlands) yelled, "This is a bad bill."
State Rep. John Zerwas (R-Simonton) and a House sponsor of the bill along with Klick, responded. "It is not a bad bill. It is a great bill and it is going to save lives."
The bill requires the state to regulate the distribution of the medication, directing the Texas Department of Public Safety to license at least three dispensing organizations by Sept. 1, 2017, provided that at least that many applicants have met the state's requirements. Klick said on the House floor that the dispensaries would function similar to compounding pharmacies. Under the bill, only a neurologist or epileptologist would be able to prescribe CBD oil.
State Rep. David Simpson, a Longview Republican who drew national attention this session for his efforts to decriminalize marijuana, urged House members to back SB 339.
"Many people think it's government doing too little too late but it is a step forward for medical freedom and personal responsibility," Simpson said.
By Debbie Truong
LANCASTER — Dozens of people gathered in Penn Square Saturday afternoon, donning shirts, pins and necklaces, and toting signs indicating their support for the legalization of medical marijuana and industrial hemp.
They were part of the Lancaster Hemp Freedom Rally, the kick-off to a statewide tour that will also include stops in Reading, York and Harrisburg, among others.
Saturday's rally, organized by the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, took place four days after medical marijuana legalization passed the state Senate by a 40-7 vote. The bill is now being considered by the House Health Committee headed by Matt Baker, R-Tioga County, who said he has no plans to take up any medical marijuana bill, the Associated Press reported.
Les Stark, executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, said the rally in Lancaster was important for demonstrating public support at the end of a pivotal week in the push to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.
Dozens Gather For Lancaster Hemp Freedom Rally
Luke Shultz, 53, said he's been dogged with chronic lower back pain for much of his adult life. Shultz said he'd prefer to use medical cannabis rather than opiates and other pain medications for relief.
"We want to push Matt Baker and the health committee and the rest of the House of Representatives to push through Senate Bill 3," he said.
Ultimately, Stark said the organization would like to see a legal, taxed and regulated cannabis industry in Pennsylvania that mirrors those in Colorado and Washington.
Mary Lynn Sergent, of Shrewsbury, said she has a family history of arthritis and had a hip replacement last year. She's allergic to opiates, so medical marijuana would be a key alternative to helping provide relief.
"I will be in the population that will benefit and desperately need medical marijuna to relieve pain as I age," Sergent said. "Things like oxycontin aren't going to work for me."
Deb Guy, executive director of the Lancaster subchapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was in her twenties when she said she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and degenerative joint disease.
She tried a host of pharmaceutical drugs, sometimes up to 40 painkillers a day of "anything mixed from oxy to morphine to Vicodin" but nothing helped.
She gained weight, topping out at 230 pounds. She wasn't healthy and faced "some pretty bad health scares." She said she stopped using the pharmaceutical drugs and started using cannabis.
"It changed my life. I am now much healthier, much thinner," she said. "And, I'm functional. I don't have an issue with getting out of my bed every morning."
Bills have also been introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate to create a pilot program to research the cultivation of industrial hemp. The federal farm bill passed in 2014 allowed states to create programs for cultivating industrial hemp, which was banned for decades because of its association with marijuana.
Industrial hemp can be used for textiles, food and fuel, among other things.
"It's an excellent opportunity for our farmers, for our economy, for creating jobs in manufacturing," Stark said.
By early Saturday afternoon, a few advocates stood at the edge of Penn Square, waving signs as traffic streamed through the thoroughfare. Some drivers honked and signaled their support with cheers or a thumbs up.
Under a nearby gazebo, a musician crooned the lyrics to Tom Petty's You Don't Know How it Feels.
I'll take you on a moonlight ride /
There's someone I used to see /
But she don't give a damn for me /
But let me get to the point, let's roll another joint ...
- VIA PennLive
By Kay Lazar
Massachusetts health authorities Friday dramatically overhauled the process for granting licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries, aiming to streamline the system and remove politics.
Regulators from the administration of Governor Charlie Baker said the revamped licensing strips away the subjectivity and secrecy that had tainted the system under former governor Deval Patrick’s tenure. Controversy surrounding the previous system sparked more than two dozen lawsuits, leaving patients without any dispensaries 2½ years after voters approved marijuana for medical use.
“This change creates a more streamlined, efficient, and transparent process that allows the Commonwealth to maintain the highest standards of both public safety and accessibility,” Dr. Monica Bharel, the state’s public health commissioner, said in a statement.
Several marijuana company leaders said they were already prepared to reapply, signaling the start of what is likely to be a long line of applicants. While the 2012 state law capped the number of licenses awarded in the first year to 35, that period is now passed, and regulators are free to exceed that limit.
Just 15 dispensaries have received licenses to date, but none has opened.
Under the revised guidelines, dispensaries will be licensed in a format similar to other health care facilities, such as pharmacies. Each application will be judged on its merits using clear guidelines and will move forward when the company meets the overhauled standards, officials said. The old system involved scoring, essentially pitting applications against each other.
The health department will begin accepting applications June 29, and regulators said they will consider them in the order received.
Among the more notable changes: The department will make staff available to applicants throughout the process to provide technical support, according to the new guidelines. Marijuana company executives had complained about a lack of communication by state officials during the Patrick administration.
“Kudos to the Baker administration for changing things around that make a lot more sense,” said Catherine Cametti, known as Rina, a Walpole resident whose dispensary application received high marks under the old process but then was abruptly derailed by regulators when a background check found problems with one member of Cametti’s team.
The new system will retain several features from the previous one, including required letters of support from the community in which a company intends to locate a dispensary, and mandatory background checks on nearly everyone associated with a dispensary company.
But this time, the rules specify which offenses in an executive’s background will prevent the company from including that individual. The rules also allow companies to remove the person found to have an unsavory past, without jeopardizing the company’s application.
Problematic background checks wreaked havoc with the licensing process previously. Some companies were inexplicably knocked out of the running for problems found with an executive team member’s background, while others were awarded licenses despite problems.
“The last time, there were so many unknowns, and I felt they were changing things as they went along, and there were a couple of curve balls thrown in,” Cametti said. “To know what you are dealing with ahead of time is really important.”
Cametti said her company, Beacon Wellness Center, intends to apply again, probably in Norfolk County.
The Denver company Good Chemistry also said it intends to reapply. Good Chemistry had been awarded provisional licenses for dispensaries in Boston and in Worcester, then had them yanked away amid questions about the company’s local support.
“This appears to be a much more open and fair process,” said Jim Smith, a Boston attorney who represents Good Chemistry.
Smith said the company retained the site it had selected in Worcester for a dispensary, but has not made a decision about whether it would apply for an additional location.
Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, the company once led by former US representative William D. Delahunt, also appears poised to move forward. The firm was stripped of three provisional licenses because of questions about its financial structure. Delahunt has since left the company.
Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts originally intended to give up to 50 percent of revenues to a management company run by the same executives as the marijuana firm, a plan regulators prohibited after it was detailed in the Globe.
Concerns about management structure plagued the old licensing process, with some companies losing licenses because they used related management firms, while others were allowed to proceed.
The new system provides guidelines about the use of outside management companies, suggesting that the marijuana companies keep management payments reasonable and within “fair market” values.
Jonathan Herlihy, chief executive of Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, applauded the guidelines.
“Overall, I would say this new system is very, very good,” Herlihy said.
His company was one of dozens that sued state regulators over the licensing process, and a judge last month ordered officials to let Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts go ahead with plans to open dispensaries in Mashpee and Plymouth, ruling it was improperly stripped of licenses last year.
VIA Boston Globe
A new study suggests that medical marijuana pills may not help treat behavioral symptoms of dementia, such as aggression, pacing and wandering. The research is published in the May 13, 2015, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. However, researchers did find that the drug dosage used in the clinical trial was safe and well-tolerated.
“Our study results are valuable since any firm evidence of the effectiveness and safety of medical marijuana in this disease area is scarce,” said study author Geke A.H. van den Elsen, MD, with Radboud university medical center in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. “Ours is the largest study carried out so far on evaluating this drug for behavioral symptoms of dementia.”
For the study, researchers randomly selected 50 participants with dementia and behavioral symptoms to receive 1.5 milligrams of medical marijuana or a placebo pill three times per day for three weeks. The medical marijuana pill contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main chemical involved in marijuana’s psychoactive effects. The main study measurement was change in scores on a test of behavioral symptoms called the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, assessed at the start of the study and after two and three weeks.
The test scores improved for both the medical marijuana and the placebo groups, but there was no significant difference between the scores for the two groups. There was also no difference between the two groups for participants’ quality of life, daily living activities or pain-related behavior and pain intensity.
Van den Elsen said improvements in the placebo group could be due to several factors, including attention and support from the study personnel, expectations of patients and caregivers and training of nursing home personnel.
People in the two groups had a similar number of mild and moderate side effects. There were no serious side effects in either group.
“Since the side effects were mild to moderate, it’s possible that a higher dose could be tolerated and could possibly be beneficial,” said van den Elsen. “Future studies are needed to test this. A drug that can treat the behavioral symptoms of dementia is much needed, as about 62 percent of dementia patients in the general community and up to 80 percent of nursing home residents experience these symptoms.”
Among the first states in the nation to legalize the use and possession of marijuana, Colorado is also blazing trails when it comes to marijuana legislation in schools.
Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer sponsored a bill known as “Jack’s Amendment,” which would allow medical marijuana to be used in schools along with other permitted medications.
“Jack’s Amendment will assure that children don’t have to choose between going to school and taking their medicine”
Jack Splitt, 14-year-old Colorado student, inspired the amendment after Splitt’s personal nurse was reprimanded for his use of a medical marijuana patch at his middle school. Doctors prescribed the patch to help control his spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and dystonia.
This policy change is intended to benefit school-age students in Colorado who, like Jack, rely on medical marijuana patches to help manage conditions like cerebral palsy, epilepsy and seizures. Under the new bill, caregivers or parents would be allowed to administer marijuana patches in school, as long as a doctor’s note is provided.
Singer continued, “We allow children to take all sort of psychotropic medications, whether it’s Ritalin or opiate painkillers, under supervised circumstances. We should do the same here.”
The bill was met with overwhelming support in the Colorado House and passed unanimously. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has to reject or sign the bill in 30 days to give Colorado the opportunity to become the nation’s first state to permit medical marijuana usage in schools. According to one of the governor’s spokespersons, Hickenlooper intends to sign the bill.
Though the new legislation has been widely supported, voices of concern can still be heard. The former adviser on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, Robert O’Brien, has openly voiced his opposition to marijuana in schools.
O’Brien recently spoke with FoxNews.com, stating, “Even in a tightly regulated regime, I don’t think more marijuana in the schools is a better idea.” He also commented, “Kids need to get the treatment they deserve … but I don’t want that in the schools.”
Penalties have yet to be defined for those who violate new rules, though laws of drug-free zones are known for inflicting harsh penalties. In the meantime, Jack’s mother, Stacey Linn, told FoxNews.com that she is relieved her son can soon attend school with the medication he needs.
Pro-marijuana activists say Greece's far-left government should bring in new legislation
A different kind of air blew over Syntagma square over the weekend as hundreds of Greeks gathered opposite the parliament and smoked at the Athens Cannabis Protestival, the first pro-cannabis legalization celebration to take place in the country's capital.
People attended the event organized by pro-legalization groups and called on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' newly-elected government to change legislation in Greece and allow the use and self-cultivation of medical and recreational cannabis.
The organizers set up banners at the square reading 'Nature is not illegal' and 'Cannabis is a medicine.'
They used the marble stairs that lead from the square to the Greek Assembly as a stage where dj sets and live bands performed for the crowds. One of the event's organizers said legislation was changing all around the world and Greece should follow suit.
Co-organizer of Athens Cannabis Protestival, Dimitris Paraskevas: "What we are trying to do today is we are trying to decriminalize the use and self cultivation of cannabis. We believe that in the 21st century with all the information, the scientific information we have available, we can very much conclude that cannabis is not only harmless but it's very beneficial. So what we claim is our right to be able to cultivate and use a certain plant as it's been done internationally now."
Event organizers said via Facebook that alternative approaches to cannabis had been tested in dozens of countries around the world. They argue that there is concrete evidence that decriminalization brings positive results.
They say it stabilizes the number of users, improves public health through the use of medical cannabis and helps to reduce crime.
One pro-marijuana activist said he thinks that society is ready for change and believes that Greece's current radical left government is perfectly placed to make that happen.
Co-organizer of Athens Cannabis Protestival, Alex who did not wish to give his last name: "What we want to show here is not only towards them (government) but also to the society you know. We want to break down all the taboos that are all around people using drugs of any kind, and we believe that now it's time with the supposed to be more radical, more progressive government, compared to all the previous ones, to really get that political hot potato and bring solutions using models that have been already applied throughout Europe."
The pro-cannabis event organizers say that legalizing marijuana will also lead to financial benefits by bringing in much-needed tax revenue to the Greek state and would have a positive impact because it would create more jobs.