The American Legion wants the federal government to change course on marijuana
The Washington Post - Christopher Ingraham -9/8/2016
The American Legion, a group representing 2.4 million U.S. military veterans, has called on Congress to remove marijuana from Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act and "reclassify it in a category that, at a minimum will recognize cannabis as a drug with potential medical value."
In a resolution passed at the Legion's annual convention last week, the organization said it hopes that better research into marijuana and an official acknowledgment of its potential medical benefits will hasten the development of new treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, ailments that have plagued veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Legion's resolution, published online by Marijuana.com, noted that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration recently approved the country's first randomized, controlled trial using whole-plant, smoked marijuana to treat PTSD symptoms. That study will be conducted by Sue Sisley, an Arizona researcher who tried for nearly a decade to get a green light for the research but struggled to find an academic institution to sponsor it. The University of Colorado ultimately agreed to fund the research.
During an address at the Legion's convention in Cincinnati, Sisley told members that "veterans are exhausted and feel like guinea pigs; they’re getting desperate” and that traditional medications didn't seem to be providing adequate relief to many vets suffering from PTSD.
The DEA recently reaffirmed its decades-old policy of classifying marijuana among the most dangerous drugs, citing its "high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use." That position has faced increasing criticism from federal and state lawmakers, physicians,researchers and even some law enforcement groups.
Medical marijuana is extremely popular with voters: A June Quinnipiac University poll found that 89 percent supported the use of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. Aseparate survey by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 68 percent of responding members supported legalizing medical marijuana in their state, and 75 percent said that the Department of Veterans Affairs should allow medical marijuana as a treatment option.
A DEA position paper from 2013 states that "smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science — it is not medicine, and it is not safe."
WikiLeaks: Alcohol Industry Bribed Congress To Demonize Marijuana
Mint Press News - By. True Activist - 8/8/16
Newly leaked information reveals that officials in some of the top alcohol companies in America spent money on persuading members of Congress to pay attention to the alleged problem of “marijuana-impaired driving."
When one compares the effects of marijuana to alcohol, there really is no competition. To begin with, alcohol is responsible for approximately 88,000 deaths in the United States each year and marijuana 0.
In addition, people can die from overdosing on alcohol but it’s nearly impossible with marijuana. Salon relays that while alcohol use damages peoples’ brains, marijuana use does not. Of course, we’re not saying smoking isn’t likely to eventually take a toll on one’s lungs, but toking the herb has been found to be far less detrimental to one’s bodily health than regularly consuming alcohol. It’s also pertinent to note that according to research, alcohol is by far the more addictive substance.
Sadly, the average individual in America has not been informed of these facts and still believes that marijuana is a “gateway” drug to harder substances down the road. This is mainly because the U.S. government has blatantly lied about cannabis – and its multitude of uses – for decades.
The widespread use of cannabis as a medicine can be traced back millennia, where early Chinese doctors used the herb as an anesthetic by reducing the plant powder and mixing it with wine for administration before surgery. In Egypt, the plant was utilized to treat a range of illnesses, including hemorrhoids. And in India, cannabis was commonly relied upon to treat a variety of ailments, including insomnia, headaches, GI disorders and pain.
Until the early 1900’s in the United States, it was still considered perfectly acceptable to grow and harvest cannabis. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when fear of the herb arose during the Great Depression and marijuana was banned in over 20 states.
Ignoring the fact that the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper and that the cannabis plant can be used for a number of applications – not limited to industrial, clothes, and medicine – it is still a herb that, more often than not, is denounced by mainstream media.
Could this possibly be a result of the alcohol industry bribing officials to discredit and trash the herb? According to recently exposed information by WikiLeaks, that’s exactly the case.
Recently, a blogger for the cannabis industry website Marijuana.com dug through hundreds of leaked DNC emails for any reference to the misunderstood herb. What they found was in the May 24, 2016, edition of Huddle, which is a daily e-newsletter for Capitol Hill insiders produced by the Politico website.
Reportedly, the issue included a paid advertisement from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA). A portion follows:
“While neutral on the issue of legalization, WSWA believes states that legalize marijuana need to ensure appropriate and effective regulations are enacted to protect the public from the dangers associated with the abuse and misuse of marijuana… In the years since the state legalized medicinal use, Colorado law enforcement officials have documented a significant increase in traffic fatalities in which drivers tested positive for marijuana…
Congress should fully fund Section 4008 of the FAST Act (PL 114-94) in the FY 2017 Appropriations process to document the prevalence of marijuana-impaired driving, outline impairment standards and determine driving impairment detection methods.”
In addition to appearing on the WikiLeaks website, that particular bit of information can be found on InboxCart, a website that archives e-newsletters. However, because the WSWA statement does not appear with the text of that issue in the Huddle archive on Politico, it seems the advertisement and sponsorship credit seems to have only appeared in the version sent directly to the inboxes of Congress members and Beltway insiders.
According to HighTimes, the government will conduct a year-long investigation and then make recommendations, including for an “impairment standard” for driving under the influence of marijuana as required by The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which President Obama signed last December.
In a press release, the WSWA said the following about the legislation:
“There is currently no scientific consensus regarding the level at which marijuana consumption impairs a driver and no effective way to measure this impairment in the field. This is problematic for law enforcement who, in contrast, can quickly and effectively establish a scientifically and legally-supported measure of alcohol impairment.”
Many believe that the alcohol industry is aware that as recreational use of marijuana becomes legal and less taboo, more people are likely to opt for the herb rather than sacrifice their health and sanity of mind with spirits. This will lead to diminishing profits for beer, wine and liquor manufacturers and sellers.
In result, the industry is doing whatever it can to impede cannabis legalization, something Morgan Fox, the communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, says it should be wary of doing. Fox says:
“No one should be driving while impaired by marijuana, and we should certainly be doing more research into all aspects of the substance, including its impact on driving. However, given that driving under the influence of marijuana is already illegal and that the existing research shows marijuana’s effect on driving ability is significantly less than alcohol, it is difficult to see a legitimate reason for the alcohol industry to be taking up this issue. They would do better to fund research on how to decrease drunk driving.”
Without question, the destruction of roads and highways in the U.S. is a critical issue, but the topic of “marijuana-impaired driving” is vastly misunderstood. For example, Colorado has witnessed an increase in fatalities since the herb was legalized in 2012, but the increase in deaths is consistent with the national trend and is more than likely related to low oil prices (and the influx of migrants to the state).
And, the WSWA failed to mention that in 2011, a study found a reduction in traffic fatalities in states that had legalized medical marijuana.
Even as support for ending marijuana prohibition is building around the country, Congress and the Obama administration remain far too timid about the need for change.
Last year, residents in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia voted to join Colorado and Washington State in making recreational use of marijuana legal. Later this year, residents of Ohio are expected to vote on a ballot measure that would legalize it. Nevadans will vote on a legalization proposal next year. And Californians could vote on several similar measures next year.
Instead of standing by as change sweeps the country, federal lawmakers should be more actively debating and changing the nation’s absurd marijuana policies, policies that have ruined millions of lives and wasted billions of dollars. Their inaction is putting businesses and individuals in states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana in dubious legal territory — doing something that is legal in their state but is considered a federal crime. Many growers, retailers and dispensaries also have to operate using only cash because many banks will not serve them, citing the federal prohibition. Recently, the Federal Reserve denied a master account to a credit union in Colorado seeking to provide financial services to marijuana businesses.
Lawmakers who hope their colleagues in Congress will act face an uphill struggle. For example, a bill introduced in the Senate by Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrats of New Jersey and New York, respectively, and Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, would allow states to legalize marijuana for medical use. It would also allow banks and credit unions to provide financial services to cannabis-based businesses in states that have legalized the drug. The bill has 16 sponsors, including two Republicans, but the Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, has not scheduled it for a hearing or a vote. An identical bill in the House with 17 sponsors, eight of them Republican, is also languishing in committee.
Congress has taken a few positive steps, like approving a provision that would prevent the Justice Department from using federal funds to keep states from carrying out their own medical marijuana laws. And some senior Republicans, including Mr. Grassley and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, have expressed support for the medical use of a compound known as cannabidiol, which is found in the cannabis plant but is not psychoactive. The Obama administration recently made it easier for scientists to study marijuana by removing a requirement that studies not funded by the federal government go through an additional review process, beyond what is required for researchers working with other drugs.
But both Congress and the White House should be doing more. Specifically, marijuana should be removed from the Controlled Substances Act, where it is classified as a Schedule I drug like heroin and LSD, and considered to have no medical value. Removing marijuana from the act would not make it legal everywhere, but it would make it easier for states to decide how they want to regulate it.
Even as Washington demurs, efforts to legalize marijuana continue in the states. In California, several activist groups are trying to get legalization measures on the 2016 ballot. The state was the first in the country to legalize medical marijuana, in 1996, and a majority of residents favor legalizing recreational marijuana, according to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.
State legalization efforts are not uniformly well thought out, which is another reason for Congress and the president to act. For example, activists in Ohio are trying to legalize marijuana with a constitutional amendment that would allow commercial cultivation of the plant on just 10 dedicated sites listed in the measure. This would grant a lucrative monopoly to a few businesses. Ohio officials will soon decide whether organizers have collected enough signatures to put the proposal on the ballot.
Direct democracy can sometimes produce good results. But it would be far better for Congress and the president to repeal failed laws and enact sensible drug policies.
VIA NY Times
By Jeff Mapes
In a first test vote of its kind, the U.S. House on Wednesday narrowly voted down an amendment aimed at giving states the right to decide on their own whether marijuana should be legalized.
The failure of the amendment, which was co-sponsored by Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, doesn't have an immediate impact on Oregon and the three other states that have legalized the possession and sale of marijuana.
The Obama administration has already laid out guidelines for states to follow to avoid facing federal action on a drug that remains prohibited under federal law. However, the amendment was designed to prevent a future administration from interfering with states that legalize marijuana, said Bill Post, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.
The amendment, defeated on a 206-222 vote, was supported by Oregon's four Democratic House members and opposed by Republican Rep. Greg Walden.
Walden, whose 2nd Congressional District voters opposed the Measure 91 initiative legalizing the drug, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The House did pass three other amendments supportive of medical marijuana and the production of hemp, a non-psychoactive form of marijuana.
Representatives approved an amendment co-sponsored by Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici that continues to prohibit the Drug Enforcement Administration from undermining laws in Oregon and other states that allow the production of hemp.
Also approved were amendments continuing a prohibition on federal interference with state medical marijuana laws and protecting state laws that allow the use of CBD oils from cannabis plants that have a variety of medical uses.
Blumenauer, a Portland Democrat and leading congressional proponent of legalizing marijuana, said in a statement that he was disappointed Congress didn't allow Oregon and other states to"move forward with their voter approved adult-use marijuana programs...free of the threat of federal interference."
But he said the close vote as well as the support for the other amendments marked "the latest victory in a quiet revolution underway across America to reform and modernize our marijuana laws."
Bonamici said in a statement that the federal government should not be prohibiting the use of hemp. "When law enforcement goes after industrial hemp, it does not further public safety; instead it deprives farm economies of a potentially multi-billion dollar crop that is used to make everything from rope to soap," she said in a statement.
VIA Oregon Live
Thirty members of Congress, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Tuesday demanding an end to the federal monopoly on marijuana research so that more studies can be done by scientists around the nation.
"We write to express our support for increasing scientific research on the therapeutic risks and benefits of marijuana," the letter reads. "We ask that you take measures to ensure that any non-National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded researcher who has acquired necessary Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Institutional Review Board (IRB), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and appropriate state and local authority approval be able to access marijuana for research at-cost without further review." (Read the full text of the letter below.)
The letter comes about two weeks after the House voted to block the Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to go after medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws, a measure that Rohrabacher sponsored.
And just last week, a scathing joint report from the Drug Policy Alliance and and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies blasted the DEA, arguing that the agency has repeatedly failed to act in a timely fashion when faced with petitions to reschedule marijuana.
The drug is currently illegal under federal law, and remains classified as a Schedule I substance, a designation the DEA reserves for the "most dangerous" drugs with "no currently accepted medical use." Schedule I drugs, which include substances like heroin and LSD, cannot receive federal funding for research. On three separate occasions -- in 1973, 1995 and 2002 -- the DEA took years to make a final decision about a rescheduling petition, and in two of those cases the DEA was sued multiple times to force a decision.
Last week's report criticized the DEA for overruling its own officials charged with determining how illicit substances should be scheduled. It also accused the agency of creating a "regulatory Catch-22" by arguing there is not enough scientific evidence to support rescheduling marijuana -- while simultaneously impeding the research that would produce such evidence.
"Two weeks ago, we took a very important vote in the House to stop the DEA from interfering in states' medical marijuana programs," Blumenauer said in a statement Tuesday. "Now we need the Administration to stop targeting marijuana above and beyond other drugs when it comes to research. By increasing access for scientists who are conducting studies, we end the Catch-22 of opponents claiming they can't support medical marijuana because there's not enough research, but blocking research because they don't support medical marijuana."
The U.S. government grows marijuana for research purposes at the University of Mississippi in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of these crops -- a process through which the only federally-sanctioned marijuana studies are approved.
Federal authorities have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the drug. Since 2003, more than 500 grants for marijuana-related studies have received federal approval, with a marked upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. Only 22 grants were approved in 2003 for cannabis research, totaling $6 million, but in 2012, 69 grants were approved for a total of over $30 million.
Despite these numbers, NIDA has reportedly conducted only about 30 studies to date on the potential benefits of marijuana, according to The Hill.
Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Eight other states -- Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin -- have legalized CBD oil, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that is frequently used to treat epilepsy, for limited medical use or for research purposes.
A number of studies in recent years have shown the medical potential of cannabis. Purified forms may attack some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use has also been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. One study found that legalization of the plant for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates.
Read the full letter below:
Dear Secretary Burwell,
We write to express our support for increasing scientific research on the therapeutic risks and benefits of marijuana. We ask that you take measures to ensure that any non-National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded researcher who has acquired necessary Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Institutional Review Board (IRB), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and appropriate state and local authority approval be able to access marijuana for research at-cost without further review.
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing for the use of medical marijuana. Over one million Americans currently use medical marijuana at the recommendation of their physician. There is overwhelming anecdotal evidence from patients, their family members, and their doctors of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana for those suffering from cancer, epilepsy, seizures, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, glaucoma, anxiety, chronic pain, and more.
We believe the widespread use of medical marijuana should necessitate research into what specific relief it offers and how it can best be delivered for different people and different conditions. Yet, the scientific research clearly documenting these benefits has often been hampered by federal barriers.
Researchers seeking to develop prescription drugs in the United States must go through FDA and IRB approval processes. To conduct research using Schedule I substances such as marijuana, LSD, psilocybin and MDMA, researchers must also seek a DEA registration, as well as any required state and local licenses. The review process required to gain these approvals is robust and ensures that researchers are weighing the risks as well as the possible benefits of their potential medications.
Only with marijuana, and no other Schedule I substances, is there an additional Public Health Service review for non NIH-funded protocols, established in the May 21, 1999, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) "Guidance on Procedures for the Provision of Marijuana for Medical Research." This review process grants access to the only source of marijuana that can be legally used for research - grown by the University of Mississippi under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
In light of the fact that substances like opioids and barbiturates have been researched and developed for human use, it would seem that we should investigate the legitimate medical uses of marijuana. We request that you review and revise the HHS Guidance to eliminate what we believe to be an unnecessary additional review process. NIDA should provide marijuana at-cost to all non-NIH funded marijuana research protocols that have successfully obtained necessary FDA, DEA, IRB and appropriate state and local authority approval.
Considering the number of states with medical marijuana laws and the number of patients who use marijuana medicinally in the United States, it is clear that we need more scientific information about the therapeutic risks and benefits of marijuana.
Thank you for your attention to this request, and we look forward to your response.
Bipartisan group says pot's 'Schedule I' classification 'makes no sense.'
Eighteen members of Congress are asking President Barack Obama, who recently said smoking pot is safer than drinking alcohol, to end marijuana's classification as one of the nation's most dangerous narcotics.
Marijuana is currently a “Schedule I” drug, meaning the federal government considers it to have high potential for abuse and no accepted medical value.
Obama’s favorable comparison of marijuana to alcohol in a January New Yorker interview, in which he also reiterated his pot use as a youth, thrilled pro-marijuana activists. But his reluctance to promptly order his attorney general, Eric Holder, to reschedule pot accordingly is a frustration to the same policy reformers.
“You said that you don’t believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol, a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous ‘in terms of its impact on the individual consumer,’” the members of Congress wrote to Obama on Wednesday. “This is true. Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with heroin and LSD. This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs. This makes no sense.”
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which created five tiers of restricted drugs, says the attorney general may "remove any drug or other substance from the schedules if he finds that the drug or other substance does not meet the requirements for inclusion in any schedule."
If a substance is banned by international treaties – as marijuana is – the law grants the attorney general the power to place it "under the schedule he deems most appropriate."
Obama seemed confused about his administration’s power to reschedule substances during a Jan. 30 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
"What is and isn't a Schedule I narcotic is a job for Congress," Obama told Tapper. "It's not something by ourselves that we start changing. No, there are laws under – undergirding those determinations."
The cannabis caucus, however, is pointing to the law and asking Obama to “instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.”
The letter asks for a classification lower than Schedule II to allow legal recreational and medical marijuana businesses access to tax benefits. Two states currently allow recreational marijuana use and medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and Washington, D.C.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who drafted the letter, told U.S. News in January the Obama administration can reschedule marijuana administratively much more quickly than Congress.
"I don't dispute that Congress could and should make the change, but it's also something the administration could do in a matter of days,” Blumenauer said. "We're in this 'Alice in Wonderland' world where the country has moved on, but we're still arresting more than two-thirds of a million people a year for something 58 percent of the population believes should be legal."
The White House’s press office did not respond to a request for comment on the congressional letter, but advocacy groups quickly released statements.
"No drug should be listed as Schedule I, which limits potentially lifesaving research into both benefits and dangers of a substance and guarantees a violent, illegal market for the product,” said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Executive Director Neill Franklin in a statement. “This is even more true of marijuana right now, when after four decades of failure, states are doing their best to find something that works and federal regulations keep interfering with their ability to do so.”
Dan Riffle, the Marijuana Policy Project’s director of federal policies, said: “When President Obama took office, he promised his administration's policy decisions would be based on 'science and the scientific process,' not politics or ideology. Every day marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, his administration is breaking that promise.”
Nearly 100,000 people have signed a Change.org petition urging Obama to reschedule pot.
In addition to Blumenauer, the members of Congress who signed the letter to Obama are Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Mike Honda, D-Calif., Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., James McGovern, D-Mass., James Moran, D-Va., Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, Jared Polis, D-Colo., Mike Quigley, D-Ill, Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Peter Welch, D-Vt.
Via US News