Category Archives: Law/Regulations

Michigan Increases it’s Number of Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana

Yesterday was a major victory for patients suffering from a variety of serious diseases in Michigan.  People who couldn’t qualify to use marijuana legally either risked prosecution or continued to use less effective pharmecutical drugs.  The existing list before the change took effect only included eight conditions.  They more than doubled that list by adding 10 new qualifying conditions that a physician can legally recommend marijuana for.  The old list included cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Chron’s disease, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Now protection will be expanded to those suffering from arthritis, autism, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injury, Tourette’s syndrome, and colitis.  I would expect to see an explosion in the number of registered patients in my state as a result of this change.  The number of people who have one of these new conditions is enormous, but many will not take advantage of the expanded coverage.

I think that the most noticeable difference will be an increase in the amount of elderly medical marijuana users.  One of the key conditions that now qualifies is arthritis.  This disease is more common among the older generation and its addition to the list will likely attract some senior citizens.  I also believe that with the success of marijuana legalization across the country and in Canada, more people will be questioning their negative attitude surrounding the plant.  When I have visited local dispensaries rarely did I see anyone over the age of 65 in there.  However, this is likely because they have registered caregivers that grow or acquire their medicine for them so they don’t have to travel.  This age group is generally known for their opposition to drugs that have been illegal their entire lives.  Those facing old age are the ones who need cannabis the most and hopefully, these new conditions will lead more elderly patients to try alternative medicine.

There seems to only be positive results when more conditions are allowed to be treated using marijuana.  If I were to write the law it wouldn’t be a list of qualifying conditions, but rather discretion would be given to physicians. They should be able to recommend marijuana whenever they feel it could positively benefit their patient.  Leaving it up to the government to decide what conditions should qualify doesn’t make sense.  Doctors are the ones who have the most knowledge regarding the side effects of diseases and are familiar with each patient’s unique scenario.  Either way, there will be a noticeable growth in the economy of medical marijuana businesses in order to meet the demand of more registered patients.  More jobs are going to come to the state if recreational marijuana passes in November and now we don’t need to wait until then.  Dispensaries and cultivation facilities will need additional help and more new facilities will probably start springing up as well.

Compared to other states medical marijuana programs, Michigan is definitely blessed.  Looking at Ohio cities banning home cultivation or other states like Texas only allowing CBD oil for seizures makes our laws feel relaxed.  We pretty much lie right in the middle of the spectrum of marijuana enforcement.  There are lots of dispensaries to shop from across the state but only in large cities like Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and a few others.  For people who live far away from these areas, their selection is limited to the black market or what they themselves can grow.  At least these patients are still being provided protection from the law despite accessibility issues.  Ten years down the line I envision Michigan’s marijuana industry to be developed like the west coast currently is.  We are just a little behind the marijuana pioneers but still on the right track.

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Arizona Marijuana Initiative will not make the 2018 Ballot

The state of Arizona has not had much luck when it comes to passing marijuana laws.  Despite their geographic location putting them close to many states that have progressive weed laws, they still only permit those with qualifying medical conditions to indulge.  Nevada, California, and Colorado all allow different legal protections for those older than 21, with some minor differences in what exactly is allowed.  This week on July 5th, was the deadline for The Safer Arizona Cannabis Legalization Act to submit the required amount of signatures to qualify for the ballot.  Altogether they were able to collect just over 75,000 but the requirement calls for over 150,000.  So this initiative missed by a long shot.  This is extremely disappointing news and yet another heartbreak for those living there.  Just two years back in 2016, a similar initiative had qualified for the ballot but narrowly failed to receive the popular vote.  The opposition received more funding than those supporting legalization and it had a major effect.  One of the largest donors was Insys Therapeutics a company that produces synthetic painkillers.  The pharmaceutical companies have no shame in admitting with their large contributions that they don’t want their drugs to be replaced by something they can not sell and is also not physically addictive.

These large contributions from companies help spread a lot of misinformation about the post-legalization effects that have yet to happen in the 9 states that have legalized it.  While different businesses have targeted every single state that has successfully got an initiative on a ballot, they have had very little success outside the state of Arizona recently.  Within the past four years, the only other legal marijuana ballot initiative to fail was in 2014 when Florida tried to pass medical marijuana.  Many attribute that failure to the high supermajority requirement of 60%.  It narrowly missed it with a 57.6% approval vote.  These opponents should stop wasting their money on funding the opposition and use it to innovate and react to the change in the economic environment.  It should make it easier for them to do so considering people are being thrown in jail and having their future destroyed as a result of their contributions.

This year it seems it should have been easier to reach success considering as more time goes on more people seem to join the marijuana movement.  The group collecting signatures, Safer Arizona, claims that the main reason they were not much able to get support was medical marijuana dispensary owners.  I believe there are plenty of dispensary owners out there who might not want recreational marijuana to pass yet so that they can cash in as long as possible.  However, I also know there are plenty of dispensary owners who can’t wait for legalization because that would give them the opportunity to apply for a license and expand to a larger market with an advantage of already having a location and experience.  It would not be easy for dispensaries to convince patients at their stores and other people they know to keep weed illegal and have people continue to get prosecuted for possession.  This ballot failure more than likely came down to the group doing a poor job of hiring volunteers or targetting the right locations for signatures.  Polls nationwide have shown over 60% of the population wants weed to be legal for adults.  There simply is no excuse for them to fail to meet even half the required number of signatures.  Hopefully in the future, a more organized campaign can spread the word more efficiently and develop a more solid framework for the bill.

FDA gives Approval to CBD based Epidiolex Drug

The drug that was given approval this week, is a liquid medicine treatment derived from CBD-dominant strains that have been cultivated by GW Pharmaceuticals.  There have been sufficient clinical trials to prove that it significantly reduces the number of seizures suffered by epileptic patients.  Nothing related to the cannabis plant has ever come close to approval from an entity as important as the FDA.  The closest thing to marijuana that has been approved by the FDA is a synthetic version of THC called dronabinol.  It is a man-made version of tetrahydrocannabinol and is not derived from any natural plants.  Its prescribed to cancer patients suffering from nausea as a result of chemotherapy.  This ruling is a much larger step in the right direction because in order for it to be marketed to patients with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, it must be rescheduled by the DEA.  CBD still currently holds a schedule 1 status preventing it from being prescribed to patients.  The Drug Enforcement Agency is expected to do so within 90 days due to the scientific confirmation of its effectiveness through numerous trials.

I believe this is going to start a wave of cannabis-based medicines being introduced into the pharmaceutical environment.  People are going to see the acceptance of Epidiolex as an open door to try and treat other ailments using derivatives from the plant.  The Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies can not make money off something that can be grown from a seed so none of these medicines will be cannabis in its natural form.  In the case of epileptic patients, especially children, smoking the buds from plants is not a viable option.  Children suffering from these awful diseases will no longer have to fear criminal punishment on top of trying to just live a somewhat functional life.  Patients suffering from Dravet Syndrome have an average life expectancy of 8 years (National Institute of Health).

The other disease that this drug can soon be prescribed for is Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.  According to the LGS Foundation, one clinical trial at New York University showed a 47% of patients showed a 50% reduction in seizures after 3 months of treatment.  It’s also important to mention that 9% of these people were actually seizure free at that time frame.  This is just incredible that it is actually eliminating seizures altogether for certain patients.  Results like these are backed up by many other studies that show even higher numbers of participants seeing a large reduction in the number of their seizures. The DEA should see rescheduling CBD as a number one priority for these children.  With limited years to live and any seizure having the potential to be their last, officials need to act fast to provide a reliable source of the medication.  It will be treated like any other prescribed drug and can be picked up from local pharmacies, not compassion centers or dispensaries.

Traditional medical marijuana dispensaries offer a variety of extracts that could work well with seizures as well.  The only difference is they have not been given the attention from government officials that Epidiolex received likely due to its non-psychoactive properties and its easy to use liquid consistency.  Patients will be able to ingest the medicine by the use of a dropper for precise dosing.  This can be done anywhere without drawing any attention that smoking marijuana brings.  It’s also possible that there will be additional medical uses approved by the FDA for this exact same drug with no chemical changes being made.  Its unique features give it a higher potential of being approved than other new and existing marijuana medicines that may be tested by the FDA.

Canadian Senate Legalizes Marijuana

Smoking, possessing, and growing cannabis will no longer be a criminal offense across the nation of Canada thanks to the approval of a legalization bill by the Senate this past Tuesday.  The bill passed with a vote of 52-29.  As of today, the bill has been given royal assent, the final step in the Canadian legislative process.  While it is officially passed, the law does not take effect until October 17th so don’t become careless and be aware you can still be charged with a crime.  The regulation of cannabis will be done in a much different way then it has been done in individual U.S. states.  One of these differences is the minimum age required to legally consume and purchase the plant.  The federal government has set the age at 18, but provinces can set some of their own unique rules and many are expected to add another year to that federal requirement.  Canadian officials argue that setting the age too high will encourage many young adults who will use cannabis regardless to seek out their weed from the black market.  Youth consumption rates in Canda are among the highest in the world, and they believe that setting a similar age to the states will only encourage criminal organizations.

When it comes to possession limits the maximum amount a person can possess is 30 grams.  While an oz is a decent amount for personal use, setting magical limits is kind of a ridiculous practice.  You aren’t allowed to only have 30 cans of beer per person.  Every state so far has also set their own unique limits in the U.S.  The cool thing about the legislation in Canada is there is no possession limit within a private dwelling.  This is a key addition to the law because growing the 4 allowed plants will provide much more than 30 grams of usable cannabis and that’s not taking into consideration leftovers from the last harvest.

Another aspect of the law that makes it unique is the idea of mail order weed.  This is already a practice in the medical marijuana industry for registered patients.  Soon it will become available for recreational users as well.  To protect against youth accessing marijuana, it will not be delivered unless someone is home and able to show I.D. for the package.  There aren’t any specific details regarding how much can be ordered at a time but it can be assumed that it’s the possession limit of 30 grams.  It will be interesting to see how popular this method of purchase will become in comparison to the retail shops that will also be dispensing marijuana.  The convenience of a quick delivery could cause the same problems Amazon has caused for retail shopping giants.

Altogether the Parliment did a good job drafting a well thought out piece of legislation.  They thought about many different factors when drafting the rules with the main one being protecting the youth.  Limiting advertising and lowering the legal age of consumption are just two of the steps they have taken to eliminate the damage from years of prohibition.  The only thing that wasn’t mentioned in the bill that I would have liked to see included would be the expungement of records for those previously convicted of cannabis possession or cultivation crimes.  This will likely be something that happens in the future after the law takes effect but it is a crucial step nonetheless.

Florida Allows Patients to Use Raw Smokable Cannabis

Great news came from a Florida courtroom this weekend as smokeable forms of medical marijuana became legal for registered patients to possess and use.  Prior to this ruling, Florida medical marijuana patients were limited to using alternative oils and forms of the drug that could not be smoked.  (Dispensaries have mastered making the best vape cartidges I’ve ever tried)  Raw marijuana was allowed, but only if it was being used with a vaporizing device.  It appears that allowing raw marijuana but not allowing it to be smoked seemed ridiculous to a Judge who ended up ruling that the law was unconstitutional.  The state argued in the case that smokable cannabis was not an effective treatment method for the list of qualified conditions.  Judge Gievers said that wasn’t important, and that when the state gave patients constitutional protection from prosecution it shouldn’t have been restricted to different forms of the plant.  Even though the original law was unconstitutional, court testimony from suffering patients would have convinced the judge to overthrow the rule anyway.

I knew that the no smoking rule wasn’t going to stick around long in Florida or anywhere else it’s enacted because there is no way to enforce it unless they caught someone in the act.  Patients were allowed to have the raw form of the drug because vaporization was allowed.  Nothing was stopping that patient from rolling the buds into a joint and smoking them.  It’s the traditional way of using cannabis for a reason; it’s extremely effective.  A lot of patients need immediate relief when they use their medicine, so they can’t wait around for an edible or pill to take effect.  A lot of stoners would argue that the high you get from hitting a vaporizer is a different experience than smoking a joint or bong.  There is a more clear-headed feeling to vaporization and some people need the knockout punch that will put them to sleep.  On top of that vaporizers are very expensive and many people would prefer not to make that initial investment.

The medical marijuana law enacted in 2016 did not lay out possession limits and prohibited all home cultivation.  The Florida Department of Health establishes the amount of cannabis a patient can consume on a daily basis and physicians are allowed to write certifications for three 70 day periods each consultation.  There is definitely a ton of regulation and strict rules surrounding the new industry.  I believe much of this will disappear like the ban on smoking and patients will be given more rights such as growing their own medicine and not having to visit the physician on numerous occasions each year.  I would also predict that the amount of qualifying conditions will expand outside the serious debilitating diseases currently on the list.  Many more people can benefit medically from the plant even if their ailments are not life-threatening.  However, even with the law as it stands, Florida is definitely leading the way when it comes to the southern United States.  Medical marijuana laws are either non-existent or not yet operational/highly restrictive down south.  Georgia and Alabama, for example, have no medical marijuana laws available outside of CBD-only forms of the drug.  Catching a marijuana possession charge in either of these states means up to a year in jail and possible license suspension.  I hope to see Florida continue to lay the foundation for these states and progress to a more sensible system of medical marijuana like Michigan has.  The number of patients will likely increase with the news of the judges ruling as will the number of options available at dispensaries.

Mexico Legalizes Medical Marijuana

The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña on Monday had made a decree stating that cannabis is now legal to use for medical purposes in the country.  It’s surprising, and this seems to be the opposite approach to what he has had in the past.  This comes after a landslide victory for the same bill in April of this year in the lower house in parliament and this momentum seems to have something to do with the president taking action.

Products made and sold will have to contain less than 1% THC or lower currently. However cannabis cultivation of the whole plant for scientific or medical purposes will not be a punishable crime.  Which is very important language luckily that was added to the proposal.  I hope in the future both raw cannabis and extracts with high percentages of THC and CBD are available by purchase like we have in the states so they also can have safe reliable access.  Within the next couple weeks the Health Ministry will be establishing guidelines and regulations for this brand new medical marijuana movement.

Like anywhere Mexico has plenty of people suffering from a number of severe and minor aliments that could be treated by this plant.  Many of these conditions need all the chemicals that the entire natural plant produces and this most definitely includes THC. To try and reduce the amount of this important chemical is almost defeating the point of using the medicine in the first place.  Yet, this is still an important move because it is a clear signal from the government that the people and legislature can’t be ignored for long.  As we hear more about exactly what patients are allowed to possess and their rights, we’ll get a better idea on how Mexico plans to treat the thousands of suffering people who are looking for a natural alternative to harmful medications.

How Likely is 2017 Nationwide Legalization?

There is more than one reason why I believe this question should be addressed.  However, there is one significant factor that led to the writing of this article. That would be the legalization of cannabis in the state of California.  This means an additional 40 million people will be subject to different laws then the rest of us living in the same country.  There is far more momentum from this passage then the 4 states before them.  I really believe it’s going to be hard to ignore the countries most populous state make it clear we need reform in our laws.  On top of that, at the same time Nevada, Massachusetts. and Maine all legalized it in similar manners that allowed the sale of it in many forms.  That means 8 states allow at least possession of personal amounts and recreational shops to open in the states.  Tax revenue will be collected from each one of these states although that will take a year or longer in the states that passed laws this past November.

All these positive changes that have taken place recently are still facing the same old powerful opponents that stand to lose tons of money if marijuana is allowed to be used and sold.  I think it’s very clear that we will win as more and more people become aware of why exactly marijuana was even made illegal and how wrong it is to continue this war.  It’s more of a matter of when this will happen.  The DEA are dragging there feet harder then ever and have refused to even reschedule the drug to a lower category in their nonsense hierarchy of drugs.  They do not want to lose their easiest target and the largest source of their funding and arrests.  There really isn’t as much of a drug problem once you remove marijuana because that’s the key component to all their operations and their way of justifying thousands of jobs.  Taking this all into consideration I say the chances it becomes legal for all 50 states this year is not very good.  I hate to not be optimistic but we are still erasing the stigma to this day that 80 years of prohibition has caused and it may take a little more then this year and a big state decision to change federal law.  Once they start seeing all the tax revenue coming from California in the years to come they may change their thinking.