American Bar Association Urges Congress To Let States Set Their Own Marijuana Policies

 

The American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a resolution on Monday that calls on Congress to allow states to set their own marijuana policies and recommends rescheduling or descheduling cannabis under federal law.

Members of the ABA House of Delegates approved the measure at the organization’s annual meeting in San Francisco and, according to the ABA Journal, it was broadly supported—passing “without audible opposition”—even after proponents waived their time to speak.

Though ABA specified that it was not taking a position on marijuana legalization generally, it recognized that conflicting federal and state cannabis policies are untenable and have created complications for cannabis businesses operating in compliance with state law. That includes a lack of access to financial services that lead such companies to operate on a largely cash basis, making them targets for crime.

The resolution states that ABA “urges Congress to enact legislation to exempt from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) any production, distribution, possession, or use of marijuana carried out in compliance with state laws.”

ABA, an association established in 1878 that now touts 411,000 members, also wants Congress to “enact legislation to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act,” which could involve placing it in a less restrictive category or removing it from the list of federally controlled substances altogether.

Finally, the resolution recommends that Congress pass legislation to “encourage scientific research into the efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States.”

A report attached to the measure provides context on state-level legalization efforts, the history of federal prohibition and the “resulting regulatory quagmire.”

“There is an obvious tension between marijuana’s Schedule I status – which prohibits marijuana in virtually all circumstances—and state regulatory reforms—which increasingly authorize marijuana for at least some purposes,” ABA wrote. “While state and federal law often diverge—on everything from environmental to workplace laws—marijuana policy is the only area where the states regulate and tax conduct the federal government nearly universally prohibits.”

The temporary protections that lawmakers have been able to secure for medical cannabis states and guidance memos from the Justice Department are not enough to relieve the regulatory tension produced by federal prohibition, ABA argued. While the House approved a budget rider that would extend protections to adult-use programs, it’s not clear how that will fare in the Senate—and even if it passes, it must be annually renewed, creating uncertainty.

More fundamentally, however, because the spending riders operate only as a restraint on Justice Department action, they have not prevented other parties from using federal law against state-compliant marijuana businesses and users.

ABA listed various problems that these businesses face under the current regulatory framework: a lack of access to banking services, “unusually high federal taxes,” no federal protection for their trademarks and an increased number of private lawsuits.

“No one should be satisfied with the regulatory quagmire that has resulted from the unresolved tension between state reforms and federal law.”

The report goes on to describe how its recommendations would help resolve some of these issues.

Passing legislation such as the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act would mean “marijuana businesses could obtain banking and legal services, deduct their reasonable business expenses when computing their federal tax liability, obtain federal protection for their trademarks, avoid civil RICO liability, and so on.”

What’s more, Congress could attach provisions to such legislation that would establish a basic federal framework for state cannabis programs by “incentivizing states to adopt and maintain careful controls on marijuana activities,” including age restrictions for adult-use programs.

But creating an exemption for legal cannabis states under the CSA wouldn’t fix all of the problems that federal prohibition is created, which is why ABA also made a scheduling recommendation.

It said that knowledge about marijuana’s risks and benefits has evolved in the years since the drug was placed in Schedule I of the CSA and that it no longer made sense to schedule cannabis in the same category as substances that are decidedly more dangerous. Loosening federal restrictions by rescheduling it could help, but “Congress could even choose to remove marijuana from the CSA altogether, in the same way it exempted alcoholic beverages and tobacco from the statute’s coverage in the first instance,” ABA wrote.

The final part of the resolution discusses the need to support research into cannabis. One area that could be quickly improved is in the sourcing of research-grade marijuana. ABA noted that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced in 2016 that it is accepting applications for additional cannabis manufacturers, which could bolster research, for example. Coincidentally, ABA’s resolution on the topic was approved exactly three years after DEA made that announcement, which the agency still has yet to act on.

The measure “urges Congress to actively support scientific research on marijuana,” ABA wrote. “As greater scientific knowledge of the benefits and harms of marijuana develops, Congress and the states can work together to ensure that the benefits of marijuana can be realized while the harms of the drug are properly addressed. Encouraging careful scientific study of marijuana will be beneficial regardless of the direction of marijuana law reform in the future.”

“You can’t do massive blind studies because everyone who does it is afraid they’ll get prosecuted,” Stephen Saltzburg, who moved the resolution, told ABA Journal. “We should have that research. We ought not to have states and [the federal government] flying blind.”

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Politics Top FDA Official Slams Federal Drug Scheduling System For Blocking CBD Research

 

The federal drug scheduling system inhibited research into CBD that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now scrambling to conduct following the legalization of hemp and its derivatives, a top agency official said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the National Industrial Hemp Council’s 2019 Hemp Business Summit, FDA Principal Associate Commissioner for Policy Lowell Schiller gave an extensive overview of the agency’s role in regulating cannabis products, repeatedly stressing that FDA is “excited” about cannabidiol’s potential.

That said, Schiller said FDA retains regulatory authority over hemp-derived products and it remains illegal to introduce CBD in the food supply or as dietary supplements unless the agency develops alternative rules, which it is actively exploring. Because CBD exists as an FDA-approved epilepsy drug, Epidiolex, creating a regulatory framework is more complicated.

He also talked about other potential medical benefits of CBD and how the federal ban on hemp and its compounds, which was lifted under a provision of the 2018 Farm Bill that President Donald Trump signed in December, restricted research.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD, but we’re excited about the possibility that new therapeutic uses of CBD might be demonstrated to be safe and effective,” Schiller said, according to his remarks as prepared for delivery. “The last thing we want to do is to discourage that research, and potentially stunt our knowledge of potential uses of CBD. So we need to be thoughtful in our approach.”

“One thing we realized very early on in evaluating these questions is that there was still far too much we didn’t know about CBD, and about the implications of putting CBD in foods, dietary supplements, and cosmetics,” he said. “This is part of the legacy of almost all CBD being a Schedule I controlled substance until late last year.”

“It was difficult to research, and it hasn’t been studied nearly as much as we would like.”

Schiller said that more studies are needed to determine potential risks associated with consuming large quantities of CBD, interactions with other drugs, using the substance while pregnant and long-term consumption. Resolving those questions will “help to inform our path forward.”

That’s why, he said, FDA is “focusing on a different CBD: Collect Better Data.”

“We want to learn as much as we can, as quickly as we can, to support informed and efficient decision making. If there are data or studies that are relevant to the safety of particular uses of CBD, we want to see them. And if there are gaps in our knowledge, we want to understand how big those gaps are and what can be done—by us and by others—to start filling them.”

The federal drug scheduling system inhibited research into CBD that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now scrambling to conduct following the legalization of hemp and its derivatives, a top agency official said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the National Industrial Hemp Council’s 2019 Hemp Business Summit, FDA Principal Associate Commissioner for Policy Lowell Schiller gave an extensive overview of the agency’s role in regulating cannabis products, repeatedly stressing that FDA is “excited” about cannabidiol’s potential.

That said, Schiller said FDA retains regulatory authority over hemp-derived products and it remains illegal to introduce CBD in the food supply or as dietary supplements unless the agency develops alternative rules, which it is actively exploring. Because CBD exists as an FDA-approved epilepsy drug, Epidiolex, creating a regulatory framework is more complicated.

He also talked about other potential medical benefits of CBD and how the federal ban on hemp and its compounds, which was lifted under a provision of the 2018 Farm Bill that President Donald Trump signed in December, restricted research.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD, but we’re excited about the possibility that new therapeutic uses of CBD might be demonstrated to be safe and effective,” Schiller said, according to his remarks as prepared for delivery. “The last thing we want to do is to discourage that research, and potentially stunt our knowledge of potential uses of CBD. So we need to be thoughtful in our approach.”

“One thing we realized very early on in evaluating these questions is that there was still far too much we didn’t know about CBD, and about the implications of putting CBD in foods, dietary supplements, and cosmetics,” he said. “This is part of the legacy of almost all CBD being a Schedule I controlled substance until late last year.”

“It was difficult to research, and it hasn’t been studied nearly as much as we would like.”

Schiller said that more studies are needed to determine potential risks associated with consuming large quantities of CBD, interactions with other drugs, using the substance while pregnant and long-term consumption. Resolving those questions will “help to inform our path forward.”

That’s why, he said, FDA is “focusing on a different CBD: Collect Better Data.”

“We want to learn as much as we can, as quickly as we can, to support informed and efficient decision making. If there are data or studies that are relevant to the safety of particular uses of CBD, we want to see them. And if there are gaps in our knowledge, we want to understand how big those gaps are and what can be done—by us and by others—to start filling them.”

Those gaps in knowledge are partially due to the federal drug scheduling system, which has faced bipartisan criticism for hampering research initiatives. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse acknowledged in April that continuing to classify drugs like marijuana as Schedule I makes it “very difficult” to research.

But as FDA works to make up for lost time, it has pledged to engage in a transparent rulemaking process that takes into account what Congress and industry stakeholders have called for—namely a regulatory scheme under which hemp and CBD can be lawfully marketed without excessive interference.

FDA said it is speeding up its process to develop regulations and that it plans to release a report on its progress in the fall.

“In closing, I want to reiterate how excited we are about the potential uses of CBD and other hemp and hemp-derived products,” Schiller said. “The hemp industry has come an incredible distance in an incredibly short period of time. And in some cases, the enthusiasm and the commercial appeal have outpaced the scientific research. The science needs to catch up.”

He also told the hemp crowd that as FDA works on its end, “we need your help.”

“As this industry matures, it needs to start taking on more responsibilities—for the safety of consumers, and for the future development of an industry that can meet the same requirements as apply to other industries we regulate,” he said. “We look forward to working together as this industry continues to mature.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach also spoke at the hemp conference on Tuesday.

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Illinois becomes the latest state to legalize marijuana, these states may follow

Illinois became the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana on Tuesday after Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the regulatory bill legislators passed at the end of May. Legal recreational marijuana sales will begin in Illinois on January 1, 2020.

While many other states have legalized marijuana through voter referendums that can leave details to be agreed upon after the fact, Illinois became the first state in the country to legalize through the legislative process.

“We did something that no other state in the nation has been able to do,” Pritzker cheered at the signing ceremony.

Other states looking to replicate the bipartisan legalization bill Illinois was able to pass haven’t been as successful, leaving many wondering what state might become the 12th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana.

During Yahoo Finance’s The Business of Cannabis special earlier in June, CEOs from the leading marijuana companies, including Canopy Growth (CGC), Curaleaf (CURLF) and Chicago-based Cresco Labs weighed in on that question with differing opinions.

Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton and Acreage Holdings (ACRGF) CEO Kevin Murphy agreed that New York would be the next state to legalize recreational marijuana, while Curaleaf CEO Joe Lusardi and Cresco Labs CEO Charlie Bachtell argued New Jersey would be next to change state law.

“The electorate is going to go to the ballot box and continue to vote for cannabis laws,” Lusardi said. “It’s going to get more popular every single month and I suspect we’ll have more medical states, more recreational states in 2020 and the pressure will mount on the federal government to address this issue.”

Setbacks to legalization in New York

In the weeks that followed their comments, New York legislators pushing for legalization through the legislative process suffered many setbacks despite having support from Governor Andrew Cuomo on the issue. New York state legislators failed to agree on where the $1.7 billion in estimated annual recreational marijuana sales would be directed and opted to pass a bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana instead.

Proponents of marijuana reform in New York have defended the decision to abandon legalization efforts in favor of decriminalization as less of a failure as much as it is a step in the right direction.

“Six years I’ve been trying to get it done. We got it done, and it’s a great step forward,” Cuomo said, referring to decriminalization. Efforts to re-introduce legalization plans could resume with the next legislative session.

Cuomo pointed to the failure of politicians in New Jersey to legalize marijuana back in May as a reason for stalled progress in New York.

Legislators in New Jersey resigned to let voters decide the fate of legalizing recreational marijuana through a November 2020 referendum vote.

Read the full article at: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/illinois-becomes-the-latest-state-to-legalize-marijuana-these-states-may-follow-205113128.html


US House OKs provision protecting state-legal cannabis industries

U.S. congressional amendments to protect state-legal marijuana businesses are gaining unprecedented traction.  For the first time, an amendment to protect medical marijuana businesses from Justice Department interference recently was included in a spending bill.  And the full House on Thursday passed by a 267-165 vote a broader amendment to protect all state-legal MJ businesses, including adult-use companies. The amendment is part of the fiscal year 2020 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill.  Looking ahead, it’s unclear whether the provision will receive support in the Senate.
MJBizDaily takeaway: For the time being anyway, it appears that federal marijuana reform will occur incrementally, with small gains that reflect a gradual shift in favor of legalization on Capitol Hill.

State-legal Cannabis program protections advance to the full US House

Read full article at: Marijuana Business Daily

A key legislative panel advanced an amendment to the full House for consideration that would protect all state-legal cannabis programs from interference by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The U.S. House Rules Committee cleared the amendment for a full House vote as it passed the fiscal year 2020 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill by an 8-4 margin late Tuesday.

The spending bill also includes a provision that would prohibit the Justice Department from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis businesses.

The amendment to protect the lawful adult-use industry as well as MMJ programs was submitted by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, and Tom McClintock, a California Republican.

A Blumenauer amendment that would prevent the Justice Department from cracking down on Veterans Affairs doctors who recommend medical cannabis in lawful states also is heading to the full House for a vote.

Spending bill provisions offer protections for only a year, however.

Industry officials are lobbying for longer-lasting protections for state-legal marijuana programs, such as through the STATES Act.


Senate reverses decision on inhaling medical marijuana

Original article by Mark Ballard at TheAdvocate.com

With an amendment, the Senate Monday reversed its opposition to allowing patients to inhale medical marijuana.

Senators voted 21-14 Saturday to strike inhalation, then killed the bill. On Monday the Senate included inhaling then advanced the legislation on a vote of 31-7.

St. Martin Parish Republican Sen. Fred Mills brought House Bill 358 back up Monday and added language that dosage could only be taken using a metered dose inhaler.

“You’re not smoking at all, it’s just a puff of the medication,” Mills said. “It’s just the delivery form of the concentration of the medicine.”

Medical marijuana patients take their doses orally. Inhaling allows the medicine to hit the system faster, he said.

Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said when the program to allow the use of marijuana products for medicinal purposes a few years ago, promises were made that patients wouldn’t be allowed to inhale marijuana. The products are used to combat pain and seizures.

Mills’ amendment was approved on a 30-7 vote.

House Bill 358 by Baton Rouge Democratic Rep. Ted James would have let therapeutic cannabis patients use an inhaler, like asthma patients use. The House overwhelmingly had agreed to the inhalation proposal.

The original language in HB358 was not tight, but the amendments added enough restrictions, said Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles. “This is not inhaling raw marijuana,” he said.

Medicinal-grade pot isn’t yet available to patients. Regulatory disagreements slowed getting the product to shelves, with estimates it could be available later this month.

Voting to allow inhaling medical marijuana (31): President Alario and Sens. Allain, Barrow, Bishop, Boudreaux, Carter, Chabert, Colomb, Cortez, Donahue, Erdey, Gatti, Hensgens, Hewitt, Johns, LaFleur, Lambert, Luneau, Martiny, Mills, Morrell, Morrish, Peacock, Peterson, Price, Riser, G. Smith, J. Smith, Tarver, Ward and White.

Voting against HB358 (7): Sens Appel, Claitor, Fannin, Long, Milkovich, Thompson and Walsworth.

Not Voting (1): Sen Mizell

Read the full article at: https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/legislature/article_788064ac-8643-11e9-9f4e-8f54e3043bf2.html


Lawmakers back legislation to legalize hemp, regulate CBD products in Louisiana

Original article by Sam Karlin at TheAdvocate.com

 

Louisiana lawmakers have agreed to legalize the growth of hemp and allow the sale of some CBD products, sending two pieces of legislation to the governor’s desk that would lay out a highly-regulated program in line with the federal farm bill.

State Rep. Clay Schexnayder’s House Bill 491, which was heavily rewritten in the Senate, won final approval from the House Monday. The bill lays out a tightly-regulated program for growing hemp, with oversight from the state Agriculture Department.

Another bill by Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, would exempt hemp grown in line with federal regulations from the legal definition of marijuana and defines the drug. House Bill 138 is headed to the governor’s desk.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has voiced support for allowing and regulating the growth of hemp.

Hemp comes from the same species of plant, Cannabis Sativa, as marijuana. Unlike marijuana, however, hemp does not have enough THC to get users high. Instead, it is used in a wide range of industrial products, textiles, fuels and other products. Producers also extract Cannabidiol, or CBD, from hemp, infusing the chemical with oils, tinctures, lotions, food products and others.

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain would have broad regulatory powers over the hemp program, creating rules, handling permits and destroying crops that don’t meet THC thresholds. Strain has said the program will be tightly-regulated and in line with federal rules.

Supporters have touted the legislation as a potential boon to Louisiana farmers.

“When our farmers are having a down year, they’ll be able to grow a crop that will be successful,” Schexnayder said in a recent hearing on the bill.

The sale of CBD products has spread in Louisiana in recent years, but in a legal gray area. State agencies have disagreed on whether CBD products, which don’t get users high, are legally distinguishable from marijuana. Supporters have said CBD has health benefits, and while the products have become increasingly available to consumers, some state agencies have cracked down on their sale.

Sales of CBD products have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months, culminating in the high-profile arrest of a CBD seller in Lafayette last month.

Connick’s bill distinguishes CBD and marijuana, and Schexnayder’s bill lays out a list of regulations for selling CBD products. The products would be regulated by the Louisiana Department of Health and Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control under the bill.

Schexnayder’s bill was rewritten multiple times in the Senate.

The 2018 federal farm bill laid out a process for states to grow hemp, and Louisiana is expected to submit a plan to the USDA by November if the governor signs off on the proposal.

The legislation bans selling CBD in beverages unless the Food and Drug Administration approves of it as a food additive, and also prohibits CBD products marketed as dietary supplements. CBD products would have to come from hemp grown under a state program outlined by either the 2014 or 2018 farm bill and meet certain labeling requirements.

Penalties for processing or selling CBD products that don’t meet the requirements in the rule would take effect Jan. 1, 2020. Currently, CBD products are sold throughout Louisiana despite some state officials, including Strain, dubbing them illegal.

Read the full article at: https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/legislature/article_8a8ea0e8-8646-11e9-a7e8-2343d72c48f5.html


the Senate Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development Committee will meet. HB 491 is the only bill on the agenda.

URGENT: This morning (Tuesday) 05.21.19, at 10a CST in Room C of the Senate, the Senate Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development Committee will meet.  HB 491 is the only bill on the agenda.
Supporters, Friends and Allies- 
We need your assistance on one of the most important Cannabis-related bills of the 2019 LA Legislative Session, HB 491.  We’ve come to you before on this bill and your responsive effort absolutely made the difference.  So we return to ask more of you, the difference-makers.  Please call any or all of these few people (http://senate.la.gov/Agriculture/Assignments.asp) or send them an email and state: Hello, I am _________ (your name).  I am a Louisiana resident or I live in __________ (town or parish).  I am calling/emailing to ask for your support of HB 491.  Keep it short and sweet.
Keep it SMPL!  There’s only seven (7) of them!  We got this.  If you only have time for one, buzz the Chairman and let ’em know we’re here and we’re watching closely.
Chairman Francis Thompson: [email protected] and 318.878.9408.
Power to the people!

Louisiana House of Representatives passed the first hemp bill of the 2019 legislative session on Tuesday.

Far from a perfect bill, Representative Clay Schexnayder’s HB 491 sets up a hemp growing program under the Louisiana Department of Agriculture that would take advantage of the US Congress’ passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that laid the foundation for nationwide trade in industrial hemp.  Hemp, the name for a low THC (0.3% or less) cultivar of the otherwise identical plant species to “marijuana” goes by the scientific name, Cannabis sativa.  Hemp is an excellent source of food, fiber, oil and medicine including the cannabinoid, cannabidiol or CBD.  Schexnayder’s bill was designed by Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain’s office in close association with the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association or LSA.  Predictably then, it did not allow for cannabidiol until today and even in its significantly improved and amended form, does not allow CBD infusion into food or drinks, it does not allow for inhalation which is absolutely necessary as a delivery method for certain diseases requiring rapid titration or uptake into the body, it prohibits anyone with a felony conviction in the last ten (10) years from participating in the program and it places retail stores selling CBD under the jurisdiction of the state Alcohol and Tobacco Control or ATC among other changes.  It is worth nothing that the bill advancing in the Texas legislature right now (HB 1325) does allow for the infusion of food and drink and medicines with CBD.  Forty two (42) other states have already taken action to seize on the changes Congress made to hemp’s new status at the federal level.  SMPL’s membership is the #1 catalyst for positive changes to our state’s backward drug laws and the best chance our citizens and patients have to beat back the LSA’s efforts to insert itself into the doctor-patient relationship.  As one of the states top few most powerful lobbying groups, the LSA inserts itself into far-ranging policy discussions and manifests control over things it ought not have any say in – including hemp farming or the use of CBD.  Please contact your state Senators and ask them to oppose HB 491 unless it is at least amended to allow for CBD in food, drink and for inhalation.  Right now, law enforcement via the LSA is having more influence over this medicine than we the people, the patients and the health care professionals of our state.  Roll up your sleeves, reach out and Just Say No to the Sheriff’s control of our health care decisions!
 

Congratulations to patients in Arkansas!

Medical marijuana sales there are expected to begin this Sunday, May 12, 2019.  Arkansas voters approved therapeutic Cannabis on November 8, 2016.  Louisiana’s legislature approved of the modern therapeutic Cannabis program by passage of SB 143 in the summer of 2015 and signature of then Governor Bobby Jindal on June 29, 2015.  So it looks like Arkansas is going to beat Louisiana to implementation by at least a full year.

 

Read the full article at: https://mjbizdaily.com/marijuana-business-this-week-mmj-sales-in-arkansas-mjbizdailys-first-euro-symposium-cbd-and-epilepsy/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=mjbiz_daily&utm_campaign=MJD_20190506_NEWS_Daily%20%20_05062019


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