Cannabis cafes are coming, Maine legalization foes seek a recount, Massachusetts legislators are threatening to "improve" the legalization initiative, the DEA bans "pink," and more.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana
Marijuana Victories Will See Cannabis Cafes Coming. The victories for marijuana legalization initiatives in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada last week will set the stage for social marijuana consumption at licensed venues. Three of the states make provisions for social consumption, while the fourth leaves the issue for legislators. And in Denver, voters approved a local initiative that will allow local businesses to designate "consumption areas" for customers who bring their own weed.
Maine Legalization Foes Seek Recount After Narrow Defeat. Unofficially, the Question 1 legalization initiative won by a mere 5,000 votes out of about 750,000 cast, and that's too close a call for the "no" campaign to just accept. "No" spokesmen are threatening to seek a recount. They have until the end of work Wednesday to collect a hundred signatures in order to seek a recount from the secretary of state's office.
Massachusetts Legislators Turn Eyes on "Improving" Legalization Initiative. Senate President Stan Rosenberg said last Thursday said the Question 4 initiative will need "improvements" to address issues such as marijuana sales taxes, infused edible products, and driving while high. Rosenberg said the legislature could take up the issues shortly after returning in January. But the Question 4 campaign pushed back, saying that legislators should "respect the will of the voters," let regulators do their job crafting regulations, then see if anything needs fixing.
New Psychoactive Substances
DEA Bans Synthetic Opioid Known as "Pink." Using its emergency scheduling powers, the DEA has banned the synthetic opioid U-47700, commonly known as "pink." Effective today, the drug is now a Schedule I controlled substance. The drug has been linked to dozens of confirmed fatalities, and is now banned for 24 months while the DEA decides if it should be permanently placed in Schedule I.
Wisconsin Welfare Drug Testing Starts Today. As of Monday, people seeking welfare benefits will be subject to drug testing. Republican Gov. Scott Walker painted the move as helping families and employers. "Employers across the state frequently tell me they have good-paying jobs available in high-demand fields, but need their workers to be drug-free," Walker said in a statement. "These important entitlement reforms will help more people find family-supporting jobs, moving them from government dependence to true independence."
Philippines President Threatens Drug War Suspension of Habeas Corpus. President Rodrigo Duterte said he is considering suspending habeas corpus because it's just too much work to build cases against individual drug suspects. And he doesn't worry about legality. "I am the president. Of course I have the powers," he said Friday. "I can be ordered by the Supreme Court to stop it, but there are things that they cannot, and maybe, I will not, stop I can go to jail. File all the charges that you can think of. But this country, in my time, will not deteriorate any further." The Philippines constitution says the president may suspend habeas corpus "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it."
Berlin Set to Move on Marijuana Liberalization. The city's governing coalition of Social Democrats, Greens, and the Left Party has agreed to push for partial decriminalization of marijuana. The move would require a waiver from federal authorities to allow experimenting with drug policies that contradict the Federal Intoxicants Law.
Medical marijuana went four for four on Election Day, the feds give up on trying to shut down the Berkeley Patients Group, and more.
On Monday, a new report called marijuana a "promising option" for dealing with opioid addiction. A new report from the National Cannabis Industry Association finds that increasing legal access to marijuana can be a potent weapon in the fight against opioid addiction. The report finds significant progress in reducing addiction and overdose deaths in states that have legalized it.
Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court rejected a bid to reinstate a medical marijuana initiative. The state's high court Thursday denied a petition for a rehearing on its decision to disqualify Issue 7. Another medical marijuana initiative, Issue 6, remains on the ballot.
On Tuesday, Arkansas voters approved Issue 6.
Last Monday, the feds gave up on trying to shut down Berkeley's flagship dispensary. The Justice Department has given up on its efforts to shut down the Berkeley Patients Group. The three-year effort came to an end Monday, when federal prosecutors in San Francisco filed a motion to dismiss their civil forfeiture case against the dispensary. City officials had supported the dispensary in its battle with then-US Attorney Melinda Haag. The move is the latest sign the federal government is winding down efforts to go after marijuana businesses in states where they are legal.
District of Columbia
Last Thursday, the DC council approved letting out of state patients purchase medical marijuana. The council has approved a measure to let medical marijuana users from other states use their registration cards to purchase their medicine in the District. The vote was unanimous.
Last Friday, a panel voted to allow medical marijuana for "opiate use disorder." A state advisory board that makes recommendations to the Health Department on New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program voted 5-1 in favor of adding "opiate use disorder" to the list of conditions that qualify. Now, it's up to incoming Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher to accept or deny the recommendation. Such a move could add thousands of new patients to the state's rapidly expanding medical marijuana program.
Last Friday, the medical marijuana initiative campaign got a nice cash boost. North Dakota for Compassionate Care, the group behind the Measure 5 medical marijuana initiative has received an unexpected last-minute donation of $15,000 from Drug Policy Action, the lobbying and campaign arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. The group will use the money for a final advertising push to get their message out to voters ahead of next week's elections.
On Tuesday, Measure 5 passed with 64% of the vote.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]
Donald Trump wasn't the only big winner on Tuesday. Marijuana law reform also had a stellar night, with medical marijuana winning in all four states it was on the ballot and marijuana legalization winning four out of five.
[image:1 align:left]Pot legalization won in California (Prop 64), Maine (Question 1), Massachusetts (Question 4), and Nevada (Question 2), losing only in Arizona (Prop 205), where a deep-pocketed opposition led by a hostile sitting governor managed to blunt the reform thrust. Medical marijuana won overwhelmingly in Florida (Amendment 2), the first state in the South to embrace full-blown medical marijuana, as well as in Arkansas (Question 6), Montana (I-182), and North Dakota (Measure 5).
This week's election doubles the number of legal marijuana states from four to eight and brings the number of full-fledged medical marijuana states to 28. It also means some 50 million people just got pot-legal, more than tripling the number of people living in states that have freed the weed.
"This is one of the most significant days in the history of marijuana prohibition and this movement," said Rob Kampia, long-time head of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which was behind the legalization initiatives in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada and which also backed the California initiative. "When four states legalize it, it's a big deal, and California is an even bigger deal. The next time we'll see a day as important as yesterday is when a president signs a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition."
A major question is whether Donald Trump might be that president. During the campaign, he suggested that he would follow President Obama's lead and not interfere with state-level marijuana legalization and regulation (roughly the same position as Hillary Clinton). But his political alliances leave some reformers less than sanguine about a Trump administration.
[image:2 align:right]"Marijuana reform won big across America on Election Day - indeed it's safe to say that no other reform was approved by so many citizens on so many ballots this year," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which was involved in the California campaign. "But the prospect of Donald Trump as our next president concerns me deeply. His most likely appointees to senior law enforcement positions - Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie - are no friends of marijuana reform, nor is his vice president.
"The momentum for ending marijuana prohibition took a great leap forward with the victories in California and elsewhere, but the federal government retains the power to hobble much of what we've accomplished," Nadelmann continued. "The progress we've made, and the values that underlie our struggle - freedom, compassion, reason and justice - will be very much at risk when Donald Trump enters the White House."
MPP's Kampia had a more optimistic take.
"The positions of Clinton and Trump were very similar," he said. "We have no reason to believe Trump would escalate the war on nonviolent marijuana users in states where it is legal. States will continue moving forward, and we will see a string of successes in the future, as well as being able to implement the laws passed yesterday."
That remains to be seen, as does the chance that a Republican Congress will move in a positive direction on marijuana. In a Wednesday tele-conference, marijuana reform stalwart Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), pointed to three areas where congressional action is needed: reforming the IRS's 280-E tax code provision that bars marijuana businesses from getting normal business tax breaks, reforming Treasury Department regulations that bar financial institutions from doing business with pot businesses, and removing barriers to research on marijuana's medical efficacy.
"I believe the next administration will follow the policy of the Obama administration," he said. "We had strong support for legalization in nine diverse states, with more support for these legalize, regulate, and tax policies than for either presidential candidate. The people have spoken, and that will make it easier for us in Congress to build bipartisan support for this legislation. There are now 28 states where there are state-legal businesses having to pay their taxes with shopping bags full of $20 bills. We have growing support in the House and Senate to stop this insanity," Blumenauer said.
[image:3 align:left]"I believe we will see action within the next two years to stop this discrimination against state-legal marijuana businesses," he prophesied. "Now that the playing field has expanded dramatically, including that overwhelming vote in Florida, which will become the second largest state marijuana market in the country, there is even more incentive. Some representatives are ambivalent or even opposed to marijuana legalization, but will serve their constituents."
But, as DPA's Nadelmann noted, even if Congress is favorably disposed to move in a positive direction on marijuana, the Trump executive branch is likely to feature staunch foes of marijuana law reform. Will advisors and possible appointees such as Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, and Mike Pence push Trump to try to undo the spreading marijuana legalization movement? And will Trump listen if they do? We will know the answer to these questions only in the fullness of time.
In the meantime, voters in initiative and referendum states and legislators in states without the initiative process can work to create more facts on the ground, more legalization states. National public opinion polls—and this week's elections—show that marijuana legalization is a winning issue. And the more states that legalize it, the more ridiculous, or as Obama put it this week, "untenable," federal marijuana prohibition becomes. Even a Trump victory, with all the frightening prospects that brings, may not be able to stop the marijuana juggernaut.
The Associated Press has called Massachusetts, saying Question 4 will win. It's currently at 54% with 77% of the vote counted.
California voters approved the Prop 64 marijuana legalization initiative Tuesday, more than tripling the number of Americans who live in weed-legal states. Although four other states had legalized marijuana before this year's election, legalization in the nation's most populous state will provide momentum for nationwide legalization like never before.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]"This is the most important moment in the history of the marijuana legalization movement," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "California is the sixth-largest economy in the world and is hugely culturally influential. Most importantly, this vote will dramatically accelerate the end of federal marijuana prohibition."
Only 13% of the votes had been counted by 8:30 p.m PST, but the measure never trailed and the trend is clear. As of now, Prop 64 is cruising toward victory with 55% of the vote. The Associated Press called the race at 8:13 p.m., less than a quarter-hour after the polls closed.
The victory in California, along with other marijuana victories Tuesday, will greatly increase the pressure on Congress to consider repealing pot prohibition, Angell said.
"California alone has just added 53 more U.S. House members to the list of federal lawmakers who represent places where marijuana is legal. Last year we came only nine votes shy of winning an amendment to stop federal interference with state marijuana laws. Do the math," he said.
"With California’s huge vote and other results tonight, our movement is in perfect position to increase our already strong momentum," Angell continued. "Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have repeatedly pledged to respect state marijuana laws. And in an interview last week, President Obama said federal marijuana prohibition would be ‘untenable’ if California legalized marijuana. He was right, and it’s time for Congress to get to work passing legislation to get the DEA out of the way of full and effective implementation of these state laws."
Under Prop 64, people 21 and over can possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to six plants at home and keep the harvest. The new law also creates a system of state-regulated and –licensed marijuana cultivation, processing, manufacturing, testing, transporting, and retail licenses, and includes provisions designed to protect small ma-and-pa cultivators—the people who made California the marijuana mecca it is today. The new law also sets a 15% excise tax on retail marijuana sales.
State-regulated marijuana commerce won't go into effect until January 1, 2018, but the personal possession and cultivation provisions go into effect now. Forty million people just got legal weed.
Twenty years after California opened up the contemporary marijuana revolution with the passage of the Prop 215 medical marijuana initiative in 1996, the Golden State is now prepared to take legal marijuana to a whole new level.
Prop 64 is only leading 51% to 49% with 4% of the vote counted, but AP says it's a done deal.
It's leading 64% to 36% with 71% of the vote counted.
Florida voters easily passed a constitutional amendment to approve the use of medical marijuana Tuesday. A number of Southern states, including Florida, have in recent years passed limited, CBD-only medical marijuana laws, but passage of Amendment 2 means the South has its first full-blown medical marijuana law.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]With returns 90% complete at 8 p.m. on election night, Amendment 2 was winning with 71% of the vote. Under Florida law, constitutional amendments not need a simple majority but 60% of the vote.
The second time was the charm for attorney John Morgan and United for Care, which led the charge for Amendment 2. Their first effort in 2014 came up just short, winning 57.6% of the vote, a solid majority, but enough votes to overcome the 60% hurdle. The 2014 effort also had to fight headwinds generated by a "no" campaign financed to the tune of $5 million, primarily thanks to prohibitionist zealot and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Amendment 2 overcame that electoral hurdle and another multi-million dollar "no" campaign, again with significant contributions from Adelson, as well as Florida arch-prohibitionist Mel Sembler. It also benefited from strong presidential election year turnout and two more years of attitudinal shifts toward tolerance of marijuana in general and medical marijuana in particular.
Under the measure, patients with "debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician" will be able to buy weed legally through state-regulated dispensaries. But they won't be able to grow their own.
Pain is a drag. And chronic pain is a never-ending drag. Unfortunately, as we grow older, we can expect to increasingly suffer its torments. Half of older adults who live on their own report suffering from chronic pain. For people in elderly care facilities, that figure jumps to somewhere around 80%.
[image:1 align:left caption:true]An aging population with its associated aches and pains is one reason opioid pain prescriptions have increased so dramatically this century. Opiates are a very popular pain management technique, despite the well-known problems with them, primarily addiction and lethality. They can ease your pain, but they can also kill you or get you strung out. And opiate users report other problems less severe, but still affecting quality of life, such as constipation and foggy-headedness.
In recent years, we have seen increasing evidence that one substance can reduce both pain and the reliance on opioids to treat it, and that its use can have a positive impact on fatal opioid overdoses. That substance is marijuana.
As the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported in 2014, "In states where it is legal to use medical marijuana to manage chronic pain and other conditions, the annual number of deaths from prescription drug overdose is 25% lower than in states where medical marijuana remains illegal."
Now, new research findings from Care By Design, one of California's leading medical marijuana producers, add more evidence of the positive role marijuana can play in treating chronic pain and reducing dependence on opioid pain medications. The study surveyed 800 patients, mostly between 50 and 70, more than 80% of whom reported suffering from chronic pain, half of whom reported suffering from acute pain, and more than 40% of whom reported suffering from both.
These patients were in a world of hurt and had tried a number of pain management tools—opiates, medical marijuana, anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDS), nerve blockers, exercise/physical therapy, and surgery—with respondents reporting trying an average of four of them. A quarter of patients reported having tried all six.
The patients reported that marijuana was very effective for pain, with few negative side effects. That was in striking distinction to opiates, which patients also said were effective for pain, but had a significant negative impact on quality of life for a significant number of them. In fact, the differences between the two substances in terms of quality of life were so dramatic they led to dramatic changes in patient behavior.
[image:2 align:right caption:true]"This survey brings some very important information to light," said Care By Design spokesman Nick Caston. "We see here in our patient data that cannabis is improving the quality of life of our patients—particularly elderly patients suffering from age-related pain—and that it does so without the dangerous side effects of other pain management modalities.
"The study’s most striking finding was cannabis’ apparent impact on opiate reliance: Ninety-one percent of survey respondents reported that they decreased the amount of opiates they were taking or eliminated them altogether," Caston continued.
The study also found while marijuana, opiates, exercise/physical therapy, and NSAIDS all provided noticeable pain relief in more than half the patients, marijuana was the only pain management tool where there were no reports of worsening pain. And half of the patients using opiates reported that they had a negative impact on overall well-being, interfering with mood, energy, sleep, and functional abilities.
More than half of the patients reported using both marijuana and opiates to manage pain. But as noted above, nine out of 10 reduced or eliminated their opiate consumption after beginning to use marijuana. And nearly two-thirds (63%) said they were now off opiates altogether.
Over half of respondents reported that they had used both cannabis and opiates for pain management. Of great interest was the impact of cannabis therapy on opiate usage: Ninety-one percent of this subgroup reported that they used fewer or no opiates after beginning cannabis therapy. Sixty-three percent said that they went off opiates altogether.
"A tenet of healthcare in the United States is 'First, do no harm,'" the study concluded. "Patient reports of cannabis’ efficacy together with its low side effect profile suggest that it should be considered as a first-line treatment for pain and/or as an adjunct treatment to opiates rather than as a medication of last resort."
In other words, if we want to reduce the reliance on opioids, with all their negatives, for the management of pain in an aging population, we should be easing access to medical marijuana. With medical marijuana legal in 25 states, we're halfway there.