Michigan: Marijuana Possession Becomes Legal Next Week

MJLegalMICHIGAN: Key provisions of the state’s voter-initiated marijuana measure will take effect next week. Members of the Board of State Canvassers certified the midterm election results on November 26, and Proposition 1: The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act becomes law on Thursday, December 6.

Provisions specific to the adult possession and cultivation of cannabis will take immediate effect. Those over the age of 21 may legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and/or 15 grams of cannabis concentrates in a private residence. Adults may also legally cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants in private, and possess the harvest (up to ten ounces) of those plants. Public use of cannabis will remain a violation of law.

Under the new law, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has up to 12 months to begin accepting applications from those seeking to operate licensed cannabis businesses.

Michigan is the tenth state to regulate the adult use of marijuana, and it is the ninth to do so via voter initiative.

For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500 or visit Michigan NORML.

US Senate: Leading Marijuana Prohibitionist Out As Judiciary Committee Chair

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: One of the US Senate’s leading marijuana prohibitionists, Iowa Republican Charles Grassley, will not be heading the Judiciary Committee in the 116th Congress.

Representative Grassley announced on Friday that he is stepping down as leader of the Committee. As Chair, Grassley refused to hold any hearings or votes on marijuana-related legislation, including bipartisan legislative efforts like the STATES Act. Virtually all Senate legislation specific to marijuana policy must pass through the Judiciary Committee.

Representative Grassley received a D- grade on NORML’s 2018 Congressional Scorecard.

Next in line to Chair the Committee is Republican Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who received a C grade from NORML.

Representative Grassley’s decision to step down follows the retirement of House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and the failed re-election bid of House Rules Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX) – both of whom also used their leadership powers to stifle any legislative debate on marijuana policy.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

 

Study: CBD-Rich Cannabis Mitigates Symptoms In Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

ISRAEL: The daily administration of CBD-dominant cannabis extracts is associated with improved outcomes in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and severe behavioral problems, according to clinical data published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Israeli researchers assessed the efficacy of whole-plant cannabis extracts in a cohort of children with ASD. Participants were administered extracts containing a 20 to 1 ratio of CBD to THC for periods of 7 to 13 months.

Patients demonstrated “overall improvement in behavior, anxiety, and communication” following daily cannabis dosing. Just over half of the participants either reduced or ceased taking prescription medications during the trial period.

Authors concluded: “Following the cannabis treatment, behavioral outbreaks were much improved or very much improved in 61% of patients. … [T]he results of the current study render worthwhile further exploration of this treatment avenue in controlled studies.”


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Cannabidiol-rich cannabis in children with autism spectrum disorder and severe behavioral problems – A retrospective feasibility study,” appears the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

 

Incoming House Rules Chairman Pledges To Allow Floor Votes On Marijuana-Related Amendments

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Representative. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) says that he will permit federal lawmakers to debate and vote on marijuana-related amendments when he assumes control of the House Rules Committee in 2019.

Senate Majority Leader: Farm Bill Will Lift Federal Hemp Ban

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reaffirmed on Friday that provisions lifting the federal prohibition of hemp will be included in the engrossed language of H.R. 2: The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the 2018 Farm Bill). The must-pass legislation is currently being debated by leadership in conference committee.

“If there’s a Farm Bill, it’ll be in there. I guarantee that,” McConnell told reporters. He added: “I don’t want to overstate this – I don’t know if it’s going to be the next tobacco or not – but I do think it has a lot of potential. And as all of you already know, in terms of food and medicine but also car parts. I mean, it’s an extraordinary plant.”

The hemp-specific provisions, which Sen. McConnell included in the Senate version of the bill, amend federal regulations to further expand and facilitate state-licensed hemp production, research, and commerce. The language also for the first time amends the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 so that industrial hemp plants containing no more than 0.3 percent THC are no longer classified as a schedule I controlled substance. (See page 1182, Section 12608: ‘Conforming changes to controlled substances act.’)

Senator McConnell previously shepherded hemp-related language (Section 7606) in the 2014 version of the Farm Bill, permitting states to establish hemp research and cultivation programs absent federal approval. A majority of states have now enacted legislation to permit such programs.

Lawmakers are seeking to finalize and pass the 2018 farm legislation prior to year’s end.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

 

Review Paper: Marijuana’s Driving Impact Less Than That Of Alcohol

CALIFORNIA: Cannabis’ impact on driving performance is generally less pronounced than that of alcohol, according to a review paper published by a pair of New York University researchers and BOTEC Analysis, LLC.

Authors reported that the use of cannabis, absent the simultaneous use of other drugs or alcohol, creates “only a fraction of the risks associated with driving at the legal 0.08 BAC threshold, let alone the much higher risks associated with higher levels of alcohol.” By contrast, they report that “the simultaneous use of alcohol and cannabis is linked to higher levels of driver impairment than either alone” – a finding that is consistent with much of the available literature.

They conclude, “The maximum risk for cannabis intoxication alone, unmixed with alcohol or other drugs, appears to be more comparable to risks such as talking on a hands-free cellphone (legal in all states) than to driving with a BAC above 0.08.” As a result, they suggest that as a matter of policy, “stoned driving alone (not involving alcohol or other drugs), should be treated as a traffic infraction rather than as a crime, unless aggravated by recklessness, aggressiveness, or high speed.”

In virtually all instances, cannabis-influenced driving is classified as a criminal rather than an administrative offense.

Investigators also argued against the imposition of per se limits which criminalize the act of operating a vehicle with trace levels of either THC or THC metabolites in one’s blood or urine. They determined: “Blood THC is not a good proxy either for recency of use or for impairment, and the dose-effect curve for fatality risk remains a matter of sharp controversy. … Moreover, the lipid-solubility of THC means that a frequent cannabis user will always have measurable THC in his or her blood, even when that person has not used recently and is neither subjectively intoxicated nor objectively impaired.”

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Automobile Association(AAA) take a similar stance against the use of blood/THC concentrations as per se evidence of psychomotor impairment. NORML has long articulated similar opposition, stating, “Per se limits and zero tolerant per se thresholds … are not based upon scientific evidence or consensus. … [T]he enforcement of these strict liability standards risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations, including those persons who are consuming cannabis legally in accordance with other state statutes.”


Full text of the paper, “Driving While Stoned: Issues and Policy Options,” is available online. NORML’s fact-sheet, “Marijuana and Psychomotor Performance,” is online.

Study: Patients With Tourette Syndrome Report Benefits From Cannabis

ISRAEL: Patients suffering from Tourette syndrome (TS) report symptomatic benefits following the use of medical cannabis, according to data published in the journal Parkinsonism and Related Disorders.

Israeli researchers surveyed 42 patients with TS who had approval from the Health Ministry to use medical marijuana. Subjects typically reported reduced tic severity, better sleep, and improved mood following cannabis administration. About 75 percent of total participants elected to continue using cannabis long-term. Those who ceased their use did so because of a lack of perceived efficacy or due to side-effects.

Authors concluded: “MC (medical cannabis) seems to hold promise in the treatment of GTS (Gilles de la Tourette syndrome) as it demonstrated high subjective satisfaction by most patients.”

Prior studies have consistently demonstrated that the administration of either whole-plant cannabis or oral THC is associated with reduced tic severity in TS patients.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Single center experience with medical cannabis in Gilles de la Tourette syndrome,” appears in Parkinsonism and Related Disorders. NORML’s literature review on cannabis and Tourette Syndrome is online.

 

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions Resigns

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday announced his resignation from the Justice Department.

Sessions was a longstanding, vocal opponent of marijuana policy reform, who once opined, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” As Attorney General, his office rescinded the 2013 Cole memorandum which directed prosecutors not to interfere in state-sanctioned marijuana activity. However, that action encouraged numerous members from both parties to strongly criticize the office, and eventually led to the introduction of The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act of 2018 – bipartisan House and Senate legislation that seeks to protect jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana from federal intervention.

Sessions’ chief of staff Matt Whitaker will serve as acting Attorney General until a permanent appointment is confirmed.


For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.

 

Colorado: State Issues Report Assessing Legalization’s Impact On Public Safety

COLORADO: The Colorado Department of Public Safety has issued its first-ever baseline report assessing the impact of adult use marijuana regulations in Colorado. Lawmakers in 2013 passed legislation authorizing regulators to conduct the five-year review, which seeks to better identify ways in which legalization has impacted public health and safety.

Authors reported that the total number of marijuana arrests fell 52 percent between the years 2012 and 2017. In Denver, marijuana arrests fell 81 percent over this same period of time.

Authors also reported that youth marijuana use has remained largely unchanged since legalization. The report acknowledged “no significant change in past 30-day use of marijuana between 2013 and 2017.” Authors further reported that marijuana use by Colorado teens in 2017 was virtually no different than the national average. By contrast, the percentage of Colorado adults reporting marijuana use increased from 13.6 percent in 2014 to 15.5 percent in 2017.

Authors acknowledged that police are now more likely to make DUI arrests for drivers suspected of being under the influence of cannabis. Specifically, 15 percent of DUI arrests in 2017 involved cannabis versus 12 percent in 2014. However, authors cautioned that this uptick is may be partially due to “an increase in the number of law enforcement officers who are trained in recognizing drug use,” rather than as a result of any changes in driving behavior. Authors further reported that the total number of drivers involved in fatal accidents with elevated THC blood levels over 5ng.ml fell between 2016 and 2017.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the report, “Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13-283,” appears online.

Mexico: Supreme Court Strikes Down Marijuana Ban

MJLegal is published by the MJBA.

MEXICO: Justices for Mexico’s Supreme Court have ruled that laws criminalizing the private use and cultivation of cannabis by adults are unconstitutional. Justices opined, “The effects caused by marijuana do not create an absolute prohibition on its consumption.”

In accordance with the ruling, lawmakers may enact regulatory policies governing adults’ personal marijuana use, but they must repeal those laws that broadly prohibit marijuana use per se. By contrast, neither commercial marijuana production or sales are addressed by the Court’s ruling.

In September, South Africa’s highest court similarly struck down laws criminalizing the personal, private consumption of cannabis by adults.

Mexican lawmakers in 2009 decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis (5 grams or less) and other substances. Last month, Canada began licensing the retail production and sale of cannabis to those 18 years and older.


For more information, contact Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.