Booker, Lee, Khanna Introduce Landmark Marijuana Justice Bill

Social justice bill would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, expunge records, and reinvest in communities most impacted by War on Drugs

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a member of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), today reintroduced their landmark bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.

In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” said Booker. “The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”

“But it’s not enough to simply decriminalize marijuana. We must also repair the damage caused by reinvesting in those communities that have been most harmed by the War on Drugs. And we must expunge the records of those who have served their time. The end we seek is not just legalization, it’s justice.”

“The War on Drugs has destroyed lives, and no one continues to be hurt more than people of color and low-income communities,” said Wyden. “There is a desperate need not only to correct course by ending the failed federal prohibition of marijuana, but to right these wrongs and ensure equal justice for those who have been disproportionately impacted.”

“Millions of Americans’ lives have been devastated because of our broken marijuana policies, especially in communities of color and low-income communities,” said Gillibrand. “Currently, just one minor possession conviction can take away a lifetime of opportunities for jobs, education, and housing, tear families apart, and make people more vulnerable to serving time in jail down the road. It is shameful that my son would likely be treated very differently from one of his Black or Latino peers if he was caught with marijuana, and legalizing marijuana is an issue of morality and social justice. I’m proud to work with Senator Booker on this legislation to help fix decades of injustice caused by our nation’s failed drug policies.”

“As I said during my 2016 campaign, hundreds of thousands of people are arrested for possession of marijuana every single year,” said Sanders. “Many of those people, disproportionately people of color, have seen their lives negatively impacted because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That has got to change. We must end the absurd situation of marijuana being listed as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin. It is time to decriminalize marijuana, expunge past marijuana convictions and end the failed war on drugs.”

“Marijuana laws in this country have not been applied equally, and as a result we have criminalized marijuana use in a way that has led to the disproportionate incarceration of young men of color. It’s time to change that,” said Harris. “Legalizing marijuana is the smart thing to do and the right thing to do in order to advance justice and equality for every American.”

“Marijuana should be legalized, and we should wipe clean the records of those unjustly jailed for minor marijuana crimes. By outlawing marijuana, the federal government puts communities of color, small businesses, public health and safety at risk.” said Warren.

“This long-overdue change will help bring our marijuana laws into the 21st century. It’s past time we bring fairness and relief to communities that our criminal justice system has too often left behind.” said Bennet.

“Communities of color and low-income communities have been devastated by the War on Drugs,” said Lee. “As Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, I’m proud to sponsor legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, address the disproportionate impact of prohibition on people of color by expunging criminal convictions, and promote equitable participation in the legal marijuana industry by investing in the communities hardest hit by the failed War on Drugs.”

“Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by misguided marijuana policy for far too long,” said Khanna. “Rep. Lee, Sen. Booker, and I are proud to introduce this important legislation and deliver justice for so many Americans.”

The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted low-income communities and communities of color. Beyond removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances – making it legal at the federal level – the bill would also automatically expunge the convictions of those who have served federal time for marijuana use and possession offenses, and it would reinvest in the communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs through a community fund. This community reinvestment fund could be used for projects such as job training programs, re-entry services, and community centers.

The bill would also incentivize states through the use of federal funds to change their marijuana laws if those laws were shown to have a disproportionate effect on low-income individuals and/or people of color.

By going further than simply rescheduling marijuana with expungement and community reinvestment, Booker, Lee, and Khanna’s bill is the most far-reaching marijuana legislation ever to be introduced in Congress.

The bill is retroactive and would apply to those already serving time behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, providing for a judge’s review of marijuana sentences.

Full text of the bill is here.

Background on Booker’s leadership on issues of marijuana and criminal justice:

Booker has seen the effects of our broken marijuana laws first-hand, dating back to his time as a tenant lawyer, City Council member, and Mayor of Newark, where he created the city’s first office of prisoner re-entry to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-integrate into their communities.

In the Senate, Booker was an outspoken critic of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ effort to revive the failed War on Drugs. Most recently, he pressed Trump’s newest pick for Attorney General, William Barr, on his stance on marijuana legalization and the Cole memo, winning a commitment from Barr to leave alone states that have already legalized marijuana.

In addition to the Marijuana Justice Act, Booker is the co-author of the bipartisan CARERS Act, which would allow patients to access medical marijuana in states where it’s legal without fear of federal prosecution, and the bipartisan REDEEM Act, which would allow nonviolent drug offenders to petition a court to seal and expunge their drug offenses, while automatically sealing, and in some cases expunging, the nonviolent records of juveniles. These reforms would reduce a major barrier that formerly incarcerated individuals face when attempting to rejoin society. He is also a cosponsor of the Fair Chance Act, which prohibits the federal government and federal contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to a conditional offer of employment. Earlier this month, the Fair Chance Act passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Statement From FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb On Researching Medical Uses Of Cannabis

By Scott Gottlieb, MD

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Over the past decade, we’ve seen a growing interest in the development of therapies derived from marijuana and its components. Proponents of “medical marijuana” advertised its uses for a wide number of medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety – just to name a few of the touted conditions. The FDA has been supportive of research in this area for many years. But marijuana is a Schedule I compound with known risks. Research to demonstrate that marijuana or its components could be safe and effective in the treatment of medical disorders should be held to the same standard as other drug compounds. And certainly it should not be held to a lower standard, as some proponents would suggest. The FDA has an active program to assist drug developers who want to investigate marijuana or its components through properly controlled clinical trials, to demonstrate the potential for safe and effective uses.

Today, the FDA approved a purified form of the drug cannabidiol (CBD). This is one of more than 80 active chemicals in marijuana. The new product was approved to treat seizures associated with two rare, severe forms of epilepsy in patients two years of age and older.

This product approval demonstrates that advancing sound scientific research to investigate ingredients derived from marijuana can lead to important therapies. This new treatment provides new options for patients.

This is an important medical advance. But it’s also important to note that this is not an approval of marijuana or all of its components. This is the approval of one specific CBD medication for a specific use. And it was based on well-controlled clinical trials evaluating the use of this compound in the treatment of a specific condition. Moreover, this is a purified form of CBD. It’s being delivered to patients in a reliable dosage form and through a reproducible route of delivery to ensure that patients derive the anticipated benefits. This is how sound medical science is advanced.

So today, in addition to celebrating this scientific achievement and the medical advance that it represents for these patients and their families, we should also reflect on the path that made this possible. It’s a path that’s available to other product developers who want to bring forth marijuana-derived products through appropriate drug development programs.

That pathway includes a robust clinical development program, along with careful review through the FDA’s drug approval process. This is the most appropriate way to bring these treatments to patients. This process also includes a review of the purity of a new drug and manufacturing controls. Before a high-quality drug can be developed, evaluated, and eventually approved by the FDA; it’s critical that the necessary work is done to identify drugs of potential medical benefit and conduct rigorous scientific research through adequate and well-controlled clinical trials. This is true for all drugs, including ones derived from plant materials, like marijuana. And the FDA remains committed to collaborating with federal and state agencies, researchers and product developers on advancing this type of important and conscientious work.

This research process – from early development through preclinical and clinical research – gives us a comprehensive understanding of a new drug. That includes an understanding of whether the new product is safe and effective for treating a particular medical condition, what the proper dosage is and for what populations it is safe and effective, how the new compound could interact with other drugs, or whether the new drug has side effects or other safety concerns.

This work also helps product developers identify the appropriate dosage needed to achieve the desired therapeutic effect while minimizing toxicity and risk. Taken in totality, the scientific evidence generated by these studies forms the basis of the FDA’s evaluation of benefit versus risk. And it’s because of this careful, scientific and evidence-based evaluation by the FDA that health care providers can rely on having a quality product that delivers a consistent, uniform dose of an effective medication that is able to deliver a predictable treatment to patients. This is especially important when considering treatment for serious medical conditions that will be utilized in the clinical care of patients who may have any number of health vulnerabilities. The purified form of the drug CBD approved today by the FDA has been shown to meet these rigorous standards.

Research on the therapeutic effects of marijuana and its components involves a number of federal agencies in addition to the FDA, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

MMJ International Holdings Pursuing Legal FDA Cannabis Medicine Approval

MMJ International Holdings Pursuing Legal FDA Cannabis Medicine Approval

The FDA has taken several specific steps to support this research.

We meet regularly with researchers as they plan and carry out their trials. We have also formed a Botanicals Team that provides scientific expertise on botanical issues for researchers developing drugs derived from plants, such as marijuana. That team published guidance for industry on clinical studies involving botanical drugs, as well as quality controls for lot-to-lot consistency. In recent years, the agency also has recommended to the DEA the approval of several hundred Schedule I research protocol licenses for research on marijuana or its constituent compounds.

Additionally, the FDA also works with companies to provide patients access to experimental therapies while clinical trials are ongoing through expanded access provisions. These approaches help protect patients while also allowing for the collection of data necessary to support the FDA approval of safe and effective therapies for use in the broader population. Through this process, hundreds of children were able to get access to investigational CBD products while this product was being studied.

Drugs derived from marijuana also are eligible for several programs that are intended to facilitate and expedite development and review of new drugs that address unmet medical needs in the treatment of serious or life-threatening conditions. Much of the work we’ve done to encourage research in this area has led to the approval action we took today.

The FDA will continue to support rigorous scientific research on potential medical treatments using marijuana and its components that seek to be developed through the appropriate scientific channels. However, we remain concerned about the proliferation and illegal marketing of unapproved CBD-containing products with unproven medical claims.

The promotion and use of these unapproved products may keep some patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases. The FDA has taken recent actions against companies distributing unapproved CBD products. These products have been marketed in a variety of formulations, such as oil drops, capsules, syrups, teas, and topical lotions and creams. These companies have claimed that various CBD products could be used to treat or cure serious diseases such as cancer with no scientific evidence to support such claims. We’ll continue to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with unproven medical claims. We’re especially concerned when these products are marketed for serious or life threatening diseases, where the illegal promotion of an unproven compound could discourage a patient from seeking other therapies that have proven benefits.

Today’s approval demonstrates our commitment to the scientific process and working with product developers to bring marijuana-based products to market. We remain committed to our gold standard for product development and review. Such a process ensures that any new therapies from marijuana and its constituents are safe, effective and manufactured to a high and consistent quality. And most importantly, that these products have been proven safe and effective for patients.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

 

Court Rejects Challenge To DEA’s Classification Of Marijuana Extracts

CALIFORNIA: A three judge panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a petition filed by the Hemp Industries Association challenging the DEA’s authority to establish a new administrative drug code specifically for marijuana extracts. The DEA first announced the proposed rule change in 2011, but did not enact the new policy until January 13, 2017.

In a decision filed on April 30, the Court rejected petitioners’ arguments – opining the DEA’s classification of marijuana extracts does not conflict with the provisions of either the Agricultural Act of 2014 (aka the ‘Farm Bill’) or the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which limits the Justice Department from spending federal dollars to intervene in state-sanctioned activities involving marijuana or industrial hemp. The Court also dismissed petitioners’ argument that the rule substantively amended the federal Controlled Substances Act. Justices opined that such extract products, including those containing primarily CBD, were already classified under federal law as schedule I controlled substances.

The DEA has long contended that it possesses broad regulatory authority over “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L.,” including “the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin.” The agency includesamong this definition products containing cannabidiol or any other non-THC cannabinoids derived from the marijuana plant. It further states, “[T]he Agricultural Act of 2014 does not permit entities [who are not registered with the DEA] … to produce non-FDA-approved drug products made from cannabis.”

Over a dozen states have enacted legislation in recent years exempting certain persons who possess extracts high in cannabidiol from criminal prosecution. Legislation to approve the retail sale of CBD extracts to adults in Kansas is awaiting gubernatorial action. Indiana lawmakers approved a similar law in April. Several pieces of legislation seeking to exclude CBD from the federal definition of marijuana are pending in Congress. In 2015, Nora Volkow, the Director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, publicly acknowledged that CBD is “a safe drug with no addictive effects.”

Petitioners say that they intend to appeal the ruling.


The case is Hemp Industries Association et al., v. US Drug Enforcement Administration et al., (No. 17-70162).

National Conference Of State Legislatures Endorses Resolution Calling For Marijuana To Be Descheduled

MASSACHUSETTS: The National Conference of State Legislatures has endorsed a resolution calling for marijuana to be removed from the US Controlled Substances Act. The plant and all of its organic constituents are classified under federal law as a schedule I controlled substance – the most restrictive categorization available.

Over three-quarters of legislators participating in this week’s legislative summit endorsed the resolution, which calls on federal lawmakers to amend the CSA so that each state can regulate cannabis how best it sees fit.

It states: [T]he National Conference of State Legislatures believes that the Controlled Substances Act should be amended to remove cannabis from scheduling thus enabling financial institutions the ability to provide banking services to cannabis related businesses; and … acknowledges that … in allowing each state to craft its own regulations we may increase transparency, public safety, and economic development where it is wanted.”

Last year, the US Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a pair of petitions that sought to initiate rulemaking proceedings to reschedule marijuana under federal law. In recent years, NORML has argued in favor of descheduling cannabis from the CSA rather than rescheduling it to a lower classification.

VA Congressman Introduces Bill To Remove Marijuana From Controlled Substances List

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Virginia’s 5th District CongressmanTom Garrett last week introduced legislation aimed at federally decriminalizing marijuana.

The short title for this legislation is cited as the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017.” If passed, this bill would take marijuana off the federal controlled substances list – joining other industries such as alcohol and tobacco.

Originally introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2015, this bill fulfills a responsibility to create a level playing field across the country.

Upon introduction of this legislation, Rep. Garrett released the following statement:

“I have long believed justice that isn’t blind, isn’t justice. Statistics indicate that minor narcotics crimes disproportionately hurt areas of lower socio-economic status and what I find most troubling is that we continue to keep laws on the books that we do not enforce. Virginia is more than capable of handling its own marijuana policy, as are states such as Colorado or California.”

Garrett went on to say, “this step allows states to determine appropriate medicinal use and allows for industrial hemp growth, something that will provide a major economic boost to agricultural development in Southside Virginia. In the coming weeks, I anticipate introducing legislation aimed at growing the hemp industry in Virginia, something that is long overdue.”

In recent weeks, the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to crack down on federal marijuana crimes. During his confirmation, then-Senator Sessions pointed out that if legislators did not like this approach, they should change the laws accordingly. Garrett anticipates bipartisan support as his legislation makes its way to the appropriate committees of jurisdiction.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving as the lead original cosponsor on this bipartisan legislation.

 

NORML Responds To National Academy of Sciences’ Marijuana Report

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive report today acknowledging that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, and sharply criticized longstanding federal regulatory barriers to marijuana research – in particular “the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance” under federal law.

Authors of the report also addressed various aspects of marijuana’s effect on health and safety, acknowledging that the substance may pose certain potential risks for adolescents, pregnant women, and for those who may be driving shortly after ingesting cannabis. In each of these cases, these risks may be mitigated via marijuana regulation and the imposition of age restrictions in the marketplace.

Commenting on the report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said:

“The National Academy of Science’s conclusions that marijuana possesses established therapeutic utility for certain patients and that it possesses an acceptable safety profile when compared to those of other medications or recreational intoxicants are not surprising. This evidence has been available for some time, yet for decades marijuana policy in this country has largely been driven by rhetoric and emotion, not science and evidence.

“A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term ‘marijuana’ yields over 24,000 scientific papers referencing the plant or its biologically active constituents — a far greater body of literature than exists for commonly consumed conventional drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or hydrocodone. Further, unlike modern pharmaceuticals, cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy.

“Today, 29 states and Washington, DC permit physicians to recommend marijuana therapy. Some of these state-sanctioned programs have now been in place for nearly two decades. Eight states also permit the regulated use and sale of cannabis by adults. At a minimum, we know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to regulate its consumption by adults, end its longstanding criminalization, and to remove it from its Schedule I prohibitive under federal law.”

The report marks the first time since 1999 that the National Academy of Sciences has addressed issues surrounding marijuana and health. Authors reviewed over 10,000 scientific abstracts in their preparation of the new report.

You can read the full report here.

DEA Hurts Growing Industry; Enacts Final Rule Seeking To Make Any Extract Of Cannabis Plant Schedule 1 Drug

By Bob Hoban, Managing Partner – Hoban Law Group

On December 13, 2016, the DEA issued its Final Rule, “Establishment of New Drug Code for Marihuana Extract,” which serves to potentially devastate developing businesses and consumer, textile and manufacturing industries related to cannabinoids. Robert Hoban, a cannabis, cannabinoid and hemp lawyer and expert as well as an adjunct professor of law at The University of Denver, states the DOJ and DEA cannot unilaterally make law and schedule controlled substances, thus causing this Final Rule to exceed the DEA’s authority. Instead, such actions require an act of Congress.

As is the case here, the DEA is an agency that has previously sought to exceed its authority contrary to applicable law. It is anticipated that this “final ruling” and determination will be challenged both in court and administratively across the country. With 28 states that already have medical cannabis laws on the books, 8 states passing adult use laws in the November election, and numerous other states enacting industrial hemp legislation, the industry is up for the challenge of litigation against any government agency that operates contrary to prevailing law and enforcement policies.

The DEA’s Final Rule seeks to broadly expand and override existing definitions of controlled substances by newly creating a “Marihuana Extract” classification. The effect of this Final Rule appears to be incorporation of any and all cannabinoids from the Cannabis plant as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, despite the fact that many such cannabinoids are naturally occurring derived from non-“marihuana” portions of the plant or or from entirely different plants altogether. Problematically, the Final Rule fails to acknowledge there exist certain parts of the plant, and certain types of the plant — namely, industrial hemp — which cannot and should not be treated as a “Marihuana Extract.” Notably, the DEA has sought to unilaterally create laws before, and has lost, when challenged.

Hoban surmises, “The feeling is that this is an action beyond the DEA’s authority and we believe this is unlawful and we are taking a course of action for our clients. This Final Rule serves to threaten hundreds, if not thousands, of growing businesses, with massive economic and industry expansion opportunities, all of which conduct lawful business in reliance upon the Federal Government also acting pursuant to law, and as ordered by the Ninth Circuit in 2003 and 2004. We will see the Federal Government in court.”

How Rescheduling Could Have Changed Cannabis Marketing

By Celeste Miranda

COLORADO: The DEA schedules substances, chemicals and drugs into 5 classified categories. Between Schedule 1 to 5 the level of potential for abuse gets more likely as the number goes down, so Schedule 1 is listed as the most dangerous for the public and Schedule 5 the least.  A Schedule 1 drug has been identified by the government as a substance with no potential for medicinal use and a high potential for abuse. Aside from cannabis schedule I also includes ecstasy, peyote and heroin. This DEA scheduling makes cannabis highly illegal to carry without the proper permits and also bars any scientific research on the medicinal value of the plant.

For the last couple of months the DEA has been pushing back their announcement on rescheduling cannabis to Schedule II. Last week they announced that cannabis would remain Schedule 1 which has equally angered and saddened the cannabis community. Not only does this continue the war on patients that has been raging across the country, but the negative effects of federal restrictions are more severe than cocaine and oxycodone blanket every aspect of the plant from research to marketing.

Real scientific research feeds an educational marketing platform.  One of the biggest problems that cannabis has faced is a lack of scientific research. Being classified as Schedule I, any relevant scientific research outside of cannabis that comes from a sterile government garden and is carried out by only a few government approved scientists. The ability to prove that the plant has medicinal value and move past a Schedule I classification is being blocked by that same classification. If and when the feds finally reschedule cannabis we will be able to partake in valuable research that will only fuel marketing efforts. If all of the research analysts that have been dying to get well grown hydroponic, outdoor and aeroponic cannabis into their laboratories were finally able to, there would be a bounty of research to fuel new content that will bring in an entirely untapped target demographic. Educational based platforms are the only way to ensure that no target client is left out of a marketing campaign and currently the cannabis education is mostly just conjecture or experiential. With real, hard data proving the medicinal value of cannabis the entire industry could change.

Two House Bills Would End Federal Prohibition Of Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Two congressmen filed separate House bills on Friday that together would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana at the federal level, effectively ending the U.S. government’s decades long prohibition of the plant.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act’s schedules, transfer oversight of the substance from the Drug Enforcement Administration over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and regulate marijuana in a way similar to how alcohol is currently regulated in the U.S.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, which would set up a federal excise tax for regulated marijuana.

Senate Passes Bill Allowing Growing Industrial Hemp

WASHINGTON: Industrial hemp would be allowed to be grown in Washington state under a measure passed by the Senate.

Senate Bill 5012 received unanimous support Wednesday in the Senate and now heads to the House for consideration. The measure authorizes the growing of industrial hemp as an agricultural activity in the state. It also directs Washington State University to study industrial hemp production in the state, with a report due to the Legislature by Jan. 14, 2016.

Hemp, like marijuana, comes from the cannabis plant but has much less THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that makes people high.