Backers of an effort to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use in Washington state submitted more than 340,000 signatures Thursday to try to qualify their initiative, a move protested by some legalization supporters who say the proposal would hurt medical-marijuana patients. About a dozen protesters carried signs that read "Legalize, not penalize," and shouted as members of New Approach turned in signatures for Initiative 502 to the Legislature.
Colorado has become the third state to ask the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana in a way that allows doctors to prescribe it as a medical treatment. The state asked the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana from Schedule 1, a category that includes heroin, to Schedule 2. The change would allow doctors to prescribe pot and pharmacies to fill marijuana prescriptions. The governors of Rhode Island and Washington have made similar requests.
In Canada, possession of medical marijuana is controlled under the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations, which came into effect in the summer of 2001. The regulations allow people with severe diseases to use marijuana to relieve their symptoms when the usual treatments for these conditions have failed. What is the situation a decade later? A five-part series and data-journalism project coordinated by the Ottawa Citizen, with The Vancouver Sun, Edmonton Journal and Postmedia News Service.
Research into medicinal marijuana is undergoing a surge of interest, with more evidence emerging not only of its ability to ease human suffering, but also of its apparent safety. Some say cannabis may be less toxic to humans than over-the-counter pain relievers. Scientifically controlled experiments have concluded that smoked cannabis can provide moderate relief from chronic, severe non-cancer pain — including HIV-related nerve pain and post-traumatic neuropathy, a condition that can follow an injury or medical procedure. Both are notoriously resistant to conventional treatments. (See also: Ten Years of Medical Marijuana in Canada)
The Tories omnibus crime legislation casts a shadow on the future of the medical marijuana program. The toughening of drug trafficking laws means that anyone caught sharing or selling marijuana will face mandatory jail sentences. No longer will judges have the discretion to waive a sentence for pot providers who offer the product to help the sick. If charged and convicted of trafficking, they will do jail time - at least six months. (See also: Ten Years of Medical Marijuana in Canada)
Data obtained by the Ottawa Citizen through the Access to Information Act put a face to the typical medical marijuana patient for the first time, 10 years after the federal government — under pressure from a series of legal rulings — was forced to start allowing seriously ill Canadians to apply to use the drug. As Health Canada moves to overhaul the rules governing medical marijuana, its own numbers show sharp disparities in the accessibility and use of the drug across the country as patients scramble to find doctors willing to prescribe. (See also: Ten Years of Medical Marijuana in Canada)
Last week's request by Govs. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee to have the federal government reclassify marijuana as medicine--which at first glance looked like unalloyed good news for those who support safe access for patients--is actually a double-edged sword.
A UCSF study suggests patients with chronic pain may experience greater relief if their doctors add cannabinoids - the main ingredient in cannabis or medical marijuana - to an opiates-only treatment. The findings, from a small-scale study, also suggest that a combined therapy could result in reduced opiate dosages. Cannabidiol, or CBD, appears to be very effective against pain and inflammation without creating the "high" created by THC.
While it is allowed in some form in 16 states and Washington, DC, Colorado is the leader in trying to make medicinal pot a legitimate business. It has been legal since a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution in 2000, but the for-profit side only took off two years ago after the legislature allowed individual counties and towns more flexibility in interpreting the rules. Over a hundred have done so.
A government expert group is adding finishing touches to new draft legislation proposing the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. While still banning patients from growing medical cannabis on their own, the amended legislation allows importing as well as the cultivation of medical hemp by local private companies under strict state supervision. The committee, whose existence was prompted by a petition initiated earlier this year by doctors, researchers and patients and is supported by the chairwoman of the lower house of Parliament, is supposed to submit the final draft proposal to the Prime Minister in about a week’s time.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee have filed a petition with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asking the agency to reclassify marijuana so doctors can prescribe it and pharmacists can fill the prescription. The governors want the federal government to list marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, allowing it to be used for medical treatment. Marijuana is currently classified a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it's not accepted for medical treatment and can't be prescribed, administered or dispensed.
The passage of state medical-marijuana laws is associated with a subsequent drop in the rate of traffic fatalities, according to a newly released study by University of Colorado Denver professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University professor D. Mark Anderson. The study found that the traffic-death rate drops by nearly 9 percent in states after they legalize marijuana for medical use. The researchers arrived at that figure, Rees said, after controlling for other variables such as changes in traffic laws, seat-belt usage and miles driven. The study stops short of saying the medical-marijuana laws cause the drop in traffic deaths.
An intensifying federal crackdown on growers and sellers of state-authorized medical marijuana has badly shaken the billion-dollar industry, which has sprung up in California since voters approved medical use of the drug in 1996, and has highlighted the stark contradiction between federal and state policies. Federal law classifies the possession and sale of marijuana as a serious crime and does not grant exceptions for medical use, so the programs adopted here, in 15 other states and in the District of Columbia exist in an odd legal limbo.
According a recent CBS News poll conducted at the end of October, a slim majority of 51 percent continues to think that marijuana use should be illegal. But support for specifically allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions - or legalized "medical" marijuana - is far stronger: 77 percent Americans think it should be allowed.
There are currently 16 states that allow some form of legalized medical marijuana, but only Colorado allows marijuana businesses to operate as such. It’s the first, and for the moment, only, for-profit marijuana marketplace in the U.S. Predictably, Colorado is in the midst of a marijuana boom. Between 2000—when Colorado voters legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes with Amendment 20—and 2008, Colorado issued roughly 2,000 medical marijuana cards to patients living in the state. By 2011 that number had jumped to over 127,000 paying customers, according to the Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry, and at least 25,000 more have applications pending.
“My life went downhill from the moment I came back from Iraq,” Begin, now a 31-year-old veteran. “Doctors at Bethesda had me on so much, and on such high doses of everything, that I didn’t even know what was a symptom and what was a side effect.” At one point, Begin, diagnosed with PTSD shortly after coming home, was taking more than 100 pills a day. So many that he would stuff dozens of bottles into a backpack to lug everywhere he went. Now, he’s cut his dependency on prescriptions to zero. Their replacement? Five joints a day.
The Internal Revenue Service, America's tax collecting agency, sent a letter demanding an initial $2.5 million in back taxes and characterised the Harborside Health Center dispensary as a drug trafficking organisation. Using a provision of the tax code originally written to help seize the assets of gangsters and organised criminals, the IRS said Harborside was disqualified from claiming its ordinary business expenses – payroll, insurance, rent and so on – as deductions and needed to pay taxes on them instead. This is not just an attempt to tax; it's an attempt to tax dispensaries out of existence.
In a decision that could have immediate fallout for medical marijuana dispensaries, a state appeals court has ruled that California law allows cities and counties to ban the stores. The contentious issue has bounced through the state courts for years, but the opinion issued Wednesday is the first published one that directly tackles it and does so in unambiguous language. The decision could embolden more cities and counties to enact their own. It also could spur those that have bans to be more aggressive about seeking court orders to close defiant dispensaries.
Marijuana is now legal under state law for medical purposes in 16 states and the District of Columbia, encompassing nearly one-third of the American population. More than 1,000 dispensaries provide medical marijuana; many are well regulated by state and local law and pay substantial taxes. But though more than 70 percent of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana, any use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Mr. Obama briefly showed a willingness to challenge the drug-war mind-set that permeates the federal drug-control establishment. He needs to show leadership and intervene now, to encourage and defend responsible state and local regulation of medical marijuana.
Lawsuits were filed today in federal courts in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego in a move to block efforts by U.S. attorneys to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries in California. "A massive organized effort is now going to be launched to bring the issue to federal courts across the state to get some judges to look at this," said San Francisco lawyer Matt Kumin, one of the attorney's representing plaintiffs in the lawsuits.