Medical marijuana advocates are hoping state governments can succeed where their efforts have failed by asking federal authorities to reclassify pot as a drug with medical use. Recently, Colorado became the fourth state to ask the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a narcotic in the same league as heavyweight painkillers including oxycodone. The governors of Washington and Rhode Island filed a formal petition with the agency in November, and Vermont signed onto that request shortly afterward.
Neuropathic pain affects between 5% and 10% of the US population and can be refractory to treatment. Opioids may be recommended as a second-line pharmacotherapy but have risks including overdose and death. Cannabis has been shown to be effective for treating nerve pain without the risk of fatal poisoning. The author suggests that physicians who treat neuropathic pain with opioids should evaluate their patients for a trial of cannabis and prescribe it when appropriate prior to using opioids. This harm reduction strategy may reduce the morbidity and mortality rates associated with prescription pain medications.
In California, with the nation's most permissive medical marijuana laws, 185 cities and counties have banned pot dispensaries entirely. In New Jersey, perhaps the most restrictive of the 17 states that have legalized marijuana for sick people, some groups planning to sell cannabis are struggling to find local governments willing to let them in. Dispensaries have also been banned in parts of Colorado and have run into opposition in some towns in Maine.
A quarter-century after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first prescription drugs based on the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, additional medicines derived from or inspired by the cannabis plant itself could soon be making their way to pharmacy shelves, according to drug companies, small biotech firms and university scientists.
The medical marijuana drug Sativex, which could be approved in the United States in the coming years as a treatment for pain relief, has little potential for abuse, experts say. The British pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals is currently testing the drug, which is delivered as a mouth spray and called Sativex, in clinical trials. The company plans to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the drug as a treatment for cancer pain when the trials are completed.
A group of Czech MPs from all of the parties in the Chamber of Deputies has completed legislation which could legalise the use of cannabis in the Czech Republic for medical purposes. Currently, thousands of sufferers from debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s, Lyme borreliosis and multiple sclerosis, have been forced to break the law to obtain marijuana to help ease their pain, a situation which could soon change if the bill passes in the lower house. According to reports, the medical use of cannabis in the Czech Republic could be legal within the year.
A proposed ballot initiative aimed for the November elections begs a key question looming over California's medical marijuana industry: Can stricter state regulation keep the federal government from shutting it down? Dispensaries, medical marijuana growers and a powerful union local are rallying behind an initiative that would regulate California's $1.5 billion pot trade.
A Montana medical marijuana law does not shield cannabis dispensers from federal prosecution, a district court has ruled. The ruling will decrease the number of doctors willing to recommend medical marijuana to patients, as well as the number of entities that distribute medical cannabis, said Timothy Baldwin, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "The way the federal government has treated the industry in Montana and other states, it has caused people to become scared of being targeted [for prosecution]. That would include doctors," he said.
Colorado's top federal prosecutor has ordered 25 medical marijuana shops located near schools to close in an escalating pot clampdown, as the state gears up for a battle at the ballot box over broader recreational use of the drug. Attorney John Walsh warned owners of the centers in letters that they have 45 days to shut down or "action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property," his office said.
The reality is that no one knows how many people are legally using marijuana in California because the state — with hundreds of pot stores and clinics that issue medical marijuana recommendations — does not require residents to register as patients. Of the 16 states that allow the medicinal use of cannabis, it is one of only three without such a requirement. A state lawmaker has recently introduced legislation that would give authorities a much clearer count of the drug's bona fide consumer base.
Israel’s inroads into legalizing cannabis for pain relief and managing terminal illness rest on the seminal research of Prof. Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Center for Research on Pain. Back in 1964, working from bags of hashish seized by the local police, Mechoulam isolated the active compound from cannabis, THC. He came to be a trusted consultant on the topic to governments and individuals and urged that derivative compounds called cannabinoids be legalized for medical purposes in Israel.
Federal agents struck at the heart of California's medical marijuana movement, raiding the nation's first pot trade school and a popular dispensary, both run by one of the state's most prominent and provocative activists, Richard Lee. The raids in Oakland by the Internal Revenue Service and Drug Enforcement Administration sent a shudder through the medical cannabis trade and angered the plant's devotees, who believe the federal government is trampling on California law and the wishes of voters who approved medical marijuana use nearly 16 years ago.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at City Hall to demand federal respect for state and local marijuana laws, a day after federal agents raided the state's first pot trade school and a related dispensary across the bay in Oakland. The San Francisco rally and march to a nearby federal building was planned before Monday's raid. But the sweep on businesses owned by prominent marijuana activist Richard Lee emboldened protesters and brought denunciations from local officials and lawmakers in five states with medical cannabis laws.
A California school known as the "Princeton of Pot" has reopened after a federal raid, but with a bare-bones staff of volunteers to teach the art of cannabis cultivation, after the crackdown crimped its funding and forced it to lay off 25 paid employees. The raid earlier this month on Oaksterdam University, which offers courses on the growing and dispensing of marijuana, turned the Oakland-based school into the latest flashpoint between federal law enforcement and medical cannabis advocates in states where pot has been decriminalized for medicinal purposes.
For a brief moment in 2009, medical marijuana advocates exhaled. A new President had taken office promising to call off the federal prosecutors in states that had legalized weed for the sick. Medical marijuana patients and the growing industry thought they were in the clear. But they weren’t. Two years later, the Obama Administration is cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers just as harshly as George W. Bush did. In 2011, the Department of Justice revised its guidance to U.S. Attorneys, allowing them to target any medical marijuana activity except for ill patients and their immediate caregivers.
Connecticut lawmakers' approval of the use of medical marijuana includes strict regulations for the cultivation and distribution in an attempt to avoid problems other states have run into when legalizing the plant for medical use. The bill, passed by the state Senate, is headed to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who said in a statement that he plans to sign it, as he believes the law would "avoid the problems encountered in some other states."
Half a century ago, Hebrew University Prof. Raphael Mechoulam isolated and synthesized THC, the main psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. By 1963, Mechoulam and his research partners had revealed the structure of cannabidiol (CBD), a key ingredient in cannabis. By the following year they had isolated THC for the first time, established its structure and synthesized it.
Gustin L. Reichbach is a justice of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn
15 May 2012
The New York State Legislature is now debating a bill to recognize marijuana as an effective and legitimate medicinal substance and establish a lawful framework for its use. The Assembly has passed such bills before, but they went nowhere in the State Senate. This year I hope that the outcome will be different. Cancer is a nonpartisan disease, so ubiquitous that it’s impossible to imagine that there are legislators whose families have not also been touched by this scourge. (See also: New York judge with cancer makes case for marijuana)
In a primary election race for Oregon's top law enforcement post, the candidate who pledged to protect medical marijuana patients scored a decisive victory over a rival who led a cannabis crackdown last year. Retired judge Ellen Rosenblum, strongly backed by proponents of liberalized marijuana laws, captured 63 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary for state attorney general. Because no Republicans sought their party's nomination for attorney general, the Democratic primary victor, Rosenblum, becomes the presumptive winner in November's general election, making her the first woman to claim that office.