Original Post: Marijuana Moment: Lawmakers Mourn Loss Of Charlotte Figi, Whose Story Inspired National CBD Movement And Helped Change Policies
[Canniseur: So sad. COVID-19 or any other disease for that matter has no bounds. Charlotte, as in Charlotte’s Web CBD, passed away today. While she was too young to be a true advocate to the movement, she was instrumental in getting many medical cannabis programs passed by state legislatures. She will be missed by many more than her family. Medical marijuana patients who have been helped by cannabis all owe a big debt of gratitude to her.]
Advocates and lawmakers are mourning the loss of a young icon in the medical marijuana reform movement. Charlotte Figi, who showed the world how CBD can treat severe epilepsy, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 13 due to complications from a likely coronavirus infection.
Across social media, people are sending their support to the Figi family and sharing anecdotes about how Charlotte’s battle against Dravet syndrome—and the success she demonstrated in treating it with the cannabis compound—changed hearts and minds. Her impact has been felt across state legislatures and in Congress, where her story was often told as a clear example of why laws prohibiting access to cannabidiol needed to change.
The domino effect Charlotte’s story helped set off—with states, particularly conservative ones, passing modest reform bills for CBD access—paved the path for a successful congressional rider that ended up protecting more far-reaching medical cannabis programs across the U.S., advocates say.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who has become one of the leading GOP champions for broad marijuana reform on Capitol Hill, said he was personally influenced by Charlotte and, as a state lawmaker in 2014, her story motivated him to support legislation to reform Florida’s medical cannabis policies.
“Charlotte lived a life of tremendous significance. Her story inspired me to completely change my views on medical cannabis and successfully pass legislation so that patients could get help in Florida,” the congressman said. “I’m so sad she is gone, but the movement she has ignited will live forever.”
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), another top marijuana reform advocate who has raised the issue directly with President Trump on several occasions, wrote that Charlotte “made a positive and everlasting change in the world by the age of 13, and her inspirational courage will always be remembered.”
“Charlotte changed the way the nation thinks about CBD through her grace and advocacy,” he said. “We should honor her by fixing our federal cannabis laws as soon as possible.”
Florida state Rep. Rob Bradley (R) agreed with the sentiment, writing that “Charlotte Figi was a bright, beautiful light that changed how our state and country views cannabis. I am saddened to hear that this sweet soul has left us.”
In Illinois, state Rep. Bob Morgan (D) said Charlotte, who is the namesake of one of the most well-known CBD brands, Charlotte’s Web, “singlehandedly transformed how the world viewed medical cannabis and children with epilepsy.”
“She suffered so much so that others would not have to,” he said. “May her memory be a blessing.”
Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach (D) also said Charlotte “inspired me to get involved in the cannabis movement” and “showed the world that Cannabis is medicine and the trail she blazed has helped millions.”
“The world lost a fighter,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who previously advocated for CBD reform as a state senator, said. “Charlotte Figi-who helped inspire passage of CBD Oil legislation for epilepsy treatment nationwide-passed away. I worked w/her mom/others in 14 in MO. My speech in the Senate was a tribute to her, June Jesse, my son & many others.”
Beyond championing a successful CBD bill in Florida, Charlotte’s family also captivated national audiences and became a household name in the reform movement. Her story was featured on a popular CNN documentary, “Weed,” hosted by Sanjay Gupta, that introduced people from diverging political ideologies to an issue that’s since become a focus of legislation across the country.
A bipartisan congressional bill named after her—the Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act—was first introduced in 2015.
But while that standalone legislation didn’t advance, the growing number of state-level policy changes that were inspired by Charlotte and other young patients could help to explain why Congress, including members who oppose legalization, has consistently supported a budget rider that prohibits the Justice Department from interfering in state-legal medical cannabis programs. It was first approved in 2014—after repeatedly failing on the House floor—and has been renewed each year since.
With CBD-only states included on an enumerated list of those that would be protected from legal action, it became increasingly difficult for lawmakers to defend voting against a measure to prevent federal harassment of their own constituents. Support from more conservative-minded Democrats and a handful of Republicans, including those from states that had recently enacted or were debating their own CBD laws, allowed the amendment to narrowly advance for the first time when it had been handily defeated two years earlier.
Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and South Carolina stand out as examples of states where cannabis reform came online between those votes and where support for the measure also increased among their congressional delegations.
The measure as approved by Congress and first signed into law law President Obama, has given explicit protection from federal prosecution not just to people complying with limited CBD-focused state laws but also medical cannabis growers, processors and retailers in states with more robust policies such as California and Colorado (though it does not protect recreational marijuana businesses or consumers).
“Charlotte Figi personalized this issue in a way that few others have, and her story humanized the medical cannabis fight to such a degree that many politicians could no longer ignore it,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “There is little doubt that Charlotte’s story, arguably more than any other, paved the way for politicians in several southern and midwestern states to finally move forward to recognize the need for CBD, and in some cases, whole-plant cannabis access.”
Don Murphy, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said even opponents of cannabis legalization “can’t say ‘no’ to young mothers pushing sick kids in strollers,” referencing the many other patient advocates who helped usher the reform to victory.
“There’s no doubt it helped move the debate in our direction,” he said. “Truth is, I was once told that CBD hurt our effort [for broader reform]. I don’t think so.”
A person writing on behalf of the family on Tuesday said that “Charlotte is no longer suffering” and will be forever seizure-free.
CBD Prescription Drug Is No Longer A Federally Controlled Substance, DEA Says
Image element courtesy of Paige Figi.
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Original Post: Marijuana Moment: Congresswoman Wants Recreational Marijuana Stores Open To Serve Veterans Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
[Cannabis: Even without a lot of scientific evidence, cannabis has shown itself to be beneficial to all the service people who have PTSD or a variety of ills. There is evidence other than anecdotal, that cannabis can indeed relieve some of the indications surrounding PTSD and do it in a way that doesn’t harm the person. Cannabis stores are an important part of essential services that our former soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen need. Keep the stores OPEN!!!]
A congresswoman is raising concern that a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policy prohibiting its doctors from recommending medical marijuana to patients means that military veterans could be especially impacted by her home state’s decision to shut down recreational cannabis shops amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) raised the issue in a tweet, linking to a story about a veterans advocacy group that is calling on Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (D) to reopen adult-use shops so that veterans can continue to obtain marijuana products more readily and without fear of being penalized.
While medical cannabis dispensaries remain open in the state, the Veterans Cannabis Project said service members often resist registering as patients out of concern about losing federal benefits. Getting certified as medical cannabis patients can also take time and money that many veterans don’t have. In contrast, any adult over 21 years of age can walk into a recreational marijuana shop—or they could, before Baker ordered them closed as part of broader business shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although VA has an administrative policy that says veterans will not lose their federal benefits due to marijuana use, it is not widely known and could be changed at any time. Meanwhile, though VA has maintained that its physicians can discuss cannabis use with veterans, they’re barred from helping them obtain the substance—and that includes by issuing recommendations to certify them as medical cannabis patients under state laws.
“Under federal policy, [VA] health care providers may not recommend marijuana or assist veterans in obtaining it,” Clark said. “By closing down recreational dispensaries, our veterans who rely on these stores are left without care.”
VA “must change its policy and in the meantime, the state must find a way to serve our vets,” she added. “No one should be left behind in this national emergency.”
Baker defended his decision to shut down recreational marijuana shops on Tuesday by arguing that, because Massachusetts is one of few Northeast states that allow adult-use sales, keeping them open would mean attracting out-of-state visitors who could spread the virus.
Clark has championed other cannabis- and veterans- released issues in the past. Last year, the House approved an amendment the congresswoman sponsored that sought to end a VA policy that denies home loans to veterans simply because they work in the marijuana industry. The Senate did not follow suit, however, and the provision was not enacted into law.
A separate piece of legislation that would allow VA doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), was approved by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee last month. That panel also voted in favor of a bill that would require VA to conduct clinical trials on the potential therapeutic benefits of marijuana for conditions that commonly afflict veterans such as chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, Blumenauer’s bill to allow VA doctors to recommend cannabis would have zero fiscal impact.
That said, in a hearing last year, VA officials voiced opposition to a variety of marijuana-related bills, including the congressman’s proposal.
Washington Governor Signs Bill To Diversify State’s Marijuana Industry
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.
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Original Post: Marijuana Moment: Two Marijuana Bills For Military Veterans Will Get A Vote In Congress This Week
[Canniseur: This is a welcome development for Vets. And it has now passed committee. But…the former representative from North Carolina who is now the president’s chief of staff, is completely anti-cannabis. His views are, sadly, old and completely racist. Let’s hope congress gets it together in a bi-partisan manner and can override the coming veto…if any of this legislation passes at all. I’m hoping it does. Veterans deserve better than they’ve been getting.]
Two medical marijuana bills focused on military veterans are scheduled for votes in a congressional committee on Thursday.
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will mark up the pieces of legislation, which focus on increasing legal access to medical cannabis under state laws and expanding research on its therapeutic effects. This comes one year after the panel held a hearing on these and other cannabis bills, though a previously scheduled vote was later cancelled.
This time around, advocates are hopeful that the committee will approve the bipartisan bills, titled the Veterans Equal Access Act and the VA Medical Cannabis Research Act.
The first bill, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to issue medical cannabis recommendations to their patients in states where it’s legal.
“Now that veterans are finally being given their day, it’s critically important that the committee and the full House expeditiously pass the bill,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “Veterans must no longer be discriminated against in states where medical cannabis is a legal alternative.”
The House and Senate have both previously approved annual spending bills containing riders blocking VA from punishing doctors for writing medical marijuana recommendations, but no such measure has yet been enacted into law.
The other bill scheduled for a vote on Thursday, from Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), would require VA to conduct clinical trials on the medical potential of cannabis in the treatment of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
“I am very happy to learn that my bill—the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act—will have its day before the House Veterans Affairs Committee,” Correa told Marijuana Moment. “Our nation’s veterans are calling out for alternatives to opioids. Cannabis has the potential to be that alternative.”
“My bill puts our veterans first by ensuring the Department of Veterans Affairs takes cannabis seriously and conducts vital medical research into its effectiveness in treating PTSD and chronic pain,” he said. “Our veterans are depending on us. We owe it to every veteran to never stop looking for ways to treat their scars.”
Correa and fellow lead sponsor Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) circulated a letter earlier this year urging colleagues to support the bill as cosponsors. Presently 104 members have signed on—about one-fourth of the full House.
Blumenauer also tried to get his legislation passed as an amendment to a spending bill last year, but withdrew it due to opposition from VA.
Following last year’s committee hearing, members also participated in a closed-door roundtable to discuss the need for medical cannabis research for veterans.
Thursday’s markup comes amid growing pressure from advocates who’ve implored Congress to take legislative action to ensure that veterans can lawfully access products that may serve as alternative to dangerous pharmaceuticals.
A Republican senator and representatives of a veterans advocacy group discussed the issue during a joint hearing last month.
VA, in the meantime, is planning to post a notice shortly to solicit scientific information about the potential of marijuana and its components to treat medical conditions that commonly afflict military veterans.
This story has been updated to include comment from Correa.
FDA Invites The Public To Submit More Comments On CBD
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
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Original Post: Marijuana Moment: New Mexico Senate Committee Rejects Marijuana Legalization Bill Days Before Session Ends
[Canniseur: This is just plain wrong. The New Mexico legislature just can’t seem to get its act together on this. The governor wants it, most legislators want it, but now there’s some backroom politicking that has just doomed the bill. Was it a perfect bill? No. Should it have been passed out of committee? Yes. There really is no excuse for this other than politics and laziness.]
A bill that would legalize marijuana in New Mexico suffered a major procedural defeat in a key Senate panel on Wednesday
About two weeks after the body’s Public Affairs Committee advanced the legislation, the Judiciary Committee decided to table it in a 6-4 vote.
With just over a week left before the current short legislative session ends, the bill now appears all but dead.
If approved, the legalization proposal would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. It also contains social justice provisions such as automatic expungements for prior cannabis possession convictions and funding for community reinvestment. Home cultivation would not allowed. However, the bill does propose decriminalizing the cultivation of up to three plants and six seedlings, making the offense punishable by a $50 fine without the treat of jail time.
“If we pass this bill we will have a mechanism very similar to what we use for other substances that are considered potentially dangerous: tobacco and alcohol” Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D), the bill’s lead sponsor, told the committee prior to the vote to table.
“Does the state of New Mexico want to leave it totally unregulated the way we have now?” he asked members.
But Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D), the committee chairman, spoke against the measure at length. He raised concerns with provisions around labor union influence on the marijuana industry and directing the state to subsidize medical cannabis purchases for low-income patients. He also took issue with the specifics of language allowing people with past drug convictions to obtain licenses.
Before the vote to table, Cervantes repeatedly said he thought the bill was poorly constructed and not ready for consideration, going so far at one point as to tell Ortiz y Pino that he didn’t think the senator knew what was in his own legislation.
While the panel could technically bring a revised version up at its next meeting on Friday, Ortiz y Pino seemed to concede that such a move is unlikely and instead suggested legislative leaders could focus on crafting a new proposal between the end of the current session and the start of the next one.
Even if the bill were to pass the Judiciary panel this week it would still have to then move through the Senate Finance Committee before heading to the floor, after which point it would also need to pass in the House by February 20.
The bill has been a top 2020 legislative goal for for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D).
The governor included legalization in an agenda she sent lawmakers last month for the short 30-day session and also discussed the need to establish a well-regulated and equitable cannabis market in her State of the State address.
“Legalized recreational cannabis in New Mexico is inevitable,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement following the bill being tabled. “The people of New Mexico have said they want it. A diversified state economy demands it. Poll after poll has demonstrated that New Mexicans want a 21st century economy and want cannabis to be part of it: New Mexicans want more chances to stay here and build a career here; we want justice for those convicted of low-level, harmless cannabis-related offenses; we want an industry with firm and clear regulations that will keep our roads and places of business and children safe.”
The Republican Party of New Mexico expressed skepticism about Lujan Grisham’s legalization plan in a tweet earlier during the committee’s Wednesday hearing.
“The governor has touted this bill as a means to raise revenue and jolt the New Mexico economy,” the post said. “Not true.”
In 2019, the state House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize marijuana and let state-run stores control most sales. The proposal later advanced through one Senate committee but did not receive a floor vote in the chamber. Lujan Grisham did sign a more limited bill to simply decriminalize marijuana possession that lawmakers approved, however.
After legalization failed to advance last year, the governor convened a working group to study the issue and make recommendations.
The panel held a series of hearings and released a report in October that said any legalization bill should include automatic expungements of past records and provisions to ensure equity in the industry for communities targeted by the war on drugs. It also said that home cultivation of marijuana by consumers should either be prohibited or licensed by the state.
In December, the governor’s working group released a poll showing overwhelming public support for cannabis legalization.
”I am disappointed but not deterred by tonight’s committee motion,” the governor said after the Judiciary Committee vote. “The door remains open. We will keep working to get it done. And ultimately we will deliver thousands of careers for New Mexicans in a new and clean and exciting industry, a key new component of a diversifying economy. We will deliver justice to the victims of an overzealous war on low-level drugs. We will protect our medical cannabis program and the New Mexico patients who rely on it for their medicine. I will keep working hard every single day to enact and serve the will of New Mexicans – on this and every other issue.”
A separate piece of cannabis legislation that would block out-of-state residents from registering for New Mexico’s medical cannabis program was approved by the Senate panel on Wednesday.
Kentucky Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Bill In Committee Vote
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
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Original Post: Marijuana Moment: New Mexico Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill
[Canniseur: Will they or won’t they? The Governor wants it. It seems as though a majority of the legislature wants it. Most importantly, the people want it. Will New Mexico do it? It’s starting to get suspenseful. The Senate needs fo vote on it and the governor has promised to sign it. Let’s GO New Mexico!!!]
A New Mexico Senate committee approved a bill on Tuesday that would legalize marijuana for adult use.
With a little more than three weeks left in the state’s short 2020 legislative session, lawmakers are making clear their intent to advance the legalization proposal in a timely fashion.
The bill, which is supported by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), cleared the Senate Public Affairs Committee in a 4-3 vote.
Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D) led the introduction of the bill before the committee, testifying that he believes “2020 is the year New Mexico becomes the third state to enact legalization of cannabis through legislative action,” following Vermont and Illinois.
“We know that New Mexicans across the state, from rural to urban centers, are with us on this issue.”
“Bringing an underground market aboveground takes a lot of deliberation, statewide input from community members and stakeholders, ingenuity and learning from other states’ experiences,” the senator, who is himself a medical cannabis patient, said. “The criminalization of cannabis disproportionately harms and criminalizes young people and people of color, sponsors violence and corruption by those who currently exclusively trade in cannabis in the black market. The current situation, our status quo that relies on a black market outside of the medical program, does nothing to curb youth access to cannabis.”
The governor included legalization in her formal 2020 legislative agenda and discussed the importance of establishing a well-regulated and equitable cannabis market in her State of the State address this month.
The day after Lujan Grisham’s agenda was released, lawmakers filed the legalization bill, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers. The legislation also contains social justice provisions such as automatic expungements for prior cannabis possession convictions.
The proposal would not allow home cultivation; however, it does decriminalize the cultivation of up to three plants and six seedlings, making the offense punishable by a $50 fine without the treat of jail time.
Additionally, the bill would eliminate the gross receipts tax for medical cannabis sales, mandate that recreational dispensaries service registered patients and create a subsidy program for low-income patients to access marijuana.
Recreational cannabis sales would be taxed at nine percent, with revenue going toward that subsidy program in addition to a “cannabis industry equitable opportunity investment fund” to support entrepreneurs from communities most impacted by the drug war, a “community grants reinvestment fund” and a workplace training program, among other programs.
According to a fiscal analysis, the state stands to bring in nearly $6.2 million in recreational cannabis revenue in Fiscal Year 2021. By FY20204, that amounts would rise to nearly $34 million. Municipalities and counties would rake in additional revenues.
“Legalizing and regulating will bring one of the nation’s largest cash crops under the rule of law, generating an estimated between 11,000 and 13,000 jobs for New Mexicans in every corner of the state,” Candelaria said.
The legislation must still pass in two other panels—Judiciary and Finance—before it gets a full vote on the Senate floor.
This latest development at the committee-level is the product of months of work from legislators and the governor’s administration. Last summer, Lujan Grisham formed a working group tasked with reaching out to community members and stakeholders, studying various components of cannabis regulation and submitting recommendations ahead of the current session.
The final report, which was released in October, laid out a number of proposed rules and restrictions for a legal marijuana market.
Earlier last year, the New Mexico House of Representatives approved a bill to legalize marijuana but it later died in the Senate. Lawmakers did send Lujan Grisham a more limited bill to simply decriminalize cannabis possession, which she signed.
While it’s possible that the current committee-passed legislation will be amended as it makes its way to a full Senate vote, or that companion legislation could be changed in the House, recent polling shows that New Mexico residents are widely in favor of the general policy change. Three-out-of-four residents who participated in a state-funded survey that was released last month said they back legalization.
If all goes according to the governor’s plan, a final legalization bill will be delivered to her desk by the end of the session—and upon her signature, New Mexico would likely become the 12th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
That said, lawmakers in states across the U.S. are eyeing cannabis reform this year, and a marijuana legalization bill advanced in a New Hampshire House committee earlier on Tuesday.
New Hampshire Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.
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