Ed. Note: If confirmed, we shall see what this new AG brings to cannabis laws in the US. He seems out of touch with current thinking and marijuana culture.
President Donald Trump said on Friday that he plans to nominate William Barr to replace Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general.
Barr, who previously served in the position under President George H. W. Bush’s administration, seems less openly hostile to marijuana compared to other potential nominees whose names were floated—like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who pledged to crack down on state-legal cannabis activity during his failed 2016 presidential bid.
That said, he developed a reputation as anti-drug while overseeing harsh enforcement policies under Bush.
The prospective nominee seems to share a worldview with the late president under whom he served. Bush called for “more prisons, more jails, more courts, more prosecutors” to combat drug use and dramatically increased the federal drug control budget to accomplish that goal. In 1992, Barr sanctioned a report that made the “case for more incarceration” as a means to reduce violent crime.
Barr wrote a letter explaining why he was releasing the report, which has now resurfaced as observers attempt to gauge how he will approach drug policy in the 21st century.
“[T]here is no better way to reduce crime than to identify, target, and incapacitate those hardened criminals who commit staggering numbers of violent crimes whenever they are on the streets,” he wrote. “Of course, we cannot incapacitate these criminals unless we build sufficient prison and jail space to house them.”
“Revolving-door justice resulting from inadequate prison and jail space breeds disrespect for the law and places our citizens at risk, unnecessarily, of becoming victims of violent crime.”
He also wrote a letter to lawmakers in 2015 defending the criminal justice system—including mandatory minimum sentences—and encouraging Congress not to bring up a sentencing reform bill.
“It’s hard to imagine an Attorney General as bad as Jeff Sessions when it comes to criminal justice and the drug war, but Trump seems to have found one,” Michael Collins, director of national drug affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a press release. “Nominating Barr totally undermines Trump’s recent endorsement of sentencing reform.”
“The vast majority of Americans believe the war on drugs needs to be replaced with a health-centered approach. It is critically important that the next Attorney General be committed to defending basic rights and moving away from failed drug war policies. William Barr is a disastrous choice.”
Another window into Barr’s criminal justice perspective comes from 1989, when he wrote a Justice Department memo that authorized the FBI to apprehend suspected fugitives living in other countries and extradite them to the U.S. without first getting permission from the country. The intent of the memo seemed to be to enable the U.S. to more easily capture international drug traffickers.
In 2002, Barr compared drug trafficking to terrorism and described the drug war as the “biggest frustration” he faced under Bush. The administration “did a very good job putting in place the building blocks for intelligence building and international cooperation, but we never tightened the noose,” he said.
Interestingly, as The Washington Post reported, Barr would be heading up a department where his daughter, Mary Daly, also works. Daly is the director of opioid enforcement and prevention efforts in the deputy attorney general’s office, and she’s established herself as an advocate for tougher criminal enforcement aimed at driving out the opioid epidemic.
Today’s drug policy landscape is a lot different than it was in the early 1990s, though, and it’s yet to be seen how Barr, if confirmed by the Senate, will navigate conflicting state and federal marijuana laws. He’ll also be inheriting a Justice Department that no longer operates under an Obama-era policy of general non-intervention, after Sessions moved this year to rescind the so-called Cole memo that provided guidance on federal cannabis enforcement.
But for advocates, at least it’s not the guy who said “good people don’t smoke marijuana” anymore and it won’t be one who campaigned for president saying he’d enforce federal prohibition in legal states, either.
Surgeon General Says Marijuana’s Schedule I Status Hinders Research
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[Ed. Note: Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) has come out in favor of cannabis legalization! A lot of liquor and wine companies could benefit from legalization of cannabis. We’ll take the support for national and appropriate standards.]
One of the nation’s leading alcohol industry associations held a briefing on Capitol Hill on Friday to tell lawmakers and congressional staffers about its position on marijuana legalization.
The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) became the first major alcohol association to call for the end of federal cannabis prohibition in July. At last week’s briefing, the group reaffirmed that stance, emphasizing that the federal government should allow states to legalize marijuana without interference.
A representative from the group also suggested that the cannabis market could take lessons from the current regulatory approach to alcohol, including when it comes to distribution and quality control testing, one person who attended the event told Marijuana Moment. There was also a conversation about developing technologies to detect active impairment from marijuana on the roads.
In a one-sheet overview distributed at the briefing, WSWA wrote that the industry’s regulatory structure “should ensure product safety, discourage underage access, create an effective tax collection regime and encourage innovation and choice for consumers, while at the same time eliminating diversion of cannabis to other states.”
WSWA then outlines a series of recommendations—from implementing impaired driving standards to testing product formulas.
Read WSWA’s full list of marijuana policy recommendations below:
For the most part, the recommendations align with existing regulatory models in legal states. Where the alcohol and marijuana industries might have disagreements, though, is with WSWA’s opposition to vertical integration, under which one company manages more than one area of production and distribution that could otherwise be delegated to other businesses.
The alcohol industry generally operates under a three-tier system in the U.S., through which separate operators handle production, wholesaling and retail sales. Some have suggested that the alcohol industry wants the cannabis market to adopt its approach so that existing businesses like beer, wind and liquor distributors can profit from legal marijuana as well. But Dawson Hobbs, WSWA senior vice president of government relations, denied as much when the association made its initial announcement earlier this year.
“No, what we’re talking about is just creating a pathway for states to have federal recognition of legalization by enacting appropriate regulation that creates a safe and reliable marketplace,” Hobbs said at the time.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.
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Ed. Note: Beer lovers- Your beer has a cannabis past. Humulus lupulus, aka hops, are part of the cannabis family. No wonder beer is so popular!
Your favorite bud and brew have a bit more in common than you might think, according to a recent study.
A researcher reviewed the biological classification of marijuana throughout history in the study, which was published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. One finding was that marijuana as we know it today “lost a sibling” about 28 million years ago—and that sibling was Humulus.
Humulus is a plant that contains flowers called “hops,” commonly used as flavoring for beer. So it’s not the intoxicating ingredient, but it is a central component of the popular drink.
“A molecular clock analysis with chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) suggests Cannabis and Humulus diverged 27.8 [million years ago],” John M. McPartland, the study author, wrote. “Microfossil (fossil pollen) data point to a center of origin in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau.”
In other words, based on DNA sequences that account for the molecular clocks of each genus, researchers were able to determine when the two plants genetically diverged. They’re both still part of the same broader family of Cannabaceae, but genetic changes made them close cousins instead of siblings, so to speak.
Via Cannabis and Cannabinoids Research.
The first time a botanist linked the two plants was in 1583, according to McPartland, who is a professor at the University of Vermont and is also affiliated with GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes legal cannabis-based medicines.
Previously, botanists “classified Cannabis with phylogenetically unrelated plants based on leaf shape, human usage, and other totally artificial characters,” the new paper says. But the botanist who paired the plants relied on “the morphology of their most essential functions—reproduction (flowers and fruits, and nutrition (xylem and phloem).”
Meanwhile, the marijuana “sisters” as we’ve come to understand them—Cannabis sativa and indica—genetically diverged a little more than one million years ago.
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Ed. Note: Cannabis can help relieve pain. It just isn’t known exactly how. Here’s a short article on what we do know about how cannabis mitigates pain, nausea, and lack of appetite.
Marijuana’s ability to mitigate pain is well-established in scientific literature—and two new studies offer fresh evidence of how cannabis can be beneficial to patients suffering from different kinds of pain.
1. People who consume marijuana experience lower levels of pain and have higher pain tolerance compared to those who abstain.
After recruiting 66 students (half of whom were deemed cannabis consumers and half non-users) and administering basic questionnaires, Auburn University PhD candidate Julio Yanes conducted a series of experiments to discern how cannabis use influences pain.
Participants were hooked up to an experimental pain apparatus—a band fitted with a plastic disk that applies pressure to a sensitive part of the hand. Then they were asked to rate their average pain at a certain pressure on a scale of 0 to 100 and also to signal when the pressure became too uncomfortable to proceed with the experiment.
The cannabis group reported lower average pain levels than the non-using group (41-52 on average). People who consume marijuana also reported higher maximum pain tolerance than those who don’t (160-142), but that result was not considered statistically significant.
“When taken together, these outcomes suggest that recreational cannabis may mitigate emotion/motivation pain dimensions (i.e., pain ratings) without affecting sensation/perception dimensions (i.e., pain tolerance),” Yanes wrote.
2. Marijuana helps patients manage pain and reduces other symptoms that are common during surgical operations.
A review of PubMed articles “related to cannabinoids, as well as articles regarding cannabinoid medications, and cannabis use in surgical patients” turned up strong evidence that cannabis can relieve symptoms such as pain and nausea that are common among people undergoing certain surgeries.
Studies have demonstrated that cannabinoids “reduce intestinal motility, gastric acid secretion, and nausea” and also “improve pain control, reduce inflammation, and increase appetite,” according to the review, which was published in the American Journal of Surgery last week.
“Cannabinoids including THC and CBD have widespread effects on the body. These effects are particularly notable in the intestinal tract, where cannabinoids slow down intestinal transit, reduce inflammation, and reduce gastric acid secretion. Other systemic effects include increasing appetite, and reducing nausea and vomiting.”
All of these effects should be taken into consideration by surgeons, as it’s increasingly likely that patients will have consumed cannabis in some form as more states opt to legalize, according to the review authors.
“As recreational and medicinal marijuana use grows, surgeons will see more patients using these substances and should be aware of their effects,” they wrote. “There are numerous directions for cannabinoid-based pharmacotherapy in the future, and we are likely to see this evolve over the coming years.”
“Surgeons should stay abreast of the laws in their region governing the use of and indications for medicinal marijuana,” they added. “Additional research is needed to provide further information on the widespread effects on the surgical patient and possible therapeutic modalities.”
Ask and you shall receive: more research is coming.
A federal agency recently announced a call for research investigating how terpenes and cannabinoids other than THC work and whether they can treat pain.
Additionally, a pair of notices were posted in Federal Business Opportunities that listed jobs involving cannabis cultivation and analysis for research purposes.
Ed. Note: The chaos around medical cannabis in Michigan has been, in a way, unsurprising. The regulators (called LARA in Michigan) are confused and there is at least 1 regulator who stymies each and every regulation and license application in the State.
Michigan’s new adult-use marijuana legalization law that was approved by voters earlier this month will officially take effect on December 6, according to state officials. Adults 21 and older in Michigan, which on Election Day became the first state in the Midwest to fully legalize cannabis, will be allowed to cultivate, possess and consume marijuana on that date—exactly 10 calendar days after the Board of State Canvassers meets to certify election results, MLive.com reported.
But it’s still going to be a while until the state’s commercial cannabis system is up and operational. Regulators have one year to figure out the rules surrounding retail sales, and are supposed to start accepting license applications for prospective marijuana businesses starting in December 2019. Michigan voters approved the legalization measure, Proposal 1, 56-44 percent. Under the law, adults will be permitted to possess, purchase, grow and consume cannabis. Each adult will be allowed to cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use, and they can possess up to 10 ounces at their residence.
The ballot measure lays out a 10 percent excise tax imposed on retail sales. Tax revenue from those sales will be distributed to local governments, K-12 education and infrastructure projects. Officials with the secretary of state’s office and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs told local media outlets on Friday that the Board of Canvassers will meet to certify the election results on November 26. Ten days after that—December 6—is when the new marijuana law takes effect. Michigan might’ve been the only state in the region to fully legalize during the midterms, but another Midwestern state, Missouri, passed a medical cannabis initiative and Democratic gubernatorial candidates who support broad marijuana reforms won four key races in the region. “The Midwest, which is the heartland of America—if legalization starts to take root there, it’s only a matter of time that federal law changes and that the rest of the country follows,” Jolene Forman, a staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment in an earlier interview.
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