Trump Administration Offers Verbal Commitment Not To Interfere In Legal Marijuana States
Washington, DC: Republican Senator Cory Gardner (CO) says that he has received a verbal commitment from President Donald Trump that the administration will not take action to disrupt marijuana markets in states that legally regulate it.
"Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states' rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana," Gardner told the Associated Press on Friday. "I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice's rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado's legal marijuana industry."
He added: "Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states' rights issue once and for all. Because of these commitments, I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees."
In January, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidelines directing federal prosecutors not to take action against those who were compliant with state-sanctioned cannabis regulations. In response to that decision, Rep. Gardner had vowed to block all nominees for Justice Department jobs.
In response to the administration's pledge, NORML Director Erik Altieri stated: "We applaud this commitment from President Trump, who promised during his campaign to take a federalist approach with regard to marijuana policy. That campaign promise was not reflected by Trump's appointment of longtime marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of Attorney General or any of the actions that Sessions has taken since becoming the nation's top law enforcement officer.
Altieri continued, "With the President now reiterating this commitment, it is time for Congress to do its part and swiftly move forward bipartisan legislation that explicitly provides states with the authority and autonomy to set their own marijuana policies absent the fear of federal incursion. Doing so would not only follow through one of Trump's campaign promises, but it would codify the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans."
Senate Majority Leader Fast-Tracks Hemp Legalization Bill
Washington, DC: United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), along with Rand Paul (R-KY) and Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced legislation last week to remove low THC hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and amend federal regulations to better facilitate industrial hemp production, research, and commerce.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 empowers states to regulate hemp production and allocates grant funding to federally subsidize industrial hemp cultivation. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established agricultural crop.
The Act was immediately placed on the Senate calendar, allowing the legislation to bypass the committee process.
Senator McConnell previously shepherded federal reforms (Section 7606 of the Farm Bill) in 2014 permitting states to legally authorize hemp cultivation as part of academic research pilot programs. Over two-dozen states have established regulations permitting limited hemp cultivation under this provision. In 2017, state-licensed producers grew over 39,000 acres of hemp, up from roughly 16,000 acres in 2016.
Separate legislation, HR 3530, is currently pending in the US House of Representatives to exclude low-THC strains of cannabis grown for industrial purposes from the federal definition of marijuana. That measure has 43 co-sponsors.
Study: Cannabis Exposure Not Associated With Residual Adverse Impact On Cognition
Philadelphia, PA: Cannabis exposure in adolescents and young adults is not associated with any significant long-term detrimental effects on cognitive performance, according to a systematic literature review published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Investigators affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine and with the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania reviewed data from 69 separate studies published between 1973 and 2017 involving 8,727 subjects (2,152 frequent or heavy users and 6,575 controls). Researchers reported no significant long-term deficits in memory, attention, or other aspects of cognitive functioning that could be independently attributed to cannabis use, regardless of subjects' age of initiation. These findings are in contrast to similar studies assessing the impact of alcohol use and other controlled substances on cognitive performance, which "have shown medium to large effect sizes."
Authors concluded: "Associations between cannabis use and cognitive functioning in cross-sectional studies of adolescents and young adults are small and may be of questionable clinical importance for most individuals. Furthermore, abstinence of longer than 72 hours diminishes cognitive deficits associated with cannabis use. [R]esults indicate that previous studies of cannabis youth may have overstated the magnitude and persistence of cognitive deficits associated with marijuana use."
Full text of the new study, "Association of cannabis with cognitive functioning in adolescents and young adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis," appears in JAMA Psychiatry.
Pennsylvania: Regulators Expand Medical Cannabis Access Program
Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine has signed off on a series of recommendations expanding patients' access to medical cannabis.
The changes, previously recommended by the state's medical marijuana advisory board, expand the pool of patients eligible to receive medical cannabis therapy to include those suffering from opioid dependency, neurodegenerative diseases, and/or dyskinetic or other spastic movement disorders. Patients undergoing cancer remission therapy are also now eligible to access medical cannabis. Chronic pain patients will also have greater access to cannabis under the rule changes.
The new rules also for the first-time permit dispensaries to provide herbal cannabis preparations to qualified patients. As initially enacted, the program only permitted patients to access cannabis-infused pills, oils, topical ointments, or tinctures.
Under the new regulations, patients are permitted to vaporize, but not smoke, herbal cannabis.
"Pennsylvania's medical cannabis program may have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, but patients can feel confident that the Advisory Board takes its role seriously and is committed to improving the program," said Pittsburgh NORML Director Patrick Nightingale.
Albuquerque: City Enacts Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance
Albuquerque, NM: Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has signed municipal legislation into law decriminalizing offenses involving the possession of small quantities of cannabis and marijuana-related paraphernalia.
Under the new law, the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is classified as a civil infraction, punishable by a $25 fine. Under state law, first-time simple marijuana possession offenses are classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a criminal record.
Mayor Keller called the new local law "a step in the right direction." He added, "Removing the criminal penalties for [the] possession of small amounts of marijuana will free up precious resources for law enforcement who have plenty on their plate already."
The city of Albuquerque (population 560,000) joins the city of Santa Fe (population 84,000), which decriminalized minor marijuana possession offenses via a 2014 municipal initiative.
In recent years, an estimated 60 municipalities in states where cannabis remains criminalized have enacted local ordinances either partially or fully decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.
Massachusetts: Governor Signs Marijuana Expungement Provision Into Law
Boston, MA: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation into law on Friday that includes a provision expunging the criminal records of those convicted of certain prior marijuana offenses.
Language in Senate Bill 2371 states, "[A] court may order the expungement of a record created as a result of a criminal court appearance ... if the court determines based on clear and convincing evidence that the record was created as a result of ... an offense at the time of the creation of the record which at the time of expungement is no longer a crime."
Massachusetts voters passed a voter initiative in November 2016 legalizing the adult use, possession (up to 10 ounces in private), and cultivation (up to six plants) of cannabis by adults.
California and Oregon similarly permit the courts to dismiss prior marijuana convictions in instances where the offense occurred prior to the passage of adult use legalization.