Members of Congress Hear Testimony Urging an End to Federal Marijuana Prohibition
Washington, DC: Members of the US House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security heard expert testimony on Wednesday challenging the federal government's policy of cannabis prohibition. The hearing, entitled "Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform," debated the merits of various alternative policy options – including abolishing cannabis' longstanding Schedule I criminal status under federal law.
The hearing marked the first time in decades that members have entertained debate regarding the need to end the federal criminalization of cannabis and to deschedule the plant from the Controlled Substances Act. Archived video of the proceedings is online.
Witnesses testifying at yesterday's hearing were Dr. David Nathan of the group Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Marilyn Mosby, Esq., State's Attorney for Baltimore City, Dr. G. Malik Burnett (formerly of the Drug Policy Alliance), and Neal Levine, Chief Executive Officer of the Cannabis Trade Federation. Their written testimony is available online.
Members of Congress in attendance at the hearing included: Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ben Cline (R-VA), Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Doug Collins (R-GA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), and Greg Stube (R-FL). Several members, including Reps. Cohen and Lieu, concurred with witnesses' testimony that Congress should completely remove the cannabis plant from the federal Controlled Substances Act.
A coalition of social advocacy groups – including NORML, the ACLU, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, The Immigrants Legal Resource Center, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Center for American Progress – released a joint Statement of Principles to coincide with the hearing. The Principles, which were entered into the record, highlight legislative priorities and provide Congress with a roadmap for ending America's ongoing policy of cannabis criminalization.
Commenting on the hearing, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said: "For the first time in a generation, members of Congress engaged in a candid conversation that acknowledged the failures of marijuana prohibition in the United States, how this policy has adversely impacted tens of millions of Americans, and how it must be reformed at the federal level."
He added: "The ongoing classification under federal law of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance – a categorization that treats it in the same manner as heroin – is intellectually dishonest and has been scientifically debunked. It is high time that Congress address this Flat Earth policy and move forward with a plan that appropriately reflects marijuana's rapidly changing cultural status in America."
Study: History of Cannabis Use Associated With Lower Risk of Liver Disease
Santander, Spain: Subjects with a history of cannabis use are less likely than abstainers to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to longitudinal data published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.
A team of Spanish investigators assessed the relationship between cannabis use and liver steatosis over a three-year period. They determined that those subjects "who reported continuing cannabis use were at lower risk for developing NAFLD."
They concluded: "Our results suggest that using cannabis could have a protective effect on liver steatosis. The beneficial effect of cannabis at the level of the development of steatosis seems to be secondary to its modulation effect on weight gain and the reduced development of obesity. ... These results are in line with previous studies in the general population, in which cannabis showed significantly lower NAFLD prevalence compared to non-users."
Full text of the study, "Cannabis consumption and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A three years longitudinal study in first episode non-affective psychosis patients," appears in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.
Study: Adult-Use Cannabis Regulations Associated with Falling Teen Use
Bozeman, MT: The enactment of laws regulating the use of cannabis by adults is associated with short-term declines in self-reported marijuana use by young people, according to findings published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
A team of researchers from Montana State University, the University of Oregon, the University of Colorado, and San Diego State University assessed teen marijuana use rates, as reported by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, in states that had legalized either the medical or the recreational use of cannabis.
After adjusting for individual and state-level covariates, authors reported that states with "recreational marijuana laws were associated with an eight percent decrease in the odds of marijuana use and a nine percent decrease in the odds of frequent marijuana use." By contrast, states with medical cannabis laws only were not associated with any statistical changes in youth use.
They concluded: "Consistent with the results of previous researchers, there was no evidence that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages marijuana use among youth. Moreover, the estimates reported ... showed that marijuana use among youth may actually decline after legalization for recreational purposes. This latter result is consistent ... with the argument that it is more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana as drug dealers are replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age."
Commenting on the study's conclusions, lead researcher Mark Anderson of Montana State University said: "There is simply no evidence that legalization – for medical or recreational purposes – leads to an increase in teen use. Opponents of these laws generally state this as a primary concern, but there is just no evidence that teen consumption goes up."
NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf added, "Ensuring the safety of our kids is always a top priority. The best way to do that is to regulate cannabis, bring products behind a counter, and phase out the illicit market."
Full text of the study, "Association of marijuana laws with teen marijuana use," appears in JAMA Pediatrics. Additional information is available in the NORML fact-sheet, "Marijuana Regulation and Teen Use Rates."
Dover, DE: Democratic Gov. John Carney has signed legislation into law permitting those with a broad range of non-violent misdemeanors to petition the state to have their criminal records expunged.
Senate Bill 37, which takes effect on December 27, 2019, permits those with criminal records for certain non-violent misdemeanor offenses to petition the State Bureau of Identification to have their history either sealed or expunged. The stated intent of the new law is to "protect persons from [the] unwarranted damage which may occur when the existence of a criminal history continues indefinitely."
Separate legislation signed into law last year already provides "mandatory expungement eligibility to individuals who were convicted of the possession [of one ounce or less], use or consumption of marijuana prior to Delaware's decriminalization of these offenses."
State lawmakers in 2015 enacted legislation reducing the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a criminal act to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only – no arrest, and no criminal record.
Michigan: State Regulators Finalize Rules Governing Retail Cannabis Sales
Lansing, MI: Regulators have finalized a series of rules and regulations to govern the adult-use marijuana market. Last November, voters approved a statewide initiative calling upon state officials to regulate the plant's production, use, and sale.
The rules permit the licensed production and sale of cannabis. Specific license-holders will also be able to engage in marijuana deliveries and to operate social use lounges. Recreational license applications will be expedited for those already possessing medical cannabis retail licenses.
Regulators are anticipated to begin granting licenses governing the cultivation, processing, testing, and retail sale of cannabis later this year.
Hawaii: Measure Decriminalizing Minor Marijuana Possession Becomes Law Absent Governor's Signature
Honolulu, HI: Democratic Gov. David Ige failed to take action on Tuesday on legislation decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession offenses, thereby allowing the measure to become law without his signature.
House Bill 1383 reduces penalties involving the possession of up to three grams of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a criminal record, to a non-criminal violation – punishable by a $130 fine. It also provides procedures for the courts to grant an expungement order for those previously convicted of a marijuana possession offense involving no more than three grams.
The new law takes effect on January 11, 2020.
Twenty-six states and Washington, DC have either legalized or decriminalized the adult possession and use of marijuana.
Separate legislative measures which sought to establish a commercial hemp industry in Hawaii and to permit qualified patients to engage in interisland travel with medical cannabis were both vetoed by the Governor.
Case Report: Synthetic Cannabinoid Identified in CBD Product Sold Online
Portland, OR: Analytical testing of a commercially available CBD product sold online identified the presence of the synthetic cannabinoid agonist AB-FUBINACA (aka 5F-ADB), a component typically identified in 'Spice' and other controlled substances sometimes marketed as 'synthetic cannabis' products. The findings appear in the journal Clinical Toxicology.
Investigators tested the product following the emergency room admission of an eight-year-old boy who was experiencing seizures, delirium, and agitation. The patient's parents had ordered the product online as an anti-seizure treatment. The patient was discharged from the hospital two days later.
Investigators did not provide specific information regarding the manufacturer of the product in question. At least one other peer-reviewed paper has similarly identified the presence of 5F-ADP in a commercially available CBD-infused product.
Currently, commercially marketed CBD-infused products are not subject to explicit federal regulations. As a result, third-party lab testing has frequently revealed inconsistencies between the percentage of CBD advertised and the amount actually contained in some of these products. In many cases — such as those reported here, here, here, here, and here — actual quantities of CBD in the product is far lower than advertised. In other cases, testing has revealed the presence of THC, which may put consumers in jeopardy for legal ramifications – such as arrest or the loss of employment (due to a drug test failure). Some commercial products have also been identified to contain elevated levels of heavy metals and solvents.
In May, NORML provided written testimony to the US Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to move expeditiously to provide regulatory guidelines governing product manufacturing, standardization, and quality.
For more information, please see the NORML fact-sheet 'FAQs About Cannabidiol.'
Full text of the study, "Commercial cannabidiol oil contaminated with the synthetic cannabinoid AB-FUBINACA given to pediatric patient," appears in Clinical Toxicology.
Las Vegas: City-Wide Plan for Marijuana Consumption Sites on Hold
Las Vegas, NV: A city ordinance regulating the operation of on-site cannabis consumption spaces will not go into effect following the passage of conflicting statewide legislation.
In May, members of the Las Vegas City Council voted in favor of the municipal law, which would have been the first ordinance of its type in Nevada. However, state lawmakers more recently passed legislation into law, Assembly Bill 533, prohibiting local governments from licensing businesses that permit marijuana consumption on their premises.
Provisions in the new law call on state regulators to further study the issue prior to permitting local governments to move forward with allowing on-site marijuana consumption spaces.
In March, Alaska became the first US state to codify rules governing the establishment of on-site marijuana consumption facilities. Colorado and Michigan have recently enacted social use regulations.