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Source: @norml @WeedConnection
Posted By: norml@weedconnection.com
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- Tue, 27 Mar 2018 04:20:21 PST

Federal Spending Bill Includes Medical Marijuana Protections

Washington, DC: In a blow to Attorney General Jeff Sessions anti-marijuana agenda, Congressional leadership included in the omnibus spending package language that was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), to prohibit the Department of Justice and its affiliated agencies from prosecuting state-lawful and compliant medical marijuana systems, businesses, and patients.

Originally known as the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, it explicitly states that federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from "implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

The amendment has been in place since 2014, as a part of annual spending bills. Because the provision was initially approved as a budgetary amendment, it must be explicitly re-authorized by Congress as part of either a continuing resolution or a new fiscal year appropriations bill in order to maintain in effect.

In the past month, NORML has worked with Representatives Rohrabacher and Blumenauer in recruiting 60 additional members of Congress to co-sign a letter of their own to Congressional leadership, which states, "We respectfully request that you include language barring the Department of Justice from prosecuting those who comply with their state's medical marijuana laws. We believe such a policy is not only consistent with the wishes of a bipartisan majority of the members of the House, but also with the wishes of the American people."

As the negotiations reached their peak, thousands of members of NORML contacted their federal officials to urge them to maintain these protections.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on Thursday afternoon but fate of this spending bill has yet to be made clear in the Senate. The bill is deemed a "must pass" piece of legislation as the federal government is set to shut down on Friday, March 23rd at midnight if action is not taken.

Study: Marijuana Decriminalization Leads To Decreased Arrests, No Increase In Youth Use

St. Louis, MO: State laws reducing minor marijuana possession offenses from criminal to civil violations (aka decriminalization) are associated with dramatic reductions in drug-related arrests, and are not linked to any uptick in youth cannabis use, according to data published by researchers affiliated with Washington University and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Investigators examined the impact of cannabis decriminalization on arrests and youth cannabis use in five states that passed decriminalization measures between the years 2008 and 2014: Massachusetts (decriminalized in 2008), Connecticut (2011), Rhode Island (2013), Vermont (2013), and Maryland (2014). Data on cannabis use were obtained from state Youth Risk Behavior Surveys; arrest data were obtained from federal crime statistics.

Authors reported: "Decriminalization of cannabis in five states between the years 2009 and 2014 was associated with large and immediate decreases in drug-related arrests for both youth and adults. ... The sharp drop in arrest rates suggests that implementation of these policies likely changed police behavior as intended."

They further reported: "Decriminalization was not associated with increased cannabis use either in aggregate or in any of the five states analyzed separately, nor did we see any delayed effects in a lag analysis, which allowed for the possibility of a two-year (one period) delay in policy impact. In fact, the lag analysis suggested a potential protective effect of decriminalization." In two of the five states assessed, Rhode Island and Vermont, researchers determined that the prevalence of youth cannabis use declined following the enactment of decriminalization.

Investigators concluded: "[I]mplementation of cannabis decriminalization likely leads to a large decrease in the number of arrests among youth (as well as adults) and we see no evidence of increases in youth cannabis use. On the contrary, cannabis use rates declined after decriminalization. ... These findings are consistent with the interpretation that decriminalization policies likely succeed with respect to their intended effects and that their short-term unintended consequences are minimal."

Thirteen states currently impose either partial or full decriminalization. Nine additional states and Washington, DC have subsequently amended their decriminalization laws in a manner that fully legalizes the use of marijuana by adults.

Full text of the study, "Cannabis decriminalization: A study of recent policy change in five states," is available online. Additional fact-sheets regarding the societal effects of decriminalization policies are available from NORML online.

Study: No Link Between Cumulative Cannabis Use And Kidney Disease

Boston, MA: The cumulative use of cannabis is not associated with adverse effects on kidney function, according to clinical data published in The American Journal of Medicine.

Harvard investigators assessed the relationship between marijuana use and renal function in a cohort of 13,995 adults between the ages of 18 and 59. Current marijuana users possessed no significant differences in any measures of kidney function as compared to past users and never users.

"Marijuana use did not have a significant association with serum creatinine, eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate), or odds of having stage 2 or greater chronic kidney disease," they concluded.

The study's findings are similar to those of a 2017 University of California study which reported that the long-term use of cannabis was not associated with symptoms of kidney disease.

Full text of the study, "Marijuana use and renal function among US adults," appears in The American Journal of Public Health.

More California Counties Move to Expunge Past Marijuana Convictions

Sacramento, CA: Officials in two additional California counties, Sonoma county (population 502,000) and Yolo county (population 213,000), have announced that they will proactively review and vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions.

Sonoma county officials estimate that some 3,000 cases are eligible for either a sentence reduction or expungement. In Yolo County, the District Attorney's Office has identified an estimated 700 cases that may be eligible for legal relief.

Their actions follow those of district attorneys in Alameda county, San Diego county, and San Francisco - each of whom have pledged to automatically review and dismiss thousands of past marijuana-related convictions.

Provisions in the state's 2016 voter-approved marijuana law allow those with past marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement. Legislation is pending in the California Assembly, AB 1793, to make this process automatic for anyone with an eligible past cannabis conviction.

St Louis: Minor Marijuana Possession Offenses Reduced To $25 Fine

St. Louis, MO: City lawmakers have approved municipal legislation reducing minor marijuana possession offenses to a $25 fine-only violation. The new policy took effect immediately after being signed into law by Mayor Lyda Krewson.

Under the policy, cannabis possession offenses involving up to 35 grams are classified as a municipal violation, punishable by no more than a $25 fine. Under the former citywide policy, potential fines amounted to as much as $500.00. Under state law, possessing between 10 and 35 grams of marijuana is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Since 2012, nearly 60 municipalities in states where cannabis remains criminalized have enacted local ordinances either partially or fully decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses. On Wednesday, local lawmakers in the city of South Fulton, Georgia enacted a similar decriminalization ordinance with regard to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. Atlanta lawmakers had approved a similar measure in October.

Illinois: Cook County Voters Approve Non-Binding Adult Use Marijuana Initiative

Chicago, IL: Voters in Cook County, IL (population 5.23 million) have approved a non-binding ballot measure in support of legalizing the adult use of marijuana.

The advisory measure posed to voters the question of whether the state should legalize "the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older." Over 60 percent of voters decided 'yes' on the ballot question.

Legislation, Senate Bill 2275, to place a similar non-binding ballot item on the Illinois ballot in November recently passed the Senate and awaits further action in the House.

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