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GOP Leaders’ Bill Could Let Patients Use Medical Marijuana

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A Republican-backed bill working its way through Congress could have the unintended consequence of allowing seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana.

Under legislation set to be voted on by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, patients with terminal diseases would be able to access drugs that have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The proposal, known as the “Right to Try Act,” lays out certain criteria for what can be considered an “eligible investigational drug,” all of which marijuana appears to meet.

The proposal, known as the “Right to Try Act,”¬†lays out certain criteria for what can be considered an “eligible investigational drug,” all of which marijuana appears to meet.

In order to qualify, a drug has to have completed a phase 1 clinical trial, be under active development and not yet have been approved or licensed for any legal use by the federal government. An eligible medicine also needs to be the subject of an active investigational new drug application and under investigation in a clinical trial intended to form the basis of a claim of effectiveness in support of approval or licensure by the FDA.

Thanks to research being funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), cannabis seems to fit the bill.

The organization, which began its quest for investigational new drug status for marijuana in 2010, is currently in the middle of Phase 2 clinical trials on the use of cannabis by military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. The goal is to turn whole-plant marijuana into a legal, FDA-approved prescription medicine.

In the meantime, while the congressional bill appears to open the door to legal access to marijuana, only the most gravely ill patients would qualify.

To access cannabis, they¬†would need to¬†be in “a stage of a disease or condition in¬†which there is reasonable likelihood that death will occur within a matter of months, or a disease or condition that would result in significant irreversible morbidity that is likely to lead to severely premature death.”

They would also need to have “exhausted approved treatment options” and not be eligible to otherwise participate in ongoing clinical trials on the drug because they don’t meet¬†inclusion criteria or live within¬†geographic proximity of¬†where the study is taking place.

“Making medical marijuana available for terminally ill patients would certainly be a significant step forward for federal policy. If MAPS‚Äôs current Phase 2 clinical trial of marijuana for symptoms of PTSD in military veterans qualifies marijuana for use under the proposed Right to Try Act, then the trial will already have helped a lot of people,” Brad Burge, MAPS’s director of strategic communications, said in an interview. “Still, only making marijuana available for those on the verge of dying isn‚Äôt nearly enough, and the best thing the federal government can do for patients is to end the federal monopoly on marijuana for research currently being upheld by Jeff Sessions.”

Under longstanding U.S. policy, all marijuana used in scientific research is grown at a University of Mississippi farm licensed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Researchers have long complained that it is difficult to obtain cannabis from the government-sponsored lab and that the product is often of low quality. In 2016, the Obama administration moved to allow more cultivation facilities, but the Department of Justice under U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reportedly blocked the Drug Enforcement Administration from acting on any of the license applications it has so far received.

Because the Right to Try¬†bill¬†is being brought forth on an expedited basis known as “suspension of the rules,” it needs¬†support¬†from two-thirds of House members present and voting, with a roll call expected to take place Tuesday evening. A¬†similar bill¬†was approved by the Senate last August.

If the House passes the legislation, the two chambers will work to reconcile the versions into a single proposal to be sent to President Trump, who pledged his support during his State of the Union address in January.

Republican and Democratic staffers for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over food and drug safety, did not respond to a request for comment.

State-based legislation that explicitly outlines a right to try cannabis for terminally ill patients has advanced this year in Utah and Missouri.

UPDATE: The bill fell just short of getting the necessary two-thirds support it needed to pass the House under suspension of the rules on Tuesday evening.

This piece was first published by Forbes.

If you value staying updated on cannabis news, please start a monthly Patreon pledge to support Marijuana Moment!

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Politics

Mexican Government Officials Visit Canada To Learn About Marijuana Legalization

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The office of Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Friday that key members of his incoming cabinet will discuss marijuana legalization with Canadian government officials on a visit to the country next week.

As part of the trip by seven secretaries-designate, officials from the two nations will meet about issues such as human rights, inclusive governance and “regulation of cannabis use,” a press release from L√≥pez Obrador’s transition team said.

Among those taking the trip north will be Olga Sánchez Cordero, the likely next interior secretary of Mexico, who has previously said she would encourage the new president to legalize marijuana and pursue broader drug policy reforms.

Canada’s marijuana legalization law went into effect this week.

López Obrador will be sworn in as president on December 1.

Where Mexico’s Next President Stands On Marijuana

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Canadian Lawmaker Vapes Marijuana And Doesn’t Care What Anyone Thinks

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A Canadian member of Parliament openly consumes marijuana, something he says will be completely normal and not at all noteworthy soon in light of the country’s new legalization law that went into effect this week.

“Just as someone might have a glass of wine or a scotch on a Friday night, I would turn to my vaporizer,”¬†MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said in an interview with CBC news.

But it’s not all about getting high for fun and relaxation for the¬†member of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s party. He also consumes cannabis medicinally.

“I have Crohn’s, so sometimes I turn to it for that reason as well,” he said.

Within a matter of years, though, no one will care whether lawmakers toke up, Erskine-Smith believes.

“Five years from now, no one will be interested in this question because we’ll all recognize we’re responsible adults, and this is far less harmful than alcohol, far less harmful than tobacco,” he said. “And we should use it responsibly, yes, because there are potential harms.”

“Certainly Canadians are capable of doing this because we’ve been doing it for decades.”

On that point, Erskine-Smith acknowledged that he too has been consuming cannabis before prohibition officially lifted on Wednesday.

“It would be sort of silly for me to stop now, wouldn’t it?” he asked.

Trudeau himself previously admitted that he illegally smoked marijuana while serving in Parliament, but said this week that he has no intention of consuming cannabis now that it is legal.

Canada’s Liquor Stores Will Heavily Outnumber Marijuana Stores On Legalization’s Launch

Photo courtesy of Cannabis Culture.

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Missouri Campaign Finance Records Show Medical Marijuana Ballot Battle Heating Up

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New quarterly campaign finance documents from Missouri medical marijuana ballot committees, covering activity from July 1 to September 30, show some coalescing of support for one of three measures on the ballot, while a recently created committee that opposes all of the medical cannabis options has yet to report any financial support.

Here’s what the fundraising and expenditures for the key committees behind each of the three proposed measures look like:

(Note: only those committees with major activity in Q3 are displayed)

Missouri has one of the most confusing sets of marijuana ballot options¬†to ever go before voters in any state, with two proposed constitutional amendments and one proposed statutory measure to choose from. Each option was sponsored by a separate committee that actively attacked the others¬†in the months leading up to qualifying this summer to get on the ballot, with hostile campaign tactics continuing since then‚ÄĒincluding lawsuits and opposition research into the personal finances of advocates.

In the last few months, two additional organizations entered the fray. One is¬†the only ballot committee that opposes both of the amendments and the proposition. Citizens for SAFE Medicine registered on September 20, and did not report any financial contributions or expenditures on its October 15 report. Judy Brooks, listed as Treasurer¬†of the organization, is also a founder of Jefferson City’s Council For Drug Free Youth.

The other is “Patients Against Bradshaw Amendment Formally Known As Find The Cures Political Action Committee.” The committee, which registered August 27, opposes Amendment 3 and supports Amendment 2. It raised $1,441 cash from five donors, and has spent $447 of that on campaigning.

Its verbose name is a reference to Dr. Brad Bradshaw, the main financial contributor to Find the Cures, a committee that registered in September 2015 to support the measure now designated as Amendment 3. Between October 2017 and June 2018, he provided loans to Find the Cures to the tune of $1.2 million. The committee spent over $800,000 of that to hire a signature collection firm to get on the ballot.

Bradshaw’s measure would, among other things, create a research center that many suspect he intends to run himself. It had already come under fire from Missouri NORML, which backs New Approach Missouri and its preferred proposal, Amendment 2. Find the Cures had already raised $1,556,705¬†in the first half of 2018 (much of that in the loans from Bradshaw), but started the most recent quarter with just¬†$79 in the bank. From July through September, the committee took in another $209,111, with $186,121 of that in the form of additional loans from Bradshaw. It spent¬†$164,739 on advertising and campaign staff, leaving $44,451 cash on hand for the remaining weeks before the election.

Under Amendment 2, doctors would be allowed to recommend medical cannabis for any condition they feel it is needed. Registered patients and caregivers would be permitted to grow up to six marijuana plants and purchase up to four ounces from dispensaries per month. Medical cannabis sales at dispensaries would be taxed at four percent. As previously reported by Marijuana Moment, the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP, Freedom Incorporated and the St. Louis American newspaper support Amendment 2. It also recently garnered an endorsement from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

New Approach Missouri was the most active committee in terms of continuing to raise and spend funds in quarter three of 2018. The group, which had already raised $1,057,263 for the election, took in another $256,924 cash and $15,368 worth of in-kind contributions. They spent $229,122 in the quarter, for events, legal fees, database management, media creation and public affairs in support of Amendment 2. One employee has been paid a total of $116,180 over the course of the campaign. They had $39,878 in the bank at the end of September.

Long-time political action committee Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, which has been around for seven years, had little activity last quarter, bringing in $350 and spending $72, leaving $2,250 on hand. It has however seemingly thrown its support behind New Approach Missouri, providing $5,000 in in-kind support to the committee.

Here’s a chart using a logarithmic scale that includes more of the committees, even those with relatively paltry finances:

(Note: scale is logarithmic in order to depict smaller committees)

Missourians for Patient Care, which supports Proposition C, had little money activity in the most recent reporting period, suggesting that it is perhaps stepping back from active campaigning at this point. The group had raised a whopping $1,393,360 in 2018, but had only $31,077 left on hand at the beginning of July. In the last three months, it brought in $115 and reported no expenses.

One additional committee that formed, “Missouri Medical Marijuana,” that supported “medical marijuana measure,” has terminated its operations.

On Election Day, we will see whether the millions of dollars spent result in Missouri voters enacting one of more of the cannabis ballot proposals.

North Dakota’s Marijuana Legalization Supporters Outraised By Opponents, Filings Show

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