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Lawmakers Mourn Loss Of Charlotte Figi, Whose Story Inspired National CBD Movement And Helped Change Policies

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Advocates and lawmakers are mourning the loss of a young icon in the medical marijuana reform movement. Charlotte Figi, who showed the world how CBD can treat severe epilepsy, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 13 due to complications from a likely coronavirus infection.

Across social media, people are sending their support to the Figi family and sharing anecdotes about how Charlotte’s battle against Dravet syndrome—and the success she demonstrated in treating it with the cannabis compound—changed hearts and minds. Her impact has been felt across state legislatures and in Congress, where her story was often told as a clear example of why laws prohibiting access to cannabidiol needed to change.

The domino effect Charlotte’s story helped set off—with states, particularly conservative ones, passing modest reform bills for CBD access—paved the path for a successful congressional rider that ended up protecting more far-reaching medical cannabis programs across the U.S., advocates say.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who has become one of the leading GOP champions for broad marijuana reform on Capitol Hill, said he was personally influenced by Charlotte and, as a state lawmaker in 2014, her story motivated him to support legislation to reform Florida’s medical cannabis policies.

“Charlotte lived a life of tremendous significance. Her story inspired me to completely change my views on medical cannabis and successfully pass legislation so that patients could get help in Florida,” the congressman said. “I’m so sad she is gone, but the movement she has ignited will live forever.”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), another top marijuana reform advocate who has raised the issue directly with President Trump on several occasions, wrote that Charlotte “made a positive and everlasting change in the world by the age of 13, and her inspirational courage will always be remembered.”

“Charlotte changed the way the nation thinks about CBD through her grace and advocacy,” he said. “We should honor her by fixing our federal cannabis laws as soon as possible.”

Florida state Rep. Rob Bradley (R) agreed with the sentiment, writing that “Charlotte Figi was a bright, beautiful light that changed how our state and country views cannabis. I am saddened to hear that this sweet soul has left us.”

In Illinois, state Rep. Bob Morgan (D) said Charlotte, who is the namesake of one of the most well-known CBD brands, Charlotte’s Web, “singlehandedly transformed how the world viewed medical cannabis and children with epilepsy.”

“She suffered so much so that others would not have to,” he said. “May her memory be a blessing.”

Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach (D) also said Charlotte “inspired me to get involved in the cannabis movement” and “showed the world that Cannabis is medicine and the trail she blazed has helped millions.”

“The world lost a fighter,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who previously advocated for CBD reform as a state senator, said. “Charlotte Figi-who helped inspire passage of CBD Oil legislation for epilepsy treatment nationwide-passed away. I worked w/her mom/others in 14 in MO. My speech in the Senate was a tribute to her, June Jesse, my son & many others.”

Beyond championing a successful CBD bill in Florida, Charlotte’s family also captivated national audiences and became a household name in the reform movement. Her story was featured on a popular CNN documentary, “Weed,” hosted by Sanjay Gupta, that introduced people from diverging political ideologies to an issue that’s since become a focus of legislation across the country.

A bipartisan congressional bill named after her—the Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act—was first introduced in 2015.

But while that standalone legislation didn’t advance, the growing number of state-level policy changes that were inspired by Charlotte and other young patients could help to explain why Congress, including members who oppose legalization, has consistently supported a budget rider that prohibits the Justice Department from interfering in state-legal medical cannabis programs. It was first approved in 2014—after repeatedly failing on the House floor—and has been renewed each year since.

With CBD-only states included on an enumerated list of those that would be protected from legal action, it became increasingly difficult for lawmakers to defend voting against a measure to prevent federal harassment of their own constituents. Support from more conservative-minded Democrats and a handful of Republicans, including those from states that had recently enacted or were debating their own CBD laws, allowed the amendment to narrowly advance for the first time when it had been handily defeated two years earlier.

Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and South Carolina stand out as examples of states where cannabis reform came online between those votes and where support for the measure also increased among their congressional delegations.

The measure as approved by Congress and first signed into law law President Obama, has given explicit protection from federal prosecution not just to people complying with limited CBD-focused state laws but also medical cannabis growers, processors and retailers in states with more robust policies such as California and Colorado (though it does not protect recreational marijuana businesses or consumers).

“Charlotte Figi personalized this issue in a way that few others have, and her story humanized the medical cannabis fight to such a degree that many politicians could no longer ignore it,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “There is little doubt that Charlotte’s story, arguably more than any other, paved the way for politicians in several southern and midwestern states to finally move forward to recognize the need for CBD, and in some cases, whole-plant cannabis access.”

Don Murphy, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said even opponents of cannabis legalization “can’t say ‘no’ to young mothers pushing sick kids in strollers,” referencing the many other patient advocates who helped usher the reform to victory.

“There’s no doubt it helped move the debate in our direction,” he said. “Truth is, I was once told that CBD hurt our effort [for broader reform]. I don’t think so.”

A person writing on behalf of the family on Tuesday said that “Charlotte is no longer suffering” and will be forever seizure-free.

CBD Prescription Drug Is No Longer A Federally Controlled Substance, DEA Says

Image element courtesy of Paige Figi.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Missouri Lawmakers Defeat Amendment To Require They Consume Marijuana Before Voting

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Missouri lawmakers rejected an amendment to a health care bill on Thursday that would have required House members to consume a “substantial” amount of marijuana before performing their legislative duties.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Andrew McDaniel (R), was defeated in a voice vote—though a reporter in the room said he heard a few “ayes.”

Text of the measure stipulated that “members of the Missouri House shall consume a substantial dose of medicinal marijuana prior to entering the chamber or voting on any legislation.”

McDaniel told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview that, this time of year, lawmakers tend to pile on amendments to bills. The current health care-focused legislation has “a whole bunch of crap” that’s been attached to it, he said, and so he saw an opportunity to “get everyone to chill out and get a little chuckle” with his proposal.

The hope was also that it could “get them all to pay attention” and “quit messing it up,” he said.

The lawmaker said he similarly heard some “aye” votes from the chamber, though he said he wasn’t going to force people to go on the record with a roll call vote.

“It was just for fun—simmer down, bring up a little bit of laughter in such a somber environment of the times we’re in,” McDaniel said.

Erik Alteri, executive director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment that he appreciated the sentiment.

“During these trying times we all could certainly use a laugh which this amendment provided. Though having state legislators imbibe before session might not be the worst thing to encourage cooperation for the public good,” he said. “At the very least perhaps opponents of ending our failed probation on cannabis may finally realize they are ruining hundreds of thousands of lives per year over a plant.”

Another part of the inspiration behind the lawmaker’s amendment was a more serious provision of the overall legislation that provides protections for registered cannabis patients against having their registration in the program reported to the federal government.

The bill, SB 580, states that “no state agency, including employees therein, shall disclose to the federal government, any federal government employee, or any unauthorized third party, the statewide list or any individual information of persons who have applied for or obtained a medical marijuana card.”

McDaniel said that he supports both medical and adult-use cannabis legalization, though constituents in his district haven’t gotten on board with broader reform and so he doesn’t have immediate plans to introduce actionable legislation to that end. The legislator described himself as having a libertarian perspective on the issue.

He did sponsor a bill in 2018 that would have made a constitutional amendment establishing a limited medical cannabis program in the state. That came before voters approved more a far-reaching medical marijuana legalization measure during the November election that year.

Last month, a campaign to legalize marijuana in Missouri officially ended its bid to qualify for this year’s general election ballot due to signature gathering difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Montana Marijuana Activists Will Begin Signature Gathering For Legalization Measure With New Safety Protocols

Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Marijuana Bumper Stickers? No Thanks, Drivers Say In National Survey

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Even as a growing number of states are enacting legalization laws, stigma around marijuana is alive and well in the United States—at least according to a recent survey about the kinds of bumper stickers America’s drivers are willing to put on their vehicles.

Drivers said they would be less open to displaying a cannabis-related decal than ones featuring messages surrounding other controversial topics, such as politics, religion, gun ownership or even President Trump.

Of those who wouldn’t sport a cannabis bumper sticker on their cars, most said they worried it would affect how police would perceive them.

The survey of 1,195 people asked whether drivers would be willing to display various bumper-sticker messages, including their “support for/opposition to marijuana.” Of all the topics asked about, cannabis was the least popular, with only 34 percent of respondents saying they’d consider such a decal.

By comparison, 53 percent said they would be willing to advertise their views on gun ownership, 44 percent said they would display their religious identity and 42 percent said they would share their stance on President Trump.

Do marijuana bumper stickers make you more likely to get pulled over?

Courtesy of SafeHome.org

The survey was conducted by SafeHome.org, a website that publishes consumer information about home and personal safety. The company acknowledges that the data “rely on self-reporting,” which doesn’t always provide the most reliable conclusions. “There are many issues with self-reported data,” the site points out. “These issues include, but are not limited to, selective memory, telescoping, attribution and exaggeration.”

The poll nevertheless provides a glimpse into what at least some Americans are thinking when they weigh what views to broadcast on the road.

When drivers who said they wouldn’t display marijuana messages were asked what made them hesitate, 59 percent said they believed it would “affect how police perceive me.” Nearly half (45 percent) said they thought “it looks tacky”—more than any other topic but Trump.

Roughly a third of drivers who said they wouldn’t sport a cannabis bumper sticker said the topic was too personal (35 percent), it would affect how other drivers would perceive them (32 percent) or that they simply didn’t care enough about it (31 percent).

The survey also asked respondents about whether they believed their existing bumper stickers had indeed attracted unwanted attention, either from police or fellow drivers. Marijuana, however, was not included in that section of the survey. Among issues people believed they were pulled over unfairly for, “endorsement of racial identity/equality” ranked highest. When it came to aggression from other drivers, “support of/opposition to President Trump” was the top response.

Whether or not a weed bumper sticker makes someone more likely to be pulled over, it’s easy to see why drivers may have that fear. In many states, law enforcement organizations remain among the most stubborn opponents to legalization, and among their most common arguments is that legalization will make America’s roads more dangerous. Available data, however, are less clear on that subject.

Some research has found that traffic fatalities went down after legalization while overall accidents went up, a result that could be the result of drivers drinking less alcohol. The effects also seem to vary from state to state. A 2019 congressional report acknowledged the lack of a clear consensus on marijuana’s impact on driver safety. “Although laboratory studies have shown that marijuana consumption can affect a person’s response times and motor performance,” the Congressional Research Service wrote, “studies of the impact of marijuana consumption on a driver’s risk of being involved in a crash have produced conflicting results, with some studies finding little or no increased risk of a crash from marijuana usage.”

Cannabis, of course, is also the only item in the new bumper sticker survey that is directly attributable to motor impairment. That, combined with the fact that marijuana remains illegal in much of the country, is likely to make drivers think twice about slapping a weed-friendly bumper sticker on the back of their car.

Despite the controversy, however, most Americans support legalization at rates of between 60 percent and 70 percent, according to recent national polls. And a recent YouGov survey found that 55 percent of respondents said that legalization was either a complete success or “more of a success than a failure.”

Constitutionally speaking, Americans have a First Amendment right to political speech, and courts have ruled that bumper stickers generally fall under that protection. And political statements, even those supporting marijuana or its legalization in areas where it’s still illegal, aren’t themselves evidence that a person has violated any laws.

In practice, however, it’s still possible for law enforcement to target individuals for mundane reasons like bumper stickers only to later cite a different, more valid reason to justify a traffic stop. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it seems the best way to avoid attention when driving is to keep your car au naturel: Vehicles with at least one controversial decal on them, the SafeHome.org survey found, were almost three times more likely to be pulled over during the past year.

Congressional Report Raises Questions About Whether Marijuana Impairs Driving

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Police Departments In Legal And Illegal Marijuana States Play Into 4/20 With Jokes And Puns

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In legal marijuana states and those that maintain prohibition alike, police departments evidently wanted to get some giggles on the marijuana holiday 4/20.

On Monday, social media accounts for the Fort Collins Police Department in Colorado, the Bath Township Police Department in Michigan and the Wyoming Police Department in Minnesota shared posts in recognition of the annual occasion.

Cannabis is legal for recreational use in Colorado and Michigan but not Minnesota—which makes at least one of the posts a bit awkward given the criminal justice implications of ongoing prohibition for most adults.

In Fort Collins, the department shared a Tiger King-themed infographic explaining state regulations, riffing off the popular Netflix documentary series about a rivalry between two competing exotic animal companies. The visual explains rules around age requirements, personal cultivation and allowable consumption practices.

For those 21 and older, the department asked how the person reading the infographic plans to obtain cannabis.

“From that lady… Carole Baskin. I hear she’s nice,” one option reads. That response leads to a blurb stating, “File in the ‘Bad Ideas’ folder next to petting tigers.”

“We’ll be blunt – if you’re ganja partake in 4/20 activities, weed preefer if you consume responsibly,” the department said on Twitter. “Don’t get your mota running – driving while impaired is illegal. Know your limits & follow the law (helpful chart below). Share this info with your buds. Dank you & be safe!”

Another law enforcement agency that really got into marijuana puns on 4/20 is the Bath Township Police Department, which posted a notice about social distancing on the holiday rife with cannabis terminology.

“Weed not be doing our jobs if we didn’t remind you all that social distancing is still important. It’s a joint effort between all of us, from Herb to Mary Jane,” a Facebook post states. “Doobie cautious and avoid social gatherings such as pot lucks. If you’re out blazing some fall leaves or chatting with neighbors make sure to stay on your side of the grass.”

“Hash out issues with your family peacefully even if they’re acting like a little roach. Today is 4/20 which means we’re closer to being able to hang out with our buds again which will be pretty dope,” it continues. “So reefer to the guidelines until then and stay safe. “And we’re aware of the difficulties faced by everyone as they cannot get together today to celebrate Carmen Electra’s birthday.”

The Wyoming Police Department in Minnesota, where medical cannabis is legal, also played off the coronavirus pandemic for its 4/20 post. In a short segment, two officers explain that they have two tasks—getting rid of confiscated marijuana in evidence and testing face masks to prevent the spread of the virus—and they decide to tackle them at the same time.

You see where this is going…

After heading back to the evidence room, the officers return and one goes straight for the pantry and pulls out cereal and Mountain Dew. Get it? His mask didn’t work and he accidentally got high from the fumes of incinerating marijuana the department seized as part of a statewide policy of criminalizing the plant and consumers.

It’s supposed to be funny—until you think about the fact that Minnesota ranks in the top 10 states with the greatest racial disparities in cannabis enforcement, as ACLU documented in a report released on Monday.

Outside of police departments, dozens of lawmakers, brands, organizations and celebrities also participated in 4/20 with their own set of social media posts and promotions.

California Announces $30 Million Grant Program To Promote Marijuana Industry Social Equity

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