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Senate Could Vote On Marijuana Research This Week

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The U.S. Senate has before it an amendment that would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to study the medical benefits of marijuana for military veterans.

Under the measure, introduced by Sen. John Tester (D-MT), VA would conduct research using whole plant marijuana as well as extracts, and the studies would examine “varying methods of cannabis delivery, including topical application, combustible and noncombustible inhalation, and ingestion.”

The proposal would require VA to issue a report to Congress within 180 days that includes a plan for implementation of research and to preserve all data collected from the studies.

Tester is seeking to attach the provision to a bill on the Senate floor this week that would fund several parts of the federal government, including the VA, for Fiscal Year 2019.

That large-scale legislation already includes language approved this month by the Senate Appropriations Committee to end the department’s ban on VA physicians recommending medical cannabis to veterans. The bill would also protect veterans who use marijuana in accordance with state laws from being denied their VA benefits because of such activity.

Senators Approve Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans

Many veterans use medical cannabis to treat PTSD, chronic pain and other war wounds related to their military service.

The new amendment’s language is similar to a standalone bill that Tester filed last month with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK). The two are members of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. House companion legislation is being sponsored by the top Democrat and Republican on that chamber’s Veterans’ Affairs panel.

The House bill became the first-ever standalone marijuana reform legislation to be approved by a congressional committee last month.

First Marijuana Reform Bill Clears Congressional Committee

Last week, however, the House Appropriations Committee blocked a floor vote on a similar marijuana research amendment.

It is not clear if Tester’s filed amendment will receive a vote on the Senate floor. His office did not respond to a request for comment prior to this story’s publication.

See the full text of Tester’s marijuana research amendment below:

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SA 2933. Mr. TESTER submitted an amendment intended to be proposed to amendment SA 2910 proposed by Mr. Shelby to the bill H.R. 5895, making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

At the end of title II of division C, add the following:

SEC. 2__. CONDUCT OF RESEARCH INTO EFFECTS OF CANNABIS ON HEALTH OUTCOMES OF CERTAIN VETERANS.

(a) Research Required.–In carrying out the responsibilities of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under section 7303 of title 38, United States Code, the Secretary may conduct and support research relating to the efficacy and safety of forms of cannabis and methods of cannabis delivery described in subsection (c) on the health outcomes of covered veterans diagnosed with chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions the Secretary determines appropriate.

(b) Data Preservation.–Research conducted pursuant to subsection (a) shall include a mechanism to ensure the preservation of all data, including all data sets, collected or used for purposes of the research required by subsection (a) in a manner that will facilitate further research.

(c) Forms of Cannabis and Methods of Delivery to Be Researched.–The forms of cannabis and methods of cannabis delivery described in this subsection are–

(1) varying forms of cannabis, including–

(A) full plants and extracts;

(B) at least three different strains of cannabis with significant variants in phenotypic traits and various ratios of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol in chemical composition; and

(C) other chemical analogs of tetrahydrocannabinol; and

(2) varying methods of cannabis delivery, including topical application, combustible and non-combustible inhalation, and ingestion.

(d) Implementation.–Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall–

(1) develop a plan to implement this section and submit such plan to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Representatives; and

(2) issue any requests for proposals the Secretary determines appropriate for such implementation.

(e) Reports.–During the five-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit periodically, but not less frequently than annually, to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Representatives reports on the implementation of this section.(f) Covered Veteran Defined.–In this section, the term “covered veteran” means a veteran who is enrolled in the patient enrollment system of the Department of Veterans Affairs under section 1705 of title 38, United States Code.
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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

O’Rourke And Cruz Clash On Marijuana And Drugs At Senate Debate

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Candidates in one of the most contentious U.S. Senate races in the country this year clashed about the issues of marijuana legalization and drug policy reform during a debate on Friday night.

“I want to end the war on drugs and specifically want to end the prohibition on marijuana,” Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke said in response to an attack on his drug policy record from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, whom he is seeking to unseat in November.

During one of the most heated exchanges of the hour-long debate, the GOP incumbent slammed O’Rourke for sponsoring an amendment as an El Paso city councilman in 2009 that called for a debate on legalizing drugs as a possible solution to violence along the Mexican border.

“I think it would be a profound mistake to legalize all narcotics and I think it would hurt the children of this country,” Cruz argued.

He also criticized a bill the Democrat filed in Congress to repeal a law that reduces highway funding for states that don’t automatically suspend drivers licenses for people convicted of drug offenses. “That’s a real mistake and it’s part of pattern,” he said.

“There’s a consistent pattern when it comes to drug use, that in almost every single instance, Congressman O’Rourke supports more of it.”

Calling the issue “personal to me,” Cruz spoke about his older sister, who died of a drug overdose.

“To be clear, I don’t want to legalize heroin and cocaine and fentanyl,” O’Rourke countered.

“What I do want to ensure is that where, in this country, most states have decided that marijuana will legal at some form—for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes or at a minimum be decriminalized—that we don’t have another veteran in this state, prescribed an opioid because the doctor at the VA would rather prescribe medicinal marijuana but is prohibited by law from doing that,” he said.

Enumerating other potential beneficiaries of cannabis reform, the Democrat also referenced an “older woman with fibromyalgia” and “an African-American man, because more likely than not, that’s who will be arrested for possession of marijuana, to rot behind bars, instead of enjoying his freedom and the opportunity to contribute to the greatness of this country.”

Cruz, who called O’Rourke, “one of the leading advocates in the country for legalizing marijuana,” said that he thinks ending cannabis prohibition “is actually a question on which I think reasonable minds can differ.”

“I’ve always had a libertarian bent myself,” he said. “I think it ought to be up to the states. I think Colorado can decide one way. I think Texas can decide another.”

But despite his support for letting states set their own cannabis laws, which he also voiced during his failed candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Cruz hasn’t cosponsored a single piece of legislation during his time in the Senate that would scale back federal marijuana prohibition.

Earlier in the debate, the two sparred over the killing this month of Botham Jean, an African-American man shot in his own apartment by a Dallas police officer, a subject about which O’Rourke recently made headlines by calling out in a fiery speech to a black church.

Marijuana In Texas: Where Ted Cruz And Beto O’Rourke Stand On Legalization

Photo courtesy of NBC News.

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Lawmaker Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In Kenya

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A Kenyan lawmaker is introducing legislation to legalize marijuana nationwide.

Member of Parliament Kenneth Okoth wrote a letter to the National Assembly speaker on Friday, requesting help to prepare the legislation so that it can be published.

The bill would decriminalize cannabis possession and use, clear criminal records of those with prior cannabis-related convictions, enact a legal and regulated commercial sales program and impose “progressive taxation measures” in order to “boost economic independence of Kenya and promote job creation.”

Currently, marijuana (or “bhang,” as it’s locally known) is illegal in Kenya—as it is in most of Africa.

Another provision of the draft legislation concerns “research and policy development.” Okoth wants the country to conduct studies on the medical, industrial, textile and recreational applications of cannabis. And that research would have a “focus on the preservation of intellectual property rights for Kenyan research and natural heritage, knowledge, and our indigenous plant assets,” according to the letter.

“It’s high time Kenya dealt with the question of marijuana like we do for tobacco, miraa, and alcohol,” Okoth wrote on Facebook.

“Legalize, regulate, tax. Protect children, eliminate drug cartels, reduce cost of keeping petty offenders in jail. Promote research for medical purposes and protect our indigenous knowledge and plants before foreign companies steal and patent it all.”

Okoth’s push for legalization in Kenya comes days after South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that individuals can grow and use marijuana for personal purposes. The court determined that prohibition violated a person’s right to privacy, effectively legalizing cannabis in the country.

It’ll take a while for Okoth’s bill to move forward. The legislation will need cabinet approval, then it must be published so that all interested parties can review the proposal before it enters into parliamentary debates. Whether Okoth’s fellow lawmakers will embrace the legislation is yet to be seen.

Don’t Legalize Marijuana, UN Drug Enforcement Board Warns Countries

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

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Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Bill, Making History In US Territory

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With a governor’s signature on Friday, the latest place to legalize marijuana in the U.S. isn’t a state. It’s the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)—a tiny Pacific territory with a population of just over 50,000.

Under the new law signed by Gov. Ralph Torres (R), adults over 21 years of age will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as infused products and extracts. Regulators will issue licenses for cannabis producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers and lounges. Home cultivation of a small number of plants will be allowed.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

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