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What Tuesday’s Election Results Mean For Marijuana

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From Oregon to Pennsylvania, voters around the country participated in another round of primary elections on Tuesday.

What could the results mean for marijuana reform? Here’s a glance at where winning gubernatorial nominees, plus victors in a handful of non-governor races, stand on cannabis.

Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Primary

Democratic winner: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf

The incumbent backed and signed a bill to legalize medical cannabis into law in 2016.

Wolf has also voiced support for decriminalizing marijuana possession. But when it comes to full legalization, the governor has been declined to lend his support. In a statement to a Philadelphia CBS affiliate in January, a spokesperson said Wolf remained “focused on implementing Pennsylvania medical marijuana program.” 

The governor regularly personally announces details about the implementation of medical marijuana, for example listing dispensaries that started to sell legal cannabis to qualified patients in February.

Wolf has also pushed back against potential federal intervention in the state’s cannabis law, for example when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era protections. He said he wouldn’t “stand for backwards attacks on the progress made in Pennsylvania to provide medicine to those in need,” the York Daily Record reported. He’s also called on Congress to act to protect states where marijuana is legal from federal intervention.

Republican winner: Pennsylvania Sen. Scott Wagner

All three of the Republican primary candidates for governor, including Wagner, said they support the state’s medical marijuana legalization program. Wagner is on the record saying he’s “not a fan” of recreational cannabis legalization.

Nebraska Gubernatorial Primary

Democratic winner: Nebraska Sen. Bob Krist

Krist made a series of strategic moves to become a viable contender against incumbent Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), shifting his party affiliation from Republican to Independent and, finally, to Democrat in February. Krist voted in favor of a measure to legalize medical marijuana in the state.

Republican winner: Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts

The incumbent governor is decidedly anti-legalization, writing in a blog post that he opposed an effort in the state legislature to legalize medical cannabis for a number of reasons, calling marijuana a “dangerous drug.” Ricketts claimed he spoke to Colorado officials who warned him that legalization caused an uptick in criminal activity. He also expressed concerns about the lack of FDA approval and said cannabis use impairs cognitive function.

Though her chances were never considered particularly strong, it’s worth mentioning that Ricketts’s Republican primary challenger Krystal Gabel, who pulled in about 20 percent of the Nebraska GOP vote on Tuesday, campaigned on a promise to support cannabis reform.

Idaho Gubernatorial Primary

Democratic winner: former Idaho Rep. Paulette Jordan

Jordan is friendly to cannabis reform, supporting legislation to decriminalize marijuana during her time in the state House. During a televised debate last month, she said that wanted to see marijuana legalized for the health benefits and because it would bring in “millions” in tax revenue to the state.

“This is a natural medicine that grew here for thousands of years,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing it being replaced by the opioid drugs through the opioid industry, which are far more impactful, hurtful, harmful to rural communities in Idaho, and they are destroying our communities. And opioids are the gateway drug to heroin and methamphetamines.”

If elected, Jordan will become Idaho’s first female governor and the nation’s first Native American governor.

Republican winner: Idaho Lt Gov. Brad Little

Little said that he supported an executive order that set up a system to provide access to CBD oils for children suffering from epilepsy, but that’s about as far as he’s willing to go, MagicValley.com reported. He opposes any further legalization.

Oregon Gubernatorial Primary

Democratic winner: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown

The incumbent governor is pro-legalization and vowed to protect Oregon’s legal marijuana program from federal intervention after Sessions rescinded the Cole memo. In a statement from January, Brown wrote: “Over 19,000 jobs have been created by the market Oregon worked carefully to build in good faith and in accordance with the Cole Memorandum. The federal government must keep its promise to states that relied on its guidance.”

“States are the laboratories of democracy, where progressive policies are developed and implemented for the benefit of their people,” she continued. “Voters in Oregon were clear when they chose for Oregon to legalize the sale of marijuana and the federal government should not stand in the way of the will of Oregonians.”

Republican winner: Oregon Rep. Knute Buehler

Unlike most GOP gubernatorial candidates in Tuesday’s primary elections, Buehler, who is also an orthopedic surgeon, has fully embraced the state’s decision to legalize marijuana. He also condemned statements from the White House and Justice Department insinuating a crackdown on legal cannabis states, and he said he believes marijuana can help patients suffering from a variety of medical conditions.

“I just think we’ve had very successful implementation of marijuana access in Oregon and I think it’s important to educate and explain to the new administration and the Attorney General that this issue is being handled quite well in Oregon,” he told The Bulletin. “This is a model for states that choose to go this route.”

Two other races of note… 

Pennsylvania Democratic Lieutenant Governor Primary

Winner: Braddock, Pennsylvania Mayor John Fetterman

In a significant upset, Mayor John Fetterman beat out three Democratic opponents, including incumbent Lt. Gov Mike Stack. Fetterman was endorsed by NORML PAC and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), in part because he’s strongly pushed to fully legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws.

“Mr. Fetterman has been an unrelenting champion for reversing Pennsylvania’s failed and draconic policies when it comes to marijuana,” NORML PAC executive director Altieri said in a statement. “He understands the absolute devastation prohibition has wrought on families across the state, most acutely in already marginalized communities.”

Following the NORML PAC endorsement, Fetterman said that he would “never shy away from the doing the right thing, and fully legalizing marijuana is the right thing for Pennsylvania.”

“We should go full-on Colorado,” he said. “It’s a simple solution to the devastation I have seen first-hand of the Opioid Crisis, and the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration on communities of color. As Lt. Governor I will be the leading voice on this issue in Harrisburg.”

Pennsylvania Senate GOP Primary

Winner: U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA)

The congressman received a C- rating from NORML based on his voting record on marijuana amendments. In 2016 he did support the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which would have expanded access to medical cannabis for military veterans. But he voted against amendments to protect state medical cannabis programs and broader marijuana legalization laws from federal intervention.

Marijuana Moment also compiled the cannabis records of winners in last week’s primary elections in other states.

What Tuesday’s Primary Elections Mean for Marijuana

Photo courtesy of Democracy Chronicles.

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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Federal Court Dismisses Suit Against DEA Over Marijuana Growing Applications

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A federal court dismissed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Friday after determining that the agency had fulfilled a requirement to process applications for research-grade marijuana manufacturers.

DEA was sued in June after declining to act on the more than two dozen applications that it received for approval to cultivate cannabis for research purposes. It’s been more than three years since the agency first announced it was opening the process to consider additional producers.

The suit, brought by the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI), argued that the marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi—currently the only facility that’s federally authorized to cultivate the plant—is of poor quality, does not reflect the diversity of products available on the commercial market and is therefore inadequate for clinical studies.

Indeed, that’s a point that several policymakers have made, and it’s bolstered by research demonstrating that the federal government’s cannabis is genetically closer to hemp than marijuana that consumers can obtain in state-legal markets.

In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered DEA to respond to the legal challenge within 30 days—and as that deadline approached in August, the agency published a notice in the Federal Register stating that it was taking steps to approve the pending applications.

Due to the volume of the applications, DEA said it would have to develop alternative rules to process them. And on Friday the court said that DEA had fulfilled its obligations and that the suit “is now moot.” While no applications have been approved to date, there’s a public comment period that will last until October 28 and then the agency will have an additional 90 days to take action on the inquiries.

“The Court dismissed our case because, according to the Court, DEA gave us the relief we had requested,” attorney Matt Zorn, who was involved in the suit, told Marijuana Moment. “Last week, on October 11, DEA published a correction to the notice it had previously published on August 26, two days before it had to respond to the Court’s order. The Court said this second notice meant there was nothing more the Court could give us.”

“The Court also declined to maintain jurisdiction over the case, because it did not find a history of chronic delay or bad faith in the record,” Zorn said. “But it also indicated that we could return to court if DEA significantly delays going forward.”

Sue Sisley, a researcher with SRI, said that despite the case being dismissed, it “moved the ball forward for everyone.”

“We would have liked to take the case one step further to ensure that all 33 applications are processed promptly—protecting the health and welfare of our nation’s medically ill patients ought to be a national priority for this administration,” she said. “By delaying these 33 applications, the administration has prevented our US scientists from investigating the clinical efficacy of real-world cannabis to treat combat veterans with PTSD. Fortunately, the Court’s order today allows us to return to court for additional relief if Trump’s DOJ/DEA continues to violate the law and put public health at risk through delay or otherwise.”

In a separate case in May, another federal court ordered DEA to “promptly” consider applications to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.

Read the appeals court’s ruling on the DEA marijuana application case below: 

DEA court ruling by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

CDC Official Pushes Back Against Congressman Linking Legal Marijuana To Vaping Deaths

Photo elements courtesy of rawpixel and Philip Steffan.

 

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Former VA Secretary Who Oversaw Marijuana Research Blockade Now Backs Cannabis Studies For Veterans

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Former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin is officially on board with having the department research medical marijuana—a development that comes a year after he was in a position to actually make that happen.

In an interview with Task & Purpose that was published on Thursday, Shulkin said that “the time is now” for VA to facilitate studies into the therapeutic potential of cannabis for veterans.

“I believe that the VA should be involved in research on anything that could potentially help veterans and improve their health and well-being,” he said.

That appears to represent a notable departure from the position he held while he headed the department.

For example, VA under his leadership refused to provide assistance to an Arizona-based research facility that was soliciting veterans to participate in a federally approved clinical trial looking at the potential benefits of cannabis in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Federal law restricts VA’s ability to conduct research involving medical marijuana, or to refer veterans to such research projects,” a VA official told Air Force Times in 2017. “The researcher is free to work with veterans service organizations and state veterans officials who may not face such restrictions to identify candidates for her study.”

But according to the Brookings Institute, that’s not an accurate assessment because “doctors and researchers at the VA or in VA hospitals could conduct research into the medical efficacy of marijuana while remaining completely compliant with federal laws, regulations, and the United States’ obligations under international agreements.”

While the former secretary still said during this latest interview that congressional action is necessary to prompt VA research efforts, he seems to have become decidedly more vocal about the importance of such studies as compared to his time in office.

“In particular, with the VA’s focus on suicide as the top priority, people just don’t take their lives because of no reason,” he said. “They take their lives, often because of issues related to chronic pain, depression, substance abuse, and there is growing evidence that medical marijuana—I’m not talking about recreational marijuana—but properly prescribed, may have some real benefits in anxiety improvement, in pain management, and potentially, in the issue of substance abuse.”

“And therefore, I believe it’s extremely appropriate for VA to be researching and developing therapies that can help veterans, particularly in areas where we don’t have enough good therapies or answers,” he said.

Task & Purpose followed up to ask about potential obstacles such to having VA conduct research into the issue, and Shulkin said that because marijuana is a federally controlled substance, “the challenge of doing research with the regulations, and the hoops that you have to go through, are making it too difficult to do for many of the researchers.”

“I do think that the way forward is a legislative solution, much of what VA responds to are changes in the law, where medical research for veterans in this area could be streamlined and clarity around what regulations and rules need to be followed to be able to do this research, as well as guidance about the type of research that can and should be done, which reports back to Congress.”

He added that he doesn’t anticipate that President Trump would resist legislation empowering VA to study marijuana for veterans.

Brad Burge, director of strategic communication at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the group behind the study into cannabis for PTSD, told Marijuana Moment that they are “pleased that Shulkin has now expressed his support for medical marijuana research, even though that support would have been much more valuable when he was still in office.”

“Nevertheless we are looking forward to the VA’s support of marijuana research and see Shulkin’s change of stance as a promising sign for veterans suffering from PTSD,” Burge said.

It wasn’t just that Shulkin’s VA put up roadblocks to cannabis research, he also resisted providing veterans with access to marijuana by declining to change internal VA policy that could empower its doctors to issue recommendations in states where it’s legal.

The reasoning, he said in 2017, is that it’s “not within our legal scope to study that in formal research programs or to prescribe medical marijuana, even in states where it’s legal” because of federal law. But advocates argued that the only thing standing in the way of VA cannabis research is VA policy itself, which Shulkin could have amended.

Getting a VA cannabis reform bill passed as the former official is now recommending has already proved difficult this year, with current VA officials voicing opposition during a congressional committee hearing in June to modest proposals such as allowing their doctors to recommend cannabis or even surveying veterans about their marijuana use.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said that same month that he pulled an appropriations amendment to allow for VA marijuana recommendations from floor consideration partly because of opposition from the department.

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Mexican Committees Unveil Marijuana Legalization Bill Ahead Of Supreme Court Deadline

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Several Mexican Senate committees unveiled draft legislation late on Thursday to legalize marijuana.

Leaders of the Health, Justice, Public Security and Legislative Studies Committees announced last week that they would remain in permanent session to finalize the legalization bill ahead of a coming Supreme Court deadline.

The court determined last year that the country’s ban on personal cannabis consumption and cultivation is unconstitutional, though lawmakers now want to go even further by legalizing commercial production and sales.

The committees are expected to formally vote on the legislation in the coming days, after which point it will head to the full Senate and then the Chamber of Deputies. Leaders said a vote in the legislature could occur before the end of the month, though it’s possible they could ask the Supreme Court for a deadline extension.

Cáñamo México first reported on the 42-page draft proposal on Friday.

Here are some of the key provisions, according to a translation: 

—Adults 18 and older can possess cannabis for personal use, cultivate up to four plants and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers.

—An independent body called the “Cannabis Institute” would be charged with issuing licenses, setting potency limits and monitoring the implementation of the law, among other responsibilities.

—Low-income individuals, small farmers and indigenous people would have licensing priority.

—Strict restrictions would be imposed on cannabis packaging. That includes requiring nondescript, standardized containers that do not feature depictions of real or fictional people or testimonials.

—Marijuana can only be consumed in private spaces.

—Only medical cannabis patients would be allowed to purchase infused edibles and beverages.

—Unregistered seeds or plants would be subject to forfeiture.

—No pesticides could be used on cannabis plants.

The bill seeks to “improve the living conditions of people living in the United Mexican States, combat the consequences of the problematic use of cannabis and reduce the crime incidence linked to drug trafficking [while] promoting peace, the security and well-being of individuals and communities,” according to the text.

Sen. Julio Menchaca Salazar, head of the Justice Committee, said in a tweet that “we are legislating to regulate the illicit market of the #marihuana and decrease the crime incidence linked to the #narcotráfico, promoting peace and security for all Mexicans.”

Lawmakers have said that the legislation is largely based on a proposal that Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero filed last year while still serving as a senator, but the committees are also merging in provisions from among more than a dozen other marijuana reform bills that since have been introduced.

“They all have something good that we can be translating into law,” Menchaca Salazar, who is a member of the ruling MORENA party, said.

Debate on the measure will also be informed by findings from a series of events the Senate organized to gather public input on marijuana legalization. That includes a panel led by a former White House drug czar, who stressed the need for “robust regulations” of a legal cannabis market.

The leader of the MORENA party in the Senate, Sen. Ricardo Monreal, said earlier this month that the chamber was set to vote on a legalization bill ahead of the October 24 deadline.

“It will undoubtedly be a great discussion with the elements we have and also with all the willingness to incorporate the opinions of legislators, but it would come out this month, there are the conditions for that to be,” Menchaca Salazar said.

Read the full text of the Mexican committees’ marijuana legalization proposal below: 

Predictamen para crear la ‘… by Tonalidades Verde on Scribd

This story is developing and will be updated.

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