Congress Votes to End Medical Marijuana Raids

timthumb.phpRead the full story at the daily beast, at politico, or almost anywhere else.

This is an uplifting story, and a sign that the federal government may finally be moving toward official acceptance of medical cannabis, rather than its current non-committal stance of agreeing not to throw the full weight of its resources against medical cannabis. This ammendment to the bill funding the budget for the department of Justice has passed the house of representatives. It will still need to be signed by the president, but in the words of Dan Riffle, “Congress is officially pulling out of the war on medical marijuana patients and providers,” and that has to be good news. While this will help patients rest easier in states that have medical marijuana dispensaries, I selfishly hope that this will help to remove one more argument from opponents to dispensaries here in Hawaii.

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A look at the Committees in 2014

One of the difficulties of having real, meaningful democratic participation in Hawaii is that the voting record doesn’t really reflect the actual level of support for an issue or bill. Easily the biggest hurdle for a bill moving through the Hawaii state legislature is getting  scheduled for hearings. Each bill is on a strict time-line, and if it is not scheduled for a hearing by the committee to which it has been referred, it will miss a deadline and be killed. This means that committee chairs can kill a bill unilaterally and this is not reflected in the vote count!

Therefore, one of the most important questions about a candidate is how they acted as committee chairs, whether they advanced the issue or not. Of course this too is an imperfect metric of candidate performance. Some committees might not schedule a bill for a hearing even if they support it, because they know that it will be killed by the next committee. I have prepared a list of committees and the actions that they took that might not show up in the votes. This list is somewhat subjective (for instance, I have not labelled as anti-cannabis actions when a committee schedules an anti-cannabis bill for a hearing, as this offers the public a chance to engage with the issue) and I encourage you to visit the state capitol website, and take a look for yourself.



House Committees Pro-Cannabis Actions Anti-Cannabis Actions
CPC HB1503
HLT SB2574, HR29/HCR48, HB2092 HB1710/HB1587
JUD HB1503 HB1709
Senate Committees Pro-Cannabis Actions Anti-Cannabis Actions
CPN HB1503
HTH SB2942, SB2601, SB2574, HB2092*
JDL SR37/SCR80, HB1503 SB2358
PSM SR37/SCR80, SB2733, SB2358

*On this bill, the Senate Health committee passed the bill, but replaced the text of it with the text of an anti-cannabis bill.


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Medical Cannabis is Increasingly Promising as Sports Medicine. So why isn’t it being adopted?

Read the original article here on alternet.

Athletes are a very common group that seeks medication for pain management, which is a very common indicator for medical cannabis. Another one that might hit home with professional athletes: cannabis is a proven treatment for concussions. According to the article, more than half of football players, and likely a similar rate among all professional athletes, use prescription medications during games. As much safer as medical cannabis is, why is this course of treatment still banned by major professional sports leagues?

One answer that is given by the leagues is not terribly convincing. “Smoking marijuana, even if legal, would likely shatter the image of excellence we demand from our sports heroes.” Of course, this says nothing about edibles and vapor, as athletes would probably avoid inhaling cannabis smoke for respiratory reasons. That said, is it true that marijuana would “shatter the image of excellence?” I think perhaps the only virtue of sports is that it is a real meritocracy, in which what players do on their own time matters very little compared with the results on the field or court. LeBron James has been widely derided for his bouts of ego exemplified by his ESPN special “the decision,” but would anyone dare claim that LeBron is anything less than excellent? Michael Phelps is known to have used marijuana recreationally, but does that somehow detract from his 22 gold medals?

I think the real truth is that the demographics of sports fans are still shifting, but reflect a more conservative segment of the country, and that while athletes are tied to a specific city, they are really national workers, and in order for medical cannabis to play a real role in professional sports, it will need to be accepted in all 50 states. Perhaps then, we can look to the leagues for some support on piecing our state-level medical programs into a national level acceptance.

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Proposed Changes in New Mexico Medical Marijuana Program Spur Criticism

1200px-Flag_of_New_Mexico.svgRead the full story at the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Edit: Some readers have gotten in touch with me about this and disagree with my stance on this issue, and they may be right. I personally don’t know very much about the system in New Mexico, and don’t claim to. Rather I thought that these changes pointed to something we need to watch out for here in Hawaii.

Recently proposed changes to the rules governing the medical marijuana program have some dispensary owners and operators in an uproar. The proposed changes will increase some fees paid by both dispensary owners and patients, and will increase the number of plants that producers are able to grow while decreasing the number of plants that patients are allowed to grow for their own use.

At the outset, let me say that it is unreasonable under any circumstance to be decreasing the number of plants that patients are allowed to grow. Patients in New Mexico as elsewhere are increasingly taking up delivery systems such as juicing that require much more raw material, but can be more effective in treating certain ailments. This is clearly a misguided policy.

Other than this, I am not personally convinced that the New Mexico Department of Health is operating in bad faith. I suspect that they are right that in the longer term, these changes will help to make the program more sustainable and medicine more available, or at least there is reasonable evidence that it will. Effectively doubling the production cap will drive down prices of medicine counteracting the increase in fees, and this shift will allow for more economies of scale in the production of medicine, while also making the program more sustainable by increasing its revenue.

Still, this dispute highlights a very important aspect of medical marijuana programs. Dispensary operators are potentially very vulnerable to even minute changes in the rules governing the program. One of the requirements in the newly proposed law is mandatory testing by the only lab in New Mexico that is approved to do this kind of analysis. This could cause a large expense on some dispensaries, while little expense to other dispensaries that are already doing this kind of analysis. The rules also impose an upper limit on the percentage of THC allowable in concentrates at 60%. This is not unreasonable in my opinion, and is the kind of safety regulation we see in alcohol laws, but if you had invested thousands of dollars in concentrates that were 63% THC, this change could bankrupt you.

Dispensaries can certainly be very profitable, or even in a state such as New Mexico where they are non-profit entities, can be a source of income for many people, but they do require a great deal of investment in a business that entails collosal risk. As we develop our proposed legislation for dispensary systems, we must try to craft a system where the landscape for operators of dispensaries is as predictable as possible. This is especially important because during the process of developing this system, these stakeholders, future operators of dispensaries, will not be included in the task force, because they don’t yet exist.

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A look at Connecticut Attitudes to Cannabis

medmarijuanaRead the press release from Quinnipac University.

There are more than a few differences between Hawaii and Connecticut. In a recent poll on attitudes toward Marijuana among many other things, Quinnipac University found that Connecticut is slightly in favor of legalization, but very strongly in favor of medical cannabis and medical cannabis dispensaries. Why is it that in a state where only 52 percent of voters support adult use legalization, a whopping 90% support medical cannabis? For reference, this is a full 5 percentage points higher than in Hawaii. In general, the trend is looking good nationwide. Strong and growing support for medical cannabis in Connecticut it emblematic of shifting attitudes nationally, that we hope will be reflected in national legislation in short order.

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Cannabis Can Help with Aging

Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

Image courtesy of Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

Check out the full story on Alternet.

We know that there are many health problems that are associated with aging. This is not a revelation for us at MCCHI, many of our patients are older, but this article explores how we can encourage wider acceptance of this medicine amongst the elderly for whom it might be the most important.

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Paul Armentano Explains Why the French Heart Attack Study is Nonsense

I’ve already offered an article about this, but I thought I should include another one when I found this one by Paul Armentano of NORML. The truth is that this study is utter nonsense that has been misinterpreted both by its authors, and by the media as a whole. It’s hard to draw any conclusions from a sample of 35, but Mr. Armentano explains just why that is. Read the full story on Alternet.

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