DEA MOVES TO DRAMATICALLY INCREASE MARIJUANA GROWN FOR RESEARCH

The agency hopes to more than double the amount of marijuana that can be grown in the U.S. for research.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last week took steps to significantly up the amount of cannabis that can legally be grown in the United States for anticipated government-approved research.

In new Federal Register filings, the DEA moved to increase the cannabis quota for both the current year and in 2019 “to provide for the estimated medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs of the United States, for lawful export requirements, and for the establishment and maintenance of reserve stocks.”

As first reported by Marijuana Moment, the agency has upped the amount of marijuana for 2018 to more than 2,500 pounds, more than double the 978 pounds it initially filed late last year. For 2019, the agency has boosted the proposed cannabis quota to more than 5,400 pounds — a fivefold increase from 2018’s initial quota.

While the DEA did not provide a reason for wanting to increase cannabis production so dramatically for 2018 and 2019, the move could be related to an ongoing effort to license more legal growers for federally-sanctioned research.

Since 1968, the University of Mississippi has maintained a monopoly on the production of research-grade cannabis. Researchers have long criticized the quality of the marijuana from the facility, complained about delays, and have said getting approvals to obtain cannabis there is challenging.

Toward the end of Barack Obama’s administration in 2016, the DEA moved to address the issue by expanding the number of licensed growers of research cannabis. While at least 26 facilities have since filed proposals for licenses, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Justice Department have actively blocked the DEA from acting on any of the applications.

Several Members of Congress have repeatedly pushed Sessions on the issue. In July, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators directed a letter to the attorney general, demanding answers on the status of the applications. Months earlier, Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democrat Kamala Harris of California sent a similar letter to Sessions, urging him to stop blocking cannabis research.

The DEA proposal also contains a provision allowing the production of 848 pounds of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in 2019. That is the same amount the agency approved in 2018.

The DEA quota notice was published in the Federal Register August 23. The public has 30 days from publication to submit comments. After which, the agency can amend the proposal before finalizing.

DEA’s Simultaneous Push to Reduce Opioids

As the DEA moves to increase the amount of cannabis grown, it is also pushing to significantly reduce the amount of some opioid drugs that are produced domestically. The agency announced that it has proposed the reduction in an effort to help address the nation’s opioid crisis.

“We’ve lost too many lives to the opioid epidemic and families and communities suffer tragic consequences every day,” DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said in a press release.

“This significant drop in prescriptions by doctors and DEA’s production quota adjustment will continue to reduce the amount of drugs available for illicit diversion and abuse while ensuring that patients will continue to have access to proper medicine.”

Specifically, the DEA has proposed to reduce six of the most frequently misused prescription opioid drugs, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, morphine, and fentanyl.

A mounting body of evidence indicates that cannabis could play a significant role in solving the nation’s opioid epidemic by serving as a safer alternative for pain management. Studies have shown that making marijuana legally available can effectively reduce opioid intake, prescriptions for opioids, as well as opioid-related hospitalizations and fatal overdoses.

Despite the evidence, the Donald Trump Administration has yet to acknowledge that medical marijuana could prove beneficial for addressing the national crisis. The White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, headed by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, actively denounced medical marijuana as an option.

New bill will allow California students medical cannabis use in school

New legislation in California could allow kids with epilepsy and other specific ailments to consume prescribed cannabis medication without having to leave school gounds. The bill passed Monday by the state Assembly and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, this would allow parents to give their children medical marijuana on campus.

California state law has allowed minors to use medical marijuana since the 90s, but it has still never been allowed on school grounds, most often forcing parents to remove their kids from school and drive away from the campus just to issue their child’s medication.

If signed into law, the legislation would give parents the power to administer only certain types of medication, not including smoke or vapable items, but capsules, liquids, tinctures will all be acceptable. Though the bill lets school districts decide to opt-in to the policy, it does not mandate them to allow it.

The bill was inspired in part by a teenager in San Francisco who sometimes saw as many as 50 seizures in a single day. In school marijuana treatment would allow epileptic students to sit through a full, uninterrupted day of school.

Illinois Medical Marijuana bill expansion gives hope to opioid epidemic

A new measure gives hope by dramatically expanding access to medical marijuana in Illinois, making it available as an opioid painkiller replacement and easing the application process for all who qualify. The epidemic of overdose deaths in Illinois from narcotics continues to rage, killing almost 2000 people in the state in 2016 and an estimated 72,000 people nationwide last year. This new law authorizes doctors to issue temporary medical marijuana cards for any patient who would qualify for prescriptions like OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin.

Governor Burce Rauner signed into law the Alternative to Opioids Act on Tuesday, allowing patients in the state to easily opt for medical marijuana instead of opiates, skipping the background and fingerprint checks that are typically required for medical marijuana patients in the state. This law is a powerful response to the nationwide growing epidemic.

The temporary identification cards will be valid for ninety days and can be extended by the patient’s physician. Bob Morgan, the former chief of the state’s medical marijuana program said the bill could potentially help tens of thousands of patients avoid using opiates by expediting the process. “It certainly does seem to have grown out of control,” Harmon told the Chicago Sun-Times after introducing the bill. “I know a lot of people are dying from heroin and opioid overdoses, and I don’t know of anyone who has died from a cannabis overdose.”

Research published in the journal JAMA earlier this year shows that states with medical marijuana programs have seen more than 2 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed under Medicare Part D each year. The same research showed that prescriptions for all opioids dropped by 3.7 million daily doses per year when medical marijuana dispensaries opened.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Heath said that cannabis use can be extremely effective for treating pain and can reduce opioid use. He cites the National Academy of Sciences review that found “substantial evidence” that marijuana is effective for treating chronic pain in adults, “and initiatives like this frankly just make sense,” Shah said. Shah says the elimination of background checks and fingerprinting for applicants goes into effect immediately and new patients may immediately get provisional approval to buy medical marijuana upon receiving receipt for payment from the state health department.

But it won’t be until Dec. 1st until all of the new ruls for the program are implemented, and will take until early next year to develop a new system to monitor the program to make sure that opioid replacement patients don’t go to multiple dispensaries and don’t buy marijuana for more than 90 days at a time without renewing permission with their doctor.

This new measure represents a tremendous step towards the availability of cannabis use throughout the entire nation.

New York is closer and closer to legal marijuana

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced that his office will no longer prosecute most charges for the use or possession of marijuana in public. This following a July 13th report issued by the state health department recommending legalization of the drug, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo suggested that it was not a question of if, but when legalization would happen in New York.

“Our Office will exit a system wherein smoking a joint can ruin your job, your college application, or your immigration status, but our advocacy will continue. I urge New York lawmakers to legalize and regulate marijuana once and for all,” the district attorney said.

Here’s what you need to know before you start getting higher than the skyscrapers on the streets of New York.

 

Foremost, pot in New York is still illegal outside of medicinal usage, but the penalty for smoking in the streets is going to be severly reduced from arrest, to a ticket. The tickets are criminal court summonses, which means you have to show up in court and issue a plea. First offenses can be as small as a fine of around $100, with more serious penalties for repeat offenders, or anyone with an existing record.

Although medicinal usage is allowed in New York, the laws surrounding at are very restrictive and there are only around 20 active dispensaries in the state with only 5 in New York City.

Governor Cuomo’s 2018 budget calls for a study of the pros and cons of legalizing pot in New York while the Health Department announces it’s opinion is that the state should allow adults to legally consume marijuana and raise the tax percentage.

While there is still some distance to go these announcements represent a positive shift in the mentality leading to legalization in New York.