Tom Marino

Tom Marino Back in Running to Be Trump’s ‘Drug Czar’

Federal Policy Update

Tom Marino: Our Best Hope?

Our friends over at Leafly have done a wonderful job explaining how Tom Marino’s expected appointment could shield the cannabis industry form federal meddling. Marino has a long history of focusing on the opioid epidemic while in Congress. Marino’s opioid focus will, hopefully, take some wind (smoke?) out of Attorney General Sessions’ sails when it comes to prosecuting the cannabis industry.

From Leafly

The White House has announced that President Donald Trump intends to nominate US Rep. Tom Marino to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

Marino, an early supporter of then-candidate Trump, has been a candidate for the role—commonly known as White House “drug czar”—since at least April, when the president first said he intended to appoint the Pennsylvania Republican to the post. But Marino withdrew himself from consideration in May citing a critical illness in his family.

In the position, Marino would steer the administration’s policies on drug control. And as Leafly Deputy Editor Bruce Barcott reported in April, his record indicates he’s far more concerned with the country’s ongoing opioid epidemic than with regulated cannabis markets.

During his time in Congress, Marino has worked to expand access to treatment for individuals struggling with opioid addiction. He also led a successful legislative effort to address cross-border drug trafficking.  If those past examples are any indication, Marino would likely direct most of his attention as drug czar to America’s opioid crisis. A White House panel in July urged the president to declare a national emergency around opioid overdoses, which are estimated to have killed roughly 60,000 people in 2016.

Marino’s position on opioids, however, could raise concerns within the cannabis industry. He seems to favor tougher criminal enforcement on the ground and more leniency for drug manufacturers, an approach that echoes that of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In May 2016, for example, Marino suggested that authorities lock up nonviolent drug offenders in a “hospital-slash-prison,” with release dependent upon the treatment program’s approval. If, like Sessions, Marino sees cannabis as a contributor to America’s overdose epidemic—just last week, Sessions said the idea of legalizing cannabis “makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck”—he may be resistant to the growing body of evidence that medical cannabis can help combat the opioid crisis.

If confirmed by the Senate (which reconvened today), Marino would replace Richard Baum, the ONDCP’s acting head. His Congressional seat would need to be filled via a special election.

See more here.

Jess Sessions

Jeff Sessions and the CSA

In our last post, we discussed how Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reignited the war on drugs. On May 12, Attorney General Sessions directed his federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties possible for drug-related offenders, including mandatory minimum sentences, a penalty largely seen as responsible for the disproportionately high incarceration rates for ethnic minorities in the United States. This came as a blow to recent bipartisan efforts to enact criminal sentencing reform legislation, and spread uncertainty as to the future of legalization.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970

 

At the center of this uncertainty is the status of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs are deemed by the federal government to have no current medical use and a high addictive potential. This classification came into use with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970, which consolidated all previously existing federal drug laws into a single statute. The Nixon administration saw the CSA as a way to defeat the antiwar left and dismantle black communities, according to Nixon’s secretly-recorded Oval Office tapes and statements made by former Nixon aides. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that cannabis has medical use and has lower addictive potential than alcohol, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug, making it illegal on a federal level.

Sessions and the CSA

How cannabis’ Schedule I status lines up with efforts to legalize cannabis on a state level has long been in question, and Sessions’ appointment as the US Attorney General brought this to the fore. In late May, Sessions authored a letter asking Congress not to renew federal protections in place for medical marijuana since 2014, arguing that they inhibited his ability to enforce the CSA. These protections prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to restrict individual states from implementing their own laws concerning medical marijuana. They have been included as an amendment to federal budgets for the previous three years. In a victory for legalization proponents, however, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved the amendment once again, ignoring Sessions’ request.

 

Meanwhile, the CSA’s constitutionality has come under attack. Pro-cannabis advocates filed a federal lawsuit on July 24 arguing that the CSA’s classification of cannabis as Schedule I is so irrational that it violates the constitution. The lawsuit also attacks the roots of the CSA, stating that the Nixon administration rushed the bill through Congress and insisted that cannabis be included “so that African Americans and war protesters could be raided, prosecuted and incarcerated without identifying the actual and unconstitutional basis for the government’s actions”. While Sessions’ efforts to roll back the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis continue, it is clear that lawmakers and civil society are actively resisting.

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Jeff Sessions and the War on Drugs

On May 12, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a sweeping new criminal charging policy. Attorney General Sessions directed his federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties possible, including mandatory minimum sentences. Many credit these and similarly harsh policies of the “War on Drugs” in the 1980s and 1990s for the United States’ role as the world’s leading jailer and the disproportionately high incarceration rates for ethnic minorities.

Sessions and Drug-Related Policing

Towards the end of the Obama administration, a bipartisan consensus had emerged around criminal justice reform. A wide range of political voices, including civil rights groups, Democrat and Republican lawmakers, and even the ultra conservative Koch brothers coalesced around sentencing reform legislation. In the executive branch, former attorney general Eric Holder had instructed prosecutors to avoid charging nonviolent defendants with offenses that would result in long mandatory minimum sentences. Attorney General Sessions’ May 12 announcement decisively reversed these policies.

Jess Sessions

Sessions’ severe record on drug-related policing goes back much further, however. In 2016, while serving as a Republican senator for the state of Alabama, Sessions personally blocked national criminal sentencing reform legislation, despite substantial opposition from within his own party. As the U.S. Attorney General for the Southern District of Alabama, drug convictions made up 40 percent of Sessions’ total convictions, double the rate of other Alabama prosecutors. He has also voiced opposition to federal oversight of non-federal police departments, dismissing previous Justice Department findings on state and local police forces’ systemic targeting of ethnic minorities as “anecdotal”.

Sessions and Cannabis

In addition to his affinity for punitive justice and harsh policing for drug-related charges, Attorney General Sessions has long espoused a virulent hatred for cannabis in particular. He infamously claimed that “good people don’t smoke marijuana”, and has long made his opposition to legalization known.

Meme

It is unclear as of yet, however, what he may or may not do to roll back legalization on a state level. While 26 states now have laws legalizing the use of cannabis in some form, it remains a Schedule I drug on the federal level, putting it in the same category as heroin. This gives the attorney general broad authority to crack down on the rising tide of legalization if he so chooses, although he would likely face a significant popular backlash.

Map indicating states that have decriminalized or legalized some form of cannabis use and purchase.

As uncertainty looms, lawmakers have reacted quickly, moving either to strengthen or to abandon their efforts to decriminalize, legalize, and research cannabis. In non-legal states, many are bracing for a crackdown, particularly communities of color. For all those fighting to normalize cannabis and create a more equitable justice system, Attorney General Sessions’ words and actions have already had a deeply chilling effect.

Recreational Marijuana: It’s the marijuana you DO take home to mom.  

I mean, only take weed home to your mom if she’s into that sort of thing.

Well, it finally happened.  The seventh seal was broken, the words were spoken, and that one-time innocuous weed that the devil planted so long ago was finally let loose onto the public last month.  Oh, the horror, the horror.  Release the Ganja!  The Sticky Icky!

Seriously, though.  It’s all a bit silly now, isn’t it?  Of course, those dangerous and dirty pot heads who’ve been ignoring those ridiculous prohibition laws this whole time knew that the overblown War on Drugs was, and still is, nonsense.  Thankfully, sanity has started to take a more active role in our little ole US of A–even if it is only one state at a time.

For the old stoners and the virgin recreational marijuana users — we like to say “adult consumers” around here— let’s forgo all the data and science and research regarding the medical benefits of cannabis, forget about politics, and let’s just share our marijuana experiences with our fellow humans.

Here at Substance, we aren’t about selling you a product to put money in our pocket; we’re about sharing our knowledge and experiences.  We want you to have a good time.  Come in today and see what we have to offer.  Come back tomorrow.  Tell your friends about us.  Tell us what you like and try a new strain.  Just walk in and buy yourself some pot – really good pot – and finally enjoy it without being paranoid about the fuzz.

What do you like to do after a bowl (or two)?

New Products and New People; Welcome Everyone 21 and Over

We believe that cannabis is part of everyone’s health and wellness regimen, whether they have a note from their doctor or not. So, let’s welcome all of the new cannabis consumers into our Substance community.

Additional demand from our new adult-use clients has allowed us to procure a larger variety of cannabis from more producers around the region. These new clients help to create a better experience for our OMMP clientele. We have invested in new systems, expanded our point of sale areas, and hired additional staff to better manage our operations and client engagement.

OMMP clients: While it may sometimes appear we have a lobby full of people, rest assured your place is protected and we will be sure to expedite you to the OMMP station. Flash your green card and we’ll serve you promptly. We have created a dedicated OMMP service station, well stocked with concentrates, edibles, tinctures and topicals.  To show our gratitude, all OMMP clients will receive 10% off ALL products for the entire month of October.

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New Oregon Candy Company Edibles

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CBD Gold Label Taffies are Back!

Nicely balanced – 40mg CBD: 20mg THC (2:1 ratio)

Choose from 7 tasty flavors:

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Please come and celebrate the end of cannabis prohibition with us!

Cannabis and the Hemp Industry

Hemp, a low-THC variety of Cannabis sativa, has long had a wide variety of industrial uses. With uses ranging from paper to plastic substitutes to cooking oil, hemp is among the most versatile crops produced.

The Historical Context

Hemp has a long history in the United States. The crop was first planted in Jamestown, Virginia in the early 17th century. In World War II, the U.S. government even launched a massive “Hemp for Victory” campaign, encouraging farmers to grow as much of the plant as possible.

Attacks on cannabis, beginning in the early 20th century, soon ceased to differentiate between hemp and marijuana. Some believe hemp was intentionally targeted by William Randolf Hearst because it threatened his interest in the newspaper industry, although this history is disputed. With the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, hemp was made illegal to grow without a special permit by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Permits have been extraordinarily hard to come by since the law’s passage.

Hemp and Legalization Today

As legalization of cannabis progresses across the United States, efforts to reinvest in hemp are abound. The passage of the 2014 Farm Bill allowed for hemp to be grown for agricultural or academic research. Colorado’s pilot program has taken off, and Oregon’s Department of Agriculture established its own pilot program in February of this year.

Unlike its Coloradan counterpart, the Oregon program has been off to a rough start. Earlier this year, medical marijuana growers in southern Oregon raised concerns over hemp cultivation, citing fears that cross-pollination may weaken the quality of their crop. They want hemp farmers to grow their crops in eastern Oregon, where they hope the Cascades will act as a natural barrier against rogue hemp pollen.

However, the three most disputed counties – Josephine, Jackson, and Douglas – have some of the best conditions for outdoor crop cultivation in Oregon. Warm average temperatures and plenty of precipitation make for long outdoor growing seasons. Eastern Oregon, by contrast, is considerably drier with colder average temperatures. Researchers believe, however, that hemp requires less water than other varieties of the cannabis crop.

For now, Oregon’s industrial hemp program is on halt. The Department of Agriculture recently announced that it would temporarily stop issuing licenses for industrial hemp. Officials say that the decision is unrelated to marijuana growers’ concerns, but rather is due to a range of complex policy issues. Regardless, the road ahead appears to be a challenging one for cultivators and policymakers alike.

Evolution of Cannabis

A Literary History of Cannabis in the United States: Racism, Classism, and the Beats in Post-WWII America

Cannabis has a long history in literature. From Shakespeare’s “noted weed” to the experiments of the French Romantics with hashish, many famous writers have used cannabis in their creative toolkit. In the United States, however, cannabis has a somewhat sordid literary history.

Racist and Classist Propaganda

Following the Mexican Revolution of 1910, much of the United States saw an influx of Mexican immigrants. These migrants brought their social and cultural customs with them, including the use of cannabis as a medicine and a relaxant. Following this wave of migration, xenophobic and racist anti-Mexican sentiment went on the rise in the American public. As Mexicans were demonized, so was cannabis. Anti-cannabis campaigns spread fear of the “Marijuana Menace” and the Mexicans associated with it.

With the advent of the Great Depression, fear and prejudice of other marginalized groups in the United States also became associated with cannabis. Racist and classist research linking marijuana-use with crime and socially deviant behaviors emerged, primarily perpetrated by “racially inferior” and underclass communities.

New York, Cannabis, and the Beats

Enter Mezz Mezzrow, born Milton Mesirow. Mezz was a jazz musician from Chicago who took up in New York City, eventually becoming the main marijuana supplier of Harlem. His network introduced cannabis as a meeting place for cultural and social exchange. Mezz saw the cannabis scene as “an uncanny injection of Mexican rural life into the urban United States”. Others saw it as the “wedding ring” of an interracial marriage, linking black, hispanic, and white Americans in a culture of marijuana and jazz. As in many cultural interactions, however, this site of cultural exchange was also one of appropriation. Mezz Mezzrow, a white man, co-authored his memoir, Really the Blues, in language meant to imitate black American speech.

This underground scene became the backdrop into which the New York Beats dove in their early years. The Beats were a group of writers centered in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City who sought to break out of the social confines of their generation, in both literature and society. Many of the New York Beats met at Columbia University in the early 1940s. Here, they sought a “New Vision”, rebelling against the social norms of university life. This led them to New York’s underground, the first time that these largely white, middle class writers explored “the underground black, hip culture that preexisted before [their] generation.” Many read Really the Blues.

Cannabis was central to New York’s underground. It was the glue that held the vocabulary, interpersonal networks, and social environment of the scene together, forming an aesthetic that the Beats would later spread to mainstream America with their counterculture movement. This movement would change American society forever. Cannabis formed the site of cultural exchange and appropriation that would allow this movement to flourish, making it possible for the Beat revolution to take place.

Online Petition to Reschedule Marijuana

A recent petition has surfaced on WhiteHouse.gov calling for the rescheduling of marijuana. Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no medicinal merit.

As a Schedule I Drug, marijuana joins the ranks of Heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. In comparison, cocaine, meth and OxyContin are all labeled as Schedule II drugs with less potential for abuse then Schedule I drugs. With empirical evidence showing that marijuana has efficacy in the treatment of a variety of epileptic conditions, it is shameful that our government believes that the drug has less medical value than cocaine and methamphetamine.

The reclassification of marijuana would likely be dictated by the DEA who have received numerous petitions in the past. As recently as 2011, Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee petitioned to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug.

The petition on WhiteHouse.gov need 100,000 signatures by December 6 in order to provoke an official response from the White House. As of today, the petition has collected just over 900 signatures. With only 20 days left, the petition is in strong need of attention in order to get a reply from the Obama Administration. However, acting Attorney General Eric Holder has said publicly that he would gladly reexamine how the drug is scheduled. Holder said:

“It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made.”

The timing is right for the Obama administration to make changes to marijuana’s classification, even though AG Eric Holder is on his way out of office. Marijuana support is at an all-time high in the United States and Washington D.C. just voted to legalize recreational marijuana. When President Obama appoints his new Attorney General, there is a strong chance that he will appoint someone who shares many views with Holder.

What does Congress think? Back in February, 18 congress members wrote a letter to Obama asking him to delist marijuana or “at the very least,” reclassify it to a Schedule II Drug. The newly elected Republican majority may prove to be detrimental to forward progress for the rescheduling, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. The tides of change are sweeping across the nation and whether it happens state-by-state or through federal action, marijuana policy will be changed. If you would like to make a difference you can sign the petition by clicking the banner below.


For more posts like this, travel to Whaxy’s website right here. 

Measure 91 Has Passed – Now What?

If you’re like me, you are overjoyed at the recent passing of Measure 91 in Oregon, which states that marijuana will be legal to purchase and consume recreationally by adults over the age of 21. I emphasize the word “will” because Measure 91 has not yet taken into effect, even though it has passed.

The law will go into effect July of 2015. This means that adults over the age of 21 will be able to legally own and consume marijuana and marijuana products – as long as the cannabis is consumed out of public view. However, the OLCC has until January of 2016 to begin reviewing and issuing licenses to would-be recreational dispensaries. So, even though adults will be able to own and consume the cannabis, they may not be able to purchase it from a recreational dispensary until at least January of 2016.

So – all you lovely medical marijuana patients should probably seek to keep your OMMP cards current until that date, at the very least. Keep in mind that the OMMP program will remain even after the recreational cannabis laws go into effect and recreational dispensaries are being opened. Medical marijuana shops and recreational marijuana shops will be separate establishments – the recreational cannabis will be taxed at $35 an ounce for flower, while everything about the medical marijuana market should remain consistent.

The taxation of legal recreational marijuana should not necessarily dissuade you from being involved in the new emerging market, however. In all likelihood, we will see similar prices in the recreational market as we are currently seeing in the medical. While it is true that recreational cannabis will be taxed, it will be taxed merely at a wholesale cost – meaning that the prices per ounce will not be significantly higher than what they are currently, unlike the models of taxation we have seen in Washington. Despite this, profits from taxation are expected to extend anywhere from tens of millions to even hundreds of millions – a stimulation of Oregon’s economy rather unlike anything we have seen before.

For more information, reference this handy chart from the folks behind Yes on 91 right here.

 

Synthetic Cannabis

What is Synthetic Cannabis?

Synthetic Cannabis, otherwise known by brand names such as K2 or Spice, is any designer drug that mimics the effects of cannabis. Synthetic Cannabis is something of a misnomer; according to Lewis Nelson, MD, a medical toxicologist at the NYU School of Medicine. Nelson states, “It’s really quite different (than natural cannabis) and the effects are much more unpredictable. It’s dangerous, and there is no quality control in what you are getting.” The term synthetic cannabinoid is more appropriate, since the term synthetic does not apply to the plant but rather to the chemicals that the plant contains – most notably, synthetic THC.

Research and Safety

Research in the safety of synthetic cannabinoids is now becoming available – and the results are alarming. Initial studies have been focused on the role of synthetic cannabinoids in psychosis. It has been found that synthetic cannabis may precipitate psychosis and in some cases may prolong it. Some studies suggest that synthetic cannabinoid intoxication is associated with acute psychosis, worsening of previously stable psychotic disorders, and it may trigger a chronic psychotic disorder among vulnerable individuals such as those with a family history of mental illness.

Reports describing effects seen in patients seeking medical care after taking synthetic cannabinoids have also been published. Compared to cannabis and one of its more known active cannabinoids, THC, the adverse effects are much more severe and can include hypertension, tachycardia, myocardial infarction, agitation, vomiting, hallucinations, seizures and convulsions. At least one death has been linked to overdose of synthetic cannabinoids and in Colorado three deaths in September of 2013 have been investigated for being linked to synthetic cannabinoids- whereas there are no overdose deaths related to use of natural cannabis.

These severe adverse effects in contrast to use of marijuana are believed to stem from the fact that many of the synthetic cannabinoids are full agonists to the cannabinoid receptors in the mammalian body, CB1R and CB2R, compared to THC which is only a partial agonist and thus not able to saturate and activate all of the receptor population independently, regardless of dose and resulting concentration.

Professor John W. Huffman, who first synthesised many of the cannabinoids used in synthetic cannabis, is quoted as saying “People who use it are idiots” and “You don’t know what it’s going to do to you.” In fact, a user who consumed three grams of Spice Gold every day for several months showed withdrawal symptoms, similar to those associated with withdrawing from the use of narcotics. In a separate case, psychologists treating a patient suffering from reactivated psychotic episodes after using Spice suggested that the lack of an antipsychotic chemical, similar to cannabidiol (or CBD) found in natural cannabis may make synthetic cannabis more likely to induce psychosis than natural cannabis.

The manufacturers of synthetic cannabis claim that their product contains a mixture of traditionally used medicinal herbs, each of which produce mild effects, with the overall blend resulting in the cannabis-like intoxication produced by the product. However, when the product was analyzed by laboratories in Germany and elsewhere, it was found that many of the characteristic “fingerprint” molecules expected to be present from the claimed plant ingredients were not present. There were also large amounts of synthetic tocopherol present. This suggested that the actual ingredients may not be the same as those listed on the packet, and a German government risk assessment of the product conducted in November 2008 concluded that it was unclear as to what the actual plant ingredients were, where the synthetic tocopherol had come from, and whether the subjective cannabis-like effects were actually produced by any of the claimed plant ingredients or instead caused by a synthetic cannabinoid drug which had been sprayed on the herb mixture.

Ultimately, the overwhelming anecdotal evidence and research provided by field professionals and laboratories suggest that synthetic cannabis is a dangerous product, and its use is inadvisable. This brings to question why products like these and other forms of manufactured cannabis have been explored at all, while natural cannabis with its minimal negative side effects has been demonized for generations. For one thing, Spice and its similar products do not show up on screenings for drug tests that show the presence of cannabis in the human body. The legalization of cannabis use, amongst other purposes, could someday remove the pressure from individuals who feel the need to use a decidedly dangerous product like synthetic cannabis to avoid the penalties for ingesting their medication. It is up to you – the public – to help determine the course of our society’s attitude towards cannabis, and whether or not we are able to achieve a future where individuals will be able to access the plant that benefits their lives without fear of alienation or ostracization from their communities and families.