All posts tagged: Marijuana Laws

Motion to Declare Pennsylvania’s Schedule 1 Classification Unconstitutional Motion Presented

marijuana law reformToday, I presented a Motion in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County seeking to have PA’s Schedule I classification of cannabis deemed unconstitutional in light of PA’s medical cannabis law.

This is a clear conflict between the Constitution and State — as well as Federal– law.

The medical efficacy of marijuana has been established in Pennsylvania with the passage of our Medicinal Marijuana legislation, hence the Schedule 1 classification is in direct conflict. We are contending that this is a violation of citizens constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

A major element of the Schedule 1 classification is that in order to be so classified, a drug has no medicinal value at all.

Pennsylvania’s new Medicinal Marijuana legislation flies in the face of Schedule 1, as it lists seventeen qualifying medical conditions for which marijuana is an effective treatment option.

I will be briefing the issue to the Court. If anyone is interested in submitting an Amicus — attorneys, advocacy groups, etc.– please feel free to message me at pknlaw@mac.com.

I would also like to express gratitude to Allegheny County Judge Borkowski for taking this issue seriously and allowing this Motion to be read into the record.

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Patrick NightingaleMotion to Declare Pennsylvania’s Schedule 1 Classification Unconstitutional Motion Presented
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Medicinal Marijuana: A Status Update

marijuana law reformThe initial excitement expressed over the passage of Pennsylvania’s medicinal marijuana legislation has led to some fallacies regarding how the law works.

It has also opened the doors to various scams, intended to capitalize on that initial excitement.

Let me be absolutely clear on this first point: Marijuana is still illegal in Pennsylvania. Until Act 16 is fully implemented merely having a qualifying medical condition under the new law won’t prevent anyone from being arrested and prosecuted for possessing marijuana.

Which brings up my next point. Smoking marijuana is not covered under the new medicinal law, which applies only to medically approved delivery methods such as oils, topical, salves and pill form.  The Department of Health MAY add dry herb as a permissible “medical marijuana product” in 2018, but smoking will remain prohibited as a delivery method.

It is medicine, and is being treated under the law with the same medical and pharmaceutical oversight as any medicine introduced to the marketplace.

Doctors are being trained and certified to recommend medicinal marijuana under very strict guidelines, none of which relate to recreational use.

Only a physician who has been trained and is certified to practice medicine in Pennsylvania will be allowed to make a recommendation.  Prior to considering a medical marijuana recommendation, however, the physician must complete a 4 hour training course and must register with the Department of Health.  A physician recommending medical cannabis may not have a financial interest in a licensed medical cannabis facility such as a grow or a dispensary.

Growing marijuana is still illegal. Claiming a grow operation is for medicinal use is not a defense. Medicinal growers will have to be licensed and regulated by the commonwealth. The process of obtaining a growers license is very strict and very costly.  The application process alone may cost the license winner millions before a single seed is planted.

Finally, a physician MUST have a bona fide physician patient relationship with the patient.

In order to get a recommendation, patients must have a physician patient relationship with their recommending treatment provider.  Because the Department of Health has not yet certified the training requirements for physicians no PA physician can yet make a medical cannabis recommendation to their adult patient.   Any “physician” who offers to do so at present– especially for a fee– is breaking the law.

For more information on medicinal marijuana, we suggest contacting a legitimate organization such as the Pennsylvania Medicinal Cannabis Society with questions regarding prescribing and producing medicinal marijuana.
Visit http://www.pamcs.org for more information.
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Patrick NightingaleMedicinal Marijuana: A Status Update
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Pennsylvania Medicinal Marijuana Raises Many Questions for Lawmakers

marijuana law reformThe first thing one absolutely must keep in mind in this discussion is this: We’re talking about medicine.

The legal, scientific, ethical, and of course, clinical factors for official approval of any medication is often a tedious, time consuming process, with input from various state and private organizations being gathered and recorded in order to set up the ground rules for producing, prescribing and marketing said medication.

In the case of cannabis, this process is somewhat more complicated in that this is not a new drug created in a lab, with little or no preexisting legal status to contend with.

Oxycontin, for example, is synthetic and not an actual opiate, so it doesn’t start out as a Schedule 1 narcotic. It goes through the normal FDA and medical community approval process.

Marijuana however, does have the additional burden of it’s preexisting legal status to contend with.  Not to mention the social status from it’s very prevalent role in the counter culture movement, which has to regularly be defended by proponents of full legalization, despite the mountain of evidence showing it is the most benign and non-violent of all recreational drugs.

So now the official process for MM will begin, and it’s going to take time before we see a state approved distribution system in Pennsylvania. There will be committees to oversee the process, which will include state officials, police organizations and the medical community.

There is a very limited list of medical conditions currently treatable with MM, and we’ll include a couple of links for additional information on the specifics of the law as it now stands.

It should be noted there is already a serious effort underway to get State Prosecutors to waive charges against those who are caught with marijuana but have a medical condition which would qualify them for MM under the new law. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.

In the meantime, there is still a statewide effort to get marijuana fully legalized for recreational use, that is far from over. We’ve seen progress in cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and we’re starting to see similar decriminalization efforts in more rural communities.

The economic benefits of legalization for the state alone should be enough to convince lawmakers this is not just a savings for law enforcement and an overcrowded legal system, but an incredible opportunity for Pennsylvania to raise serious revenue. And not just taxes directly collected from sales, but tourism dollars.

I’d love to have a week long festival at Point State Park called, Potsburgh Fest! Fireworks, music, weed… food sales for vendors would be insane! And no fights at all. Just a sh*tload of really chill people spending money.

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but we just won a major victory. It could happen…

For more information on medicinal marijuana in Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society

Pittsburgh NORML

 

 

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Patrick NightingalePennsylvania Medicinal Marijuana Raises Many Questions for Lawmakers
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The Civility of Marijuana: Gov. Wolf Signs Medicinal Marijuana Bill

Patrick testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

Patrick Nightingale testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

It has been a long road to this watershed moment for the medical marijuana movement in Pennsylvania. It took far longer than it had to be, but that is often the way of the world. Often that which truly matters take the longest to achieve. It sounds a tad corny in today’s instantly available digital interface world we live in, but it’s timelessly true, like a black and white grainy film of a Vince Lombardi speech. The hard work, the dedication, the commitment… it’s the longer, harder road that leads to the individual victories that lead to the ultimate goal, the ultimate victory.

There are those voices who would downplay this momentous occasion, lamenting the inequities that inevitably accompany compromise in the world of political maneuvering. Some of our fellow activists in states like NJ and NY have seen good intentions founder on the shores of political obstruction. Their criticisms have reminded us that this bill can still fail to serve the patients here in PA. For today, however, we will savor a hard won victory.

We fully expect that as acceptance of medicinal marijuana grows in the medical community patient access will increase and qualifying conditions will continue to be added to the existing 17 conditions. It will happen.

Some justifiably criticize the high licensing and operation costs built in to the legislation. Obviously “home grow” is the most patient friendly model, but our Legislature decided that if it was going to approve medicinal cannabis it intended to regulate it as MEDICINE. Though highly regulated, PA patients will know that the cannabis products they are relying upon to treat their intractable epilepsy, their chronic pain, their multiple sclerosis, have been tested by third party testing facilities and are free from pesticides and mold.

Which brings me to the civility of all this.

Marijuana is the most sociable and civil of recreational drugs. It is freely shared. That doesn’t happen much with hard drugs. That alone should take it off Schedule 1. People don’t rob gas stations for more weed.

It’s a friendly and, especially in light of truly deadly drugs like Meth and Heroin, a ridiculously harmless drug. I’m talking Barney Fife, Arnold Horshack, Scooby Doo and Shaggy harmless. The medicinal benefits completely outweigh the few potential side effects. Frankly, in comparison to what is regularly advertised on TV by Big Pharma, the potential side effects of medicinal marijuana read like a comic book versus the Bible. Ironically, perfectly legal erection meds leaps to mind. The religious right is really weird.

Fortunately for Pennsylvanians in need of medicine, our Governor is a man of conscience, and he’s kept his word. He is signing the bill as promised.

I cannot think of higher praise one could offer any political figure.

Even more though, we need to recognize the grass roots efforts (pun intended) of ordinary people who, through organizations like Pittsburgh NORML, etc., have worked so hard to bring about this legislation. Let us not bemoan the inequities that will lead to further work towards full legalization, but celebrate the victory our hard work has wrought.

Let us all be grateful Governor Wolf is a decent, compassionate and caring human being. A man who is willing to trust the judgment of countless medical professionals and over 80% of Pennsylvanians in saying, “Give these people this medicine”.

So congratulations, Pennsylvania!

Enjoy this important victory.

It’s still illegal for recreational use, but it’s decriminalized in Philly and Pittsburgh and we’re seeing less urban communities moving that way. Now we have a victory on the medicinal front, and it’s important we stay focused on ensuring patient friendly regulations are put into place over the next 24 months. We need to continue working to open the medicinal marijuana marketplace to all Pennsylvanians who need this valuable medicine.

We’re winning.

My sincere thanks to all who have worked so hard to bring this about.

 

 

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleThe Civility of Marijuana: Gov. Wolf Signs Medicinal Marijuana Bill
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Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

Mascots that might appeal to children do not help win over parents or legislators.

Mascots that might appeal to children do not help win over parents or legislators.

Now that medicinal marijuana is about to be legalized in Pennsylvania, many questions are being raised regarding availability, treatable conditions, overall regulation and the relationship between medicine and employment.

The passage of SB 13 was very conditional, with built in limitations on what types of medical conditions qualified as being treatable with medicinal marijuana.

Yet amidst the wrangling over those specifics, there remains a much larger grey area to contend with: the right of an employer to impose conditions for employment.

Employers routinely set rules that limit what a person can and cannot do, both on and off the job. Safety concerns are the number one condition employers are most apt to have strict guidelines regarding employee conduct.

“What I do on my own time is none of their business”, is a common refrain, yet legally, that is simply not true.

Getting arrested for something you did on your own time can often be grounds for termination of employment. Your lunch hour is your own time, and perhaps you like a cocktail with your sandwich, but if you return to work with a buzz, you can certainly be subject to disciplinary action.

Employment that involves classified data relating to security issues is another area where employers routinely require codes of behavior both on and off the job. A drug habit, even a manageable one, can become a liability in countless ways under those circumstances.

Firemen, police officers, bus drivers, EMT personnel– all have codes of conduct relating to their employment contracts, because, that is what a job is: a contract between employer and employee.

There are many jobs that have “morality clauses” built in to their employee contracts. A company that deals primarily with products or services catering to children is a good example. Remember when Pee Wee Herman played with his pee wee in a Sarasota, Florida movie theater? His career tanked overnight, and only recently has Pee Wee made a comeback– with adults. It’s highly unlikely Paul Reubens will be seeing any Saturday morning TV time in the foreseeable future.

How all this  relates to medicinal marijuana legally speaking is still largely unknown. There are currently no accepted tests to determine actual impairment in the case of marijuana. As of now, the most commonly used tests will show the presence of THC– which is stored in fat cells– for up to six weeks after use. That means the joint you smoked 3 weeks ago at your nephew’s bachelor party can still be found in your system, even though the effects have long since passed.

Some states are attempting to incorporate patients rights regarding job security into their legalization legislation, yet even then, employers have traditionally had the right to set boundaries and conditions regarding medication use at the workplace.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll explore what they’re doing in states like Colorado, Washington and California to address these issues, and how their efforts can be used as a model for sensible legislation here in Pennsylvania.

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Patrick NightingaleMedical Marijuana and the Workplace
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Martavis Bryant: Chronic Pain or Just Chronic?

The US Stance on Medical Marijuana is Confusing at BestWhen it was announced last week that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant was being suspended for a whole season following a failed drug test, the assumption was he had marijuana in his system. In truth, he missed not one, but two scheduled drug tests, which defaults to a failed test.

This is not the first time Bryant has run afoul of the NFL’s “Zero Tolerance” policy for drug abuse. He was previously suspended for four games under similar circumstances. Remember kids; a missed appointment for a drug test = a failed test. It works that way for anyone on probation, parole, etc. By missing not one, but two tests, Bryant opened the door to much speculation about why he was suspended, yet the truth is, we don’t actually know if he was using any drugs at all.  He was never tested.

Steelers President Art Rooney II, in what appears to be an appeal to compassion, has called for getting Bryant, “…the help he needs…” for the drugs we don’t actually know he was taking. Okay…

But what if that help includes medicinal marijuana?

Bryant, who, admittedly, is still a very young man, is employed in a professional sport that regularly includes violent physical collisions, resulting in long term physical debilitation, multiple concussions and the attendant problems, both physical and emotional, that accompany the normal physical stress and wear that is a natural result of a career in the NFL.

The media has been rife with stories of NFL players, many of them Hall of Famers, who are now dealing with the severity of the physical trauma they experienced while ‘playing a game’. But the NFL is no game to them. It is an intensely physical contest between players of gladiatorial strength and it punishes players long after they hang up their cleats.

As public acceptance of the validity of medicinal marijuana continues to grow, and the political realities of legalization begin to creep into the mainstream conscious, many businesses are having to face some decisions regarding where their contractual obligations for their employees are beginning to clash with the law.

If an NFL player in Colorado wants to use legal marijuana, on their own time, for personal recreational purposes, does the League still have the right to say they can’t?

After all, many professions require clean drug tests to get and keep a job– Airline Pilots, Truck Drivers, Police Officers, Firemen, jobs within the security sector. What makes an NFL player any different?

There are still many unanswered questions surrounding legal marijuana. There is currently no reliable test to determine impairment in the way a blood test can determine blood alcohol levels, yet that hasn’t stopped municipalities from charging motorists with DUI for marijuana, based mostly on possession and the observations of the arresting officer.

Not exactly a scientific approach.

But what happens to an NFL player if his doctor prescribes marijuana as a treatment option? Does the NFL have the right to deny their employees legal medicine?

Players are routinely prescribed medications that could easily be abused or result in an arrest. There are plenty of people in court who were charged with DUI for their prescriptions. Something like Oxycontin is a very powerful drug that can and does impair the senses of those taking it. People taking it probably shouldn’t be driving, but that’s a separate issue.

If a player’s doctor prescribed Oxycontin, then the NFL has to accept that one or more of their players is in a position to abuse their medication, but they do not have the right to tell them they can’t take it. They can only act if that player abuses that medication, resulting in an arrest or an accident. The NFL is not a medical board. They do not have the right to independently determine what constitutes medicine and what doesn’t. They cannot and should not be allowed to override the determinations of a licensed physician, regardless of their personal or professional stance on the issue.

Some states with legal medicinal marijuana have built in protections for patients who are prescribed marijuana, to ensure they are treated fairly by both law enforcement and in their workplaces.  Pennsylvania’s law would provide employees protection from employer discrimination for using medicinal cannabis. A person who has a prescription for marijuana cannot be fired for using marijuana in a state where it’s legal, unless they are actively abusing it on the job. It’s generally a bad idea to show up for work stoned or drunk, so I think there’s some common sense in all this to protect the employee, the employer and the general public welfare. It makes sense that a Train Engineer should be sober when operating the train. We get that.

There’s no doubt there is still some legal grey areas involving medicinal marijuana where employment is concerned, especially in companies that operate in all 50 states. An NFL player from Denver who is traded to a team located in a state where marijuana is still 100% illegal, for example. Where do their rights to fair treatment come in to play? That player has a legal prescription, yet is still subject to arrest for using that medication outside the state in which he resided when prescribed the medication.

The question then becomes, does the NFL, or any employer, have the right to tell their employees which medications their physician can or cannot prescribe them, regardless of the State in which the prescription is written?

Maybe Bryant just wants to burn one with his friends, but the odds, and the statistics, suggest it’s equally possibly this young man is already experiencing the effects of the physical trauma associated with a career in the NFL.

The NFL needs to take a fresh look at an outdated policy that denies players any medically valid treatment options, or medicine, to repair or at least alleviate the chronic debilitating physical conditions brought on as a direct result of their employment conditions.

Medicinal marijuana is becoming legal in Pennsylvania soon. Maybe it’s time for Mr. Rooney to take the lead on this in the League, if he truly cares about the players and wants them to get the help they need, as he says.

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Patrick NightingaleMartavis Bryant: Chronic Pain or Just Chronic?
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Medical Marijuana: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.

marijuana law reformThere’s no way I can deny that this topic has become a classic example of a broken record. It’s like friggin’ Groundhog Day.

The only difference is, there has in fact  been steady progress towards a sane policy for legalization in Pennsylvania. Yes, it moves at what feel like glacial speeds, but it has moved closer to our goal of removing this harmless and helpful plant from the list of hard drugs, and eliminating criminal penalties that are often draconian in light of the mounting evidence in favor of legalization.

After all, Pennsylvania should be first in line when it comes to Liberty. We have Independence Hall! We have the Liberty Bell! We have Le’Veon Bell! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

This is a state that has been described as Philly on the right side, Pittsburgh on the left side and Alabama in between. That was said before the internet and cell phones and tablets and… you get the picture. Time is catching up. Even in rural areas, you will find that a majority of people support some form of legalization and or decriminalization.

In Pennsylvania, nearly 60% of people polled favored full legalization and regulation similar to states like Colorado, which has proven to be effective in reducing crime statistics and been financially rewarding for the state through taxation. Not to mention the upsurge in profits for Girl Scout cookie sales and pizza delivery drivers.

Even more impressive is the over 80% in favor of, at the very least, making medicinal marijuana available to Pennsylvanians who will benefit from it. Even the staunchest republican will have second thoughts after watching their grandchild’s seizures abate with CBD treatments. You’d have to be pretty heartless to tell a parent whose child has cancer that they shouldn’t be able to use every treatment available to save their child, because “Jesus”. I’m not a religious scholar or anything, but based on everything Jesus was quoted as saying, I think someone who would say that has really missed the point when it comes to Jesus.

The log jam is caused by that single log. Mr. Log lodges itself in such a way that it causes smaller debris to pile up and cause a flood. In the aftermath, we rarely think about that single log, but focus on the larger devastation caused by the flood.

Right now, a single politician, in a rural county that doesn’t begin to represent a fair and balanced cross section of the citizens of Pennsylvania, has intentionally been that log, jamming up the process for no other reason than his personal opinion. That’s it. Mr. Log has chosen to ignore the vast majority of scientific evidence, accredited medical studies, even the government’s own admissions of current law being outdated and not worth policing and enforcing, in favor of his personal view. Mr. Log represents a district that is rural in the extreme, yet he seems to be saying his constituents think it will become South Central L.A. if doctors are allowed to prescribe medicine that also gets you high.

Try telling that to the guy who voted for him, right after that guy comes out of a major surgery– No Morphine For You! You voted for Mr. Log! You’ll live, but you won’t like it. Have a Tylenol…

People say that he’s in the pocket of Big Pharma, blah blah blah. DUH! ALL politicians take money from questionable sources. Even Bernie Sanders, despite his admirable stance on refusing PAC money, etc., even he cannot claim that 100% of his donors are pure of heart and have no ulterior motives beyond feeling the Bern. Money is part and parcel of politics. Even when it’s not, it still is.

It’s ridiculous to think that medicinal marijuana will somehow devastate the pharmaceutical industry, and the money will stop flowing. Marijuana is not a miracle cure-all. No sane person would begin to make such an argument. It is a natural, non-toxic, and in many instances extremely effective treatment option. With it’s acceptance as a viable medicine, there is every reason to believe that it will have additional benefits which, because of it’s illegal status, have not yet come to light.

But, you know all this. You’ve read all this and more, so many times, you could write it yourself with a random word generator program and a few dabs. I get it.

Kind of makes you wonder if they even have cell phones in rural Pennsylvania. Maybe they only have a black and white Zenith, with two channel knobs and maybe five channels to choose from.

2019 was the year the film, Blade Runner took place, so as a nation, we’re already behind on flying cars, but apparently, in one rural Pennsylvania county, it’s still black and white TV when it comes to it’s political landscape. At least that seems to be Mr. Log’s perspective.

But the flood has risen, in ways Mr. Log cannot control. Now is the time to contact your state representatives and demand they vote in favor of medicinal marijuana.

Both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have passed decriminalization measures. Both are still standing. Both represent a huge percentage of Pennsylvanians, and those numbers extend into the surrounding districts as well. We cannot let one rural district representative like Mr. log dictate to the entire state, simply because he chairs a committee, and  thinks he can act like the Dictator of some third world backwater without indoor plumbing. Or a rural county in Pennsylvania, even.

The fight for legalization is not over in Pennsylvania, but we are on the verge of a significant victory with passage of a medicinal marijuana bill. Contact your state representatives and voice your support. Don’t let this moment pass us by.

Oh, by the way, I don’t name the politician because I call him, Mr. Log, and that’s all the name recognition he’ll get from me.

 

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Patrick NightingaleMedical Marijuana: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.
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Making Sense of Politics

Patrick testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

Patrick testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

When one hears the word, “Politics”, it is natural to think of the political process itself, but politics is a much wider arena than merely a way to get elected to office.

In this election year, we’re being inundated with politics. The politics of the left, of the right, of the corporations, of the special interests… of the people. It’s no accident I list ‘the people’ last.

When I’m standing in the Capitol at Harrisburg, having a sense of deja vous all over again, to quote Yogi Berra, it’s pretty easy to see why the people are frustrated with the entire political process.

This week I did just that, and I must admit, I felt pretty damned frustrated.

Once again, I found myself speaking at the state capitol, on behalf of the people who need medicine.

Medicine.

Not a buzz, not a way to enhance their listening pleasure when they put on, “Dark Side of the Moon”.

Medicine.

How heartless the system must seem to those who feel they no longer have a voice. How cold and unforgiving and uncaring that system appears to people, including those of us who are an integral part of that system. Now, imagine the depth of that feeling when that system would deny medicine to people who need it, and being one of those people, or the relative of those who need that medicine.

Imagine being severely injured, in need of pain killers, and being denied that medicine because of politics, simply because that medicine flies in the face of a political narrative, that has very little to do with helping people.

Heroin has become a scourge once again. Young people are using it at an alarming rate. It’s a very real problem, featuring a drug that truly destroys lives. Yet no politicians are saying Morphine, or any of it’s derivatives, should be discontinued because it also gets you really high.

Heroin comes from morphine, and by the logic of politicians, morphine should be illegal –AS MEDICINE.

It’s the exact same argument politicians are using to deny people medicinal marijuana. People get high on marijuana, so it can’t be medicine.

You can bet those arguments would evaporate for those same politicians if they or their loved ones were denied pain killers to ease their suffering.

Morphine is pretty potent stuff before it becomes heroin. It can be smoked or eaten or distilled into a drinkable form. Sound familiar? Yet, that’s where the similarities with marijuana end.

Morphine, and all it’s derivatives, are highly addictive, and is often at the heart of addiction problems that become worse once someone can no longer get it- or it’s derivatives- as a prescription. Those people often turn to drugs like heroin once they are cut off from their prescription, but at that point, it’s no longer medicine. It’s feeding an addiction.

By contrast, even in it’s purest form, THC is non-addictive and non-toxic. It does not result in catastrophic consequences for those who use it as a recreational drug, let alone as a means of easing suffering. Unless of course, they get arrested for possessing or selling it. That can be quite catastrophic.

Unlike morphine, marijuana is not just a pain killer– it can also be a cure. Scientific studies overwhelmingly agree that medicinal marijuana has potential to be an effective cure for many conditions. It is often the legal status that prevents even more research from being done.

And still, here we are, standing in the state capitol, once again pleading with a few politicians to stop denying people medicine. Not doctors. Not scientists. Politicians.

As I read through my Facebook feed, and see the level of rancor in any attempt to discuss political solutions to very real problems, I have to SMH and do a double face palm. Polls show an overwhelming 84% of Americans support medicinal marijuana. Why would any politician attempt to fight numbers like that? Eighty four percent.

This is only politics for those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Why they would want to ignore so clear a mandate from the people they represent to maintain that status? That is the real question we should be asking.

Who do these politicians really represent?

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleMaking Sense of Politics
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Obama: Marijuana Reform Not On Federal Table

MarijuanaWe had high hopes for 2016 indeed.

A President who freely admits to using marijuana in his younger years.

Legalization and reform happening across the nation, from decriminalization reform right here in Pittsburgh to states like Colorado, where full legalization is reaping huge revenue benefits for the state coffers.

Polls steadily rising for reform on both the recreational and medicinal fronts.

Surely, 2016 would be the year the Federal Government removes marijuana from the Schedule 1 list.

It’s starting to look like a pipe dream now.

Fortunately, the bloviating of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie fell on deaf ears when he said if he is elected President, he’ll ‘go after’ states like Colorado. The public is apparently equally deaf to his appeal for the Republican nomination, as he was not even on the proverbial radar in this weeks’ Iowa Caucus.

Even as many of his fellow Republicans have come around on the issue of reform, Christie chose to double down on his anti-marijuana position. The fact that it gained him no momentum and only the briefest of soundbites suggests the public isn’t interested in what he thinks. They are more interested in the success of successful reform in states like Colorado.

obama-tokingOf course, there was never really any hope that a Republican in the White House would lead to reform, but there was a lot of hope when President Obama took office.

We thought he was one of us.

This week the President said it was up to Congress to enact legislation for the reform of marijuana laws. It is not on his agenda.

Stunned silence here.

What? This from the man who has not been reluctant to use his pen to bypass Congress to make things happen? From a President in his final year of office, with the backing of the vast majority of his party and their constituents?

Recent polling shows support for full legalization at 58% and those in favor of Medicinal Marijuana, a staggering 84%! When was the last last time 84% of Americans agreed on anything?

Senator Bernie Sanders has made it clear he supports total legalization. Hillary Clinton has been remarkably silent on the subject unless she has to say anything, and her actual position is still not entirely clear.

As I said earlier, we can’t look to the Republicans to make this happen if they win the White House.

What’s left?

A collective effort by all Americans to make this happen, this year, while there is a President in office who would most likely sign a Marijuana Reform Bill if passed by Congress.

This means we have to bring the fight to our Senators and Congressional representations. The time is now. We must act.

We have to flood their offices with demands that Marijuana be removed from the list of Schedule 1 Narcotics and at the very least, if not legal, then made a Schedule 2 so it’s medicinal benefits can be legally prescribed.

84% of Americans support Medicinal Marijuana. Thousands of people need this medicine to treat and control a wide array of medical conditions.

Contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives and demand they enact legislation on the Federal level this year. They’ve dragged their feet long enough.

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Patrick NightingaleObama: Marijuana Reform Not On Federal Table
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DUI: It’s Not Just About Too Much to Drink

pittsburgh criminal defense attorneyNew Year’s Eve, aka, “Amateur Drunk Night”, has a well deserved reputation for seeing people who may not ordinarily drink, having too much to drink. Most will simply wake up with a hangover and spend New Year’s Day nursing themselves.

Then there are those who make the decision to drive.

And they get caught.

If you think a hangover is bad, try nursing that hangover in the county jail. Not a pleasant thought, and it’s every bit as bad as it sounds.

There is a common misconception about DUI– that it’s about drinking alcohol. That is increasingly not the case at all.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) makes absolutely no mention of alcohol, for the simple fact that alcohol is not the only drug that can negatively affect your driving abilities.

One of my biggest problems with pharmaceutical labeling is that it’s very vague. “Shouldn’t operate heavy machinery” makes it sound like you better not take the bulldozer out for a spin when taking a prescription drug. People don’t generally think of their car as being ‘heavy machinery’, and since the drugs they are taking were prescribed to them by a doctor, they erroneously believe it’s okay to drive when taking a prescription. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Drugs like Oxycontin are extremely potent, mind altering drugs that can affect your reflexes and judgement every bit as much as a six pack of cold brews.

Legally speaking, it’s difficult to prove– or to disprove– the effects of a prescription drug on a person’s ability to drive in the same way it is with alcohol.

Unlike alcohol, where a simple blood test can determine levels of impairment, there is no standardized test for prescription drugs. The proof is mainly in the determination of the arresting officer. If the police determine a person was driving erratically as the result of being under the influence of a drug, prescribed or otherwise, it becomes a case of their word against yours, and courts regularly take the word of a police officer over that of a citizen. The accused may honestly believe they were okay to drive, but, more often than not, the court is going to base their judgement on the testimony of the arresting officer.

Another example that needs to be cited is marijuana.

The City of Pittsburgh has moved to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, but it’s still not legal. Fines of up to $100 can be imposed, based mostly on the circumstances surrounding the situation and the judgement of the police.

This is not true of operating a motor vehicle. If the police pull you over based on unsafe driving, they have every right to determine what caused it. If it’s marijuana, even though possession is decriminalized, they can still cite you for a DUI.

Even a first time offense DUI carries pretty stiff penalties, including loss of your driving privileges and jail time. Because there are currently no legal standards for testing whether or not marijuana actually caused impairment, the courts have no choice but to take the arresting officer at their word.

Suddenly, that small amount possession charge becomes a major problem. The police smelled weed on you, performed a search of the vehicle and your person, found pot, you were driving… DUI.

So this New Year’s Eve, if you’re going to drive, don’t drink and leave the weed at home. And if you’re taking a prescription drug like Oxycontin, definitely do not operate a motor vehicle. The police will be out in force, looking for impaired drivers, and chances are they’re not going to make a distinction between Budweiser and drugs prescribed by your doctor. They can’t afford to take the chance of letting someone go, only to have that same person crash their car, or God forbid, kill someone.

Everyone please have a safe and Happy New Year, and as always, call if you need me.

 

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